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Introducing Two Birds

Birds are like potato chips. Sometimes, you can’t have just one.

So, you have a bird. And you just bought another bird. And you want them to be friends…which is why you are reading this page. Right?

Think about human beings, for a moment…below are the general steps a couple takes before making the decision to live together:

  1. Boy meets girl.
  2. Boy and girl get to know each other by spending time together.
  3. Time passes. Boy and girl become friendly toward one another.
  4. Time passes again. Boy and girl develop strong affection toward each other. They spend more time together.
  5. Boy and girl spend time at each other’s homes. Often, they will each leave a few belongings at the other person’s home.
  6. Boy and girl decide to merge lives by moving in together.

The following example uses a woman moving into her male companion’s home. The same concept could have just as easily been illustrated by a man moving into his female companion’s home, or two people of the same gender moving in together. Please do read this example as it will help you understand the psychology in the process of creating a bond between your two birds.

When a woman decides to move in with her male partner it is common for her to bring a few personal belongings into his space. For instance, she might bring a collection of photograph albums, her own pillow, or her toothbrush. Once in the new space, the woman might suggest a few existing items be moved (“the sofa would look SO much better under the window, rather than along the wall”). Both the act of bringing their own items into the space, and re-arranging the space, helps the woman to claim some ownership of the space, feel comfortable and “at home”.

When introducing a brand new bird into the cage of an existing bird, there are six very important steps that will encourage success. Notice that the steps below very closely mimic the six steps above:

  1. Put the new bird into his/her own cage. It can be a small travel cage, if you do not wish to invest in a larger one. Locate the new bird’s cage in the same room as your existing bird, but at least 6′ away.
  2. Over the course of 1-2 weeks, bring the new bird’s cage closer to that of the existing bird, a few inches at a time. If at any time the birds begin squawking loudly toward each other, or displaying aggressive behaviour (i.e. opening wings, opening beak toward each other), move the cages apart and repeat steps 1 and 2 over a longer period of time.
  3. Eventually, the cages should be only 6 inches apart (not close enough that the birds can reach each other through the bars). Watch for signs that the birds are interested in each other. The best example is when both birds are clinging to the side of their cage that is closest to the other bird. Bobbing their heads at each other, or calling back-and-forth to each other are two more  good signs. Your birds should not show any signs of stress (if they do, start again at Step 1 and work up to this point more slowly). STOP HERE if there is an age gap between your birds, and the younger one is less than 8 months of age. Babies younger than this are still learning how to maneuver around their cages. In the event there is a tussle both birds should have equal ability to get away from each other. You will stay at this step until the younger bird has had time to mature. Don’t worry: more time getting to know each other from a safe distance will only help the birds to form a stronger bond and therefore increase the chances of success in later steps.
  4. Take the existing bird out of his/her cage. Re-arrange ALL toys and perches in that cage. This creates the appearance of a neutral territory, to the birds. Add at least one brand new item to the cage. If the new bird has one favourite toy/perch, add it to the cage, also. Move the cage to a different location. This can be temporary (you may move it back in the final step). Now, you will have a generally neutral territory with a few items recognizable to each bird.
  5. Put both birds into the cage at once. They might argue a little bit at first, but should settle quickly. If at any time one bird is “ganging up” on the other, chasing him/her around the cage, separate them immediately.
  6. Watch the birds actively for the first hour after introduction. After that, keep an eye on them during the rest of the day.
  7. Continue to keep an eye on the birds through the week. Watch for signs of bonding including mutual preening, and sitting side-by-side.
  8. If all goes well for the first week you may relocate the birds’ cage to its original place in your home. This is optional — you might like the new location better!


Important Notes and Troubleshooting

Please read this text below before starting the introduction process, and refer back to it in the event you are having any difficulties. I am happy to help you one-on-one by phone, however I will just refer you back to this information if your question is related to any of the below:

Throughout the introductory process above it is important to continue to maintain your daily routine with both birds. If “Mango” usually comes out of his/her cage in the morning while you eat breakfast, or gets to go in the shower in the evening, I advise you to continue this. We want Mango to feel at ease with the new bird and a disruption to regular routine can cause stress.

It was mentioned above, but it warrants being mentioned again: if there is an age gap between the birds please do not try to introduce them until the youngest is at least 8 months of age. Babies younger than this are still learning how to maneuver around their cages. In the event there is a tussle both birds should have equal ability to get away from each other.

Do not rush through the process. The timeline I offered in the steps above is a general guideline based upon my experience, however moving more slowly will increase your chance of success, long-term.

Just as not all humans are able to be friends, not every pair of birds are going to get along despite our wishes. If you have tried the above process more than once and are not having success, consider taking a break, keeping the birds separated but within sight of each other, and trying again in 6 months. Also consider allowing the birds to live in their own cage long-term. The most important thing to remember is that the bird’s happiness and well-being should come first, and anything we can do to ensure they live comfortably should be a priority.