Lovebirds are cheerful, active, brilliantly colored, and beautiful birds. Also known as “pocket parrots,” in the wild, they live under extremely harsh conditions. As a result, they are easy to care for as pets.
Lovebirds like to live in flocks. They are intensely attached to their families, both birds and humans.
If you can care for them successfully, they will bond to you for life. And if you provide the right mating conditions, they will reward you with baby birds.
What Are Your Choices in Lovebirds?
Lovebirds are small parrots, usually standing 5 to 6-3/4 inches (13 to 17 cm) tall. They have a large bill like other parrots and may have either square or round tails.
Pet lovebirds usually live to be 10 to 12 years old, although they occasionally live to the ripe old age of 25.
There is a huge variety of colors and markings across the common species of lovebirds. Young birds aren’t especially colorful, but the full beauty of lovebird plumage is evident by the time the birds reach sexual maturity.
There are nine species of lovebirds, but only three are common in North America. Those common pet species are Fischer’s lovebirds, masked lovebirds, and peach-faced lovebirds.
All three species make wonderful pets. Breeders have created countless variations in color in peach-faced lovebirds so you may have difficulty making your selection at the breeder or the pet store.
Housing Your Lovebirds
Lovebirds are extremely active in captivity. They need large bird cages or even a separate aviary attached to your home.
If you are keeping your lovebirds in cages, they will need a minimum of 30 inches by 20 inches by 20 inches (58 cm by 50 cm by 50 cm) of space for each breeding pair.
There should be at least four perches in the cage, and room for food and water dishes, and a birdbath. If you use a smaller cage, you must let the birds out every day to fly around to get exercise.
It’s important to keep just one species of lovebird in a cage. Otherwise, the birds will fight. It’s also important to keep one, three, or five pairs of lovebirds together in the same cage, never two or four.
Even numbers of nesting pairs will form alliances and fight with each other.
Here are some specifics for outfitting your lovebird cage:
Perches need to be of approximately 3/4 inch (18 to 20 mm) diameter.
Food, water, and grit dishes can hang from the sides. It’s OK to use branches from trees as perches.
Lovebirds need pottery dishes. They will chew up plastic.
Try to place the dishes so they don’t catch bird droppings.
If you want your lovebirds to mate (we will discuss mating in more detail later in this article), you will need nesting boxes.
If you have more than one pair of lovebirds in an enclosure, then all the boxes need to be the same size, made of the same materials and placed at the same height in the cage.
Lovebirds like a dish with just enough water they can get their heads and wings wet to wash off.
They don’t like to go for a swim.
What about an aviary?
Aviaries need plenty of light and fresh air. Outdoor aviaries only work in very mild climates.
Almost anywhere in the United States other than South Florida or parts of coastal California will get dangerously cold in the winter.
Your outdoor aviary is also a cage for your lovebirds, but much larger — start with 6 feet by 6 feet by 3 feet (2 meters by 2 meters by 1 meter) and go larger if you can.
There are two common formulated diets for lovebirds:
- A seed diet provides lovebirds with a variety of food to keep them interested in eating. Seeds aren’t enough for avian health, however, so seed diets require some additional trace mineral and calcium supplements.
- A formulated diet provides lovebirds with all the nutrients they need, but your birds will find it boring. They will eat it because they have to.
In the wild, lovebirds eat a wide variety of seeds, fruits, grasses, and leaf buds. Their natural diet is anything but monotonous. You can add interest and nutrition to your bird’s diet with the following additions:
- Give your lovebirds sliced apples, kiwis, bananas, pears, and berries to provide the antioxidants and vitamins they need.
- Give your lovebirds raw green vegetables like spinach, kale, carrot tops (not the carrot root), parsley, sliced radishes, dandelions (make sure they haven’t been sprayed with lawn chemicals), and lettuce.
- Supplement the protein in your lovebird’s diet with unshelled peanuts and other nuts.
- Put out some oyster shell for grit and calcium.
Don’t give your lovebirds chocolate or avocados! These can be toxic to lovebirds. Onions, garlic, apple seeds, and peach pits (because of their cyanide content), sugar-free candies, and any high-fat, high-salt, or sugary food have to be off the menu for your lovebirds.
Don’t forget to provide your lovebirds with lots of freshwater.
Clean food and water dishes daily.
Clean and disinfect the cage once a week.
Your Lovebird’s Daily Activities
Lovebirds get up at dawn. They will get a drink from their dish, eat something, and start chirping right away. Lovebirds usually take a break from chirping in the middle of the day and start making their sounds again in the late afternoon.
Lovebirds aren’t lazy birds. They will fly around their enclosure. They will climb any perches or branches you put in their cage.
They love bright and shiny objects such as swings, ladders, mirrors, and toys, and they like the challenge of getting their food from seed bells or real branches (Lovebirds sometimes eat bark.)
If you let a lovebird out of its cage, expect it to explore. If you let your birds out in your house, be aware that they will leave their droppings randomly, and they will fly out open doors and windows and may inspect hot stoves.
Be sure the room where you let them fly has no toxic plants and no open water containers.
Young lovebirds will learn tricks and become affectionate, but if you wait until a lovebird is an adult, it is unlikely to interact with you.
It’s possible to buy lovebirds that have been raised by hand that bond with you after you take them home, but it’s best to interact with your bird at the breeder’s to get to know it first.
Always train one lovebird at a time. Take your time to establish trust with your bird. Lovebirds can talk, but most will only learn a few words.
If you love birds, you will probably want to have the possibility of having more.
Lovebirds are relatively easy to breed in captivity, but not every pair of lovebirds is intended to live with each other. You will need to have this in mind when you are buying your lovebirds.
Lovebirds are more likely to mate as a couple in a cage of their own than as two mates in a flock of captive birds.
Lovebirds are ready to mate about 10 months after they are hatched, although they won’t be naturally interested in mating until they are about 12 or 13 months old.
It means that you should try to have mating pairs of about the same age (although you shouldn’t try to get siblings to mate), not placing a young lovebird with an older, more sexually active lovebird.,
And, of course, you will need one male lovebird and one female lovebird of the same species to get babies.
Selecting breeding pairs of lovebirds is easier for some species and harder for others:
- Abyssinian lovebirds, Madagascar lovebirds, and red-faced lovebirds are sexually dimorphic. It’s easy to tell which lovebirds are male and which lovebirds are female.
- Black-collared lovebirds and peach-faced lovebirds are harder to sort into male and female.
- It is very difficult to determine the sex of the species of lovebirds with white eye-rings, Black-cheeked lovebirds, Fischer’s lovebirds, masked lovebirds, and Nyassa lovebirds,
So, how do you make sure you have one lovebird of each sex if you can’t tell which is which just by looking?
Your veterinarian can do a probe that will tell you the sex of your lovebirds.
There are genetic test kits that require a few feathers or a few drops of blood that can give you the answers (although you would have to keep the birds separate in labeled cages until you got the results back).
Or you can just keep a flock of lovebirds and let the lovebirds figure the details of their love lives for themselves.
Setting Up a Nursery for Your Lovebirds
Once you have made sure that you have lovebirds that can reproduce with each other, the next step is to provide your lovebirds with their love nests.
It is very important to provide more nesting boxes than you have nesting pairs. This prevents fighting.
It is also very important to have all of your nesting boxes the same height, the same size, made of the same materials.
This prevents competition and fighting for nesting space. Lovebirds can get into fights and kill each other over which pair has the best nesting space.
Typical dimensions for a nesting box for lovebirds are 10 inches x 6 inches x 6 inches(25 x 15 x 15 cm). or 8 inches x 8 inches x 8 inches (20 x 20 x 20 cm).
You don’t want anything taller, because the chicks would have trouble getting out, or smaller because the chicks would get crowded.
Place a layer of bubble wrap in the bottom of the nesting box (in case the birds press the eggs into the nest to keep them warm) and fill the box about halfway with shredded paper. Close the lid.
Nesting boxes usually have a solid, wooden lid and solid sides, with a hole in one side so the parents can get in and out.
If you are keeping just one pair of lovebirds in a cage, line up the opening of the nesting box, open the door to the nesting box, and secure the box to the cage with bungee cords.
If you have a flock of lovebirds in a larger enclosure, scatter several nesting boxes around the cage, with the lids closed, making sure you have more nesting boxes than mating pairs.
Wood is the best material for making nesting boxes. Pine or cedar will last the longest. The wood used for making nesting boxes needs to be at least half an inch (12 mm) thick to provide insulation against cold.
What You Can Expect from Successful Mating Pairs
Female lovebirds will lay from three to eight eggs at a time, About 80% of eggs usually hatch.
A lovebird egg’s incubation period is a little over three weeks, and the mother lovebird will begin to brood staying in the box after the second chick has hatched. It’s not unusual for the hen’s mate to join the family to provide warmth and protection.
Baby lovebirds take about 38 to 50 days to develop enough to leave the nest. About two weeks later, they will leave the nest, and you will have your second generation of lovebirds!
Everything about taking care of lovebirds, of course, isn’t about reproduction. The care and feeding of lovebirds on a day-to-day basis can get a little complicated.
What Can Go Wrong with Lovebirds?
Signs you need to take your lovebird to the vet include:
- Dulling of your lovebird’s plumage.
- Sitting in its cage with its eyes closed or with a dull look in its eyes.
- Staying at the feed cup.
- Loose droppings. (Health lovebird droppings are grayish-white, firm, and easy to find.)
- Sneezing, wheezing, and scratching too much.
Lovebirds can pick up air-borne fungal infections, mites, ticks, and some serious bacterial diseases. Lovebirds not only can be attacked by cats, but they also can catch toxoplasmosis from cats. It’s always best to seek veterinary care sooner rather than later.
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