The ASPCA released its annual estimate of pet care costs, and according to them caring for a bird costs $270 in the first year and $200 each subsequent year … to which I respond a resounding “AS IF.” Maybe for this bird, but that doesn’t even come close to what I and other parrot owners I know are shelling out.

While they do say the estimates were based on a budgie parakeet, I think people will generalize this to small parrots and be unprepared for what the costs will really be. For example, the ASPCA’s calculations are based on a $70 cage. Seventy dollars. HA! The cages I’m looking at for my potential second bird are in the $300$500 range. I got a fantastic bargain on Stewie’s flight cage at only $150.

(You may have seen cheap little cages for $70 at PetCo or PetSmart, but no bird lover I know would use something like that as anything but a travel cage for a parrot. Even budgies need room to move, stretch, flap and play. Granted, budgies don’t need $500 cages, but budgies are not the norm.)

Next up, medical costs. Stewie’s initial vet check-up, including all the necessary bloodwork, came to around $300. Thank goodness he got a clean bill of health, or I would have had to pay for treatments and medication. None of this was included in the $150 adoption fee.

From the very get-go, just bringing Stewie home cost me more than $500 and that doesn’t even take into consideration what people pay for the birds themselves.

You can get a budgie for $20 at a pet store, but I wouldn’t recommend it. U.S. breeders charge anywhere from $300 to $500 for a sun conure; slightly more exotic species can cost $1000 easily. Generally, the bigger the bird, the more expensive it will be to purchase and the more expensive their care is.

I’m not exaggerating when I admit (sheepishly) that I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on bird toys and supplies, including perches, feeding dishes, ladders, etc. The cost of fresh foods and veggies also add up, although that’s not something I’ve tracked.

And I almost forgot about Wayne’s Bottle Brush Gym! That again was several hundred dollars.

Getting the picture?

Birds aren't 'cheap'
Photo credit: birdfeed by striatic. Birds aren’t “cheap” 🙂

Some people may not spend $400 on a cage, and they can save money making their own toys, but even given a minimal standard of care and a good deal of bargain hunting, I just don’t see how a pet parrot only costs $270 a year.

Here’s a more realistic look at what your parrot-related expenses will be.

If you’re thinking about getting a pet parrot, be aware that the bird’s purchase price is but a fraction of the cost of having a (happy and healthy) pet. Do your research, educate yourself on the expenses that come with keeping parrots and honestly assess whether you want to make that kind of financial commitment.

p.s. I’m not going to link to any price lists for birds for sale by breeders because I want to encourage you to check out your local animal shelters or parrot rescue organizations when looking for a new bird 🙂