Is it possible to keep an owl as a pet?
Owls are wild birds of prey, similar to eagles and vultures. They have very different personalities, which can make them unsuitable to be kept as pets. Here, we provide information about the nature of these birds, and the care that domestic owls need.
A Sincere Appeal
"The owls in the Harry Potter books were never intended to portray the true behavior or preference of real owls. If your owl-mania seeks concrete expression, why not sponsor an owl at a bird sanctuary where you can visit and know that you have secured him or her a happy, healthy life." ― J. K. Rowling
Owls differ greatly from domesticated birds like parrots with regard to their nature. They have distinct and strong personalities of their own. These traits of theirs are not exactly suitable for keeping them as regular pets. Owls need special care and maintenance, which in turn requires a lot of efforts. More importantly, they also need to be happy and not stressed out. The following paragraphs list the requirements that must be in place for keeping a pet owl, and also the special care that needs to be taken for these very special birds.
Things to Consider Before Bringing an Owl Home
Attached by Nature
Owls tend to get very attached to their caretakers or handlers. Those that have been raised by humans right from the time that they are born find it very difficult if their caretaker is physically absent, which can cause them stress. The reason for this is because owls are naturally anti-social animals, and they form lasting bonds with their mate and family. For captive owls, their caretaker becomes their family. Your owl may not take kindly to being fed by someone else, and chances are that it will be hostile towards the person who comes to give it food.
Another thing to keep in mind is that by nature, owls do not like to be cuddled and hugged. Stroking the feathers is actually not good, as the covering on the feathers that makes them water-resistant wears off when stroked. They may even bite when stroked. Every individual bird's personality is different. Also, being territorial and possessive of their caretaker, they may not accept another person whom they might consider as a threat. Not accepting may also mean that your pet may attack someone you are close to. They may not necessarily attack every time, but it is in their nature. They are also difficult to train and need a considerable amount of patience and understanding from the caretaker.
Need a Permit to Travel
If you plan a vacation, it will be difficult for both, you and the bird. Taking your owl on vacation will require you to obtain a permit to take it into any other state, along with arranging for its accommodation and food and also ensuring that it does not fall ill.
Finding a Vet
When it comes to the health of any pet, taking good care and ensuring that the animal is in a proper physical condition is very important. However, in the case of owls, finding a vet who is capable of providing it proper treatment is difficult. You will most probably need to take your bird to the nearest aviary every time it gets sick. Also, if the owl is being domesticated without the proper permits, then the chances of a vet taking the risk of giving it treatment become even slimmer.
Owls are large birds with a wide wingspan that can be as much as 5 feet, which means that their accommodation must be large and comfortable. Hence, a big pen that is minimum 20 feet is required. It is recommended to provide them with a perch that has a specially designed leash instead of keeping them in a pen. One important thing to remember is that owls need to flap their wings a few times before they settle on the perch. If they are unable to do this, they risk of catching a chest infection.
Due to their nature, owls need and demand a lot of attention. They screech loudly and try to get their owners to listen to them and interact. Thus, even if you keep your bird in a pen or on a perch, you will not be able to leave it alone for too long, as it will begin to call you. This noise may not go down too well with your neighbors, if you have any. Owls become very noisy when it is mating season. Owls hoot, and at different times during the day and night. This will keep you and any neighbors up all night, unless of course your owl has been allowed to fly freely and be in the wild.
As owls molt every year, there will be feathers and pellets all over the place at this time. The feathers are large in number and are found quite frequently. Owl pellets are usually a mass of fur and bones, and it is very important that they be cleaned up in time and not left in the pen for an extended period, as this is unhealthy for the bird. Along with this, they poop like all other birds, and, they also clear the ceca, which is located at the end of their intestine, daily. This excretion has a semi-solid consistency, and it smells quite bad. Thus, you must be able to do almost round-the-clock cleaning of the mess that will be made by your pet.
You will need a freezer that can stock raw, whole animals. Owls need raw animals, not store-bought bird feed. You will need to either buy these animals from somewhere or hunt them yourself, gut them, and then feed them to your owl. Thus, be absolutely sure that you are going to be able to do this before considering to pet this bird. If you can, then well and good. This is important because the bird needs this diet. It is what it eats in its natural habitat. And if it is not provided this diet, the bird will become unhealthy and underfed, which is cruel.
Damage Due to Talons
Owls have sharp beaks and equally sharp talons. You may be injured and scratched if a talon accidentally makes contact with your hand in case the bird does not land completely on the glove. Owls can also bite if they are agitated or stressed. Their talons will also damage wooden furniture, as they will scratch the surface, removing the finish and exposing the wood underneath. You may also find things like torn pillows, ripped soft toys, and shredded linen around the house. Their talons are naturally that sharp, and thus, this kind of damage will not be uncommon.
Making an Informed Decision
Taking care of owls is not a trial-and-error job. You need to know everything there is to know about them, so do your research properly. Due to the specific care
that these birds need, you cannot leave anything to chance. Be completely aware and educated about everything, from their nature to their food, living space, diet, and more importantly, their behavior and health.
Know what you are getting into, and do not go through with it if you have even an inkling of a doubt. Owls have a long lifespan of 10 to 20 years and even more. If you are not going to be able to devote most of your time caring for your pet, then do not get one, more so because it will be cruel to the bird.