Who has seen the “Harry Potter” movies and not thought of getting an owl as a pet?
They are beautiful, majestic, cute, adorable and any good trait you can find in a lovely bird. So, anyone can have a thought of adopting or buying an owl at any time - but you might need to keep a few things in mind before you do. For example, can you own an owl (is it legal)? What precautions to take? How to take care of it?
Here is some information to guide you through the process.
Legality of keeping an Owl
Whenever someone decides to own an unusual pet, the first thing that comes to mind is the legality of that particular animal as a pet.
For a commoner, it is illegal to own an owl as a pet in the US. Only licensed and trained personnel are allowed to keep owls. This permission is granted for many reasons like rehabilitation, breeding and for educational purposes. Falconry is also legal in many states of the US, especially in Nebraska and Wyoming. Even in these cases, the licensed individual does not own the bird. That means, they cannot sell the bird or keep it confined on private premises.
On the other hand, you can own an owl in the UK. You still cannot keep a Snowy owl or any other native species.
Owls by Nature
Owls are not like your regular parrot. A parrot seeks human attention, while an owl is a solitary bird. That is the main reason you rarely find an owl sitting in a tree on a silent dark night.
Owls do not like to be cuddled or to be patted on the shoulder. An owl is a very unique and sensitive bird.
They can get angry sometimes if they feel threatened or are messed around with. Owls have the best night vision in the whole animal kingdom. So, they mostly hunt at night and people are also mostly attacked by them at night (only if their habitat or young ones seem threatened). Owls are solitary animals and cannot bear the presence of a human or even another owl when living in their natural habitat.
Owls can imprint on humans, if they start providing them food from a young age. Wildlife rehabilitators use dress up techniques to imprint upon baby owls.
Owls use their night vision and acute hearing during the night to find and hunt their prey. They are raptors and mostly feed on other small birds or rodents (mice, rattlesnakes, guinea pigs, etc.).
Did you know? A group of owls sitting together is called a Parliament.
Care Taking of an Owl
If you decide to buy a baby owl from your nearest breeder, here are some things for you to take care of.
Firstly, an owl is a wild animal. You cannot tame or train an owl like a regular parrot. They like to live in wide spaces with no one around to touch them. You cannot possibly think of keeping an owl in confined spaces inside your house all the time. What you need is a large aviary to allow them to take a flight for some meters at least and have enough personal space.
Like parrots, owls don’t like to be cuddled (some owls like to be stroked on their heads). You cannot make an owl run behind you or seek your attention like a cockatiel parrot does. You can love them, but you cannot expect them to love you back.
Owls and eagles are termed as raptors. They are purely carnivores (flesh eaters).
Unlike cat and dog food, you won’t find owl food from your nearest breeder. They will only tell you what you need to feed them. You need to take care of their feed properly and check for any changes in their stool.
Owls mostly eatbaby chicks or rodents like rats, rattlesnakes, rabbits, hamsters or guinea pigs.
You need to remove the intestines, stomach and bladder before you feed these to your owl. You also cannot feed them with leftovers from the previous day.
Also, unlike cat or dog food, all of the above animals cost much less than the former. Five pounds of baby chicks cost near 12 Euros, and they can last up to 3 months.
You need to store the animals in the freezer and thaw them before feeding to your owl. They can survive on chicks alone, but you need to feed them mice whenever they need a quick and heavy dose of energy, especially in the winter.
If you are keeping an owl inside your house, you need to keep track of their exercise hours. Owls need 2–3 hours of exercise to go free their wings, clean them and use their basic instincts on some wild rodents.
If you are not willing to do that in an open space, then you need to build a large aviary outside your house, where they can fly, test their beaks and talons. You need to give them a proper perching surface for that purpose. If you don’t, and you are keeping them inside your house, then they may ruin all of your furniture and leather amenities.
If you are planning on building an aviary, you need the structure to have a 6–7 inch hardwood frame with hard metal mesh as the walls.
Owls also like to take a bath and drink water between these activities.
The biggest difficulty with owls is their health care. Most veterinarians don’t have the proper training and knowledge of vaccines for owls. Also, owl vaccines cost a lot relative to a normal parrot.
You must know what a “normal” poop looks like. Any subtle changes in the behavior may indicate a health problem. So as a caretaker you need to be trained or experienced about all those things.
You cannot judge a pet by its maintenance. All you need is a solid instinct and love to find your pet, and who knows you might enjoy an owl better than a cockatiel.