If you have a child at home, there usually comes a time when the subject of getting a family pet arises, even if the family already includes a furry or feathered friend of some sort. Having a pet to care for is one of those life lessons many of us have experienced as a child, and it’s understandable that we would want to pass that on to our own children.
For others, however, pets were never a part of their upbringing, and some parents have never owned or grown up around pets. What do you do when you’re one of these parents, and your child is begging for a family pet? Well, there are many options. Some of you may be brave enough to just jump right in with both feet, bite the bullet, and get a dog or cat and learn the role of caretaker right alongside your child. It’s a completely doable situation, and your child will ultimately respect the fact that although you may not be experienced in pet care, you are willing to learn so that they may be able to know the joy of pet ownership.
Some however, may not be quite there yet, and that is ok! Before you rush out to try an “easy” pet like a goldfish (trust me, those can let you down as well), consider this. Have you ever thought about a simple back yard bird feeder? No, it’s not the kind of pet you can snuggle up with, take on a walk, or put clothes on, but it may just be a good first step for your family. Children will still have the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons from caring for their wild bird friends. The same lessons of being responsible, dependable, and knowing that sometimes the needs of another comes before their own needs can be learned from a simple bird feeder.
What will you need to get started? It’s really pretty simple:
- Bird feeder (this can be as simple or elaborate as you desire. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a quality feeder, but you may want to think about what types of birds you want to attract before you purchase your feeder.)
- Bird seed (again, the type of birds you want to attract will dictate your choice of bird seed. The package will generally tell you what types of birds will be attracted by the seed. Be careful of mixes that contain a lot of fillers like millet-most of that will be wasted and wind up on the ground.)
- Good location for the bird feeder (if you aren’t able to hang your bird feeder from a tree limb, a shepherd’s hook is a good option. Be sure to place the feeder in a location that is safe for the birds to land, and doesn’t allow any neighborhood cats to lay in wait to make a catch. The shepherd’s hook will also allow you to place the feeder near a window, so you’ll be able to get a good view of your feathered visitors. Even if you live in an apartment, balconies and windows feeders are both good options.)
Those are the basics! Other options to add are a birdbath, bird identification book, suet feeder for cold months, a bird house or additional feeders such as a hummingbird feeder. (Be aware, squirrels love to dine at bird feeders, and they are pretty crafty at finding their way to the feeder. Some people choose to offer squirrels their own feeder!
Making your own bird treats can be a fun activity for you and your children as well! A quick Internet search can yield a bounty of recipes. This one from Pink Pistachio is a really simple and easy option.
There you have it! A simple way to break into caring for animals. If things go well, and your child shows enough responsibility, you’ll be in a better position to decide if they are ready for a bigger commitment!