So, You Think You Want a Parrot
Parrots are unlike any other pet. They have a personality all their own and they can be such a joy to own. So, you think you want a parrot? What things should you consider in your search for a companion?
While many people may love the idea of having a parrot as a pet, they are unaware of essential parrot care and and training. They may not consider how long a parrot can live. If you want a parrot as a pet, you have to realize that a parrot is a long-term pet that can sometimes outlive you! It is important that you read this basic guide on parrot care before you decide to invest your time and money on a parrot.
What To Expect Life expectancy
As I've mentioned throughout this blog, a parrot can live a long time. Depending on the kind of parrot and when you got them, some can live up to 100 years old! I wasn’t kidding when I said they could outlive you. Learn about parrot life expectancy here. Because parrots do live such a long time, there are many parrots that have been re-homed several times throughout their lifetime. This could be a bad thing because you never know what kind of environment they lived in prior to coming to your home. To the knowledgable, re-homed birds can make great companions.
Parrots are Like Children!
Think of your parrot as a feathery Kindergarten aged child. They make a mess and they are loud. Don’t be surprised when you go home to seed casings, fruit peels, toys, and even their own feathers all over the area around their cage.
When let out of their cages, you’ll want to keep an eye on your things because they can hide things, toss around your stuff, chew on furniture and get into trouble! Oh, and unless you want a fried parrot, be sure to keep your parrot away from any electrical wires because the parrot may tend to chew on things. Yes, like having a little kid around, you'll want to parrot proof your house.
Remember how I mentioned that parrots are noisy like a kid? Well I wasn’t exaggerating. Large parrots are vocal birds that love to squawk a few times a day, yodel, or even mimic you. Yes, you can teach them to talk, so you will want to watch what you say around them lest you want them to repeat you.
Also, in keeping in mind that your parrot is like a child, you do not want to keep your bird isolated or ignore them. Parrots are highly social and they require daily companionship and to be around others. If you isolate your parrot, expect to see very noticeable changes in your parrot. These can range from emotional disturbance to aggressive or anxious behavior. It’s not a pretty sight and in short—just don’t do it.
Lovey Dovey Parrots are affectionate creatures and they adore physical contact like petting, cuddling, and even kisses. Besides training your bird, you will want to make sure that you carve out a little time every day to show your bird how much you adore them. You can do this by letting them sit on your knee or beside you while you rub their head and neck. Some parrots may even lay on their backs and let you pet their tummies. However, we highly recommend that you learn the proper way to pet a bird.
Speaking of love, parrots have a unique way of reciprocating their affections for you. If you notice him bobbing his head after he’s eaten, he is preparing to regurgitate his dinner for you. This means your parrot thinks of you as its mate. You'll want to learn how to prevent hormonal surges that can lead to bad behavior.
Parrots Need an Excellent Diet
Feeding your parrot is not like feeding small, ornamental birds. In a way, they are very much like you and I. We are what we eat. We get bored if we are given the same meal repeatedly, and we can even develop dietary problems. Parrots are no exception, as they love a variety of different fruits, seeds, and vegetables.
When you are going to feed your parrot, you should always try to give them a nice variety of different foods and textures. Some of the basic foods you should be giving them, depending on the species might include: berries, apples, grapes, pears and bananas are some fruits that parrots especially care for, but they can also like tropical fruits like mango, papaya and kiwi.
Some vegetables that you can include in their diet are carrots, beetroot, beans, and spinach. Just make sure that when you are giving them any kind of produce, they have been thoroughly cleaned. It is recommended that you give larger parrots nuts throughout the year. These nuts include walnuts, pecans, cashews and hazelnuts.
As much variety you can give your parrot, there are just some things that you should never give them. This includes: avocado, chocolate, caffeine, salty or greasy food, alcohol, and pits of fruits. These foods are toxic to your bird and they could ultimately kill them.
Providing a Nice Shelter
Like any animal, you will want to give your parrot a place to call their own—so to speak. Most people keep their birds inside, so you will want to find a cage that is suitable for the bird. This means if your parrot is a large breed, you will want to give them a cage that is large enough for them to move around comfortably, but you should also expect to let the bird out of the cage on a daily basis.
All cages, regardless of the size of the bird it houses, should have a natural perch like a branch from a tree outside. These perches are better choices than a standard dowel type perch because it has different widths, which is important because it flexes the bird’s bones in the feet. Also, these perches should be changed regularly to keep help keep those bones flexible.
When you are lining the bottom of the cage, you’ll want to use cage liners like black & white newspaper or other substrate that will allow you to keep an eye on your birds droppings. Another way parrots are like humans is that they need a clean environment—so be prepared to clean the cage daily. Now, you don’t have to keep your bird in your house. You can keep them in an aviary in your garden. The aviary should have an enclosure that will protect them from poor weather and is draft free.
No matter what kind of environment you keep your parrot in, you will want to make sure it is stimulating. Part of good parrot care is to encourage their inquisitive nature, and you can do that by purchasing safe toys from a trusted online vendor, like BirdSupplies.com. Some other ideas that you should include in your birds cage include cotton robes and wooden climbing frames because they enjoy climbing.
Like you and I, our parrot friends like to be clean. You would be surprised at how much birds enjoy being bathed! There are three ways that you can introduce your bird the concept of bathing:
1. Fill a clean spray bottle with room temperature water and set the nozzle to the mist setting. Hold the bottle about 18 inches from the bird and spray them. You’ll want to avoid spray it in the face, partially out of courtesy. Let the bird determine if it wants its face wet.
2. You can bring your bird in the shower with you!
3. You can create your own bird bath (with an inch or two of water) and set your bird on the ledge. This will allow the bird to check out the water on its own terms.
You can bathe your bird about two or three times a week. After your bird is done bathing, you can towel off the extra water from its feathers. A fun little fact: some parrots like to be blown dry. If you attempt to blow dry your bird, make sure the setting is on warm and your dryer is at least 18 inches away from the bird.
Training Your Parrot
As mentioned above, parrots are naturally inquisitive creatures and they are very intelligent. In the wild, they are always talking to one another, foraging for food—basically living the life. To be caged and have their food given to them in a bowl goes against their very instincts and it could be detrimental to their welfare if they go unstimulated. This is why you should consider training your parrot. With some patience, you can train your parrot to do a multitude of tricks as well as correct certain behavioral problems.
This parrot is accidentally being taught how not to behave.
Not only does teaching your parrot to do tricks keep them stimulated, it can also be a fantastic way to bond with your bird. Some of these tricks includes targeting (a tool that you want to bird to touch). When the bird learns this, it can be used to train it to do other things like approaching on command and retrieving. The parrots can be taught how to shake claws, open its wings, bow, ride bird-sized bikes, fly through hoops, sing and talk on command, and even roller skate.
One of the best ways you can stimulate your parrot is by incorporating flight tricks into your parrot care regime. The safest way to allow flight is with an Aviator Bird Harness. Some people attend classes to teach their parrot free flight. Yo would want to thoroughly research this, and probably work with a skilled training group, though, or else risk losing your bird.
Flight can help your bird release pent up energy if they exhibiting hormonal behavior. These flight tricks include recall flight, targeted flight, and flighted retrieve. A parrot can also be taught to fly and retrieve a coin and drop it into a cup, or it can be taught to pick up a ball and drop it into a basket.
Use Positive Reinforcement when Training
When you begin using positive reinforcement to train your parrot, it will start looking to you for cues on how it should behave. These positive reinforcements and keeping the training lessons fun for the bird, your parrot will want to make you happy and will go that extra mile to receive positive attention from you. Just be aware that you should never use negative reinforcement to punish the bird for behaving badly or not performing a particular trick correctly. It can be detrimental to the bird’s psyche and could cause them to become aggressive, agitated, and even depressed.
Keeping Your Parrot Healthy
Part of proper parrot care is to make sure that your parrot is healthy. You will want to have your parrot checked out by a veterinarian annually to monitor it’s health. Discuss normal weight, recommended diet and supplements with your vet.
Remember when I mentioned that you want to have various sized perches for your parrot? This is important not only for the bones, but because the claws can also grow too long. We recommend a conditioning perch like Sandy Perches or Safety Pumice Perch to keep claws in check. Like long toe nails, the claws can be quite uncomfortable for the bird. Even with the different perches, the claws can sometimes grow too long. Only clip the claws yourself if you've been properly trained and you have styptic gel because birds have an active blood supply in their claws. If you cut the claw too short, you could nick the veins and it could lead to blood loss.
When you are monitoring the health of your bird, you should be looking at the beak and feathers for indicators. If the feathers or the beak doesn’t like normal, it may be a sign that there could a deficiency or your bird is ill. If your parrot does show some changes in beak or feather condition, take them to a vet as soon as you can.
Keep Your Parrot Safe
When you are employing proper parrot care, you should always make sure you are keeping your bird safe. Other household pets may be dangerous to your bird so always supervise visits. As mentioned before, you want to keep your bird away from electrical cords, but you should also keep them away from anything that could harm them, like sharp objects, small plastics, toxic plants, and other small things that could be a choking hazard. Remember, parrots are like children and they are inquisitive! There is no telling what kind of things they could get into!
So, you think you want a parrot. Are you ready for the high level of care that your pet will need to make it a fun, well-mannered companion? Let us know how you went about deciding on your companion parrot. What was helpful and what would you change?
- Diane Burroughs, LCSW