how to care for a parrot

By Diane Burroughs

Revised 04/30/2023

Are you thinking about adopting a parrot? Parrots are the third most popular pet in the USA and they make wonderful companions. They are hard to care for if you do not know how, and do not have a strong dedication to them. That's why I've put together this parrot care guide to help you learn how to care for a parrot so that you can have a forever-feathered friend. In this guide, we'll cover everything from the basics of parrot care to the more advanced topics like training and enrichment activities. So let's get started on your journey to becoming a responsible parrot parent!

The joys of living with a parrot

The majesty of parrots is hard to dispute. Their brightly colored feathers and unique personalities are beautiful. But more than just their appearance, parrots are incredibly smart animals that can provide a level of companionship that is truly unique.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about owning a parrot is its ability to talk to you. While not all parrots can talk, many of them can learn to mimic words and phrases with surprising accuracy. This can be a real conversation starter and a fun way to bond with your feathered friend.

Of course, living with a parrot also requires a level of bird care that is different from other pets. You'll need to make sure they have a clean and safe living space, provide them with a balanced diet, and give them plenty of attention and social interaction. But for those who are up to the task, the rewards are truly amazing. So if you're considering adopting a parrot, be prepared for a lifetime of joy and wonder with your new feathered friend.

Why so many parrots are surrendered

Parrots are wonderful creatures that can bring so much joy to our lives. Unfortunately, many people adopt parrots without understanding the level of care and commitment that is required. As a result, many parrots end up being surrendered or abandoned. Parrots are probably the most frequently rehomed pets in the United States.

There are a number of reasons why parrots are surrendered. Firstly, parrots are flock animals that require social interaction with humans and/or other parrots to be happy. They are smart too and therefore also need daily mental stimulation and exercise. If they are left alone for periods of time without anything to do, they can become bored, and get into trouble.

Some under-stimulated birds will get depressed, and develop behavior problems like screaming, biting, and chewing up things.

Another reason why parrots are surrendered is that they can be messy. They produce a lot of dust and dander, which can cause respiratory problems in people with allergies. Parrots also require a lot of space and attention, which can be difficult for some people to provide.

Furthermore, parrots require a different type of care than dogs and cats. Without proper care, they can become hormonal and develop additional behavioral issues. Unfortunately, many parrot owners inadvertently set their pets up for failure by failing to meet their needs which can result in obnoxious hormonal behaviors that are both dangerous and toxic to family life.

The common misconception about parrots is that they are cute pets that just sit on perches all day. In fact, they are intelligent, social animals that require a great deal of attention, care, time, exercise, enrichment, and love. When adopting a parrot, be sure you are willing to commit to his or her lifetime care. 

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What kind of parrot is best for you?

Before bringing home a parrot, it's important to consider what kind of parrot will be the best fit for you and your lifestyle. Different species of parrots have different care needs, temperaments, and personalities. To ensure a successful adoption, it's important to choose a parrot species that fits well with your lifestyle and capabilities.

First and foremost, you'll want to consider the noise level of the species you're interested in. Some parrots, like Cockatoos, Macaws, and Amazons, are known for their loud and raucous calls. If you live in an apartment or have close neighbors, you may want to choose a species that's quieter, such as a Pionus or a Cockatiel.

Next, consider the amount of time and attention you can devote to your parrot. Some species, like Conures and Quakers, are known for their social and affectionate personalities and require plenty of interaction and stimulation. Other species, like Eclectus and Lories, are known for being more independent and require less attention.

Another factor to consider is the level of experience you have with parrots. If you're new to parrot ownership, it may be best to choose a species that's known for being more forgiving and easy to care for, such as a Budgie or a Lovebird. More experienced bird owners may want to take on a challenge with a species like a Macaw or a Cockatoo, but should be prepared for the time and effort required to provide the necessary care. Large bird care is a lifetime commitment.

Overall, it's important to choose a parrot species that fits well with your lifestyle, personality, and level of experience. By doing so, you'll be setting yourself and your new feathered friend up for a long and happy life together.

How to care for your new parrot

Caring for a parrot is a big responsibility, but with the right knowledge and dedication, it can be a very rewarding experience. One of the most important things to remember is to provide your parrot with a healthy and balanced diet. A diet that is 60% bird pellets and 40% raw, fresh foods such as vegetables and fruits is a good place to start.

Parrots are very active and curious animals that require plenty of stimulation and enrichment activities throughout the day. Toys, foraging puzzles, and interactive games are great ways to keep your parrot entertained and engaged. Providing your parrot with plenty of opportunities to play and explore will help prevent boredom and destructive behaviors.

Training your parrot is also an important aspect of their care. Basic obedience training, such as teaching your parrot to step up on your finger or to come when called, can help build a strong bond between you and your feathered friend. It can also make it easier to handle your parrot for grooming and vet visits. One of the most proactive things you can do for your pet is to train it several times a week using positive reinforcement methods like "Clicker Training for Birds."

Bathing and grooming are also important aspects of parrot care. Some parrots enjoy being misted with water or taking baths in a shallow dish of water. Grooming your parrot regularly can help keep their feathers and skin healthy and in beautiful shape.

Getting enough sleep is also essential for your parrot's overall health and wellbeing. Parrots need at least 10-12 hours of sleep each night, so it's important to provide them with a quiet and dark sleeping environment, especially if you're a night owl yourself.

Lastly, it's important to provide your parrot with a spacious and comfortable living environment. A large cage with plenty of room to move around and play is essential for your parrot's physical and mental health.

Remember, owning a parrot is a commitment that requires time, patience, and dedication. If you ever need help or have questions about caring for your parrot, there are many resources available including avian veterinarians, online forums, and parrot rescue organizations.

Parrot behavior 101

Parrots are highly intelligent and social creatures that thrive on positive interaction and mental stimulation. To keep your parrot happy and healthy, it's important to understand their natural behavior and provide them with appropriate training and enrichment.

Parrot parents dedicate much of their time to teaching their young to survive within the flock and thrive. Handfed parrots require a lot of training to become well-behaved. The new owner of a parrot must realize their new family member is an exotic pet with many of its wild ways still intact. Unfortunately, many new "parronts" coddle their baby parrots resulting in a disaster once the bird reaches adolescence.

Training is an essential part of living with a parrot. Teaching them basic commands like "station" or "stay put" can help keep them safe and out of trouble, while teaching them to come when called can strengthen your bond and make it easier to interact with them.

When interacting with your parrot, health and safety should always be a top priority.

  1. Make it a point to learn how to pet a parrot.

  2. Make sure to offer it 10-12 hours of sleep per night.

  3. Feed a diet of 60% pellets and 40% fresh plant-based foods.

  4. Encourage foraging and exercise

Parrots crave attention and socialization, so it's important to make sure you're spending quality time with your feathered friend each day. Regular interaction can help prevent behavior issues like biting or feather plucking. But, at the same time, make sure that your bird knows how to entertain itself.

When handling your parrot, it's important to be gentle and supportive. Bird's don't need cuddling, even though some species like cockatoos love it. They think cuddling is foreplay and that just makes them hormonal.   

Grooming is also an important aspect of parrot care. Regularly trimming their nails and beak can help prevent injury, while giving them a bath or misting them with water can help keep their feathers healthy and clean.

If you're struggling to handle your parrot's behavior, don't hesitate to seek help from a professional. Many parrot owners experience burnout or behavior issues that they don't know how to handle, and a trained expert can offer guidance and support.

By understanding your parrot's natural behavior and providing them with appropriate training and enrichment, you can enjoy a happy and healthy relationship with your forever-feathered friend.

Where to get help before you burn out with bird care

Taking care of a parrot can be rewarding, but it's also a huge responsibility. It's important to recognize when you need help so you don't burn out. Just like with kids, doctors or vets help with uncovering and treating health problems. Similarly, bird behaviorists work with providing for parrot wellness to improve overall well-being. This includes nutrition, enrichment, and behavior.

If you're feeling overwhelmed or struggling to meet your parrot's needs, consider seeking help from a bird behaviorist. A 60-minute session with a bird behaviorist will go a long way toward helping you find solutions. They can help you develop a training plan, troubleshoot problem behaviors, and provide enrichment ideas to keep your parrot happy and engaged.

There are also many online resources available, including parrot forums and Facebook groups, where you can connect with other parrot owners for support, but this is different than the specialized help that a trained and experienced bird behaviorist can offer. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it – taking care of a parrot is a team effort, and there's no shame in needing a little support.

In conclusion...

Adopting a parrot can be a fulfilling experience, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. You need to ensure that your new feathered friend is happy, healthy, and well-cared for. Before adopting a parrot, take the time to do your research and learn about the different species and their needs. This will help you choose the best parrot for you and your lifestyle.

Remember, owning a parrot is a long-term commitment that requires time, effort, and patience. Make sure that you are willing to put in the work before bringing one home. And if you ever feel overwhelmed or unsure, don't be afraid to seek help from a professional.

By following the tips in this guide and seeking out support when needed, you can create a happy and healthy life for yourself and your forever-feathered friend. Happy National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day, and happy bird-parenting!

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Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

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