If you are considering adopting a parrot and making him or her the newest member of your family, chances are you wonder if you can provide the best care and living environment for your prospective bird.
Parrots are one of the most stunning and unique pets that you can own, and their huge personalities make them a joy to be around. But what actually is taking care of a parrot-like?
Once you’ve owned lots of parrots and other lovely birds, you come to realize the difficulties that arise with parrot care. Everything from how to help your parrot keep his beak in good shape to making sure he gets daily exercise are common issues.
But the good news is the majority of parrot care concerns are easily addressed so long as you follow some simple procedures.
In a handful of situations, the care of your parrot will be best left to an avian veterinarian. But the most common ways to take good care of a parrot start with you!
In this article, we are going to jump in and show you what it means to care for a parrot – so you can see it is not necessarily hard, just something you must take your time with and do correctly to ensure good bird health.
1. Understand the Cost
Depending on what breed and type of parrot you want, your cost can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. If you are lucky to find a parrot in an animal shelter, a small adoption fee will be all you need to take home your pet.
No matter where you get your bird, you need to make sure he has a cage in which to sleep, eat and feel safe. The cage must be at least 18x18x18. This can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars, depending on the cage you pick up.
There are also some parrot accessories that you will need to purchase in order to ensure your parrot’s good health and wellness. These include a
- cuttlebone plus a holder (Offering cuttlebones is highly important! Here are 4 reasons why you need to give your parrot cuttlebone!)
- a play gym
- food and water bowls
- a bird bath
- cage cover for night time (Even though they can’t see well in the dark, parrots need a covered cage at night – Here is why!)
This will cost you a few hundred dollars.
Bird food is another cost that you will be facing as a new owner. You should provide your bird with a varying diet of seeds, pellets, grains, fruits and veggies, plus a few treats to give every now and again.
You can expect to pay about $10-$30 per month for your pellets and seeds, and fruits and veggies will be about $15 to $45.
2. Parrots Are Sometimes Messy
Parrots are beautiful and great at keeping themselves clean, but like other pets-dogs, cats, gerbils, and more-they definitely go to the bathroom a lot during the day and it is your job to ensure these droppings stay out of their food and water bowls.
You must clean your bird’s cage each day to make sure it is free of debris and waste.
Wash the following every day:
- Food and water bowls
- Any toys that are covered in droppings or food
- The liner-newspaper or store-bought liner-should be changed daily.
- Sweep the surrounding areas so that there are no feathers, food or droppings on the ground.
Get two or three sets of dishes so that if you don’t have time to wash your parrot’s bowls or toys they can be changed out. Use an organic or animal-safe dish soap so your parrot doesn’t accidentally ingest a chemical from commercial dish soaps.
Cleaning the birdcage can be a pain. That’s why we have created an article that makes your life easier! Here are 10 birdcage cleaning tips you must know!
It should be noted that some birds may need a cage to stay in while cleanings are being completed if they are a flight risk-that is, if you think they may fly away out a window. Other times, it is a good chance for the bird to walk around and stretch his wings.
3. Parrots Live a Long Life
Parrots will make a great lifelong friend. They can live anywhere from 20-50 years or even longer! This is great news for those of us seeking a good friend for life.
However, this is also a huge consideration when it comes to assessing the difficulty of care. Caring for this parrot is a lifetime responsibility-your parrot will always need your help and care to live a great life.
Consider the rate at which you:
- or are away from your home for work, family or other obligations.
Can your parrot count on you to be there for him, or would your other obligations prevent you from being the best owner possible?
Parrots are, after all, social animals. They are flock animals, and the majority of the activities they do are done in a flock. The flock provides a sense of security and safety, as well as good hunting backup.
They can interact, play and learn with one another.
So, ask yourself: Can I be there for my parrot on a regular basis, for a really long time?
4. Exercising Your Bird
Birds are just like us humans. They need good exercise, and plenty of it, to make sure they stay healthy and fit, with their hearts and other vital organs working properly. Birds need a place where they can
- Fly around freely
- Flap their wings
- Swing on a toy (Yepp, parrots love swings and you should get one for your parrot. However, be careful! Not all swings are good for them. Read more on swings for parrots here!)
- Climb around
Even birds who have their wings clipped need a place to do these things. Although they cannot fly freely, they must be able to climb, swing and otherwise stretch out.
Parrots also enjoy music and some of them really love to dance, so a place for them to perch and “dance” is enjoyable and healthy for them.
Consider your own home. Do you have a place where your bird can fly freely, indoors and out? Are you able to hang a toy up so your bird can climb and have some exercise time while out of his cage?
Is your home conducive to a parrot walking around, or would another pet disturb it?
Exercising a bird is not hard but can present some challenges.
5. Mental Stimulation of Your Parrot
Just like us humans need the mental stimulation of a good conversation, a thought-provoking book or article, or solving problems and getting things done at work, birds need their brains trained every day.
Parrots like to learn the following:
- Basic commands
The African Grey parrot, for instance, mimics the sounds of humans and household appliances. Parrots love it when you help them learn cool new tricks, and it provides a great bonding experience for you and your bird alike.
Spending time with your parrot is beneficial in a few ways. Your bird becomes more trusting of you, for one. Your bird sees you as a friend and will look forward to seeing you. And you get to take pride in seeing them show off their tricks!
You can train your parrot to do some pretty neat things, and in doing so you should always give a little treat for good behavior and good effort.
Your parrot will soon come to associate trick-time with spending time with you and getting a nice treat, too. And, his brain will be stimulated, making everybody happier.
6. You most probably need to get a second parrot
Parrots are social animals, and they need a friend to interact with during the day. Often, parrots of high intelligence that are alone most of the day begin to pluck out their feathers.
They are sad and depressed, as their human cannot provide the same level of companionship that another parrot could offer.
Parrots should be kept in pairs, especially if you are a working person and would not be home as often as you would like to be.
This might be shocking for most people but it is the truth. Parrots that are kept alone often suffer from psychological problems. Some even bite their own feet off!
Yes, keeping parrots alone can work but that is actually pretty rare. So please, just get at least two parrots.
A mirror is not a good replacement for a real bird buddy. In fact, mirrors can lead to psychological problems in birds. We explain more on parrots and why they shouldn’t have mirrors here!
7. Know Parrot Diseases
As any pet owner knows, sickness happens. Nobody wants to deal with it, but we do. And some illnesses are easier to combat than others. As always, consult with your vet ASAP if you suspect something is wrong.
Some common parrot illnesses are:
- Psittacine Beak & Feather Disease
- Pacheco’s disease
- Egg binding (females only).
…happens when you notice white sores around the mouth and in the throat and a loss of regurgitating and cravings for food. You can treat with anti-fungal medicine.
Psittacine Beak & Feather Disease…
…causes feather loss and injuries to the nose. You must get a blood test for this, and if your bird has it, there is sadly no cure.
…symptoms are sinusitis, anorexia, dormancy, diarrhea, and tremors. If you suspect your bird has this, isolate him, as he can infect other birds.
…are common in many pets; fleas and ticks are an issue. If you suspect your parrot is affected by mites, worms, or other such parasites, watch for signs like lethargy, weight loss, coughing, sneezing or diminished appetite.
…affects females only and occurs when she cannot expel the egg from the body, which can make her sick. Speak to your veterinarian immediately for help with this and the other diseases mentioned.
8. Pet a Parrot the Right Way!
Dogs and cats like to be pet from the head to the tail. For showing love to your parrot, here is what to do:
- Do not attempt to pet your bird if he is feeling frustrated or seems upset.
- Understand your pet needs to get to know you first.
- Approach your pet calmly before picking him up
- Start by touching his beak, very gently.
- Pet toward the beak, not toward his tail.
Be sure that you also take an assessment of your bird’s body language before you pet him. He may be acting aggressive and will not be in the mood to be touched. If your bird is really excited to see you, he may fluff his feathers to show excitement.
Look for signs that he is in a good mood. And, avoid petting below the beak-this is perceived as a breeding move and can make your parrot hormonal as a result. They also really like to be pet on the head. Take things slow and let your pet warm up to you.
9. Keeping the Temperature Steady
Some of us live in a chilly climate, which is not good for parrots. Keep the room warm enough for your parrot by doing the following:
- Keep the room between 65 to 85 degrees F
- Do not drop the thermostat down overnight in winter.
- Do not leave your parrot in a chilly room.
If you are the sort of person who likes your rooms cold, or you already have trouble keeping the heat on due to high heating costs, consider carefully before purchasing a parrot.
The temperatures have to be kept very comfortable for these birds. If you live in a hot climate, be sure there is lots of air circulation to keep him cool.
10. Providing A Healthy Diet
Parrots are a lot like us humans in that they like to eat varied and delicious foods. You should be able to provide your parrot the following:
- Fresh fruits and veggies
- Nuts in the shell (birds like to pick out the nut)
- Seeds and pellet mixtures
Rinse all fruits and veggies like you do when you are making them for yourself. Parrots really enjoy bananas, grapes, carrots, greens, berries, and peas, among other things.
Macaws really like opening the shells of nuts to get the edible part. You can give them pistachios, pecans, or macadamia nuts to eat.
Do not ever give your parrot caffeine, alcohol, sugary foods, greasy foods, or honey. Also avoid eggplant, avocado, rhubarb, and cabbage.
11. Vet Visits
Each and every year, be sure that you take your parrot for an annual checkup to an avian vet.
Be sure you do the following:
- Go to a vet that specializes in exotic birds
- Listen closely when the vet advises you on feeding, care, and the administration of medications or supplements
- Ask the vet any and all questions about your bird, bringing a pad of paper and pen to write down what you want to know.
- Check if your vet is a member of the AAV, or Association of Avian Veterinarians.
Just as you take a cat or dog in each year for a wellness check, you should do the same for your parrot. Be sure that you have an avian vet in your local area that you can reach by car or by rideshare.
Taking public transportation is not a good idea, as your bird may become nervous or scared while on a bus or train and may disturb the other passengers.
12. Can You Stand the Noise?
Parrots can get very loud, and every parrot, once a day, goes full volume and screams at the top of their lungs. Other sounds you might hear a parrot make include
- Beak Clicking
There are plenty of other sounds, too. However, you should know that the scream is meant to be a defense mechanism. It is an alarm sound, meant to warn other parrots for miles around that something bad is happening.
Another pet or nearby object may instill fear into the parrot, and he will sound the alarm. Some pets really hate some household appliances. For instance, if your parrot is afraid of the vacuum cleaner and it causes him to panic, he may scream.
Some of the other sounds we discussed, like chatter, is harmless and like human chatter – something we do when in a good mood and just getting things done. Beak clicking is a sign of contentedness and getting ready to quiet down for the evening.
Talking is like chatter, too – it just means your parrot is feeling cheerful, inquisitive, or simply relaxed. They often say favorite words as a means of getting you to pay attention to them. Whistling is another sign of happiness among parrots.
That does not mean that every parrot is insanely loud. In this article, we show you 5 awesome parrots that are not that loud!
13. Shredding: A Parrot Hobby
No, parrots do not stand by the paper shredder at work and put scrap paper into it. Rather, they like to shred things using their beak, and this is something that bothers bird owners not used to such behaviors.
Parrots by nature love to shred things, and they are foragers too. So, shredding paper is akin to shredding foliage as a means of finding food. Shredding cage paper is pretty common, as a means of something fun to do or a means of acting hormonal (shredding the paper to build a nest).
Beware of letting your bird shred some paper:
- Newspaper may have harmful inks that hurt your bird
- It may be better to buy parrot bedding at a pet store or online retailer
- You may wish to add more toys with different materials to keep him entertained.
- Read our article on how to stop a parrot from chewing furniture!
You Can Help Your Bird Avoid Shredding
If you notice your bird becoming aggressive, chances are they are hormonal and you will want to alleviate this behavior by petting your bird the right way, ensuring no nesting material or nesting sites that appeal to your bird are available and limiting the number of daylight hours he sees.
This will help curb the behavior and bring him to a relaxed state.
Other times, it is okay to give your bird a piece of wood that they can shred for fun.
Caring for a parrot is not very hard but does require that you put a lot of work into making your bird comfortable with plenty of food, warmth and play time. But the hard work is rewarded with heaps of joyous moments between you and your pet!