Macaws are arguably one of the most interesting pets that you can ever have the pleasure of keeping. They are incredibly smart, very loud, and live a long life provided they are given great care.
In this article, we will show you the top ten reasons why macaws are so hard to take care of. This is not meant to discourage you from deciding to keep a macaw, but rather to show you that these birds are demanding but also extremely rewarding to care for.
You should know just what it entails before you make the huge decision to bring a macaw into your home.
Is A Macaw Right for Me?
There are a few things you should know about as you decide to bring a macaw into your home.
They are very popular as pets, and it is easy to see why: they are so incredibly smart, their behavior is fascinating, and they can be very affectionate, too.
One important thing to keep in mind is that macaws should only be kept by experienced bird owners. If this is the first pet bird you have ever owned, we encourage you to seek a “beginner” pet bird.
You also must have plenty of space available for this bird to grow and thrive. You should also be ready to handle their many personality quirks as well as lots of noise. Macaws are VERY noisy birds.
Questions to Ask
- Am I an experienced bird owner?
- Can I handle a lot of noise?
- Is there lots of space in my home for the macaw to thrive?
Preparing for A Macaw
To properly care for a macaw will require lots of time as well as supplies.
You must be ready when you bring your macaw home and have all of his toys, cages, food and water bowls as well as food ready to go.
These are only a few of the items you will need when making the decision to own a macaw.
In this section, we will talk about the things you need to ensure your macaw starts on the right foot.
- Cage -There should be two cages available. The first will be where your macaw will go when it is time for sleep, rest, eating and relaxation. The second should be a smaller cage good for taking your macaw to the vet. The cage should be 36x48x60 inches and bar spacing should be 1 to 1.5 inches.
- Toys -Plenty of toys that are made of cardboard, natural wood and stainless steel should be supplied for your bird. Macaws need lots of toys to keep entertained and stimulated.
- Perches -Perches are what birds use to sit. Get a few wide perches so that the talons of your macaw do not touch when he sits on them. You can supply rope perches, wood perches, or even a swing for him.
- Food dishes -get a few sets of food dishes so that you can change them out daily during cleaning. Food dishes should be swapped out every day and cleaned with an organic or pet safe dish soap. Ceramic bowls or metal bowls are best.
- Cage paper or newspaper -You must line the bottom of the cage with paper, so the droppings are caught and easily disposed of.
- Pellets -Your macaw should consume a diet mainly of nutritional pellets. These can be bought at any reputable pet store and will have all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients your bird needs.
- Cuttlebone -Your macaw needs to keep his beak healthy and the way to do this is by providing some cuttlebones. Be sure you have at least one in his cage. Here is why cuttlebones are incredibly important for parrots.
- Treats -Your macaw will eat nutritional pellets, but just like us humans, birds love treats too. You can buy bird treats or offer him some fresh fruit and veggies as a special treat.
- Avian first aid kit -You can buy one at your local pet store or have them special order it for you, or you can put together your own. The items to have in your avian first aid kit include a towel, safety scissors, “quik-stop”, tweezers, needle-nose pliers, wire-cutters, gauze pads, cotton balls, q-tips, paper surgical tape, a small flashlight, a magnifying glass, sterile water, Electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte for injured or sick birds, pellets/seeds, a few jars of human baby food such as veggies, and aloe vera. These items all come in handy in providing your bird emergency care as you rush him to the vet, and the foods help keep his energy up if he is too weak to eat.
- Flight Harness -If your macaw does not have clipped wings, he runs the risk of flying away when you go outside. Having a flight harness will let you take him outdoors without worry he will fly away.
Questions to Ask
- Do I have the hundreds of dollars necessary to buy all the right supplies for my macaw?
- Am I ready to clean the cage daily for my macaw’s health?
- Do I have a good first-aid kit ready to go?
How Much Macaws Cost
Another reason why macaws rank as one of the hardest birds to care for is that they are a huge investment at first.
Unless you receive a macaw from an owner who could no longer care for their macaw due to health issues, death, or moving to a place that does not allow pets, you must be ready to save up money and spend a bundle on actually adopting a macaw into your home.
Now, we will discuss the average prices you can expect when you go to adopt your new pet.
Many people think of a Blue and Gold Macaw when they think about this species, and it is not hard to see why. Their beauty is supreme. This bird, on average, will cost about $1200 and could go to $1500 easily.
When it comes to Scarlet Macaws, you can also expect to pay the price. These beautiful red birds with their rainbow wings range anywhere from $2000 to about $3000 or more.
Smaller macaws, such as the Hahn’s Macaw, can range from about $750 to $1000.
You must be ready to travel, too-some aviaries may be located out of state or region and you should secure a safe ride-not public transportation-so your bird can safely and securely ride back home with you in the least-stressful way.
Questions to Ask
- Am I ready to save up money to purchase my macaw? Will my financial situation allow it?
- Which Macaw can I afford?
- If necessary, is there somebody who can take me to the aviary to pick up my macaw and bring us back home?Macaws need exercise – Flying might be the best of all
Why Macaws are Hard to Care For
Now that you know the fundamentals to acquiring a pet macaw, what can you expect when you actually bring home your new feathered buddy?
This section is designed to tell you the ten hardest parts of caring for your macaw.
#1: They Need Lots of Attention
Macaws are social animals. In the wild, they live in a flock, which gives them plenty of friends to talk to, interact with, mate, hunt and perch with.
When a macaw does not have these things living in captivity, you become his flock. This means your macaw needs your attention for at least an hour every day.
Macaws who do not get the proper level of interaction, socialization, and play become mentally damaged and can even self-harm as a result.
Macaws are really smart, and they love to learn. You can train your macaw to do plenty of cool things, and they will absolutely love the learning process.
Teaching your pet should be fun and done at the pace of the bird. If your macaw does not feel like dancing to music, do not force him to do so.
Simply take a break and come back to see if he is more willing to learn. Training sessions should be short, no more than 20 minutes in length.
#2: They Have to Warm Up to You
Dogs and cats may warm up to owners immediately; everybody has heard the story of the dog who “chose their owner.” Macaws are different. You will likely have to earn your bird’s trust.
You can do this by approaching your bird slowly and carefully. Just sit with him for a few minutes and speak with him gently. Then walk away.
Do this and slowly he will become desensitized to you. Be sure to keep interactions positive. Offer small treats to show you are friendly.
You should also try music. Birds, especially macaws, love music, so put on some positive and upbeat music and dance a little.
It sounds crazy, but many macaws will enjoy the fun and sounds of music. Be sure to praise your bird when he bobs his head or dances.
Warming up to your pet is like earning the trust of a new friend: It will take time, but it will happen. Be patient and do not make your pet do anything he doesn’t want to do.
#3: They Are Noisy
Once we heard a story of two bird owners getting some fuel at a nearby gas station about a half-mile from their home. As they were filling the tank, they could hear the screams of their hyacinth macaw playing in his outdoor cage.
While this may seem funny and cute, it is a serious matter to contend with. Will neighbors, friends or family be okay with the loud noises that your macaw will make? Moreover, can you handle it?
It is important to understand that these noises are a natural trait; a means of calling their flock to reunite at the end of a long day hunting, playing and interacting with one another.
The decibel level can be over 100, so if somebody in your home has sensitive ears be sure you are considerate of their needs.
Also, keep in mind that macaws adapt to the noise level in your home. If your home is quieter, your macaw will be, too!
To understand how loud macaws truly are, we recommend reading our articles below:
- Are macaws louder than Cockatoos?
- How loud macaws can actually get and what you can do about it
- Are Sun Conures louder than Macaws?
#4: They Are Expensive
We have already discussed the initial investment that comes with adopting a macaw into your home.
It can easily be over $1000 for just the pet alone, and it may be higher or lower depending on where you live.
You may be able to adopt a macaw for a lesser price from a bird sanctuary, but keep in mind many sanctuaries have stringent requirements about who can adopt their precious birds many of which have come from troubled pasts.
Aside from this, you should also understand that the supplies we discussed earlier are not optional-they are all necessary for making sure your macaw gets off to a great start when he enters your home.
You never know what can happen, so the first-aid kit is necessary. Food is one of the basic needs of a bird, and the cage to the bird is what a home is to you.
Do not try to cut corners or skip over a few of the items to save money-it will not be worth it.
#5. They Go Through Adolescence
The awkward teen years of humans are like that for macaws, too. They flip one wing, they may vocalize a bit, they may wrestle around much like pets such as puppies do. It makes them look a bit disheveled.
Like human teens, they test the limits, squawking, biting, and being noisy. Your goal is to help your macaw by helping him stay calm and being a loving bird owner.
Make sure he knows he is part of the family. Include him in your movies, meals, and general family time.
Be watchful of his mannerisms, as the adolescent phase can one where he will bully the people or animals around. Understand this is just a phase and he will grow out of it with proper care.
#6. They Can, And Will, Bite
Macaws bite out of fear, aggression or because they are playing around. They may be feeling hormonal or stressed out.
Be sure you minimize bites by playing with your pet every day to increase mental stimulation, keep the cage clean, and keep him away from drafts or other uncomfortable settings. Keep his stress level to a minimum.
Bites can be serious when macaws deliver them. If your bird is in an aggressive mood, DO NOT attempt to calm him down by touching him. Instead speak with him through the cage gently, slip treats in (keep fingers away), and play music or use toys to keep him entertained.
In fact, macaws have the worst bites of all parrots. We explain this in more detail and how you can avoid being bitten in this article.
#7. Cleaning Is an Everyday Task
A deep-cleaning of the cage should be a monthly activity, but daily cleaning has to take place.
You should expect to wipe down the surfaces of your cage every day with a damp cloth or paper towel and get rid of any droppings or pellets stuck in the cage.
Food and water bowls should be changed out every day and replaced with a new set. Wash the old ones with eco-friendly cleaner or pet safe dish soap and dry them thoroughly.
Also, make sure you provide your feathered buddy a fresh cage liner, so he is not walking around in old food or droppings every day. You can use newspaper or cage paper to accomplish this task.
Indeed, this is a job that has to be done daily, like walking a dog or scooping a litter box for a cat.
To help you a little bit with cage cleaning, we have created the following articles. You should read them if you want to make cleaning the birdcage a little easier and less expensive:
- 10 Birdcage cleaning tips
- Can I clean the birdcage with vinegar?
- Parrots can eat lemons, but you can also use them for THIS!
#8. They Destroy Things
Macaws have large beaks and have to chew on things.
They are not as destructive as other birds, like the cockatoo, but they will destroy woodwork and other household objects if you do not give them the right chew toys.
You can give them natural, bird-safe wood to chew, and you can also train your macaw not to chew on things that are not his toys.
This is another example of why you have to make sure your macaw has the mental stimulation and toys/tools to keep him occupied.
#9. They Molt
Molting is a natural part of a bird’s life, the process by which he grows new feathers and gets rid of the old ones.
The process of molting is natural, but it can be painful, and your pet macaw can be rather punchy during this period.
Be sure that you help him through this phase by offering treats, being kind, and being understanding when he may not feel like playing.
Some birds may even be a bit lethargic as all their energy is going toward the molting process-so be patient.
#10. They Must Be Part of Your Family
Your macaw cannot be treated like a fish or a cat, pets who can be left alone for long periods of time with no fear of psychological damage.
Instead, your macaw has to be part of the family, given a large space in your home, and included in the activities of your own “flock.”
Are you scared of getting a macaw now? You should! It is a huge commitment. While we do not say that these birds require lower maintenance, we recommend having a look at our article about Mini Macaws here.
Even though they are not easy to take care of, the difference in size is huge and that makes caring for these birds a little easier.
There is no denying that macaws are hard to care for. But the right person will see the chance to care for a macaw as joy and fulfillment, instead of a heavy burden!