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So you think you want a parrot?

by Jami Galindo

We have been asked numerous times about a term we use often, HUSBANDRY. Loosely translated this term refers to ALL aspects of the care of your companion bird (animal). I am going to break this down into a tutorial post.

A parrot can be a very rewarding companion, but it is a VERY big commitment. The mistake most parronts make is the level of commitment is not understood BEFORE they get a bird.  In the following blog I will cover a bit of the research, issues, expectations, and choices that need to be addressed during the "decision" stage. This is the stage BEFORE you bring the bird home.


Read Read Read!!! Read all you can before you decide if a parrot is the companion for you; it takes a special person to be a parront. You will be bitten, you will get screamed at, you will have chewed belongings, you will get pooped on, and frustrated and offended, and finally you will think your bird hates you. Can you turn the other cheek and take no offense? Can you understand that everything a parrot does is not personal, it is his/her method of communication?

Research all you can and determine your ability to be a bird owner.

  • Do you have enough time and the funds required to own a bird? 

  • Do you have enough space to allow your chosen parrot to live somewhat independently with a cage of the appropriate size?

  • Do you have a play space for out-of-the-cage time to allow your parrot to be a part of the family (flock)?

  • Do you have the money to provide food, toys, proper housing and environmental amenities, and regular visits to a Certified Avian Veterinarian (both regular yearly visits and emergency visits)?

Research things like restrictions, lease restrictions and council restrictions.

  • Do you need a permit to have a bird?

  • Can you have a bird in your home/apartment?

  • Are there noise restrictions and laws pertaining to companion bird ownership? 

  • Do you need a wildlife permit to own certain native or exotic species?

  • If you rent, check with your agent or owner to obtain permission (in writing) to own a bird (and have it specify the number you can have).

  • Check council laws and bylaws for noise restrictions (some, okay, most species can be very loud).

Research the environmental needs for a psittacine ... (space, temp, humidity and sunlight) and assess YOUR ability to provide for these needs.

Look at your house, visualize the space needed for a cage and play gym, do you see it, will it fit? Take a big sheet of paper and draw out the size on a template, add a foot all around and decide where to place it. Now add 5 more feet to THAT for debris fall out.

Can you control, regulate, and maintain the proper temperature (60F to 90F or 15c to 32c indoors)? A good rule is if you are too cold so is your bird. The humidity should be about 60% but can vary between 50% and 70%.

Can you provide proper and sufficient lighting? Sunlight is needed so your bird's system can manufacture Vitamin D for healthy bones and feathers. Will your bird have space and opportunity for healthy preening in natural sunlight to support feather growth. Natural is best, take your bird outside 30 minutes to an hour 3 times a week if possible. If you need to use artificial lighting be sure it is avian specific, and use it 4 to 6 hours a day and be prepared to replace it ever 6-9 months.

Research mental stimulation and mobility needs and your ability to provide these.

Birds need to be kept busy. Give them jobs to do; make them work for their food. Make them forage with parcels and puzzles and flat trays. Train them to do a task. Training keeps them connected to you and in turn connected to their flock.

Birds fly - training to facilitate this is very important. Regardless if you allow free flight inside or outside. You must teach them how to recognize and avoid dangers, which include inside windows, fans, doors, and mirrors. If you choose to free fly outside, well you better be a VERY experienced parront in which case I don't need to tell you of the dangers of outside flight, but if this is not the case, a harness or outside cage is a must.

Research dietary needs (some are species specific) so prepare for these.

Some species have special dietary needs like Ekkies (no pellets, no added vitamins - only natural sources, and high Vitamin A needs) or Lorikeets (high fruit and specialized sweet powder). Research the perfect diet for the parrot you choose and assess your ability to provide it. A seed diet is a very high energy choice and not recommended as it will contribute to liver, heart, and other organ failure. A preferable ratio is 70% veggies (with the majority being dark green leafy); 20% pellets (recommended are high quality but LOW energy -- Zupreem or Roudybush Daily Maintenance blends only), and finally 10% fruit and tree nuts. PEANUTS ARE NOT NUTS AND SHOULD BE AVOIDED.

Research cost of regular care and ongoing support.

When you are considering cost, it is not only the cost of the parrot, cage, and toys, it also includes the initial vet visit upon purchase. You should already have identified a certified avian Vet in your area AND an emergency Vet. Know the phone number and driving directions to each and read the reviews before choosing the vet. 

I know the following list can be overwhelming, but to keep your companion bird healthy you need to know that you're starting with a healthy bird. If  you are not then you need to know exactly what you ARE dealing with.Initial Tests should include the following; call your potential vet and ask for the price, right now. You'll get an idea of the expense associated with owning a bird!

  • Physical examination

  • Fecal Float for Parasites

  • Fecal and Cloacal Gram Stains

  • Chlamydiosis (Psittacosis) … this disease can be transmitted to humans

  • Polyoma Virus Testing

  • Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease Testing (PTFD)

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC), get a copy and keep a file

  • X-Ray (for evidence of heavy metal and to see organs for issues that aren't showing in the blood panel)

Now, under the ongoing support list, I must mention that you don't forget to nominate someone to care for your bird in the event something dreadful happens to you and especially if you are in the twilight era of your journey on this Earth. Teach a younger family member how to correctly care for your bird. Get them to spend time and build a bond with your bird. I know none of us like to talk about things like this, but it is part of being responsible. It is not fair for them to depend 100% on just one person and suddenly that person is gone. Imagine how devastating that is for them.

Make sure to consider the  costs of cages and toys ... that is a recurring cost. Cages get old and worn out and toys, well they get destroyed, in some cases very quickly. These things will need to be replaced.

Research the needs of various species.

As the old saying goes ... baby steps. While all parrots are special and amazing, not every bird is for every person. Consider the following:

  • Don't get a parrot that is above your skill level.

  • Don't get a parrot you can't provide for or one that you are afraid of.

  • Don't get a parrot on a whim or just because they're pretty or funny or they talk.

Remember that although humans have tamed these amazing creatures and they are NOT disposable. You are their flock, they will love you unconditionally and look to you to provide their needs for life. Some birds can live up to 80+ years. You are embarking on a life-long comittment, just as you would if deciding to have a child, it is the same level of commitment except the parrot isn't going to grow up and move out on their own.

Choose the right size and species for you. Do your research and stay on top of their care needs. Be honest with your capabilities and limitations and select the companion that you can care for. If you do THAT then you will have a companion for life.

We have many tips hints and helpful links on our website or ask to join our community Parrot Problem Solving 101 on FaceBook and our Administrators help you with any specific issues that arise.


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