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What I have Learned (a letter to new parrot parents)

by Diana Uyen

Hello! I’m Diana and this is my experience. I was remembering back to when I got each of my birds and how little I actually knew about how to care for my birds. I thought I knew a quite a bit after doing much reading, researching and talking to other parrot owners. The realization of how little I really knew hit me when it came to trying to deal with certain things and wanting to find out what was ''normal and not in bird behavior and feathering.

Oliver, just needed a basic diet change and he flourished even more. Casper on the other hand needed help. She is my naked Goffin from the neck down. I listened to advice and started her on a better journey to a happier life with better health and as many feathers as we can get on her.

Now this website is an excellent resource to read and learn and our Facebook group (Parrotproblemsolving101) is an excellent place to ask questions and get clarification. The methods taught will work if followed precisely and consistently. What I have learned when it comes to the basics is this:

1. Any time a bird is newly acquired, you start with the most basic requirements, a proper check up but a certified avian vet. You want a minimum of a complete blood count and avian panel, fecal float and gram stain, and an X-ray. Why X-ray? Well, because this test can show things the other tests might not, such as organ enlargement, immediate signs of metal toxicity (metal flecks swallowed), and many other issues.

Be sure to get a copy of all results for your own file. You never know when a different vet may benefit from seeing them, like in an emergency situation. Also, by having these records in your possessions means you can transfer the files can to a new owner should the need arise to re-home your bird.

Also ask your vet how to use a syringe to administer medicines; it's a good thing to know if your bird gets sick, and if you practice with juice, your bird will be familiar with the syringe and will be more inclined to take medicines.

2. Ensure you get your bird on a proper diet with NO SEEDS AND NO PEANUTS and no junk food (includes some foods meant for us humans). Use Roudybush or Zupreem pellets for your parrots except ecclectus [special diet] and LOTS of fresh vegetables along with some fruit (tropical is best) and tree nuts.

3. Get a properly-sized cage with bars spaced appropriately for your bird. This will ensure you don't come home to a bird with his head stuck in the bars. The cage should be about 3 times the width of your bird's wing span. The width of a cage is more important than the height, and bigger is always better, if you can. Ensure the cage is safe from toxic metals or flaking (or toxic) paint or rust spots. Your cage should be sterilized prior to first use. The best way to refinish a cage is sandblasting and powder coating. No round cages please.

4. Provide lots of toys and foraging toys but make sure you leave enough room for your bird to move around and stretch out. You may have to teach your bird to play by playing with the toys and your bird. Beware of the dangers of cloth sleeping huts and ropes. These materials will shred if chewed and the loose threads can be swallowed, which will impact the crop over time. If this happens, you will need vet care to remove the impaction (through surgery) before your bird starves.

5. Get a bird butler. It’s a self-contained, closed watering system for birds that helps keep drinking water clean and uncontaminated therefore reducing the risk of contacting bacterial infection.

6. Be patient with your bird. When you bring it home, stick to your normal routine. Your bird will eventually have to adjust to it, so why not from the start. A spoiled monster will be just that and you will have regrets or problems because of it. Let your bird adjust to it’s new home at his own pace. It will let you know when it is ready and wanting to interact with you. Some birds go through a honeymoon period where everything is great and this can last a few days to months, then you see a different side to your bird that you may not know how to deal with. So watch and learn from your bird. Get to know it’s language, body and sounds.

7. Baths or showers every day. It keeps the dust down on dusty birds like cockatoos and greys, keeps the odor down, like with amazons, as well as encourages good, healthy preening.

8. Proper lighting and proper sleep for your bird. Lots of natural unfiltered sunlight or proper avian lighting and 12 hours of dark, quiet, uninterrupted sleep at night.

9. Bond with your bird through training. You can clicker train, touch/station train, flight train and other training like tricks and even some behaviour. Use healthy treats like almond pieces but keep reward treats in small pieces so they are quickly eaten and training can continue. Videos are available online to learn from, like Barbara Heidenreich.

10.) Love your bird. It may not sing or talk; it may never be able to grow all its feathers or it may have a disability. Love it anyway by providing a good, clean and healthy environment, proper diet and care, respect, and give your bird some of your time every day. Let your bird be a bird and don’t humanize it but also don’t forget that birds bite. It’s not a matter of if, but when. When you do get bitten, don't take it personally. Biting is communication.

I think I have been taught by the best, aside from a good avian vet. I hope I have learned well and gotten the lessons right so my birds can benefit the most and be happy. The bonding experience just grows with time and is phenomenally rewarding.


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