There are lots of things to consider before becoming a Parrot owner for the first time. Dot Schwarz looks at them all.
Parrots are attractive, intelligent and full of personality – that’s why they’ve been kept as pets for centuries. Taking on a Parrot requires as much forethought as taking on a dog. Parrots are noisy, sometimes very noisy.
Have you neighbours who will object to a Macaw or a Grey or a Cockatoo greeting the dawn enthusiastically? Even smaller birds like Cockatiels can be noisy inside a house, And, if you are unfortunate and have a bird that that has developed a shrieking habit - you may have to rehome her.
Parrots need space. Obviously the larger the bird the more space it needs. In my view many Parrots are housed in cages that are too small for their size. In Australia Budgerigars and Cockatiels fly vast distances; in captivity tiny cages are too often provided for them.
Wild Budgerigars in OZ credit Jim Bendon.
If your Parrot lives in the main family area, you might need a small cage to put her in at bedtime for the quietness and put the small cage in a quiet room for the night Parrots need 10 – 12 hours of quiet every day especially young birds.
How much out of cage time are you able to provide for the new pet. The more the better for the bird’s physical and mental health. Four hours is recommended. Many carers will shower and breakfast with their pet before the Parrot for their own safety and safety your curtains and furniture) must be in a cage.
Aviaries can provide pleasure for all of you. With just a balcony, wire it in, this giving the Parrot flight space. Monika Clarke with several Amazon and Lovebirds has gone the whole hog and fenced her small garden in and turned it into a free flight aviary.
Noe learns how to handle Casper on a harness
I have separated my kitchen diner in half, so the pet birds have a space to fly socialise next to me, while I am cooking or eating at the kitchen able.
Every species of Parrot has its own pluses and minuses. Some species do make better pets than others. Cockatoos can be amazing companions, but they are birds that really do need experienced care to be happy. Cockatoos are possibly more rehomed than any other species and it’s not their fault.
If you decide to get a sanctuary or rescue bird rather than a young bird that’s a fine decision. It will be useful if you visit the place where the bird’s living and make sure you and he can relate to one another. IF a rescue bird doesn’t respond to your care as quickly as you’d like - try and ‘think like a bird’ and imagine the traumas the poor animal has gone through.
Sometimes cost is a prime factor. Many of us pine for a black Cockatoo or a Hyacinth but very few of us have spare thousands of pounds.
If you choose a long-lived species like an African Grey, an Amazon or a Macaw, is a consideration where the bird will spend the rest of its life once you’re gone.
Exquisite Lories and Lorikeets are extroverts and make good pets. Will you be able to fulfil their complicated nutritional needs which involve a liquid diet?
Advice from experts
Acquiring information by talking to other Parrot keepers can be valuable but treat all advice with caution. Why? Because animal husbandry is an art as well as a science. Parrots - apart for Budgerigars and Cockatiels - have not been domesticated for centuries like cats and dogs.
Opinions of the best care vary and can even contradict one another. There’s no general consensus on many topics of avian husbandry, Expert advice normally says start with the smaller birds like Cockatiels or Budgies, that’s what I’d recommend if I’m asked. But exceptions to every rule abound as you will see in these examples of acquiring an Amazon and a Macaw as first birds.
Luke Biggs got Penny, a Blue-fronted Amazon 15 years ago. He’d had Budgies as a kid but was 18 when Penny came into his life. Whenever he takes Penny out with him to a pub or to visit friends she behaves impeccably.
They’ve adapted their behaviour to one another. Penny accepts other birds and Luke’s mates but the two of them are best mates. They’re both amiable. Penny doesn’t bite. Just exceptionally when Luke left her with his Mum while he was away, she bit his neck twice on his return. ‘To punish me,’ said Luke.
Lissez Quartez bought a six-month-old Blue and Gold Macaw she named Rio as her FIRST Parrot. She learned Parrot care from Northern Parrot blogs, YouTube and Facebook groups. She is openminded and flexible in her training and feeding, she seemed to get it right from the start.
After meeting Nirmal and seeing Mikey, his Macaw she decided that ‘owning a Macaw is a way of life. Then after seeing Mikey in the air and learning the benefits of it, I had to do it to.’ Having decided to let Rio free fly, she fitted her with a GPS tracker and away they went. Is she foolhardy or lucky? I’d say neither.
Rio has slotted into the life of `Lissey and her partner Jack as if she was born for it. That is one of the benefits of having a well-adjusted Parrot in your life; they simply become a member the family. But both Rio and Penny have contradicted the advice that Amazons or Macaws are not ideal first birds.
Benni enjoying out of cage time.
How you feed your Parrot will determine not only her health but also a lot of her well-being. There are those who favour food bowls constantly full and others who prefer meal times two or three times daily.
I prefer to feed morning and evening, taking the bird’s favourite treat out of the food bowl for training or simply treats when we are socialising together. If you have bought a bird from a reliable breeder, they will instruct you how the young bird has been fed and you simply carry on for there, adapting and changing the diet as you see fit.
Bear in mind any sudden change of diet to a young bird can cause problems so always phase a new diet in gradually. There are various ways to feed a bird correctly. Feeding falls roughly into three categories, pellets and fresh food, seeds and fresh food or totally fresh food. The final choice will depend upon you and your companion.
Most vets will recommend pellets as a main source because a lot of guess work is taken out. IF you want to cook for your bird that’s perfectly OK as long as you stick to ingredients that are suitable. I make veggie flans for my Parrots and have on occasion fed them to the family without saying what they were!
One bird or two or (or many?
If this your first bird, it is much easier if the young bird is already hand tame. I bought Artha, African Grey, my first Parrot 20 years ago from a reputed breeder Barrett Watson. He allows prospective buyers to visit the baby Parrot.
Two species playing together
When Artha first came home she was weaned, hand tame and Barrett had even put a harness on her while spoon feeding so she was harness trained. Patient and kind as he is, he never objected to my fairly frequent phone calls when Artha did something that worried me. (At one point, I fretted she might have mites. She hadn’t; she was preening vigorously.
She was - as a young bird a total joy -and so she has remained. Like many people - once bitten by love of Parrots - not their beak I hasten to add - I bought Casper as a companion for Artha and then, almost as if by magic, more Parrots arrived.
Now there are 5 pet birds and a flock of mixed Parakeets in a large aviary where the 5 pet birds join them each day.
Perdy in author’s aviary
If you are going to be out at work all day. a pair of birds, they can be same sex, opposite sex, same species, different species, will be happier in one another’s sight. Although cage sharing is possible, the danger of aggression shouldn’t be overlooked. Monitor them carefully.
Two Parrots especially same sex Parrots will each assume a dominant or submissive role. It hasn’t been my experience that adding a second Parrot has made the original Parrot behave towards me less affectionately.
Perhaps the most important education you and the Parrot will share together. Don’t forget that every interaction between you is training of some sort and it goes both ways. You will learn to be sensitive to your Parrot’s body language; she will learn to tolerate your moods and be aware of them.
The most recommended method of training is now positive reinforcement. A method which is associated with negative reinforcement and punishment. However, the more you concentrate on positive reinforcement and the less you use other methods, the more trust your bird will have in you.
Unfortunately, in the UK Parrot training classes don’t exist in the same way that dog training classes do. There are workshops given from time to time and if there is one in your area, I urge you to attend.
Author’s Perdy won’t wave in unison with the two Greys
Although there’s much to be learned from the internet and YouTube some of the advice is just plain wrong and should be avoided. Nothing beats face to face interaction so if your local zoo gives bird displays go and watch. The Parrots and other birds in the show will have been trained with PR methods. Joining the Parrot Society UK and the World Parrot Trust in Cornwall are also ways to find reliable information.
Wing clipping is not illegal in UK and it’s generally falling out of favour world-wide. However, this unnatural, cruel practice is still done. Some people evidently derive satisfaction from having a winged creature more or less dependent on them and carrying it to get somewhere further away. I’d claim that birds evolved to fly.
The pleasure you derive from having a Parrot fly to you and land on your hand or head or shoulder has to be experienced. I’d warn you here that my greatest mistake with my Macaws was allowing them to land on my shoulder.
Never let a Parrot you don’t know well onto your shoulder the risk of a bite or. Flyoff is real. The Greys have flown to my shoulder so for years; they never refuse to step up onto the hand. I didn’t realise how different the Macaws might be.
Allowed on my shoulder as sweet, biddable babies, as adults I cannot break their habit. Both Macaws will slide down my back, Benni will nip the back of my neck. As they are both free flying out of doors, I have to be quite agile manoeuvring them onto my hands to bring them inside.
Casper in Xmas tree
May I wish everyone a peaceful and Happy Christmas and if a new bird(s) enters your home to become a family member, do your research first, make friends with other Parrot owners and the pleasure will surely surpass any problems.
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