Living with a Parrot

Before you head out to the pet shop or breeder’s, you need to know one simple fact. Parrots, in a sense, are lousy pets! Why would I say that? Think about it for a minute. They are expensive to buy and even more expensive to maintain. They are noisy, dirty, dusty, messy, domineering, destructive, demanding, unpredictable, can be mean as a snake, and they can hurt you. Honestly, what more could you NOT want in a pet? It is an indisputable fact that parrots are not the right pet for everyone. It is our intention to inform you of some things you need to know before making a decision that could be one of the most rewarding or most regrettable of your life.

What we are about to present are just the facts of living with a pet Parrot. Have you considered:

Parrots are wasteful – Buy $30 worth of groceries and throw $24 worth in the trash as soon as you arrive home.  Do this several times a month.  Parrots require fresh food in addition to pellets (not seeds) and are wasteful eaters. If you can’t afford the wastefulness of a parrot, you can’t afford the parrot.

Parrots bite – If you have a parrot, you will be bitten, usually just hard and sometimes really hard. Consider yourself lucky if they bite and release. Walnuts and Brazil nuts are no challenge to a large beak. How do you think your skin and bones will fare? An angry parrot may bite and continue to clamp down.

Parrots are demanding – Plan on spending several hours every day interacting with you bird.  In the case of Cockatoos, they crave the physical contact of their flock – YOU are their flock.  If you don’t have the time or the desire to have this much interaction with a parrot, reconsider your decision to bring one into your home.

Parrots are messy – Anything within their reach is fair game to be dropped to the floor. This includes food, treats, toys and of course, poop. Dried droppings can become hard as concrete and fresh droppings can be difficult to remove from porous surfaces like clothing, carpets and furniture. Plan on cleaning the area around their cage 2 to 3 times a day. Cage papers must be replaced several times a week.  The cage, toys, perches, play areas and stands, must be cleaned at least once a week and sometimes more depending upon the bird.  Birds are clean by nature.  They spend several hours a day, every day preening themselves.  Don’t be selfish and ignore the mess.  If you can’t or won’t spend the time necessary to keep the parrot’s home clean, then a parrot isn’t right for you.

Parrots are noisy – All parrots talk, squawk, sing, or scream.  They do it when they’re happy, scared, mad, on alert, or just for no reason at all other than to do it. If you live in an apartment or condo, your neighbors may become your enemy.   Do loud noises bother you?  Are you a nervous person?  If the noise would be a reason to find your parrot a new home, DON’T bring the parrot into your home!

Parrots poop – It’s inevitable. it will be on your floors, carpet, on their cage, on your furniture, and yes – on you.  More important is the daily observation of  what the poop looks like.  You can tell if they are sick, if they are eating too many watery fruits, if they aren’t eating enough of something, etc.  The poop must be cleaned off daily or the build up will  be more disgusting than daily clean-ups.  Birds are messy, not dirty.  Don’t force them to live in substandard conditions because you are too busy or too lazy to tend to the mess.

Parrots require daily care – Planning a vacation?  Travel a lot with business?  Enjoy frequent weekend getaways?  Need to paint?  What about if you are ill, have an accident, or die? Where will your bird stay?  Find someone to care/board your parrot before you get a parrot.  Local bird shops may be a place, but do you really trust them?  Parents, friends, siblings, neighbors are a good choice, but find out if they are truly willing beforehand.  The day will come when you must board your parrot for one reason or another.  Make certain you are prepared for that day.

Parrots should see an Avian Vet – Routine vet check-ups are a must, but what about medical emergencies?  Is there an avian vet in your area?  Not all vets see birds and not all vets that see birds are qualified avian vets.  Locate the nearest avian specialist before you need them and get prices on routine care vs. emergency care.  Wings and nails can be clipped by yourself, your vet, or qualified pet shop.  Be careful, blood feathers and nails will bleed if a mistake is made.  Do you have the money to spend for the initial vet exam, the yearly exams, and medical emergencies?  If not, then please consider your overall financial situation.  Parrots are expensive from the very beginning.  If you get a great deal on a “used” parrot, there may be health problem and $1500 (or more) later,  you may have a healthy parrot.  If you don’t have an emergency stash, get one now.  If you can’t afford to divert any funds to an emergency stash, you can’t afford a parrot!

Parrots chew – If you don’t provide chew toys, they will find their own (sheetrock, furniture, wood trim, themselves, etc).  Parrots don’t care what value an item has to you, all they care about is chewing, so provide plenty of chew toys at all times, as well as stimulating toys.  Play with your parrot, remember they are intelligent and enjoy a variety of activities.  Toys are a MUST to achieve a happy, healthy parrot.  Add the cost to your budget, if your budget can’t absorb the cost, don’t get the parrot!

Teflon kills – All nonstick surfaces have Teflon type coatings that produce a gas that kills birds quickly!  Opt for stainless, alum, copper, glass, ceramic or enamel.  TEFLON coatings can be found in many household appliances such as ovens, toasters, irons, waffle irons, coffeemakers, blow-dryers, etc. If you think just this one time won’t hurt, YOU ARE WRONG!  If you can’t part with the nonstick stuff, then at some point you will be parting with your parrot from death of the fumes.

Other Toxins – Certain plants, smoke, aerosols, fragrances, candles with wicks that contain a metal stem, carpet fresheners, air fresheners, FeBreeze, some essential oils, certain hair products, certain foods (avocados, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate) contain toxins that are hazardous to your bird.  As new products are added to the market, new dangers arise.  You must continue to educate yourself on these hazards.  Be prepared to parrot proof your home.  If you can’t forgo the use of these items and are unwilling to keep your parrot out of harm’s way, why spend the money/time for a parrot at all?

Parrots require daily attention – Your parrot needs your undivided attention for a considerable amount of time.  Each species and each bird is different.  A Cockatiel may only want 20 mins 3 times a day, but a Cockatoo may only be happy when they are by your side for hours at a time. Are your evenings filled with school activities, work from the office, college courses, etc?  PLEASE reconsider the notion to bring a parrot into your home if you can’t spend quality and quantity time with that parrot!

Parrots need discipline and structure – Discipline is not punishment.  It is establishing boundaries, respect, schedules, education, and acceptable behaviors for both you and your parrot.  In order to effectively discipline yourself and your parrot, you must first learn what is considered normal behavior and what is considered destructive behavior.  This means you are going to have to READ, READ, and READ some more.  Do you have the dedication it takes to effectively discipline yourself and your parrot?  If not, don’t set yourself up for failure and jeopardize the well-being of another parrot by unknowingly encouraging behavior that will only pave the way for the parrot to placed in another home.

Parrots are destructive – A large parrot can and will remove gemstones from their settings!  Earrings or other piercings will be removed with or without a piece of flesh.  Parrots seem to love metal and enjoy breaking chains into pieces.  Clothing will have a new look that is personalized by your parrot.  Little holes around the arms and neck is normal.  Anything that is 3 dimensional is considered fair game (rhinestones, studs, sequins etc).  Eyeglasses are no exception!  If this behavior is unacceptable, then a parrot in your home is unacceptable!

Parrots can be jealous – Parrots may consider children and other pets as rivals.  Be cautious of this fact.  If you have or are planning on having children, you are in for a rocky ride.  Be forewarned!

If after reading this you still want a parrot, I welcome you and ask that you commit yourself to being the best friend you can be to your companion  Good luck and remember that right now may not be the best time for you to become an owner, you be the judge.  Please remember to always keep the parrot’s best interest at heart.