Parrot Care Info
Difficulty: Intermediate to Difficult (varies with species)
Lifespan: Species Dependent
It is very important to do your research before committing to adding a parrot to your family. They can be a demanding pet and usually have long life expectancies. Always research the breed of parrot you are getting so that you can be better prepared.
Behaviour: Parrots can make great companions if you have the time for them. They are social and very intelligent and will need lots of stimulation to keep them happy. They will need to have species appropriate toys in the cage to give them something to interact with when you are not home. It would be a good idea to have more toys than what you can fit in the cage so that you can rotate toys in and out of the cage to keep your bird interested. But keep in mind that many of the toys will be destroyed! Some parrots can be picky about the types of toys they have in their cage so it will be beneficial to try different kinds. Just make sure that these toys are made for parrots since most will be destructive with toys and you don’t want your bird ingesting any toxic materials such as zinc or lead. Toys made with ropes, paper stuffing or coconut shells can all be great options. Most parrots will be quite happy being the only bird in the household but if you are away from the house for many hours during the day it might be a good idea to give your parrot a cage mate, even if they do not live in the same cage. Just keep in mind that your parrot will likely bond to its cage mate more than it does to you. The two birds should be either the same species or very close in size to each other if they are to be in the same cage. Parrots usually aren't picky about the sex of their cage mate. Whenever you are introducing two birds to one another, make sure to do it slowly. The best way would be to have them in the same room but in separate cages so they can see and hear each other for a few days. Having two cages may also be necessary since there is always a chance the birds will not get along when housed together. Always use caution if introducing a new bird with an unknown history as some illnesses can be transferred just by having the birds in the same room. Parrots should have about 10-12 hours of daylight and should be covered for the night to ensure they have the proper day/night cycles. This is important for your bird’s behaviour and health and many parrots will let you know when it’s time for bed!
Housing: Some people have a bedroom in their house dedicated to their birds, but this is not possible for most people. The size of your cage will obviously depend on the species of bird you are going to house. Bigger is always better. The cage should allow enough space for your parrot to fully extend their wings and still have space on either side without hitting any toys. A cage this big will allow room for many toys, their water/food dishes, and perches of all kinds. It is a good idea to have an area for your bird to hang out when it is out of the cage. The best option for this is a species appropriate play-stand. You can either make one yourself or purchase one from your local pet store. This stand will allow your bird to be where you are if the cage is too big to move and you will be able to add toys and foraging materials to the stand to give your bird something to do while it is on the stand. This stand is also a good place to mist your bird! The cage should contain several perches of different material, such as cotton rope and wooden perches. Offering a variety of textures and diameters allows your budgies to avoid any discomfort from having to sit on the same sized or rough perches. Sand paper covered perches are not ideal as they will encourage bumblefoot, which is explained below. You will need to pick an appropriate area in the house to place your cage. Ideally it would be placed away from any drafts or vents and fairly central to where people will be spending time the most. Parrots have very sensitive respiratory systems so you will have to be careful when using any aerosol sprays, perfumes, air fresheners or even cigarette smoke in the house as these can make your bird quite sick. Teflon or “non-stick” pans can also be harmful to parrots because they give off fumes while they are being used. It would be best not to use them or have your bird in a closed room away from the kitchen for a couple of hours. If you use teflon regularly, don't have your cage close to the kitchen.
Maintenance: You will need to clean your bird’s cage at least once a week. This includes removing all the droppings from the bottom of the cage and cleaning all perches and toys that have become soiled. If your bird gets fresh fruit or vegetables in the cage, be sure to clean up as soon as the bird is done so that the old food does not rot. Parrots must be bathed or misted multiple times a week. Some birds will prefer to bathe themselves in their water dish but most parrots will not fit! A sink works fine for most birds, just fill the sink with a couple inches of warm water and set your bird in or just have a small stream running from the tap as some birds prefer to bathe under the stream. If you have a playstand, this is an ideal place to mist your bird. You can use a spray bottle that has a mist setting. Use warm water and mist the air right above your bird so that it falls onto the bird. Some owners will even take their bird into the shower with them if they have a shower perch. These can usually be purchased from a pet store or online. Most parrots will need regular nail trims. The timing can vary for each bird but it will usually be every one to two months. If you are not able to do this at home, your local exotic Veterinarian will be able to do it for you. You will have to decide if you are going to trim your parrot’s wings. This is not a painful procedure and the feathers will grow back within a couple of months. It can either be done at home or by an trained Veterinarian. The main reason to clip parrots wings is to prevent injury from flying into objects and accidental escapes. Even a well-trained bird can get caught up in a strong gust of wind and be carried away. The benefits of having a Veterinarian trim your birds nails or wings is that they will be able to see your bird on a regular basis and will be able to record the weights of you parrot each time. This can be helpful since parrots shouldn’t really fluctuate in weight once they are fully grown so problems can be caught early. Your vet will also be able to check your birds beak each time and will be able to perform a beak trim while you are there if it’s needed. Another benefit is the simple fact that you aren’t the one trimming the nails/wings so your parrot does not have to associate it’s owner with this experience.
Nutrition: Parrots can be susceptible to nutritional deficiencies and obesity if not fed the proper diet. It is recommended that pellets should make up the majority of a parrots diet. Brands such as Harrisons, Roudybush, and Zupreem are complete pelleted diets that contain all of the necessary vitamins, minerals, grains and vegetables for the proper health of your bird. These diets also come in different sizes and textures of pellet and you may have to find the one that suits your bird best. Seed diets should not make up the majority of the diet for most parrots. They are deficient in necessary vitamins and minerals and will usually have a high fat content. If a parrot has been on seeds, you may find it difficult to switch onto a pelleted diet. When you are switching, make sure to do it over an extended period of time to ensure your bird is still eating throughout the switch. Keep adding pellets in with the seeds and slowly increase the pellets and decrease the seeds until your parrot is happy eating pellets. Since pelleted diets can become quite boring for parrots, it is important to supplement their diet in other ways with fresh vegetables, fruits and occasionally seeds. Vegetables to try could include: carrots (root and tops), sweet potatoes, collard greens, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, Swiss chard, beet greens, parsley, green beans, sweet peppers and more. Some parrot safe fruits may include: mango, papaya, kiwi, berries, apples, bananas, pears and grapes. Seeds should not make up more than ten percent of most parrots diets and should only be given as occasional treats.
Do not give your bird any avocado, rhubarb, or onions as these are toxic. You will also have to stay away from apple seeds and fruit pits.
Health Concerns: Common health concerns with parrots can include: feather plucking, respiratory infections, beak overgrowth, bumblefoot and obesity. Feather plucking can be a very common occurrence in captive parrots and there are many reasons a bird may start plucking such as stress, boredom, liver disease, malnutrition or even dry skin from lack of humidity in the house. If your parrot starts plucking, the first step would be to bring it to an exotic veterinarian. Your veterinarian will usually recommend running bloodwork on your bird to rule out any internal factors and to check organ function before putting your parrot on medication. Once the bloodwork is complete, we will be able to adjust treatment accordingly. If the bloodwork comes back and there are no concerns with it, the plucking may unfortunately be behavioural. This can be quite hard to fix with captive birds since there can be many factors contributing to the behaviour. You will be able to discuss with your vet how to proceed. Respiratory infections can arise from a variety of factors. The infection could be bacterial, fungal or even from environmental factors. Parrots have a much different respiratory system than other animals; they have multiple air sacs throughout their body that do not ever deflate. This allows them to fly long distances and maintain altitude while doing so. Because of this, their respiratory system is very sensitive and they will absorb toxins from the air very quickly, even if it is in small amounts. As mentioned above, it is important to not use aerosol or scented products close to your bird. Signs of a respiratory infection can include: Nasal discharge, sneezing, trouble breathing, fluffed appearance, lethargy or loss of appetite. If your parrot exhibits any of these symptoms, see a Veterinarian as soon as possible as it will become an emergency if left untreated. Beak overgrowth can be a common issue for captive parrots. Some birds will need regular beak trims to keep the upper or lower beak (and sometimes both) at an acceptable length. If the beak overgrows, it can become difficult for the parrot to eat properly and they may start to lose weight. Beak trims should be performed by an experienced veterinarian as it is usually a stressful procedure and your veterinarian team will know how to handle your parrot in the least stressful way possible. Some parrots will still need anesthetic so that the trim can be done in the safest and least stressful way possible for the bird. Bumblefoot is a localized infection in the tissue of a parrots feet. The tissue that becomes infected will be any tissue that the bird uses to grip a perch. As mentioned above, perches in your parrot’s cage must be different sizes and materials. Stay away from rough perches as they can encourage bumblefoot. If you see any sores on the bottom of your parrot’s feet, you will need to book in with your veterinarian. A veterinarian will be able to provide antibiotics to try to heal the infection but in some cases parrots will need surgery to remove the infected tissue before it can start to heal. Just like other animals, obesity can be risky to your parrot’s health. The main causes are improper diet and lack of proper exercise. Obesity can lead to circulatory issues, bumblefoot, and even a shortened lifespan. A parrot should be seen yearly by a veterinarian even if it is healthy as this will allow you to keep track of the weight of your bird. A proper pelleted diet and plenty of exercise outside of the cage are needed to keep your parrot happy and healthy.