Listen to this post:
With some species living as long as 80 years parrot care is a lifelong commitment. They are not typical of tropical pets, and this article introduces some important things to consider in looking after your parrot:
- Taking care of young birds
- Handling your bird
- Housing requirements
Taking care of young birds
A dark box of a similar size to a nestbox is the best way to transport your pet bird home. A small cosy box will prevent your new pet injuring itself by attempting to fly, and the dark will mitigate the stress the bird would suffer if it could see what was going on during the move. Birds are very sensitive to potential threats and parrots are best transported in darkness so that they don’t become alarmed.
Once you arrive home you should introduce your parrot to its new aviary or cage, but this should be separate from other birds for a couple of weeks to avoid the transmission of any diseases your new pet may have.
If you plan to introduce your new pet to a shared aviary after the isolation period you should monitor it for the first few days to check that the established birds are not overly aggressive to the newcomer. Of all birds parrots are particularly suspicious of other pets (not just birds) so they should first be placed close by a shared aviary for a number of days before the introduction.
Handling your bird
The best way to tame your new pet is via hand feeding. Each day you should speak in a gentle voice and feed its favorite greens. The next step is to allow your parrot out of its cage. Over time your parrot will become very tame, and a delightful companion.
Housing needs vary from species to species, but most parrots fare well in aviaries or cages. Smaller species prefer a wide cage that they can fly across, whilst a taller cage is recommended for large birds; in both cases as large a cage as you can afford is recommended to allow your parrot to thrive. Horizontal bars that allow the parrot to climb are a good option, and of course the spacing between the bars will vary for each animal, and should be narrower for the smaller species of parrot. An important part of parrot care is to watch out for dangerous latches or protrusions that could injure your parrot’s plumage.
Stainless steel or wrought iron cages are common choices for parrot housing. Any zinc, or paint containing zinc, is deadly to birds so avoid this.
Cages should contain a variety of perches, which should be regularly rotated to avoid injury from repetitive stress.
By placing the cage against a wall your parrot will feel protected on one side, and this will reduce his stress level. A cylindrical cage in the center of the room would have the opposite effect.
A good diet sits at the heart of good parrot care. Parrot mix, along with green vegetables (not avocado – see below) and fruit is a common diet for most species of parrot. Do be careful when selecting parrot mix as some contain the potentially dangerous additives such as menadione.
As with all birds parrots have a fast metabolism and will eat voraciously. They will at almost anything that is put in front of them and will naturally gravitate to foods that contain nutrients they are lacking. However, there are some foods that are harmful to your parrot and should not be given under any circumstance: alcohol, avocado, chocolate, coffee, raw potato, salt, and tea.
If your parrots are reluctant to eat a certain food one tip is to heat it up first to bring it to the tropical temperature that it would be in the wild – we are not talking piping hot here, just jungle warmth.
When your parrot is moulting you need to be especially vigilant on nutrients to support the regrowth of a healthy plumage, and at this time adding animal proteins such as chicken and fish can be a good idea.
Breeding is a very specialized topic, and the approach varies depending on the species of parrot that you are dealing with. In this section we just discuss some of the general aspects of parrot breeding.
The most difficult part of parrot breeding used to be sexing as it is very difficult to tell a male and female apart, but since the 1980s scientific sexing, or laparotomy sexing, has solved the problem. The sexing works by anaesthetizing the parrot and using an endoscope to directly examine their sexual organs.
During breeding season you place parrots of the opposite sex in an aviary or cage with specialized equipment. One issue you will need to consider is wing clipping as this can prevent over anxious males charging females during the breeding season.
The breeding diet should contain plenty cuttlefish bone because of its calcium-rich properties.
You will need to select a nestbox and nesting material that are suitable for your species of parrot. Parrots don’t tend to build large nests. Your parrot will spend more time in the nestbox after laying a clutch of eggs, and you must be careful not to disturb your birds at this time or they may abandon the clutch. They will sit during the incubation period and in most cases it is best to let nature run its course until hatching.
As far as possible you want to recreate the breeding conditions in the wild. These Eclectus parrots are enjoying the mating rituals in their natural habitat:
Once aspect of parrot care not covered in this article is parrot health, so we recommend reading the article on parrot well-being that we have prepared.