11 Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming a “Bird Parent”
1. Consider the parrot’s lifespan. Adopting a parrot is similar to adopting a 2 or 3-year-old toddler who will never grow up. Many parrots have long lifespans. Even small parrots can live 30 to 45 years. Larger parrots can live 70 to 90 years. How old are you? If you’re young, what is your lifetime plan and will a “permanent toddler” be in the picture? If you’re older, will your bird outlive you? If so, what provisions can you make for your bird when you’re gone? Most parrots who are willed to relatives, do not remain with the relative, rather end up unwanted and homeless.
2. Parrots (like toddlers) require enormous amounts of attention and they are social creatures. What is your schedule? What are your other commitments? Do you have time to provide the daily emotional and physical stimuli your parrots require for an enriched, and healthy life?
3. Captive parrots require clean environments. As well as providing emotional and physical enrichment, will you have time to thoroughly clean your bird’s cage and environment daily?
4. Parrots require a varied, well balanced diet of specially formulated pellets, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a variety of healthy seeds. Will you have time to buy “bird groceries”? Fresh foods spoil quickly so uneaten food should be removed as soon as your bird is finished with his meal. Like all animals, fresh water is a requirement. Your parrot may need his water replaced multiple times during the day. Are you willing and available to do those things?
5. Like all companion animals, parrots require regular veterinary care. Veterinary care is always expensive. Whether your bird is a budgie, or a large macaw, the fee for examinations, treatments, medications, surgery, etc. are the same. What is your financial situation? Can you afford general maintenance veterinary care, and can you afford to pay for a medical emergency if something should happen? Not all veterinarians will treat birds. Do you have an avian veterinarian near you? If not, are you willing to drive long distance for your bird’s care?
6. Parrots are notoriously noisy and even the smallest of parrots can have amazingly loud and boisterous and/or shrill screams. If a bird is not terribly loud, he may make repetitive and nerve wracking sounds. Even tiny finches and the little budgerigar are too noisy for some people. What is your “noise” tolerance and how patient are you? What are your neighbors’ noise tolerance levels?
7. Parrots not only love to chew things up and tear things apart, it’s their natural behavior. In the wild, they forage all day, breaking open nuts and fruit, they build nests, and break off tree branches. Chewing also provides emotional and physical stimuli. Captive parrots require toys and plenty of them. Bird toys will need to be replaced regularly. If you’re unable to make appropriate and safe toys for your parrot, you will need to purchase them. Parrot toys are expensive. What is your “toy budget”?
8. *Safe and secure housing for your parrot will be expensive and can cost hundreds of dollars. Beware of used cages and bargain cages. They may contain lead and other toxins. And yes, your bird will need a cage or an aviary. *(See “myths” below for more information about caging and cages.) What is your cage budget?
9. Are you prone to allergies? Have you considered other family members’ allergies and sensitivities? Some people may be sensitive to the dust and dander some parrots create. For example, the African Grey, Cockatoo, and Cockatiel naturally have a dusty coating on their feathers as nature’s way of keeping feathers clean. However, even if you’re not prone to allergies, the settling dust lands on furniture, clothing, and the surrounding environment, necessitating additional dusting and cleaning. You may need to purchase an air purifier to control air impurities and you will have to dust more often. What is your air quality budget? How much time can you invest in additional cleaning?
10. Do you rent or own? Does your landlord allow birds? If you must move, will you take your parrot with you? Does your home or apartment provide enough room to properly house a parrot’s spacious cage and enrichment accessories such as playstands?
11. Think about your life and what you plan to do in the future. Will you move? Are you married? Do you think you will divorce? Do you plan to marry? Do you plan to get pregnant? Are you going away to college? Are you going to change jobs? Do you plan to have a new boyfriend/girlfriend? (While these are common life events and not always predictable, they are just a few of the many reasons people surrender or abandon their parrots.)
True or False
1. A cage is a prison. Keeping a bird in a cage is cruel and inhumane.
We believe parrots deserve to be free and should be left in the wild, not bred in captivity for the pet trade. However, parrots are bred in captivity and kept as companion animals, therefore it’s the parrot guardian’s responsibility to keep their bird safe and out of harms way. A cage is only a prison if it’s used like one. Parrots are like toddlers. Most are curious and adventurous. There are thousands of dangers lurking in homes; poisons, house plants, electrical outlets, electrical wires, toilets, furnaces, glass windows, open doors, draw strings on blinds, just to name a few. However, if a parrot is given enrichment, i.e. plenty of supervised time outside his cage and opportunities to play with toys, and an abundance of time with you, he will not resent an appropriate, nicely accommodated cage. A cage will however, provide him the emotional security he inherently seeks and the physical safety he requires. It will also provide a sanctuary so he can obtain the necessary ten hours of undisturbed sleep he requires. Cages and aviaries create a safe environment for companion birds and offer a bird emotional security if appropriately maintained and when not misused.
2. It’s cruel to clip a bird’s wing feathers?
False & True:
We believe parrots possess an inherent right to be left in the wild and flying freely. Most legitimate and skilled parrot behaviorists agree that clipping a parrot’s wings does not enhance training or taming success. However, most novice parrot guardians lack the skills to successfully handle and tame their flighted parrot, therefore wing clipping is often chosen. Sadly, this also encourages the parrot guardian to unintentionally (or intentionally) manhandle and bully their unflighted bird, which can later cause the parrot to have an array of behavior problems such as aggression, fear, biting, and a sense of hopelessness. On the other hand, unclipped birds fly out of windows and doors and become lost. Injuries to wings and legs, and fatal neck injuries are common when flighted birds crash into windows. Other accidents that flighted birds experience are from stove tops, ceiling fans, toilets and pet water bowls, and much more. Wing clipping is a difficult decision. Clipped and unclipped parrots can become victims of injury and abuse. Your companion parrot should be handled humanely, kept out of harms way, and provided an enriched, happy life whether you choose to clip your parrot’s wings or leave him flighted.
3.Buying a hand-fed baby parrot will guarantee a tame parrot.
This is one of the most damaging of all myths and one of the reasons parrot homelessness has reached epidemic proportions. Because parrots are inherently wild and not domestic, like most wild animals, once they mature into adulthood the potential for them to become aggressive and difficult to handle, is high. Even if a baby parrot is “loving and cuddly” during those early months, once the parrot’s adult hormones kick in, he/she will become less malleable and will protest improper handling by biting and using aggressive behavior in an effort to make their feelings known. Most people are ill-equipped and unskilled to manage parrot behavior problems. This is a critical time for most parrots, and sadly, when they are most often surrendered.
4. Parrots are dirty.
Parrots are fastidious creatures. They dislike being dirty or having their feathers soiled and most love bathing. Companion parrots, like all companion animals require fresh, clean environments, and are susceptible to disease and illness if their environment is allowed to become dirty. Captivity creates an unnatural environment for birds and therefore birds are left to rely on their guardians to provide them a clean environment and bathing opportunities.
5. All parrots talk.
Even if a species of parrot is historically confirmed to be a good talker, there are individuals within that species who may never talk based on their personality. There are also parrots who do not possess talking ability.