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Wait! Before you buy that parrot, know this…

Approx. 4 minutes read

Most domesticated pets can get by with food, water, shelter, love, training, daily play and medical requirements (vaccination, spaying, and annual check-ups). Easy, right? But pet birds – from economical budgies to eye-wateringly expensive macaws and other exotics – are for the experts only. If you’re thinking of buying a parrot as a pet because they’re just so beautiful, why not visit an exotic bird shelter and enquire after the reasons why so many pet birds are surrendered or abandoned.

Here’s what you need to know before investing in a parrot or other exotic bird:

1. You need LOTS of space

The parrot cage as a home for a bird is an illusion. It’s the equivalent of a nest. A pet parrot, parakeet, cockatoo – no matter which pet bird you want – needs to spread their wings to stay healthy. They also need to spend the majority of their day outside their cage. Many dedicated parrot owners have a ‘flight room’ where their bird/s can exercise their natural behaviours of flying, climbing, swinging and playing. A safe outdoor aviary will also be better than a parrot cage – the bigger it is the better. To be clear: a pet bird cannot spend its days in a cage – it will go mad.

2. You need LOTS of time

You may have fallen in love with pet birds because of their beautiful plumage and perhaps some YouTube videos about the funny things birds do, like dancing and solving puzzles. But what beauty and laughs don’t tell you is the hours and hours of daily training and socialising required for a pet bird to feel mentally stimulated, physically exercised and properly fulfilled. Parrots are extremely intelligent birds and need the right kind of stimulation to nurture their intelligence – for their entire lives. Smaller parrots can live anywhere between 20 to 50 years, with larger birds living up to 80 years old. The litmus test for bringing a parrot into your home is whether you get excited by the idea of looking after a toddler for the next 50 years.

3. You will do LOTS of vacuuming

Birds eat all day. They will end up dropping a lot of their food on the floor of their cages or on the floor of yours. Their bird poop, feathers, fine dander and food dust will go everywhere, and needs to be cleaned before it gets overwhelming. Food mess, droppings, feathers and dust are not only unhealthy to the birds themselves, but can become unhealthy for humans and cause respiratory problems, especially if you have a low immune system.

4. You will do LOTS of picking up

Parrots (and all other birds) use their beaks to interact with the world. They love to pick up, examine, chew and destroy things with their beaks. And as much as they exercise their curiosity and explore things, so you will need to pick up after them. Remember what we said about looking after a toddler? Your home will need to be ‘parrot proofed’ so that it doesn’t cause damage to your possessions or injure itself.

5. You need to do LOTS of research

It’s impossible to cover everything in one article, but did you know?

  • screaming is a normal part of wild birds’ communication, and by screaming back at the bird in reprimand, you will simply be reinforcing the behaviour.
  • you will bleed… as your bird learns boundaries.
  • by the age of between five and eight years old, your bird will become sexually mature. If you’re its bonded partner, it will become exceedingly jealous of anyone around you and may even attack them. Sexual frustration is real thing for birds, who may pluck their own feathers and self-harm as a way of venting their frustration. It’s no surprise that this is often the age at which many parrots are surrendered to shelters or abandoned altogether.
  • not all vets are prepared to handle and treat pet parrots, and those that do so often come at a premium. Find a specialist vet before you acquire a bird.
  • birds have highly sensitive respiratory systems, so the use of air fresheners, essential oils, scented candles and any chemical cleaning products can be extremely hazardous to your bird. When heated to high temperatures, Teflon (the coating on non-stick cookware) gives off toxic fumes that can quickly kill a bird. If you want that parrot, you’ll have to change to cast iron or stainless steel cookware.
  • cigarette smoke around a bird is another no-no.

6. Parrots (and other birds) need LOTS of dietary variety

From specialised parrot food to fresh fruit, veggies, seeds, nuts and fortified pellets, parrots and other birds will need a balanced diet to live a long and healthy life. Before you bring home a pet bird, do as much research as you can on the best diet for that specific bird species and make sure you buy enough for a month or two. Research the dos and don’ts for what to feed and especially what NOT to feed your bird, and get advice from other bird owners on their experiences of how certain feeds affected their birds.

Explore the wide range of bird food and snacks in our Bird Food section and find the nutrition that’s right for your bird species. And no matter the quality of the bird food you buy, parrots and other pet birds still need additional fresh fruits and nuts, and always ensure fresh water is available.

7. If you MUST have a parrot or other exotic bird

The main message here is to do your research, which includes visiting pet bird shelters to understand the needs of parrots and other pet birds, and to ensure that your actions have a positive impact on the bird you plan to adopt. If you have a large amount of space available, lots of time to dedicate to your bird, incredible patience and can afford the long-term commitment of this brightly feathered family member, we commend your dedication and thank you for not buying a bird on a whim.

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