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Parrots as pets

Parrots make wonderful pets and companions. You will quickly find that these birds are extremely smart and their ability to learn make them fun to own. However, before you bring a parrot into your home it is important to learn what type would best fit your family and how to keep your new pet happy and healthy.

Do you know the characteristics of the parrot you are interested in buying? Do they:

  • make tremendously loud noises which can cause huge disturbance to the neighbours?

  • have powerful beaks that can damage your personal belongings if let free in the house?

  • need special accomodation, which will potentially incur higher costs for you?

  • need special nutritional foods (which means a greater cost)?

When looking to purchase your parrot, check its overall health and inspect its living conditions.

Dirty or poorly maintained perches, food and water containers, and excess faecal waste in the cage, all show poor management which leads to bad health. Check the bird’s eyes. They should be clear with no discharge. Also look out for any swelling signs which will indicate rising health problems.

Bird feathers should be tidy and clean. Any bald areas on a parrot’s body could indicate an infection or it may also be due to the bird being a feather plucker, which means boredom. This activity may stop when you start to show the bird more attention.

Check for any crusty appearance on and around the beak and feel the flesh on both sides of the breastbone to ensure it is solid and not hollowed. If protruding, it could indicate a nutritional deficiency. Ensure all claws are present, and there should be two toes pointing forward and two facing backwards. Also, look for any protruding leg scales as they could be potential sources for leg mites.

Beware a parrot which reacts aggressively towards you when you approach. Look out for the fluffing up of feathers and dilating eyes when you try to move your hand close. You will likely be bitten if you get too close for comfort.

Determining the age of a parrot can be tricky, however, some basic things to look out for are the scales on the legs, the colour of the eyes and the colour of the body. A young parrot often has dark gray irises, where as an adult bird’s will be white or brown. The scales of young parrots are also much smoother than that of mature birds. Their body colour also appears much duller than when mature. Don’t be afraid to purchase an older bird but be mindful that taming and acceptance may take a little more time and patience.

Once you have chosen your parrot and brought it home it is important to keep him happy, busy and occupied by enriching the environment in which he lives. Boredom can lead to behavioural problems such as feather picking.

Your parrot’s cage should be as large as possible and generally wider than it is tall to allow room for wing flapping. It should be in the corner of a room so the bird feels more secure.

Don’t overcrowd it with toys, and rotate toys regularly to keep your parrot interested in playing with them.

Allow your parrot to exercise by flying around the room and playing with toys in a playpen. Regular bathing is also important for the wellbeing of your pet, and it can be as simple as turning on the tap at the sink.

Companionship is vital. Parrots need to be talked to, looked at, preened and allowed to perch on your wrist, forearm or shoulder. When your parrot is alone, play him some music or leave on the radio or television to keep him happy. Or take your parrot for a drive if you have to pop out to the shop – many parrots enjoy car rides.

Try to encourage your parrot to forage for food as he would in the wild. Fresh fruit or vege can be hidden in cardboard tubes, woven through the bars of the cage, or hung from a blunt-ended stainless steel skewer.

Pet parrots should have at least 10 hours of sleep daily so cover the cage at night to shut out light. Your bird needs a regular routine when it comes to eating, sleeping, playing, interacting and being alone. Once you have this sorted, take the time to enjoy your new pet parrot.


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