Parrot Care Advice
Parrots make interesting, enjoyable pets and can provide a lifetime of mutually satisfying companionship. They are great whistlers and some can even learn simple words and phrases.
Birds are social, so a single caged bird will require a lot of attention and stimulus if it is not to become bored and frustrated. A caged bird will enjoy times of peace on its own but it must feel emotionally part of its human flock.
Choosing your parrots
There are a number of common breeds of parrot kept as pets in the UK, these include Parakeets, African Greys, Cockatoos, Macaws and Amazons. If the bird is to be left on its own for long periods it is better to give it a companion. Lovebirds should always be kept in pairs or small groups.
It is also recommended to have your parrot microchipped. Unintentional escapes do sometimes happen, and you have a better chance of being reunited with your pet if it has been microchipped.
Early signs of illness include loose droppings, discharge from the nostrils, laboured breathing, feathers raised to give a puffed-up appearance, resting with head under the wing and both feet on the perch. These are all general, non-specific signs of a variety of illnesses, so if you are concerned about your parrot’s health or behaviour, seek specialist veterinary advice.
Feathers: Feathers should not be allowed to become too dry. You can use a suitable fine mist spray together with a special solution to spray on, your pet shop can advise you on suitable products. Many parrots do enjoy a bath or shower, but not all of them.
Respiratory diseases: The bird will be listless, with feathers fluffed up and wheezing if it catches a cold. Keep him warm, do not bath and consult with your vet immediately.
Wet droppings: Commonly caused by an excess of green, mouldy or contaminated food; a change in diet or lack of fresh water; intestinal infections; or liver and kidney diseases. Keep him warm, make sure he has plenty of fresh water and consult your vet.
Mites: These are parasites that feed on birds’ blood, causing itching, weight loss and feather loss. Mites are easy to destroy with a suitable spray and your pet shop or vet will advise.
Beaks and nails: An iodine block can help keep your bird’s beak trim. If you suspect your parrot’s nails and beak are too long seek expert advice.
Feather plucking: A complex, common, and frustrating problem with many possible causes, including skin or feather infections, a poor diet or environment, lack of exercise or stimulation. Spend time with your parrot and provide it with toys for exercise and entertainment. If the condition persists consult your vet.
Parrot cages make suitable homes for short-tailed parrots only. Long-tailed varieties should be kept in an outside aviary or an indoor flight, as can short-tailed parrots.
A roomy cage is a necessity if you are unable to provide an aviary, and it must be large enough for your parrots to stretch their wings and fly from perch to perch.
Parrots are climbing birds, so it is preferable to choose a cage with horizontal bars.
Avoid putting the cage in draughts, direct sunlight or in damp or humid conditions. The cage should be furnished with perches of different diameter and one or two toys, but don’t overcrowd the cage. Try and buy a selection of toys and rotate them to avoid boredom. Do not place perches directly above food and water pots.
The cage/aviary can be furnished with non-poisonous wood branches, such as fruit wood, which will add interest and aid with keeping the beak properly shaped. You can also hang toys off the branches for added entertainment.
Sand sheets or cage bird sand may be used in the bottom of the cage of smaller species, and replaced regularly. The cage and furnishings should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with a pet safe disinfectant weekly, although droppings should be removed daily.
Outside aviaries must have a sheltered section to provide protection from wind, rain and strong sunlight and for many species it may need to be heated. Place the roosting site (the highest perch or nest box) and food containers within the sheltered section. The floor should be paved or have a sunken wire mesh to prevent rodents entering. If possible, install an infra-red light to deter thieves. It is also essential to have a double-door entrance system so birds cannot escape.
Introducing your parrots to their new home
Before introducing your parrots to their new home, fill the food and water pots and sprinkle a little extra onto the floor, to ensure they have enough to eat until they finds the seed pots.
Make sure all windows and doors are closed and fires are guarded. Gently open one end of the carry box and let your parrots walk into their new home. If they appears anxious or do not settle, drape a cloth over three sides of the cage until they settles. Leave them to adjust to their new setting quietly for a few hours.
Whilst your parrots are still young, introduce them to as many people and noises as possible. This will ensure they are confident and comfortable with other people taking care of them if you are away or if he outlives you – which may well happen.
Parrots are very intelligent and curious animals that can be trained, which will also help you bond with your pet. ‘Step-up’ onto your finger can be encouraged with a little gentle pressure to the breast, followed by a reward and praise. ‘Fly to me’ can also prove very useful if you notice a door or window has been left open, although this takes some persistence. Repetition, patience and positive reinforcement is the best form of training. Do not punish your parrot as you may ruin your relationship.
Food and water
It is important that you give your parrots a varied diet. Detailed requirements vary with the species, but each day you should offer food from the following categories:
Cereals: A good quality parrot mixture should be available from your pet shop. Check the seed dishes daily and remove any empty husks and refill as necessary.
Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, pears and cherries and more exotic fruits are all suitable, but do not feed avocado, as this is toxic to parrots.
Vegetables: Celery, carrots, broccoli, beetroot, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, fresh peas and beans are all suitable. Fresh foods must be thoroughly washed before being offered.
Supplements: Cuttlefish is a source of calcium and helps to keep the beak trim. A mineral block will provide essential minerals and trace elements, although both these items will be demolished rapidly by larger parrots. Vitamin drops may be added to the water.
Millet sprays, honey bells, rosehips and seed bars can be given as a treat. Be careful not to offer your parrot too many fatty treats as they are prone to liver damage.
Food and water pots should be washed regularly and fresh water should always be available.
This information is supported by The Parrot Society. For more information please visit www.theparrotsocietyuk.org