Parrots have been kept as companion birds for over 2,000 years. Their bright colours and ability to imitate voices and sounds will delight just about anyone. Parrots originate from different climatic areas; the tropics, savannas or even semi-deserts. These intelligent, loving and curious pets will provide companionship and entertainment for years – 50 to 60 in some cases. Some parrots can actually outlive their owners. A parrot will grow and change in their behaviours and abilities just as a person would. If the potential new owner gathers information about the species of parrot they would like to keep and they follow the recommended needs, then they will be rewarded with a healthy, happy companion and a long-term relationship.
One Parrot, Two or More?
A single, tame bird that has a close bond with his owner can be an amazing source of love and pleasure. There is no doubt that a single parrot will be more attentive to his owner than one that has a buddy of his own. However, there are benefits of having more than one, the most obvious being the constant companionship of a flock mate.
To provide a happy, healthy atmosphere for your parrot, Petland recommends the following necessary and fun accessories. We have listed them as your new parrot’s four basic needs. Environmental, Nutritional, Maintenance and Behavioural. When these needs are met, along with a loving environment provided by you, your parrot can live a long and happy life.
Your Parrot’s New Home – When purchasing a cage for your parrot, keep the following in mind. Get the largest cage that you can. Although some parrots prefer a smaller cage for bedtime (more security), a roomy home with lots of area for climbing and stretching and playing is ideal. Your parrot cage will need horizontal bars (good for climbing) and steer away from round cages, since they do not provide the security your parrot needs. Make sure the room in which he is placed is draft free, away from heat or air-conditioning vents and is not in direct sunlight all the time (in view of a window is great). Most parrots will be comfortable with a room temperature that is agreeable for people. Birds wake at sunrise and sleep at sunset. Make sure your parrot is getting the rest that he needs by having a quiet room for bedtime without the distractions of television or radio. Your parrot will need approximately 11 hours sleep. Your pet counsellor can show you the homes available made specifically for your parrot.
Playground or Bird Tree – A playground or bird tree is a necessity for your parrot if he is to be healthy, happy and fit. A playground area provides a secure and happy place to exercise and play, preen and snooze.
Perches – Birds were not meant to stand on the same diameter of a tree branch or perch. Your parrot must have a variety of perch sizes to allow his feet proper exercise. Take care that the perches are not too smooth, too hard or too rough. Perches made of rope or natural wood with bark provide the best surfaces for your parrot’s feet. Your parrot’s opposing long toes need to extend at least a little more than half way around the perch. Inside the cage, situate two of the perches at the same height as the seed and water dishes, and not directly over them, where fecal matter could spoil the food.
Lighting – Your parrot requires exposure to ultraviolet light on a daily basis. Since it is not possible in our climate to have them outside on a daily basis, and placing them in front of a window only allows filtered light inside, which is ineffective; the use of a full-spectrum light is vital. UVA and UVB is necessary to prevent calcium and vitamin D3 deficiencies, which can cause a tremendous amount of health problems. As well, depriving your parrot of UV light will make them colour blind. It has also been suggested that UVA light is beneficial in reducing or eliminating abnormal behaviour, such as feather damaging disorders, screaming, phobias and aggression among just a few. An avian floor lamp and UVA/UVB bulb will be a necessary part of your parrot’s basic environmental need.
Food – It is unreasonable to expect any living thing to remain healthy when fed only one or two types of food. You must give your parrot a balanced diet if he is to live a long and happy life. Approximately 90% of your parrot’s diet should be made up of pellets designed for parrots. Pellets have balanced nutrition in each bite and help to fill the nutritional gaps in his diet. Although, some say that a pelleted diet is the only food a parrot needs, there are nutritional and behavioural advantages in supplementing with fresh, natural foods. Approximately 10% of your parrot’s diet may be made up of carefully selected vegetables to be fed as his morning meal. Broccoli, beets, green beans, navy and lima beans, sweet potatoes and carrots (to name a few) are all good sources of essential nutrients. Fruits, such as papayas, apples and bananas, have other nutrients that are beneficial. Keep in mind that what is good for you is good for your parrot – in moderation. A book that is species specific will provide you with your parrot’s feeding requirements. Feed all perishable foods in a separate dish, and remove it after one or two hours.
Vitamin/Mineral/Amino Acid Supplement – If your parrot’s diet is made up primarily (90%) of pellets and he enjoys a variety of fruits, vegetables and other nutritious table foods, then a vitamin supplement is not necessary. However, if your parrot’s diet is not ideal, we recommend the addition of a high-quality powdered vitamin. It is always wise to consult an avian veterinarian regarding any nutritional supplements, since it is possible to over-vitaminize his diet, which can lead to health problems.
Treats – Different tastes, textures, shapes and sizes of foods are as important to a parrot as they are to a person. They will provide your companion with some of the variety he craves and the behavioural requirements (such as foraging) he needs. Petland has a variety of packaged treats available for your parrot. Out-of-your-cupboard treats, such as unsalted almonds, walnuts, acorns and hazelnuts (in moderation) may also be enjoyed. Some toys have an added benefit of providing a treat inside too (see toys; behavioural needs).
Plumage Conditioner and Bird Bath – Rainfall and early morning mists are missing in the companion parrot’s life. Treat your parrot frequently (at least daily) to a misting shower, or if he prefers, a large shallow dish of warm water (supervised). Some parrots may find the flavoured bird bath sprays tasty too. These sprays encourage preening and grooming, and will condition feathers, giving them a healthy sheen. Bird bath sprays may be mixed with hot tap water and then sprayed from a clean water bottle (intended only for that use), resulting in a warm morning shower. Spray from over your bird’s head if he does not enjoy direct misting.
Additional Food Cups – Stainless steel or ceramic treat cups are easy to keep clean and last longer than some. Your parrot will need one additional cup for salad, another for seed treats, and one more for warm foods, such as (soaked) cooked dry beans, eggs, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, even oatmeal.
Cage paper is easy to remove and will not become a soppy mess like paper towels or newspaper when water is inevitably splashed onto it.
Nail Clipper, File and Coagulant – Your parrot’s nails will grow continuously. Many parrot owners feel more comfortable bringing their parrot into Petland or to their avian veterinarian to have grooming performed. However, some parrot owners want to do their own parrot’s grooming. Nail clippers made especially for birds must be used. Take care not to over trim or cut into blood vessels running through each nail. Should this happen, have a blood coagulant waiting and ready to use.
Socialization – At the beginning of this tip sheet, we talked about the four basic needs. A parrot’s behavioural needs are similar to those of a child in that he needs to be talked with, played with, cuddled and socialized. A good way to encourage your parrot to be calmer and more secure with different situations is to introduce him to new people and visit unfamiliar places regularly. Make this a routine practice in keeping your parrot socialized. Your parrot will also require discipline. Talk with your avian veterinarian regarding the best method of obedience training for your bird.
Toys – A bird in the wild will never get bored. A wild parrot will spend much of his time flying, foraging for food, building a nest, rearing a family, defending a nest site and so on. Companion parrots transfer the time that would have been spent doing these life skill necessities into things that mimic their inherent needs. If they are left to their own devices, they will grow bored. To alleviate this boredom, picking at themselves, screeching, and so on, will be natural activities to fill the void. This is why your parrot needs activities available to him that encourages his natural habits, such as chewing. Most parrots need destructible toys and perches. This fulfils their inherent need to chew. Some indestructible toys are fine; however, your parrot must always be given materials that can be ripped, bitten and chewed, such as cloth, leather, wood, cardboard, paper, rope and branches. Also, many parrots will need your help to figure out how certain toys work. Interactive play with a new toy can be a lot of fun! There are many toys available made specifically for parrots in your Petland store. Rotate and add new toys for your parrot on a regular basis.
A Book About Parrots – Petland has many excellent parrot books available. Your pet counsellor can help you select a species specific book that will best suit your needs.
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items pertain to your parrot’s needs.
*Ask about the volunteer programs at your nearest Petland location.
Attention: Certain cookware, aerosols, incense, aromatic candles and household cleaners may be harmful or worse to your bird’s health. Ask a pet counsellor for a copy of the “Safety Tips & Household Hazards” tip sheet.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets must be kept in a clean environment to avoid the spread of dirt and contaminants to yourself and others. Always keep your pet’s home clean, and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home.
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit diseases to humans. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their homes.