Caring for Your Parrot
CARING FOR YOUR PARROT
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 – 60+ in some cases. A parrot will grow and change in their behaviours and abilities just as a person would. If the potential new caregiver gathers information about the species of parrot they would like to keep, and follows 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 caregiver can be an amazing source of love and pleasure. There is no doubt that a single parrot will be more attentive to his caregiver 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. Their bird should reside in their own cage in a shared room so they can converse, but still have their own safe space when unsupervised.
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. Often parrots prefer a smaller cage for nighttime (more security),and a roomy day cage with lots of area for climbing, stretching and playing. Your parrot cage will need horizontal bars (good for climbing). 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 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. Make sure your parrot is getting the rest that he needs by having a quiet room for his night cage without distractions. Your parrot will need approximately 12 hours of sleep. Your pet counsellor can show you the homes available made specifically for your parrot.
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 ineffective filtered light inside, the use of a full-spectrum light is vital. UVB is necessary to prevent calcium and vitamin D3 deficiencies, which can cause a tremendous amount of health problems. It has also been suggested that UVA light is beneficial in preventing colour blindness and reducing or eliminating abnormal behaviours 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. For more information ask a pet counsellor for a copy of the Ultraviolet Lighting for Birds and Reptiles tip sheet.
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 and textures to allow his feet proper exercise. 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.
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 outside of the cage.
Transportation Carrier – A carrier will be necessary for safe travelling to their new home, visiting friends or a sitter, the vet, or for emergency situations. Desensitize them to the carrier with regular visits or practice carrying them in the carrier at home.
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.
Staple Diet – 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.
Daily Salad – 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, but should be offered in moderation. 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 because it is possible to over-vitaminize his diet, which can lead to health problems.
Clay Cal – Clay Cal is a dietary supplement that helps to mimic a bird’s natural geophagic practices. In the wild many parrots have been observed consuming clay. Experts believe that birds ingest the clay to ensure the proper intake of minerals, such as calcium, into their diets. As an added bonus, the clay also absorbs toxins and removes them from the body.
Cuttlebone – Cuttlebone will supply your parrot with calcium, phosphorus and other minerals necessary to keep him in optimum health. Hang it in his cage, out of the way from droppings, which could soil it. Change it every two months, as they are very porous and absorb smells and tastes in the environment, such as smoke and cooking fumes. If your parrot does not show any interest in his cuttlebone, grind it up into powder and mix with his salad or favourite treat.
Iodine Block – Provides iodine, copper and many other minerals, in small quantities. The iodine block is fun to chew, tasty too. A pellet staple diet meets the required iodine level in birds, making the iodine block unessential unless feeding a seed staple diet.
Spray Millet – Millet is the only food available for birds that they would typically find in the wild. When you bring home your parrot, you should provide spray millet for them on a daily basis. This may be the only thing that your parrot will feel comfortable eating in the beginning. Once your bird has adjusted to their new home, offering them spray millet once or twice a week is fine.
Treats – Packaged treats, honey sticks, and spray millet are great options. They provide your parrot with the variety he craves and the behavioural requirements (such as foraging) he needs. Some toys have an added benefit of providing a treat inside too (see toys; behavioural needs).
Bird Bath/Showering – Rainfall and early morning mists are missing in the companion bird’s life. Treat your parrot daily to a misting shower, or if he prefers, a bird bath which consists of a large shallow bowl of warm water (supervised). Bird misting may be offered by using hot tap water and spraying them from a clean water spray bottle (intended only for that use) while the bird is outside its cage on its playpen. Spray from over your bird’s head if he does not enjoy direct misting. These baths encourage preening and grooming, and will provide your bird with an enjoyable pastime, similar to what they experience in their natural habitat.
Basking Light and Wire Fixture – Providing a heat source for your parrot prevents the parrot from feeling chilled as they get wet, and allows them to preen in the warmth. A Turtle basking light bulb is an excellent choice because it can withstand misting without the risk of breaking. Choosing a wire fixture allows the heat to dispense so it does not get too hot for the parrot. Always ensure your parrot can escape the heat if he chooses so that he does not overheat.
Water Bottle and Bracket – The fresh water that you serve to your parrots in the morning may be soiled in very little time with food or droppings. A secondary water source, such as a water bottle is a great way to keep your parrot’s water clean and free of droppings. They quickly understand how to use it and many enjoy playing with the spout.
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, and one for warm foods, such as (soaked) cooked dry beans, eggs, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and oatmeal.
Substrate – 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. Bedding such as Eco-bedding or CareFresh® may be used if there is a grate overtop to prevent the parrot from foraging amongst their feces.
Nail Clipper, File and Coagulant – Your parrot’s nails will grow continuously. Nail clippers made especially for birds must be used. Take care not to over trim or cut into blood vessels running through each nail. Have a blood coagulant waiting and ready to use. Flight feathers should be trimmed regularly to prevent accidents, injury or worse. If you prefer, ask your pet counsellor to make an appointment to have this done for you.
Socialization – 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. Your parrot will also require training. They learn a great deal from their caregiver and rely on us to be teachers with consistent commands and routines. Talk with your avian veterinarian regarding the best method of obedience training for your bird.
Toys – A wild parrot will spend much of his time flying, preening (generally after a rainfall), 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. There are 6 types of toys to provide: foraging, destructive, sound/noise, educational, foot, and acrylic all of which fulfil a unique behavioural need. Your parrot must always be given materials that can be ripped, bitten and chewed, such as cloth, leather, wood, paper, rope and branches to fulfill their inherent need to chew. Many parrots will need your help to figure out how certain toys work. Rotate and add new toys for your parrot on a regular basis.
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items pertain to your parrot’s needs.
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 can potentially carry diseases that may be contagious to people. 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 environments. Regular cleaning of your pet’s environment with a pet safe cleaner may help avoid the spread of contaminants.
Hygiene procedures such as washing your hands before and after handling your pet and/or after having any contact with their habitat, is a necessary routine. Children should be assisted with hand washing and always have adult supervision when interacting with pets.