The average macaw has about 11 different homes in her lifetime, which can be around 90 years long. Yet, parrot breeding and sales are virtually unregulated and very cruel. This industry is fueled by people who often do not understand the lifespan of parrots and who don’t understand how loud and demanding a parrot can be, which leads to a lot of homeless parrots.
Because so many parrots are purchased and bred and there are so few proper homes for them, parrot rescues are almost constantly over capacity, yet despite this problem, homeless parrots get very little attention compared to cats and dogs. Florida Parrot Rescue has a year-long waiting list of people wanting to surrender their birds.
The perception of rescued parrots is that they are all damaged goods with serious health and behavioral problems. While it is true that some parrots carry the scars of a rough life, many birds come from different environments and are wonderful companions. You do not need to be an experienced parrot parent to adopt a bird, as long as you do your research and prepare yourself properly.
However, parrots are no small commitment. If you are interested in bringing home a parrot, these tips can help you provide the best home possible for your new bird.
Can You Really Take Care of a Parrot?
Remember, parrots are long-term commitments. When you adopt a parrot, you are essentially adopting a toddler that will remain a toddler their entire life – which can be between 10 and 90 years long depending on the species.
Since parrots are wild animals and not suited to captivity, they require a lot of extra effort to give them as enriching a life as possible. Parrots are incredibly social and vocal and need near constant attention and companionship. Parrots also can get particularly hormonal, loud, and aggressive during mating season.
Do not make the mistake of writing off a budgie or cockatiel as a smaller commitment. Even small species of parrots require a great deal of companionship, space, and attention over a lifespan that rivals that of a dog’s.
If a parrot is not properly cared for, they can develop lots of problems including self-mutilation, where they intentionally injure themselves or pull out their own feathers. Parrots are incredibly intelligent and therefore can deal with many different psychological problems when they are not in the wild.
What Kind of Cage Should You Get?
The number one rule for parrot cages is to buy the biggest cage you can afford and fill it with a large variety of perches and toys. The more time your parrot will spend in his or her cage, the larger and more exciting it should be. The general sizes you will find recommended for different species of birds are usually far too small for a parrot who does anything other than sleep in her cage.
You will also need at least one playstand for your bird, as well as other perches and play areas around the house. A playstand is a setup with lots of perches, toys, and food bowls that your bird can play around on. If you can only get one playstand, make sure it’s portable so your bird can always be in the same room as you. You will be your bird’s new flock, and they will want to always be by your side.
What Do Parrots Eat?
Parrots require a diet of pellets (these act almost as a vitamin supplement for your birds and provide the base of their nutrition), which can be expensive. They also require a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. If you cook a lot of these foods at home, it might be as simple as just picking up a little extra at the store and making “chop” or giving your parrot some of the extras as you cook, but if you are not always in the kitchen, this can be time consuming and expensive.
Companion parrots should not be fed seeds on a regular basis. Seeds are very high in fat, and since parrots don’t get the exercise in captivity as they would in the wild, feeding seeds can make your bird overweight and unhealthy.
Each individual parrot has their own, more specific, dietary requirements based on their species, health, and personal tastes, so make sure you really do your research and learn exactly what is best for your new baby.
To Clip or Not to Clip?
Wing clipping is a hotly debated topic amongst parrot caregivers. In an ideal world, all parrots would be able to fly miles and miles a day with no fear of harm. However, when we bring them into our very dangerous homes, that isn’t always the case. As a general rule, if you are adopting a parrot who is used to flying, do not take that away from them. Otherwise, make the call based on your individual bird and living situation. Occasionally, you will come across a bird who has never flown much and is absolutely terrified of it. In this case, it might be safer to have their wings clipped.
Either way, make sure that your parrot has as much freedom as is safe in your home. If your parrot is clipped, provide them with lots of ladders and ropes and allow them to explore as much of your home as possible. Do not restrict them to just their cage and a playstand. If your parrot is flighted, you will need to be incredibly careful with birdproofing your home. Ceiling fans should never be on while your parrot is in the room and pots and pans should never be left unattended or uncovered. Always keep toilet lids closed and don’t leave standing water that your bird can drown in sitting around.
How Can You Birdproof Your Home?
Parrots have very sensitive respiratory systems and, therefore, you need to be very careful about the chemicals in your home. Don’t use scented air fresheners or candles and never use Teflon pans (the fumes can kill a parrot nearly instantly if the pan overheats). Avoid chemical cleaners in favor of more gentle ones, especially when cleaning the bird’s cage or perches.
Where Can You Start?
Jennifer at Florida Parrot Rescue recommends that you volunteer and try fostering a parrot first. She also recommends that you do a lot of research on parrots. Look things up online, join Facebook groups, and talk with volunteers and parrot parents about their experiences. This will prepare you to be the best flockmate possible.
When you are ready, fill out an adoption application. The organization you are adopting from will probably do a home inspection and work with you to find the bird best suited for your family.
Are There Other Ways to Help?
Parrot rescues always need volunteers and donations. Reach out to your local rescue and see what they need. It can be as little as sharing their Facebook posts or as much as donating new cages and volunteering with the birds.
Image Source: leander.canaris/Flickr