Caring for Your Parrot

October 24, 2012

The parrot is a very popular pet bird choice, and there is a spectrum of types to choose from, each with varied plumage, size, longevity, and temperament. Some parrot groups include African Parrots and Amazon Parrots. 
Parrots require considerable space and attention, but their loyal companionship and personality are well worth the investment of energy and time needed to nurture a first class companion. Given the right training, some of these birds can develop large vocabularies, thus entertaining their caregivers and visitors endlessly! Select young birds for purchase and designate a time every day to gently tame and socialize them. 
Many pet birds found at shops and breeder facilities are hand reared to ensure adequate socialization at an early age. Look for an active bird with healthy plumage and a bright expression, and have the new bird checked by your local veterinary hospital at the time of purchase. Some veterinarians treat birds and/or exotic pet species exclusively. A facility such as this would be an excellent health care choice for your pet parrot. Many small animal clinics will perform routine bird appointments, but will refer you to a certified avian specialist for more involved cases. Your bird should see a veterinarian once a year for a preventive health care exam. The veterinary health care team is an important source of good advice regarding proper health care for your bird. Dr. Robin Roscoe, an avian specialist at Lynwood Animal Hospital in Ontario also suggests that clients take time to review the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV) bird health pamphlets, which are available from your veterinarian or on the AAV website ( 
A parrot’s lifespan varies according to species, and ranges from about 40-100 years. On average, a small parrot will live 10-15 years but some of the larger species may outlive you!
Minimum cage dimensions for large parrots; either as a pair or single are 150 x 150 x 160 cm, and for small parrots 120 x 90 x 90 cm. Bigger is better and take note that these are minimum dimensions only.
Feeding regimens depend on the type of parrot. These birds are a large investment and you should consult with your source breeder and your avian veterinarian regarding optimum diet and feeding regimens for your particular bird. Pellets and crumble formulations fed free choice, balanced seed mixes (a maximum 10 sunflower seeds per day), supplemental calcium, green food, fruit, pasta, rice, potato, corn, peanuts, cooked meat and well cooked eggs are other components that may also be recommended. 
Important things to know about parrots:
* Chocolate, avocado and coffee beans are toxic 
* A test for Chlamydophila (cause of psittacosis) should be conducted since this is a zoonosis (disease shared by people and animals). Clinical signs of Chlamydophila may include sneezing, weight loss and diarrhea, though many birds are asymptomatic (show no signs of infection)
* Large proportions of moist fruit and vegetables in the diet may cause diarrhea. 
* Avoid placing anything in the cage containing lead or galvanized metal (zinc); these elements are toxic
* Birds often hide signs of illness so take note of any subtle changes in your parrot’s health or behaviour, especially in the droppings
* Avoid sandpaper perches - use natural wood 
* Elevate food and water dishes to help keep them clean and avoid placing them under perches
* Parrots tend to go to the highest perch, but one should offer a variety of perches- different in size, height, and location.
* There may be significant differences in temperament and aggressiveness between individual birds and parrot types. Parrots need lots of attention on a daily basis, and adequate mental stimulation to help combat boredom and prevent vices from developing
* If bored, many parrots get very noisy, so offer lots of toys; even a play gym area
* Parrots do much better when housed in a large aviary-type environment as opposed to a cage. The minimum cage requirements should be considered much less desirable than a larger structure.