PURCHASING PET PARROTS
At Tropical Birdland we are strongly against the mass importation of parrots into captivity. Especially, when they are sold as pets. The perfect pet parrot is one that has been bred in captivity; hand reared by knowledgeable breeders and kept in a caring environment. A hand reared parrot looks upon humans as there companions and therefore enjoys being with them. Where as an imported parrot only fears humans and is more than likely destined to a life behind bars.
The following are some guidelines for people who have already acquired a pet parrot or are thinking about getting one. Richard Hopper of the Tropical Birdland who has been keeping parrots since 1978 has written these guidelines. He started Birdland in 1982 and has spent most of his time studying parrots both in captivity and in the wild.
Parrots are highly intelligent and must never be underestimated. You (the owner)must always have control otherwise your pet parrot will control you. When you first purchase your hand reared baby parrot you will undoubtedly think how cute and cuddly it is. But what you must remember is that for the first six months it is a baby, then it becomes a mischievous juvenile interested in everything and then at three to four years it becomes an adult parrot.
Letting your pet have everything it wants, when it wants will just create a very unhealthy Spoilt Brat, remembering that most parrots will outlive their owners means that a vast majority of owners will not have the patience to cope with there pet.
These guidelines are to help prevent owners from making mistakes from the beginning, that they will only begin to see when it is too late. After all who wants a so called pet left in a cage locked away in garage because all it does is screech, bite and make a mess !
One important thing to remember is that parrots are not domesticated pets, they are wild animals of which relatively little is known about them. They have been designed by Mother Nature to live in jungles foraging for food, struggling to exist on a day to day basis. Not necessarily having it all handed to them on a plate.
Parrots are truly amazing creatures and when in the proper environment can make an excellent friend and a truly loving pet in any caring household.
WHERE SHOULD I KEEP MY PET PARROT?
Before you purchase your pet parrot, careful consideration should be made as to where and how you are going to keep it.
One of the first things to realise is that just about all parrots are noisy even when hand reared and they will not be quiet when you ask or tell them to be. So if you are one of those people who come home from work and just want to relax and watch T.V. for an hour. Then perhaps your living room would not be a good place to have the bird housed.
We suggest that you should house your cage ideally in a spare room or conservatory where if necessary you and your bird can have time away from each other. Certain species of parrot have to have a noisy period in a day. Species such as Amazons and Cockatoos instinctively have screaming sessions at dawn and dusk. Other species such as African Greys and Macaws will have their moments at varying times of the day.
Which ever is your most lived in room i.e. the living room, is where we suggest you place your play centre or parrot stand. Then when you are good and ready you fetch the bird from his cage and have some time with each other.
This method is by far the best way to keep your parrot, not only for your own sanity but for the birds health as well. Wild parrots will only have approximately twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness. They are not nocturnal animals therefore have only twelve hours to find their food and carry out their daily activities. They wake up at dawn and go to sleep at dusk. Imagine what it is like for a pet parrot, which is probably awake before anyone else in the house and probably, the last to go sleep because the light has been left on in the house for the last person to come in for the night. The parrot is constantly trying to catch up with its sleep but cant because of all the different disturbances.
At Birdland we believe that lack of solid sleep and daily routine are the major reasons as to why parrots pluck themselves and become overly aggressive and noisy. Basically you only have to compare this to yourself. If night after night you are disturbed in your sleep it is only a matter of time before you do something that you will regret. For the bird the slightest cause of stress could come along and it decides to pluck itself or relieve its frustration and anger by being aggressive to the first person it sees.
Two rooms, which should not be considered to house the parrot in anyway, are the Kitchen and Hallway. The Kitchen because of toxic fumes from cooking can lead to severe breathing abnormalities and death. Especially if you cook with Teflon coated pans. When they reach a certain temperature they give off a fume which can kill the parrots within minutes. The same is when cooking with Olive Oil. Also in the kitchen you are leaving your pet parrot open to a large array of potential accidents.
The hallway is not a good place for a parrot it is usually full of drafts coming from doors being opened and closed. Although parrots can adapt to quite drastic temperature changes. They do not take well to having on-going drafts blowing on them. This can lead to chills and sometimes death.
Another good idea for your pet parrot is to have a cage or a small aviary outside where you can put him. A baby parrot will soon learn how to enjoy the rain, sun and wind. Added to that, is the vast improvement it would make to its health. Parrots that are kept indoors (even behind windows) some times suffer from Calcium Deficiency. This is because even though they are probably getting enough Calcium in their diet they need Vitamin D3 to be able make use of the Calcium. The only proper way that they can get Vitamin D3 is through sunlight on their skin. Dont forget your parrot must be able to move away from direct sunlight to prevent it from getting heat stroke.
An aviary would also be a good place to let your parrot chew on branches and leaves, also to let it dig around in soil and turf and find other things to amuse itself with.
So when you are going to purchase your parrot dont forget that housing it properly will also be expensive and that it is not just a small cheap cage you have to buy. We recommend that you give consideration to buying a good Parrot Stand or better still a Parrot Play Station. Provide a large cage outside or better still an Aviary. As well as a good cage of adequate size for in the house preferably in a room of its own, or with a made to fit thick cover.
Healthy Diet for your Parrot
Parrots are no different to any other creature, for them to thrive; they need to eat a good, healthy, yet varied diet.
Opinions on what should or should not be eaten, varies as much as the food itself. The following is based on over twenty years of experience on keeping and studying parrots and tropical birds not only in captivity but also in the wild.
A good clean seed mixture, all types of fruits, vegetables and plenty of grits is what Tropical Birdland believes to be the ideal basic every day diet for any parrot like bird. Of coarse on top of this there are lots of items to add. But in any one day the birds intake should be generally 45% seed and 35% fruit and veg 20% others.
When feeding parrot mix, choose one that has a good variety of seeds in it and not a cheap mix that is 75% sunflower, also make sure that there is not too much chaff and dust at the bottom of the bag. This is however inevitable even with modern day mixing machines it is impossible to remove all of it.
Nuts are an important addition to their daily diet; all true parrots will readily eat most kinds of nut even if you have to crack them a bit. It is best not to purchase nut kernels as half of the fun in eating nuts is trying to get through the shell to the good bits inside. Also some parrots will eat bits of the shell I believe this is similar to grit eating and they may be after tannins or something similar. Also when purchasing nuts make sure they are for human consumption as the cheaper versions can contain deadly toxins.
All fresh vegetables and fruits are safe generally the favoured ones are carrot, beetroot, peas and sweetcorn for vegetables. And apple, banana, grapes, orange, papaya and pomegranates for fruits. However be aware of avocado pear there is one type of avocado that is deadly to parrots and all avocados are best left alone. Generally however parrots tend not to even try them anyway.
Other excellent foods are cheese, cooked meat bones (especially chicken), boiled egg and fish. Pet birds will always be very partial and relish the food off your dinner plate. Which in moderation is very good for them.
Just as important as the choice of foods you offer is the way in which it is offered. Our best advice is to let your bird have one hour in the morning to feed. Then another hour in the evening before it goes to bed and between these two times remove all food from the area. You can then use things like extra nuts, bones and cheese etc as titbits throughout the day to perhaps reward your bird.
If at all possible move the feeding pots to different locations of the cage each day, forget about the move anything in his cage and he will freak. This is because he has been spoilt and has got himself into a rut. Dont worry about this, just move things about only moderately initially, then once he is used to little movement then make it more radical.
When it comes to the fruit and veg choose one type of fruit and one type of veg for the day. Dont chop it into tiny pieces rather spike it on something the bird will have fun ripping it to bits even if it chooses not to eat it. This can be left with him all day and if possible spike in a place where the bird has to think how to get to it.
This feeding method i.e. not leaving food in with them all day and making them think for themselves plays a major part in preventing them from plucking themselves at a later date. Parrots in the wild only search for food around dawn and dusk. When in the pet situation and the bird is left on its own it will kill time by eating usually because of boredom. This will inevitably make him overweight and unfit. When a good feeding system is tied in with the Daily Routine section then the parrot will learn to think for itself, find enjoyment out of other things and generally keep itself amused rather than be totally reliant on its owners. Also leaving food with him all day is the cause of parrots only eating the bits they love like one type of seed or a particular nut. This will lead to vitamin deficiency and many other health problems. A parrot that is not hungry at feed times will just throw all its seed out on to the floor until it finds the bit it loves.
Over the last few years a huge amount of pelleted diets have appeared on the market. Most of these suggest that each pellet contains everything a parrot needs to be healthy. We find this strange as African Parrots and South American Parrots and Australian cockatoos do not find or have the same foods available to them in their own countries. Also parrots enjoy eating in the same way as we do after all you wouldnt eat the same tasting item day after day! So lets not start depriving them of that as well. Remember even if you have a totally human imprinted pet parrot it is still a wild animal and not a domesticated pet. You would not feed a wolf Pedigree Chum and expect it to be happy.
Grit and Geophagy:
It is a long-standing argument as to whether parrots should eat grit or not. Birdland has done extensive studies in this field. The findings are straight forward. It is essential that parrots eat a good grit mix for various reasons. Firstly it aids digestion in helping to grind the food whilst in its crop. Also it provides the bird with all the essential minerals it will ever need. Also it is a lesser form of Geophagy (soil and clay eating) which only over the last decade is coming to light, the fact that across the animal kingdom they all eat soil and clay on a relatively daily basis. Most of us by now have seen footage on TV of parrots eating clay at large rock faces around the world, some people believe they do it because it neutralises the toxins from the foods they eat. Others believe that it is just another way of topping up any minerals that they might be lacking in. Birdland agrees with all of these but adds the fact that Geophagy not only removes toxins but believes it removes possible viruses and bacterias.
The most common problems with pet parrots are Plucking, Excessive noise and Aggression. All of these problems if they are going to arise tend to start from the age of three onwards. They are all caused generally by frustration, which is usually brought on by changes in their owners life styles which intern causes the parrots life style to change. This the parrot cannot understand and will usually become intolerable by screeching until it gets attention or biting because it does not want to do as its told. The worst it can do is pluck and mutilate itself sometimes to death.
Over the years Birdland has studied thousands of pet parrots and strives to understand the birds requirements We have developed the following guidelines in the hope that people who are keeping parrots as pets will decide to follow this routine. Then hopefully we will see a decline in problem parrots.
When you have chosen your baby pet parrot it is very important to have a pre- organised routine ready for when it arrives. Routine is very important for your baby pet parrots mental health and happiness. It should be started from the day it arrives and within reason adhered to as much as possible. If introducing an older parrot to an all-new routine (because you believe it to be developing problems) then you will have to be very patient. As problems will usually get worse before they get better.
The above chart is a suggestion as to how the normal daily routine should be divided to fit in with your own daily routine.
A: A solid uninterrupted twelve-hour sleep should be implemented first. This is best done in a completely darkened room where no sunlight can come through the curtains. Majority of parrots in the wild live just above and below the Equator and naturally have twelve hours of night throughout the year. An all too common problem with parrots in captivity is the sheer lack of sleep. They are usually living in the main room of the house where everybody is and not getting any where near the amount of sleep they require. Lack of sleep will play a big part as to whether or not your parrot will start to pluck.
B&C: Feeding times are best done as soon as you wake your bird up in the morning and again before the parrot goes to roost. Parrots have a crop, which stores the food and then slowly feeds the stomach. In the morning the average parrot will take the maximum of 1 hour to fill its crop with food it will not need to eat again (except for the odd treat) until an hour before roost. Where again it will fill its crop. It is recommended that you take all food pots away when the parrot has finished eating (this is explained in part F).
In the wild the best time to see parrots is always at Dawn and Dusk as these are the times they are flying about foraging for food. Through the main part of the day it is a lot harder to find them as they are usually sitting still in the forest canopy perhaps preening themselves and avoiding the strong heat of the day.
D: Social time with your parrot should be an absolute maximum of 4 hours in any one day. This is where you should take your parrot away from its living quarters and spend time with it. The 4 hours can be in one solid block or you can split it into various times throughout the day, which ever suits your own routine.
E: Diet plays an important part to your parrots health. But equally important is to let your parrot have some outside life where it can get the elements. Wind, rain and sunshine all play a vital part in your parrots health. A hand-reared bird has had no one to teach it how to enjoy the elements so at first it may be frightened or show dislike to wind and rain. But if you force it a little, then eventually hidden instincts will start to come forward, and the parrot will learn that the best shower comes from rain. Wind through the feathers keeps them clean and direct sunlight on their feet and face make them feel better!
All species benefit from being out in the sun. But African Greys in particular suffer from Calcium and Vitamin D3 deficiency. The problem is not usually a lack of Calcium but a lack of D3. In the average diet there is more than enough Calcium for your parrots needs but it is useless without the vitamin D3. Although D3 has been successfully synthesised by various companies in recent years the best way is natures way. Direct sunlight falling onto your birds skin will provide it with all the D3 it needs.
Giving your bird outside time is easy. Either keep your bird clipped and you can leave it to climb around a small tree for a few hours. Or build a small aviary where it can be left to play around in the elements. Come rain or shine your bird will benefit greatly by spending a minimum of two hours a day outside.
F: Alone time for your parrot ! This should be a period where your parrot is left by itself in its room where it cannot see anyone. The object is to teach the parrot to play and amuse itself. This is best done by filling the room with fresh leafy twigs and branches, lenghs of sisal or hemp rope to chew and swing on etc. A happy parrot is basically one that is destroying something. Use your own imagination to build things that will encourage your parrot to think for itself i.e.: Tie its favourite titbit to one end of a piece of rope then tie the other end to a branch. Another good health tip is to grow (in a pot) some turf on normal soil. A Fully educated parrot loves to dig at roots and soil they get all sorts of goodness from that! It is very important that this period be no less than 3hours a day and that the parrot cannot see any body. If it can see you then all it will do is concentrate on trying to get to you and if it cant get to you it will become very stressed and noisey. It is also important that during this period that there are no feeding bowls around as most parrots will just start eating to pass the time away. It is better to use his favourite treats in a way that he has to perform a task to get to them within this period. Never underestimate their intelligence.
All of the above are guidelines to help you organise a routine for your new pet parrot within your own life style. Parts D,E and F can all be mixed and varied as to when people are home. A parrot, welcomes a daily routine, they can even accept a weekly routine so if the daily routine changes for the weekend then the parrot can accept this.
It is all too easy to give your parrot what it asks for especially when you first get it home. But while you are trying to organise the routine spare a thought as to what your lifestyle might be like in four years time and not just for the first six months. Buy choosing to have a parrot for a pet is a big commitment as it could well out live you.