Parrots can make amazing pets. But should they even be pets?

Quailobsessed

Crowing
Oct 12, 2019
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Australia
Before I start, please understand I do not want to cause debates. I am not poking fingers at people or trying to make parrot owners feel bad for keeping parrots (I am a parrot owner myself). I want people to share their opinions kindly as I feel the parrot community is divided enough and doesn't need more debate. So please consider others as you post.

I just feel I really need to share this with people who have parrots and may be thinking the same thing or people who don't have parrots yet and want advice on what being a parrot parent is like.

To start, I love parrots. I am from Australia, the land of parrots and have grown up seeing wild cockatoos and lorikeets. I now have parrots of my own, all natives; cockatiels, a budgie, princess parrots, a bourke's parrot and currently a galah I'm fostering. I love having them and couldn't imagine life without them now. With the proper time and care they can make amazing lifelong companions...

...However...

...I said they can make amazing companions. I love parrots and I do the best job I can to look after mine, but they are a LOT of work and most people aren't cut out to own them. Here are some of the issues commonly overlooked when you lay your eyes on their cute little faces.

Parrots bite. I hate when I see parrots for sale and the add says they don't bite. They can and will bite when you misread their body language (which you will from time to time). They also scream. You can minimise their screaming along with their biting but there is no such thing as a parrot that doesn't bite or scream. These are just traits most people try to ignore when they get their hyacinth macaw (the bird that can snap broomsticks with those beaks) or their umbrella cockatoo (the parrot known for being so popular but so difficult).

There is also the lifespans. Some cockatoos can live up to 80+ years with some getting over 100 years old. These are the same parrots that are known for their attached-to-one-person issues.

Then there is the cockatoo problem. Now don't get me wrong, I love cockatoos. I see wild ones all the time and have a galah I'm caring for who has the cutest "hello" when he wants attention. But they are probably the most difficult animal I have ever worked with. They are very cuddly and cute with their amazing personalities but they seem to have the idea that the universe revolves around them 24/7. They are very demanding. There are so many videos on the internet of cuddly, playful parrots having the best time with their owners. That shouldn't be your research if you're considering a parrot. That's just the fun, playful part of parrot ownership. These videos don't include the part where your cockatoo turns on you for 'no reason'. Perhaps research should include looking up cockatoo bites on the internet and listening to their screams on youtube with the volume turned up all the way. Now this is not easy to write because my dear galah with his endearing personality is giving me the cutest "hello" as I type why cockatoos are so difficult. But this is just another problem - they are so manipulative. Any cockatoo owner would agree. Now I don't let my galah on my shoulder, he has a lot of behavioural issues I'm working on and having to bribe a bitey, hormonal, short-tempered galah off my shoulder which by the way is right next to my face is just asking for trouble. But he always wants my shoulder, so when I decline he gives the most endearing "hello cocky". Yeah, they're manipulative.

There is also their basic care requirements. There is really no beginner parrot when it comes to this. They all need the same basic care whether a budgie or a macaw.

They need a suitable cage. I keep my parrots in outdoor aviaries so that they get the sunlight that they need and so they can self-entertain when I can't give them attention. If they are kept inside in a smaller cage, they need to be let out daily so they can interact and exercise. They also need toys to destroy. I can't afford to always buy the overpriced toys from pet shops so I give mine native branches to destroy and I'm trying to make safe toys for them. But either way, toys are supposed to be destroyed, that is a sign of a healthy, happy bird.

There is diets. They can't just be fed a pet shop seed mix. They will become deficient in everything and get very sick or die. They should be fed a top quality pellet and veggies. Pellets aren't the be all and end all either. I have done A LOT of research (more than the normal human should perhaps) on parrot diets and most pellets are not all that much better than seeds. I won't get into this too much, perhaps I'll save it for another thread, but it is important to do your homework, consult an avian vet perhaps, do your research on the pellet you're feeding. They should also be fed vegetables daily. I feed this to my parrots every day. I make it in large batches and freeze about a month worth of food for them.
IMG_20190923_213844.jpg

I got the recipe here: https://birdtricksstore.com/collections/main-store/products/natural-feeding-system-digital-download
I know it's kinda pricey but has been amazing for my parrots and taught me so much about diets.

Parrots also need exercise. You'll have to decide whether you'll clip your bird's wings or not. I don't, I personally couldn't clip a bird that is meant to fly. My cockatiels were clipped by the breeder when we got them and one of them broke all his tail feathers when he would try to fly. So now that their feathers have grown back, I couldn't clip them. But whether they're clipped or not, they'll need to get exercise. They also need constant mental stimulation because of their intelligence. Larger parrots like cockatoos, have the cognitive ability of a four year old. Imagine having a four year old that lives for 80 years.

There is also the cost side. Parrots are expensive. I don't just mean the birds themselves (though a macaw or grey in Australia will set you back $4000), I mean the cage; some parrots like macaws are escape artists and need a really secure cage which adds cost, the food; pellets, especially the good ones, are expensive, the toys, t-stands, vet bills; avian vets are not cheap. I could go on.

Now there are some people who do an amazing job as owners and I congratulate them because parrot owning is tough. I see and hear about so many parrots that are not cared for properly and end up re-homed more times than years old they are and that is just sad. My galah is an escaped pet I'm fostering while the owner's being located, he has so many behavioural issues and I think it may be to do with the way he was kept. So I urge you, if you want to get a parrot, do your research, PLEASE, for the bird's sake. See if you can handle all their antics. Some parrots I wonder if they should even be in the pet trade *thinks of white cockatoos*, some people can handle them but many can't. I couldn't own a sulphur crested cockatoo, I get them wild at my house and imagining what a pet one would think seeing his wild friends with a better life is enough to stop me from getting one. They are some of the hardest parrots to own, I don't know if I could handle them.

I think I have gone on enough. I congratulate everyone who read the whole thing. Again, I am not targeting anyone or being a hypocrite. I love having my parrots and though they are A LOT of work, I put in the work because I love these birds and want to do the best by them. Please feel free to share your thoughts on this subject as there are many different opinions and I would love to hear them all. Can we all be kind in the way we post, I'm not judging anyone and I want everyone's opinion heard. If you have parrots or particularly white cockatoos, share some of the best parts and worst parts of owning them. How do you deal with their crazy quirks? Please contribute your experiences to help other people learn so we can all work to better the lives of our pet parrots.
 
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ChocolateMouse

Free Ranging
Premium Feather Member
Jul 29, 2013
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I mean, they're exotics. I feel like that sort of argument can be made for many creatures. But there's not many real ways to make sure only people who take good care of their animals will get them. Even dog rescues have trouble with this and are often deeply misguided. There's ways to filter out the worst owners through barriers, the impulse buyers, with things like non nonrefundable deposits good pricing and waiting periods... But the rest? The owners who study up and then just can't be bothered to do the work are real and so are the people who don't know much but learn fast and really do want the best for their animals.

So you either take them off the market all the way or your leave them on the market with as many reasonable obstacles as you can.

So SHOULD they be pets because some people don't do a good job? Maybe not? But that just strikes me as a pretty slippery slope.
 

Quailobsessed

Crowing
Oct 12, 2019
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Australia
I mean, they're exotics. I feel like that sort of argument can be made for many creatures. But there's not many real ways to make sure only people who take good care of their animals will get them. Even dog rescues have trouble with this and are often deeply misguided. There's ways to filter out the worst owners through barriers, the impulse buyers, with things like non nonrefundable deposits good pricing and waiting periods... But the rest? The owners who study up and then just can't be bothered to do the work are real and so are the people who don't know much but learn fast and really do want the best for their animals.

So you either take them off the market all the way or your leave them on the market with as many reasonable obstacles as you can.

So SHOULD they be pets because some people don't do a good job? Maybe not? But that just strikes me as a pretty slippery slope.

I agree with you. I'm just commenting on parrots because I've done the research on them and can comment because I've experienced these issues, but this applies to many other animals as well.

I'm not saying that we can control who owns them. And maybe they shouldn't be pets, but I don't think we can outright stop them from being in the pet trade. My approach to this issue is to make people aware of the problem and educate the people who genuinely want to do the right thing by their parrots and help show people who don't have parrots what the commitment involves so they can make decisions accordingly.

I'm trying to show people what owning a parrot involves. If someone reads this and is still willing to put in all the work for a parrot, maybe they're the right owner for that bird.

About the 'should they be pets?' , maybe not. But they are so it's our responsibility to care for the ones in the pet trade and to conserve the species that have become endangered because of human actions.
 

Serin

Crowing
Feb 3, 2019
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Chicagoland
Thank you for writing, I share your sentiment 100%.

People who want a companion bird that will not completely take over your life should consider a coturnix, pigeon, ringneck dove or even a small chicken, all of which can be very tame and much less demanding.

Small parrots like budgies and cockatiels can be maintained fairly easily in large flight cages and in pairs. They are also true seed-eaters unlike larger birds and can live their entire life on a dry seed mix supplemented with vegetables and hard boiled egg, maybe some pellets, but a diet that would not suit a larger species. I feel larger species are specialist exotic pets and should require a license to keep. Keeping paired parrots should be mandatory - it reduces most behavioral problems if you raise birds with other birds from the start.
 
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Quailobsessed

Crowing
Oct 12, 2019
1,811
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251
Australia
Thank you for writing, I share your sentiment 100%.

People who want a companion bird that will not completely take over your life should consider a coturnix, pigeon, ringneck dove or even a small chicken, all of which can be very tame and much less demanding.

Small pigeons like budgies and cockatiels can be maintained fairly easily in large flight cages and in pairs. They are also true seed-eaters unlike larger birds and can live their entire life on a dry seed mix supplemented with vegetables and hard boiled egg, maybe some pellets, but a diet that would not suit a larger species. I feel larger species are specialist exotic pets and should require a license to keep. Keeping paired parrots should be mandatory - it reduces most behavioral problems if you raise birds with other birds from the start.

Thanks for adding your experience and insight. These are good points.
 

Poultrybonkers

Crowing
Mar 22, 2011
3,796
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My Coop
Thank you for writing, I share your sentiment 100%.

People who want a companion bird that will not completely take over your life should consider a coturnix, pigeon, ringneck dove or even a small chicken, all of which can be very tame and much less demanding.

Small parrots like budgies and cockatiels can be maintained fairly easily in large flight cages and in pairs. They are also true seed-eaters unlike larger birds and can live their entire life on a dry seed mix supplemented with vegetables and hard boiled egg, maybe some pellets, but a diet that would not suit a larger species. I feel larger species are specialist exotic pets and should require a license to keep. Keeping paired parrots should be mandatory - it reduces most behavioral problems if you raise birds with other birds from the start.
if someone has the time they should only be allowed one if people had to get two they would try to breed them and mess up things even worse then owning one and pairs can still pluck I would love a green wings macaw but wouldnt want two as the noise would be terrible but most people impulse buy them then realize they are loud then few years later the resell them again if someones never owned a bird they shouldn't get a larger bird to start with either
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Good Grief
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
Jul 16, 2015
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Me and my Amazon parrot have been together since 1992. It's a toss up who will live longer, probably the parrot. In hindsight I wouldn't have gotten one. They are a lifelong commitment that doesn't always agree with you. Literally and figuratively. :)
 

Serin

Crowing
Feb 3, 2019
957
4,521
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Chicagoland
8
if someone has the time they should only be allowed one if people had to get two they would try to breed them and mess up things even worse then owning one and pairs can still pluck I would love a green wings macaw but wouldnt want two as the noise would be terrible but most people impulse buy them then realize they are loud then few years later the resell them again if someones never owned a bird they shouldn't get a larger bird to start with either
Two will be quieter than one bird that cries for attention.
 

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