There are many things you need to consider before getting a pet parrot. This is not a pet you should get impulsively, and they are not for everyone. You should not get a parrot if you want it just for entertainment and to impress your friends. They should be treated as part of your family as they are highly intelligent, thinking, feeling, sensitive, emotional animals!
I recommend you do tons and tons of research and inform yourself about every aspect of owning a parrot. You need to know the good and bad that can come with them and whether you can handle it all. Depending on the species and individual parrot’s personality, it can be like having a permanent 2 or 3-year-old child with temper tantrums and all!
Many parrots are given up by their owners. There are rescues and sanctuaries full of parrots that have been neglected, abused, and abandoned. Some owners realize they cannot handle them any longer and give them up. They may not have educated themselves enough prior to getting a parrot and it was just too much.
Basic care requirements
You need to make sure you can provide the parrot’s basic requirements. Research the needs of the species of parrot you are interested in as different species have different requirements. You will need to know what size cage they need, what their diet requirements are, what size perches and toys they need, how loud they can be, how much attention they need, etc.
Different species have different diet requirements, but in general might include pellets, fresh fruit and vegetables, cooked grains, sprouts, seeds, and nuts. Some species have specific requirements such as Lorikeets which need nectar every day.
Cage and play stand
You will need to research the optimal size cage for the species you are interested in. In the cage, you also need several different types of perches in the sizes appropriate for the species, food and water bowls, and lots of toys.
If you cannot afford the proper size cage at the moment, do not skimp and go with a too small cage. Be patient and save up until you can get the proper cage and supplies before you get the parrot!
I also recommend you have at least one playstand for your parrot so it has a safe area outside of the cage to hang out with toys and food/water bowls. I actually have 3 around the house so whichever room I am in, my parrot can be in the same room with me. Two of them I built myself. They don’t have to be anything fancy or expensive.
Toys can get expensive, especially if you are thinking of getting a large parrot such as a macaw or a cockatoo. Their toys are larger and they will destroy a lot of them, sometimes very quickly! You need to make sure you can provide a steady supply of a variety of toys appropriate for the species you choose. You can also make your own, but you still need the supplies to do it and the time to make them.
Veterinarian checkups and any medical bills are also considered part of their basic care requirements. Are there any veterinarians near you that will see parrots? Not all vets will see parrots or have experience with them. The closest may be a 2-hour drive or more away and you might need to plan how to get there if an emergency occurs and also plan how you might pay for it.
Grooming and cleaning
Parrots also require regular nail trimming. Will you be able to do this yourself or will you need to take it to the vet or someone else who can do it for you? The same for wing clipping if you decide to do that.
Just like their nails, a parrot’s beak is always growing. Usually the parrot will wear it down themselves by chewing on toys, but if it gets too long, it will also need to be trimmed by a professional.
You will also need to regularly clean the cage, play stands, food, and water bowls as well as bathe your parrot. They can make quite a mess!
Social behavior and attention
Most parrots live in flocks in the wild and are very social. When you adopt a parrot, you and everyone in the household become part of their flock. Sometimes a parrot may choose only one person in the household that they like and shun all the rest, sometimes even being aggressive towards all others. The person they choose as their favorite may not be the person that is their owner.
Parrots require lots of interaction and attention to satisfy their social requirements. Depending on their species and individual personality, they may require a certain amount of direct attention from you each day. Some parrots may require only a few minutes a day and some require several hours every day in order to be happy.
My Eclectus requires some direct attention every day, but usually he is happy just to hang out in the same room as us. Some days he is more needy than others and demands hours of attention and other days he just keeps to himself.
Here are some ways to meet a pet parrot’s social requirements:
- Handle your parrot, let it sit on your shoulder
- Talk to your parrot, greet it when you come in the room, say random things to it throughout the day, say goodbye when you are leaving, say goodnight when going to bed. If it is a parrot that talks, it may start saying these things back to you!
- Hang out together in the same room with your parrot out of the cage
- Watch TV together with your parrot sitting on you or on the couch with you
- Play with toys together
- Teach your parrot tricks
- Let your parrot hang with you while doing chores or working on hobbies/projects (ones they are safe to be around and don’t involve chemicals). My Eclectus especially loves sitting on my shoulder while washing dishes!
Intelligence and mental stimulation
Parrots are very intelligent animals and require lots of mental stimulation. Some parrots may require that you provide more mental stimulation and some might be good at entertaining themselves pretty well and require less from you.
A bored and lonely parrot may end up with many behavioral and physical problems including screaming, ripping out its feathers, and even mutilating itself.
There are many ways to meet their intellectual needs. Many of the ways to meet social requirements mentioned above will also meet their mental requirements at the same time, including talking to your parrot (to learn new words), playing with toys together, and especially teaching your parrot tricks.
You should provide many different types of toys and rotate them often to help prevent getting bored of certain toys. I have a big box of toys and I rotate them between the box, cage, and play stands until they are destroyed and need to be thrown away. I save any toy parts that are still in good enough shape that I can incorporate into new toys. Making your own toys can help save money and also recycle old toy parts.
Different types of toys include foraging toys, toys they can shred, puzzle toys, toys to destroy, toys that make noise, preening toys, toys they can snuggle with, foot toys, and toys they can play on such as swings, ladders, and boings. Make sure to provide toys made out of all different materials as well so they can feel the different textures.
Another way to provide mental stimulation is to introduce them to different foods and give them food they have to work at to eat such as with foraging toys or put food in different containers they have to work at to open.
If you are able and can do safely, take your parrot outside to experience different places and people.
If you are not home, you can play music for your parrot or leave the TV on. There are even DVDs and CDs with video and music made just for birds with nature sounds.
Making sure you will be able to provide enough social and mental stimulation is an extremely important part of deciding whether to get a pet parrot.
Noise and screaming
All parrots make noise. Even small parrots can be very noisy. How much noise and the volume depends on the species and individual personality. Typically, larger parrots are louder.
You need to consider whether you and whoever else you may live with can handle the noise. You also need to consider your neighbors! If you live in an apartment with very close neighbors, you probably should not get a large, loud parrot. It can be like living next to someone with a dog that is always barking and you know how annoying that can be!
Some parrots will make noise all day long. Depending on the parrot, it may be squawking, chattering, talking, whistling, singing, and even screeching or screaming. You cannot make them be quiet. You can attempt to distract them and discourage certain noises like screaming, but they still may do it anyway.
Even if they are captive bred and have never been in the wild, parrots are still wild animals with the same instincts. They are not domesticated like a dog or cat. If they are loud in the wild, they will be loud in your house!
I have a male Eclectus who is pretty quiet most of the time, but he also has a VERY loud scream. He usually doesn’t scream too often, but it is painful to your ears. It is ear piercing, very high pitch, and very loud!!
If possible before you decide to get a parrot, you should spend time with the specific parrot you are considering or one of the same species in person so you can experience the noise they make. You can hear them on YouTube videos, but it’s not the same as hearing in person, especially how loud they can be!
Destruction and messes
All parrots like to destroy stuff and make messes! No matter what size parrot you get, there will be messes to constantly clean. You can take measures to contain the mess, but somehow it seems to get all over the place.
Parrots make messes while they eat. They will throw seed shells/nut shells on the floor. They will throw food out of their bowls they don’t want to eat. Fruits and vegetables will be thrown all over. Soft mushy foods will get stuck on their beak and they will shake their head to get it off, flinging the food out of the cage and onto nearby walls and floor. They will also wipe their beak on surfaces to get the mushy food off.
This means you will need to clean food off the floors, walls, perches, toys, etc.
If you are holding your parrot while it is eating, you will also get food on you!
Parrots molt once or twice a year. They will gradually lose all their feathers and grow in new ones. The molted feathers will get everywhere, especially the soft down feathers! During this time, you will find piles of molted feathers that you will need to clean up.
They also produce dust and dander from their feathers. Some species produce a lot more than others. African greys, cockatoos and cockatiels have lots of powder down.
Toy destruction and mess
Parrots also create messes as they destroy their toys. Most parrots love shreddable toys and toys they can destroy. As they destroy them, they throw the pieces everywhere! My Eclectus especially loves pinata toys! He can destroy one in a day or two and the entire thing ends up in pieces all over the floor. He has so much fun destroying it that I don’t mind the mess I have to clean up afterwards.
You also have to think about poop. They will poop wherever they want and when they want, including on you. You can train them to only go in designated areas such as their cage and play stands which helps a ton. Mistakes will still happen occasionally though and so you will occasionally get poop on you, the floors, chairs, couches, etc.
Some parrots may be especially destructive and get into trouble by chewing on furniture, wires, and many other things. They need to chew. You will need to supervise their time outside the cage to make sure they don’t chew on things you don’t want them to. Providing them with many safe toys of their own to chew on will help prevent them from needing to chew on your furniture.
Allergies and asthma
You want to make sure nobody in your household is allergic to birds before you decide to bring a parrot home. It would be such a bummer to purchase everything for your new parrot and find out you are allergic! Spend time with a friend’s bird, volunteer at a rescue, or get an allergy test from your doctor to find out if you are allergic.
People with asthma may also have trouble with birds as there will be some feather dust and dander that floats around that may irritate their asthma. It may be a good idea to get an air purifier with a HEPA filter. You will want a good quality one that can filter out the smallest, most dangerous particles.
You will need to provide a safe and healthy environment for the parrot and keep it safe from other pets in the home such as cats, dogs, or other pets that may harm it.
Cats and dogs can easily hurt and even kill a pet parrot, even a large macaw. Cats carry bacteria in their saliva and claws, so even a scratch can potentially infect a parrot and kill it quickly. A large parrot can also injure a dog or cat with a bite from their very strong beak.
All birds have very sensitive respiratory systems and many common household chemicals and fumes can be toxic to them. Some can kill them very quickly. These are some common toxins to avoid around a parrot: Insect spray, perfume, fumes from nail polish and hair dye, Teflon from nonstick cookware (they release toxic vapors when heated), most cleaning products (bleach, oven cleaner, bathroom cleaners, etc.), self-cleaning ovens, carpet powders, plug-in air fresheners, fresh paint, incense, and any kind of smoke.
You will need to keep the parrot safe from ingesting any toxic food, chewing on unsafe objects around the house, and toxic house plants.
If the parrot is flighted, there is also the possibility of it escaping outdoors if a door or window is accidentally left open while the parrot is out of its cage. This happens more often than you would think and the parrot does not know how to come home.
Hormones, aggression, and biting
Young and immature parrots can be sweet and cuddly. When they mature, their personality may change and they may become less sweet and cuddly. They may become aggressive, demanding, territorial, and may even become violent and bite. They may get especially bad around breeding season when they are hormonal.
You need to know that a perfectly sweet parrot may not always be so nice. The bigger the parrot, the bigger the beak and bite! A large parrot can cause you significant injury. You need to be aware of this!
My Eclectus parrot who is normally very nice has bitten me and drawn blood. They can be moody and can have tantrums when they don’t get what they want. Some days, my parrot will wake up grumpy and I say he got up on the wrong side of the perch! He usually gives me some warning with his body language before he attempts to bite, but when he is hormonal he doesn’t give much warning and I have to be more careful.
Feather plucking and mutilation
This is very common among pet parrots. We need to do our best to provide them proper nutrition, housing, social and mental needs. If these needs are not met, they may resort to feather barbering, plucking, or mutilation. It is very sad to see a parrot that has plucked all of its feathers out.
Sometimes even when we think we provide everything they need, they might still hurt themselves. It can be extremely frustrating. A vet can help rule out health issues. They are such sensitive animals and we sometimes do not know what is causing it.
Life changes and living situations
Some people give up their parrots when their life or living situation changes. This is sad because they usually bond with you and they want to spend their entire lives with you! Many parrots mate for life and may see you as their mate.
Pets are not just to keep for when life is going good and discard them when life gets rough. They are not to be discarded just because you decide to have kids or move to a new house!
I have had my parrot through many hard times including divorce, moving across country several times, having to live with family while I got back on my feet, and even renting a horrible tiny apartment when I couldn’t find a better one where I could keep my parrot.
Parrots can live a long time depending on the species. You need to know how long your species might live on average. If you are older and getting a pet parrot, your parrot might outlive you! You will need to make plans for what will happen to your parrot if it outlives you.
Where to get a pet parrot
If you have decided to get a pet parrot, if at all possible, please do not get one from a pet store or a breeder. There are many, many parrots in rescues and shelters that need homes. Many of these rescues are full and they have no room to take in any more parrots until they adopt some out.
As you can see, there are many things to consider before getting a pet parrot! If you have decided you still want one, you need to do tons of research on the specific species you want and make sure you can provide all of the needs of that specific species.