Parrots are sort of a polarizing pet…it’s universally acceptable to share pictures of your dog or cat and everyone will ooh and aah over the unquestionable adorability of fur babies. When your baby has feathers, however, you learn to feel out who the bird-friendly folks are pretty quickly.
I brought home an 8 week old Green Cheek Conure last April, and the experience has been truly eye-opening. I have a newfound respect for avian wildlife, and a renewed awareness of the noise output of my apartment.
Most “bird people” will tell you that raising a parrot-type bird is like having a life-long toddler, and they’re not wrong. There’s even a term the community has come up with for the birds we raise: “fids,” or feathered kids. Here are a few tips for aspiring parrot parents, in case you haven’t been lucky enough to come across another bird-friendly person in real life:
DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert on this subject, just the proud pet parent of a feisty little flighted beast with some experiences to share and maybe a few beak-marks to prove it…
- Find your friendly local bird & supply store – the best ones are full of super helpful and passionate people who love birds and are probably raising several at home. When I talk to the awesome folks at Bird Fever about their own feathered companions, I often picture giant aviaries in their living rooms. I would not have felt prepared to take my little guy home last year without their guidance and support.
- Be prepared to go through lots and lots of toys – Parrot-type birds love love love to shred!
- Seeds: Don’t Believe the Hype! – Until very recently most pet stores, and even some bird “experts” recommended a seed-based diet as the best option for keeping your parrot happy and healthy, but most avian vets now recommend a pellet-based diet. Seeds are great treats, though, and you should feel free to mix in other safe foods like dried or fresh fruit, leafy greens, whole grain pasts, rice, and plain cooked oatmeal. Kermit loves dried papaya, and I can usually count on a snack of cooked plain pasta to put him in a good mood!
- That beak isn’t just for show – Parrots’ beaks are designed to break things open (like hard nut shells and sometimes even Xbox controllers). Keep in mind that it takes patience and a decent amount of training to get your bird to understand that biting is not the way to get what they want – and sometimes you’ll still get the occasional love nip, just because he or she thinks it’s funny to get a rise out of you. Don’t take it personally and be patient!
- There will be poop – There, I said it. You’re probably not supposed to talk about poop if you want to have a respectable blog, but it must be said. If you intend to let your bird out of his or her cage at any point in time (and I sincerely hope you do, because parrots need lots of attention and playtime), you, your floors, your clothes, and your furniture will get pooped on. The good news is, you can potty train a parrot and this stuff works wonders – seriously, I use it as my primary stain remover now.
A home with a parrot is never a dull one, and they’re just as much fun as they are hard work. The decision to get a parrot for yourself or your family should be an informed one that you consider very carefully. The next place I recommend you go for more information is BirdChannel.com, where they have a great article for first-time prospective parrot parents. If you live in Indianapolis, I strongly suggest you check out Bird Fever – where you can look at (and even play with) all of the babies they have available and have your questions answered by their knowledgeable staff.