(Don’t forget to use our bird buyer’s checklist after reading this!)
Use common sense and think before you buy. Parrots require quite a bit of time, attention, and care. You should carefully consider the ramifications of getting a bird before you bring one home. Never impulse buy a bird. These pets require more care and attention than a cat or dog. They require a much more complex diet of fresh foods and they require more supervision. You’ll have a cage to clean, water to clean sometimes three times a day (if the bird is messy), and you’ll have to invest in toys since they are very intelligent and require outside stimulation to prevent neurotic behaviors like feather plucking and self-mutilation. Truly distressed birds will gouge themselves and even sometimes bleed to death.
Ask yourself this question:
Can I commit myself to this bird for the next 20 to 60 years?
Remember, most parrots live a very long life if treated properly and fed a healthy diet. Check out the average life span for the species you are considering and make sure you have what it takes to commit to the creature for that long. There are way too many abandoned birds, cage-bound birds, and birds that pass from owner to owner year after year. The commitment is not just one of physical care, it is a strong emotional commitment. You will become this bird’s flock.
Take the following test to determine if you are truly prepared to add a parrot to your life!
Use these numbers to find your Parrot-Parent Score:
0=not true at all; 1=sort of true; 2=true a lot of the time; 3=pretty much the case!; 4=you bet, absolutely positively true!
1. I really love birds/pets and could easily make a lifetime commitment to mine.
2. I would enjoy the time it takes to prepare fresh vegetables and other healthy foods for my parrot every day.
3. I have plenty of time to take my parrot out of the cage and play with it every day.
4. I believe that an annual health exam by an avian vet is important, even if the bird seems perfectly healthy.
5. I want to get my bird the largest cage possible so it can play, swing, and flap its wings freely, even if it means no room for the large screen tv I was hoping to get for my birthday.
6. I can handle being bitten on occasion, and I would not become frightened and leave the bird in the cage for the rest of its life if it gave me a hard bite that drew blood, and I would certainly never hurt a bird by hitting it or knocking it to the floor.
7. Bird poops aren’t that bad. I don’t mind cleaning up a poop or two off the couch/table/my favorite shirt.
8. Cleaning a cage is no big deal. I’d do it regularly and would never let poops build up into little mountains on the floor.
9. I can handle some noise now and then. I won’t keep throwing a blanket over the cage to shut the bird up because I don’t want to miss any Seinfeld reruns/NFL calls/recipe pointers on Cooking with Mario.
10. I understand my lifestyle will be different with a parrot. I realize there are household hazards that can kill a bird quickly like Teflon pans, airfresheners, Carpet Fresh, open toilets, ceiling fans, scented candles, etc. I’m willing to modify my household to make my pet safe at all times.
Now add together your points.
0-30: You should get a virtual pet or just visit your friends’ pets and forego buying a parrot.
30-35: You could handle having a smaller bird, like a finch or a canary, or some untamed bird with a mate who will be happy on their own.
35-40: Chances are you are ready for a parrot.
Seem a little tough meeting these criteria? Welcome to the world of owning parrots. These are the smartest creatures you will ever keep in your home. They require time, consideration, and money to remain healthy, well-adjusted pets.
Where to Buy a Bird–A Checklist
This applies to both pet buyers and folks buying birds for breeding purposes. Educate yourself first. Don’t run into the first pet store you see and say, “Gimme that African Grey!” There are many things you want to know about how a bird was raised and the conditions it has lived in before taking it home. Whatever problems that bird has, you bring into your home, whether they be behavioral or physical. You don’t want to bring home a disease carrier or a neurotic feather plucker if at all possible!