World Parrot Trust DVD of wild parrots-a great hit with Dot's African Greys!
How to care for a parrot
This parrot care guide offers you lots of useful information on how to care for your parrot.
Your Parrot’s cage
When buying a parrot cage, think big. The size of your parrot's cage is important so provide as large a cage as you can. Don’t let considerations of cost sway your decision as to size.
Look on eBay or parrot forums where secondhand cages are offered Or, if you want to buy a new cage, Northern Parrots has a wide range.
Parrots (apart from budgerigars and cockatiels) are still only a generation or two away from their wild cousins. Their wild instincts are only superficially hidden by a veneer of civilisation so the more space you provide the better.
It is quite common for the smaller birds to have cages that are too small.
According to DEFRA guidelines, a bird must be able to open both wings fully. I’d say buy a big cage - even for a cockatiel. She will look handsomer in a large cage and if later on you acquire an African Grey, the cage will be waiting.
Some owners turn a spare room into a bird room. If you have any space outside, every parrot benefits from fresh air and sunshine. An aviary is not a luxury.
If taking her outside, you should ensure she's safe and secure. You could try harness training her - so that if she did get spooked, she wouldn't be able to fly far.
Some flat dwellers have wired in their balcony to provide fresh air for the birds.
A variety of perches are required for all parrots. Some poorly designed cages may have plastic perches. Throw them away. They are not good for the birds’ claws and feet.
The DIY shop sells dowels and broom handles which make excellent perches. Check that the diameter suits your birds’ feet and place different sizes in the cage.
Northern Parrots also sells a range of perches.
The trees in your garden will freely offer you natural branches which you can cut down - parrots actually prefer these. If you worry there may be some mould or insects on the branch, wash with a weak antiseptic solution, dry and use.
If you're new to parrot keeping, why not read our article Parrots - 12 essential points you should know
Keeping the parrot cage clean
The cage floor needs covering. We are avid newspaper readers so that problem is solved; brown paper looks nicer though.
Many well-designed cages have a skirt that takes the spilt food. I notice that the pet shops are advertising non-spill food containers. If buying from new, they’d be worth trying.
Plastic food dishes are ghastly for parrots. They stain easily and get chewed. Investing in stainless steel works out cheaper in the end. Ceramic bowls also look nice, if you are sure that you have not got a pot flinger.
Parrots in my opinion are the messiest pets to keep and I have known pet pigs and kept pet goats. Parrots win claws down ‘Messiest Pet in the World’ competition.
As long as you change the cage floor covering, renew the water and wash the food bowls, the schedule can be flexible.
Metal bowls are a good idea for parrots
Where should I put my parrot's cage?
The sitting room or kitchen (with reservations) are the best places for the cage. Make sure the cage is not in a draught from doors or windows and not in direct sunshine. Furthermore, don't put them in an isolated corner as they are sociable animals.
Think of parrots in the rain forest perching on swaying branches in dappled shade. Parrots can accept low room temperatures but draughts can affect their health.
Parrots have evolved to live in a flock so situating the cage where the bird sees nothing most of the day is unkind.
Can I keep my parrot in the kitchen?
Yes, you can. Keeping your bird in the kitchen can be great for companionship for you both but bear in mind that it holds some dangers.
For example, Teflon fumes are toxic for parrots. Conscientious carers will never use non-stick pans, burn scented candles or use strong cleaning products.
I have taught my birds not to land on the glass hob, although they are often at liberty in the kitchen.
Can I cover my parrots cage?
Yes you can, provided it does not appear to be causing your bird distress. Many bird keepers use cage covers to regulate sleep patterns or provide protection from draughts.
Some owners who keep the bird cage in the living room but who also stay up late may take the bird to a sleep cage in a quiet location and bring it back next morning, as an alternative to using a cover.
Personally, I don’t like covers. I worry that they cut off the flow of air and I do not think that they are necessary.
One bird or two?
It depends on the the birds' breed. Cockatiels, lovebirds and parrotlets will thrive better with a partner.
The larger parrots like African Grey's or Amazons can do well as sole birds - provided that the owner acknowledges their need for company and makes sure they do not spend long, lonely hours alone.
If your pair of birds came together from a pet shop or breeders, they will share a cage provided that it is large enough.
Introducing two mature parrots needs to be handled carefully.
Your parrot, illness (yes it can happen!) and insurance
The main reason pet owners buy pet insurance is to cover unexpected vet bills. Vet bills can be very expensive, and can cause a lot of distress for pet owners. With the introduction of more specialised equipment the kind of treatment you bird can receive has improved. This means they can get better more quickly, however, it does mean vet bills can be eye watering! Vet fees can range from the hundreds to even thousands of pounds!
These are the kind of claims we see at ExoticDirect:
- £858 for an African Grey with a Crop Infection (the crop is part of the digestive tract)
- £628 for an African Grey with a Digestive Disorder
- £809 for a Green Wing Macaw with Air Sac Granuloma (a respiratory condition)
- £1422 for an Eclectus parrot with Aspergillosis (a respiratory condition)
ExoticDirect have been insuring exotic pets since 1996, so you'll know you're in good hands, and that they really know their stuff!
There are three different policy types available, so you can choose the cover level that's best for you. Furthermore premiums don’t change by parrot breed, or by postcode. The only thing that affects the premium will be the bird’s value, and which level of vet fee cover the policy includes.
My parrot’s food – what can she eat?
- Citrus fruits
- Bell peppers
- Sweet patato
The list is not exhaustive. For more, read: Parrot food - what your parrot can eat, diet and food ideas
Most bird species relish vegetables and fruits (with the exception of avocado which is poisonous to parrots).
Grass and seed eaters like cockatiels are less keen on fruit. Macaws and African Greys love it.
I have never discovered why pomegranate is adored by every parrot to whom I've offered a slice. Our staples available all year round are apples and carrots.
My parrot's food - what can't she eat?
- avocado(fatal if the wrong variety)
- salty foods
Parrots like toddlers (they are toddlers actually with can openers in front of their faces) enjoy unhealthy food more than healthy.
Offer most parrots a crisp or a slice of apple and they choose the crisp.
Keeping parrots has improved our diet since I often have the two African Grey's out in the evening. They want to join in our meals so we avoid salty foods and fry ups.
A good way to encourage a bird to eat something like broccoli is to eat a piece in front of him.
Parrots love to play with toys, either brand new, second hand or homemade.
My parrot's toys
An anecdote: "We hosted a parrot Christmas party. Our four parrot guests came with their carers. I made little gifts for each one. And a similar experience to my memories of my two-year old's birthday party ensued; the toddlers opened the gifts, discarded them and played with the wrapping paper".
Parrot toys are as much for the owner as for the bird. Cardboard boxes suit the majority of parrots.
All my parrots are enthralled to shred books.
Our local Oxfam shop sells baby rattles, wooden blocks and stuffed toys which you can give to your parrot. A carrier bag full is cheap and is gaily destroyed.
The online stores such as Northern Parrots sell foraging toys which are beautifully designed and enriching, or you can make them yourself for a fraction of the cost.
Please inspect all toys daily as here can be accidents with frayed rope or split plastic.
Time outside your parrot’s cage
This has to be an individual decision depending on the household’s life style. Most of us prefer to see parrots spend at least four hours a day outside their cage.
A workable routine for someone with a day job might be:
- Getting out of bed a bit earlier.
- Spending breakfast time with the bird.
- Settling it for the day in its cage with enough activity, toys, a swing, things to chew. Perhaps a radio or TV programme on.
- Coming home in the evening and letting the parrot out of his cage.
It is not difficult to teach a parrot to stand on its perch while you have supper.
Parrots and other pets
Advice is to keep birds away from mammals. That said they can coexist. Mine do as do those of my friends. However, you are always advised never to leave dogs, cats and birds alone together loose in the same room.
There are incidents of pet dogs killing pet birds. A cat’s saliva contains bacteria harmful to birds.
Register with an Avian Vet
Please find an avian vet. You can visit the website of ExoticDirect to find a registered vet.
Birds are a speciality and not all vets are qualified to care for them.
Our local vet, although not a certified avian vet, nevertheless has immense experience. I always take a new bird to see him when it is in apparently perfect health so that he can check it over. And the bird has also seen the surgery in a non-crisis situation.
This initial visit should be the same one where you microchip your bird. If the bird does not have a breeder’s ring you can also ask the vet to put on an open ring.
Microchipping is not yet compulsory for birds as it is for dogs, which is a pity.
A cautionary tale here: a friend lost an African Grey. She knew who had found and kept him, but as he was not microchipped, she could not reclaim him. The microchip is of inestimable value when it comes to recognising stolen birds.
Finally…. enjoy your bird and travel the road of human/bird interaction together.
World Parrot Trust - World Parrot Trust
Parrot Society - The Parrot Society
Rosemary Low –Parrots and Finches. Healthy Nutrition