Wild parrots travel up to 30 miles a day foraging for food. In a cage, parrots are more sedentary. Ensuring that a parrot gets its heart rate up and its muscles moving enhances its health and mood.
Parrots need a minimum of 2 exercise sessions per week, each lasting 20-30 minutes.
They need toys that provide enrichment and stimulate further activity, such as perches, swings, and ropes. Encourage your parrot to play, climb, walk, and flap its wings during a workout session.
You can take your parrot outside to fly on a harness if there aren’t any airborne predators where you live.
Why Do Parrots Need Exercise?
Parrots are long-lived animals when cared for properly. Larger species can reach 70+ years old.
They have high-paced metabolisms to support their active lives in the wild. Inside the home, this need for constant movement lessens, but their metabolic needs remain the same.
If parrots become inactive, they risk becoming:
According to Harvard University, exercise allows parrots to burn energy and produce endorphins. So, your parrot will benefit from superior muscle tone and a more balanced mood.
Not exercising your parrot hampers its ability to feel socialized and enriched. It may become depressed and unwilling to interact. Bored parrots can become destructive.
How To Exercise Your Parrot
A large portion of your parrot’s fitness routine will be handled independently, either inside its cage or with its toys in your living room. Sometimes, you can take the parrot flying or teach it to fetch.
Cycle through many different exercises as parrots grow tired of the same activities. If you switch up the options, the parrot will feel mentally enriched and physically energized.
Even if you allow your parrot to free-roam in a room during the day, its cage must still be the right size. A large enough cage will allow your parrot to hop around and flap its wings.
Horizontal bars allow parrots to scale their cage and hang upside down to exercise.
Parrots need many toys and at least three perches to keep themselves occupied when you’re not present.
Most parrots love hanging upside down, climbing, and hopping from perch to perch. Ensure that you provide many toys to accommodate this behavior, like branches and perches.
Set up multiple swings at different levels so your parrot can enjoy an obstacle course. You can also hang knotted ropes to encourage the parrot to climb and swing, which is a great workout for the feet and legs.
Provide items made from wood and cardboard for the parrot to play with and chew, as these provide enrichment and prevent the parrot’s beak from overgrowing.
Parrots mainly travel and exercise with their wings, so let your parrot fly in a safe environment.
- Pick a larger room without many objects.
- Turn off any (ceiling) fans.
- Ensure the windows are shut.
- Lock the doors and ensure no one is coming home soon.
- Avoid outdoor (harnessed) flight sessions in areas with airborne predators.
You can also initiate solo flapping sessions for parrots with clipped wings by doing the following:
- Allow the parrot to perch on your arm.
- Gently hold its feet in place.
- Move your arm up and down or in circles.
- The parrot will feel excited, encouraging it to flap its wings without taking off.
Multi-person flight sessions can be easier if the parrot trusts everyone involved. Encourage the parrot to fly from one person to another.
Since parrots are so clever, the more interesting the game, the more engaged your parrot will be. Food puzzles are a must for species like macaws, which need lots of mental enrichment.
You can give a parrot whole nuts, like almonds, that need to be cracked open. Unshelled nuts encourage pecking and gnawing activity, strengthening the beak and keeping parrots active.
- Bobbing their heads
- Moving from side to side
- Flapping their wings
If a parrot’s wings are clipped, walking could be its only real way to move around. In this situation, you can encourage walking through games.
Try teaching it to play “fetch” by throwing a toy or piece of food a short distance. The parrot will run over to retrieve it; if you’ve taught it the skill, it’ll return it.
How To Keep Your Parrot Healthy
Parrots rely on four main elements to live a long, healthy life:
Parrots must be kept occupied throughout the day, or they can become bored. A lack of enrichment leads to behavioral problems, such as feather plucking.
Allowing the parrot to spend time with you during the evening and giving it puzzles or toys for the day provides a good balance.
Conduct a minimum of two exercise sessions a week. These can include any methods discussed, interchanged as needed to exercise different body parts, including:
- A flight session once per week
- Play with food toys
- A climbing session
Keep sessions 20-30 minutes long, but you can add more weekly sessions.
Your vet may advise a specific exercise plan if a parrot is recovering from injury or needs to lose weight.
As noted by BioOne, an improper diet is a pervasive and serious issue for pet birds, especially those of the psittacine (parrot) family.
Pellet foods are believed to offer a more balanced diet for parrots. However, parrots can be picky about their food. Pellets, although healthy, aren’t always the most enticing option.
That’s why it’s a good idea to feed your parrot:
Social time is important for parrots, especially solo birds without a companion. Spending time with your parrot will reinforce your bond, but most importantly, it serves as enrichment. Try letting your parrot:
- Perch on your shoulder as you walk around the home.
- Sit on your arm as you relax while watching a movie.
- Take it for a walk using a harness.
- Tell it about your day and teach it new words.
- Share a meal with it, as long as the food is healthy.
Parrots form close social bonds with their owners and experience genuine emotions. A well-loved parrot will be happier, healthier, and more willing to exercise.
Where Can I Take My Parrot To Fly?
Flying is good for a parrot’s health, but finding a safe place to fly isn’t easy.
Free flight outdoors isn’t worth the risk, as the parrot could get lost, hurt by a stray cat, startled by the new sights, or contract an illness.
You could build an aviary so the parrot has an enclosed area to explore. Also, you can let the parrot outside on a harness for short distances.