Domesticated parrots need exercise. In the wild, a parrot might travel 15 miles in a single day just to search for food. In your living room or its cage, your pet will be far more sedentary. Ensuring that it gets its heart rate up and its muscles moving will improve its health and mood.
Parrots need exercise sessions twice a week, each lasting for 20-30 minutes. They also need a range of toys that provide enrichment and stimulate further activity, such as perches, swings, and ropes. During a workout session, you can encourage your parrot to fly, play, climb, walk, and flap its wings. You can even take the parrot outside for exercise, provided that it’s secured by a harness.
Parrots have much-shortened lifespans when they are unfit and live on improper diets. They can also develop heart problems and disease of the liver or kidney. More than preventing such outcomes, exercising your parrot is great enrichment and socialization. That makes it important to keep your parrot moving, even if it isn’t 15 miles a day.
Why Do Parrots Need Exercise?
Parrots have high-paced metabolisms to support the amount of energy and activity they require in the wild. Inside your home, this need for movement lessens, but their metabolism does not. If parrots aren’t kept active, they:
- Get bored
- Become overweight
- Grow very destructive
- Get depressed
- Develop a range of health complications
Fitness in parrots not only ensures that the ratio of fat and cholesterol remains inside a healthy range. It also keeps your parrot happier and more even-tempered. Exercise allows parrots to burn energy and produce endorphins, as noted by Harvard University. Because of that, your parrot won’t just gain toned muscle mass, but also a balanced mood.
Not exercising your parrot hampers its ability to feel socialized or enriched. It may become depressive and unwilling to interact. Bored parrots can become destructive parrots, both to their surroundings and themselves. It can even shorten their lifespan by a wide margin. Heart complications and disease of the liver and kidney arise with increased cholesterol and unhealthy fat content.
Parrots are long-lived animals when cared for properly. Larger species can even exceed 70 years of age. Giving your parrot the right amount of exercise, mental and physical, gives it the best chance of living for many decades to come.
How To Exercise Your Parrot
There are many ways to exercise your parrot. In fact, a large portion of your parrot’s fitness routine will be handled alone, inside its cage, or with its toys in your living room. In some cases, you can even take the parrot flying or teach your parrot to fetch.
Most of all, it’s important to cycle through many different exercises. Parrots can get burned out on the same activities over and over again. If you switch up the options, the parrot will feel mentally enriched and physically energized.
Just be sure to schedule exercises for approximately the same time each day. If you work out with your parrot, keep these days consistent. This will help your parrot recognize when playtime has arrived and look forward to spending it with you.
The Right Cage
As intelligent animals, parrots require lots of enrichment opportunities. Those that lack such items suffer from boredom and depression, leading to feather plucking and destructive behavior.
Even if you allow your parrot to free-roam in a room or house during the day, its cage must still be of an appropriate size. A large-enough cage will allow your parrot to hop around and flap its wings, which is crucial for remaining active. Horizontal bars also let the parrot scale the inside of its cage and hang upside down when it needs exercise.
Parrot Exercise Toys
Parrots need many toys and perches to keep themselves occupied during hours when you’re not present. Most love hanging upside down, climbing, and hopping around from perch to perch. Ensure that you provide many objects to accommodate this, like branches and perches.
You can even tie strips of material on perches to encourage the parrots to dangle and swing. Try setting 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. This is a great workout for the feet and legs.
Be sure to provide lots of items made from wood and cardboard for the parrot to chew on and play with. Not only does this provide good enrichment, but such objects stop the parrot’s beak from overgrowing.
Parrots mainly travel and exercise with their wings. Because of this, you should let your parrot fly in a safe environment when you can. These aerobic exercises are a great socialization tool, reinforcing your bond with the parrot. Try performing 1-2 of these sessions a week. Be sure to:
- Pick a larger room without many objects to run into.
- Turn off any fans.
- Ensure the windows are shut.
- Lock the doors and ensure no one is coming home soon, just in case.
- Avoid outdoor flight sessions, even with large parrots, as dangers can harm or frighten the birds.
For solo flight sessions, you can have the parrot fly a short distance to you from a perch. This can be difficult to begin, but once the parrot is in the habit, it will look forward to the exercise. You can also initiate solo flapping sessions for parrots with clipped wings.
- Allow the bird to perch on your arm
- Gently hold its feet in place
- Move your arm up and down or in circles
- This excites the parrot, and will encourage it to flap its wings without taking off
Multi-person flight sessions can be a little easier to start, if the bird trusts all the people involved. Encourage the parrot to fly from one person to the other. Offer lots of encouragement and allow the parrot frequent breaks. While their wild relatives can fly for long periods of time, they have the advantage of wind currents to provide lift. Your bird does not.
Parrots love to play. They are very social animals and enjoy interacting with those they have bonded to. Since they’re highly intelligent, the more interesting the game is, the more engaged your parrot will be.
Food puzzles are a must for species like macaws, which need lots of mental enrichment. You can buy pre-made ones at certain pet stores.
You can also provide your bird with whole nuts (like almonds) or ones with shells that need to be cracked open. This encourages the parrot to peck, toss, and gnaw at the food, strengthening its beak and staying active.
Parrots also love to dance. You can create a play session by flipping on some music and jiving with your bird. Parrots love dance moves that involve:
- Bobbing their heads
- Moving from side to side
- Flapping their wings (or waving your arms)
Parrots love baths as a way to splash around in the water, ruffle their feathers, and clean themselves. As such, you can encourage your pet to get active with a shower. Here’s how:
- Try setting up a perch in your own shower so that the bird can play in the water with you.
- You can also turn on the kitchen faucet and let your parrot dance under the water stream.
- Some parrots even like being spritzed with a spray bottle. Yours might scurry away and then quickly run back for more.
If your parrot’s wings are clipped, and it’s unable to fly, then walking may be its only real way of moving around. In this situation, you can encourage the parrot to walk more often through games.
Try teaching it to play fetch by throwing a toy or piece of food a short distance. The parrot will scurry over to retrieve it, and if you’ve taught it the skill, it will even bring it back to you.
How To Keep Your Parrot Healthy
Parrots rely on 4 main elements to live a long, healthy life. In one way or another, each of the following factors ties back into exercise. That makes it important to give your parrot more interesting ways to stay active.
Parrots need to be kept occupied throughout the day, or they can become bored. This leads to behavioral problems, such as feather plucking. Always ensure that the parrot has access to enrichment opportunities every day.
Simply allowing the parrot to spend time with you during the evening and giving it puzzles or toys for the day is fine. Intersperse the week with more enrichment opportunities to ensure that the parrot feels properly stimulated.
Exercise is a must for parrots, especially larger birds. Ideally, conduct 2 exercise sessions a week. These can include any of the methods we discussed above, interchanged as needed to exercise different body parts. For example:
- Try a flight session one day of the week
- Two days later, pick a second exercise like fetching, playing with food toys, or climbing sessions
- Keep sessions between 20-30 minutes long. You don’t want to exhaust and overtax the bird.
If your parrot is recovering from injury or needs to lose weight, your vet may prescribe a more specific exercise plan.
As noted by BioOne, an improper diet is a pervasive and serious issue in pet birds. That’s especially true for those of the psittacine (parrot) family. Our knowledge of how to care for these unique animals in captivity is still evolving. For now, pellet foods are believed to offer a more balanced, effective diet for parrots.
However, parrots can be awfully picky about their food. Pellets, despite being healthy, aren’t always the most enticing option. That’s why it’s a wonderful idea to give your parrot fresh:
Not only do these entice the parrot to eat, but it ensures the bird gains all the required nutrients. That will help your parrot have more energy for the next exercise section.
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. Depending on the activities you choose, it can even be exercise too. Try letting your bird:
- Perch on your shoulder as you putter around the home
- Sit on your arm as you relax watching a movie
- Take it for a walk using a bird harness
- Tell it about your day and teach it new words
- Share a meal with it, so long as the food is healthy for the bird and free of additives
These amazing animals form close social bonds with their owners, and do indeed feel emotions. A well-loved parrot will be happier, healthier, and more willing to exercise.
Where Can I Take My Parrot To Fly?
It is very natural for a parrot to fly. Indulging this behavior is great for your pet’s health, but it’s not always easy to find a safe place. If you live in a small apartment or have other animals in the home, flight sessions can be difficult.
Unfortunately, your options are limited. Free-flight outdoors is not worth the risk, no matter the benefits. The parrot could get lost, hurt by a stray cat, startled by all the new sights, or contract an illness.
Instead, seek out friends and family. They may be happy to allow your parrot to fly in their garage or living room. Perhaps one has a barn. Just ensure there aren’t any open doors or windows for the parrot to escape through.
You can also build an aviary, so the parrot has an enclosed area to explore. For short distances, you can even let the parrot outside on a harness. Just keep in mind that being outdoors will always expose your parrot to a greater chance of illness or disease. Proceed carefully.
Walking A Parrot
Sadly, parrots don’t take well to exercise wheels. If yours is willing to trot along on one, then it’s a rare case. Likewise, you can’t put your bird in a harness and expect it to walk around the yard or neighborhood.
Instead, you can put a harnessed parrot on your shoulder and explore the neighborhood together. You can also place its cage in a buggy and wander around to see new sights or people. This won’t count as exercise, but it can be good fun for you both. Parrots that are well-entertained throughout the day will be more interested in exercising later.
Small Parrot Exercise Needs
No matter the species or size, all parrots need exercise. However, you might find it simpler to exercise a small parrot, like a cockatiel, rather than a large macaw. This is because free-flight time in the home allows for greater distances to fly.
Smaller parrots will enjoy the same activities as large parrots. Play games with them, do flight training, and give them plenty of enriching toys to mess around with. They also need 2 active sessions a week, a balanced diet, and plenty of social time. The only difference is you have more room to play.
My Parrot Is Not Active
There are times when a parrot may appear inactive, lethargic, or listless. It may also resist your efforts to encourage it to exercise. This can signify that there is something physically wrong with the parrot, such as illness or injury. Carefully look for any additional symptoms, including:
- Ruffled feathers
- Loss of appetite
- Feather plucking
- Poor balance
- Unusual aggression
- Abnormal droppings
- Discharge from the nose, eyes, or mouth
- Tail bobbing
- Labored or noisy breathing
New parrots will also take time to adjust to a new environment and family. Low activity during the adjustment period isn’t uncommon. Allow the parrot to become accustomed to its new home, and you will slowly see it come out of its feathery shell. Don’t stress about exercising the parrot during this time, but do provide it with enrichment toys.
There are many ways to keep a parrot active and fit, including flight training, play sessions, and enrichment objects. By keeping your parrot on the move, it can live a longer, richer life.