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owning a parrot for the first time

What Do I Need To Know Before Getting A Parrot?

(Last Updated On: March 3, 2023)

While parrots are among the world’s most popular exotic pets, they aren’t suitable for all families and lifestyle choices. Before adopting a parrot, consider if you’re ready for the commitment.

There’s no such thing as a low-maintenance parrot because they always need regular attention. Don’t get a pet parrot if you’re rarely home because this will cause separation anxiety and behavioral problems.

Parrots have varying lifespans depending on the species, but most live for several decades. They can also be loud and messy animals, and your furniture could be damaged during free-roaming.

Choose a parrot based on your lifestyle and family structure. Some species enjoy lots of human company, but others are one-person birds that grow weary of excessive human interaction.

Am I Ready for a Parrot?

Taking on a parrot can be a multi-decade-long commitment. Before introducing a bird to your home, you must understand the pros and cons of owning parrots.

Parrots are intelligent, make compelling companions, and are easy to train. Talking parrots are particularly fun pets.As parrots are so clever, they’re demanding and grow bored easily. A parrot will grow anxious and destructive if it isn’t intellectually stimulated.
Parrot species vary in size, shape, aesthetics, and talking capability.Parrots need to exercise outside a cage, which can result in a messy home and furniture damage.
Parrots are social animals that like spending time with human owners. A parrot will soon become part of the family.Parrots don’t cope well with being alone, becoming stressed and developing separation anxiety.
Parrots have a longer lifespan than many other pets, ensuring you can enjoy the bird’s company for several decades.The lifespan of a parrot means you have a long-term responsibility with lifestyle limitations.

Where To Buy a Pet Parrot

Pet stores, including PetCo and PetSmart, sell pet parrots. You’re especially likely to find smaller parrots like budgies (parakeets) for sale in these outlets.

Parrots raised in pet stores can be disease-prone, as they’re kept near conspecifics. This means that various infections, diseases, and parasites can spread.

Buying a parrot from a private breeder is preferable because you can assess the bird’s living conditions and ask questions about its parentage and history. Pet stores have limited information to share.

A breeder will apply a closed band to the parrot’s leg as a chick, identifying it, the year of birth, and displaying the breeder’s initials. The parrot will grow into this ring so it won’t fall off.

How Much Will a Parrot Cost?

Many factors influence the asking price of a parrot, including the species and age. Rehomed parrots are usually cheaper because they’re older.

You’ll benefit from a trained bird if you adopt a rehomed parrot, but as per Animals, it may have behavioral issues or be emotionally scarred from being rehomed.

American budgies are usually the cheapest because they’re the smallest and most widely available species of parrots. You’ll rarely need to spend about $20 per bird, but two budgies are recommended.

Rarer budgie color mutations are more expensive, costing several hundred dollars.

If you want to buy an African gray or macaw, you should expect to pay $1,000 to $4,000. These larger parrots also need bigger cages, more food, and ample entertainment.

After you’ve purchased the parrot, there will be ongoing costs for the remainder of the bird’s life.

what to know before owning a parrot

What Are The Best Parrots for Beginners?

There’s no such thing as a low-maintenance parrot because they’re complex birds that require lots of care and attention. If you’re a novice, choose a parrot species carefully.

The following are considered the best parrots for first-time owners:

  • Budgies (aka parakeets) are small, chatty, and affectionate once tamed and trained.
  • Cockatiels are affectionate and playful but less likely to talk.
  • Conures love to clown around and will bond with several people, but can be moody.
  • Senegal parrots are quiet and comparatively easy to train but dislike large families.
  • Amazon parrots are highly intelligent and of medium size, but as per Developmental Psychobiology, they’re prone to aggression if over-or under-stimulated.

Many parrot enthusiasts hold a special place in their hearts for African grays, as they’re considered the smartest and most talkative of all parrot species. However, they’re not ideal for first-timers.

When weighing up your choice of parrot, consider the following factors:

SizeParrots need space, so if you live in an apartment, you should adopt a smaller breed that will not feel too cooped up.
Noise LevelsParrots can be noisy pets, squawking and screaming occasionally. For the sake of your neighbors, choose a quieter species if you live nearby.
LifespanSome breeds of parrots can live for 50+ years. The Guinness World Record for the oldest parrot was Cookie, a cockatiel who lived to 82.
TemperamentEnsure your choice of parrot has a temperament and personality compatible with your lifestyle and family dynamics.
Health and HistoryStudy the health conditions impacting specific parrot species, and learn their history. Find out if it has lived with humans before and why it’s being rehomed.

Finding an Avian Veterinarian

Avian veterinary science requires specialist expertise, but not all surgeries can care for parrots.

The Journal of Veterinary Medical Education found that only 20–30% of veterinary graduates have the skill and knowledge to treat and care for pet birds.

The Association of Avian Veterinarians provides a “Find a Vet” form, enabling you to determine if a qualified veterinarian operates in your location.

Only get a parrot if proper medical support is available during a health emergency. If you must drive 50+ miles to your closest vet, the parrot’s life is in danger.

Preparing A Home for A Parrot

Once you’ve decided on a parrot species and confirmed that veterinary support is available, prepare your home to be safe for the parrot.

Bird Proofing a Home

Parrots are curious and mischievous birds that can get into trouble if you don’t take adequate protective measures. Take the time to birdproof your home by following these steps:

  • Place safety markings on clear glass, like windows or skylights.
  • Ensure that all windows have curtains, drapes, or blinds that can be closed.
  • Keep common parrot toxins, including household cleaning products and unsafe foodstuffs, out of reach behind closed doors. Remove or hide anything made of lead or zinc.
  • Cover or hide exposed electrical wires that a parrot can bite through.
  • If you have an open fireplace, get a solid fireguard.
  • Ensure the home has a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, as parrots have delicate respiratory systems. Also, avoid using non-stick (Tefal) cookware.

Avoid the temptation to clip the parrot’s wings to keep it safe. Wing clipping involves cutting away the feathers a bird uses for flight, preventing it from taking to the air as easily.

Flight is instinctual for parrots. According to Animal Welfare, denying these instincts can significantly affect the parrot’s quality of life. However, flight feathers will grow back.

Ringing And Microchipping A Parrot

Ahead of bringing the parrot home, protect the bird against the threat of theft or escape. A vet can insert a microchip into the parrot through injection, so it can be scanned and identified.

Under U.S. law, captive parrots are considered the personal property of an owner. Should the parrot be stolen, you can reclaim the bird using this identification service.

pros and cons of owning parrots

Preparing A Parrot Cage

The parrot will need at least 1 cage in the house. Ideally, get 2 cages – 1 for the parrot to spend its days and 1 for sleep in a different, quieter part of the home.

This will also provide an alternative accommodation while you clean a cage.

A parrot’s cage must be large enough for the bird to fly while captive. Never place a parrot in a cramped cage that restricts movement, as this will lead to stress and anxiety.

The cage will need to host food and drinking water, and consider adding a small, shallow bath if space allows. Many parrots love to play and splash in the water.

The cage should contain multiple perches made from various materials and positioned at various heights so the parrot can choose where to base itself.

Provide a cuttlefish bone for the parrot to bite, toys, and entertainment.

Applied Animal Behavior Science believes that you must provide environmental enrichment for parrots. In addition to a selection of colors, shapes, and sizes, satisfy the following instincts through play:

  • Foraging.
  • Climbing and swinging.
  • Biting and destroying.
  • Solving puzzles.
  • Making noise.

Mirrors can also be effective for small parrots living alone, as they give the impression of the company of a conspecific. However, as parrots can’t pass the mirror test, they can lead to aggression.

Don’t place toys in a parrot’s cage and leave the bird to discover them. Many parrots struggle with neophobia – a seemingly irrational fear of new or unfamiliar objects.

Introduce the bird to each element of its cage slowly and steadily.

Ideal Location for a Parrot Cage

Choosing the right room to house a parrot’s cage can be a balancing act.

A pet bird will seek out and crave human company throughout the day. However, it needs a quiet place to sleep at night, as they need to sleep for about 10 hours per day.

You also need to ensure the room that houses a parrot cage is well-ventilated (without causing a draught) and suitably humid. A parrot can develop a sinus infection if forced to breathe dry, stale air.

Let’s review the suitability of different rooms in a house for a parrot’s cage:

Living RoomsKeeping a parrot cage in your living room means the bird will regularly enjoy your company. It won’t be able to sleep while you watch TV or listen to music, so it’ll need a second cage for rest and recovery.
KitchensKitchens aren’t ideal for parrot cages. They can get warm, be filled with potentially dangerous chemicals and overpowering smells, and their bird dander can be unsanitary in food preparation areas.
BedroomsThe parrot could dwell in this room if your bedroom is large enough to accommodate a cage, and it’ll likely be quiet and encourage sleep. Also, if a parrot produces a lot of dust, you’ll be breathing this in while you sleep.
Spare/Empty RoomsIf you have the capacity for 2 cages in the home, place 1 in the spare bedroom or a rarely-used space, like a laundry room. This can be the room where the parrot sleeps, as it’s less likely to be disturbed.

Wherever you keep a parrot’s cage, don’t use scented candles, aerosol spray cans, or smoke cigarettes in the vicinity. These are common irritants to a parrot’s respiratory system and sinuses.

Creating a Routine for A Parrot

You must review your lifestyle and routines and create a reliable schedule for a parrot.

The perfect day for a parrot will involve two feedings – one upon waking in the morning and a second around an hour before bed – and 2-3 hours of exercise outside the cage.

The parrot will also want to interact and engage with human family members.

If you can’t commit this, a parrot isn’t the right pet for you. If you’ve completed this checklist, you can get a pet parrot and enjoy many years of entertainment and loyal companionship.