The Pet Behaviour Centre
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Top Tips For Parrots

  • Parrot PictureGive your parrot the largest cage you can afford, and bear in mind that your birds cage should have minimum size to accommodate him stretching his wings in both directions, climbing and playing. Parrots are natural acrobats and require room to perform these feats. A happy parrot is an active tumbling, swinging, hanging upside down one! Round cages are least suitable for birds. There are no reference points and birds are not helicopters, more planes! A point to bear in mind is that horizontal space is as important as vertical space, and a high narrow cage will just cause droppings/food to accumulate on lower surfaces. Make allowance for a place to hide near or at the top of the cage. A cloth covering a corner or a cardboard box suspended provides a safe place. Even better are edible branches and leaves woven through the cage bars on top.

  • Food is important to your bird not only for his health but for his psychological welfare also. Birds in the wild spend a substantial portion of each morning and evening foraging. They choose to eat many differing types of food as seasons change and food supplies alter. Foraging behaviour is important to your bird. He requires a good quality pellet type food, but also fruits, vegetables and treats such as nuts. As nuts are high in fat and can contribute to liver disease, these should be given in moderation. Some parrot species require higher fat levels in their diet than others and Lories require a differing diet altogether.  Nuts do not constitute a complete diet for any parrot. Parrots require foods rich in vitamin A. Parrots adore chilli peppers. For smaller parrots cut rounds off and string them to make an edible toy. Consult a breed book for your particular subspecies of parrot.

  • Parrots love to climb and play. They require time outside their cage to remain sufficiently active and healthy. Wing flapping is a healthy pursuit increasing the cardiovascular fitness of your bird. Flying is a natural behaviour and one that your parrot can perform safely in a suitably supervised room. Suitable suspended ropes allow your bird to perform those acrobatics such as open winged twirls, which they cannot perform in their cages.

  • Before you decide to wing trim please consider these points. Wing trimmed birds will feel more vulnerable especially when they are on a low surface or on the ground. Wing trimming only one wing will allow the bird to fly badly and contribute to possible accidents. Wing trimming both wings may cause your bird to begin oral investigation of new feathers whether through preening or discomfort. Either way he can progress to feather plucking. Birds who cannot fly, cannot perform the most natural fundamental behaviour for their species. In addition, their muscles will waste through lack of use. Birds unable to fly have been trod on accidentally by people or injured when at floor level by other pets. A birds feather growth may be misjudged allowing flight sooner than the owner thinks and therefore the danger of escape. Fully flighted birds require training as to where they can go in your home and where they can land or climb. There is a danger of escape through an open door or window. The rooms where they can be allowed flight must be carefully assessed for dangers.

  • Many household appliances (cookers, boiling pots, heaters), practices (cooking with Teflon coated cookware, burning incense or candles, smoking), plants, furniture (paint and varnish), and rooms (sinks with water/toilets) can provide possible fatal hazards to your bird. It is important to know what constitutes poisons, especially air borne ones such as sprays.

  • Parrots love to play with toys. Indeed playing constitutes an ongoing battle to demolish items as speedily as possible. Parrots require different types of toys such as paper and cardboard to shred, ropes to swing off and chew, ropes/cloth to preen, mirrors to kill, foot toys to manipulate and keep feet and toes healthy and mind challenging toys to stimulate your birds mind. Toys should be either chew resistant such as acrylic toys or good quality rubber such as kongs. Cardboard and paper must be clean and without ink. Ropes should be replaced when frayed to reduce the possibility of toes becoming trapped. Fresh wood can be used, but bear in mind that some trees are not safe for parrots to chew. Childrens building blocks can make excellent chewing material. Wooden clothes pegs with the metal spring removed make wonderful foot and shredding toys. Chain or metal should be stainless steel. Parrots love dismantling nuts and bolts. Paint must be lead free, and paint suitable for children to chew on is suitable for birds.

  • The type of perch offered is important to maintain healthy feet and toes. Your parrots main resting perch (the siting he will probably choose) should be just right for the circumference of your parrots foot. Not too wide so the foot is splayed and not too narrow so that the toes meet and overlap. Ideal perches are of natural wood and have irregular surfaces. Dowel perches should be removed from the cage and replaced by parrot friendly ones. Perches can be made from jute rope twisted from one side of the cage to the other. This provides a perch which mimics the instability of branches. Fresh branches make wonderful perches. Manzanita is very hard and difficult for your bird to chew and not a good choice for his main perch. Cholla perches are great fun as your bird can rip these apart. They are a good idea as an outside perch and therefore a novelty. Latex perches are without natural irregular surfaces, however many can be twisted and bent to create perches to play from. They are also comfortable to perch on. Perches to be avoided are those with sanded covers or rough cement perches. When a bird has no choice but to stand on these the soft part of his feet can become very sore and inflamed, developing pressure sores. They do not reduce nail growth.

  • A healthy parrot will have shining sleek well groomed feathers which sit in neatly together. Your bird will enjoy being showered with a plant mister aimed in the air over the bird so that the water mists on top of him. Birds like to get thoroughly wet. Your birds beak should wear down naturally through chewing wood and toys. If suitable wood perches are provided, his nails will also wear down naturally. If they require trimming, remember parrots need length in their nails in order to grasp bars, perches etc. What looks acceptable nail length to a human may be so short that your parrot will be unable to grasp when climbing and fall. Remember the more your parrot exercises his beak and nails with toys and wood (not dowel) perches, the less trimming he will require.

  • Training will enhance the bond you have with your bird, allow you to control him even if fully flighted and gives you opportunity to teach him many fun and challenging behaviours. Many books have been written on clicker training parrots. This is indeed the easiest and most successful way of training your parrot.

    Parrots can see in UV spectrum light. They require this spectrum (outside daylight) to enable their full range of colour vision. A parrot who never goes outside is denied this pleasure as glass blocks UV spectrum light fairly efficiently. UV light bulbs can be purchased for your parrots cage. However these provide light at a very small fraction of that available outdoors. You can bring your parrot outside either in his cage, in a carry cage or train him to a harness. Many birds will never accept a harness as it is unnatural to accept something on your back if you are a bird who is likely to get attacked by a predator who will grasp you in a similar way. Parrots should not be left outside in a cage unsupervised in case of predators (cats, hawks, magpies etc).

  • Parrots require 10-12 hours sleep each night. Parrots only sleep when it is dark and they know that predators cannot easily find them. Most parrot species are found in countries close to the equator. However, as we have different daylight hours depending on season, and artificial lighting in rooms when it is dark, it is necessary to create artificial dark by covering your bird’s cage with a blackout cover. These can be made inexpensively from black felt. A bird who does not have opportunity for adequate sleep each night will be tired, may even become listless as the day wears on, and some birds may become very bad tempered simply through tiredness. Your parrot also needs to be away from noise when sleeping not positioned next to the TV for example!

Parrots learn fear behaviour in an instant. They are prone to superstitious behaviour. Their behaviour is built around self preservation in a world of danger and predators. Understanding this allows you to understand the most basic motivation for your parrots behaviour. Behaviours such as aggression, biting, screaming and feather plucking can all be symptoms of fear and anxiety in addition to other causes. By following the top tips, you are already working your way to a happy, healthy and well adjusted responsive parrot.

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