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Full of spectacular colours and personality, parrots are highly intelligent creatures. Caring for them in a home environment can come with many challenges, but when cared for properly they are amazing pets. Depending on the species of bird you choose, the type of parrot care will vary. In general, smaller birds have a lifespan of 15 to 30 years and larger birds can live anywhere between 40 to 50 years.

Parrots form strong bonds with their owners. A “hand-fed” bird, which was separated from its parents at an early age and raised by human surrogates, makes a wonderful member of the family. Making the decision to purchase a bird is a lifelong commitment. It cannot be stressed enough, “it is like having a baby for a really long time that never grows up”.

Proper nutrition and socialization is vital in maintaining a high quality of life for parrots. For most species, a parrot diet consists of fresh fruits, vegetables, parrot pellets and a high quality vitamin enriched parrot seed mix. Fresh water should be offered daily to prevent contamination of water with harmful bacteria.

Examples of fruits, vegetables and proteins are as follows:
Vegetables: broccoli, carrots, cooked potato, sweetcorn, beans/peas, sweet potato.
Fruits: apples, banana, plum, melon, apricot, grapes, mango, orange, peach.
Animal Protein: cheese, chicken bone, hard boiled eggs, fish.
Non-animal protein: nuts in small quantities. Nuts must be prepared for human consumption. Avoid salted nuts.

When choosing a cage and perches: keep in mind your bird’s size of toes and feet. Parrots like to climb around so a cage with too many vertical bars will not allow him to do this safe and comfortably. Perches too wide in diameter will hinder your bird’s toes from perching properly. A proper cage is vital in your parrot’s well-being and quality of life. Your feathered friend should be able to spread its full wing span to each side of the cage. There should be plenty of space to hang 2 to 4 safe parrot toys. A parrot’s cage should be placed in an area where the family spends the most time. The kitchen is not an ideal area due to the dangerous toxins while cooking and other safety hazards. Invest in an acrylic cage for your bird to be housed in.

bird cage

Parrots are playful, silly and smart. In fact, parrots have been tested for their intellectual abilities and are proven to have the intelligence level of a small child. With this in mind, a parrot owner has to understand the importance of providing safe, colourful, stimulating toys for their companion parrot. In the wild parrots like to chew, shred and nest various materials. These consists mainly of wood, clay and grassy materials in their environment. This is “fun work” in birdie life and keeps their emotional and physical well-being alive.

Providing parrots with chewable toys will greatly fulfill their “wild” desire and help keep the beak trimmed. Just as toddlers get bored with playing with the same toy, so does your bird. It is advised to rotate their toys every 3 to 4 weeks.

A parrot’s nails, feathers and beak continue to grow on a regular basis. It is necessary to groom the nails, wings and beak every 2-3 months. This can be done by an avian veterinarian on a regular basis. Your avian veterinarian may also inject your bird with multivitamins and deworm your parrot if he/she deems necessary. Some pitfalls when doing this yourself is excessive bleeding, excessive wing trimming leading to insufficient lift when your parrot tries to descend from heights and beak problems such as malocclusion of the beak. It is natural for parrots to preen their feathers to keep them in tip top shape. They take rain showers in the wild, so it is essential to mist your parrot daily with clean, fresh water.

Parrots are prone to some diseases and listed below are some of the more common conditions.

Household poisons
Household poisons include teflon, bathroom and kitchen cleaners, copper and brass cleaners, garden sprays, perfume and deodorants, paints and paint removers, super glue and window cleaners.

Teflon (the coating of some pans and pots) when heated to very high temperatures release odourless, colourless fumes undetectable by humans. Birds however are very sensitive to teflon fumes and can die within minutes of inhaling these fumes. These fumes cause respiratory distress in parrots.

Poisonous plants include avocado, elephant ear, jasmine and ivy.
Poisonous foods include avocado, chocolate, tea, coffee, salt, alcohol and uncooked potato.

Infectious diseases
Viral diseases include Pacheco Disease causing diarrhoea, anorexia and lethargy, and Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease causing irreversible feather loss and mortality in young birds.

Bacterial diseases include Avian Salmonellosis and Escherichia coli which both cause diarrhoea, lethargy and anorexia.

An important zoonotic disease affecting parrots is Avian Chlamydiosis. This disease can be transmitted to humans via infected birds. Birds can be asymptomatic carriers or they can show signs of disease. This organism causes upper respiratory signs in birds.

In humans this organism causes fever, headache, loss of appetite, shortness of breath and respiratory signs.

Another severe condition which may become chronic in parrots is feather plucking. This syndrome is a very complex with a long list of causes. When a bird with feather plucking presents to the avian veterinarian, a thorough work-up is necessary which may include a complete history from the client as well as blood tests, radiographs, microscopical examination of feather and faecal smears as well as cultures of microorganisms. It is important to keep in mind that the treatment is often long term and that the prognosis remains guarded from the onset of treatment.

Parrots are lovely pets to keep provided that the potential bird owner researches the specific species of parrot he/she wants to keep and be willing to commit lifelong to care for their feathered friend.

References:

Harcourt-Brown N, Chitty J. Psittacine Birds. Second Edition. British Small Animal Veterinary Association, Gloucester, 2005.
Meredith A, Johnson-Delaney C. Exotic Pets. Fifth Edition. British Small Animal Veterinary Association, Gloucester, 2010.

 

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