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Is a Parrot Right for You?

Why do you want a parrot?

Why do you want a companion parrot? Because it will talk? To look cool? To be a status symbol? To be macho? To match your couch?

None of these are good reasons for acquiring a parrot. Parrot acquisition should never be done on impulse. You have to be ready for the commitment and know what you are getting into. These are very long-lived creatures that may out live you; they need to be provided for in your will. Parrots are highly intelligent and emotionally sensitive animals that, depending on the individual bird, may or may not ever learn to talk. They can be loud, destructive, messy, demanding animals that take more time and energy to care for than dogs or cats but less time, energy and expense than, for example, horses. See the top 10 reasons people don't like living with parrots. Read on and think deeply on these issues before you decide that a parrot is the right pet for you.

On the positive side, they are beautiful, clever, complex, instinctive animals that are one or two generations removed from the wild. Therefore, they still have some wild tendencies. They have the potential to learn to talk very well, and can even learn to count or identify colors. Some imitate strange sounds. Sometimes they call the family dog or cat. Singing is a favorite of some birds. (Make sure that if your bird watches TV, you really like the theme song. The Andy Griffith Show is a real favorite!) If you are looking for a loving, intelligent, beautiful, affectionate, long living companion; then a parrot may be your ideal pet.

What is your lifestyle?

How often are you home? For how long? At what hours? Parrots need much more of your time than dogs or cats and they can't be left alone for too long without risking their running out of food or safe water to drink. Parrots are creatures of the day; when it is dark, they want to go to sleep. Do you have enough time to spend every day with your bird, or do you rapidly lose interest in new things? Each parrot needs at least 20 minutes of 1:1 loving attention, including being held, direct eye contact and kind words. Beyond that, a parrot needs to be out of the cage for much of the time you are home and awake. Your bird needs to be on a playstand in the same room you are in. There, your bird can hang out and be a flock (family) member and do things (play with toys) while you do things (watch tv, play games, etc). Do you party a lot, have a lot of people over? Will they respect your bird, or can you put your bird safely in the back room to protect him and enable him to get a good night's sleep even if you can't? Do you travel a lot? You can't leave a bunch of food in your parrot's cage and go away for the weekend without arranging for someone to come in and feed the bird twice a day, or without boarding your bird. Who will take care of your bird while you are gone?

Do you have other animals?

Some dogs, cats, ferrets, and snakes are predators of birdsIt is important to introduce other animals to your parrot cautiously, and to supervise any time they have together to keep both your other animals and your bird safe. Additionally, larger birds may hurt smaller birds and they need to be kept separated. They need to have separate cages, and separate play stands. You need to make sure it is not possible for the littler bird to get into the cage with the larger bird. If your littler bird is flighted, you need to keep it away so it cannot fly over to the bigger bird where it might startle the bigger bird and get bitten. If you have multiple birds, it is seldom possible to cage multiple parrots together, even if they are of similar sizes. Especially as they get older, each bird really needs its own cage and space, and they may argue if forced into co-habitation. It is even possible parrots may argue with their mates, when caged with a mate of the same species.

Is a parrot right for your home and family?

Unlike dogs and cats, parrots can be tamed but they are not domesticated. Each bird has a distinct and unique personality. While some people have parrots that are great friends with other animals and people in the house, that isn't always the case. If you have small children, your parrot may not understand their swift movements and high-pitched voices and find them stressful and frightening to be around. Parrots that are afraid may fear-bite smaller children. Parrots and smaller children need full time supervision. Parrots and wilder older children are also a bad idea. Some one will get hurt, and the poor bird will be the loser.

Where will the parrot live in your home?

Parrots need to be an integral part of your family. Cage size will have to be proportional to the size of the bird. Some birds require a cage the size of an entertainment center! The cage needs to be located against a wall, not in the center of the room. Birds need to feel safe and have something solid on at least one side of their cage. The cage also needs to be away from any drafts, not right above any heating or cooling duct or near any drafty windows. If you would be comfortable sitting all day and all night where the bird's cage is, your your bird will be comfortable. Parrots also need a separate play area away form their cages for intellectual, physical, visual and emotional stimulation and to help them be with their family (flock) in another room away from their cage. You must plan out the living space for your new friend before making the decision to acquire him.

Have you considered not only the cost of the parrot, but all the associated expenses?

Parrots are expensive, high-maintenance pets to have. Initial essentials include at least one cage, a play area, perches, toys (that are rapidly destroyed and have to be replaced), a high-quality diet, an avian vet visit, and an appropriate carrier. For many birds, the added initial cost can be as much as the original bird purchase, and then there are significant on-going expenses of maintaining their good diet, replacing toys, new perches, boarding or care when you are away, and annual vet visits. Parrots are not inexpensive pets to have, so make sure you are prepared for the responsibility fully before taking the plunge. 

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