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Parrots are quickly becoming one of the most popular household pets, and with good reason. Pet birds are beautiful, highly intelligent, playful and loving; however, parrots are an enormous responsibility, and many people don’t seriously consider this before purchasing one. Parrots possess many features that make them unique, but the traits that often endear them to us are also the ones that can lead to them being placed in shelters and rescues.

A parrot is a lifetime companion, capable of living 50 years and, with proper care, many live much longer, perhaps 70 or 80 years. (Generally speaking, larger parrots live longer than small parrots.) Many parrots have the intelligence of a 3- to 5-year-old child. They can also be emotional, and some become very attached to their owners. They must receive adequate time out of the cage and ample options for entertainment; namely toys, play stands and human interaction. 

With Parrots, You're In It For The Long Run
Many people don’t take all this into consideration before buying a pet that comes with a huge amount of responsibility. Potential owners notice their beauty; they see parrots talking, performing tricks and demonstrating their remarkable intelligence. They see how caring and loving parrots can be. What people might not realize is that this little feathered package requires a great deal of time, similar to the time you would invest with a child.

Here are some things to consider before you buy this lifelong companion.

1) Research the different types of parrots. All have their own personalities and behavioral tendencies. Some species are more inclined to talk, while some like playing. Others love to cuddle and are always looking for a head scratch. People need to take their expectations into consideration and make sure the bird’s personality and needs are compatible with their own, before deciding on a pet bird. 

2) For people who have never owned a bird, it might be best to start with a smaller species, such as a budgie or cockatiel. Although they still require attention and care, they are somewhat easier to handle.  And you won’t lose personality by going with a smaller parrot either! Some budgies are known to have extensive vocabularies, not to mention their hilarious antics and mischievous behavior.

3) The initial, as well as recurring costs, of owning a bird must be considered. On the lower end of the price scale are small birds, such as budgies. Proper cages typically start at $75. Expect to spend an additional $50 on necessities, and the average monthly food budget is about $25.

For medium and large parrots, the cost is significantly more than budgies. Cages cost $300 and up. Monthly food expenses vary, but can be $75 or more.

Birds also need lots of toys and activities to keep them entertained. Initially, expect to spend $50 to $100 or more on toys alone, and keep in mind that most toys are designed to be destroyed, which means you’ll have to replace them periodically. Parrots also need a playstand for daily out-of-cage time.

4) Parrots can be loud; they love to talk, sing, whistle and sometimes scream. Most of the larger species do not make good apartment pets. They also have the potential to cause damage, especially to moldings and anything else made of wood. After all, isn’t the house their own playground? This can work to your benefit when you realize that inexpensive household items make great toys, such as Popsicle sticks, tissue boxes (full or empty) and paper-towel rolls. Yes, many parrots do enjoy full tissue boxes and will work diligently to remove every last tissue before moving onto the box itself.

5) Consider the amount of time you have to spend with a parrot. Birds need lots of time outside their cages. They need exercise as well as attention. Time can be spent on a playgym, training, interacting with other birds or family members or just sitting with their favorite person while he/she does daily activities, such as reading, watching television, surfing the web or doing paperwork. 

A word of caution: birds should always be supervised, but pay particular attention when they interact with each other, especially when you have birds of disparate sizes. A large bird’s beak can do serious harm to a smaller bird.

6) Not only do birds need time out of their cages, they also need socialization and training. They are highly intelligent and can exhibit behaviors similar to children. They can scream when they want attention and get into things that might be dangerous  Screaming is one of the major reasons cockatoos are given to rescue facilities. It’s true that they love to vocalize, but there’s no reason it can’t be channeled into pleasant sounds and songs.

7) It is especially critical to locate an avian vet before you bring your bird home. Not all veterinarians treat birds, and those who do typically have specialized training in treating exotic patients, such as birds, reptiles and small mammals. It addition, always have a first-aid kit on hand. You can put one together yourself, or buy complete kits from pet stores and online retailers. Always make sure you have a carrier available, for trips to the veterinarian as well as emergencies.

8) Many people do not realize that anytime a new bird enters a home that already contains birds, the new bird needs to be quarantined for 30 days to ensure it is healthy. The new bird should receive a full medical exam, including blood work, from your avian veterinarian while it is undergoing quarantine. There are communicable diseases that can be spread among parrots. Some are curable; others, such as psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), have no cure and are often fatal.

9) Continuing education is important. There are excellent resources out there to keep you informed and up-to-date. There are many websites, as well as books and videos; both for parrots in general and for specific parrot species. Information covers diet, health, behavior and training. Some sites even have videos you can leave on for your pets while you are away at work.

Parrots are very rewarding, loving, intelligent and entertaining companions. They can bring much joy, laughter and happiness to our lives. However, thorough research and education are required before deciding to give one (or more) a place in your home and your heart. 

Parrots: Not Always A Stereotype
Birds are individuals. It is not accurate to say that all cockatoos are screamers or that they all love to cuddle, just as it isn’t fair to say all African greys talk well or that they are one-person birds.

My African grey loves almost everyone, and she especially enjoys showing off in front of friends and family. She never developed a solitary bond with one person, because we socialized her at an early age by exposing her to other people. She also loves to cuddle, mostly in the morning and at night when we are watching television. She will run over to my husband and jump on his chest. She then expects him to pull the sheet or blanket over her, so just her little black beak sticks out of the covers. If he isn’t quick enough, she pulls the covers herself. (We only allow the birds to do this when we are watching TV, never when we sleep. Never fall asleep with your bird next to you. Birds are fragile and you  could accidentally roll over and kill them.)

Although certain species are more prone to certain behaviors than others, each bird is a product of its environment and develops based on how it is raised.

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Be prepared to have the bird for many years to come. Birds can become very bonded to their families. Similarly, the emotional affect on birds when they are passed along to others can be devastating; again, similar to how a child would feel if sent to live with another family.

Locate a trusted and reliable person to watch your bird when you go on vacation or in case of an emergency. It can be a friend, family member or a professional pet sitter. For pet sitters, do a thorough background and reference check. The person selected should get to know your bird(s) beforehand so our human and avian friends feel comfortable with each other.


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