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Do Parrots make good pets?

Caique Parrots

Caique Parrots

With an estimated 11 million birds living as pets within the United States, parrots are now thought to be the fourth most common household animal after dogs, cats, and fish. So do they make good pets? You may be surprised to learn that for many Americans the answer is no.

Parrots can be amazing companion animals. They are highly trainable, they can be cuddly and affectionate, and if treated correctly they will form very strong bonds with their care takers. The flip side is that they are such social and intelligent animals that they demand a huge amount of attention and mental stimulation in order to thrive. Many people eventually find that they can’t give enough time and energy to their pets, especially in the long run when the joy of a new pet begins to ware thin. To make matters worse, many parrots can be aggressive, especially once they become sexually mature. A parrot bite is not a fun thing to endure.

If you want to get a parrot of your own, there are several things you should consider before purchasing. Read through the 5 following questions and answer them honestly to your self to see if a parrot is the right fit for you.

1. Can I afford a parrot?

If you get a small parrot the cost can be fairly cheep. A budgie Parakeet will only cost you about $20 in the US and a decent sized cage for the bird probably won’t cost over $50. Larger and less common parrots demand a higher price. You should expect to pay anywhere between $400 and $10,000 for a larger parrot and then you will need to spend about the same on a cage.

Once you get the parrot you will need to spend more money on food, replacement toys, replacement perches, veterinary care and other continual costs. We calculate that the average small bird (parakeet or love bird) will cost between $315 – $500 a year to keep alive and well. A large parrot like a Macaw will cost about $650 – $1,275.

Are you honestly willing to spend that kind of money on a pet? If not, I suggest you look for a different kind of pet.

See our article called the Costs of Parrot Keeping for further information.

Select a bird from our Parrot Species list to see the current prices of different parrot species.

2. Do I have time to take proper care of a parrot?

The average parrot needs 2 – 6 hours of direct interaction outside the cage from you or one of your family members every day in order to maintain mental health. Remember that depending on the species, your parrot could live to be 80 years old or more.

Can you consistently dedicate that kind of time to your parrot in the long run?

When you go on vacation you will need to leave your parrot with someone who is also willing to give your bird all the special attention he needs. Even then, things may not work out. I left my bird with a friend for a week and my parrot was so stressed that he started plucking feathers. I now take him with me when ever I go. It’s inconvenient but I figure that’s what I signed up for when I bought the little monster.

One alternative to one on one interaction is to build a large aviary and get several parrots that will interact with each other. Keep in mind that these birds may bond strictly to each other and can become aggressive to people unless they are constantly socialized to humans. Parrot that live together in groups can also become aggressive to one another. Make sure you know what you’re doing before creating a multi-parrot aviary.

Parrots also need enrichment exercises to stimulate their minds. You can read more about that in our section on Animal Enrichment.

Tip – Make as many friends with other parrot owners as you can! This way you can take turns watching each other’s birds when needed and you can share tips on how to better care for your parrots.

3. Do I have the patience to be a parrot keeper?

Parrots have all sorts of strange behaviors that can be very annoying. My parrot is a Sun Conure. Sun Conures are great parrots, they are playful, loving, loyal, beautiful, and easy to train but they come with a voice so loud that the entire block knows when one gets upset. Sun Conures are so loud that they can easily get you evicted from your apartment and because of this they often end up in bird rescue shelters after their owners decide they just can’t stand the noise.

Other species of parrot have different problems. The Quaker Parrot, for example, becomes extremely territorial of his cage during breeding season and the Lorikeets have a way of shooting their poop all the way across the room when relieving them selves after a meal. Fun fun!

Parrots are wild animals and don’t naturally know how to behave appropriately around humans or inside of houses. You are the one the decided to take them from their natural habitats and place them in your home, it is your responsibility to put up with the problems that are bound to arise as a result of this decision.

With careful training and loving patience, your bird can be taught many house manners and can become a wonderful member of your family but this takes time and lots of hard work. Are you truly up for it?

Learn how to train your parrot in our Parrot Training Section.

4. Can I handle getting bitten by my parrot?

Bite marks from a blue and Gold Macaw

Bite marks from a Blue and Gold Macaw

I have not met a parrot owner who has never been attacked at least once by his parrot. Even the nicest birds will have a moment where they feel threatened or mistreated and will decide to attack.

Parrots tend to get most aggressive during breeding season (breeding season varies from species to species) and a parrot that used to be perfectly tame can suddenly seem to go crazy.This of course is true of virtually all pets but the signs of aggression are particularly hard to see with birds. An attack can seem to have come out of nowhere from a bird who is usually very loving.  As a result, people tend to develop phobias of their own parrots after just one incident.

No matter how sweet and wonderful your bird may be, no matter how good of a bird owner you think you are, YOU WILL GET BITTEN AND IT WILL HURT!

If you own a small parrot this may mean a simple little puncture wound. If you own a mid sized or large parrot, stitches (or worse) may be needed.

At the Knoxville Zoo they have all sorts of dangerous animals in their bird show: hawks, owls, a vulture, a crane, and a giant African Ground-Hornbill but the one bird that has sent the most staff members to the hospital is their Scarlett Macaw – one of their only birds that can legally kept as a household pet. He bit one trainer on the mouth and tore her lip open so far that plastic surgery was needed in order to properly heal the wound. She was a pro bird handler working with an animal she saw every day. If it can happen to her under the best of circumstances, it can happen to anyone.

Can you forgive a bird after receiving a bite like that and then be willing to continue working with and loving your parrot? If your answer is no then you really need to consider a different hobby. Parrot keeping is not for you. Once a parrot owner develops a fear for their own bird, the bird will be left inside his cage all the time and will suffer. This is not good for your bird or for you.

Tip- The smaller the bird, the weaker the bite. If you have a low tolerance for pain, get a small parrot. There is no shame in this and there is an amazing selection of small parrots to choose from. You would be amazed to discover just how much personality, beauty, and charisma these small parrots really have. You don’t need to go out and buy the biggest macaw you can find.

See our list of small parrots in our parrot species section. See our list of mid sized parrots as well.

5. Am I willing to study and learn about parrot keeping?

Most of us have never had much contact with birds before. We know how to deal with cats and dogs but as soon as we get our hands on a bird we quickly realize we have no clue what we are doing. As a result you need to be willing to study and learn.

This website is one resource designed to help you do just that. We recommend that you also make as many friends as you can in the parrot community so that you can get help from them and give help to them when needed.

There is a lot to learn and you are a busy person. Are you willing to make the sacrifice of time needed in order to learn about your birds needs?

The Joy of Parrot Keeping

For those of us who actually do have the money, time, patience, pain tolerance, and the desire to learn that is needed for the life long hobby of parrot keeping, the joy associated with the hobby is unlike anything else you have ever experienced. Your parrot will change your life and the way you view the world.

We hope this website will be helpful for you if you decide to become a parrot owner.

If you already have a parrot and you need to get rid of it, read our article “How to get rid of an unwanted parrot”.

They naturally have a number of what we humans like to call ‘behavior problems’. Most species of parrot love to scream, chew things up, aggressively guard their territory (especially during breeding season), and they poop about every 15 minutes and don’t really seem to care where the stuff lands. Other behavior problems that parrots display in captivity are not natural. They show up when the bird’s needs are not being met. Because parrots are so incredibly social, active, and intelligent, a life in captivity can be particularly hard on this group of birds. Caged birds which are not given sufficient stimulation can easily develop a large number of mental illnesses which may manifest themselves by one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Extreme aggression
  • Biting – Oh boy can they bite!
  • Phobias
  • Apathy
  • Feather plucking
  • Self mutilation

These are all common traits of captive birds but are rarely observed in wild birds of the same species. Most of these mental problems can be relieved or cured by simply giving your bird more room to move around or fly, more things to play with, more things to think about and learn, and more time to socialize with people or other animals. Most parrots need 4 to 6 hours of interaction a day with their friends (you and your family) out side of the cage. Parrots are not good companions for the casual pet owner. Some people consider them to be more demanding than a 2 year old child!

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