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When you see a little budgie parakeet on sale for $15 you might think to your self “Hey I can afford that even on my college kid budget!”

It’s important to remember, however, that there is a lot more to keeping a pet then what you might think. Our calculations show that the average budgie ends up costing between $300- $500 a year to keep fed and happy.

The costs involved in parrot keeping range greatly depending on what kind of parrot, or parrots, you decide to get. Below we will give you list of items you’ll need for your parrot and a basic price breakdown for those items. You’ll see the price of the item if buying for a little Budgie Parakeet, and then the price if buying for a large Macaw. The price differences involved are mainly due to the size of the bird.

The Parrot itself

Parrots range in price depending on species, age, whether or not it is tame and, of course, good old supply and demand.

  • Price for a Budgie Parakeet: $20-$50
  • Price for a Macaw: $1,000 – $10,000 depending on the species

The Parrot Cage

When it comes to cages, bigger is better. Parrots are not gold fish, you cant just set up an enclosure for them in the living room and expect them to be happy little house ornaments. Natural selection has developed your parrot’s body and mind over millions of years to be fit for life in the wide open wilderness. That said, even your bird can be happy with a cage as long as he gets plenty of stimulation and play time out of the cage to get good exercise.

Some people will dedicate an entire room of the house to their bird in order to give him more freedom, others build large aviaries that allow their birds the freedom to fly freely inside their cage. Unfortunately most Americans who live in apartments can’t do this sort of thing so a good cage will have to do. Learn more about parrot cage selection here

  • Cage price for a Budgie Parakeet: $35 – $100
  • Cage Price for a large Macaw: $450 – over $1,000

Cage Lining

Just use newspaper. Most black newspaper inks are soy based and cant hurt your bird. Some people claim that colored inks can be harmful so I recommend you stay away from that.

You can also use paper towels if you don’t get the paper but I don’t recommend going out and buying any pet bedding. Its a waist of money in my opinion.

Parrot Food

Your bird will eat a lot of food for how small he or she is, and you’ll quickly notice that most of the food it “eats” ends up being ground to powder and falling wastefully on the floor. Your bird should be eating a combonation of bird pellets, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nuts. You will want to make sure and give your bird a variety of foods and treats to stay good and healthy.

Diet varies from species to species so make sure you know what your bird is supposed to be eating. You can learn more about parrot food here.

  • Monthly food bill for a small Budgie Parakeet: $10 – $20
  • Monthly food bill for a large Macaw: $30 – $60

Parrot Toys

Your bird needs things to do while he’s sitting in his cage and waiting for you to play with him. Wild birds spend 4 to 8 hours a day foraging for food. The average parrot spends his foraging time flying around in search of things to eat, chewing things to pieces to see whats edible, and fighting over the good stuff with his buddies. As a result, parrots are naturally curious, playful, and monstrously destructive. Your parrot needs toys that he can rip to shreds.

Toys should be frequently replaced as they become tattered and when your parrot grows board of playing with the same old thing over and over again. Learn more about parrot toys here.

  • Monthly toy bill for a small Budgie Parakeet: $10 – $20
  • Monthly toy bill for a large Macaw: $20 – $40

Cleaning Supplies

Parrots make constant messes. You’ll need the following basic items to keep your self sain:

  • Dust pan with brush: $8
  • Reusable rags cleaning up messes: $5
  • Carpet Cleaner for spills and poos: $5

Some people use paper towels instead of reusable rags but that’s simply a waist of paper and the money spent will add up fast. These guys are that messy!

You may also want a hand held vacuum if you have a lot of carpet in your house. Read more about keeping your parrot clean here.

Parrot Veterinary Exams

In order to prevent health problems, you should see an avian certified veterinarian once a year for a routine checkup. I know that sounds silly to most of us who don’t even seen a doctor for our selves once a year but avian health is tricky to monitor on your own.

If you ever notice your bird acting strange, you should see a vet right away. Once a bird starts showing signs of illness, death can often follow very quickly if not treated.

Typical vet exam for any kind of parrot: $50-$75

Typical vet exam if the bird is sick and needs testing or medication: $200-$500

Sound Proofing

If you have a large parrot in your house like a Macaw, or a small loud parrot like a Sun Conure, you may want to think about sound proofing the rooms they will be staying in. That can be spendy but will make life much more enjoyable, especially if you have neighbors or roommates who don’t love your bird as much as you do.

Total Costs for owning a small parrot:

  • Initial costs totaled together: $73 – $168
  • Annual recurring costs: $315 – $555

Total Costs for owning a large parrot:

  • Initial costs totaled together: $1,468 – $11,010
  • Annual costs: $650 – $1,275

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Parrot Behavior Problems

Parrot Behavior Problems

Many parrot owners report that there birds have behavior problems. They ask things like, “Why does my parrot hate my girlfriend” or, “Why does the bird scream every time I leave the room?”

The brutal truth of the matter is that birds were not designed to live in your house or to be perfect pets. These creatures evolved to survive in some of the most dangerous jungles, desserts, and rain forests of the world. As a result we can’t always expect them be quiet when we’re on the phone or play nicely with small children. That said, there still are ways to correct or at least alleviate most of the problems that you may have with your parrot.

There are three main kinds of behavior problems that people have with their birds:

  1. Instinctual or natural behavior problems
  2. Unintentionally trained behavior problems
  3. Problems caused by the ‘Conditions of Captivity’

In this article we will learn the differences between these three types of problems. In the articles that follow we will discuss individual behavior problems to find possible solutions.

Instinctual or Natural Parrot Behavior Problems

These are the behavior problems that simply exist because they are a part of how your parrot is built. They are instinctual behaviors that are essential for a parrot’s survival in the wild but that are really annoying to those of us who are trying to live with parrots in our homes. These problems include screaming, chewing, and aggression towards strangers (especially during mating season).

What is an Instinct?

Scarlette Macaw

Scarlette Macaw

When we see a brand new baby we often times assume that his little brain is like a blank white canvas ready to start learning. This is actually a false belief. Our brains, and the brains of other animals, actually come pre-programed with all sorts of instincts. An instinct can be thought of as a computer program that tells a creature how to do certain things without it having to learn them.

Human babies have one program that tells them how to drink their mother’s milk, one program telling them how to blink their eyes, another telling them how to breath and so on. Even though we can’t see an instinct just by looking at a babies face or even looking at CAT scans of his brain, a child’s instincts are as real as his fingers and toes. Further more, instincts are passed down from parent to child the same way skin color is passed down through heredity and for this reason, from generation to generation, they can be acted upon by the power of natural selection to help promote a creatures survival.

A good example of a human survival instinct is the disgust we feel when we smell rotting meet. We are repulsed by the smell and will try to get away from it as fast as we can. We will even gag or get sick if we get too close. Our instincts are doing everything they can to stop us from swallowing a piece of the tainted food so that we don’t get sick and die.

Problematic Parrot Instincts

Different species of parrot have different instincts which evolved to help them survive and reproduce within their perspective environments and social communities.  ‘Flock Calls’ are loud screeches that some types of parrots do instinctively when they are separated from their flock or mate. The scream is intended to carry long distances so that the birds can locate one another. That’s wonderful in the wild but it is really annoying in captivity.

Parrots show affection to their friends and mates by grooming each others feathers. If a bird sees that his friend has some feathers that need to be de-sheathed, he has a strong instinct to lovingly chew on the feather sheathe until it is removed. In captivity, parrots will often chew off buttons or rip apart zippers on their masters cloths. If your bird does this to you it’s not because he thinks it’s a funny joke, in the parrot’s mind he’s just showing you some love by ‘fixing’ your funny looking feathers.

Correcting Instinctual Behavior Problems

Telling a Sun Conure to never scream again would be like telling a dog to stop having a wet nose – it’s not going to happen! That said, even though you can’t get rid of an instinct, you can help your bird learn to control his troublesome urges in the same way a mortician can be conditioned not to get sick every time he sees a dead body. To learn more, see the article on Parrot Screaming.

Unintentionally trained Parrot behavior problems

All of us are constantly training our animals and even the people around us. We train for good and we train for bad. Every time you walk up to a gold fish and drop floating flakes in the top of his bowl you are teaching him to swim to the surface each time he sees you. Every time a man finally breaks down and does the dishes after his wife has been nagging at him, he is training his wife to nag more often.

Some parrots don’t like to be handled by people and they require a lot of hard work in order to warm up to the idea. If a bird bites you when you take it out of the cage, you get frightened and then put him back in his cage, you have just taught him that biting is good and will always get him what he wants.

When your bird displays a bad behavior, ask your self “Why is he doing this? What reward is he expecting to get?”. If you can stop rewarding the bad behavior, chances are, it will quickly fade away.

Problems caused by the ‘Conditions of Captivity’

African Grey Feather Plucking

Photo by Joel Zimmer

Feather plucking, extreme phobias, and extreme aggression are all behaviors that are very common in captive birds but extremely rare in wild birds. Because of this, its safe to assume that these behaviors are being triggered by what I call ‘Conditions of Captivity’. Cages, clipped wings, food bowls, strange diets, and the lack of interaction with other parrots are all Conditions of Captivity that could be causing the mental illnesses that manifest them selves in the form of bad behavior. Again, your bird’s brain developed for life in the jungle with other parrots, not for life in your living room with a bunch of flightless apes.

The closer you are able to simulate their life style in the wild, the better off your parrot is going to be. This is easier to do than you might think and we have an article all about it called “Animal Enrichment”. When we go out of our way to stimulate our animals in a manner that is naturally appealing to them, we are doing what is called “Animal Enrichment”. This is a term widely used in Zoos around the world and it can cure all sorts of nasty behavior problems in most animals and even in humans. After all, we weren’t designed to sit behind a computer screen for 10 hours a day now were we? Now that you’ve finished this article, I recommend you go outside and play!

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African-Grey-Parrot

Photo by Eli Duke

Experience level: advanced
Lifespan: approximately 50-60 years
Size: approximately 10″-14″ in length
Voice Volume: Extremely Loud
Price Range: $1,000 to $2,000
Parrot Talking Ability: Excellent

African Grey Parrots are mid sized birds native to the rainforests of West and Central Africa. In the wild they live in flocks ranging from small families to groups of over 100. They are considered to be among the most intelligent and highly social of all birds in the Pet trade. In captivity they have a reputation of being the best talkers of all parrots but not all Greys will learn to talk, so don’t buy one if speech is all you want out of your bird.

African Grey Feather Plucking

Photo by Joel Zimmer

If you want to buy an African Grey parrot, make sure you have plenty of time to spend one on one with your bird. These guys need at least 4 hours of interaction a day along with plenty of things to do in their cages like foraging for food and chewing on toys. Due to the African Grey’s high intelligence and sociability, a life in captivity can be very difficult for this species of bird to handle if they don’t get enough attention and things to do. African Greys can easily acquire mental illness if they are under-stimulated. These illnesses usually manifest themselves in the form of feather plucking, self mutilation, aggression, or extreme phobias of anything new. In other words, if you do not have plenty of time and energy to spend with a pet, THIS IS NOT THE BIRD FOR YOU!

African Grey Parrot Talking Ability

Grey parrots are among the best talkers in the parrot world. Einstein the African Grey at the Tennessee Knoxville Zoo knows over 100 words that she can say on cue!  These birds usually don’t start talking until they are 1 to 2 years old but some may take even longer to learn. It is important to note that even though Congo and Timneh Agrican Greys are famous for their parrot talking skills,  some individual birds never learn to talk at all. If you want a talker guaranteed, buy a bird that is already talking.

The African Grey owner should expect to hear regular renditions of the microwave, telephone, alarm clock, dripping water, wild birds, video games, and any other sound that is often heard by the parrot. Also keep in mind that these birds can get loud. Make sure you have a place for your bird’s cage where his loud voice won’t disturb your neighbors.

Types of African Greys

Congo African Grey and Timneh African Grey

Photos by Snowmanradio and Michael Gwyther-Jones

There are two major kinds of African Greys: The popular Congo African Grey, and the lesser known Timneh African Grey. The Congos have the red tails and black beaks while the Timneh have black tails and a light spot on the upper mandible (jaw bone). Some people claim that the Timneh African Grey is more peaceful than the Congo African Grey.

Captive Bred or Wild Caught?

Both birds (the Congo and the Timneh) are readily available in the pet trade and are easily bred in captivity. DO NOT PURCHASE A WILD CAUGHT BIRD, doing so would be contributing to this species’ extinction in the wild.

Read More about Greys:

Cool African Grey Videos:

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I have been flying my parrot Apollo out doors for over 2 years now. It works because Apollo is strongly bonded to me and the small group of friends who fly him with me. If it weren’t for this, he would probably fly away and never come back.

I feel that Free Flying your parrot outdoors is the ultimate experience  a bird keeper can have. It’s amazing to watch my little parrot use his incredible natural talents. That said, before you fly your parrot, you need to know the dangers.

Flying your bird outside is risky for the following reasons:

  1. Bird could easily fly away if he doesn’t like you or he could accidentally get lost while exploring.
  2. Bird could get attacked by a hawk (since captive birds are usually weak fliers, they are prime targets for hawks who seem to pick up on animals with strange flying patterns)
  3. Bird could get attacked by other birds (seagulls, crows and so on)
  4. Bird could get hit by a car
  5. Attacked by a dog or cat
  6. Get sick from eating or drinking something poisonous or contaminated by another wild bird
  7. The bird could attack a pedestrian and get you sued

Those are just seven potential problems but there are many more. In the wild, your parrot would have belonged to a flock of other birds who would warn him of danger and also  teach him how to deal with certain obstacles and predators. In captivity, they have been severed from this group and all they have is you and their basic instincts to keep them safe. To make matters worse, their instincts are only meant to tell them how to survive in their native habitat. They don’t do so well in American cities where most people usually try to fly them.

Flying indoors instead

You may consider indoor flight as a respectable alternative to free flight. This takes out the risk but still allows your bird to get his exercise and be happy. It’s not quite as fun of course and it can be difficult to find a good location but it is much better for most bird owners due to the high risk of outdoor flight. You do still have risks though, windows are dangerous because birds usually can’t see glass. Ceiling fans, hot stoves, open toilettes and other things can also be a danger.

Places to fly indoors (if you can get permission)

  • In your own home if you have a room that’s big enough (vaulted ceilings are a plus)
  • YMCA basketball gym
  • Church gym
  • Home made aviary in your own backyard
  • Abandoned warehouse

How to learn more about Free Flight

Before you take your bird outside, make sure he (or she) is properly trained. I’m not an expert. I’ve only trained one bird. To learn about training your bird for outdoor flight, visit the website of flight expert, Chris Biro by going here: www.wingsatliberty.com

Chris has trained dozens of birds for free flight and has worked with several different species. His website is full of articles, videos, and interviews that will really help you understand the basics and then some. In my opinion he gets over technical at times but it’s important to be precise when dealing with the safety of your bird.

Join the free flight yahoo group for discussion on free flight. You can ask questions and share your thoughts in the group.  The people of the group are serious about parrots and won’t hesitate to pick argue with you if they don’t like what you say.  You really should join the group if you’re going to fly outdoors but make sure you wear a thick skin when posting: Free Flight Yahoo Group

Good luck.

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