General Parrot Care
Parrots and Other Parrots
Parrots have been kept in captivity for generation as a
fashionable home accessory. Recent
generations have kept these feathered mimics for their
intelligence and their companionship.
The longevity of most species allows owners and birds to
have a deeper more familial connection with one another.
It is advised in many instances to have a written legal
document in which you clearly state where you wish your avian
companion to reside if something were to happen.
There are so many wonderful avian rescues through out the
United States that have parrots waiting for new homes.
Adopted parrots can be a challenge at times but the reward
of trust and companionship is frequently worth even the worst
screaming fits from your new adoptee.
Chicago Exotics firmly supports the adoption of birds and a
staff member can provide you with a list of different rescues that
can match you with your perfect companion. If
you want to raise a parrot from a young age there are numerous
breeders for a variety of different species.
Chicago Exotics has worked with many reputable breeders and
the staff is always happy to help you get in contact with one.
African Grey Parrots (Psittacus spp.), Amazon Parrots (Amazona
spp.), Pionus Parrots (Pionus spp.), and Eclectus Parrots
(Eclectus roratus) are all commonly kept psittacines that come
from a variety places around the world including Africa, South
America, and Australia respectively.
All four species come from rather lush tropical areas where
they fly great distances to roost, forage, and interact with other
flock members. Due
to their natural behavior, they are more prone to obesity if not
exercised enough in captivity.
These parrots are highly sociable and intelligent, often
communicating great distances with vocalizations such as calls and
songs. Parrots also
communicate through body language using signals and various
display behaviors. Very
often, the behaviors that owners see as problematic stem from a
very primitive instinct and have a specific meaning to that
parrot. It is
advisable to research your parrots natural behaviors prior to
acquisition or even as problems arise.
It is never to late correct a behavior.
There are various references listed in the “Suggested
Reading and Reference” section to help you as well.
The plumage varies between the species with colors from
grey to bright green found in the feather color spectrum depending
on the parrot species and in some cases such as the Eclectus, the
gender. All parrots
have hooked maxillas (top of the beak) that fit over the hooked
mandibles (lower part of beak) that house a thick muscular tongue.
All parrots have zygodactyls prehensile toes that allow
them to hang upside down and hang sideways.
The cage should at least be large enough for the wings to
be fully extended without touching the sides of the cage.
The larger the cage, the better it is for avian companions.
All birds require “play time” outside of their cage
where they can interact with their perceived flock (you!).
It may be beneficial to leave a radio, TV, or video on for
your parrot to listen to. This
stimulation will help prevent boredom and any sense of flock
abandonment your bird may feel while you are away.
Cages should have vertical bars preferably made from
stainless steel. Some
home made cages are made of hardware cloth which should be avoided
due to the possibility of zinc and lead exposure.
A grated bottom will prevent the parrot from contacting its
feces and old food. An
excellent substrate to use under the grate is newspaper or paper
towel. Both are
inexpensive and easily cleaned while allowing you to visually
access the parrots feces.
Perches should be made of various materials and available
in a variety of sizes appropriate for your parrot.
Perches that are too large will prevent proper foot
positioning that will interfere with the parrots ability to
“lock” their toes for secure perching.
Perches that are too small however, place stress on the
feet and can result in pressure sores.
Harwood and rope perches are wonderful additions to any
cage. Soft wood and
cement perches should be avoided as soft woods can have sap or
resin leftover and cement perches frequently leave pressure sores
and abrasions on feet. If
cement or sandpaper perches are used, always have other perches
for the parrot to switch to.
Toys are a must for parrots.
If your parrot does not play with the toys you have
provided you will have to reassess and replace the toys.
Some birds prefer wood, others plastic, some only shredable
toys. Be patient and
take care to note what toy your parrot responds to.
Play is an important part of a companion parrots life for
of your toy stock is recommended every month or so.
Take care to remove broken pieces from the cage.
Many researchers believe that UVB (ultra violet radiation
B) is required for indoor birds to correctly synthesize vitamin D3
and to promote proper preening behavior.
These lights are ideal especially for egg laying hens
(female birds) and African Grey Parrots in general are prone to
hypocalcaemia (calcium deficiency) and would benefit from an UVB
light. The light must
remain on for at least 6 hours a day.
The typical light period for these parrots is
10 hours of light to 14 hours of darkness.
The darkness however may be increased in hens that are
overly reproductive. The
temperature in the room should be comfortable for a person to wear
a t-shirt as a rule of thumb.
It is important to prevent any drafts from reaching your
parrot as this can chill your bird and lead to potential health
problems. It is
advisable for all parrots to have their cages covered at night.
This helps the bird feel secure as well as keeps the cage
dark for maximum sleep.
It is important for your parrot’s mental health and
physical well being to bathe daily.
This preening behavior will keep their plumage in good
condition allowing for better insulation and healthy skin.
Bathing can be done in a shallow dish, a sink, shower, or
with a gentle mister always using warm water.
Most birds love to bath on their own while others prefer to
be sprayed gently. If
your bird does not enjoy bathing in one style, try another.
Remember, your bird should be completely dry before they
are put to bed. Pictured below is an African Grey parrot that is
over-preening and destroying feathers. Bathing regularly can
help prevent this.
Ideally, all companion parrots should be maintained on a
formulated pelleted diet to maintain good health.
In the pet stores however, seed is the staple for most
parrot diets. Conversion
from an all or mostly seed diet to a pelleted diet can be
and determination with a little bit of stubbornness will go a long
way during the conversion process.
Your parrot should never lose more than 10% of its body
weight during conversion. If
you see your bird is loosing too much weight, return the bird to
the previous diet and revise your conversion method.
A Chicago Exotics staff member can give you a conversion
handout and moral support as well as technical tips.
A consumption of at least 50% of the pelleted diet during
feedings is considered a winning situation.
There are a variety of different pelleted diets available.
Currently, Chicago Exotics recommends and sells
’s and has samples of both Harrison’s and Zupreem parrot
Supplementation with dark leafy greens and other vegetables
is a welcome addition to any diet for most parrots.
Many parrots view fresh produce as a stimulating play thing
as well. Fruits should
be limited due to the high sugar content which can cause obesity,
runny stool, and mouth infections.
Treats such as honey sticks should be avoided but healthy
treats such as Lafeber Nutriberries and AviCakes are wonderful for
bonding and training. Vitamin
and mineral supplements should not be put into the water.
The parrot should have fresh, clean water available at all
times. Vitamin and
mineral supplements may be used under the supervision of a
veterinarian as these can lead to toxicity (over supplementation)
or deficiency. Generally,
if your parrot is consuming at least 50% of pelleted diet
additional vitamin and mineral supplementation is not required or
Table scraps can be fed to your parrot during meals.
Parrots enjoy eating socially and the sharing of food with
their flock. Never
feed your bird chocolate, avocado, raisins/grapes (especially if
your bird feather picks), or caffeine.
Feeding an inappropriate diet can lead to an over weight parrot
such as the Amazon shown below. Note the excessive fat
deposits on the abdomen.
Common Health Problems
Feather Picking – This is one of the most common
behavioral problems brought into the veterinary clinic.
There are numerous reasons why a parrot feather picks
including boredom, pain, and pruritic (itchy) skin.
A visit to your veterinarian or Chicago Exotics for a full
work up to eliminate causes is strongly recommended.
Sometimes, behavioral consultation is required as well.
Hypocalcaemia – A common problem in overly
reproductive hens and African Grey Parrots.
Feeding foods higher in calcium helps but may not be
enough. Look for signs
of weakness, swollen abdomen from possible egg retention, shaking,
falling from perch, and seizure.
This can led to a serious condition called egg retention
where the eggs are not released from the body.
Call Chicago Exotics or your veterinarian immediately if
you notice these symptoms.
Hepatic Lipidosis – This disease is often called,
“liver disease” and can result in over grown beaks and nails
in parrots. Typically
brought on by obesity and high fat diets such as seed only diets.
See Amazon pictured above this section. Conversion to
pellets will be required as well as a visit to Chicago Exotics or
your veterinarian as this can be life threatening.
Upper Respiratory Disease – There are numerous
causes of respiratory problems.
Some are more serious than others but all must be addressed
by your veterinarian. Signs
to look for are trouble breathing, abnormal sounds when breathing,
open mouth breathing, decreased appetite, nasal discharge, and
PBFD – Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease Virus
– This is a chronic disease with signs of poor feather quality,
feather loss, beak deformities and eventual death.
Although an infected adult can live many years, neonates
and immunosuppressed birds can die from exposure to this virus.
There is no cure but medical management and supportive care
can be attempted by your veterinarian.
PDD – Proventricular Dilatation Disease – This
is a fatal disease commonly associated with weight loss despite a
ravenous appetite, depression, chronic regurgitation, undigested
food in feces, crop impaction and abdominal distension.
This disease can be passed from bird to bird and is
ultimately fatal. Call
your veterinarian or Chicago Exotics immediately if these symptoms
are seen. Pictured below is a contrast study of a parrot
Avian Viruses: Function and Control
- Branson W.
Ritchie, DVM, PhD
Behavior of Exotic Pets
BSAA Manual of Exotic Pets – 5th edition - Anna
Meredith and Cathy Johnson-Delaney
Tail Feathers Forum
The African Grey Parrot Handbook
- Mattie Sue
- Gayle Souck
The Second Hand Parrot
- Mattie Sue
The Parrot Problem Solver
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to
provide helpful service to you and your pet. If you have any
questions, give us a call at 847-329-8709.
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