So You Want a Parrot?
There is a lot more to consider than just pretty feathers.
Ever thought about getting a parrot? I didn't but here I am and I am going to give you the facts. Meet my feathered friend Poncho. He's beautiful, isn't he? Beware, though, because sometimes what you see is not what you get. There is a lot more to him than just a coat of colored feathers. This inquisitive creature is demanding, bossy, and very vocal. Before you make that decision to purchase a parrot, I would like to introduce you to my facts. Poncho was given to me roughly eight years ago by a friend of mine. I decided to meet this feathered mess on a trial basis; however, he eventually stole my heart. The most important thing to consider before you make that purchase should be, "Will this bird like me?" Poncho is a one person bird. I have been fortunate enough to be that one person. He will not bring himself to like anyone else and that, my friend, is one of the main reasons why most people will get rid of their birds. Do realize, though, you can't "HATE" them for it. It's just in their nature to do what they do so if they don't like you, you can't take it personally yet you can't punish them either. I am an avid animal lover so my animals regardless of any situation are my forever family. I am the one that makes the adjustment. How do you make it work? If you decide to keep it regardless of its desire to be with one person only, it's going to take some compromise between you and everyone in the household. You will have to set boundaries and you're going to have to set rules. My husband knows that if the doors are closed to the living room, Poncho is probably out and most likely on my shoulder so he knows that if he doesn't want to get attacked, he will have to ENTER WITH CAUTION.
How do you meet?
One of the reasons why I wanted a trial period was because I currently had another parrot; her name was Foster. I lost her roughly six months ago due to an illness but I wanted to make sure that these two would get along. At the time, he seemed shy but as I think back, it could have just been confusion with being placed in a new environment with people that he didn't even know. I had him on the porch the day after he arrived and he had that look of confusion in his eyes so I finally got up the nerve to open the door to his cage just to see what he would do. Granted, I really didn't expect him to come out right away so it startled me when he climbed out as quickly as his feathered body would let him and jumped right on my hand. My first reaction was, "My, what a big beak you have." This is where your other fear should come in. Did he bite me? No, not that day but believe me when I tell you, IT WILL HAPPEN. You do something that they don't like, YOU WILL GET BIT. If they aren't feeling good, YOU WILL GET BIT. If they are hormonal and molting and want to be left alone, YOU WILL GET BIT. Expect it because it will happen but again, you can't punish the bird for doing something that it didn't like so don't let it startle you when it does happen. Just let out that blood curdling scream and move on because it will happen again. EXPECT IT.
What about the diet?
Let's talk about diet. It can't be just seeds. Like us, parrots require a supplemental diet that includes protein, little carb, and little fat. Anyone can go into a pet store and buy bird seed but do know that seeds are high in fat and parrots require more. What do I do? Poncho gets a breakfast consisting of an hard boiled egg usually soaked in beet juice, some quinoa rice, and a lot of mixed fresh fruit and vegetables. Because of the sodium content in canned vegetables, he doesn't ever get those but frozen can be a good alternative. For dinner, he pretty much eats whatever is on my plate. Why, you ask? Parrots are flocked animals and guess what, your their flock so don't be surprised if your parrot starts screaming at you because you are eating in front of him and he is locked up. What do I do? Poncho knows that when I pull out the table tray, I am about to eat and he likes to sit on the outside edge. He gets his own plate. I then let him fill himself up and then I go back and fix mine. Do realize that they are also picky eaters. They won't always like what you give them. It will take some time to learn their likes and dislikes. Expect some food fights, food tosses, and attitudes when you try to get them to eat what you serve them. With time, you will figure it out but the main thing is to mix it up and sometimes you have to make them work for it. Foraging is a natural instinct to parrots so be creative. What does Poncho like? Eggs, salmon, turkey, chicken, snap peas, fresh raw green beans, bell peppers, corn on the cob, and pasta. He is not a fruit bird; however, I do give it to him daily in case he does want it because sometimes he does. Also know that there are some restrictions for birds as well. They can't have everything so do your research.
What about the bath?
Grooming is crucial to a bird so how do I make mine take a bath? My answer is, I don't. I don't spray my bird with a spray bottle nor do I force it to take a shower with me. This is an exotic bird with natural instincts so it will figure it out. I know when Poncho is ready. When it is just he and I, I usually just leave his cage door open and give him the option on whether he wants to come out on his own or not; however, when he is ready for a bath, he usually lets me know. Most of the time it is while I am in the kitchen doing dishes and when he is ready he will fly in and land on my shoulders and then flap his feathers aggressively, usually slapping me in the face. That is when I know that he is ready. I know what dish he likes to dip in and I also knows that he likes his bath water cold, fresh out of the refrigerator. This is where the inquisitive, cute side comes out in him. Each and every time that he goes in for the big birdy dive, he will dip his right foot into the water as if to test it for the right temperature but do know that he will not take a bath if it isn't the right dish or the right water. They are extremely smart and one thing you must know is that most parrots HATE change so try and keep it consistent and don't force it because that can bring out the fear in the bird.
What about the toys?
What about exercise? One of the things that I do for Poncho is not clip his wings. Flight should be a natural thing for a bird so all I can say is fly bird fly. It not only allows him the ability to get some exercise but it keeps his instincts intact. When he is not flying, one of his favorite toys is nothing more than a cardboard box. Parrots like to forage so this gives him the opportunity to tear things up without destroying furniture or anything else that seems valuable to you at the time. He has always been a curious bird so I constantly give him things that challenge him. A pen (with the ink taken out) will keep him entertained as well as a toothbrush or even a popsicle stick. A box of raisins or a ball with a bell in the middle of it will also entertain him for hours. I give him hand toys as well as hanging toys to stimulate his mind. He has always been a creature of habit, hates change, and pretty much is scared of everything so I try not to bring fear into his cage. I keep them outside and let him approach whenever he is ready.
What about bedtime?
Scheduling is important for a parrot. They actually need twelve hours of sleep a night but to be honest with you, this is where I fail as a parrot owner. Mine probably get nine, sometimes eight. He stays in the busiest room of the house, the living room, where there is a lot of activity and with activity brings noise, chaos, and everything else that comes with it. The one thing that I do make sure of is how mine do sleep. Believe it or not, Poncho is comfortable inside a dark cardboard box on a curled up old sheet with a stuffed duck. I don't cover him up nor do I move him to another room in the house. I want him to wake up in a familiar environment that won't cause a panic attack and believe me when I say, that noise will send you racing in so many different directions because a panicked bird sounds like a hurt bird and that is not a good feeling. He did used to sleep on a perch, covered, until I introduced him to the box on top of my recliner chair and one evening he fell asleep inside of it so instead of waking him up, I slept on the couch in case he woke up and when he never budged the whole entire night I decided to keep the box inside his cage as his comfort blanket and he has been sleeping inside of it every since.
Still haven't decided? First and foremost, I would do it again in a heartbeat. There are some pros and there are some cons. Each parrot is different, some love all and some love little. I find them all special in every feathered body that they possess. They are curious creatures and some aim to please. You will find some to be clowns while some aren't. Some like to be touched yet most don't. Some like to talk and some will scream until you want to claw your eyes out. In fact, they all yell. You, however, can't yell back. Parrots take patience and they trust beyond belief so once you break that trust, don't expect to get it back. They are screaming for a reason. It's your job to figure out why. Throw out the alarm clock, you will no longer need it. I haven't slept past dawn in years. They embrace schedules and routines. Yours no longer exist. You just need to adjust to them; however, they will love you unconditionally and will pay you back with every feathered love that they possess. With all of that said, if you do decide to buy one, I hope that you enjoy yours as much as I enjoyed mine. HAPPY PARROTING.