Parronting: What to expect when you’re expecting a pet bird

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 | 2 Comments »
Tags: , | Categories: Kelsey, Personal Posts |

kelseyatplayMeet Kelsey. He was born on September 9th, 2008.  What turned out to be a one-time visit on a November afternoon last year turned into commitment when I spotted three beautiful African red-bellied parrots (poicephalus rufiventris) on display at the Ko’olau Pet Shop.  Three years ago, my pet bird of 9 years passed away, and I had only just begun to forget her when I entered that shop.  I hadn’t intended on owning another parrot right then, but when I saw them, I was drawn.

As it turned out, three babies had just hatched in September and the pet shop was finishing up on their hand-feeding and weaning.  As soon as I could, I put down a deposit on one of them.   Thus began the weekly visits.  By the end of November I had chosen Kelsey, and by the end of December he was ready to go home.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t know a lot about birds when I had my previous bird (the lovely Baby, who will always be in my heart); I never really learned, since I was so young when my dad bought her for me, and then became busy with middle school and high school.  When I knew I was about to take Kelsey home, I resolved to learn as much as I could about how to take proper care of parrot.

Being a parront, as many parrot-owners name themselves, is not easy.  Any experienced parront will tell you this.  So here are a few must-knows for anyone who’s thinking of adding a parrot to their family:

  • Not all parrots talk.  Even the breeds who are famous for talking don’t always talk.  It depends on the parrot, and potential parronts must be ready to love the parrot whether he talks or not.  It’s sad to see so many birds abandoned because the owner lost interest in a non-talking bird.  Parrots are bundles of joy and humor even without the talking ability!  Kelsey now says a few phrases (peek-a-boo, very goood!, I see yooou, goodboy, his name, and lots of kissy noises), but even when he didn’t he was constantly amusing us with his flips and hops and waddling walk.
  • Parrots are expensive.  And not just the bird itself.  In order to be happy, the parrot will require a healthy, varied diet; lots of toys, both destructible and not; more toys, a large, well-constructed cage; and even more toys.  Parrots  are easily bored, so to ensure your parrot is happy, you must provide him with new toys every once in a while.  They also tend to destroy their toys, so they’ll have to be replaced.  Not to mention vet bills.
  • Parrots are time-consuming.  A happy parrot is a parrot who has a lot of time to interact with you and your family.  This means at least a couple of hours of interaction a day.  I spend breakfasts and some lunches in front of Kelsey’s cage, so he can watch me eat and talk at me.  When I’m at home in the evenings, I give him head scratches as he plays on my lap, watches tv on my shoulder, or runs around on top the couch making animal noises.
  • Parrots are messy.  If you give Kelsey anything that’s slightly moist to eat, he’ll hold it in his beak and try to shake off the moisture–and get juices or water or bits of food all over his cage, the floor, the furniture, sometimes even in my face and hair.  Sometimes he poops in his water cup.  Most of the time he splashes around in his water cup or upends it with his beak, getting the cage lining and everything within a1-foot radius of his cage all wet.  Or he tosses his food out of the container.  Also, parrots poop.  Everywhere.
  • Parrots hurt.  Kelsey has really sharp, pointy toenails that, when unclipped, gouge thin strips of skin off of my fingers, arms, and shoulders.  They need to be clipped too often, and he really hates it when I clip them, so most of the time I just have to suffer quietly.  Plus, occasionally he’ll nip, just to test me.  All parrots will nip on occasion, though they usually only bite when threatened.  Any parront must come to terms with the fact that ouchies will occur, and be able to forgive the bird for them.  Remember, birds can’t communicate they way we do, so they have to resort to communication methods that work XD!  How to differentiate between a nip and a bite: a nip hurts, but only momentarily; a bite draws enough blood to make you notice.
  • Parrots deserve quality of life, too! This goes for all pets, actually, but it is even more important to make sure your parrot has quality of life because his health could suffer if he doesn’t.  Because parrots are so intelligant (they are said to have the mental capacity of a human toddler), they are prone to mental illnesses just like us humans are.  They can become depressed.  They can self-mutilate.  I’ve heard many cases in which parrots bit themselves or plucked all their feathers or refused to eat, just because their owners were neglecting them.   This is why it’s so important to make sure your bird has a varied diet, lots of stimulation, and lots of love.  Research to see how much space your particular breed needs, what kinds of foods are good or not good for them to eat, and what kinds of activities they will enjoy.

Kelsey will probably live to be at least 30 if I take good care of him, and there are some parrots who live to be 100 years old.  Welcoming a parrot into your family is a big commitment, but one that will bring endless joy.  There’s nothing more wonderful than coming home to a happy, healthy bird who loves you.

Peek-A-Boo, Kelsey!

Kelsey looks up for the camera

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