Parrots are smart, colorful, funny birds that are often seen as charming pets. It seems that at every corner, a pet birdie is causing a laugh as they mimic some person or even adorably giving a greeting or a farewell to someone. It is easy to see why people love pet parrots. But do these birds make good pets?
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Are parrots Good Pets?
Parrots are good pets. Parrots are gentle, social, playful, and easily trainable birds that can provide companionship and good memories for nearly your entire life. Parrots make a perfect pet choice for apartment living or small living spaces. However, parrots are messy, noisy, dangerous, and have delicate health.
And not all parrots can talk, by the way.
Reasons why Parrots Make Good Pets
They are fun and entertaining
Most people know that parrots can learn to speak with a tone similar to human beings. Parrots also do tricks and can be easily trained using rewards such as treats.
In addition, you can binge-watch your favorite shows with your pet parrot and these memories will be ones you both treasure for a long time (pet parrots have a long memory).
Great for small living spaces
Parrots are great if you’re living in apartments. You don’t need a backyard or extra space to put up your pet parrot. You can just demarcate a space for him in your apartment.
Many apartments allow birds as pets even as they prohibit other pets like cats and dogs. So, if you’re thinking of relocating at any time, that could be a perk of having a pet parrot – rather than a cat or a dog, just saying.
Low cost of food
Birds will not eat like some of the larger pets out there and, hence, you may expect the cost of food to be significantly lower.
Reasons why Parrots are not the Greatest Pets
If you’re considering getting a parrot for the novelty of getting a talking pet, don’t.
Parrot rescue organizations are full of pets returned by owners who got too over their heads. Taking care of parrots is challenging and not all parrots talk.
Here are some other things you’ll want to keep in mind:
Parrots are Noisy
Parrots squawk loudly every so often. This can be a problem if you have roommates or live in a closely-knit neighborhood.
The squawking may be too much for strangers or friends visiting over if they’re not used to it.
Generally, parrots are smart and they will squawk when they need something, most likely food. Other times they will squawk because they are unhappy.
But other times, parrots will squawk for no apparent reason. The only way to break this habit seems to be ignoring it for a while.
Not all Parrots talk
Will your parrot learn your favorite phrase or whistle along to your favorite song? Maybe, but we can’t always be sure.
Not all parrots talk, and even those who talk ‘on paper’ will not necessarily take to your training.
In other cases, the parrot may learn something totally unexpected, for instance, a doorbell ring, a phrase you utter in frustration or something weird someone else says.
I think it’s quite funny but this unpredictability is not for everybody; some people prefer to teach their parrots specific things.
Parrots Bite Hard
Parrots are known to bite hard into fingers extending into their cages. Not a good thing when all your kid wants is to play with your pet parrot.
The parrot may also bite you if you make threatening gestures at him/her such as bowing or extending out a finger in greeting.
And it’s not that parrots are highly aggressive or particularly angry birds.
The truth is that parrots are wild birds which have been tamed into captivity – you wouldn’t blame them for going primal every so often.
Some are these bites are not nicks; some may require medical attention. Remember that some of these parrots have beaks made for breaking nuts.
So, you need to ensure your safety and that of your family when you have a parrot as a pet.
Parrots are Messy
One of the good things about having a relatively small bird as a pet is that they don’t eat too much. However, parrots will drop or scatter as much food as they put in their tummies, sometimes even more.
That means that sometimes you’ll be buying food that just ends up uneaten and as just waste, you’ll have to cleanout.
Also, the idea of fun for parrots is destroying stuff. They will wreak toys on the regular and this is normal behavior. And if you leave your parrot at home uncaged, he can really do damage to things in your apartment.
Parrots have delicate health issues
Birds in general have unique health issues. You may need to look for a vet who specializes in avian ailments to get proper medical attention for your pet parrot.
In addition, parrots tend to have delicate respiratory systems that can be compromised by fumes in the air.
It is for this reason that pet parrot owners should never keep them in the kitchen where fumes are common.
Also, using aerosols around the pet parrot is potentially harmful to the parrot’s health.
Dust is also bad for parrots and that then means regular cleaning of the area around the parrot’s space.
It is recommended that bird cages be cleaned and disinfected on a weekly basis.
Based on this, you may need to make a few changes in your life, for instance, the air freshener you use, the layout of your home, and your daily chores, etc.
Parrots are sometimes self-destructive
Angry parrots can wreak a lot of havoc –sometimes on themselves. Irritated parrots sometimes pluck their own feathers down to their skin.
This is tough to watch, honestly. Secretly, I think that they’re denying us the joy of those colorful feathers, but that’s just my opinion.
Experts tell us that parrots pluck their feathers for a variety of reasons such as:
- Health reasons – Parasites, infectious ailments, dermatitis, hormonal imbalance, nutrient deficiency, general illness, and serious diseases such as cancer.
- Behavioral reasons – Fear, boredom, and jealousy.
- Environmental reasons – Allergies, toxins, general itchiness, and changing their environment.
If behavioral factors are the cause, you can try to stimulate the parrot with puzzle toys that hide food inside, small amounts of food hidden in different locations (encourages foraging), start a training exercise.
Parrots are only once or twice (generation-wise) removed from their wild environment where they typically can roam as far and wide as they’d like, so being stuck in a cage for a majority of the day could bore them.
On that note, it’s important to let out your parrot sometime during the day for play and better human interaction.
If the feather plucking is not caused by behavioral reasons, then you need to see a vet as soon as possible.
Deciding on the Right Parrot for You
The good news is that there is a good variety of parrots to choose from. So, you can pick a pet parrot that fits your personality and lifestyle. Here are a few options:
|Name||Size & Normal Appearance||Talking ability||Personality/Perks||Shortcomings|
|Quaker/monk parakeet||Small-sized, green and gray appearance but brightly colored||Quakers can hold their own in talking contests, even between their larger relatives.||Quaker birds are first in this list for a reason – they’re my favorite. These feathered gems are very social and they bond with their owners pretty easily. After that, they can be very territorial. They have the time of their lives clowning about and perching on any ledges and shoulders. When they’re excited, they’ll bob and shake in a manner that only Quakers can do. Actually, the name ‘Quakers’ is often believed to come from these funny movements that they make. F.Y.I Quaking doesn’t always mean they’re excited. Sometimes they’re angry or hungry, so don’t just tease them along as this may irritate them even more – it could be fun to watch but not fun for them.||Quakers are needy and have been known to cause a fracas when they’re ignored. Quakers are prohibited in several states. According to the Quaker Parakeet Society (QPS), these states include Connecticut, Hawaii, Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Maine, and Wyoming. In New Jersey, a permit is issued.|
|Cockatiels||Small-sized, crested, and gray parrot from the down under (Australia) YellowheadRed ear patches. Heavy beak meant to crack nuts.||A few can talk; most prefer to whistle.||The most common kind of parrot in the United States. Here’s why: Gentle, affectionate, and cuddly temperament. They love snuggling with their human companions and posing from shoulders. Can learn tricks such as whistling and waving. Thanks to the incredible work done by breeders, cockatiels come in a wide variety of beautiful colors. A few of these color variations include: Albino – has no feather pigments.Pied – Instead of wild cockatiel colors, this parrot has an off-white or yellow color.Lutino – This cockatiel has a yellow mask, orange cheeks, and red eyes.Pearl, laced, or opaline – This cockatiel has color spots on the feathers that seem like tiny pearls.Cinnamon, fawn, or Isabelle – This cockatiel has gray feathers and a warm tan colored appearance.||Cockatiels may have the occasional night-fright where they whip around the cage in fear.|
|Amazon Parrots double-yellow headed AmazonYellow-headed AmazonBlue-fronted AmazonLilac-crowned AmazonWhite-fronted Amazonyellow-naped AmazonMealy AmazonOrange-winged Amazon||Medium-sized chunky parrots with a slightly stable looking crown feather and a short, squared tail.||One of the best talkers in the parrot family. They love singing although they may go off-key sometimes – but they don’t care.||They love to play. They will swing upside down in the cage and have fun playing with wooden toys and wresting your hand with their beaks. Their mood is easy to read from their expressive body language which included fanned tail feathers, raised head and neck feathers, and pining eyes among others. We’ll talk about parrot behaviors shortly.||Amazon parrots are usually pricey. Males are often more aggressive than females, particularly among the double-yellow headed, yellow-naped, and Blue-fronted species.|
|The Budgerigar, also known as “the budgie” or the parakeet||Small size, slender body, and a long tapering tail.||Good talkers||This type of parrot is regarded as a gateway into bird pets, which means they’re great for beginners. Parakeets are gentle and pretty tame in general.||Budgies go well in pairs but then if they bond with each other, you, as the owner, might be the third wheel in that relationship.|
If you have a family with kids, you’ll want to choose those parrot species that go well with kids; cute, gentle, calm, and relatively quieter parrots are great. The above four parrot species fall in that category.
The smaller-sized birds require delicate handling and that is something you’ll probably have to show your kids in case the fun gets out of hand.
Here are two more species that are also good with kids:
1. Meyer’s Parrots
Meyer’s parrots are great choices for homes with children. They are calm, gentle, and with interesting personalities.
Meyer’s parrots will entertain your kids with acrobatics and antics. Great for families living in apartments too (they make little noise as compared to other parrot species). They are also small, so best to handle them with care.
2. The Pionus
The Pionus is also another option for a family household. Pionus are not as flashy as most other parrots you’ll see out there.
But they make up for that in personality: pionus have dignified personalities and are often described as sweet.
A shortcoming of the Pionus is the musky odor that they have. They also produce significantly more dust and dander than most parrots.
Therefore, Pionus parrots may not be the best choice to have around people with allergies
Ultimately, remember that even though these four parrots are good choices for kids, they’re still a lot of work – like all other parrots.
They are also a life-long commitment. So, unless your kids are very interested in having and caring for a parrot, it may be best to go with another pet.
- It’s always tough to know for sure which pet parrot will take well to you much less your home environment. To help with this uncertainty, I think it can help to volunteer at a local Parrot Rescue for a while. You’ll get to know many different varieties of pet parrots while providing care to these adorable little birds. Once you’ve bonded with one or more pet parrots and know exactly how to care for them, you can proceed to start the process of adopting them.
- Generally, smaller-sized parrots are said to make better pets as opposed to larger-sized parrots. This is because the smaller-sized parrots are more low-maintenance; they can be left alone for longer periods, are easily charmed/entertained, and they required less-defined diets.
- When you’re looking for a good store to get a pet parrot, do your research. Some pet stores simply don’t care about the welfare of the pets and it’s unfortunate. These stores will ‘mass-produce’ birds as though they are inanimate products. Their goal is to sell the ‘stock’ as fast as possible.
As a result, the parrot you choose may not be socialized and may have behavioral issues in the future.
A bird breeder that sells healthy, well-socialized parrots is the best place to find your feathered partner.
Understanding Your Pet parrot’s Behaviors
Human-bird communication is a fickle subject. It’s difficult to say for certain what’s going on inside a parrot’s tiny head.
And this is part of the reason why parrots tend to get dangerous; confusion in communication irritates and they lash out.
But, after observing parrots for a good amount of time, bird specialists have compiled the following behaviors and their respective meanings.
- Upright stance and smoothed feathers – Wary or frightened.
- Slightly ruffled feathers – Excitement.
- Sitting on one foot with the feathers puffed out – Possibly sick.
- Feathers stuck out as far as possible – Courting or ready to pounce (fight).
- Slightly wagging the tail feather – Happy
- Stretching out each wing, one after the other – Happy.
- Wiggling tongue or moving beak up and down – a sign of approval (“I see something I like”).
Caring for a Pet Parrot
Buy your pet parrot some toys.
Toys toys toys! Your parrot will need an abundant supply of toys. In the wild, parrots have a natural tendency to chew and shred food and other objects that they find, and this keeps their minds active and their beaks healthy.
So, in our human world, we need to provide items to fill in that need for our pet parrots.
Don’t get frustrated when your pet parrot chews through a new toy in a matter of weeks. Buy some more. If it’s not the toy he’s chewing on, it’s your furniture – you decide!
Here are some pointers on the criteria for choosing toys for pet parrots:
- Small and/or lightweight toys, as well as mirrors, are great for small parrots.
- Larger parrots love playing with their beaks, tongues, and feet. Therefore, thicker toy pieces are great for them.
Important: Check the toys regularly for any breakages or cracks; a toy that is damaged and has serrated edges can injure your parrot. Therefore, take these toys out and switch them with a new one as soon as possible.
Make a castle fit for a king – or queen!
Don’t just dump some toys into the parrot nest and call it done. Environmental enrichment is a crucial thing.
Remember that wild parrots spend at least 80% of their day foraging and interacting in the natural environment.
Hence, the cage layout and placement of the toys need to be just as engaging. By the way, if your space can accommodate a larger-sized cage, go for it.
There’s no overdoing this: more space means more area for you to enrich your parrot’s experience. Put some creativity into it. Your pet parrot will love it.
TIP: What is the ideal size for a parrot cage? A parrot’s home depends on the budget that you have and the size of the parrot. Generally, the larger the parrot the larger the home will be, obviously.
But according to Dr. Sheridan Lathe, vet and parrot owner, the bare minimum for a parrot’s home should allow enough room for your parrot to flap the wings with ease, spin in a circle without the tails touching the edges of the cage, and a high enough length to allow the parrot to climb up the cage.
If you’re going to purchase your parrot’s home and need some definite measurements, here they are:
- Minimum: 24″ W x 24″ H x 24″ D for smaller parrots
- Minimum: 5 ft W x 6 ft H x 3½ ft D for larger parrots
Remember that no matter how fancy you make your parrot’s home, your parrot needs some time out of it each day.
Regulate the temperatures in your home
Birds are pretty flexible when it comes to temperature range. Nonetheless, for parrots, ideal temperatures range from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Avoid reducing the thermostat in cold winter nights and never leave your parrot in a chilly environment.
Temperatures under 40 degrees can be catastrophic to birds, especially the small ones.
In case you need higher temperatures yourself, ensure that there is good air circulation in the room.
Regular Medical Check-ups
Parrots tend to hide their ailments pretty well and by the time you’re rushing them to the vet, the situation could be really serious. Signs that your parrot could be sick include the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Receding, malformed, or ulcerated beak
- Stains around the nostrils or the eyes.
- Swollen eyes or eyelids.
- Change in the texture or appearance of the stool.
- Weight loss and/or loss of appetite.
- Feather problems such as plucking, thinning, or chewing.
- Bowed head, overly quiet, and a lethargic appearance.
Incidentally, annual check-ups are so important.
These average vet check-up could cost from $85 upward and certain tests, such as blood work, could cost about $300, according to parrot owner John Buginas.
What do parrots eat?
Parrots will require formulated pellet that contains their specific dietary requirements.
Sometimes, the run-of-the-mill bird feed may not cut it since it may not contain all the nutrients that your growing parrot needs.
Even with the formulate pellet with the necessary requirements, it never hurts to supplement your parrot’s diet with some juicy fruits and nutritious veggies.
I know I said “supplement”, but the fruits and veggies should be the higher percentage (like 80%).
You always want to rely on natural sources of nutrients for your parrot. Nonetheless, you should limit the amount of fruit because the sugar content in fruits is usually high.
Nuts and seeds are often fed as treats, and that means that they should comprise only a small percentage of your parrot’s diet, perhaps like a maximum of 10% in the daily feed and fed once in a while. These estimates are derived from Dr. Sheridan, by the way.
How much food do parrots eat?
Medium-size parrots should be fed food and water container of least 20 ounces, and larger birds at least 30 ounces.
Smaller-sized (for instance cockatiels) and weaned parrots have higher metabolisms and they require extra amounts of food so that they supplement their energies.
Water containers for your pet parrot should be large enough that your parrot can bathe in it. If your parrot bathes in the water and then drinks it, that’s perfectly fine.
The lifespan of a Parrot
Parrots can live for a really long time. It is not uncommon for parrots to live up to 70 years!
Generally, smaller-sized parrots such as cockatiels, parrotlets, and quakers may live for about 20-30 years.
Other larger-sized parrots such as macaws, amazons, and African grey parrots can live for up to 80 years old.
Fun fact: According to the Telegraph, the honor of the oldest pet parrot ever goes to an African Gray charmer known as “Tarbu”. Tarbu grew to be 55 years old and brought so much joy to the family of Nina and Peter Morgan in England.
If you get a young Macaw or African Grey Parrot at, say, age 30, the parrot may very well outlive you. This is not necessarily a bad thing – parrots are companion pets that will stay and bond with you for the long haul.
Nonetheless, like every lifetime relationship, you’ll want to think over the decision because you’re making a life-long commitment with this pet.
If you still want a parrot but not for a lifetime, go for species such as the budgie which has a lifespan of up to 10 years.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are parrots friendly?
Parrots are friendly if they have been well socialized and properly cared for. They can be outgoing, confident, and charming companions wherever they are.
Why parrots are not good pets?
Parrots are not good pets because they make loud shrieking noises, are messy, can be dangerous with their bite, and have delicate health. Meanwhile, though parrots are known to talk, not all parrots talk.
What is the best parrot to have as a pet?
The best parrot to have as a pet is the cockatiel. Cockatiels are gentle, cheeky, and compassionate parrots that bond easily with people.
Are parrots dangerous?
Parrots are dangerous if they are irritated for some reason or are facing stress due to environmental or personal issues. For instance, a parrot can bite you hard when he is frustrated with you. In other cases, personal stresses may make a parrot pluck off his feathers.
How do you tell if a parrot likes you?
You can tell if a parrot likes you if he is calm around you and adopts one of those “happy behaviors” such as slightly wagging the tail feather, wiggling his tongue and shifting the beak up and down, and stretching each wing far out one at a time, among others.
What does it mean when a parrot moves side to side?
When a parrot moves side to side, it may that the parrot if overjoyed to see you or he is getting ready to poo.
Is it good to have a bird as a pet?
It is good to have a bird as a pet – as long as you provide sufficient care. For instance, parrots love to be in wild environments where they can be active and fly to different areas.
Therefore, when you have a parrot as a pet, it is important to provide as much stimulation as you can, in the form of toys and a large enticing cage environment.
What do parrots eat?
You should limit the amount of fruit because the sugar content in fruits is usually high.
Some parrots enjoy cracking nuts such as macadamias, pecans, and pistachios to eat the meaty insides of those nuts.
Parrots should never eat salty or sugary snacks, greasy foods, alcohol, caffeine, cabbage, asparagus, eggplant, honey, rhubarb leaves, raw or dry beans, chocolate, avocado, or onions.
Let’s face it, parrots can be a lot of work. They are adorable and fun to have around, but they need proper attention and can be pretty noisy and messy.
Most parrots live long lives. To be honest, I’m still not sure if this is a bad thing – a pet that lives longer? Who would hate that? But I understand that people live busy lives and these lives can change pretty often. If a life-long commitment seems like too much for you, it is fine. Nothing wrong with that.
You can still interact with the lovely parrots at parrot rescues. You can get to know them and perhaps one day when you’re ready, you can consider adopting a parrot rescue that you’ve bonded with.