How to Take Care of Parrots

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Parrots live in flocks and communicate through squawks, screeches and screams.
Parrots live in flocks and communicate through squawks, screeches and screams. (Image: f9photos/iStock/Getty Images)

Famous for their bright plumage and playful, social natures, members of the parrot family include parakeets, macaws, lovebirds, cockatoos, lorikeets and keas. Parrots are characterized by their curved beaks; their diet of nuts, fruit, insects and seeds; and their zygodactyl feet -- they have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backward. Good accommodation and daily interaction with humans are two basics of parrot care. Parrot cages should receive natural light but not direct sunlight, and should be placed next to a wall in a room that the family frequents, such as the living room. Most parrots require room temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Things You'll Need

  • Bird cage liners, newspapers, wood shavings, sand or peat
  • Clean dishcloth
  • Household detergent
  • Stainless steel water dish and food dish
  • Parrot pellets and fresh food suitable for parrots
  • Household disinfectant
  • Fine mist sprayer
  • Wide, shallow bowl
  • Parrot toys
  • Natural wood perches

Ensure that your cage is large enough. Parrot cages should be twice as wide as a bird's wingspan, and one and a half times as tall as the birds' height from head to tail tip. That's a minimum for one bird; add 50 percent for additional birds. In the interests of your parrots' health and happiness, you should buy the largest cages you can afford.

Remove soiled parrot cage linings every day. Wipe the cage bases with a clean, damp dishcloth to remove any dust. Place clean cage liners or newspaper in cages, or spread fresh wood shavings, sand or peat.

Fill parrot water bowls with cool, fresh water for drinking twice daily. Stainless steel bowls are the most hygienic and durable. Place bowls where they won't be contaminated by droppings. Wash the bowls daily in hot, soapy water; rinse them thoroughly with clean water before filling them.

Feed parrots specialized pellets and fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Some parrots also like to nibble on grubs, soil and clay. Vary parrots' diets as much as possible, and seek your avian veterinarian's input. Remove old food, wash stainless steel food bowls and refill them with fresh parrot food at least once a day.

Let your parrots exercise daily. Close all doors and windows, cover fireplaces and any other means of escape, cover mirrors and turn off ceiling fans so the room is completely safe and secure. Warn other household members not to enter the room. Open the parrot cage doors and allow the parrots to come out and exercise for at least an hour a day.

Also, provide toys in the cage for mental stimulation. Parrots enjoy climbing cotton ropes and wooden climbing frames, and they like to tinker with trinkets. Check cotton ropes regularly for loose fibers that could trap parrots' feet.

Spend one-to-one time with parrots for at least an hour every day, talking to them, carrying them around and otherwise interacting with them. This is not the same as exercise time.

Mist your parrots gently daily with clean water in a fine mist sprayer, or place a wide, shallow basin of clean water in their cages so they can bathe.

Examine your parrots every day for signs of disease. Some symptoms are loose droppings, resting their heads on their wings, fluffed-up feathers, heavy breathing, nostril discharge and thin breastbones. Take your parrots to a specialist bird veterinarian if they show signs of ill health.

Remove parrot toys and replace them with different toys two or three times a week. Wipe the removed toys with a cloth dipped in a solution of 1 part household disinfectant and 9 parts water, and rinse them thoroughly in clean water.

Change parrot perches every two or three weeks, replacing them with natural wood perches such as fruit tree or sycamore branches large enough for them to grip without their toes meeting.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some foods parrots love include seeds such as canary, hemp, safflower, sunflower and mixed millet; and wheat, oats, buckwheat and other grains. Parrots also enjoy sprouted seeds and toast that's dipped lightly in honey as an occasional treat. Some suitable vegetables are celery, carrots, beetroot, spinach, beans and peas. Macaws and other large parrots should have access to nuts year round.
  • Don't place parrot cages in or near kitchens -- fumes from coated cookware can be toxic to birds.
  • Don't allow smoking in the same house as parrots, and never expose them to smoke from candles, incense or other sources.
  • Don't place parrots' water or food dishes on the bottom of their cages -- parrots view this as the toilet area.
  • Don't feed parrots avocado, which is poisonous to birds. Other toxic substances are chocolate, alcohol and caffeine.

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