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Should You Get a Parrot? What I've Learned Living With a Double Yellow Headed Amazon
You've always thought it would be cool to own a parrot. You're thinking of getting one. But you have a few reservations. That's good. Reservations are good. Parrots are gorgeous, splendid birds. They're full of character and delightful to have. But taking care of a parrot is not easy. Trust me. We have a parrot, a gorgeous double yellow headed Amazon. They're not for everyone. Parrots are more like dogs than cats when it comes to care, and they're not at all like fish. It may be that buying a parrot will turn out to be the best thing you've ever done...or something you should think twice about.
How Much Do Parrots Cost Anyway?
Amazon parrot care is expensive, we learned early on. For a pet that just weighs a few ounces, parrots cost more money than you would think. Not just buying a parrot, but taking care of one. They don't eat much, and what they do eat doesn't cost a lot. But after the initial cost of the parrot (which can be considerable) you may end up shelling out more than you expected, between bird toys and avian vet bills. Decide how much money you're willing to invest.
Essential Parrot Supplies
Besides the usual parrot food, parrot toys, parrot cages, parrot perches and other parroty items, you'll need a healthy supply of:
- vacuum cleaner bags
- tolerant neighbors
- time to bond
- stainless steel cookware
- serious commitment
Parrot Noise Level
Think about how well you get along with your neighbors. Then think about how well you'll get along with them after your newly acquired parrot starts hollering and screeching in the morning.
Parrots are day birds - quiet when it's dark, perky during the day - and like to announce their awakening to the household. In a parrot-owned household, the noise level can get rather high. A parrot's screeching penetrates walls, drifts across the street, and can sometimes be heard halfway down the block.
Oh. And parrots wake up at dawn.
So That's Why They're Called Dirty Parrot Jokes
Decide how important cleanliness is to you really. Parrot poop is not the half of it. Picture a parrot who's used to eating by holding the food in one claw and picking at it with its beak, letting the crumbs and excess fall to the floor. Now picture your carpet. Evaluate how much pleasure you get from vacuuming.
In a similar vein, look at your windowsills, furniture, and fixtures and remember them fondly as they are now. For after buying a parrot, they will become chewed-up fragments of what they once were. Take photos of your still-pristine home interior in case anyone doubts, a year or two down the line, that one parrot can have done that much damage.
The parrot care guide you read may, or may not, tell you that your home will need some major repairs. I'm telling you now.
Parrots Talk, But...
Are you buying a parrot or inheriting one? Either way, you should determine if the parrot is a few years old or still very young. If older, then your new parrot may not be able to learn all those new words you wanted to teach it. Parrots learn most words in their first couple of years.
Word-wise, parrot behavior is not always pretty, and an older bird can come ready-made with a vocabulary. A vocabulary you didn't choose. Lest I'm not making myself clear, think of the proverbial salty sailor with a parrot on his shoulder. Does he A) discuss the best tea service to use for the Queen, or B) curse at the storm he sees on the horizon? You're bringing, not just a cockatoo or African Grey or Double Yellow-Headed Amazon, but a whole new vocabulary into your house.
Envision yourself with a parrot on your shoulder. Now envision yourself with a parrot who's upset, cranky, or suddenly frightened on your shoulder or on your child's shoulder. Picture a parrot whose beak can crack nuts instinctively striking out, not intending to hurt, but...well...parrots are not for petting, and if you touch a parrot regularly, a certain percentage of that time you will get stapled. And it hurts.
Parrot-caused injuries are not uncommon in a parrot-owned household. Buying a parrot means teaching everyone in the household the risks to their persons. Beak trimming helps, but doesn't get rid of the problem. And getting your parrot's claws and beak trimmed regularly by the vet can get expensive.
I found this book touching and engrossing. The author's depiction of her relationship with her African gray parrot was funny--and exciting as she won the bird's trust.
Parrots Are Social Birds
Yes, it's wonderful that parrots get along with people so well. But decide how much time you have. Parrots are intensely social birds. In the wild, parrots don't seclude themselves alone for any length of time, but instead hang out together all day. They're highly intelligent birds, and they tend to bond with one mate, and one person--and it's not necessarily the person who feeds them. If that person isn't around a lot of the time, or if they're alone much of the time, they get intensely unhappy.
Parrots need attention, or their health suffers. Buying a parrot means taking on a huge responsibility, not just for their physical needs, but for their social needs.
Taking care of a parrot means changing some of your lifestyle habits. Parrots are delicate, health-wise. They can't be exposed to chemical fumes, or they die--instantly.
That chemical used in steam-cleaning your carpet? Don't use it. Baking or cooking with a pan coated with non-stick surface? Don't do it. Got a new oven or appliance that's been treated with a coating that off-gasses when you turn it on the first time? Keep the parrot out of the home altogether until the fumes are entirely gone. Smoke? Keep it away from the parrot. Plan to fumigate the house at all? Keep the parrot away for a week. And certain foods, like chocolate and avocados, are poisonous to parrots. When birds get sick from being exposed to a toxin, you don't usually have time to get them to a vet.
A sick parrot requires special care from an avian vet. Most vets are not well trained in avian care. Our double yellow headed amazon has not gotten sick, luckily. Vets who specialize in birds may be hard to find in your area. Check first to make sure.
How Old Do Parrots Get?
Parrots live for a long, long time. Many decades, like humans. They form deep attachments and might
outlive you. They are not easy or ornamental birds. Parrots take
time, love, tolerance, patience, and a lot of care. Decide if you're ready for the commitment.
Parrots are wonderful. But they must be allowed to be part of the family. Many people buy parrots expecting them to be easy and need little maintenance, then find they have to get rid of the parrot soon after. This is sad for the parrot and sad for the people.