“She was not quite what you would call refined. She was not quite what you would call unrefined. She was the kind of person that keeps a parrot.”
– Mark Twain
Sharing your life with a companion parrot can be one of the most rewarding, and touching experiences you can ever encounter. It can also be one of the most challenging, and at times, frustrating experiences.
If you decide to keep a parrot – or parrots – there are several questions you should first ask yourself, and if your answer to all these questions is not “yes”, you should seriously reconsider involving yourself with a parrot:
Will you love and care for your bird regardless of whether or not it ever learns to talk “human?” Although many parrots will learn human speech, many do not choose to talk “human.” They will often imitate many household sounds, but there is not even a guarantee of that. If you have to have a talking bird, buy one of those robot birds at Toys’r’Us and leave living birds to those of us who appreciate them for what they are, not what we would like them to be.
Are you afraid of being bitten? Don’t ask for a bird that “doesn’t bite.” Although you should make every effort to train your bird not to bite – and make every effort not to engage in behaviors that may encourage biting – if you can’t accept the fact you’ll get bitten occasionally, go buy a stuffed toy bird.
Can you make a lifetime commitment? Some larger parrots can live to 75 years old. They grow very attached to their humans and many suffer emotional trauma when a loved human dies or decides to sell or give away a feathered friend.
Are you willing to play with your bird regularly? Birds, particularly parrots, suffer if you leave them in their cages all day. They need stimulation and affection, at the very, very minimum, one hour a day in direct physical contact with a human.
Can you live in a house without Martha Stewart standards? Birds are very messy; sharing your life with them requires more cleaning time that often results in a house still messier than it used to be.
If you are a smoker, will you seriously consider quitting? Birds breathe much more efficiently than humans, so secondhand smoke is even deadlier to parrots. They also absorb tar and nicotine from your fingers through their feet when handled.
Will you be willing to change your lifestyle radically? Parrots can die from exposure to fumes from non-stick cookware, aerosol sprays, ceramic heaters, incense, household cleansers, even coffee makers. Use them, you could lose your parrot.
Are you willing to spend upwards of $3,500 (Cdn) per year for food, proper medical care, bird sitting/boarding fees and toys to keep your bird happy? As noted above, they need stimulation; they also require proper nutrition and regular medical check-ups.
Are you willing to actively participate in ongoing education about parrot health and behavior issues? We gain new knowledge about parrots every year, and if you want to ensure a happy, healthy life for you and your parrot, you need to make a real commitment to constantly re-educate yourself about issues of concern regarding companion parrots.
Again, if there is any hesitation about answering “yes” to all these questions, a parrot may not be the best pet for you. Chances are, if you ‘re not willing to do this for any pet, you’re probably better off getting yourself a pet rock. Any responsible pet owner knows how much work cats, dogs and even fish can be. It is a real myth that birds require any less care than other pets. If anything, they are more high-maintenance than many cats and dogs.