It never ceases to amaze me how many people approach me when I am out and about with my 12-year-old Umbrella Cockatoo who begin with, “I used to have an (insert type of parrot here) but I had to get rid of it because (insert excuse here).” I’ve heard every excuse in the book of why a person has had to “get rid of” their parrot as if the parrot were some throwaway object that didn’t matter much.
Every time some stranger feels the need to fill me in on their gross irresponsibility, I get a pit the size of Texas in the bottom of my stomach. They can give me any excuse they like but I know the truth. The truth is, they simply didn’t know what they were getting into and it was easier to let someone else deal with their “problem.”
So now the truth. Parrot ownership is hard. Parrots are loud, messy, moody, and at times unpredictable. They need special toys, special care, and a lot of interaction. Not to mention the fact that they live extremely long lives! What’s more, most people do not have any clue what they are taking on BEFORE they take it on. Once they get into the throws of parrot ownership they think, “Uh oh, what did I do?”
The result? Much like what we have seen happen with dogs and cats, we are now seeing with parrots. A lot of parrots, but few homes. Or we see parrots in their 20s who have been shuffled around from home to home most of their life because each time the new owner has no idea what they have gotten themselves into, or even how to handle or care for a parrot.
If you’re thinking of adding a companion parrot to your household, here are some things to think about BEFORE you bring it home.
Do you have the time to spend with your new companion?
Parrots are flock animals, YOU are their flock. Do you have the time that a companion parrot both needs and deserves?
Do you have the space to give it proper caging?
Parrots require as much space as you can give them. As big a cage, as you can house, that’s the size house they need.
Do you have the disposable income to buy them toys and proper food?
Toys can be expensive, but they are essential for the mental and physical well-being of your companion parrot. They also need essential nutrients found in specialized parrot food mixes, while food isn’t a make-or-break expense it is certainly something to add to the equation.
Do you have a plan for the parrot in the event your companionship does not work out?
Simply surrendering the parrot to your local bird outlet is neither fair to the parrot nor for that matter, very responsible behavior on your part! Hey, we’ve all had situations that just don’t work out, but deal with them like an adult and take responsibility for the situation.
Find the bird a good home. I received my Umbrella Cockatoo, Picasso, from a family that just couldn’t give him the attention he deserved. I did my research, I talked to dedicated parrot owners who gave me all the information I am giving to you right now. I knew what I was getting into and I did it with eyes wide open. That was 10 years ago and I and Picasso are still going strong. Good forever homes do exist, be responsible and find one.
Does your personality match the temperament of the parrot you are thinking about acquiring?
Different breeds have different temperaments. Cockatoos love to be petted and scratched and loved all up. We match. Amazons like to be talked to but do not particularly like to be touched. African Greys are very intelligent, they are estimated to have the intelligence of a five-year-old child. They can reason out that if they fall they could get hurt, and they tend to be a bit neurotic, does that fit your personality?
The bottom line is this. I am in no way telling you not to share your life with a parrot. Parrot companionship has been one of the most enjoyable relationships of my life. Parrots are just such little characters, and they are so funny and lovable, and cute. If you decide parrot ownership IS for you, don’t let a husband, a wife, girlfriend, or boyfriend come between you and your parrot! Give it the forever home it deserves and you will have a best friend for life.