In case you want to keep a bird as a pet and you aren’t sure where to begin, we have pulled together the best basic information to help you get started. If you are looking to raise birds for eggs or meat, we recommend you head right over to our backyard poultry articles for the best information for your needs.
Read on for some great information about caring for parrots!
Nutrition is the most important part of a bird’s life; it impacts their health, longevity, appearance, and behavior. In the wild, parrots (psittacines) usually balance their diets by eating a variety of food like seeds, grasses, nuts, flowers, fruits, insects, etc. Back in the day, the only commercially available diets for pet birds were seeds. Unfortunately, commonly fed seeds are deficient in several nutrients, and feeding primarily seeds is not nutritionally adequate. The primary issue of concern is that seeds do not contain the proper vitamins and minerals birds need to stay healthy. If we don’t feed a balanced diet, they can develop nutritional deficiencies. For more information about feeding pet birds, read our article about nutrition for this group.
What can you do?
- Feed a healthy base diet – this will be the main meal that you would offer every day. We recommend a high-quality formulated food. Pellet diets are a good base diet, and they come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. There are also seed cakes and seed balls that are well balanced and often help transition from a primary seed diet to pellets.
- Offer snacks daily- they help diversify their diet, and it’s also fun and healthy for them to eat a wide variety of foods. Fruits and veggies make a great daily snack. You can also offer nuts and whole-grain products.
- Supplement calcium- this mineral is an essential part of their diets; Birds need calcium for healthy bones and egg-laying. You can offer them dark, leafy greens, hard-boiled or scrambled eggs with the shell. For smaller birds, you can place a cuttlebone in their cage.
- Freshwater should always be available. Also remember to clean the water and food containers daily.
- When in doubt, check with your veterinarian! We can help you find one on our Find A Vet page!
Bird cages come in many sizes, colors, and materials. The most important thing when choosing a cage is the size. Always make sure it’s big enough for the type of bird you are getting, a bird should have the largest housing possible. For smaller birds like budgies, canaries, and lovebirds, choose a square or rectangular cage with a horizontal landscape. Always take into consideration the addition of perches and toys; Too many toys and perches where they can’t move properly increases the chance of injury. For more information, check out our pet bird housing article!
Remember to clean the cage frequently! We recommend you change the paper bedding daily or every other day to avoid too much build-up. And clean the cage thoroughly at least twice a month.
While interaction with family members is an essential part of their lives, sleep is too! Healthy sleep habits have a significant impact on your parrot’s psychological well-being. If they live in a room in which lights and conversation occur past dusk, a separate cage should be placed in a quiet part of the house for sleeping. If you choose to have a nighttime cage, it does not have to be very spacious, but it should have some food and water. On most days, they should be allowed sleep time that corresponds to the number of nighttime hours. Your bird might also benefit from a cage cover for stress-free sleeping. Covers help reduce noise and light stimulation. You can use a dark-colored blanket or towel, or purchase a cover from a pet supply store.
One of the best enrichment activities you can do for your parrot is foraging activities. In the wild, parrots spend most of their time searching for and finding food. While they’re in captivity, that is not possible unless we encourage this natural behavior by using toys, puzzles, and even hiding their food. Foraging behavior is important because it provides them with mental and physical stimulation.
If you want more enrichment tips read this article.
Find a veterinarian
All pet birds should see an avian veterinarian at least once a year for a wellness exam. Yearly exams are essential because the veterinarian will assess your birds general health, screen for possible illnesses and also let you know if there’s anything your pet bird might need like grooming (nail trim, beak trim, etc.). You can also bring up any health and husbandry related questions about your pet to your veterinarian. Like we mentioned above, we are here to help you find a veterinarian! Try our Find A Vet page or check out the Association for Avian Veterinarians (AAV.org) website.
Pro tip: always transport your bird in a travel carrier that’s appropriate to their size. You can modify the carrier by attaching a wooden dowel or branch across the bottom of the carrier as a perch.
Check out our other pet bird care and health articles and check back for new articles regularly! Should you have any specific questions, we are here to find you answers. Use our “Ask a Question” feature to let us know what’s on your mind.