1. Consider the bird’s lifespan. Adopting a parrot is like adopting a 2 or 3-year-old toddler who will never grow up. Many parrots have long lifespans. Even small parrots can live 30 to 45 years. Larger parrots can live 70 to 90 years. How old are you? If you’re young, what are your future, lifetime plans and will a “permanent toddler” be in the picture? If you’re older, will your bird outlive you? If so, what provisions will you be able to make for your bird when you’re gone?
2. Parrots (like toddlers) require enormous amounts of attention and they are social creatures. What is your schedule? What are your other commitments? Do you have time to provide the emotional and physical stimuli he needs for an enriched and happy life?
3. Captive birds require clean environments. As well as providing emotional and physical enrichment, will you have time to thoroughly clean your bird’s cage and environment daily?
4. Birds require a varied, well balanced diet of specially formulated pellets, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a variety of healthy seeds. Will you have time to buy “bird groceries”? Fresh foods spoil quickly so uneaten food should be taken away as soon as your bird is finished with his meal. Birds need fresh water that may need replacing multiple times during the day. Will you be available to do those things?
5. Birds, like all companion animals, need regular veterinary care. Veterinary care is often expensive. Whether your bird is a budgie, or a large macaw, the fee for examinations, treatment, medications, surgery, etc. are the same. What is your financial situation? Can you afford general maintenance veterinary care, and can you afford to pay for a medical emergency if something should happen? Not all veterinarians will treat birds. Do you have an avian veterinarian near you? If not, are you willing to drive long distance for your bird’s care?
6. Parrots are notoriously noisy and even the smallest of parrots can have amazingly loud and boisterous and/or shrill screams. If a bird is not terribly loud, he may make repetitive and nerve wracking sounds. What is your “noise” tolerance and how patient are you? What is your neighbor’s noise tolerance?
7. Parrots not only love to chew things up and tear things apart, it’s their natural behavior. In the wild, they break open nuts and fruit, they build nests, and break off tree branches. Chewing also provides emotional and physical stimuli, and it is also a form of recreation and play. Captive parrots need toys and plenty of them. Bird toys will need to be replaced regularly. If you’re unable to make appropriate and safe toys for your bird, you will need to purchase them. Bird toys are expensive. What is your bird toy budget?
8. *The safe and secure housing for your bird will be expensive. Cages and appropriate housing can cost into the thousands of dollars. Beware of used cages and bargain cages. And yes, your bird will need a cage or an aviary. *(See “myths” below for more information about caging and cages.) Cages are expensive. What is your cage or housing budget for your bird?
9. Are you prone to allergies? Have you considered other family members’ allergies and sensitivities? Some parrots are prone to cause allergies in people and create dust in the air which can aggravate some people who have respiratory problems. (Example: African Grey, Cockatoo, and Cockatiel.) Even if you’re not prone to allergies, the settling dust lands on furniture, clothing, and the surrounding environment, necessitating additional dusting and cleaning. You may need to purchase an air purifier to control air impurities and you may need to dust more often. What is your air quality budget? How much time can you invest in additional cleaning?
10. Do you rent or own? Does your landlord allow birds? If you have to move, will you take your bird? Will there be enough room to properly house your bird and his environment?
11. Think about your life and what you plan to do in the future. Are you married? Do you think you will divorce? Do you plan to marry? Do you plan to get pregnant? Are you going away to college? Are you going to change jobs? Do you plan to have a new boyfriend/girlfriend? (While these are common life events, surprisingly they are just a few of the many reasons people give up their parrots.)
Parrots can be funny, entertaining, and beautiful to look at. They are smart, can learn tricks, and provide companionship. These are just a few of the reasons that parrots have become the third most popular pet in America.
Unfortunately, companion parrots have also joined the ranks of the most discarded, homeless pets in America. How can that be?
Parrots are inherently wild. Even if captive bred, they possess the same wild traits as their wild born cousins who live in the jungles and rainforests. Birds naturally scream. A parrot's loud scream is nature's way of helping him communicate to neighboring flocks and to give warning signals to their own flock. The larger species of parrots have raucous, ear shattering screams that can be heard from miles away. The smaller parrots can be heard from equal distances with their shrill ear piercing screams that are often repetitive and annoying. Even the smallest of parrots like the tiny little budgerigar have been known to be too loud and nerve wracking for some people.
With such loud vocalizations, it's no wonder humans and parrots are clashing in homes and neighborhoods.
The parrots' powerful beak is designed for constant chewing, i.e. nest building, breaking open hard nuts, and foraging for other foods. Although parrots rarely attack and bite each other in the wild, the parrot's powerful beak can be dangerous and cause serious injuries to humans. For example, it's estimated that a large macaw has the bite strength of 500 to 700 pounds per square inch. And the little Senegal parrot, in spite of his relatively small size, has a tremendously powerful bite that can cause considerable pain and serious injuries. Like all wild animals, even the tamest bird who has no history of biting, has a flight or fight response and will potentially bite when frightened or startled.
Parrots are highly intelligent and hypersensitive emotionally and physically. Improper handling can teach an already fearful or aggressive bird, or even a tame and loving bird, to bite and become aggressive. This not only causes the bird serious psychological problems, such stress can also dramatically affect their physical health. In spite of the parrots delicate constitution, anyone can purchase a parrot, regardless of their own mental state or lack of knowledge.
A parrot's wild, inherent traits, don't usually fit into the average person's lifestyle or home. In fact, they usually conflict greatly, making the third most popular pet in American, one of the most frustrating, destructive, messy, and noisy pets a person can have. Hence, making parrots a most regrettable purchase by many consumers, exacerbating the likelihood that these birds will be abused and neglected. Yet, pet stores rarely offer these facts to their customers prior to purchase.
It's only after the bird arrives home, after the "honeymoon" is over, and the excitement has worn off, that the reality of parrot parenthood becomes evident. It's then that unsuspecting consumers are hard hit with the reality of having a parrot in their home. The additional cleaning, the destruction of personal property and the continual screaming are more than most people can tolerate. From that point on, some bird caretakers become guilt ridden while deciding whether they should surrender their birds or keep them "muffled" and out of ear range, by permanently moving their birds into their garages or basements. While some may feel guilty and remorseful for their decision to "rid themselves of the responsibilities", others pass the bird onto other unsuspecting consumers without a hitch or word of caution. It is estimated that the majority of all captive parrots eventually end up in at least five homes before suffering and dying prematurely.
Millions of unwanted birds are listed for sale on the internet, in newspapers, in bird magazines, and are sold at bird marts and bird expos across the nation. In fact, the homelessness of captive parrots has reached epidemic proportions and these unwanted birds are in crisis. A large percentage of parrots that are bred and sold for the pet trade rarely survive their first year. Many suffer before they die prematurely from abuse and neglect. Those who survive, often exist in deplorable conditions, with no quality of life and they suffer from loneliness. In spite of the suffering, breeders are not slowing down. In fact, millions of baby birds are flooded into the market every year.
The natural life span of parrots can ranges from 20 to 85 years, adding to the tragedy and complexities of keeping them as pets, and exacerbating the multiple home syndrome.
As inadequate as we may be as companions to our parrots, they are superior in their ability to adapt to us as companions. We have found that the fine art of establishing a routine that your bird can depend on goes a long way in helping to create a mutually compatible relationship. Parrots are creatures of habit. They need/expect every day to be just like the day before and the day before. By establishing a dependable routine for our birds, we minimize the stress and confusion of a haphazard world. The result, very often, is a parrot that feels less compelled to assert to control over its guardian through excessive vocalization, and a parrot more at ease with its world.
Get your parrot up and out of bed (cage/bird room) every morning at the same time. The breakfast ritual of preparing food, cleaning a cage and loving a parrot should be the same every morning, and your bird should know he can depend on this special breakfast ritual. Presumably, you must go off to work or run the errands of the day. Your parrot should know that next comes several hours of having to entertain himself within his confines. Playing a radio during this time or keeping one’s parrot in front of a large window where he can observe wild birds feeding and interacting can become an essential event in a parrots day. When you come home from work, it’s bird time. Take your bird out. Sit with him. Talk to him and love him. Play with him and make a big deal over what a wonderful and talented bird he is. He should be able to anticipate and count on this special one-on-one time every day. Direct interaction time can be followed by several hours of having your bird out with you and the family, but not necessarily attached to your body. Have a play stand or hanging frame in the areas of the house where you spend greater periods of time or in rooms that tends to be central to overall family activity. A parrot needs to have a sense involvement in the flock dynamics. At dinner time after the cooking has been completed, parrots should be welcomed into the kitchen and involved in the dinner ritual. Parrots are social eaters. They are apt to eat better and accept healthier foods when those are the foods being shared by the family flock. They take greater enjoyment in eating out of your hand than out of a lonely dish. When the day has drawn to an end, it should be “bed time for birds” at the same time every night. Keeping in mind that parrots require 10 to 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, we recommend that a parrot’s sleep area be located away from the area of general family activity, in a room that can be made quiet, dark and peaceful. Your parrot’s natural inclination is to tuck himself away to “roost” each evening, so a “sleeping cage” quickly establishes itself as an expected and desirable finish to a parrot’s long day.
Knowing precisely what to expect from us and knowing the behavior that is expected of them gives a parrot just as much a feeling of control over it’s life as its ability to decide whether it wants to be inside the cage or out. Old aviculture used to dictate asserting dominance and control over one’s parrot through such measures as wing clipping, consistent caging and keeping them perched at a height lower than one’s head. But parrots are not dogs and they do not respond to subjugation. Their wild and instinctual nature must be acknowledged, accommodated and respected. Make a cage a compelling and engaging environment by providing boxes, chew toys, rope vines. Then open the cage door. Let your bird out. Give him an aviary or bird-proof a room and let him fly. Install hanging frames made of natural branches way above your head and let him be up high. Feeling guilty because you’re at work all day and your bird is home alone? Birds belong in flocks. Have more than one bird. Two or more birds are not twice as much work as one bird. They’re half as much work.
We force our parrots to live in our world, and then we don’t understand why they scream, beg, become aggressive, become phobic, feather pluck, self-mutilate... Sometimes it is necessary to force ourselves to live in their world before we can understand how to address the issues of parrot guardianship creatively and help ease their experience with us.
Knowing that, overall, people tend to fail miserably as companions to parrots, we do not advocate parrots as pets. However, we are highly motivated to help people understand the needs of their birds and to improve the quality of care they are able to deliver. We want people to keep their birds. Because here at the sanctuary we are short on space.
Additional notes from Karen:
Although carboard boxes make an excellent and inexpensive way to entertain a companion parrot it should be noted that in some cases a box can induce some female parrots to go through a breeding cycle that may be dangerous to their health. Also, boxes of any kind should NOT be offered to any male/female pairs as it will most probably ecourage mating and egglaying. If a mated pair of parrots insists on creating a nest site and laying eggs we offer a nest box to limit the number of eggs laid and to allow the parrots to go through their breeding cycle normally. We then switch the eggs with wooden eggs (or golf balls) purchased at a crafts store to prevent accidental reproduction. Most parrots will naturally abandon their eggs after 30 to 40 days should they prove unproductive.
Not only does the addition of music or nature sounds add to the quality of life but we take this enrichment one step further by putting the music on timers so that the mornings and early evenings mimic the natural rhythms of a parrot's life in the wild. Lights are also put on timers to mimic a natural 12 hour day and to give these prey animals a natural rhythm to their lives, something that is the foundation of a parrot's mental well being.
1. Got tired of the bird
2. Didn’t spend enough time with the bird
3. Spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t like the bird
4. Family member developed an allergy
6. Bird screams too much/too noisy
7. Bird too messy
8. Work hours changed
9. Have new interests
10. Changed jobs
11. Got married
12. Got divorced
13. Got pregnant
14. Landlord won’t allow birds
15. Bird chewed up furniture
16. Bird started biting the kids
17. Kids started hitting the bird
18. Husband hits the bird
19. Cage doesn’t match new furniture and new décor
20. Bird started biting me
21. Bird started biting my husband
22. Started traveling and going on vacations
23. Started dating
24. Bird needs too much attention
25. Bird doesn’t talk
26. Bird talks too much
27. New bird doesn’t like my other bird
28. Other bird doesn’t like my new bird
29. Neighbor complained about the noise
30. Kids won’t feed or water the bird
31. Kids won’t clean the bird’s cage
32. My bird is sick and I can’t afford to pay for treatment
33. My bird is sick and I won’t pay for treatment
34. My cat tries to hurt my bird
35. My bird tries to hurt my cat
36. I found the bird and didn’t want him anyway
37. My bird doesn’t like me
38. My bird likes me too much and tries to mate with me
39. My bird only liked my boyfriend and now my boyfriend is gone
40. I decided I want a bird that is more colorful.
41. I like my new bird better
42. My bird is mean and I can’t handle him
43. My bird doesn’t do anything but sit in his cage
44. My bird gets into everything and won’t sit still in his cage
45. I decided I want to buy a baby monkey…and birds and monkeys don’t get along…right?
If you have made the difficult decision to surrender your bird, we urge you to please read the following information before you take the next step:
If you are feeling frustrated and regret that you brought a parrot into your life, you are not alone. Each year millions of bird guardians are led to believe that birds make wonderful pets, only to later discover that birds don’t make good pets for most people.
You may believe that your only option is to surrender your bird, for both you and your bird’s best interests. However, it’s estimated that most people who surrender their birds are unaware of the potential and perhaps even simple solutions to correct their bird’s behavior or change a problematic situation. And unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for some people to surrender one “problematic” bird and replace him with another bird, thinking that the next bird will be better behaved and less noisy, only to find themselves back in the same situation.
Birds are highly intelligent, sensitive creatures. In many instances, a bird’s problematic behavior isn’t his problem but rather the result of his environment and how he’s being handled. By consulting with an avian behaviorist and by reading books and magazines, you can potentially learn better management skills and change your bird’s “bad” behaviors. Attending bird clubs and having a “bird support group,” where you can listen to and share stories, may be all that’s needed to reignite the love you have for your feathered companion. Let’s face it, even the best human relationships may become stale and require nurturing and counseling at some point. You and your feathered friend are no exception.
Here are just a few behavioral problems, dynamics, or environmental issues that can be potentially corrected:
It’s important to emphasize that each time a bird is surrendered, bought, or sold, an existing homeless bird will potentially lose his opportunity for a loving, permanent home. Even if you find a home for your unwanted bird, you’ve taken away another bird’s chance for a home and his future security. Due to the escalating rise in homeless, unwanted “pet” birds, we strongly encourage caring and responsible bird guardians to try the alternative direction listed above before surrendering their birds.
However, we realize that some bird guardians may be experiencing circumstances that are out of their control and that they don’t have the ability to consider these other options. Or that, for some, keeping their bird may not be in the bird’s best interest: it could even be detrimental or dangerous for a bird to stay in his present environment. In such a case, we support and encourage a surrender decision.
This information was referenced from http://www.idausa.org
It is estimated that the average captive parrot lives in at least 5 homes before finding a permanent home or dying prematurely. It is estimated that the average parakeet (budgerigar), whose normal life span is 8 to 15 years, dies within 2 years of birth, usually due to negligence or mistreatment. Parrots, whose life spans average between 25 to 90 years, often die within 5 years for the same reasons. Tragically, the majority of captive birds live in unsuitable and inappropriate conditions that do not provide enrichment and a decent quality of life.
Parrots' long life span exacerbates the "pet" overpopulation problem and makes it difficult to provide them with a secure future. Long lived birds are sold, or handed down to other family members who may not want the bird when his or her guardian dies
We believe all birds should be protected in their natural habitats and allowed to live freely in the wild without interference from humans and without being exploited and bred for the pet trade. We strongly support and encourage a "no breeding" policy.