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Tips for Raising A Well-Adjusted, Healthy Parrot With Flying Colors

Twenty years ago I visited a bird store in Greenwich Village to speak with the owner about having her bring some of her birds to an event I was planning for the aviation industry. At the time, my experience with parrots was limited to encounters on rare tropical vacations. I never considered having one in New York City until a small, sweet ball of feathers grabbed onto my finger with his foot and wouldn’t let go. Twenty years later that endearing baby is now a very high maintenance adult male umbrella cockatoo named Chris. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about keeping him physically and emotionally healthy. And while I'm still learning every day, I enjoy sharing my years of experience with others.


Parrots in general, and cockatoos specifically, are exceptionally intelligent animals who require tremendous amounts of enrichment to keep them from getting bored. Bored parrots scream and self-mutilate. In the wild, parrots live in flocks of hundreds of birds with constant stimulation and activity. They spend their days foraging for food, building nests, and grooming each other. They are never alone. There is always companionship and a chorus of voices to keep them company. It takes a herculean effort that involves time, toys, and patience to provide the equivalent in a human home. Anyone considering having a parrot as an animal companion should think of it more like having a child. Locking an intelligent, sentient being in solitary confinement in a barren cage for a lifetime is as cruel to a parrot as it would be to a human child. Parrot-specific toys made for chewing and shredding (like the ones found at Birdie Box Bird Toys) are required - lots of them - in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes, and materials. Parrots will spend some time playing independently during the day, but they need interaction with their flock (their human family) as well. Even better is for them to have another parrot as a companion. 


Proper nutrition is also a critically important element of parrot care. Good quality commercial pellets can provide essential nutrients, but a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes provide a well-rounded diet that keeps a parrot interested and well-nourished. My two favorite food blend mixes are Zupreem Fruitblend Flavor and Harrison's Adult Lifetime Course.  Many parronts (parrot parents) make what is called “chop” to serve their parrots every day. Chop is essentially a visually appetizing, colorful mélange of fruits, vegetables, and sometimes legumes, chopped into small pieces that parrots pick through, foraging for their favorites.


Environment and housing also need to be considered when living with a parrot. Parrots need cages large enough for them to move around and stretch their wings. They need perches in a variety of materials and sizes to keep their feet healthy and they need a selection of the aforementioned toys in their cages. Additionally, parrots are indigenous to warm climates and can not be in a cold or drafty room. They need twelve hours of darkness and quiet every night in order to get proper sleep, so their cages should be in a quiet area of a home. However, because they need social interaction, they should have a swing or tree in a family room or common area of a home so they can interact with their family.

The above are just the basic daily requirements of raising a happy, healthy, well-adjusted parrot. If you are considering becoming a parront, please do your research first and consider if you have the time, patience, and resources to provide for a parrot. Also please consider adopting a parrot from a parrot rescue. The Gabriel Foundation, Lonely Grey Rescue, Rhode Island Parrot Rescue, Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue are all wonderful organizations. Parrots are difficult pets to care for and too many of them are given up and in need of homes.  To follow my life with Chris and join in our conversations, come find us on Purrch @christhecockatoo.

Alison Minton is a twenty year parrot mom to Chris the Cockatoo.  She also had two pionus parrots who were Chris' companions, but who have since passed away.  In addition to navigating Chris' health and well-being, Alison also serves as the momager to Chris' career as an animal actor, model and influencer.  You can follow Chris on Instagram, Tik Tok, and Purrch @christhecockatoo
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