Parrots Forever
Sanctuary & Rescue Foundation
 
CARING FOR YOUR FOREVER PARROT

The forever home caregiver must understand the responsibility that is assumed when taking in a parrot as a pet. Companion parrots are completely reliant on the caregiver for every aspect of their care. This person needs to have sufficient time in both the morning and late afternoon or early evening to prepare fresh food for the parrot and to change the water, which must be done at least twice a day, every day. They also need to interact in some way with their parrot for a minimum of 4 to 6 hours per day every day (some types of parrots need more) for as long as the parrot is in their care.
 
Caregivers must make their parrots feel safe, wanted, and like they are a part of the family at all times. They need to be attentive to and observant of the parrot's individual needs, know what the parrot's favorite foods are, and be cognizant of the parrot's mood swings. Caregivers must also understand that the parrot, like a 3- to 4-year-old child, needs to know who's boss (through positive reinforcement, not punishment or violence), and that the parrot does not run the household. The relationship of the caregiver and parrot is one that is always built on trust, love, and respect, along with guidance and understanding. And like everyone, both the caregiver and the parrot will have good days and not so good days, and must learn to coexist through mutual respect and understanding.
 
Depending on the species of parrot and the parrot's history, the parrot will need exactly the right person to attend to all daily care and to any special needs that may be required. The caregiver must be able to give the parrot the proper amount of one-on-one time daily. Not all parrots will make good pets, regardless of the species, and this usually comes down to the parrot's individual personality and life experience. It will be incumbent on the caregiver to notice if the parrot is displaying any neurotic tendencies, and to decide if these tendencies are a personality trait or a trait related to the parrot's previous care. These tendencies are something that the caregiver needs to address when deciding the appropriate care to be provided for that individual parrot.
 
The forever home caregiver needs to make their home safe for the parrot to live in, and must understand the common dangers to a parrot's health and safety. Because parrots are prey animals, they have a fright-to-flight response built in. One needs to be carful not to startle the parrot, as that can lead to a bite or a flight response, which can cause injury to the caregiver, the parrot, or to both. Toilet seats cannot to be left up, as the parrot could fall in and drown. Cleaning products should never be left out or unattended. A parrot’s access to the kitchen should be restricted to ensure that there is no way to get into any hot food at the table or on the stove. The parrot must be kept away from hot stoves and fireplaces. Some parrots like to be on the floor and must be kept from power cords and electrical outlets.
 
Basically, the caregiver must child-proof their home for the parrot’s own safety. The caregiver must be aware of certain types of foods and houseplants that can be poisonous or lethal if ingested, and make them inaccessible to the parrot. Parrots are also very susceptible to injury and death caused by chemical fumes: i.e., non-stick cookware, ceramic heaters, welding flux, alcoholic drinks, ammonia, antifreeze, bathroom cleaners, bleach, boric acid, etc. A complete list and more information are available here: http://www.parrot-and-conure-world.com/non-toxic-for-birds.html & http://www.pricelessparrots.com/parrot-poisons.htm
 
The forever home caregiver must understand that trips away from home, even if for only 1 or 2 days, leaving the parrot behind unattended, is not an option. All parrots need constant care throughout the day, and day trips are inconsistent with proper parrot care. If such circumstances arise, arrangements must be made to have someone come in at least twice daily to feed the parrot, change water, and to spend at least 60-90 minutes of interaction with the parrot out of the cage each time. For trips longer than 2 days, arrangements must be made for an appropriate bird sitter who is able to provide the necessary proper care for the parrot, either by having the sitter stay with the parrot in the home, or by taking the parrot to the sitter.
 
Companion parrots need some routine in their life, but too much routine can cause the parrot to get bored. Parrots become less stimulated by their surroundings and interactions with their caregivers. This boredom can result in the parrots plucking out their feathers, or other coping behaviors. The parrot may also become fixated with the daily routine and unable to cope with small changes.
 
Routine is not just a repetition of daily events such as when parrots wake up, when they are let out of the cage, when you go to work, when you come home, when they are fed, or when they are put to bed. Too much routine can be as simple as their surroundings being static, with no change at all for long periods of time. The caregiver does not need to totally re-arrange their entire room every 6 to 8 months, but some change in the parrot’s surroundings can be a great benefit in adding a mild level of external stimulation. Generally, this does not include moving the parrot's cage on a constant basis, if ever. If the parrot's home (cage) is in an appropriate place and is not a stressor to the parrot, moving it for no good reason can be very stressful. Remember, that's the parrot’s home you’re tinkering with.
 
Adding mild external stimulation to the parrot’s surroundings can be as basic as putting up an Xmas tree over the holidays or putting up and taking down Halloween decorations. Simple adjustments in their surroundings, that may coincide with the seasons, can be beneficial in adding stimulation to your parrot's surroundings. The point is, some caregivers do not change anything in or around where the parrot resides for years, sometimes decades. And then when there is a minor change such as a new piece of furniture as small as an end table, the parrot has a bird (so to speak). Many times when these issues come up, people relate the problems to the new pieces of furniture, or to making a slight adjustment to existing furniture. But they are only the symptoms of a larger problem which can be traced back to the issue of a lack of change and stimulation in the parrot’s surroundings.
 
Just like a parrot becoming cage-bound due to the parrot being in or on the cage for far too long without regular time away from it, a parrot can be "bound" by its immediate environment. Because parrots are prey animals, they are wired to be on constant guard and in tune with their ever-changing surroundings. The forever home caregiver needs to be attentive to providing stimulating little changes in routine, timing, and environment for the parrot. The caregiver should also vary their daily routines when possible, changing the times they leave and return home, and the length of time out of the house. Parrots measure time, and if the caregiver is too consistent in their schedule, they will either become complacent and bored, or obsessively fixated on their daily routine. 
 
Too much bedtime can also be a contributor to stress and boredom, which can lead to feather plucking and other coping behaviors. Parrots do need their sleep, but the amount they need is relevant to their surroundings, and varies by individual.
 
If the household is not loud and chaotic throughout the day, which is a better environment for a parrot, then parrots will take naps during the day. If they are able to nap, then they may not need to be covered up for 12 hours a day, everyday. If parrots have sporadic interaction with mild stimulation through the course of the day, they may only need 9-10 hours of bedtime (covered-up time) per night to sleep. If the parrot's household is highly stimulating with lots of interaction throughout the day and little opportunity to nap, then 10 to 12 hours of bedtime a day may be more appropriate. Parrots do not sleep, even covered, if there is activity in the room where they live.
 
Putting parrots the parrot to sleep too early, well before the day is done and the rest of the family is going to bed, only causes them to wait to get tired, creates boredom, and makes them feel excluded from the family. Like people, parrots are individuals, and the parrot's daily experiences vary from household to household. The actual amount of bedtime, with a covered cage, will depend on the parrot's individual environment and needs. Parrots should only be covered for bedtime, and not for the convenience of the caregiver.
 
The forever home caregiver needs to be in tune with their parrot's personality and behavior, and be flexible and able to adjust within reason to the needs of the companion parrot. This develops over time for the forever home caregiver. It is about managing a healthy coexistence for both themselves and the parrot with a routine that is not overly stringent and stale.
 
  • by M.L.Savoy, BSc, MLT, Parrots Forever Sanctuary & Rescue Foundation, 2012
 




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2012-2019