Life-span: 25-50 years
A variety of parrot cages are available with plastic bases and chromed or bronzed wire tops. These pose no risk to the bird and are easily cleaned. Commercially produced medium parrot cages tend to be 48 by 48 by 68cm or 60 by 40 by 65cm. Cages for larger species should be more substantial. There should be of sufficient height, breadth and width to allow the bird to stretch its wings freely. Home-made cages should not have any sharp, unfinished edges. Also avoid newly galvanized wire which can lead to zinc poisoning.
Perches should be made of wood, as it provides a good surface for the bird’s feet, and allows for chewing. Oak, fruit wood and willow branches may be provided. Natural perches provide a variety of shapes and diameters for the feet. Make sure there are no splinters or sharp points. Toys should also be provided, with many purpose-built toys available from pet shops. Alternatively pine cones, corn cobs or clean chop bones can be used.
Floor coverings are not necessary for parrots. A layer of newspaper on the floor will help to catch the droppings and make cleaning easier.
The cage should be positioned to avoid severe fluctuations in temperature. Constant high temperatures are unnecessary for healthy birds. The low humidity of centrally heated environments may play a part in feather, behavioural and reproductive disorders. Tropical parrots find it difficult to cope with the low temperatures in Europe and will require some heating, particularly in middle of the night.
Constant direct sunlight should be avoided. Covering the cage at night is not required, but allows the owner to regulate the bird’s behavior and photoperiod to an extent. Excessive artificial daylength may contribute to feather, behavioural and reproductive disorders. It is just as important not to leave parrots without any light during the long European winter nights. Ideally provide adequate lighting for at least 10 hours in winter and no more than 14 hours in summer.
There are a variety of foods commercially available, many of which are unsuitable. Seed diets do not meet the bird’s nutritional requirements, with many commonly fed grains deficient in at least 32 essential nutrients. Birds should not be fed any leftovers or table food as they not only fail to meet the nutritional requirements, but may also be dangerous. Colored pellets should be avoided as they are usually made up of little more than milled white flours and cereal by-products.
It is recommended that you feed your parrot Harrison’s bird foods. This is because it is designed to have a balanced ratio of fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. It can also be eaten entirely with little waste, as there are no seed hulls. Ideally, sixty percent of the diet should be made of the balanced, commercial pellets and forty percent comprising a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Mashed potato or butternut, peas, carrots, etc are a very good idea in moderation. Avoid large amounts of sugar containing fruits – limit it to half a grape at a time. Never feed anything with a bulb or corm (onions/garlic, etc). Avocado pear, green potatoes and many flowers (lillies) are toxic to parrots.
For further information on feeding, ask your vet for a leaflet or visit http://www.hbf-uk.co.uk/why.html
Most commercially available treats are made from seeds and sweet substances such as sugar or honey. They can be particularly unhealthy. Parrots will often appreciate very small bit of carrot, peas, a cereal flake or cluster (only one per day) or a cooked chicken bone with most of the meat removed. Never give anything that has been in your mouth or bitten by a human since the gram- bacteria in our mouths can cause lethal infections in birds. A small amount of bioled or scrambled egg can be given once a month.
Fresh water should be provided daily. This should be provided in a dish. Do not put the dish under a perch and if you find faeces in it, move it to a different area. Parrots may also be trained to use a water bottle, but should be observed closely the first couple of days to ensure they are drinking. Avoid vitamin and mineral preparations in the water for extended periods. For more information on suitable methods for providing drinking water, visit http://www.hagen.com/hari/docu/parrots_water.html .
Single sex pairs will often display very convincing homosexual behaviour, so sex diagnosis should be conducted by your veterinarian. Almost all psittacines are hole nesters, so a vertical nest box with a suitably sized hole is advisable. This should be made of wood, and be of sufficient thickness to allow the bird to chew much of it away for a woodchip lining. Most small species lay eggs at daily intervals, and larger species lay at intervals of 2-3 days. This leads to staggered hatching, with the total incubation period ranging from 18-30 days.
All parrot species should be introduced to bathing from an early age. Young parrots should be introduced to misting or bathing in stages. This should start with a fine mist directed at the feet or in the general vicinity of the parrot. Wing or tail flipping signals they are ready for more. A silent, “pressurized” garden mister should be used. It is best to wait for a day when you know the birds will dry quickly and safely. Always ensure that the water used is clean.
If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk