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PARROTS


DO NOT TALK TO MY PARROT!!! Wanda's dishwasher quit working so she called a repairman. Since she had to go to work the next day, she told the repairman, "I'll leave the key under the mat. Fix the dishwasher, leave the bill on the counter, and I'll mail you a check." "Oh, by the way don't worry about my bulldog. He won't bother you. But, whatever you do, do NOT, under ANY circumstances, talk to my parrot! I REPEAT, DO NOT TALK TO MY PARROT!!!" When the repairman arrived at Wanda's apartment the following day, he discovered the biggest, meanest looking bulldog he has ever seen. But, just as she had said, the dog just lay there on the carpet watching the repairman go about his work. The parrot, however, drove him nuts the whole time with his incessant yelling, cursing and name calling. Finally the repairman couldn't contain himself any longer and yelled, "Shut up, you stupid, ugly bird!" To which the parrot replied, "Get him, Spike!"


DESCRIPTION: Parrots are any type of ave with a hooked beak. This includes the small American parakeet or English budgie, as well as the large macaws.


NUMBER 1 MISTAKE: The number 1 mistake new parrot owners make that results in behavior problems is bringing their new pet bird home, showering it with attention for the first couple of weeks or months and, when the novelty wears off, so does the attention. The new parrot doesn't understand what has happened, and starts acting out in order to generate attention again. The bird's human doesn't understand why the parrot is behaving badly and takes disciplinary action. Thus, the viscious cycle begins! These type of behavior problems (the parrot's and the human's) are very difficult to correct. It's normal to pay more attention to things that are new, but when it comes to birds (or other animals), you must avoid this situation. Decide in advance of acquiring a parrot how you will handle this issue.

NUMBER 2 MISTAKE: A person purchases a parrot and has no knowledge of how to take care of the bird properly. If you are planning to purchase a parrot, research the hundreds of different types of birds BEFORE YOU BUY...some have peculiar requirements and/or characteristics that might not fit into your particular lifestyle. Learn everything you can about caring for the particular type of parrot you've chosen BEFORE YOU BUY, as well as learning all you can about caring for parrots/birds in general.


LIFE EXPECTANCY: Life span is directly related to a birdís genetics (general health characteristics a bird receives from its ancestors) and how well a bird is cared for during its lifetime. Generally, the larger birds, such as the macaws, can live to be 50-70 years of age (depending on many individual factors). Small parakeets/budgies can live to be 7-10 years old, when cared for properly. Therefore, acquiring a parrot should not be taken lightly. Buying a bird is a commitment for several/many years. For the larger birds that live a long time, one of the things you should think about before buying is what will happen to this bird if something should happen to me?


CAGE SIZE: Bigger is better! Cage size depends on how much time your bird spends in its cage, the number of inhabitants, as well as how much stuff you plan to put in the cage! If you allow your bird to be outside it's cage most of the day every day, it's cage only needs to be large enough for s/he to sleep in, eat and drink in, and for some perches and toys for those occasional times when you have to be away from home and don't want to leave your bird free to roam (or destroy!) the house on it's own (or worse...injure or kill itself). If your bird spends all or most of it's time inside its cage, bigger is essential. And don't forget to plan for extra space if a family of birds (a mate and babies) will share the cage in the future. However, the absolute, bare minimum cage size is one where the bird can freely flap its wings rigorously without its wings touching anything inside of the cage. Neither its tail nor head should touch the top or bottom of its cage. Remember that you also need to have room for feed and water dishes/water bottle, perches, toys, etc. Your bird needs room to exercise and play if s/he remains inside its cage most of the day. When shopping to select a cage, or if you make your own cage, remember that most birds fly horizontally, not vertically, so try to find a cage (or make your own cage) with more horizontal space than vertical space. This will also allow you to place feed and water dishes in places inside the cage where the bird's droppings won't fall into it's dishes when s/he is perched (dishes should always be placed above a bird's perching level in order to keep droppings out of feed/water). Cage wire spacing - a lot of people recommend that wire spacing be small enough so that a bird cannot stick its head through the wire. However, I've found that it's OK if a bird can stick its head through its cage wire, as long as its head cannot get stuck between the wire. However, you don't want wire spacing to be too big so the bird can wiggle between the wire and get out of its cage. For example, I've found that for amazon-sized parrots (a medium sized parrot), the metal/steel dog cages work great. The metal/steel is strong enough that the birds can't chew through them, the wire spacing is such that they can stick their heads and neck out, but they can't get their body out. And these cages come in several sizes and price ranges. The door is a sliding latch, which none of my escape artists have been able to figure out yet! They aren't real pretty to look at if you keep your bird in your living room and prefer designer decor, but they are very functional and inexpensive. I hang them from the ceilings in my bird rooms so I can accommodate more birds in the room and for ease in cleaning underneath the cages. The sliding tray bottom pulls out for easy removal and cleaning. A bird must have daily exercise to remain healthy. The best size cage will allow the bird to fly freely back and forth (not up and down) within the cage without its wings touching any sides or the head/tail touching top or bottom. If a bird is allowed out of its cage for a good part of the day, a less roomy cage is sufficient. Do not purchase cages where the wire contains or is coated with lead, which is poisonous to birds.


PERCHES: Use a variety of perch types and sizes to keep the birdís feet and legs in good condition. Placement within the cage is also important. Natural wood branches placed horizontally and at a tilt (top corner to bottom corner) work well. I hung a tree branch vertically in several parrot cages and the birds liked this variation (they hang and play sideways). Various thicknesses are recommended. A correctly sized perch is one where the birdís foot grips half-way to three-fourths of the way around the perch. A perch is too small if the birdís front and back toenails touch when gripping. A perch is too big if it canít get a good grip. Dowel rods are often used, but itís wise to also include one or more natural branches or other perch types for variety and for keeping feet healthy. Be sure to thoroughly disinfect natural tree limbs before allowing your bird to perch on them (to remove dirt, mold, insects, and other debris). A good washing with soap and hot water, soaking for 30 minutes in a Clorox and water solution, then drying outside in the sun is great! Most bird supply houses also offer different types of perches made from a variety of materials. A word of caution--birds like to chew and scrape their beaks on perches and some types of natural wood are not safe for them as follows: Apple Arbutus Ash Aspen Beech Birch, Cottonwood Crabapple Dogwood Elm Fir Hawthorn Larch Magnolia Manzanita Mulberry Pear Pine Poplar Redwood Willow Apricot, cherry, peach, prune, plum or nectarine trees belong to the Prunus species of trees, which release cyanide if ingested. DO NOT USE WOOD FROM THESE TREES FOR PERCHES. Do not use sandpaper covers on perches--they are harmful to a birdís feet. Even if your cage setup comes with these, do not use them (companies who put these setups together donít know anything about birds). They are also available where bird supplies are sold, but that doesnít mean they are good for your birds! Imagine spending 24 hours per day 7 days per week standing/walking on sandpaper (the bottoms of my feet hurt just thinking about it)!


TOYS: Parrots need toys to stimulate their minds and to give them something to do during the day. Provide bird-safe toys for your pet to play with when it spends time in its cage or spends time outside its cage. You can purchase ready-made bird toys at pet stores, bird shows, bird auctions, etc., or make them yourself. Regardless whether you buy toys or make them yourself, be aware that strings, rings that are too small, clappers in bells, small chain links, certain metals, etc., can be safety hazards. Loose string can get caught around toes/feet/legs/necks, birds can get their heads/legs/feet caught in rings that are not the correct size, parrots can get their toenails caught in many things, they can bite into too soft material and choke, etc., so use much caution when selecting or making bird toys. When selecting/making toys, keep your birdís personality in mind, i.e., just because we like a toy, doesnít mean your bird will like it! Choose several different types of toys and see which ones your bird prefersÖbirdsí tastes are not all alike! If you make your birdís toys, use food coloring or Kool-Aid to color any wood (soak the wood in the food coloring or Kool-Aid as you would to color Easter eggs). You can buy specially-cut/shaped wood, acrylic pieces, leather, clasps, etc., at most bird supply houses and/or you can buy packages specifically tailored for the do-it-yourself bird-toy makers with everything included you need. I've found several bird-safe toys at the local $1 store. A lot of times, however, birds prefer items you have laying around the house that you just donít use anymore (like when the kids would rather play with your pots and pans than the toys you just bought them for their birthday!).


DIET: Variety is key! An all-seed diet is the worst thing you can do for your parrot! Your bird will live a long, happy life with a good, healthy, varied diet. Bad food choices for a bird are the same as for a human--avoid fatty foods, sweets, caffeine, soda, etc. Items you should not feed your parrot are baking chocolate (all chocolate contains caffeine and baking chocolate is poisonous to birds), avocado, citrus seeds (contain cyanide), anything containing caffeine, and limit salt and items containing sugar. Fresh water daily in a clean water dish or bottle (water bottle is preferred) is essential (bacteria grows in setting water, especially once a bird has dipped itís beak into the dish, and can cause illness). Keep a fresh supply of dry food (pellets/extruded food preferred), as well as water, in the cage at all times. Soft/moist food is also recommended. Pellets are a baked mixture of vegetables and fruit, which are fortified with vitamins and minerals made especially for birds. Soft/moist food consists of many types of items, such as fresh, raw, cleaned vegetables, fruits, cooked brown rice, corn bread, whole grain foods, sugarless multigrain dry cereals, cooked lentils/beans, shredded carrots, yams/sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, applesauce, cooked barley, pasta (without the sauce), etc. I also offer some type of greens a couple times per week (kale, mustard, collard, romaine, spinach, etc.---iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value at all). Your bird will readily accept soft/moist foods if they are feed and weaned to this type food as a baby. When fed to parrot babies, they get used to a variety of tastes and they recognize a large variety of items as food (birds will not eat anything they donít recognize as food). In addition, when your parrot accepts soft/moist food, itís much easier to medicate them when necessary (medicines and/or vitamin supplements can be sprinkled on or in these type foods versus having to give injections in the birdís chest or trying to get medicine down a birdís throat). The amount of soft/moist food you provide depends on the size of the bird. For example, a parakeet/budgie only needs about a teaspoon, a cockatiel about a tablespoon, medium-sized parrots (like an amazon) a couple chunks of fruit and a couple different veggies, per day. I feed soft/moist food daily. As a matter of fact, my parrots love their soft/moist food so much, they are very impatient when it comes to feeding time! A person who owns 1 or 2 parrots can make a soft mixture in advance, freeze it in ice cube trays, once frozen place in a sealed baggie in the freezer, and defrost 1 cube per day to feed. You wouldnít want to freeze fresh veggies and fruits however. Veggies and fruits should be fresh, cleaned, and raw for best nutrition (cooking cooks all the nutrients away). If you canít purchase raw food, frozen is the next best choice. Canned foods contain too much salt and nutrition is cooked away during processing. Deep green and orange vegetables and fruits contain the most nutrition. Birds especially love corn, however, too much corn can be bad because corn binds calcium in a birdís body, which means the birdís body canít absorb the calcium it needs. Therefore, feed corn sparingly. I will admit that I surprise my parrots occasionally (meaning once a week or less often) by giving them what I call ďnaughtyĒ foods! These would be things like a SMALL piece of pizza, a taste of spaghetti (with some sauce), some macaroni and cheese (which they LOVE), a lick of ice cream (birds are lactose intolerant), a small piece of cookie, etc. Limit these naughty foods to keep your bird in the best of health. It helps to keep a cuttlebone (calcium) and a mineral block in the cage at all times. If your bird(s) eat soft/moist food, you can sprinkle on or cook in supplemental vitamins and/or herbs to ensure your bird gets all the vitamins it needs. I often supplement immune system enhancers during times of stress, breeding, and/or when the weather starts turning colder to ensure my birds maintain optimum health. Seed has little to no nutritional value. Seed to a bird is like candy is to a kid. Birds love seed and will select seed over all other food. Some birds, such as parakeets/budgies, cockatiels, amazons, etc., have problems with excessive fat development in their bodies when they are on a high fat diet. This results in fatty liver problems as they grow older (may not be apparent in younger years). Fatty deposits develop around their heart and other organs and eventually lead to death. You can see fat on your bird as yellow deposits just under the skin (separate some feathers and look at the skinÖif you see yellow instead of pink/purple-pink, your bird has fatty deposits under the skin and probably around major body organs). Some birds are natural seed eaters (parakeets/budgies, cockatiels, for example) in the wild. Seed should be part of their diets, however, the amount should be limited (and eliminated if they suffer from problems with fats). As long as they eat soft/moist food and pellets, they will be fine without seed. Medium- to large-sized parrots relish nuts on an occasional basis. I like to hide their nuts in their ďhide-a-foodĒ toys, which make them work for their snack, while stimulating their minds at the same time. I place special treats in a toy where they have to work to get the top half off enough to find the treat...keeps their minds stimulated and gives them something to do. In the wild, parrots have to forage for their food, so my parrots seem to enjoy this change from having their food/treats placed in a bowl in front of them. There are occasions when a sick bird will eat nothing but seed (or spray millet) and this is OK until the bird is on the mend (when a bird is sick, let them eat whatever they will/can eat). Here is a listing of the types of foods that are best for birds, as far as vitamin/mineral content are concerned (in descending order with highest vitamin/mineral content listed first)(these items should be served clean, fresh or frozen, and raw unless otherwise indicated, not out of a can): Hot red peppers Black beans (cooked) Garbonzo beans (cooked) Watermelon Papaya Cantalope Mango Orange Spinach Collards Sweet potatoes (cooked) Kale Winter squash Broccoli Beets (cooked) Dandelion Purslane Parsley Pumpkin (cooked) Dried peas Beans (cooked) Dried peas The above aren't the ONLY foods that are good/healthy for birds...the above contain the most highly concentration of vitamins/minerals and/or have a high content of vitamin A, calcium, etc. Fruit items are mostly water, therefore, vegetables are the best for your birds (the darker green and orange, the better).

Diet changes: If you are going to change your birdís diet for whatever reason, do so when your bird is not under any stress (for example, if this is a new bird, wait until stress of moving to a new home has passed). Diet changes in a healthy bird must be gradual. In other words, donít change the entire diet all at once in one day! Make changes gradually, such as mix pellets/seed the first week as 75% seed/25% pellets, the next week go 50%/50%, the next week 75% pellets/25% seed, until no seed at all. Sometimes because of a serious health issue, a diet change must be made immediately. Follow the advice of your avian veterinarian in these cases. Parrots do not need to eat grit. Only birds that eat their grain/seeds whole (such as doves and pigeons) need to eat grit. Grit helps birds who eat their grain whole to digest these whole grains in their gizzards (the grit helps to grind down the outer shell of the grain so the bird can digest the inside of the grain). Parrots hull their seed first before eating it, so they do not need to consume grit. Parrots that eat grit can end up with an impacted crop, which requires surgery to correct.


INJURIES: Birds get little injuries all the time. Some we see, most we don't see. My avian veterinarian taught me something I will never forget: Cause no harm. What this means is that when faced with an injury or emergency situation with a bird, the human caretaker should not take any action that would make the injury or emergency any worse than it already is. What happens when we find our feathered friends bleeding or otherwise injured, we want to do whatever it takes to make them better, most of the time making matters worse. Depending on the severity of the injury, a bird usually will go into shock quickly. Shock will kill a bird fast. This is why often times, itís better to just keep hands off until hours later or even the next day, when the bird has calmed down and the chance of shock has subsided, before taking action. Often times, our first reaction is to smother the bird with our attention, more often causing more hard than good. However, if blood is present, you must find the source of the blood and stop it quickly. Once bleeding is stopped, you can further evaluate the situation. A bird the size of a parakeet can't afford to lose much blood from its little body, so if a parakeet is injured and is losing blood, shock will set in immediately, therefore, urgent action on your part is critical. Find out why the bird is bleeding (pick up your bird and examine it to find out where the blood is coming from), stop the bleeding immediately by applying pressure to the wound until bleeding stops or use styptic powder or baking flour (dry or mixed with a bit of water to form a paste) and apply directly to the wound. If a blood feather has been broken (blood feathers are feathers that are still growing and contain blood), you must locate the broken feather (the feather will bleed at the location of the break) and pull the remaining feather shaft out completely from the bird's body (using hemostats, needle nose pliers, or regular pliers). Bleeding will stop once the broken blood feather is removed. If your parrot is not tame, you should use gloves or a towel of some sort in order to handle s/he. This is a great reason why it is important that you and your parrot become good friends...you never know when something might occur that requires you to have to physically handle your pet.


AVAIN VETERINARIAN VISITS AND EMERGENCIES: As soon as you purchase a bird (or know that you will be buying a parrot), you will want to establish a relationship with an avian veterinarian. An avian veterinarian has been educated in the care of aves, as well as other exotic animals. A regular cat/dog veterinarian canít care for a bird. They may have some knowledge of bird care, but they are not educated on bird care during their training to become a veterinarian. An avian vet has much training in the care and treatment of exotics. If you donít know an avian vet in your area, you can search the website: http://www.aav.org/vet-lookup/. If you canít locate an avian vet in this listing, search your local phone book for exotic animal vets or if worse comes to worse, a local parrot breeder might be able to provide some immediate advice. You can also contact local wildlife agencies, humane societies, etc., for assistance. Once your bird gets sick, it might be too late to try and locate an avian vet, so have a name and phone number handy at all times. Once a bird becomes ill and you notice this illness, the bird has been ill too long already. In the wild, a sick bird is food for a predator, so birds hide illness until they can't hide it any more. By this time, it could be too late. Also, a group of birds might harm, kill, or scare an ill bird away from the group in order to keep predators away and protect the group. This is why itís important for you to get to know your birdís behavior so you can notice right away if s/he isnít feeling well. Some things to watch for include sneezing (except when necessary to clear nostrils), perching with feathers fluffed up (except when bird is napping/sleeping), wheezing/open-mouth breathing or panting, loss of weight and/or appetite (breast bone may start to protrude), accumulation of feces around vent area, change in color and consistency of droppings (a normal change in droppings will occur with changes in diet), sitting on cage bottom (birds normally perch at the highest point in the cage). To help prevent illness, keep bird away from cold drafts, always feed a good diet containing proper vitamins and minerals (don't wait to change to a good diet once your bird is ill), make sure your bird gets 10-12 hours of sleep per night (they also nap during the day), make sure your bird gets plenty of exercise, keep your bird mentally stimulated with toys, and shower it with your love and attention on a daily basis. Proper lighting (full spectrum, such as for reptiles) and/or access to natural light (sunlight through a window is not proper lighting) is also essential for processing vitamins/minerals and all around good health. Once you purchase a bird and have quarantined s/he for at least 30 days, itís time to take your bird to the vet for a well-bird check (in order to establish a baseline of your birdís health). Subsequent well-bird visits to your avian vet should be at the discretion of the vet. However, keep in mind that the vetís office is the worst place you can take a healthy bird! If your avian vet recommends regular vet visits, if at all possible, keep your parrot in your car or outside the vetís office until the vet is ready to see your bird. Then take your bird directly into the exam room, let the vet do his/her thing, and get your bird out of the office as quickly as possible. Ensure the vet technician thoroughly cleans the table your bird will be examined on and anything else your parrot might come into contact with BEFORE you place your bird on the exam table. Take your own towel to set the bird on during the exam and ensure the vet and vet tech washes their hands thoroughly before examining your parrot. These precautions will help ensure your bird leaves the vet office as healthy as it was when it arrived. We all like to stop and show off our pet birds to the other people in the vet's office (and we like to see what others have brought in), but please avoid this interaction during a visit to the vet! As far as regular/annual vet visits, my avian veterinarian says that I know my parrots better than he knows them. If I think they are ill or something just isnít quite right, bring them in. He says that if I want to give him my money, I can bring them in for annual visits, however, he doesnít recommend doing this as a regular routine. He states that all this proves is that they are healthy on that particular day, and I should save my money for serious problems!


OTHER HEALTH CONCERNS: Keep both of your bird's wings clipped. This process is neither painful nor cruel. A bird with clipped wings can still fly, but it will not gain altitude making it easier to capture if it should get loose. A clipped bird will not crash into walls or windows (the impact can kill a bird instantly or cause serious injury), it won't fly onto the lit stove, it won't fly away when someone opens the door, and a clipped bird will remain more tame (not able to have an advantage over you). Keep toenails clipped as necessary--overgrown toenails can get caught in things and make it difficult for a bird to move around. Long nails can also cause feet/leg problems. Birds have very sensitive respiratory systems--avoid using anything in the home that produces or can produce toxic fumes (Teflon coated pots and pans [when overheated], bug sprays, carpet deodorizers, air fresheners, household cleansers, candles, incense, etc.) and avoid using perfumes, colognes, hair sprays, aerosol deodorants, etc., around the vicinity of your bird. Beware of lead poisoning--painted surfaces, curtain weights, fishing tackle, clappers from bells, some galvanized wire, hardware cloth, mirror backings, seeds for planting, plaster, costume jewelry, stained glass, etc. Certain house plants are also poisonous (see listing). Time spent outside of the cage must be supervised. Think of your bird as a young, mischievous human child of 2 years, with wings, and take necessary precautions!


OTHER: When dealing with birds, you must look at things through the bird's eyes, not your own eyes. In other words, something (or someone) you consider to be normal might be a source of major trauma for a bird. So think like a bird when dealing with them! Check out this website for more information about parrot hazards: http://www.2ndchance.info/parrothazard.htm


DISINFECTING: Direct sunlight is a natural ďdisinfectant.Ē What I mean here is that after youíve thoroughly cleaned (with hot, soapy water) and disinfected (a 30-minute soaking in warm water containing bleach) your birdís cage, feed dishes, perches, toys, etc., setting them out in direct sunlight for a couple of hours to dry will ensure they are free from harmful germs.


BATHING: Most birds like to take baths and bathing or misting is important for good skin and feathers. Some birds prefer to take care of this themselves if you provide a dish of water for them (don't let them drink and bathe in the same dish). Some prefer to let you do the work! Use a plant or hair mister (one that didn't previously contain cleaning solutions, etc.) filled with plain warm water and spray them, being sure not to spray directly into nostrils if you're standing close. It isn't necessary to "drench them," but theyíll usually stand there as long as you keep spraying! You'll know when your bird has had enough. Do this early enough in the day so they'll dry completely before bedtime. Some birds like to bathe every day, and will do so in their water dish, others once or twice a week. Some parrots, such as cockatiels and cockatoos, produce a fine, white powder called bloom. This is normal and comes from down feathers that disintegrate into powder form. Misting once a week will help minimize the amount of bloom produced. Parrots normally do not get lice or fleas in their feathers. Sometimes, they might contract scaly mites, which shows up as scaly, dry patches of skin on feet/toes and around beak area (mainly seen in parakeets/budgies). These parasites usually come from items brought in from outside, such as tree limbs used as perches, but are easy to control. You'll have to get medication from a veterinarian and usually one dose down the throat cures the problem.


SLEEP: Your bird needs 10-12 hours of sleep each night (except during breeding season when the days are longer). It isn't necessary to cover the cage, but covers provide more privacy, keep out drafts, and some birds feel more secure at night when covered. A lot of birds like a box or Cozy Hut (sold with other bird supplies) to sleep in, but you need to watch boxes or items that can also serve as a nestbox. Most birds stop vocalizing as soon as their lights go out. If covers are used at night, often times they are effective during the day when you want your bird to be quiet for a certain period of time. However, covering a bird to keep them quiet doesn't work with all parrots (as long as they can still see some light)! I recommend the use of some type of night light to help ensure your bird doesn't become disoriented in the dark. Some birds (especially cockatiels) become frightened during the night and will thrash about the cage uncontrollably (called night thrashing or night frights). Night lights help, but if this occurs, turn on the normal lighting and talk to your bird to calm it down until s/he is back to normal. Often times, these night frights are caused by car headlights shining through a birdís window, some type of disruption in the birdís room after lights out, another bird causing some type of problem in the room, sirens, etc. When this happens, look for signs of bleeding since sometimes when this occurs, a bird may break a blood feather.


TEMPERATURE: Birds can become accustomed to cooler temperatures (not the same as draftiness), but a bird does not tolerate being overheated. If you notice your bird panting or holding its wings away from its body because of exposure to high temperatures, find the source of the problem and reduce the heat immediately. Lightly misting the bird may help to cool it down or remove the bird from the area until desired temperature is attained. It also helps to place drops of water next to or into its mouth to help cool it down and ensure your bird doesnít dehydrate. You can tell if a bird is dehydrated if its skin doesn't retract back to its normal state when you pull the skin away from the body. In other words, the skin will retract slowly or not at all in a dehydrated bird. If you want to keep a bird in a lower temperature than it is normally accustomed to, lower the temperature gradually over a period of time. Do not make a drastic temperature drop all of a sudden. Warm drafts are okay, but cool/cold drafts, such as a window open close to your bird in the wintertime (if you live in cold climates), can result in your bird becoming ill.


BABY BIRDS: Just-weaned baby birds are ďclean slatesĒÖthat is they only know what they have been taught by their parents, what is instinctive, and what they will learn from you and the environment they live in. Unless they have been raised with other domestic animals (cats, dogs, etc.), are accustomed to a TV/radio, baby humans, etc., a baby bird has no idea what these new things are, and it will be frightened by these things until it learns they are not a threat. Same things goes for towels on wet hair, silverware, plates, cars, human toys, bird dishes, and all those things we take for granted, a baby bird knows nothing about. When a bird is frightened, scared, or threatened, its natural instinct is to defend itself (fight or flight response). If the bird can't get away from this threat (flight), it will do what it has to do to protect itself or its family (fight). However, biting is a learned behaviorÖit is not instinctive. If your pet parrot bites, it's because someone taught it to bite!


HANDFEEDING BABY BIRDS: Handfeeding baby parrots is the best method of imprinting them to humans in order to end up with a tame bird. The process results in a trusting relationship, which is critical for a parrot/human bond. The baby learns that you are it's food source, it's teacher, protector, it's mom and dad, and it depends on you for it's survival. The baby(ies) will learn to LOVE your fingers and hands because that's where their food comes from during the feeding process! Depending on species, health, and number of babies in a clutch, I generally pull babies from their parents for handfeeding at 10-14 days. Parakeets/budgies can be pulled at 7-10 days (these birds are easy to handfeed), cockatiels at 10 days, and I prefer to pull lovebirds for handfeeding no later than 10 days. Medium to larger species of parrots mature a little slower, but these can be pulled for handfeeding at about 14 days. Sometimes it's necessary to pull a baby for handfeeding right after hatching or soon after hatchinig for reasons, such as parents not feeding, baby not taking parent feeding well, parents not feeding enough, etc. Handfeeding newly-hatched chicks can be very difficult, therefore, have some knowledge in this area if you are expecting hatchlings. When a pair of birds have a full clutch of babies (usually 4-6), I begin pulling the older babies as soon as possible so that the younger babies receive enough food. However, I never pull just one baby or leave just one baby in the nestbox...the other sibling provides warmth, company, and traction for legs. Do not pull babies for handfeeding and handfeed them for a day/couple of days and expect the parents to welcome them back in the nestbox for feeding. In other words, handfeeding baby birds is a commitment you make. It depends on the individual birds, but many parent birds will neglect, injure, and/or kill babies that have been replaced after having been absent for a period of time. It isn't that they are mean, or cannibles, etc., it's because they may not recognize them as their babies any more. So, bottom line, if you make a decision to handfeed, you have to make yourself available at the required times and for the required number of feedings every day until the baby(ies) are weaned.

If you have a baby parrot(s) to handfeed, you'll need baby bird handfeeding formula (there's regular and a type just for macaws...buy the correct blend for your baby(ies)), handfeeding syringes to fit size/type of bird (or small spoons, etc.), a thermometer to test the temperature of the formula, a brooder or other container to house the babies (once they are pulled from the parents for handfeeding), a heating pad (if brooder isn't heated), a thermometer to track temperature within container (unless a heated brooder is used), lots of paper towels, and some type of substrate for under baby(ies) to keep them dry until they are ready for a cage (pine shavings, processed paper pellets, paper towels, etc.). I recommend the use of Rubbermaid drawer liners, cut to the appropriate size, for use under the baby(ies) for traction so they do not become splay legged from standing/trying to stand on a slippery surface. This rubber material can be washed and disinfected in-between cleanings, is inexpensive, and lasts a long time. If you don't use a brooder, you can make a container out of many items. I've had much success with glass fish aquariums (1, 5, 10 gallon...depending on age and number of inhabitants), but just about anything that is enclosed to keep out drafts/keep warmth inside, won't overheat/melt (from heating pad underneath), that allows air circulation, easy to clean and disinfect, etc. Baby birds must be kept at about 95-98 degrees F when they do not have feathers. Temperature can be lowered as pin feathers and normal feathering develop. However, the heat is also required for metabolizing food in the crop. Therefore, even with feathering up to a certain age, some amount of heat will be required. I normally remove heat completely when baby(ies) are feathered and able to eat/properly metabolize cold/room-temperature food. The amount of extra heat you need to provide also depends on temperature within the immediate area of the birds, i.e., if the room isn't air conditioned and it's a hot summer day, the ambient temperature may be sufficient during the daytime for a partially-feathered baby. In feeding baby bird formula, follow the directions on the back of the packaging for mixing. Baby bird formula MUST be fed to the baby(ies) at a temperature of 102 - 105 degrees F. This means when the formula enters the baby's mouth, it must be 102 - 105 degrees F. This is why you need a thermometer to test the temp of the formula. If not the correct temperature, the baby's body won't be able to process the formula. This is called crop stasis and is harmful to the bird. The formula will harden in the crop, will not digest, and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and other undesirables. Subsequent feedings make this condition worse and the baby can become quite ill. This temperature is the temperature of the food regurgitated by parent birds when feeding their babies (it's the same temperature as the parent's body). There's a right and wrong way to feed baby parrots. Feeding the wrong way can quickly kill a baby. Once you have baby bird formula in the syringe at the correct temperature, with the baby facing you, insert the tip of the handfeeding syringe into the bird's beak feeding from right side of beak into/toward left side of mouth. However, before feeding the baby, you must obtain a feeding response from the baby. This feeding response prepares the baby physically to accept the formula. To obtain a feeding response, gently take your index finger and thumb of one hand and rub/massage the baby's beak at the base where the beak meets the face. A feeding response is obtained when the baby "bobs" it's beak up and down, as though it were eating from your fingers. This response allows the trachea to close so when delivering the formula into the baby's beak, the formula goes down the esophagous and not the trachea. If liquid goes down the trachea, it enters the lungs/air sacs and can asperate a baby parrot. Asperation can result in pneumonia and/or death within minutes. Depending on the age/size of the baby, you should feed one drop at a time or several drops at a time until the crop is nearly filled. For example, a newly hatched baby should only be fed one drop at a time, while a 3-week old baby might demand a mouth full at a time. The amount placed in the mouth at a time can be increased with age. Feed according to the ability of the baby to handle the food, even if this means you'll have to feed more often. Fill the crop just shy of full, as bird formula tends to expand in the crop, particularly if not mixed completely in the beginning. If you see food backing up into the baby's neck, you've feed too much. Try to avoid overstretching the crop by feeding too much formula at a feeding. You can avoid overstretching by watching to ensure you don't see food backing up into the neck. An important observation here...when you place food into the baby's mouth, it takes a few seconds for that food to make it's way down into the crop. Therefore, let the baby swallow a few times to work the food down before you inspect the crop to see how full it is. I need to mention temperature of the formula again here...if the formula is too hot, you can burn the baby's crop from the inside out. This will show up as a hole on the outside of the crop (with formula oozing out possibly). The baby will most likely pass away if this occurs, but if it happens and you catch it in time, an avian veterinarian can sometimes help if the burn isn't too severe. Once baby's start receiving their food, they get sleepy just like we do when we have a full stomach of warm food, so you might have to awaken the baby a couple of times between drops of food in order to complete the feeding. Be sure to check for the feeding response again. However, if the baby is too sleepy, the feeding response might not come, so stop feeding and feed again later. I always like to provide a bit of water at the end of each feeding to clear remaining formula out of the mouth and because the baby needs water. I also mix human baby food into the parrot handfeeding formula for extra vitamins/minerals. A newly hatched baby will need to be feed every 2 hours until it is approximately 1 week old (depending on the species), even during the night. Babies 7-10 days old to beginning of weaning age (usually about 4 weeks old) need to be fed every 4 hours, except during the night. This means about 7:00AM, 11-12, 4-5PM, and again about 9-10PM. Use a different handfeeding syringe for each baby being fed and clean and disinfect the syringes and other utensils in between feedings. This prevents cross contamination if one of the babies is ill. I wash with hot soapy water and soak in Vanodine (or bleach water) to disinfect.


WEANING BABIES: Birds will continue to accept handfeeding formula for almost as long as you want to provide it for them! I have 5- and 6-year old birds that I handfed as babies that will accept handfeeding formula whenever I have some leftover! You will have to start the weaning process at some point, and then proceed at the BABY'S SPEED, with a little encouragement on your part. The weaning process can begin when you notice the baby pecking at items on the bottom of it's brooder/container/cage. This usually occurs at about 3-4 weeks of age, depending on the bird (parakeets/budgies do this earlier). They should also be preening themselves at about this time, perhaps picking at their feet or toes, etc. I start out by eliminating 1 handfeeding (noon or 5PM feeding) and replacing that eliminated feeding with some other type of food the baby can eat. For example, because of my schedule, I prefer to eliminate the 5PM handfeeding first. If it's hard for you to go home at lunch (and you can't take baby parrot to work with you to feed), you might want to eliminate the noon feeding. The morning (7AM) and night (9-10PM) feedings should be the last feedings to be eliminated. I believe in abundance weaning, which means that during the weaning process, keeping the babies well fed and keeping food available at all times as you eliminate handfeedings. This is because that during weaning, they will also fledge (fly for the first time). Once they fledge, they would rather fly (and play) than eat. As a result, they will lose some weight. Weight loss also means less nutrition into the body. This is a critical time for a baby bird because their immune system isn't fully developed yet, and the weight loss, stress from all the new/fun activity, ability to access other places, curiosity about new things, etc., can take it's toll. Just keep an eye on the baby and it's weight, weigh the baby daily if you have the right type of scales, to ensure not too much weight is lost. Anything more than about 2 pounds weight loss during weaning should be a concern. There are many types of "first foods" that you can offer a weaning baby parrot. However, because the baby is used to warm, soft food, and the baby's body may not be able to process cold food yet, I start out by offering a variety of different types of warm food, such as a warm baked potato, warm sweet potatoes, warm corn bread, "monkey" (primate) biscuits soaked in warm fruit juice, pelleted/extruded food soaked in warm fruit juice, oatmeal or cream of wheat (use warm water or fruit juice, but not milk to mix), etc. There are foods on the market just for weaning purposes, so you might want to look into those. As the baby gets older, you can switch to offering other foods, and you can progress from warm to cold foods. The baby(ies) might be reluctant at first to try these weaning foods until they recognize the items are for eating. You might need to show them what to do/how to eat by placing some of the food into their mouths and/or pushing their head gently down to the dish touching the tip of their beak into the food. Also be aware that baby birds do not know what bird dishes are and they might be afraid of this new item (it might not be the food they question, but the dish the food is in). So, grit your teeth through the crying and begging and leave the room! As long as they can see you, they will beg. Leave them alone for a while and see what they do. They might be a little hungry until the next handfeeding, but this won't hurt them. This is why the last handfeeding of the day isn't eliminated early in the weaning process...they will need this feeding to sleep well during the weaning process! The second handfeeding to eliminate should be the noon feeding. This should occur about 1 week after the first handfeeding has been eliminated, however, the baby(ies) must be eating on their own (eating of their own accord in place of the 5PM handfeeding) BEFORE you eliminate a second handfeeding. If the baby isn't ready after 1 week, wait an additional few days/week before eliminating the second handfeeding. THE WEANING PROCESS SHOULD OCCUR AT THE BABY'S PACE, not because you're in a hurry to eliminate handfeedings. Sometimes baby's regress a little and you have to handfeed in order to keep the baby healthy. This is OK. If you think a baby needs to be handfed, do it! Not all baby parrots progress at the same speed, therefore, use your common sense...if the baby acts hungry, feed it! However, remember that if they can see/hear you, they will beg, so give them a chance to learn before giving in (and they would rather be handfed than feed themselves). Be cautious about leaving water dishes in baby's container. Baby birds have to learn how to use water dishes or they can drown in their water. I offer baby birds water in dishes after they have eaten (when they are old enough), however, I do not put water bowls in a baby's housing until they are old enough to live in a cage. I wean from water dishes to water bottles as soon as possible. If the baby is progressing well, the third handfeeding I eliminate is the morning one. This should occur approximately a week after weaning from the second handfeeding but, again, progress at the baby's speed with your encouragement. You must ensure the baby is eating well on it's own before eliminating the morning feeding. By this time, the baby should be eating a variety of foods. In addition, the baby SHOULD NOT have been offered any type of seed yet. Offering seed during the weaning process can be detrimental to the weaning process and be harmful to the baby's health (seed is a fun food and has little nutritional value). I will only offer seed as a treat or reward AFTER a baby has been completely weaned and has been eating on it's own for a couple of months. An exception to this rule are smaller birds like parakeets or budgies. I offer spray millet to baby keets/budgies as one of their weaning foods. However, keets/budgies readily accept other types of foods just like the bigger parrots. The last handfeeding to eliminate should be the night feeding (9PM). This should occur approximately a week after eliminating the third handfeeding, again at the baby's speed. I have found that all species of baby parrots that I've raised need the nighttime feeding (even if just for reassurance before going to sleep). They sleep better with full crops and I sleep better knowing that they are sleeping well! For example, I currently am weaning 3 Nanday conure babies that are 8 weeks old. They eat everything under the sun, but at 9PM, they still want that 10 cc's of handfeeding formula before they settle down for the night (they were up to 30 cc's at each handfeeding). I'll eliminate this "late night snack" easily and quickly by only offering it every other day, then every 2-3 days, until completely eliminated (within a week to 2 weeks).

As a parrot breeder, I will not sell an unweaned baby parrot to someone UNLESS the buyer can show me before they leave my house that they can sucessfully handfeed their chosen baby. It would be irresponsible for me to allow a baby parrot to leave my home with someone who has no idea how to care for the bird. However, as a buyer, it is better for the human/parrot bond if I can handfeed my chosen baby, even if only 1 handfeeding a day. Some parrot breeders will sell a baby parrot that is weaned to 1 handfeeding a day. Otherwise, when you buy a baby parrot, it should be completely weaned and eating a variety of food on it's own, as well as drinking water. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes baby parrots regress a little, and this regression sometimes occurs when a baby bird moves from it's original home to it's new home. Therefore, be prepared to recognize a baby parrot who might need to go back on handfeeding for a little while. If your new baby cries all the time, is losing weight, just doesn't look good, etc., it doesn't hurt to handfeed them (using baby bird handfeeding formula). As a matter of fact, I handfeed some adult birds who become ill and go off their feed. I also handfeed baby pigeons who are removed from their parents for various reasons and adult pigeons who go off their feed.


TONGUES AND BITING: Birds use their tongues as an extra apendageÖthey feel and taste with it. If you look closely at a parrot's tongue, it is wider and thicker at the end and the end feels like leather. So when a parrot puts itís beak around your finger or acts as though it is going to lick your skin (beak open with tongue slightly out),it doesnít necessarily mean the parrot is trying to bite you. Itís curious and wants to ďfeelĒ and "taste" you with the end of its tongue. Some parrots like to pick at scabs or other skin imperfections so they will glide their tongue across your finger or hand! Baby birds often times will try to bite, but the baby is usually just trying to see what you are and testing out its beak. There are times when the baby may apply pressure and if itís too much for you, use a verbal command (ďNo!Ē) to teach it that it hurts. Baby birds donít know their own strength for a while, so give it some time to learn whatís acceptable and not. Babies also will test you to see how much you will put up with. Baby birds also teethe like human babies do when their teeth are coming in. Baby birds need safe items they can chew on (besides your skin/bones) until they are past the teething process. Set the rules down early, just like you would a baby human. Usually when a tame bird bites, itís because of something you are doing wrong, such as grabbing it around the back/wings (this is how predators attack/kill them), making it do something it doesnít want to do (you have to use your own judgment here----you should control the bird, not let the bird control you), however, there are times when a bird just doesnít want to be bothered, and it may be at the time when you want to play with it. You both have to learn when it is/when it isnít a good time for you to interact together. In other words, if the bird is napping, but you want to play, donít be surprised if you get nipped (and donít punish the bird for this)!


POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR: Use positive reinforcement for acceptable behavior (give your bird one of its favorite treats), and NEVER reward negative behavior. A reward to a bird can be something as simple as looking at it. For instance, if the bird is screaming for no reason, donít look at it, donít tell s/he they are bad, and certainly donít give s/he a treat! However, shortly after it stops screaming, reward it immediately and praise it for being a good bird. Your parrot will catch the drift quickly!


HEALTHY FOOD: The healthiest food to feed is raw vegetables. Cooking removes most nutrients. When you buy, buy frozen, not canned (canned food is overcooked and contains too much salt). Fruits are good, too, but most are mainly water. The best fruits are blueberries, the melons, papaya, mango, and oranges (not the orange seeds). Birds love grapes, but they are mostly water (I call them fun food). Other great foods are all kinds of cooked beans (very healthy), sweet potatoes/yams, squash, broccoli, beets, and pumpkin. Parrots love corn bread, too (and you can add vitamins, minerals, supplements, medicines, etc., to these types of foods for your pet to consume)!


DROPPINGS: Droppings should be firm with a small amount of liquid (they urinate with stool). Color may vary depending on what it recently has eaten (pellets cause color variations), but there should always be a white area in the center of the dropping. Runny droppings may simply mean the bird drank too much water, but birds do get diarrhea with some illnesses. A VERY SICK bird will sit on the bottom of the cage. Sick birds will puff their feathers up when they sit on their perch so their weight loss canít be seen (weight loss is #1 clue a bird isnít eating and may be sick [or may not like the food you are feeding]). In this case, you need to hold the bird and check to see if it has meat on both sides of its breast bone. When the breast bone can be seen, the bird is underweight. This could also mean the bird has worms or some type of intestinal/digestive problem. Keep unflavored Pedialyte around just in case of illness (to treat any dehydration). A good website for information on droppings is: http://www.birdhobbyist.com/articles/Poopology101.html. Information on parrot illnesses/diseases can be found at: http://www.realmacaw.com/pages/comdisease.html


IT'S MY SPACE!: Birds become territorial of their cages, particularly the inside. I suggest you start out by respecting the inside of the birdís cage as his own-----do what you have to do to keep the cage clean and the bird fed, etc., but if/when the bird decides he doesnít want your hand inside, respect it's wishesÖit needs itís own space just like we do. Clean his cage later when s/he is in a better mood. If you want to take him out of his cage and heís in it, coax him out and then let him step up on your hand.


TRAINING: Teach the bird to step up by saying ďupĒ (or whatever word you desire to use as long as you are consistent) as you place your finger on his lower chest until he steps up. Teach him to get on your finger/hand every time you place your finger/hand in that position. Do the same in reverse for "down." Since his wings are clipped, heís at your mercy for transportation (unless he gets down and walks!).


CLIPPED WINGS: Your bird can still fly, even with clipped wings, he just canít gain altitude. If outside with clipped wings, a strong wind can carry the bird away, so if you take him outside, put him in a secure cage up away from other animals.


TALKING: Most birds (especially males in some species) have the ability to learn to talk. This is taught with repetition using hard consonant sounds mostly at first (like b, d, t, p, k---bird/bad/baby, dog, treat, kitty, puppy, etc.). Birds mimic otherís sounds, so if you swear, donít be surprised if your bird learns these terms also! Your parrot may also mimic sounds from the microwave, telephone, TV, radio, etc. Birds speak in fast speed, so when you try to understand what they are saying, keep this in mind. Therefore, when teaching a parrot to speak, speak slower than you normally would so your parrot will learn to say the word/phrase at normal speed. Teach 1 syllable words first, then advance to 2, etcÖsimple phrases come with time.


CONSISTENCY: Birds prefer routine. However, donít worry if you must break this routine occasionally. I purposely vary my birdsí routine, as my schedule is hectic and subject to being broken regularly. Keep a routine for your bird(s) if at all possible. If your schedule is hectic, get your pet bird used to variations in its schedule to minimize stress.


STRESS: Stress will make a bird sick/kill a bird faster than anything else. Stress compromises the immune system (even in humans), which means it weakens the immune system. With a weakened immune system, a bird becomes susceptible to opportunistic illness and disease. Minimize your birdís stress level in order to keep your bird healthy.


CONTENTMENT: When a bird is comfortable in itís environmentÖwhen it feels loved, safe, etc., it will rub itís upper and lower beaks (mandibles) together when it is resting/sleeping. Therefore, when/if you hear a strange noise and it appears your bird is ďgrindingĒ its beak, it is, but itís because s/he is happy.


LEG BANDING: Leg banding is a method of identification. Baby parrots are banded when they are very young, usually about 2-3 weeks of age, depending on the species of bird. Leg bands can contain several different types of information depending on the seller (or the club or society selling the band), but all contain a number used for identification purposes. Some bands show the year of birth of the parrot, some show the initials of the breeder, etc. Normally, you should see the year of birth (usually 2 numbers placed sideways on the band) and a unique identification number. This unique number is the key to the background/history of your bird. For example, a parrot flies into your backyard and you are able to catch it, but wonder where it came from and how old it is. The leg band should be able to provide the year of birth and if the band contains initials, these initials can be traced to the breeder (or club/society), then the breeder can trace to the individual bird. This is one method of returning found birds to their rightful owners. Leg banding is important in that as a bird is bought and sold, the information contained on the band goes with the bird, i.e., the age of the bird is known, the leg band shows that the bird came from a breeder, and history about the bird is available for one who wants to pursue. With that said, let me share my experiences with leg banding. I banded all my baby parrots for years. This was important for the bird's sake as well as mine so that I could identify a particular bird from all the baby birds I was raising. However, as time went on, I discovered that leg bands can be a health hazard as well as a good thing. I stopped banding baby parrots after: (1) I found a cockatiel whose leg had slipped between the wires of it's cage and it's leg band had caught on a food dish hook (outside the cage)...the tiel died from the trauma of trying to free itself; (2) I had to cut the leg bands off several birds who injured their legs/feet somehow, the leg swelled, and the bands were detrimental to the healing process; (3) I banded many finches/small birds with plastic, open-ended leg bands that were chewed off; (4) I've found several parrots hanging in shock with their leg bands caught in their toys; (5) I've bought several parrots who were fitted with the wrong size leg band that resulted in permanent leg problems. I no longer band baby parrots. If you wish to purchase leg bands for your baby parrots or desire further information, visit the following websites: http://home.earthlink.net/~lmbird/lmcat.html http://www.redbirdproducts.com/ http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww5eiii.htm (general information on leg banding) http://shell.pubnix.net/~mhagen/docu/id.html (general information on leg banding) Use the above information in order to help you decide whether you should band your babies and/or how to obtain information about your banded bird.


SEXING: Some parrots can be sexed visually and others require invasive (surgical) or noninvasive (DNA) sexing. While some believe the sex of a parrot can be determined by the width of a beak at its base, the shape of a parrot's head, the angle of the lower jaw, the overall size of the parrot, etc., the 100% accurate way of determining sex is via surgical or DNA sexing (DNA being the preferred method). DNA sexing can be easily performed by yourself at home once you have everything you need to take the samples. Testing kits are free of charge from several sources and include instructions on how to conduct the test/take the samples. After taking the samples, you send them to the Laboratory for processing and results can be faxed, E-Mailed, snail-mailed, phoned, to you within a week (depending on how busy the Lab is during this time). Cost is about $20 each test depending on which Laboratory you use. Basically, what you need to do is clip the bird's toenail just to where it bleeds a little so that you can get 1-2 drops of blood. The free test kit comes with a paper card where you place the blood drops (some Labs may send you a plastic vial containing a liquid instead of sending a paper card). Send the card (or the vial) with the blood drops back to the Lab with your payment. Instead of drops of blood, some Labs can also process blood feathers (new feathers containing blood in the quill) for those who might have trouble getting the sample from the bird. Visit the following websites for test kits or further information: http://www.avianbiotech.com/ http://www.parrotpages.com/links/birdsexing-labs.shtml Some parrots can be visually sexed, such as parakeets/budgies, some cockatiel mutations, ringnecks, etc., but most species require DNA sexing.

To visually sex a parakeet/budgie, look at the cere (the colored area above the beak where the nostrils are located). In general, if the keet/budgie is male, it's cere will be blue; a female's cere will be any other color, but particularly brown/beige/tan. These colors appear in a bird that is 3-4 months old. For baby keets/budgies (less than 3-4 months old), males will have translucent pink cere that may have a blue or purple tint. Females have white coloring around the nostrils that might be blue or blue tink, purple, or pink. Males are usually much more vocal than females, even as babies. There are exceptions to the latter in the case of albinos, fallows, lutinos and recessive pieds. For these mutations, DNA sexing might be required, you can observe behavior around other keets/budgies, or you can try to determine sex by placing them in a colony setting and letting them pair up themselves.

For cockatiels, visit the National Cockatiel Society website at: http://www.cockatiels.org/articles/genetics/vsexing.html


FIRST-AID KIT: Everyone who owns parrots, or animals of any kind, needs to have a first-aid kit on hand. Injuries and emergencies can crop up AT ANY TIME (and they usually do on Friday evenings or weekends when the bird vet isn't open!), and you need to handle these situations quickly or until you can get to an avian veterinarian or emergency clinic, depending on the situation. The contents of a birdie first-aid kit can vary, however, I recommend the following minimum contents: - Several different sized scissors (small to large) - One (or more) pair of hemostats (or needle-nosed pliers) - Coflex tape (this tape sticks to itself and not to skin or feathers) - Pair of human fingernail clippers (for smaller birds) - Pair of dog toenail clippers (for medium to large birds) - Blood coagulant (something to stop bleeding...in dog section of pet shop)(can use baking flour if nothing else available) - Hydrogen peroxide - Betadine (type of germ killer/disinfectant) - Antibiotic cream (such as Neosporin) - Gauze - White bandage tape (small width) - Liquid bandage - Cotton balls and Q-tips - Small tool to cut off leg bands on small birds (this type tool is hard to find, but invaluable when it is needed). For medium to large birds, you'll need to use a bolt cutter to cut off leg bands. - Gloves or towel (for handling) - Vasoline - Mineral oil - Egg candler I also keep stitches, bird salve, and eye antibiotic in my first-aid kit, as well as a battery-operated cauterizer to stop nail bleeding quickly. Your kit might grow as you gain experience with birds or could change depending on your experiences. I also keep medicine on hand for a variety of different ailments.


CLIPPING TOENAILS: At some time or another, you will most likely have to clip your parrot's toenails. Parrot's nails grow just like our nails grow and often require regular maintenance. There are products on the market you can buy to help keep the parrot's nails trimmed, however, if the bird won't use the item, you'll have to step in. Then, there are some birds that never need to have their nails trimmed. Nails that are too long get wrapped around cage wire, get stuck in bird toys, and can grow so long that they wrap around piercing the bird's body. Long nails that are not trimmed can cause deformities, can result in crippling, can make perching difficult for the bird, and bird's can die or be seriously injured as a result of trying to free themselves when their foot gets stuck due to a long nail wrapping around something in the cage (string, small chains, etc.). The type and size of clippers you should use for this task depends on the size of the bird's nail and how much you need to trim. For parakeet-sized parrots, I use small human fingernail clippers. For my amazon parrots, I use human toenail clippers or dog nail clippers (or the fingernail clippers, depending on the size of the nail). Before you begin clipping, be sure to have some type of blood coagulant handy in case you accidently clip the vein running through the nail (which will result in bleeding). You can use household baking flour as a coagulant or buy "Kwik Stop" at your local pet shop. I recommend you disinfect the clippers you will use by cleaning them with alcohol before you begin. This will help keep infection to a minimum if you clip the vein. I clip nails differently, depending on the bird. If the bird is difficult to handle, I clip each nail back to where the vein ends (so I don't have to clip very often...less stress on the bird and me!). With my tamer birds, I'll clip the tip only (about 1/16" to 1/8", depending on the size of the nail), but I have to trim more often. If I can't readily see the vein in the nail (as with dark nails), I'll also only trim the tip. You'll get used to how far you can trim after doing this a few times. Light colored nails allow you to see the vein easily (might have to shine a flashlight behind the nail to see the vein). Some birds will have to be restrained to have their nails clipped and some birds just sit quietly while this is being done (well, some like to try eating the clippers!). When you clip nails, be careful how you position the clippers to cut the nail. In other words, you want to be sure to clip the nail so that when the bird stands, the nail rests flat; not sticking up in the air. For example, if the bird is standing on your finger and you are trimming it's nails, you want to hold the clippers so they are somewhat under the bird's nail when you trim. You want to maintain the natural curve of the nail, but just cut it shorter. If you cut down too far and bleeding begins, take the bird's toe and dip it into the flour or coagulant so that it packs around the nail. If neither are available, apply pressure to the nail to stop the bleeding (same as you would if you cut yourself badly). You can also pack the flour or coagulant around the nail by hand. Do not remove until bleeding stops or, if you remove and bleeding begins again, pack the nail again. Small birds like parakeets can't afford to lose too much blood or they will die. It is possible to trim a nail down so far that the resultant bleeding kills the bird, so be careful here. It's best to cut a little at a time than too much at once. You can also cauterize a nail to stop any bleeding. In addition, some people like to use a Dremel tool to smooth the nail down once trimmed, particularly with the larger parrots (or they use the Dremel tool to trim the nail). You can also use a nail file, although most parrots dislike having this done. I haven't found this to be necessary because of the way I clip nails, but sometimes right after trimming, a bird's nails are a bit sharp until worn down a little. Therefore, you might consider smoothing them a bit if they are uncomfortable for you or the bird. Trimming a bird's nails too far down would be similar to trimming your own nail too far back...a little discomfort. Therefore, don't be surprised if your parrot favors it's leg for a few days/week (s/he'll hold the leg up). Be careful not to trim all a bird's nails down too far at once or you'll have a very uncomfortable bird on your hands. You want this to be as nice an experience for your bird (and you for that matter) as possible so your parrot doesn't end up HATING this procedure. It's also a good idea to allow someone else to do this to your companion so your pet will dislike that person instead of you if you end up causing any stress or discomfort to your bird. Be sure to reward your parrot for behaving well.


CLIPPING WING FEATHERS: Some people consider wing feather clipping cruel and unnatural. It is unnatural, however, not cruel (doesn't hurt the bird at all). I say to these people that it's also unnatural to cage a bird. If we keep birds as pets, we must be responsible to also keep them as safe as possible. The decision to clip your parrot's feathers is completely up to you. However, for the safety and welfare of your parrot, I recommend keeping both wings clipped at all times if your situation calls for it, i.e., you let your bird roam your home, let your bird outside of it's cage most of the time, etc., and there's a chance s/he might be able to slip out of an opened door/window, etc. (for example, if you have children that go in/out). If you have complete control over the opening of windows/doors and can ensure your bird can't escape outdoors, then the decision is up to you. Clipped wings also helps keep a bird tame...doesn't MAKE a bird tame, but keeps a tame bird tame because it has to rely on you for it's transportation (unless it climbs where it wants to go). If you have other pets in your home, as well as a parrot, and they share the same living areas of your home (the bird is out of it's cage all the time or a lot), you might not want to clip your parrot's wings (or do a modified clip) in case the bird needs to be able to flee from other pets (including young children) in the home. However, if you choose not to clip your bird's feathers, be aware that: - You could lose your parrot to the outside if a door or window is opened/left opened (this happens all the time in households with children) - You could lose your parrot if it flies full speed into glass (which bird's can't see/detect) and/or a wall (their neck snaps and they die instantly) - Your parrot could drown flying into a commode or sink of water, etc. - Your parrot could get burned if it flies onto the stove with a burner lit - Your parrot could chew on/consume items containing lead or other harmful chemicals - Your parrot could become food for one of your other pets (cats LOVE it when parrots fly, even if they don't bother them otherwise) - Your parrot could become very sick or die from eating poisonous house plants - Ceiling fans kill many parrots every year The list is endless as to what trouble your parrot can get into with a full set of feathers and free roam of your home! NEVER clip 1 wing and not the other. This results in a bird who flies in a circular pattern...not good. The number of feathers that you should clip/have clipped on each wing depends on how much altitude you want your parrot to have. A severe clip means the bird will fly straight down to the floor from wherever it launches (no altitude whatsoever). A mild clip means a bird can gain some altitude, but only for a short distance. In between these would be a clip that allows your bird to glide at an even level, but not gain altitude. To get an idea of the structure of a parrot's wing (and additional information), visit the following websites: http://www.yourpet.co.za/articles/birds/care/wing.asp http://www.petparrot.com/ParrotCareWingClipping.htm http://birdmart.com/reference/wings.html http://www.exoticpetvet.net/avian/wings.html http://www.theparrotsocietyuk.org/winclip.htm There are many websites on this subject. Perform a search using key words such as "parrot wing clipping" or "clipping parrot feathers."


SPLAY LEGS: Splay leg is a condition that is caused by improper substrate (surface) under a bird. This condition most often occurs (if not always) with baby birds where there is not enough friction against a bird's legs in order to keep the bird's legs from sliding. The result is one or both legs grow outward or sideways to the body instead of directly under the bird. This condition is usually correctable, but you have to catch it early before cartlidge becomes bone. In my experience, if I catch this condition before a baby bird is about 2 weeks old (depending of the species of bird and the severity of the condition), the condition can be corrected nearly 100% of the time. The older the baby, the more difficult to correct. Most of the time if over 4 weeks old, this condition is irreversible. A lot of people think "so what, they have wings," but they don't realize that other birds will pick on them, they can't get around like other birds, some may not be able to mate/breed, or other health problems can result if not corrected. Below are some websites with additional information on this potentially crippling condition: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Cliffs/6483/splay.html http://www.parrotparrot.com/splay/ http://www.2ndchance.info/spraddle.htm


HOUSING MULTIPLE SPECIES TOGETHER: I do not recommend housing multiple, different species of parrots together. The main reason is to prevent hybridization of species, i.e., the production of offspring that are genetically dissimilar to the species (in other words, crossbreeding). Sometimes, housing different species together is OK, if the species are so very different that mating would not occur (for example, housing cockatiels and parakeets together). However, with amazon species, for example, you would not want an orange wing amazon to pair-bond/mate with a blue front amazon. The subspecies are similar, but not genetically correct. In the latter example, mating can occur, but hybridization is not an acceptable practice in aviculture. The goal in aviculture is to keep each species pure as they exist in the wild. Even though different species can be housed together (like parakeets and cockatiels in my example above), it may not be wise to do so for various reasons, such as parakeets tend to pick on cockatiels, lovebird's beaks are much larger than cockatiels so in a squabble a lovebird could severely injure a cockatiel, dietary requirements could be different, perching needs could be different, one species of parrot may require more room than another, one may require more attention than another, etc. There are exceptions, but it depends on the individual personalities of the particular birds. For example, if your keets and tiels get along well together and you want to house them together, by all means, do so. If your lovebird gets along just fine with your tiel, house them in the same cage if you desire. Just be aware, and watch for, signs that different species are not mixing well together. Observe them together for a time to see how they are getting along before you house them together permanently. You would not want to come home one day to find a major problem on your hands. And by all means, do not allow crossbreeding to occur.


HANDLING UNTAME BIRDS: First of all, get to know your bird well. If you've raised s/he from a baby, you have a pretty good idea of your parrot's disposition. If you've purchased your parrot from someone else as a young bird or as an adult bird, you may have acquired someone else's "problem" bird, i.e., the reason they are selling is because the bird bites or has other behavior problems they don't know how to deal with. I mention this because bird's usually behave differently when they are inside their cage from the way they may behave when they are outside their cage. This is due to the fact that the inside of a bird's cage is it's personal space, it's personal domain, it's safety zone, and s/he will likely not want anyone, including you, to mess around with the inside of it's space, especially when s/he is in it! When outside their cage, parrots tend to feel more vulnerable (they are outside their safety zone), are more aware of their surroundings, they may frighten more easily, may take flight when frightened, and they are less likely to bite or act aggressive outside their cage than when they are inside (depends on the individual bird). Therefore, you may have what you believe to be an untame parrot when you are dealing with s/he inside it's cage, but a tame bird when s/he is outside. For example, I have an orange wing amazon female that attacks me whenever I open the cage door to feed or service the cage. However, when she's outside her cage, she stands on my hand and is a tame bird.

Even though a bird is tame inside and/or outside it's cage, s/he may not allow you to cover it's wings (as in toweling) or place your hand around it's body in order for you to restrain your parrot in order to perform certain actions. Once you've determined that your parrot is not going to like being restrained and you must handle s/he for whatever reason (to clip it's wings or nails, to look at an injury, to give medication, etc.), you have several different options for restraining/handling. (1) you can "towel" the parrot, (2) you can use gloves, (3) you can "trick" your parrot, (4) you can let your avian veterinarian handle the procedure. Toweling or using gloves to catch/restrain your parrot is basically for your protection against a serious bite when you need to restrain your bird. However, this process can also protect your bird from (further) injury if done properly. For example, if your parrot isn't properly subdued, it's squirming can result in further injury or can result in damage being done that may not have existed. I've seen parrot's necks broken by pet store personnel who did not know what they were doing when trying to clip wings and they did not have the parrot properly restrained. When restraining a bird, you have to make sure you don't hurt it in the process (squeeze it too tight that it can't breathe, snap it's neck, etc.). What I mean by "tricking" your parrot is that if your parrot is tame enough that it will at least sit on your arm/hand/finger/perch/stick, you may be able to do what you need to do from that position, i.e., clip toenails, look at a problem area on the body/legs/feet, etc., without them even knowing you are doing something (especially if you have someone else in the room to divert their attention away from you). Sometimes just observing a parrot through the cage is all it takes to check out a nonserious injury. A trip to the avian veterinarian may be necessary for those who don't want to deal with restraining their parrot at all.

Any time a bird is restrained or you have to handle your bird for whatever reason (other than playing with s/he), it will most likely become distressed/stressed out. Therefore, whatever you have to do you need to do quickly and accurately. Your 98.6 degree F body temperature against it's 102 degree F body temperature (which is elevated due to the procedure causing some stress), could result in your bird becoming overheated. If you run into problems where it is taking longer to perform this procedure than usual, and the bird is open-mouth breathing or showing any signs of overheating, let the bird have a break to cool down, relax a bit, regroup, etc. (offer s/he a drink of water).

If you have decided to use a towel to subdue and restrain your parrot, pick the correct sized towel, i.e., a face cloth (small birds), a hand towel (cockatiels), or a bath/beach towel (conures on up). If you choose to use gloves, make sure they are made of strong material (I use welding gloves that fit up to my elbows). A parrot can bite right through cloth or knitted gloves. You will most likely have to fold or double over whatever sized towel you use, especially a bath towel (not just because of size but also to keep the bird from biting through the towel). When I need to towel a bird, I take the bird into a small area, such as my bathroom, I place the bird on the floor or on the commode seat (commode lid is down), and with my hand(s) inside the towel, I throw the towel over the bird/across the bird's back (towel should completely cover the bird) so that my hand (with the towel between my hand and the bird's body) can grasp the bird across both wings at the same time (this works for smaller birds). You may have to throw the towel over the bird first just to catch the bird, then quickly find the proper positioning on the bird's back. My fingers will be gently, but securely, around the bird's back and body so the bird is subdued. Immediately ensure you are not restricting it's breathing by pressing too tightly around the chest (be sure the towel is not covering up it's nostrils, too). Quickly, I move my thumb to the right side of the bird's head and my index finger to the left side of the bird's head, positioning my fingers below the eyes and behind the beak. At this point, my wrist and arm are in a straight line, with my hand slightly tilted away from my body. This allows the bird's head and neck to be held securely and in a straight line in order to keep the bird under control and to keep from snapping it's neck while it's wiggling around. If done properly, the bird can't bite you and won't injure itself. So what you should end up with in less than a minute or two is a towel between you and the bird, with the bird's back (or neck) in the palm of your hand and the beak/legs facing out, with your thumb on one side of the head and your index finger on the other side of the head. A similar comparison of this procedure would be the way a human parent would secure the head/neck of their newborn baby (with their hand securely underneath the baby's head/neck), although baby would be horizontally positioned and the bird would be vertically positioned. This works for small to medium sized parrots and may take you and another person to accomplish. Now you are ready to clip wings, toenails, check out an injury, fix an injury, give medication or an injection, etc. Be careful, however, because the bird will try to use it's feet/toes to grasp anything it can to try to maneuver itself out of the position it should be in. The larger the bird, the more those toenails hurt!

For larger birds (such as amazons and larger), the same initial procedure is used, however, these birds are usually too big for one person/one hand to properly restrain and conduct a procedure. Therefore, two people is usually best...one to hold the bird, the other to do the clipping, etc. However, I've learned over the years with practice that I can lay an amazon parrot in my lap with a towel around it's body (gently let the parrot rest in your lap and slightly between your legs)and instead of positioning my thumb and finger on either side of it's head, I can close the towel in the front up to the parrot's face (leaving the beak out for air) using my left hand (and drawing the towel a bit tigher around the bird's body so s/he can't wiggle out) so that I can use my right hand to do what I need to do. Once you get the hang of this, you can actually use your left hand to hold the towel in place, as well as grip a leg so that you can clip nails by yourself with your right hand. However, I do not recommend this to anyone until you have enough experience doing this with two people. For birds larger than an amazon, please be sure to ask for assistance (and ensure you educate them as to what they should do and not do BEFORE starting any procedure). Even some amazons require 2+ people...I had a blue front amazon male that was so large and strong (Pepper hated being restrained) that it took 4 people to restrain...one for each leg, one for the head/beak, and one for the body...a 5th person to do the work! DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RESTRAIN A BIRD WITHOUT THE PROPER ASSISTANCE. Your bird's life could be at stake here.

If you decide to use gloves, the procedure is the same except you are using gloves instead of a towel. Sometimes, gloves can be awkward if they don't fit properly. Also, if you don't use the right type of gloves, you may be biten. Parrots tend to bite hard when grabbed around their backs/wings, so do yourself a favor and spend a little bit more for those welding gloves. If possible, try to purchase gloves that extend past your wrists...I've been biten many times on my arms while trying to restrain a parrot and/or the parrot will grab onto the skin of my arm. Also, watch for those toenails that need to be clipped while you have your parrot restrained...they can puncture your skin rather severely as your bird is trying to resist being restrained (another reason for long gloves)!


TAMING: If you are in the market for a parrot, I advise buying a handfed, just-weaned baby of the species of your choice. Handfed babies are already imprinted on humans and are well on their way to being tame adult birds. As clean slates, you can train them the way you want them to be as adult birds. You and your bird will become companions, you will learn each other's behaviors, routines, etc. Often times, if you buy an adult bird from an individual or pet shop, you are buying someone else's "problem bird" (parrots with behavior problems the owners don't know how to deal with/don't want to learn how to deal with). This isn't always the case; there are all types of situations where people have to give up their parrots (household moves, financial issues, development of allergies, health/medical issues, etc.). Some potential bird owners just don't know they should be buy baby parrots instead of adults. They often purchase impulsively because a parrot they saw at their local pet shop talked to them and they just have to have it! Bad decision! That parrot may talk to everyone that comes near it's cage, but this doesn't mean it's a good purchase! Take your time, shop around, know what you want, and learn how to care for it BEFORE you make that purchase. However, if you do make that impulse buy and find out you have a problem bird, their are no guarantees that you will be able to correct the problem behavior. All you can do is try and you have to be fairly knowledgeable about what makes a bird tick in order to correct behavior problems. For example, you have a bird that won't stop screaming...s/he screams all day long! So, you give the parrot a peanut every time it screams...the parrot stops screaming when you give it a peanut. You have just rewarded the bird for screaming and s/he is going to continue to scream as long as you keep rewarding it! S/he actually thinks you want s/he to scream...this is what you would be teaching the bird in this scenario. A start to fixing this problem behavior is to NOT give the parrot that peanut. NEVER, EVER reward a parrot for bad (negative) behavior. ALWAYS, ALWAYS reward a parrot for good (positive) behavior. This is positive/negative reinforcement. Same principle behind teaching human children, dogs, and other animals. You wouldn't reward your child for behaving badly! In taming parrots, this is the main rule. So do as much research as you possibly can in order to learn the why/where/what/who/how's of birds. Better yet, if you can be involved with a parrot somehow before your purchase, this would be the best teacher.

So you have a parrot that bites you whenever you want s/he to step on your hand and/or whenever you put your hand inside it's cage to try to get s/he out. Second rule, reread material above! The inside of a parrot's cage is it's domain, it's safety zone, it's space...do not take this away from your parrot. Allow the parrot to come outside it's cage before you ask s/he to step on your hand. Of course, there may be situations where you must go inside the cage to retreive your parrot (for example, if the bird is stuck on something, it's wing is caught, it's toenail is stuck), but you most likely will be biten in the process (unless the parrot trusts you to the nth degree). Once the parrot is outside it's cage and you want the bird to step on your hand, you must press your finger/hand to the area just above it's legs/below it's chest, and say "step up" or whatever word(s) you want to use when you want the bird to perform that action. If the bird reacts positively, reward it immediately. If it tries to bite you, tell it "no" or "bad bird" or whatever word(s) you want to use when it reacts negatively. You should then try and force the bird to do what you want it to do by being insistent (but not mean, cruel, or harmful to the bird). For example, if I have a parrot that doesn't do what I ask s/he to do, I make that bird perform that action (I don't take no for an answer!). I then reward that bird. You might get biten sometimes when you do this, but you want your parrot to respond to you. When you allow a parrot to do whatever it wants all the time, the parrot learns that all s/he has to do is bite or act like it's going to bite and you will back off. This is another form of rewarding the parrot for bad behavior. One thing to remember here...parrots get into routines and they usually nap several times per day, they feed at certain times, etc. Know your bird and respect the bird's routine. For example, if it's your bird's naptime, don't ask s/he to play or step up on your hand, etc. Wait for your bird to wake up from it's nap and then play with your bird. Establish a schedule for your bird, i.e., playtime is from 9-10AM and/or 6-8PM, feeding time is at 8AM and 5PM, naptime is from 12-2PM, etc. (more to come)


AVIAN VETERINARIANS: Avian veterinarians are also known as exotic animal vets. Avian vets are different from dog/cat vets in that they are specifically trained to treat/work with aves. Dog/cat vets don't get this specialized training when they are in school and residency. Some dog/cat vets have a little bit of knowledge of aves, but not the detailed training needed. If you are trying to locate an avian vet in your city, try the local telephone books first. If none are listed, you may have to call veterinarian offices for a referral. If not successful, find a local parrot breeder in your phone book, newspaper, etc., and ask them where they take their parrots. Local pet shops may be able to help also. The Association of Avian Veterinarians provides a location service at the following website, however, this listing only contains those avian vets who have asked to be listed. In other words, this listing isn't all inclusive. http://www.aav.org/


QUARANTINING: Any new parrot brought into your home should be quarantined IF you have other parrots in your home. The purpose for quarantining is to keep your other parrots from acquiring any disease/illness a new parrot may bring into your home and vice versa. This is not to say all new birds are sick! Often times, a parrot becomes stressed out with a move to a new environment. As a result of this stress, they may be able to "shed" illness/disease (dormant or not) during this stressful time. Therefore, a new parrot (when other parrots are present in the home) should be quarantined for at least 30 days. Quarantining means keeping the parrots separate from each other for a period of time. When I say separate, I not only mean in separate rooms, but separate from breathing the same air, etc. "Shedding" is the process whereby an illness/disease can become airborne and thus affect other aves in the home via air conditioning/heating systems or other. I realize this may be very difficult to do in most homes, I mean, how many of our homes have separate areas that are completely cut off from others! Do the best you can. 30 days is a good number because it usually takes 10-14 days for bacteria, etc., to incubate. For example, you might be exposed to something on day 1, but not get the full-blown illness until 10-14 days later. At the end of the quarantine period, it's a good idea to take your new parrot to an avian vet for a well-bird check (or baseline evaluation since your parrot is new to you and probably your vet). Don't take this lightly. There are many instances where someone has brought home a new parrot(s) that have infected entire aviaries full of parrots. Aviaries/parrot breeders who do not allow new acquisitions have what are called "closed" aviaries. "Open" aviaries are those where new parrots come and go often (not the same as allowing your parrots to produce offspring). In these cases, quarantine areas are a must.


TALKING: Not all parrots learn to talk. All parrots have the ability to talk, but some learn and others don't. In some species, males learn to talk better than females and in other species it's vice versa. When you purchase a parrot, there is no guarantee that the parrot you've chosen will talk. Even if you choose a species of parrot that is famous for talking, this doesn't guarantee that your chosen parrot will talk. Also, your knowledge and skill at teaching your parrot how to talk is very key. Actually, parrots learn to mimic sounds they hear, which is what people refer to as speaking. Parrots don't have vocal cords, but form sounds at the back of their throats. Often times, parrots who do learn to speak don't speak around their humans, but as soon as their human leaves the room, they talk up a storm. I think this is because they are so intent on watching what their human is doing and listening to their human speaking that they figure, why should I speak! If you really want to know if your parrot can talk, leave a voice-activated recorder in the room when you are gone. I discovered I have a lot of talking parrots I never knew I had! In trying to teach your parrot to speak, repetition is very important. In other words, you must continually repeat the words/phrases you want your parrot to learn. Since parrots talk at a faster rate than humans when they repeat what they've learned, sometimes we can't understand what our parrots are saying. Therefore, you should slow down your speech when teaching your parrot words/phrases so when s/he repeats the words/phrases, you will be able to better understand what your bird is saying. It's easier for parrots to mimic hard consonant sounds than it is for them to mimic soft consonant sounds. In other words, it's easier for a parrot to repeat "good bird" or "pretty bird" than it is to repeat "how are you." Depending on the personality of the individual bird, it might be easier to teach your bird to speak just by speaking various words/phrases/sentences any time you are around the bird. Some birds learn easier/better when their human devotes specific times specifically for this purpose. Some parrots learn easiest by using a repetitious tape recording, others learn words/phrases/sentences after just hearing these one time. Again, the method of training you use depends on the personality of the individual bird, so if one method isn't working, try something different. And don't get discouraged if your parrot doesn't repeat the words/phrases right away. Like I stated above, they are often more interested in what you are doing/saying at any one time, but they are actually taking in everything they hear/see! (And will repeat it when you aren't around)!! A word of caution - DO NOT teach your bird words/phrases you wouldn't want your parrot repeating when certain others are around. This should really say do not allow your parrot to hear words/phrases you wouldn't want your parrot repeating when certain others are around. You don't actually have to teach a parrot to talk...they will pick up and mimic sounds they hear in their environment. For example, a parrot may mimic the sound of a telephone ringing and say "Hello" because this is what they hear in their environment. They might make the sound of the microwave when the food is done. They mimic things they hear on the radio and/or TV, and they also mimic the bad things you might not want them to repeat! I have an amazon who was raised by an 8-year old boy (parrot lived in his bedroom). You can imagine what language comes from this parrot! Parrots will also mimic the actual voice of someone. In other words, a parrot may repeat certain words/phrases in different pitches of voice, depending on how s/he learned that particular word/phrase. For example, the amazon I reference above says certain words/phrases in a lower tone than other words/phrases. In summary, whatever words/phrases/sentences you want your parrot to mimic must be repeated over and over for however long it takes your parrot to repeat them. This means you might only need to repeat once or twice or your parrot may never say those particular words/phrases!


Thereís so much to learn about birds and learning about them is a never-ending process. The more you deal with parrots, the more you'll learn. Iíll continue posting and updating information as my time permits. If you have questions or comments about any of this information, E-Mail me at the address on the main page. Thank you for taking the time to visit my website. I hope the information I've provided has been helpful for you and your feathered friends.