The majority of parrots kept as pets in the UK are hand reared which means the young chicks are imprinted onto humans as opposed to their own parents and species. This has certain advantages but with the good comes a little bad too. The imprinting on humans can be the cause of a few behavioural problems seen in parrots, especially when the birds reach 2 to 4 years old as this is the time they tend to become more assertive adult characters.
Parrots are fast learners no matter how young or old they are, they pick up bad and good habits extremely quickly which is why when you get a young bird, it is important to train them well. You also need to give them all the time in the world they need to be with you – because they are extremely social creatures that don't enjoy being on their own.
Most parrots are nervous birds which makes them extremely aware of all that goes on around them. This is thought to be one of the reasons they easily get upset with things. If you're not sure how to deal with your pet parrot, they become even more nervous and mistrusting which can then lead to behavioural issues like biting and screaming loudly. Parrots are also sensitive creatures so any heavy handed action or the use of force on them, can have really damaging effects on the nature of the birds just compounding an already difficult problem.
If you are contemplating bringing a parrot into your home as a pet and valued member of your family, be prepared for a long and lively commitment to your feathered friend. Parrots are not easy maintenance pets because they are demanding with some birds living well into their sixties. With this said, you would need to do a lot of research on the type of parrot you hope to have, and then be ready for the long haul. You would also need to fully understand all there is to know about bird behaviour because it will help you deal with any problems that might arise.
Parrots are intelligent birds, they need lots of stimulation and a fun environment to live in where they can display natural behaviour which includes being able to fly and to forage for a few their favourite foods. Toys are essential to parrots because they love to chew on things and destroy them – it's a parrot's way of having a bit of fun. A busy bird is not a bored bird which means the risk of them developing any behavioural problems is greatly reduced.
Allowing a pet parrot to fly around in a safe area is essential to their overall well-being – a parrot needs to be kept in a cage that's large enough for the bird to stretch out its wings to their full wingspan. African Greys and blue-fronted Amazons have a wing span of 27-28 inches, cockatiels and Meyer's parrots are 16 inches so their cages need to larger than these measurements for the birds to be comfortable.
However, no parrot should ever be left in their cages for too long – over use of cages can be the cause of many behavioural problems seen in parrots kept as pets. A good rule of thumb is to let your parrot spend at least 4 to 6 hours outside of their cage on a daily basis, so they can really express themselves and spread their wings and fly although many birds are happy to walk around on the floor!
Parrots also love to forage for their food so to keep them busy and happy, it's always a good idea to conceal some of the favourite food so they can search for it before eating it. Fresh fruits, veggies and soaked and sprouted seed should be included in a parrots diet but high in fat, rich foods should be avoided and this includes a dry seed based diet.
Because parrots are such quick learners, they need a lot of stimulating things to do. A recent scientific study showed the birds even have personal tastes in music with some loving to get involved in a sing-a-long. However, one thing they're not keen on is dance music! There were three parrots involved in the study whose names were Léo, Zoé and Shango and they all seemed to enjoy music by U2, Joan Baez and UB40. Classical music was also played to the birds and this seemed to relax the parrots and when they heard the music they started to preen themselves and then rest.
The results of the study showed that parrots loved music and that owners should leave a radio on for their birds when they were out of the house at work. Their feathered friends could listen to the songs on the radio but you have to make sure you choose the right channel and avoid any dance music! Parrots, it would seem prefer vocal songs and not instrumentals – it was the voices the birds particularly liked imitating!
The findings of the study are to be published in the journal Applied Animal Behavioural Science which anyone wanting to get a parrot or people who already have one or two birds in their home, might find interesting reading. The report might even lead to touch-screen technology being used in parrot cages so birds can choose the kind of music they want to listen to on what could be called a “parrot jukebox”. The technology was used in the studies and the parrots seemed to really enjoy using it!
As previously mentioned, parrots love to be kept occupied and hate being left on their own for long periods of time. Leaving birds in their cages for too long is also quite detrimental to their well-being, so it's important to make sure your parrot spends at least 4 hours a day flying around freely in a safe environment. One good idea is to have a corner perch in a room where your parrot can go to when they feel like it – this is the birds' “safe” place where they can feel secure when they are out of their cages.