Introductory Blog Post – Parrot Ownership

Interacting with a parrot is great…owning one? That’s a whole different story. I work a pet store and we, unfortunately, sell parrots. I often see little kids and even young adults ooing and awing at the pretty birds and expecting them to mimic what they say and saying how much they wish they could afford one. Well, I’m glad that they can’t. It takes a special kind of person to put up with the constant shit that a parrot is going to give you.

Well, owning a parrot is not all fun and games. Parrots tend to own you, more than dogs and cats could ever hope to own you. They’re loud, they’re messy, they’re intelligent and they are stubborn. It’s like having a toddler in your house that continues to act like a toddler for 20+ years. They are not domesticated like a dog or a cat and have very complex needs that are difficult for the average person to meet. Forget about dietary requirements and caging and vet bills and all of the other considerations that you have to make in order to welcome a bird into your home. The biggest obstacle is their intelligence. Emotionally they are extremely needy and the average person will not able to work with them to make their lives the best that they can be.

In the wild, a parrot will bond with a single mate for life. They’ll never be separated from their mate. They’ll have free flight of the canopies, spending their day foraging for food and flying.  They’ll use their immense intelligence to calculate flight angles, speed, depth, landing and numerous other activities. Now, take that same animal. Stick them in a cage and now they get their choice of humans to bond with. They will pick somebody and when they do, there’s nothing you can do about it. They will want to spend all day with that person and often times will “call” for them when they aren’t within eye sight. And by call, I mean they’ll shoot out a deafening screech every minute or two because they miss you. They don’t understand that they can’t constantly be with you and if you neglect them too much or if you accidentally sexually arouse them (any touching on the back or under the wings *no petting them like a dog*) they will develop behavioral problems. Some may scream nonstop, others may pluck their feathers out and others could turn aggressive. And even if you do everything right, you still may end up with a bird with emotional problems.

No matter how much the bird loves you and how well behaved they are, they’ll be pissy and you will get bit. Some birds are worse than others, but in general if you own a parrot the bird will bite you. Parrots of all sizes can and will break your skin and the larger birds like macaws could easily break your bones if they so choose.

I’m lucky, where my bird, Skittles, is very well behaved. I only get bit if I touch him somewhere he doesn’t like to be touched. With that said, he loves to “preen” me by plucking at hairs on my face, moles, pimples and generally whatever he can get his beak on. If I go to work with no cuts on my hand, and come home with a new one. Skittles is almost definitely going to see what it is by ripping it open. Once I scream in pain he stops and realizes he’s hurting me, but it happens and it will happen. Band-aids? He’ll at first try to rip them off. Gloves? Forget about it. Glasses? Obviously they’re on my face so that he can take them and throw them on the ground.

He’s two years old and has lived with my girlfriend and I for about a year and a half. When I first got him he had severely damaged his feathers due to stress and his prior living arrangements. The first night I had him, I had to sleep next to him on the floor because he wouldn’t shut up. And trust me, you can hear him at my neighbor’s house if he wants you to. He very quickly bonded with me and we have a great relationship. Thankfully he was very quick to learn that being ridiculous wouldn’t get him very far. He tolerates my girlfriend but he will not let her go anywhere near his cage, if she tries to get him out of his cage he will lunge and try to bite her. A couple of times he’s gotten her good and drawn blood. Now, I can reach into his cage and take him out no-matter what. He can be in his most pissy of moods and I can still reach in and tell him to “step up” an and he will without ripping my fingers open. Outside of the cage he’s fine with her and will allow most people to handle him. However, I’m the only one that can flip him upside down or stick him in my shirt or cuddle him like a baby. Anybody else does that and he immediately goes to bite them. Not hard enough to draw blood but hard enough where you don’t do what you just did.

Now, he does do what you stereotypically think a parrot does. He says numerous words, his favorite is “HI!”, he also says “thank you” whenever I give him his favorite foods. He’s very stubborn though, he’ll only say or do what he wants. He knows how to mimic my laugh almost perfectly, yet he rarely does it and he mimics “shut the fuck up” perfectly but he chooses not to ever say it. Each and every month that passed I was able to work with him to be more tolerable. He’ll go to bed whenever I tell him to, and allows me to come and go without driving my family nuts, he’s potty-trained. I tell him “go potty Skittles” and repeat this until he poops. I then say “good poop” and he can come sit on my shoulder or do whatever he wants to do.  He dances and he gives kisses and everytime I walk in the room he says “HI!”

With that said, I get up between 7am and 8am every morning to get him out of his cage and he’s quiet until he realizes around 10 or 11 that I’m up. Then he’ll start off by saying “hi”, “hi”, “hi” and progressively get louder and more irritated the longer that I ignore him. If I continue to ignore him he just screeches at the top of his lungs. If he does that, he gets locked up until he’s quiet. But in general, he’s pretty good. I can give him his favorite toys or make him a salad (he eats more fresh veggies and fruits than I do) or let him hang out with me and he’ll be quiet and let me watch TV or whatever I want to do. Even though he’s capable of flying, he chooses to stand on his cage and flap his wings and whine like a two-year-old so I come pick him up and bring him where he wants to go. He’ll make whiney noises or mumble “hi” and flap his wings over and over. The longer I ignore him, the louder he gets. Besides the fact that I’m at his service 24/7, he’s a good bird.

Granted, some days he doesn’t get enough sleep and I can just tell he’s pissy by his tone of voice and attitude. Those days are long because he has very little patience for me ignoring him. Thankfully they’re few and far between.

This entire blog probably reads about how awful owning a parrot is, but I wouldn’t trade Skittles for the world. I can’t imagine living without him, I’d do anything to keep him healthy whether it means thousands of dollars in vet bills or not moving into an apartment because of his noise. The point is, owning a parrot is a lot more than just having a pretty bird that mimics what you say and gives you kisses.

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