Bigger is better when it comes to the size of your bird’s cage. At a minimum, your parrot should have room to fully extend its wings and not touch the sides of the cage, food dishes, perches or toys. Avoid round cages which may be distressing to birds because they have no corners to retreat to. Check the bar spacing of your cage to ensure it is appropriate for your parrot species. To prevent injury or escape, your bird should not be able to squeeze its head between the bars. The thickness of the bars should also be strong enough to resist bending or dismantling by your parrot.
Cage placement inside your home is just as important as the cage itself. Your parrot should be placed in an area of the home that allows it to view its surroundings safely without feeling threatened. Do not place the cage in the center of a room, it can cause distress because the bird cannot retreat or hide. The cage should be kept out of direct sunlight, which can be too hot and away from exterior doors or open windows to prevent escape and drafts of cold air. Avoid other areas of the home with potential dangers such as ceiling fans, heaters, appliances, cords, toxic plants, smoke, and cleaning products. Also avoid placing your parrot’s cage in the kitchen due to cooking fumes, temperature fluctuations and other potential cooking hazards. Placing your parrot in an area of the house with a lot of family activity is ideal to keep your bird socialized and entertained. Sleep deprivation may be an issue for birds, if your parrot is not receiving at least ten to twelve hours of rest each night you may need relocate the cage placement or purchase a cage cover.
Paper towel or newspaper is recommended as a substrate for the bottom of the cage. This allows for easy cleanup and monitoring of your parrot’s fecal matter. Abnormal droppings can alert you to signs of potential illness. Shredded paper products, corn cob and shavings are not recommended because they may be irritating to your bird’s respiratory tract, may be ingested and do not allow for easily visualization of droppings. The substrate should be changed daily and the cage, perches and toys should be cleaned with a mild soap and water and thoroughly rinsed.
Perches placed inside the cage should be of varying thickness and material. The varying thickness of perches helps exercise your bird’s feet and varying materials help prevent development of pressure sores. Position the perches so they do not inhibit movement or cause feather damage when your parrot is moving around the cage. Avoid placing perches directly over food and water dishes to prevent fecal contamination.
Toys are essential for your parrot’s physical and mental stimulation. Provide a variety of toys made of different materials such as soft wood, paper, leather or plastic. It is ideal to have at least ten toys in your parrot’s cage at all times; the toys can be rotated to maximize interest. Offer chewing toys your bird can destroy, climbing toys like ropes and ladders and puzzle toys that require your bird to work for food or treats. Consider your bird’s species when selecting toys to ensure they are properly sized and safe. Avoid toys with dyed leather and removable pieces that may be ingested. If your bird is nervous about the new toy, gradually introduce it by first place it near the cage for several days then slowly move it closer to the cage, then the outside of the cage, then strategically place it inside the cage.
A good diet is important for your parrot’s overall health and wellbeing. In nature parrots eat a complex mix of food from their habitat; leaves, bark, vines, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, shoots, insects and worms. Pet parrots have the same dietary needs in order to have a long, healthy life. Your parrot’s diet should consist of 60-85% pelleted foods, 15-30% fresh fruits and vegetables, and the remainder seed. Although a bird does not live by seed alone, in moderation it is an important part of a healthy diet. When purchasing a seed mix, make sure it’s fresh and sized correctly for your species. Pellets are a prepared, balanced diet made with a variety of nutrients. There are a wide range of pellets available on the market, ask your veterinarian for recommendations. Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly and may include apples (with the seeds removed), bananas, beets, bell peppers, blue berries, black berries, broccoli, butternut squashs, carrots, collard greens, dandelion greens, mangos, mustard greens, okra, papaya, parsley, peaches, pears, pumpkins, strawberries, spinach, sweet potatoes, raspberries, tomatoes and zucchini. Grains, legumes and nuts are a source of protein, minerals, vitamins and fiber. Grains offered should be whole grains such as barley, brown rice, millet, quinoa and wild rice. You may also offer whole grain breads, pastas, cereals, muffins, oatmeal, and crackers. Legumes can include black beans, green beans, navy beans, kidney beans (cooked), lentils, peas and chickpeas. Nuts (unsalted) such as almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts can be fed to your parrot.
Do not feed your parrot avocados, apple seeds, fruit pits, onions, garlic, coffee, salty, fatty, caffeinated or sugary foods.
Food and water should be replaced daily and provided in appropriately sized dishes made of stainless steel, crockery or high impact plastics. These materials are easy to remove and clean. Placing them on opposite sides of the cage will encourage your bird to get exercise between drinking and eating and will help discourage food dunking. Hooded dishes may make feeding and bathing more difficult for your bird and should be monitored.
Foraging is the act of seeking and gathering food which is very important for both the physical and mental wellbeing of your parrot. A bird in the wild spends 50-70% of its day foraging. Captive birds still maintain a strong instinct to forage for their food, but spend a majority of their time in their cage where their food is delivered in the same place, usually at the same time every day. Providing foraging opportunities in your parrot’s environment allows your bird to expend its energy on more natural behaviors thus helping eliminate the time in which to engage in undesirable behaviors such as feather picking and screaming.
Teaching your bird to forage is a step by step process. It is important to start with simple techniques then gradually increase the level of difficulty. It can take weeks to months for parrots to figure out a new foraging lifestyle. You must be patient and help your parrot when he or she gets frustrated with the new change. Ask your veterinarian for more information about teaching your parrot to forage at home.
If you notice any signs of illness promptly contact a qualified avian veterinarian. Early recognition is important for successful treatment and recovery of illness. Signs of an unhealthy parrot include decreased appetite, weight loss, fluffed feathers, sitting on the bottom of the cage, weakness, discharge from the nares or beak, tail bobbing, or abnormal droppings.
An annual visit to a qualified avian veterinarian along with blood work and a fecal gram stain are important to ensure your bird is in good health and helps make certain you and your parrot live a long and happy life together.