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A Guide to Choosing a Parrot
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For whatever reason owning a parrot as a pet crosses your mind you soon find yourself in a minefield of conflicting advice in books, a barrage of (very old) parrot jokes from well meaning friends, old wives tales or simply struggling to find any advice at all!!
Very annoying when having a pet that you donít have to take for a walk, will be potentially great company and one that will actually talk to you is so appealing.

In reality many species of Parrot are extremely intelligent funny and rewarding pets. This article will hopefully make your journey into parrot hood a more informed and pleasant one.
The trick is to take it one step at a time, below are a few questions that I am asked by want to be parrot owners. My responses to these questions are based on my own experience of 20 years keeping and breeding a varied collection of parrots and dealing daily with parrot owners, their trials and tribulations!

Q. I have always wanted to own a parrot but I am working all day does this mean I should not consider owning one?

A. No, you just have to consider that giving an older parrot a home would not be sensible. Parrots who have had previous homes are likely to have got into the familyís` routine and yours may be too much of a change and cause problems that you would not yet be able to deal with.
After deciding which species you would like, choose a young Hand-reared parrot. You being away during part of the day will be just a normal way of life and something he grows up to expect. A radio, television should be left on for company, safe toys to play with in his cage should keep him occupied. When you arrive home you should realise that he/she has been waiting and expecting you so that is when you should allow some quality time, without fail.

Q. My dream parrot is a Macaw but they are so big, should I have a smaller parrot to begin with?

A. Definitely not! If you were thinking of owning a Great Dane you would not think of getting a Jack Russell to practise on! Owning a Macaw or any of the larger parrots means firstly taking a look around your house, large parrot means very large cage and a lot of room to move around in. If the answer to that is yes then find someone who owns a Macaw or someone who sells them, ask to go along and handle them, get a few tips and see how you feel. Take your time making your decision. Another consideration for any species is a garden aviary or play area to get some exercise in. Whilst you are out, your parrot can get some exercise making him more likely to want to have some quiet time in the evening with you instead of being full of energy after being shut in all day.

NEVER EVER BUY A PARROT ON IMPULSE !

Q. How will I know if the baby parrots being offered are hand reared?

A. First and foremost a hand reared baby will not scream or flap panicky away from you when you approach it. You need to be watching how the baby reacts to people it already knows in its usual surroundings, they should be relaxed and happy with them, willing to be held and cuddled. Even hand reared babies will back off if you do not approach gently. If the youngster is older than a few months then he will be quite used to where and who he knows, be prepared to work hard at gaining his confidence but any genuine hand reared parrot will soon gain trust if treated with respect. Hand-reared babies will usually be closed rung by the breeder at an age where the ring is slipped on to the leg while it is very young, this ring will have the breeders initials and the year of hatch. Unfortunately these letters/numbers do wear off fairly easily. Genuine sellers of baby parrots will offer hatch certificates or even baby packs that include a fact/diet sheets. Asking for advice after your purchase should usually be no problem from reputable stores.

Baby Parrots should be bright and alert; most species (African Greys/Macaws) will have very dark eyes up to around 8/12 months old. Feathers should be sleek and shiny and no mess should be evident around the inside of the tail near the vent. These days all baby parrots should be tested for the PBFD virus . Ask if this has been done. If not then get it done yourself BEFORE you take the baby home. Any genuine seller will not mind this request. This virus sits inside healthy looking baby parrots but will cause death soon after being exposed to strange or stressful situations.

Q. How do I know which type will suit me?

A. Visit the places you know have parrots for sale, you will have an idea of which ones appeal to you, then ask questions about that type. Learn the different traits of different species and try to speak to people who already keep them as pets. This is the age of the internet, there is a host of information about parrots but donít get too entrenched.

Consideration must be given to the fact that the medium sized species ie African Greys, Amazons, etc. live in excess of 40 years, Macaws and larger species even older than that when given a healthy lifestyle. This does not mean you shouldnít own one but that you should seriously think about whom will take care of your pet when you can no longer do so.

As important as your Baby parrot is the cage it will live in, with tame babies no cage can be too big. Some older semi tame parrots may be happier to begin with in a smaller space giving a higher sense of security. In any case every cage should be large enough for the occupant to spread his wings and have a good flap without fear of getting caught up in the bars, this can cause broken wings or worse! Your cage should have bar spacing relevant to the size of bird and should be made of a safe metal (i.e. low zinc content) or powder coated paint. A large door is better for easy handling and all cages should be easy to keep clean. Your new baby parrot will soon become part of the family, you will grow in confidence together and soon you will wonder how you ever lived without him!
Talking is one of the most fascinating features of parrot behaviour; most species learn at least a few words before their first birthday.

ALWAYS GET YOUR YOUNG PARROT INSURED

You will be amazed at the sheer intelligence and ability to learn complicated tricks. The way your parrot learns to talk to you will eventually have you believing that he knows exactly what is going on around him. The need for lots of toys to keep them occupied is paramount and these should be regularly changed for the sake of keeping an up beat interest in surroundings. Toys need to be a mix of destructible and long lasting.

Last but not least check whether your local vet is happy to deal with parrots if not locate your nearest Avian vet and introduce yourself by taking your pet in for a check up.
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