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I know why the caged bird sings
Member Name: Fairydustbitch
Advantages: For the rare person with the right personality, the parrot is an unbeatable companion
Disadvantages: For the rest of the population, it will all end in tears for you AND the parrot
I don’t know what is wrong with people. They see a beautiful coloured tropical bird or a giant snake on a tv programme, and they have to “own” it. They aren’t happy seeing these wonderful creatures in their natural environment, doing what they were always supposed to do. They have to catch it, traumatise it by shipping it all over the world, shove it behind metal bars and start breeding it, turning it into nothing more than a factory item to make an obscene amount of profit (you can pay up to a grand for a parrot of Mack’s species, and one of the rarest, the Hyacinth macaw, goes for thousands of pounds). Fortunately for some species, many adapt to captivity pretty well. Two of the most common pet lizards, bearded dragons and leopard geckos, seem to enjoy human company and become incredibly tame and loveable, and a properly raised chinchilla or chipmunk is a delightful pet. Sadly many more species are totally unsuitable as pets, and this goes for almost all parrot type birds kept in captivity. In order to keep a Mack happy, you have to not work away from home and spend HOURS a day with “your” bird. Even small species like a cockatiels and budgies need a couple of hours of your time a day to keep them happy. Most people just do not have this type of time to commit to a bird, which is why many birds are shunted from owner to owner for years. So I’m compiling a list of all the reasons you SHOULDN’T have a parrot.
Big parrots are dangerous and not at all suitable family pets. Most of the macaws and cockatoos can easily break your finger, those beaks are designed to crack open the hardest of nut-shells, and a bird like the hyacinth macaw has been known to rend its cage bars into little bits. If you tick that bird off, you WILL pay the price. And almost ALL parrots, even the tame ones, bite occasionally. These are very destructive birds that can, and will tear and rend wood and fabric. Very few can be totally trained out of this.
Parrots are generally speaking, very loud. Even the little ones like parrotlets can let out an unholy screech, although birds like budgies and canaries tend to whistle and chirp rather than scream. A lot of screaming in parrots is out of happiness, in the wild birds scream at each other when they are enjoying themselves. If you shout at a parrot for screaming, he’ll think your enjoying it and screech louder. Some parrots can be trained out of screeching but the vast majority will still screech every now and again, if not a lot more often. Even if you don’t care, have a care for your neighbours.
They are messy. When they eat they crack seed shells and toss them everywhere, they often flutter to the bottom of their cage and toss sand and droppings. Because in the wild, any waste they produced just falls to the ground, they have no sense of cleanliness like many animals can, although on the other hand they are fastidious about washing themselves. They can never be housetrained.
It is cruel to keep a parrot in a cage and not let it fly outside the cage daily for a couple of hours at least. When you factor in the risk of the parrot flying into windows, escaping, hurting itself and pooing all over your living room, this is not a minor inconvenience.
Parrots are extremely valuable animals, this makes them very prone to being abused for the sake of hard coin. Many breeders don’t give a toss about them. Factory breeding them, over and over, is their style. They don’t care about health they just breed the birds as often as possible. By buying a baby bird you are fuelling a nasty trade. And although importing wild birds is still illegal, they are very often smuggled in, and there is little way to tell if this is your bird or not. Again, even if it isn’t, you are still contributing to the demand and therefore the supply of these birds. Parrots are also often stolen, and of course this is heart breaking for anyone who loves their pet.
Birds live a long time. A VERY long time…if cared for properly. A budgie can live a good 15 years, a small parrot like a caique can live thirty, the larger macaws commonly reach 50 and above, if they are given good care. The oldest recorded parrot is over 100. A large parrot will often outlive you. Even if you can care for it for your whole lifetime, how can you say what will happen to it after you die.
A note on the above…parrots pair-bond for life. If you keep a sole parrot in captivity and care for it properly, YOU will become its mate. And it can and will become jealous of other people. Many parrots hate their owners getting new partners, new friends or new animals. They often will attack the perceived threat. A young parrot CAN be taught to accept all people, but this sort of training needs to take place if things are to go well for you. Again, if your parrot outlives you, what happens to it? Because they form such close attachments, selling a parrot around is upsetting and stressful for it. Keepers consider splitting a true pair of birds very cruel, but don’t think twice about shunting a parrot from here to there, not giving it a chance to put down roots.
Parrots are very intelligent animals and as such can show prejudice. There are parrots that don’t like people of other races, and many parrots show sex-preference. They can also decide they just don’t like you. What happens if your bird decides it hates you and you are stuck with it for fifty years? Parrots frequently manipulate their owners into getting them anything they want.
Parrots consume a LOT of your time, especially if you only keep one. They have the flock instinct ingrained in them and they need plenty of time to interact with their flock. That can mean a couple of hours of your time if your bird is a small bird like a parrotlet or a budgie. If you have a larger parakeet or small parrot, such as one of the amazon parrots, a conure or Senegal parrot, I would suggest three to four hours daily of your time is needed. African grey parrots, cockatoos and macaws are the most impressive, the most coveted, the most rewarding if treated correctly and the most expensive. They are also the most demanding of time and attention. If you work more than four hours a day, I wouldn’t suggest you get one of these at all. Neglected birds often mutilate themselves or pluck out their own feathers. This is the sign of a desperately unhappy animal.
Parrots are expensive. Hand-reared African greys often pull in hundreds, and many of the macaw and cockatoo species run to thousands. A cage for a larger bird will also be incredibly expensive, not to mention the specialised diet of many of them. Vet care can be expensive for a parrot.
Most vets are not specialised in birds and will rarely see anything more uncommon than a budgie. If you want a bird you really have to take the time out to find a specialised avian vet.
Parrots are stroppy little gits. Owning a parrot is like having a toddler…one that will live up to 70 years and never grow up. Even if a parrot is perfect for you now, who can say how things will be for you even five years from now. What if you have to move to a place that doesn’t allow pets? What if you settle down with someone who doesn’t like animals? What if you have children and the bird bites them?
Even if you get a species famed for its talking abilities, like the African grey, it may never learn to talk. The best talking birds are some of the most demanding to keep. Most species have some ability but its all down the individual.
Some of these statistics speak for themselves…the average parrot has five homes before it settles into a permanent one or dies prematurely. Captive budgies live an average of two years, despite having a natural lifespan of eight to fifteen years. Parrots often only live five years, despite their natural longevity.
Some of the most popular birds are the hardest to keep. The beautiful Eclectus parrots are very temperamental, especially the hen, who has the nicest colouration. African grey parrots and macaws are highly destructive and highly intelligent, very demanding of their owners. Cockatoos demand attention all the time, and are very prone to becoming ill and stressed if they aren’t given enough of it.
In my opinion, the number one reason for not keeping a parrot is this…a wild bird does not belong in a cage. Whilst it is true that a well-socialised, loved and cared for parrot is likely very happy, the vast majority of pet birds are none of the above. Confining something that naturally flies miles in groups of up to hundreds of individuals inside a prison just to satisfy human want (because it could never be considered “need”) is just unfair. While I have met a few happy birds with owners who truly have the knowledge and love to care for them, I’ve seen many more who are desperately unhappy. Birds are so intelligent that they will develop mental disorders if kept in a cage, just as a human would. There may be some people who are fit to be guardians of these incredible creatures, but I’d say that 99.9% of the population just isn’t up to it. It takes a very special person to make a proper parrot mum or dad. I myself, after spending lots of time helping my friend out with his birds, and owning a couple of the smaller species myself, would honestly admit that I am part of the 99.9%, and I truly adore all animals and have great patience for them…but parrots are too much even for me.
On the other hand, a loved and well-treated parrot is a pet like no other. They become touchingly devoted to their owners (Stockholm Syndrome?) and can be a real joy those who own them. And is always the case, some are more suited to captivity than others. Budgies, canaries, cockatiels, conures and caiques are some of the birds that make good pets if you have the time and the effort to put into it.
If anyone reading this still wants a parrot after everything I’ve told them, my best advice is to start small, and preferably rescue birds that are in need of a home rather than fuelling an evil trade by buying a baby bird from a shop or a breeder. The smaller birds like cockatiels can make charming, lovely pets if you have the dedication for them. After this if you want to move up to the more “impressive” birds, again remember that there are hundreds of unwanted parrots out there looking for someone who will love and care for them properly. If you have the dedication, keeping parrots can be very rewarding if expensive, time-consuming and tiring. And never, ever feather clip your bird. Birds were born to fly, squirrels were born to climb. You wouldn’t cut off a squirrels feet to stop it climbing, so what gives you the right to prevent a bird doing what it was designed to do?
All birds deserve to be free. But of course once tamed this is not possible, so the next best thing is a loving, caring owner, preferably one who understands that they are keeping a tiny prisoner in their home, one who looks to them for everything they need.
Summary: Noisy, messy and plain crazy...and still they enchant us.