The perks and pitfalls of parrot parenting

Many people buy pet birds with the idea that they are 'easy pets'. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth! Pet birds require extensive care and attention, in particular larger breed parrots.
To prove that it even vets are not perfect parrot parents I'm going to share with you the story of my lovely macaw, Zazu. 
One morning I was working in Bundaberg when a macaw breeder (who I had befriended after treating her birds) called me quite upset as one of her baby macaws was very sick.  This particularly baby hatched only five days previously, and was regurgitating, having problems breathing, had leg problems and wouldn't eat. A full grown blue and gold macaw weighs in around 900grams where as this little fellow was only 35grams! 
I told her to bring him straight down and I would see what I could do. Upon examining the little bird that could fit in he palm of my hand I felt we may have been fighting a losing battle... The breeder didn't want to see him go so said if I wanted to try treat him I could keep him if he lived. Now I always wanted a large parrot, and macaws buy in at around $5000 so I readily agreed. 
I fed him, medicated him, steamed him and kept him warm for the next five days (waking up every two hours!) and slowly he started getting better. As he grew each day our bond became stronger and stronger, as far as he was concerned I was his mother. 
Over the months little Zazu grew into a feathered, flying, talking and screaming parrot! He came into work with me a lot, and at home we would watch TV, go on walks and just generally hang out together. I loved him and he loved me, and I thought we would live happily every after.
Then Zazu hit around four months of age. He was getting too loud and too big to come to work every day with me, and I worked long hours as a veterinarian in rural Queensland, my husband and Zazu didn't always see eye to eye as they both had to compete for my love and attention.
As Zazu got older the competition for my love became fiercer. The moment I would get home from work, or wake up in the morning, the screaming would start. He would then be so overexcited about seeing me he would bite, continue screaming or on good days just come in for a lovely cuddle. I spent every morning for an hour preparing macaw foods and toys for the day. Not to mention once I brought him inside he would stand in between me and what ever I was doing, or scream over the top of any competing object of my desire (including biting the dog and my husband!).
Now don't get me wrong it wasn't all bad, and through all this I still loved Zazu. I started doing more and more training, we'd spend half and hour a day learning new tricks and spending one on one time together, but of course for a bird with the intelligence of a three year old this was no where near enough! There were many great times with Zazu, he was extremely sweet and loyal and we loved spending time together.
I persevered for another twelve months before finally deciding the best thing for Zazu... And the rest of our family... Was to re home him. Thankfully being a veterinarian I had many friends in the field and Zazu went to an amazing wildlife educator who has many years of animal training experience. For the last year he has been living with Jackie and Dan from hands on wildlife and loves his new home, he is also far better behaved living there as he gets the attention and training he needs.

I have compiled a list of things for people to think about before getting a parrot below.


Time - large parrots need at least a full hour of one on one time with their preferred owner a day, as well as another few hours of family time. You should also set aside half an hour of training a few times a week.

Expense - not only are parrots expensive to buy initially but you then need to purchase the correct food, cages, toys and leave money for medical bills. Zazu for example once got himself stuck on a toy by his fascial skin and required three stitches under anaesthetic!

Space - in an ideal world anyone who has a large parrot should have a flight aviary, birds are not happy unless they can fly and play. You should also have inside cages and perches for play time and socialising.

Relationships - consider the other relationships in your house before getting a parrot, many birds only like one person which can make living hard!

Knowledge - do plenty of research on your preferred parrot bred. Some are nicer than others and can be more easily trained. Some, like blue and gold macaws, require a high level of attention and training, where as others such as a cockatiels just need a large cage and occasional family time. 

Parrot friends - many parrots are better behaved when they have parrot friends, but then they may not want to spend quite as much time with you!


I haven't shared my story of Zazu to convince people out of getting a parrot, but more to show even some one with plenty of bird knowledge can't always be a good parrot owner! I hope this blog post makes you think before getting a parrot and if you have any parrot questions please don't hesitate to ask me! 

Check out the Vet Tails Facebook for a full album of Zazu photos!

 

 Zazu as a baby bird

Zazu as a baby bird

 Zazu playing

Zazu playing

 Stealing the dogs food! 

Stealing the dogs food! 

 A strong bond! 

A strong bond!