Bringing Home A Used Parrot

You may be lucky enough to be providing a new home to a parrot whose past you are familiar with, but this is not always the case.

Take your time while meeting a potential new parrot and attempt to learn as much as you can via observation. Is the parrot at a location where it can enjoy being in the heart of the family, or has it been relegated to a back room, garage, or basement? Is it in a suitable cage? Is there enough food, clean water, and a cage that seems to have been maintained somewhat clean? What is its relationship with its current owners like?

All of these factors will give you an idea of how this bird will behave in your house and how healthy it is. A well-cared-for, thoroughly socialized bird will most likely adapt quickly to being a part of your family and will be healthy. Clear, bright eyes, glossy feathers (unless in “dusty” species such as cockatoos or Afircan greys, where shiny feathers or beaks can be a sign of POOR health), clear “nostrils” with no discharge, and a generally alert and interested attitude to life are all signs of good health.

Be wary that the persons selling the bird could not be giving you the complete truth and nothing but the truth. Believe your observations rather than their statements.

Inquire about their avian vet and when the bird was last seen. Also, if you decide to purchase the bird, acquire formal permission from them to receive the bird’s records (if any) from the vet and have your vet speak with theirs. Even if you are not paying for this bird but only “adopting” it, get a formal “bill of sale.”

Bringing a “new” parrot home is usually thrilling, but quarantine is required until all tests are finished and your vet gives the “all clear.” You should monitor your new bird throughout this period and, to a great extent, let him dictate the pace of your getting to know one another. Many parrots, particularly those who come from excellent families, adjust quickly and easily to their new environment. Allow the parrot to maintain its old cage if at all feasible at this period, even if you want to acquire a larger and nicer cage later. The old cage seems like “home” to the bird, particularly if it still includes his old familiar toys and perches. The same is true for food: bring along part of his former diet, even if it’s not a well-balanced one, wherever feasible. After the bird has settled, it may be weaned from seed to pellets or another whole-food diet.

It’s ideal to quarantine in a peaceful spot, and many people find that a bedroom works best, especially for a timid or scared parrot. He won’t have to cope with the ups and downs of everyday family life, and he can get to know you during “calm” periods when you read in bed or watch TV. When walking by the cage of a shy bird, move gently and talk quietly before opening the door or exposing the cage so he knows you’re there.

If the parrot is adapting well to the changes and is interested in you, you should begin touching him straight immediately. In fact, if the bird has a history of biting (and you are TOLD this, which is doubtful), you should begin handling him while he is still caught off guard by the changes. This is a decision that is not always simple to make. One thing to remember while dealing with an attitude issue parrot is that initial impressions may be enduring (on both sides). Do not try a “step up” if you are unwilling to stick in there even if you are seriously bitten. Otherwise, you’ll be reinforcing what the bird already knows: if you don’t want to step up, bite and the human will flee.

It’s natural for a bird to become “clingy” to the one thing familiar in its existence at this point: its cage. So, once you’ve gotten the bird out, you might want to move to a location where the cage is no longer visible for further interaction.

When dealing with a shy or abused bird, it’s best to let the bird decide when it’s ready to step up onto your offered arm or hand. I never push scared birds, even if it means going years without getting a step up. They’re usually scared for good reason, and forcing yourself on them just confirms all their old fears.

In any case, avoid the bad habit of simply allowing the bird to climb in and out of its cage on its own.

Some “used” birds simply relocate to a new home without blinking or turning a feather. But, even if you don’t get one of these, don’t give up after only a few weeks. If the bird exhibits bad habits, remember that he did not learn them overnight, and he will not forget them either. However, love, patience, and consistent handling will eventually win over almost any parrot, and you will discover the immense benefits of dealing with older and frequently troubled parrots. It can be difficult, but the rewards are immeasurable.

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