Parrot Care

General recommendations for parrot care:

Nutrition/Diet:  Fifty percent of the diet should consist of high quality pellets.  My favorite brand is Harrison’s.  (Available on line at  Forty percent of the diet should be high quality vegetables.  Dark green, leafy and yellow vegetables are best.  Five percent of the diet should be made of fruits.  My birds love apples, bananas, berries and grapes.  The last ten percent is reserved for treats.  For parrots that means nuts including almonds, Brazil nuts and pecans.  Limit peanuts because many birds become addicted to them.  Reserve these for special training rewards.

Bathing/Misting:  Macaws and other tropical parrots require daily baths for proper feather maintenance.  African Grey Parrots are used to arid conditions.  I recommend two baths a week for this species if the bird has normal feathers.  For feather pickers, daily baths are used to stimulate normal preening.

Exercise:  In general, caged birds suffer from obesity and lack of exercise.  If possible, birds should be allowed supervised time out of their cages every day.  Hand trained birds enjoy a daily session of ‘birdie aerobics’.  Hold the bird on your hand with their feet locked under your thumb.  On the count of three, drop your arm sharply towards the ground.  The sudden drop stimulates the bird to flap their wings.  Start with two or three drops with out-of-shape birds and work up to 20 to 23 repetitions.  Watch the bird’s respirations closely.  Give the bird a chance to catch their breath between drops. 

Sleep Requirements:  Birds require ten hours of undisturbed sleep per day.  Ideally, the cage should be moved into a darkened room where the bird will not be disturbed.  Many people make the mistake of covering the cage but leaving it in a busy TV room.  Sleep deprived birds often develop behavior problem including feather plucking and biting.

Ultra Violet Light:  African Grey Parrots require direct unfiltered sunlight every day.  Birds deprived of natural light often develop problems with calcium metabolism.
Temperature Requirements:  Birds body temperature is higher than humans.  Ideally, they should be kept between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.