Seven Reasons Why Parrots Are Not Good Pets.

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Cockatoos at the Island Parrot Sanctuary.

Are parrots good pets? What is owning one like? In my opinion, no, they are not good pets at all – caring for them properly will consume your life, not that this is necessarily a bad thing. This article was inspired by my previous post, where I realised that I never defined why I feel parrots aren’t meant as captive animals. There are several major reasons why I feel parrots aren’t meant as pets**:

1. They are only one or two generations removed from the wild:

Being tamed, not domesticated, birds are very much creatures of their instincts. Think your hand-reared parrot is perfectly adapted to your human home? Think again. Every behaviour has its roots in how they would react in the wild.

As an example, adult parrots seek to reproduce. It isn’t about pining for ‘love’ – they quite frankly just want to mate and make babies. If he thinks you are his mate, and you casually hug a friend, a parrot sees it as something very different. Only mates touch one another – so why wouldn’t he be upset? And so he may begin to scream, pluck, or attack you and others near you.

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Many parrots – such as these macaws – are relinquished to rescues and sanctuaries, or else abandoned to lives of sadness.

2. Hormones:

I consider hormones one of the top reasons why parrots aren’t good pets. This is a bird’s greatest instinct: to further its species. Nearly every parrot alive and in captivity will be plagued by this upon maturity, making a human’s life miserable – yet the parrots suffer just as much.

Cockatoos are the worst when it comes to hormones, hands-down. Just consult mytoos.com for horror stories of people whose sweet baby birds grow up into rampaging hormonal terrors. Other birds are also affected badly. Every year, brace yourself for bites, mate-guarding, screaming – even plucking. This is not something we can change. It can be helped through diet, but not entirely cured. THIS is the reason so many parrots lose their homes.

3. We can domesticate them over many generations, yes, but this is at the cost of animals today. 

Until we reach a point where birds have been bred to be less needy and hormonal, the animals are the ones who pay the price. A lot of people find they can’t cope with the reality of a bird in their home, which happens to include a lot of biting, noisiness, mess, and more. It is a lifestyle choice, after all. Basically, if we tell ourselves that they’ll be domesticated eventually, we condemn millions of parrots in the future to unhappiness. There are owners like you, like me, who strive to help them, but 75% live in less than suitable conditions. That statistic tells us is that not everyone is able to take care of their birds.

Maybe there will be perfectly domesticated parrots in the future, like feathery dogs, but I kind of think that’s a loss. I would never sacrifice my parrots’ autonomy and intelligence – it’s what makes them so amazing, and also absolutely unsuited to captive living.

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Lutino Indian Ringneck Parakeet ‘Lemon.’

4. Parrots are evolved to be very intelligent and fill a specific niche in the environment.

This is their downfall. In the wild, they fly many miles each day seeking food for which to forage. What this translates to in a captive parrot is boredom and way too much energy. We owners have to work really hard to keep them happy and healthy, because the sad truth is that a bored parrot will usually turn its frustration inwards. Maybe this is plucking. Or screaming. This is not a good thing for owners, to be sure, but for a captive parrot, it is heartbreaking.

Also, that cage? Bird cages are not evil (indeed, they play an important role in safety), but because parrots are evolved to fly so far, they have a lot of energy. One house does not provide avians a fraction of the space they would explore in the wild.

5. Parrots feel.

Yes, they have pain receptors and feel pain, but parrots also have emotions. Studies have found that they have the intelligence of four-year-olds, and the emotional ability of a toddler. So, in captivity, they can feel sadness. Betrayal. Anger. Frustration. Happiness. Contentment. Small birds experience this, too; it isn’t just macaws, greys, or cockatoos.

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Plucked African Grey Parrot

6. They do suffer.

Even a well-adapted, much-loved flock will have its issues, usually hormonal. Owners do their best to cope as things arise, but it can be a real test of patience. Knowing that parrots won’t truly adjust to human homes for many generations to come, can we really justify bringing more into the world to be shuffled from home to home?

7. Providing for a parrot – or parrots – is no simple process.

Taking care of a pet bird will demand your every waking moment, and sometimes your sleeping ones, too – how many people are actually able, not just willing, to dedicate their entire being to one bird? I have seen others lament the sacrifices: no more nights away, outings with friends, solo dates, quiet afternoons, and more. Young owners seem also more inclined to resent this life change, although it affects everyone.

Put simply, a parrot will take over your life. They simply do not ‘enhance’ it the way a dog or cat does. (I do, however, feel they bring something beautiful to my life nevertheless.) Yes, birds are wonderful, loving creatures, but they are needy and demanding beyond words. No one can really guess what it’ll be like until it happens. Keeping birds is sometimes compared to raising kids. Except that in this case, the feathery kid never leaves or grows up.

If you think you’re suited to life as a bird slave, please, consider adoption, or do your research and purchase from a trustworthy source. I’m definitely not here to try and stop people from keeping birds – merely pointing out the reasons why they aren’t suited as pets, in regards to my previous article.

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I find this picture of Friday the Moluccan cockatoo very powerful.

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**Please note: I believe that parrots are not meant as pets, but I will keep saying again and again that they are here to stay. Captive birds cannot be released into the wild; they need us. In this case, it is about educating potential owners so they know precisely what they are getting into, and can avoid places that do not advocate parrot welfare.

Anything you would add?

68 thoughts on “Seven Reasons Why Parrots Are Not Good Pets.

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  1. A superb article that tells the truth about parrot ownership. I won’t bore you with my own story as it mirrors so many of the other comments, but suffice to say I have spent about 15 years constantly worrying about my three African greys. They are truly wonderful creatures but completely unsuited to life in confinement. They are huge burden, requiring a massive investment of time. Even on their best days they suffer boredom and frustration, despite having an outdoor aviary, varied diet, lots of company and so on. How any intelligent person can breed these sensitive and clever birds and sell them to be kept as pets in cages simply beggars belief! Don’t fall for the marketing lies – parrots are NOT good pets. If you must get one, please rescue one that needs a good home, and support conservation charities like the World Parrot Trust.

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