Having parrots as pets is challenging. Having pet parrots while expecting a baby takes things to another level. This article is about being pregnant with parrots or while expecting a baby as well as tips and personal stories from my experience.
Hopefully this article and videos will help answer questions like is it ok to get a parrot while pregnant or having a baby? Should I rehome my parrots because I am having a baby? What can I do to make it easier to keep my parrot while having a baby? And how to prepare parrots for challenging times?
Parrots can be wonderful pets, but they can also be quite a handful at times. During pregnancy, it may be difficult or impossible to provide them with the same amount of attention as usual. The first thing I want to point out is that this is totally normal. This happens for most people. Do not feel guilty if you are overwhelmed with being pregnant or having a baby and cannot give your parrot as much attention as before. Here are my top 6 suggestions to help get through pregnancy, having a baby born, or even just going through a personally challenging time while having parrots as pets.
1) Do not get a parrot while pregnant. It is not unusual that people fall in love with a parrot and feel compelled to bring it home while pregnant or expecting a baby. A combination of hormones, expectations, and possibly additional time on their hands (while taking leave from work) may create a drive to want to take care of someone or something.
Seeing a baby parrot at a store or even an adult bird at a rescue could pull on your heart strings more than ever. However, it is very important to resist this temptation. I would argue that this is about the worst time to be bringing in a new parrot into your home whether it is your first or an additional one.
Things change rapidly during pregnancy. One moment you may feel good and have plenty of time on your hands and another moment you may even have a hard time taking care of yourself. The added stress and challenge of a new pet may not be ideal during such quickly changing times. However, this is even more so with parrots. Parrots are wild animals and require extensive training and bonding to come around as good pets. The first year you spend with them will greatly shape their place in your heart and in your home. During pregnancy and after having a baby, you will be unlikely to have the time to really get to know this new pet and teach it how to behave properly as a pet in your home. It is best to leave the introduction of a new pet parrot to either well before or well after the pregnancy and baby stages.
While having pet parrots can be difficult while pregnant, it also has its up sides. Enjoying your familiar, well-behaved, trained, loving parrots can also help cope with difficulties of being pregnant as well. Here's Marianna's story:
2) Keep the bird(s) you already have. Although I would strongly discourage anyone from getting started with a new parrot while pregnant, this does not mean you should get rid of the one(s) you have. Parrots live for a very long time and it is inevitable that in any home they will experience challenging times. The pregnant stage only lasts 9 months and even during those 9 months there will be less chaotic and nearly normal periods. After the baby is born, things may be super hectic for a while, but even then things will eventually settle. There's always daycare or preschool when you may find plenty of time for your feathered family all over again.
If you are entirely unable to cope with having a pet parrot, unable to provide the most basic care, then of course by all means find the bird a new home that can. However, do not feel guilty if you cannot spend as much time with the bird as you did in the past. Don't think that rehoming the bird just because you temporarily cannot be as involved is a good idea. Inevitably any household can run into busy times. Someone else might fall ill, move out to college, have children of their own, move for a job, or have their own busy life changes just the same. Parrots do not need a full time home-attendant, they need a loving/understanding home.
Make sure your parrot's basic needs are met and use the following tips to help make the time you are unable to provide the usual amount of attention go more smoothly.
3) Get an Avian Vet check in advance. It is important to have your parrot checked out by an Avian Veterinarian before having a baby for two reasons. First off, you want to make sure your bird is in good health or address any health concerns before things become too hectic. Secondly, you should get the bird checked for any zoonotic diseases that may impact you or your baby's health. Zoonotic illnesses are those which can be transmitted from animal to human.
Mainly you should have your parrot tested for psittacosis as it can be quite dangerous to babies or even pregnant mothers. However, there can be a few other things birds can carry so consult your vet if there is any suspicion.
4) Train your parrot ahead of time. Don't wait until you are eight and a half month's pregnant to realize that the parrot bites and does not go back into the cage! Solve behavioral problems and train your parrot up front. Ideally, do the training before even becoming pregnant. If you aren't even expecting a baby any time soon, still do the training now! Having a trained parrot makes you so much more ready to tackle any life challenge and manage your bird while overcoming it.
Make sure your parrot is reliably trained to step up, come out of the cage, and go back into the cage at minimum. Better yet, teach the parrot tricks and flight recall so that the bird is well exercised and good at learning new things. You can learn my complete approach to parrot training from my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots.
Even if you are already well into your pregnancy, work on some parrot training at any chance you can find. Things will only get harder once the baby is born. So, having a developed routine and basic behavior will make caring for that parrot so much simpler while caring for an infant.
Practice spending varying degrees of time with your parrot from early on. Don't spoil your parrot with more attention than you can typically give. On the other hand, occasionally practice giving a minimal amount of attention while teaching your bird to cope and stay independently busy. My birds have had plenty of practice throughout their lives whether it was because I left them (with someone to feed them) to go on a vacation or even while going through short stressful times. Sometimes you will spend lots of time with your parrot and sometimes very little. As long as they are adapted and familiar with this gradually throughout their lives, parrots can cope just fine.
5) Simplify your parrot care and feeding as much as possible. Don't make things unnecessarily difficult on yourself by holding parrot care to the highest standards. Pregnancy won't last that long and soon enough things will go back to normal. But, in order to get through the challenging times and not feel like giving up, simplify the parrot care as much as you can.
Cut out complexity in the bird's diet. This is not the time to be cooking for the bird and making elaborate meals. You can save a lot of time and difficulty by putting the bird on a simple commercial diet such as pellets or even a seed diet of need be. You can always go back to a more elaborate diet when time allows, but a short time on a simple diet won't harm your bird.
Get precut cage papers that are sold to fit your cage. These may be expensive but save you a lot of time. Just stack a bunch of sheets and pull the top sheet every few days as needed. Take advantage of all time saving parrot supplies and keep things as simple as possible. It is better to coast through challenging times and still have your parrot when things brighten up than to become overwhelmed and feel the need to rehome your bird.
I can say from personal experience that my wife Marianna had varying levels of difficulty throughout the pregnancy. Some months she wanted little to do with the bird or I entirely cared for them myself while other months she was nearly herself and highly involved. Don't think based on a single week or month that the entire pregnancy will go that way. Things change a lot and your involvement with your pet will have to adapt.
This brings me to the final point about simplifying your parrot care and that's to make use of bird toys.
6) Overload on bird toys. Parrots should have lots of toys in general, but especially while you are pregnant, having a baby, or just going through an unusually busy time in your life. Generally, I recommend 8-12 toys in the parrot cage at any time. Aim for the upper quantity of 12-15 bird toys when super busy. A greater variety of toys is more likely to capture your parrot's attention and engagement more frequently throughout the day. They are unlikely to find any single toy interesting enough to stay busy all day.
Quantity of toys alone isn't enough though. You have to provide quality toys. And, by quality, I do not necessarily mean quality of workmanship. Quality bird toys are toys that will effectively keep your parrot engaged for long periods of time. Generally speaking, parrot toys need to be easy enough to destroy that your parrot will not give up on them. Quality toys will be fully or nearly fully destroyed within a few weeks by your bird. There will be nothing left. All the time your parrot spent chewing that toy up into splinters will be quality time that your parrot was occupied and coped well without your attention.
Focus more on destructible toys rather than play toys. A few play toys such as bells, acrylic toys, ropes, or toys that can be moved around are great. However, your main emphasis needs to be on toys that can be chewed, shredded, or destroyed. You can't beat wood. Parrots love chewing wood. Just make sure the thickness of the wood pieces on the toy is appropriate for the size of your parrot's beak and experience level.
Here is a video of Marianna at 8+ months pregnant loading up the parrots with a bunch of exciting new toys:
Being creative, making your own toys, letting your parrot roam your home, and spending one on one time is great. However, when you are barely able to cope, keep things simple. Put your parrot on a simple pellet (or seed diet), use supplies like precut cage papers to simplify cleaning, keep your parrot busy on its own in the cage with an abundance of quality toys, train your parrot basic behaviors to make the limited time you are able to spend be easy and fun. Following this approach helped Marianna and I get through the challenge of pregnancy and we look forward to seeing how things play out with raising a baby around parrots. I will update you with any further tips I discover about having a baby with parrots.
In the past few days I have been experimenting extensively with foods to see what he'll eat. Counting on him to eat his pellets himself has been futile. He may nibble on them a little bit but he hardly gets any meaningful amount into his crop though. Normally if I stick a pellet in his beak, he'll at least chew and swallow it but not now. He just spits his pellets right back out. The first time I tried to feed him oatmeal he would not eat it. Later I learned that if I force the oatmeal into his beak, then he'll swallow it but only then. He has made very little independent effort to eat food since Sunday.
With my intervention, luckily his weight has remained fairly stable in the 305-315g range. He is no longer losing any more but it's been a tough fight to get enough food into him to keep him in this weight range. Normally he drinks a lot of water and in the week prior he drank profusely. However, since the medication change he barely drinks a few sips of water a day. And I know exactly how much he drinks because I do not leave water for him in his tub. The last time I did, he knocked it over and the whole tub was flooded. Since then, I just offer him water in a dish every few hours.
Surprisingly, Truman exhibits some interest towards vegetables. I don't know if he's just playing with them as a chew toy or actually ingesting them but I do see them fairly torn up when I offer them to him. While he rejected apple sauce (human baby food) and Lafeber's, he still has a taste for nuts. I've been giving him an entire walnut (partially cracked) and several almonds every day. He's too "tired" to eat his pellets but he can work at those nuts for hours on end.
I believe that I've noticed some improvement with his bad leg. He seems to stand on both legs a bit more of the time rather than on just one alone. He has a stronger grip and I can feel more weight in the bad leg when he is standing on my hand. However, I'm not certain if perhaps this is merely because his good leg is tired so he's just balancing out the pain between the two. When I leave him alone, he squats very low, almost on his belly. He leans over on one leg and a wing. It almost looks as though he is nesting. He used to sit up higher before the medication switch so I'm not sure if this is in any way indicative of his condition or if he has just learned over time the most comfortable way to sit.
For the last few days Truman has been very flighty. He has had at least 5 flights yesterday and about as many today. A week ago I could trust him not to fly but now he takes every opportunity to fly away when I'm not looking. Just yesterday I had Kili and Truman out. I was trying to have Kili fly a recall. She wouldn't come but suddenly I felt something land on my hand as Truman flew from behind me and came to me instead. Behaviorally, Truman has shown some significant improvement in recent days but his appetite seems to have taken more of a dip. I find it strange how he can be so energetic on so little food.
I finally got in contact with Truman's breeder and she gave me recommendations about hand feeding him. I would not have a chance to get to a bird store that would sell hand feeding formula so I had it overnighted to me instead. That cost a good buck but considering how much I've put out on vet care already, this was not so extreme. I wanted to have it on hand as soon as possible in case Truman is eating poorly. If Truman's weight continues dropping, I will have to bring him back to the vet, but with my continuing efforts we have been able to avoid this for now.
The breeder instructed me to mix the formula in a cup with 2 parts water for every 1 part powder. She also suggested throwing a bit of peanut butter and Lafeber's into the mix. I have not had a chance to grab the peanut butter yet but I did add the Lafeber's for some extra nutrition. She explained to me the importance of exact temperature control so I ordered a thermometer along with syringes in that overnight package.
To make the formula, I begin by boiling water and then letting it cool for a little while. Then I pour the water into a mug and mix the powder in until it gets a muckier consistency. I keep mixing with a spoon and begin monitoring the temperature. I wait until the temperature begins dropping below 115 degrees Fahrenheit and then proceed to prepare to feed. By the time it reaches 110F, I suck it up into the syringe and offer it to Truman. Earlier today he had a really big hand fed meal but in the evening he ate much less. Most of it he shook off and it ended up on the floor and on me.
Likewise he's been annoying about taking his medication as well. He used to take it pretty eagerly but now he closes his beak, resists, and then shakes it off or spits it out. Not only does he not eat on his own but he sure makes it difficult to get stuff into him as well. Luckily (for the most part), what I can sneak into his beak, he will consume.
Here is a video of how I prepare the formula, give medication, and then handfeed the baby formula to Truman. Please do not use this video as a reference for hand feeding baby parrots and don't ask me how to. I know next to nothing about hand feeding and this is just the second time I did it on an already weened parrot.