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.
Christine rescued an African Grey with major malnourishment problems and had to learn how to fix this bird's diet and nurse it back to health. As she started chopping away at loads of fresh vegetables, she learned that other people wanted some too and the Chop Shop was born.
Among many nutritional recommendations, Christine suggests that, "some of the best veggies are dark leafy greens. Any of the greens: carrot tops, beet tops... chard, bok choy, any of the fancy lettuces, the dark leafy greens have the most nutrients. And it's best for the parrots. It's lower in calories and so you can feed them more if you give them the dark leafy greens."
Some parrots tend to be deficient in calcium so Christine adds that, "you also need to feed, especially if you have an African Grey or a Cockatoo (one of the dusty birds), they need a diet that's higher in calcium. Broccoli is great, it's high in calcium. So is Kale, kale is one of top ingredients of what I feed my birds." Keep in mind that in order for the body to properly absorb calcium, Vitamin D is required. The most effective source of Vitamin D is natural outdoor sunlight so be sure to grab an Aviator Harness to get your parrot outside safely!
Christine believes that variety is very important both nutritionally and to keep the parrots entertained. Christine notes that, "the large majority of parrots have Vitamin A deficiencies. They need produce that's high in Vitamin A. The dark winter squashes: butternut squash, acorn squash... those are really high in Vitamin A. Cantelopes if they want something a little sweeter and carrots." What do all those Vitamin A rich foods have in common? They're orange! If your bird is Vitamin A deficient, you can look into feeding more of those orange veggies or get Christine's Mega A Blend that already has just that.
The way I understood it, the advantage of buying Christine's Chop Mix is that it comes with a massive assortment of veggies already in it. Even Christine agrees that feeding fresh is best. But there are plenty of reasons to buy the dehydrated of freeze dried chop mixes. Most notably is the included variety. If you only have one small parrot, buying some 25+ ingredients will get expensive and wasteful. Sure, if you have a huge flock to feed, you might go through it all. But on a small bird or small number of birds, it might be easier to get the benefit of the full variety by ordering your mix instead.
Christine says "I cannot preach enough how important variety is." This is why her chop mix starts with a 15-20% base of barley, quinoa, cooked dried beans, chia and flax seed, no more than 10% fresh seasonal fruits, 70-75% fresh, seasonal vegetables. Ingredients may include; kale and other greens, cabbages, bok choy, carrots, corn, peas, string beans, zucchini and yellow squash, cooked sweet potatoes, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, bell and chili peppers, jicama, radish, snow peas, brussel sprouts, assorted apples, papaya, assorted, seasonal berries and other seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Christine explains that the freeze drying process allows her to ship raw produce around the country while safely preserving it. She says that "when you freeze dry vegetables or produce your retain 97% of the nutrients and so that is considered raw."
Watch the complete discussion with Christine Wood both about her business and lots of tips on fresh feeding for your parrot. And check out what Christine has to offer at ChristinesChopShop.com.
Kili, Truman, and Santina set out on a quest to crack some really tough nuts. Kili, the lightweight, took on an almond in the background. Truman cracked a hazelnut and a brazil nut in less time than it took for Santina to crack her nut. But, Santina takes the prize for cracking the toughest of nuts, the Macadamia.
The patient macaw worked at it for a good half of an hour. She kept rotating and testing the nut looking for the weak spot. Truman uses a similar approach for hazelnuts, which for his beak size, should be nearly impossible. Santina could not just crack the Macadamia. The best she could accomplish with her powerful beak was to just chew a little hole into the top of the nut and then extract the inner goody with the tip of her beak.
I even got Santina to share her bounty with the two smaller birds by trading her a hazelnut which she could easily open. Kili and Truman dug in with their beaks and extracted some of the nut from the shell. Santina of course got her hard earned nut back to finish the job. I can assure you that not one morsel was left inside.
Some people ask me how I taught my parrots to open such difficult nuts. The truth is they learned to do it themselves but it was my encouragement that got them to try hard enough to get to that point. If I am trying to get a parrot to learn to open a new nut, I substitute training for a nut opening session. The same learning mindset comes into play and the same motivation that could be applied to training can be applied to learning to crack tough nuts. In the beginning I try to offer an opened nut or scour the shell with a knife so the bird can learn how good the result is. The next few times I try to find the smaller/easier nuts. And with time the bird learns patience and perseverance and can be kept busy for long periods of time with a tough nut to work on.
This was not just a nut opening exercise but also a tolerance training exercise for the flock. By getting them all busy and goal focused on their own tasks, I am able to teach them to tolerate each other in closer proximity without fighting. The Cape Parrot and Macaw shared the same perch for the entire duration. It's a good way to build friendship while challenging their jaws and minds. Check out this video of how the parrots crack some really tough nuts.
What size pellets should I feed my parrot is a frequent question I receive. And now that I have become a Roudybush distributor, I am even more in tune with the different kinds of pellets out there. However, I somewhat disagree with the manufacturer recommended pellet sizes and some of the recommendations out there in regards to pellet size.
So first off, keep in mind that all pellets from a manufacturer (of the same line) contain the same nutritional content regardless of the parrot that is pictured on the package. Even if the package says that the pellet is for Amazons, they only mean that the size is recommended for Amazons and not that the diet is especially modified for the requirements of Amazons. Unfortunately species specific diets are not generally available.
Now when it comes to pellet size, the most important thing is how it is relative to the bird itself. Feeding excessively large pellets can make it difficult to impossible for a bird to eat. On the other hand, feeding excessively small pellets can leave it uninterested. Generally though, too small is safer than too large.
In this article I am going to refer to pellet sizes based on Roudybush because it is the pellet I am most familiar with. I think other manufacturers sell roughly similar sized pellets or refer to the size as relative to each of my birds for reference. Besides a few mini sizes, Roudybush basically comes in small, medium, and large. I have a small, medium, and large parrot so it is a perfect opportunity to compare the sizes.
For really smaller parrots like GCC, Cockatiel, Lovebird, Parrotlet, Budgie, the pellets I will be referring to in this article are too big. Mini or Crumble sizes are good for those birds. Choosing between the two really comes down to what your bird likes best because both are small enough and recommended.
Once you get to a Senegal Parrot sized bird or larger, you have more freedom of choice between the three main pellet sizes. My feeling is that the medium Roudybush pellets are actually perfect for all parrots small, medium, and large (again, excluding really small parrots). This has to do not only with parrot sizes but also personalities.
Initially I started out feeding medium to save money by using the same size for my Senegal and Cape Parrot. But with time, I discovered that even if I only had one or the other, medium would still be ideal. The Senegal is accustomed to eating big foods. Whether it's a baby carrot, a grape, or a piece of broccoli, these are all way big in relation to the size of a Senegal. Yet, she is used to manipulating large foods and gravitates toward them. The Medium size pellets are big enough that she has to hold and work on them, but far from overwhelming. I'm not even going to get into why Medium size pellets are good for medium size parrots.
Now when it comes to the Macaw, conveniently Medium size pellets turned out to be ideal for her as well. The Macaw on the other hand is used to dealing with smaller foods relative to her size. Whether it's working a pine nut out of the shell or a sunflower seed, she is accustomed to eating stuff that's pretty small relative to her hulking size. I have tried small, medium, and large pellets on all 3 of the birds and have found that in a bind they could eat any of the three sizes. However, the medium is not only the central size for 3 birds, but it is also their favorite for their personalities.
Another reason I like to use medium pellets is because it enables me to keep track of how much the birds are eating. In all three sized parrots, I am able to count out the amount of pellets they get and be able to see if something is left over. If the pellets are too small, it is difficult to keep count. On the other hand, excessively large pellets take long to consume and don't work as well for treats. Medium Roudybush actually works as a superb treat for training my parrots.
So when you are picking a pellet size for your parrot, don't worry about the size that is recommended on the package. If you have a lot of small through large parrots, just get the medium and feed it to everybody to save the hassle and money of getting different sized pellets. If you have just one bird, try the medium first and only if it's a problematic size, try changing to small or large. At this point, even if I had just one of the 3 birds, I would still choose to feed the medium Roudybush pellets for the reasons mentioned.
I haven't given much thought to what Kili & Truman prefer as treats in a long time. The initial process for discovering a bird's favorite treats involves offering variety and watching what order they eat things in. But it's been years since I've done that with these two and with time I've began to notice that it doesn't make much difference what I give them. They are always content with what they get.
During a lot of my training I use Roudybush pellets as rewards for flight recall and training because that's what my parrots normally consume and it's healthier for them than eating other stuff. By teaching them to work for pellets it has made their performance a lot more reliable. There is much less of the "well I would come to you for a sunflower seed but I think I'd rather pass if you've only got a safflower..." attitude when they know what they'll get but yet prefer it.
So now I put it to the test, after years of healthy eating habits with uncolored Roudybush Maintenance pellets as the staple of their diet, what do Kili & Truman prefer when given the choice?
10 for 10 Kili picked Roudybush pellets over sunflower seeds. Truman was 8 for 10 on this trial run but anecdotally prefers pellets even more than Kili. I later discovered he was trying to outsmart me by grabbing the seed so he could get the pellet too so I don't really think it counts! Anecdotally I would say that I've noticed a 9/10 typical preference for the birds to take pellets over seeds. Once in a while they just like something different for fun or variety and that's perfectly normal. If pellets make up the dominant portion of their diet, this is absolutely considered to be more healthy by avian veterinarians.
if you think about it, the same holds true for people. People who are used to healthy eating can enjoy healthy food more and don't feel forced to eat right. I know when I am out and about and active a lot, I will sooner go for a healthy meal than junk food and it's the same with my birds. They exercise a lot and work hard and at the end of the day, they want what will sustain their bodies and not just some momentary pleasure at the expense of their long term health.
Santina has converted to Roudybush Pellets readily and predominantly gets pellets for training as well! I'm not certain she would qualify as well as Kili/Truman in a similar test but I can tell you she runs down her perch and jumps on my arm to get a pellet so we're definitely on the right track.
Interestingly the same results continued for pellets vs nuts as long as the nut wasn't bigger than the pellet. However, the birds will often go for a small piece of pellet over an average piece of nut or seed. Moral of the story is that parrots that are cared for using my method, choose healthy eating. If they are choosing healthy eating then we can be assured that they are content with the healthy food we are feeding them. Happiness and healthiness go hand in hand and are the basis of my approach. Learn how to give your parrot the Wizard's treatment from my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots.