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.
There are many toxic threats to parrots that may be present in our homes. Cookware can be one of them. However, you do not need to endanger your parrot's life for the sake of convenience. Pans and appliances that contain Teflon or PFTE - often marketed as non-stick - can kill your parrot if over heated. It is possible and likely that even if not overheated, the long term exposure to these toxic fumes is detrimental to the health of household birds.
The good news is that there are many safe alternatives out there and I'd like to share some of my success with them. When I acquired my first bird, I stopped using my non-stick pan immediately in favor of stainless steel. However, I found the stainless steel to be very difficult to clean and problematic to work with as everything would stick. I also missed my electric waffle iron and George Foreman grill. So I set out to find alternatives for each of these devices to facilitate easy cooking.
After much research and experimentation, I had come to find that cast iron not only worked the best but was also cheapest. Unfortunately cast iron does require some work and getting used to but it is not problematic at all and the slight increase in work to maintain it is paid off by better tasting food anyway, let alone your parrot's well being.
The process of maintaining a cast iron pan is called seasoning. After each use, the pan is cleaned. If the pan is not too dirty from use, washing is not even necessary. Simply wipe down the pan with a dry or moist rag/paper towel and then proceed to seasoning. If the pan is more soiled, then is should be washed with cold water and scrubbed with a stiff brush or steel wool. Soap should be avoided in all but extreme cases because it washes away the grease layer that is meant to keep the pan seasoned. After cleaning, the pan should be filled with a thin layer of cheap cooking oil (I find the largest corn or vegetable oil bottles on sale and then use them for many months for this). The pan should be heated on high briefly and then turned down to low and held like this for 5-10 minutes. If the pan starts smoking, turn down the heat and note the setting. Try to heat the pan at the highest setting possible but before it starts smoking. The pores in the cast iron open up and soak in oil. In this way the pan develops its own grease coating that makes it such that food does not stick to it. After the pan cools off, drain the excess oil and wipe down with a paper towel. Try to leave a very thin coating of oil on the pan. This prevents the pan from rusting and makes it ready for your next use.
To replace the George Foreman grill, I got a cast iron grill pan with the ridges built into it. I can grill meat and burgers and they come out as good or better than from a restaurant grill. To cook bacon, pancakes, or grilled cheese sandwiches, I use a shallow cast iron pan. Believe me, I was surprised when my pancakes were coming out looking like they had come from a good Diner or the grilled cheese sandwiches looking like they from a good grill. Cooking on cast iron definitely resembles grill cooking elsewhere and does a super job for this task than any Teflon based product.
For a long time I missed my electric waffle iron but finally I found a cast iron alternative. I coated it with oil and backed it in the oven twice to create my own coating. Now I can use the cast iron waffle iron on my stove and make delicious home style waffles. Timing is a bit tricky and the cast iron does not always heat evenly. But after making a few waffles I got the hang of it. The main thing is to preheat the iron on each side thoroughly before pouring the batter in.
When I was picking out a new stove, I made certain that the one I was buying did not have a self cleaning oven feature. Not only is it cheaper to get it in this configuration, but it is also 100% bird safe. The self cleaning ovens have a teflon coating and I wonder if the presence of the coating is dangerous even when the feature is not used. If you already have a self cleaning oven, make absolutely certain not to use the feature and possibly to disarm it if possible.
So for anyone that owns a bird or is thinking of getting one, please be aware of the dangers of non-stick cookware to parrots and never use it. Do not think that just being careful or venting the kitchen is enough. I have heard countless stories about parrots dying from teflon fumes in all different configurations. The safest thing to do is to simply not use it at all. If you have any such cookware in your home, give it away or throw it out. The last thing you want is for someone visiting or otherwise unknowing to find a non-stick pan and kill your companion parrot through the negligent use. The cast iron alternative is safer, better, and even cheaper in the long run.
Since my parrots are flighted and the kitchen area is accessible to them, I have to be careful to keep all food and dangerous objects out of their reach. I cannot keep anything out on the table or counters when they are out so I've gotten into the habit of storing everything in plastic bins. Basically any place I used to keep stuff out on a counter or table, I added a plastic drawer to keep it in instead.
The kitchen can be one of the most dangerous places in the house for parrots. But with proper precautions these risks can be mitigated. Replace teflon coated cookware and appliances with cast iron ones. Regardless of your cooking devices, vent the kitchen area well and away from the birds. Keep foods and dangerous items away or in drawers. And of course never cook with your parrot out (whether flighted or not). With smart kitchen management, you can have tastier food, clean/organized kitchen, and happy/healthy parrot.