What You need to Know Before Getting a Parrot? – Basic Guide

Translated by Nick R

Parrots may not be the most common pets, but many people choose to have them as pets. They have beautiful and eye-catching colors, can talk, and surely catch everyone’s attention.

But what does a parrot need to enjoy a nice life with you? Let me tell you everything you need to know about these animals.

Why have a parrot as a pet? 

Having a parrot as a pet can be amazing; however, here I’ll list the advantages and disadvantages of having one so you can be sure if this is the right companion for you.


  • They can talk! Thanks to an organ called “Syrinx”, located in the trachea, parrots can imitate different types of sounds, including human speech, without the need of vocal cords.
  • They are very healthy, so they hardly ever get sick.
  • They have a long life expectancy, although it will vary depending on the parrot species you have: there are more than 300 species of parrots.

Some parrots such as the Macaw can live up to 80 years (in fact, some have reached 100 years), the longest life expectancy of any parrot species.

  • They are not monotonous or boring as they constantly learn new things. They will amaze you every day by doing something totally new.
  • They are quite affectionate, especially with their favorite person in the family.

Fun fact 

So, can they understand what they say or do they just repeat sounds? Several studies have investigated parrots’ ability to remember words, and these animals can learn around 150 words.

However, they cannot understand exactly what they say or separate words between different contexts as we do. They simply relate them to objects or certain situations to which they are exposed.

On the other hand, research conducted by Dr. Irene Pepperberg with Alex, an African grey parrot, showed that these birds are more intelligent than we think. The doctor trained Alex, who managed to differentiate different objects, materials, and even colors.

Alex even managed to hold conversations and ask a question.


  • They are not very clean. They make a lot of mess, both for their needs (urine and feces), and when they eat, they also drop their feathers and even their feathers release some white dust.
  • They are quite destructive, so it’s very likely that they will break or damage something in the house.
  • They can suffer if separated from their owner for too long, so if you travel constantly, they may not be the pet for you.
  • They can make a lot of noise.
  • They can bite you badly.

Tips for giving your parrot a good quality of life 

Now, if after reading the above, you think a parrot is the right pet for you, here are some tips to give your parrot everything it needs to live the best life.

1. Adequate environment and space for your parrot 

First of all, it is clear that the natural and ideal environment for these animals is usually the rainforest. They are found in South Asia, Australia, Central America, South America, and Africa.

Of course, a totally different environment from what can be provided domestically, but since some are born in captivity and cannot be released for their own safety, you must keep the following in mind:   

Although parrots can be left free in the house if they are housetrained (so they don’t escape and get lost), a cage is also recommended. The cage should be at least 4 or 5 times larger than the parrot so it can move freely and stretch its wings.

Of course, if you know that your parrot will not escape, you can buy or build some structure or perch for him outside and inside the house so that he can be distracted and not be locked up all day.

Likewise, you can leave him free around the house with the windows and doors closed so he won’t leave and he will be able to do another activity.

Note: it is advisable that the cage is only used for eating or resting and not for the bird to be in it 24 hours a day.

2. Healthy food for parrots 

This will depend on the species of parrot you have, since they may have different needs depending on their anatomy that must be covered with food. It’s always advisable to go to a veterinarian specializing in exotic pets to help you with your nutrition plan.

This is verified by the study Principles of psittacine feeding: “(…) among the 353 existing psittacine species there is a great differentiation in habitat and feeding, and the bird’s nutritional needs may vary depending not only on the species but also on age, state of health and even environmental conditions”.

Thus, the geographic area where they develop naturally has an impact on the diet that these animals should have.

However, normally the diet of these animals is composed of feed, fruits, vegetables, and a few seeds. And of course, fresh water should always be available. You can feed them at least twice a day and occasionally a snack.

3. Hygiene of your parrot 

Space and accessories 

First of all, the cage and the places where your parrot spends time must be cleaned daily. You must clean very well the feces or food leftovers that remain as these can allow the proliferation of bacteria or parasites that will affect the health of your pet.

Likewise, you need to clean all the accessories regularly, such as feeders or toys. On the other hand, you should disinfect the cage and toys at least twice a week.


Parrots have to wet their feathers regularly, so they can groom themselves, avoid mites on their skin or feathers and, in addition, water helps them during molting, that is, when their feathers start to fall to make room for the new ones, which can cause them a little itching.

You can use a spray bottle with water and spray your parrot a few times for bathing, then you can let him finish grooming himself.

This should be done at least 3 times a week.

You can also use bowls or small water fountains for your parrot to bathe himself whenever he wants.

Note: The best time to do this is when the sun is shining, such as midday or in the morning, so that they have time to dry off.

4. Exercise and flight 

Parrots need to exercise their muscles and the best way to do it is flying, so you can adapt a place for your parrot to fly from one point to another.

First of all, keep in mind that many domestic parrots grew up in captivity as illegal species traffickers take them out of their habitat and may have had their wings clipped before they came to you, which can cause both physical and psychological damage.

Depending on the type of clipping they may never fly again.

But let’s say your case is different, if your parrot is a baby, he will learn to fly instinctively and little by little. You can help him, he must trust you and his surroundings so that when he starts to fly he doesn’t try to escape and hurt himself by hitting something.

You can adapt a room with different obstacles and prizes for him to go towards them and practice his flight. Likewise, if your parrot is already an adult and does not know how to fly, you can train him to start exercising his muscles with short flights until he can fly easily.

For example, you can train him to fly from your hand to another point and vice versa, doing it daily so your pet does not get bored.

You can have different perches around the room to provide your parrot with various options to exercise.

5. Do parrots need toys? 

Likewise, to prevent boredom and stress in your parrot, especially if you are not at home all day, he needs to have different toys to entertain himself. You can install these accessories in the cage or in a specific room you have arranged for your pet.

There is a great variety of toys for parrots such as ladders, bridges, hanging toys, nibbling toys, or even interactive toys where you can introduce some food for your parrot to play trying to get it out of it.

6. Does your parrot need a companion? 

These little animals are quite social, and it is difficult for owners to spend the whole day with them, so to avoid the feeling of loneliness, you should think of a companion of the same species to keep them company.

It does not necessarily have to be of the same species for them to get along well when they learn to live together, and it should preferably be of the opposite sex, since in some species, for example, coexistence between one female and another can be complicated.

However, it’s advisable that the two grow up together to get along much better and make sure they can be each other’s perfect companions.

7. Your love and attention 

As I said before, parrots are very social and sensitive, so they need you to give them attention, talk to them and preferably not leave them alone for too long; they won’t want to be separated for too long once they trust you.

If they lack attention or your company for a long period of time, they may go into depression and separation anxiety that causes them to not even want to eat, which can seriously affect their health.

8. Vet Visits 

Parrots are usually in very good health, especially if they are well cared for. However, as soon as you have a parrot in your home, you should find out the nearest veterinarian who specialized in exotic animals.

This way you will know where to go in case of an accident if your parrot gets sick or just for annual check-ups.

Is it legal to keep a parrot as a pet? 

Due to illegal trafficking and given that they are forced to leave their habitat to be sold, in some countries such as Mexico, the sale and distribution of psittacines, that is, parrots, parakeets, macaws, and parakeets, has been banned.

It’s legal to have them in other places if they were obtained in an authorized place since they are birds born in captivity that cannot be released or they would die.

To combat the illegal trafficking of species, more than 143 countries are part of CITES, the International Treaty on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Here the aim is to protect:

“all endangered species that are or may be affected by trade. Trade in specimens of these species should be subject to particularly strict regulation in order not to further endanger their survival and should be authorized only under exceptional circumstances.

All species which, although not necessarily now threatened with extinction, may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid use incompatible with their survival; and those other species not affected by trade, which should also be subject to regulation in order to permit effective control of trade in the species”.

Parrots are included in the latter species, which, although they can be traded, each country will have its own regulations and laws for this.

And, in fact, in 2016 CITES banned the international trade of the African grey parrot due to the rate of decline of these animals which could be a great danger for the survival of this species.