Controversies: Baby vs adult

Since the first post on where you can get parrots from got so long, I’ve split the second thought on bringing home a parrot into a separate post.

When a person brings home a parrot, they can either get a baby bird or an adult bird. Each of those choices comes with pros and cons as well.

Baby parrots

Generally, you can get baby birds from breeders, pet stores, and occasional individual owners. I consider a baby parrot to be any parrot significantly younger than sexual maturity, which can range from a few months to several years, depending on the species.

Pros:

There’s really no such thing as a blank slate in parrots, but if you pick well, you can bring home a parrot that comes with no real bad habits, and very possibly is on their way to good habits.

You can socialize and shape the life of the parrot, as well as appropriately allowing for natural behaviours such as fledging and learning how to expertly fly.

You can generally get a good idea of how old they are, and thus how long their life will be, and you can help make their lives as long as possible by providing good care and good diets from the beginning.

Many species of baby parrots are cuter than it should be allowed, and are almost painfully wonderful to interact with. Baby cockatoos and baby macaws are some of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen, and I don’t even like cockatoos much.

Cons:

You can absolutely shape a baby parrot as it grows up, but eventually, it will grow up to be a parrot. You cannot guarantee the personality of an adult parrot when you buy it as a baby. If certain behaviours are important to you (such as talking), you can do a great deal to encourage talking, and bring home a species known to be good talkers, but you cannot be certain unless you bring home an adult parrot who already talks.

If you do not have experience with adults of the same species, the behavioural changes that come from the shift from baby to adult can be challenging. Baby macaws are super cute, but they all turn into adult macaws, who are a lot less pliant and willing to accept manhandling. This is generally not as much of a shock in smaller species who have a childhood that lasts a relatively short time as it is in larger species — a macaw is still a baby at three in most cases.

For some people and for some parrots, the shift to being a sexual creature is shocking. Adult parrots get hormonal and nesty, which predisposes them to certain behaviours during certain times of year. For a lot of people, this is a big concern, and many parrots (much like many teenagers :)), tend to be a little more extreme when they’re younger.

Of my parrots, I have brought home six parrots as babies: Tea, Ani, Artichoke, Cin, Caviar, and Ky.

Adult parrots

Generally, you can get adult parrots from rescues, individual owners, and occasionally pet stores and breeders. I consider an adult parrot any parrot who is sexually mature.

Pros

What you see is what you get. An adult parrot has a personality that is already formed. A parrot who talks a lot as an adult will generally talk a lot. A parrot who is very active will generally be very active. A parrot who is very social will generally be very social. Obviously, behaviour can always be modified, but you have a much better idea of what you’re getting with an adult parrot.

This also means that you have the ability to pick and choose things that are important to you, such as talking, etc.

Cons

You miss the cute baby ages with your parrot, and you don’t have the ability to socialize them during key times in their lives.

You may or may not know the history of your parrot, including how old they are, where they were born, how many owners they’ve had. If you do find out their history, you frequently need to do some digging. I only have two parrots in my house that I do not know their hatchdate, so it’s possible to do (particularly if the parrot is banded), but not easy.

What you see is what you get with bad habits too. Most adult parrots come with habits that you may not want, which means that you’ll need to figure out how to change those habits pretty quickly.

You cannot guarantee their health histories, which may shorten their life span. On the other hand, nothing in life is guaranteed — I had a baby parrot die very young.

In my household, five parrots were brought home as adults: Theo, Radish, Tlalli, Cody, and Keela.

In the end, the choices you make are yours. You’ll need to consider what’s best for you, for your household, and for your future. I can tell you that I prefer adult parrots, even with the list of cons, mostly because I tend to find babies very sweet, but not particularly nuanced in personality. I know many experienced parrot people who prefer to get babies and raise them correctly.

The only advice I can and always will give to new parrot owners — if you’re bringing home a baby, please make sure you’ve interacted with adults of the same species and know what their general personalities are like. Babies are cute, but they do grow up.

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