I’ve spent the past many years heavily involved with animals, and I’ve tended towards groups of people online who share my philosophies. Once I started using Facebook a little more and headed out and about in Ontario, I’ve been reminded that a lot of my animal keeping choices are considered controversial by many people.
I’m going to start posting about some of them, to both explain my own logic, and to share information and hopefully create some food for thought.
And a bunch of pictures, of course, that’s a theme.
Many of these, may, in time, become part of my main webpage, which I’m going to actually update one of these days. This one is extremely long, so get yourself a drink, consider whether or not you need a washroom break, and then dig in.
(This one will be repeated for dogs and cats as well, with different though similar thoughts.)
Parrots are generally available through four sources: Breeders, rescues, pet stores, and individual homes.
I have acquired parrots from each of those sources, and they all have pros and cons.
There’s a number of people who breed parrots in North America. As with almost every group of people, some are significantly better than others. There are breeders who focus immensely on the health and well being of their parrots, and there are some who breed simply to make money.
There are a lot of people in the world who are strongly against pet parrot breeding (as well as pet dog, pet cat, and multiple other areas). Many people believe that parrots do not belong in captivity, and that making more makes things worse, and strongly suggest to adopt from rescues.
I, personally, do not have an issue with captive breeding, however, I do think that there are some species that make better pets than others, and I wish breeders would focus more on them than on the more challenging species.
Pros for breeders:
A good breeder can provide a fantastic behavioural and physical base for you to build on. I prefer breeders who wean to a varied diet at whatever speed works best for that parrot, who allow parrots to interact with others of their species and of other species, and who allow all of their babies to learn to fly expertly before they are clipped if they must be.
In addition to that, breeders can offer ongoing support to new owners, and in some cases, even take back the parrot if something happens and they need to be rehomed.
Cons for breeders:
A bad breeder can make your life almost as challenging as a good breeder can. Bad breeders treat the breeding parrots poorly and do not set up their babies for success. Things like a bad wing clip on a heavily built parrot can cause serious issues if not managed well. In addition, a breeder is creating more parrots for pet homes, which some people do not believe that is a good thing.
My household includes four parrots from breeders. All of these pictures are from shortly after the parrots came home, regardless of what they look like now.
Anisette, a green cheeked conure, is from one of the most well known breeders of colour mutation parrots in the US. She was hand raised, but not tame when she came home, and has almost always lived with another parrot. Despite that, she loves to interact with people, particularly me. She came home unclipped, though we clipped her wings briefly a few times in her life.
Cinereo, an African grey, came from a bird farm in California. He was hand raised, good tempered, but came home with a wing clip that was so harsh that he couldn’t even glide, he fell like a rock. After re-teaching him to fly, he’s a very acrobatic and bold parrot.
Caviar, a black lory, came from a breeder in British Columbia. He came home unclipped, learned to fly well, is a really fun (if hard to photograph) parrot. I’d get another bird from his breeder if he wasn’t so far away.
Artichoke, a black capped conure, came from a breeder near London, Ontario. He learned to fly, was abundance weaned, and is still an awesome parrot. I would absolutely buy another parrot from her if I was looking to purchase a species she has.
Parrots are frequently sold at pet stores, whether that be small scale, parrot-centric stores, larger independent stores, or large chain pet stores. Much like with breeders, it strongly depends on the pet store. In my limited experience, even the best pet stores tend to do things like clip wings before flight and offer behavioural advice that I don’t necessarily agree with. The worst ones can barely be imagined.
These, and breeders, are generally the only place you can find baby parrots.
Pros to pet stores:
If you want a parrot, you can walk into a pet store and buy one immediately with very little fuss. You will get to see the exact parrot that you will be bringing home, and you can likely also get all of the other supplies you might need. Pet stores often have a wider variety of parrots for sale than most breeders do. Pet store parrots are exposed to more people than almost any other situation, so they potentially can be extremely well socialized.
A speciality pet store can be a great resource for long term information on parrots.
Cons to pet stores:
If you want a parrot, you can walk into a pet store and buy one immediately with very little fuss — pet stores tend to create impulse buys, and in some cases (macaws being a really obvious one), the personality of a baby bird and the personality of an adult bird are two very, very different things. Many parrots originally sold at pet stores go through a higher number of homes than most other places, and very few pet store employees really have a good grasp on what they should be telling parrot owners.
Pet store birds have a higher disease risk because they’re exposed to more people, and can come home with worse behavioural issues due to the interactions with people who don’t know how to interact with parrots.
Pet store birds also tend to be significantly more expensive than any other places, in some cases, 2 – 3 times higher than the price from a breeder or a rescue.
My household includes two parrots from pet stores.
High Tea, a sun conure, was sold at a Petsmart in California. We fell in love with him, and instead of buying him immediately, bought a book and did our research… and then bought him anyways. He came home with a raging yeast infection and stress bars over all his feathers. Eleven years later, he’s a fantastic parrot, really fun to interact with, and completely responsible for all the rest.
Kyklos, a double yellow headed Amazon, was sold at a small pet shop in British Columbia. They took good care of their parrots, kept them away from random hands, interviewed new owners, and suggested vet visits for all new parrots.
A number of parrot rescues have sprung up over North America in the last decade or so. They’re as varied as the pet stores and breeders, but in my experience, a few things tend to be true. They generally are anti-breeder and anti-breeding and will not adopt to people who breed parrots (or in some cases other pets), even if that parrot will not be bred. They also tend to focus on the wellbeing of the parrots over people, which is both good and bad.
Most rescue parrots have been health checked and behaviourally evaluated, and a rescue usually has a pretty wide assortment of parrots. Many parrots lose their homes because of no fault of their own (or their people’s), and not all parrots in rescues have problems of any variety.
Most rescues come with a lot of assistance for new owners, and usually have someone who is willing to answer questions/provide assistance to people with their new pets. They also tend to allow people to adopt parrots pretty quickly, and frequently at a lower price than either a pet store or a breeder. In some cases, parrots will also come home with cages and/or toys, which is helpful.
Because rescues tend to focus on the parrot’s welfare over the person’s, they often have strict rules on who gets parrots, which may or may not include home checks, reference checks, and may get stronger than there. Some rescues have rules about controversial behaviours (flight, free flight, pair housing, other things) that might rule out some people.
In addition to that, I’ve had at least one experience with a rescue where a group of parrots was donated to a rescue by one half of a couple, and the rescue refused to return them to the other owner until they were forced by a court order.
Rescue parrots also tend to come with very little history on their background, and they’re usually adults. For some people, that’s a pro, for others, a con.
I have only adopted one parrot from a rescue.
Theodore, a blue and gold macaw, was adopted from Mickaboo rescue in California. He was vet checked, converted to a good diet, and we had a great idea of what his personality and behaviour was like before he came home. He was dropped off at a local animal shelter and transferred into the rescue. I had some details on his past, and also contacted his previous owner to talk to him, and got some more. Theo was 14 years old when I adopted him, and will be turning 25 this year.
Many, many parrots are sold through word of mouth or internet advertising. Sites like Craigslist and Kijiji and many mailing lists and Facebook groups are there to help find homes for parrots who need them. Individually owned parrots are as varied as the owners. Some are in great health. Some are extremely sick. Some are well cared for, beloved pets. Others have small behavioural issues. Some may have such significant issues that only experts can deal with them.
You can provide a home for a parrot that needs one, and generally acquire a parrot of a variety of different types in relatively short time. The price of an individually owned parrot tends to be reasonable, and the parrot frequently comes with cage and toys, which can make things easier to move them and easier for them to settle in.
You roll the dice, you take your chances. There is absolutely no guarantee on buying an individually owned parrot, and frequently absolutely no support. Many adult rehomed parrots come with some number of habits that may or may not work well in your life. Many adult rehomed parrots come with limited histories (though there are ways to figure out some of it in some cases). If you’re not certain that you can tell the difference between a parrot who bites you because you’re a stranger and a parrot who has learned to bite everyone and a parrot who can be convinced out of that, you really should not consider buying a parrot from an individual owner without a lot of thought.
My household includes four parrots from individual owners.
Radish, a cherry headed conure, was sold to a breeder as a breeding bird, but she could not find a mate for him, so she resold him. He is plucked, and I was told that he would eat only seed, would not play with toys, and was 100% not tame. He was in an empty cage, repeating stereotypical motions, and lunged at my face multiple times when I crouched near to his cage. I watched him, and determined that even if he lunged at people, he was very interested in interacting with people, and his aggressive behaviour decreased as I sat there.
A year later, he’s still not hand tame, but he happily targets, stations so that people can work in his cage, takes sunflower seeds from the hand, no longer has stereotypical gestures, plays with toys, and eats pellets and fresh food. I’m not sure if he will ever be the sort of parrot who rides on hands, but I also really don’t care.
Tlalli, a greenwing macaw, was sold by her sixth owner. She destroys the feathers on her wings and body. When I met her, she did a huge, open winged aggressive display, lunged at my face and nipped my arm through my jacket so hard that I will probably forever have the scar. Her previous owner told us that he was selling her because she talked too much and she climbed down off her cage and chased around his mother, who was afraid of her.
Four months later, she’ll interact with almost anyone, does a number of tricks, spends all of her time talking, and we’re working on lessening her barbering. She is, in my eleven years of parrot experience, one of the most good tempered and special parrots I’ve ever interacted with, and everyone who meets her loves her.
Keela, a Timneh grey, was sold by her second owner who loved her beyond belief and who had to give her up for life reasons. She came home with no bad habits, only needing a mild diet upgrade, talks up a storm, and is joyously bossy, flies around and is a ton of fun.
Cody, a red lored Amazon, was sold by his first owner after some serious life changes. He’s fun, outgoing, social, talkative, and only mildly excitable for an Amazon. :) He’s got no issues and no real problems and would likely be a good pet for anyone who likes the Amazon personality — and red loreds seem to be significantly less excitable than say, double yellow heads. ;)
It’s probably pretty obvious that I have definite biases as to where I get parrots, and some of those biases have changed over the years. These days, I’m generally going to bring home a new parrot from an individual owner or a breeder. I’ve had some rough experiences with rescues and tend to not agree with a lot of their policies, though it also depends on the rescue. I’m also not a huge fan of most pet stores, both for their costs and their general keeping of parrots. I also feel pretty comfortable judging whether or not a breeder is a good breeder and whether or not a re-homed parrot will work well in our household. I also tend to prefer adult birds over babies, but a lot of that will be covered in the next post.
What does this mean for you? If you’re an experienced parrot owner, you will probably do well with any parrot from any place so long as you and they get along. You should examine your own feelings about all the controversies here, and determine what works best for you.
I really believe that most new parrot owners do better if they have some form of support, whether that be from a breeder, rescue, or good pet store, or from an internet group or parrot club. I don’t think that most brand new owners should consider buying a parrot from an individual owner, unless they can do so with a more experienced friend, or do so from a more experienced friend.
Much like any behaviour, if you set yourself up to succeed, you and your pets will be happier in the long run.