A parrot is more than just a pet. It basically behaves like a toddler because it can yell a lot, throw away food if it does not want it or be very pleasant by saying 'Hello Boss' in the morning.
For parrot lovers, the birds are mood boosters and once you have one, there can never be a dull day in your home. But how do you keep them? Which cages best suit them so that you almost mimic their natural environment?
The African grey parrots also know as the Congo grey parrot, which talks the most among all parrots and is very intelligent are the most kept in Kenya.
At Peter Gitau's veterinary clinic in Mombasa, there are three African grey parrots in metal bar cages. When called, they respond just like any pet would do, they become alert and stretch their necks out of the cage; showing that they have created a good rapport with a visitor. It was my first time interacting with parrots and I was quite amazed.
Harry, the oldest among the two is more than 63 years old, the vet said. In 1963, the parrot was being taken by his second owner. It had been brought to Dr Gitau’s Isapet Clinic in Nyali for treatment.
Bill, the second parrot, is four years old and at the clinic it was busy 'conversing' with its mate, Chiriku, a seven-month-old parrot.
It did not take long before I started bonding with them. At one time when we were all quiet and just watching, Bill said a word which I cannot remember because it happened so fast but it sure sounded like a human being's voice but from a parrot's peck.
Because they are quite talkative, the African grey parrots are the most trafficked birds in the world because pet lovers adore them for their sociability and they tend to live for a very long time. Most parrots range from Sh10,000 up to Sh50,000 in pet shops in Nairobi and Mombasa.
Dr Gitau said the African grey parrot is mostly found in Congo.
“Statistics shows that between two and three million parrots have been taken from the wild in the past 40 years and populations of this species has plummeted across Africa,” Dr Gitau said.
So don’t stress them or mistreat them that they end up dying.
If you want to keep parrots, the vet said, you first need to have a large space, a roomy cage which has a swing, food and water.
Dr Gitau said the African grey parrots love and can feed well on sunflower seeds. You can also introduce almonds and broccoli. The parrots at the clinic also eat passion fruits, chilli and apples. But do not give them fruits like mangoes and avocados.
“The mango strings can get under the tongue and choke the parrot. Also the edges of avocado are not suitable for them,” Dr Gitau said.
The birds should be fed on fresh food and also the feeding time should be adhered to avoid stressing the birds.
Place a container with clean water in its cage. Because a parrot eats like a child, the water may become dirty as it peels the sunflower seeds hurriedly throwing the husks everywhere. Ensure you replace the water every day. “The bird will not drink dirty water,” the vet said.
You cannot have a smelly pet! Just like other pets, parrots have to be bathed twice a month. Since you cannot let them out of the cage to fly in the rain because they might never return, put water in a sprayer bottle and sprinkle it on the feathers.
“The birds should live like they are still in their natural habitat. In forests, they fly to the river or even fly out to the rain and bathe,” Dr Gitau said.
He adds that one should check for overgrown beaks and claws especially for the inbred parrots. Also, the cage should be cleaned daily and when the parrot is sick, it should be cleaned twice a day.
Parasites and diseases
Dr Gitau said that birds fall sick and it is the duty of the owner to check on signs and symptoms and take them to a vet immediately to avoid losing their pet. Parrot flu is the most common disease that kills many pets.
“Check if the bird has eaten its food. Also, check on the bird's dropping; if it is not green, the bird’s health is not good. If the urine is not white, the parrot may be falling sick,” the vet said, adding that a parrot losing a lot of feathers can be a sign of mite infestation.
De-worming should also be done once a year.
Dr Gitau said parrots get attached to people and their surroundings. Putting them in a small cage or a secluded place may stress them to the extent that they may refuse food, water and eventually die.
If you are travelling, you can carry them in an airline-approved cage but it may be too expensive. Also, you require a health certificate and license to travel out of the country with your pet.
Lastly, do not put fighting parrots in one cage, one will kill the other.