Dishes must be sturdy, easy to
clean and accessible. Most cages
include two cups that can be
removed from the outside through
small doors. It is important to add
more dishes if the ones included are
small or if there is more than one
bird in the cage. A second set of
dishes should be sold with the cage
so the parrot owner can simply place
one set in the dishwasher while the
other is in use. Ensure the customers
know that dishes need to be kept clean and sanitized at
least twice a week, or more often as needed.
Many species of parrots are kept in captivity, which
means they have different nutritional requirements. Stores
should carry the correct diets including pellets, which can
be made for certain groups of parrots—like cockatoos—or
certain species that have even more specialized needs,
such as Eclectus parrots. It is important to stress variety
in any parrot’s diet; they need to be given other food such
as fresh vegetables, grains and small bits of fruit. Many
companies offer healthy treats for birds. Supplements,
which should include vitamins, minerals and amino
acids, need to be included in a bird’s diet and are usually
sprinkled on the food every day. However, if the parrot is
eating mainly a pellet diet where these nutrients have been
added, supplements should not be given. If a bird is eating
pellets, it should make up approximately 60 to 70 percent
of the diet, but should never be 100 percent. Birds need to
consume other types of food to stay healthy.
Paper or litter can be used at the bottom of the cage
and should be changed as often as needed. In most cases
this would be at least once a week, but it depends on the
size of the cage and the number of birds kept. Many types
of litter are available, however don’t use corncob—it can
carry a fungus that birds are susceptible to—or litter-like
shavings that are too light and can be blown everywhere
when a bird flaps its wings.
If using paper in the bottom tray, black and white
newspaper or white paper towels can be safe to use as long
as there are no colored inks, which can be poisonous to
birds. A better alternative, however, is to use cage paper
that is antimicrobial and offered in many sizes—so it is
easier to use in the cage trays. Parrot owners can put in a
few layers and just throw out the top layer when needed.
Another advantage of paper is that the droppings can be
observed easily to see if there are any changes that may
indicate the bird could be ill.
A beak conditioner needs to
be offered at all times to parrots,
since their bill grows constantly.
Although eating helps keep the
beak in good condition, parrots
need to be able to chew as well.
A beak conditioner made from
gravel or another material is
perfect for all parrots to use.
Cuttlebones can also be used
for smaller species. It is also
important to offer toys made of
wood that can be chewed on to help keep the bill in good shape.
Last, but certainly not least, parrots must be given a variety of toys to keep them mentally
stimulated. Studies have proven that parrots have the intelligence of a three-year-old child,
which means they need to play and interact to prevent getting bored. If bored, a parrot
may begin to yell more, bite and be more destructive to itself—such as feather plucking—or
nearby items. They can even go insane, which means parrots need to have a mixture of toys
made of various materials and in sizes tailored to the specific parrot. Toys should be replaced
when chewed up, or changed out every month, to keep the boredom at bay.
Parrots are fun, curious and smart, making them a fantastic pet. The larger the bird, the
more attention they need, and a store should never sell a parrot until they ask the potential
bird owner about their schedule, and what they want and expect from a pet. Once the
right bird is found, be sure that the customer has everything they need to keep their new
pet happy and healthy. PB
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 40 years of pet industry and retailing experience.
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