If a non-bird owner were to approach one of us and ask for an honest assessment of life with a parrot, many of us would quickly point out the amount of work involved in parrot ownership. It always comes as a big surprise to those unaware. After all, how much trouble can a small, caged animal be? But those who impulsively buy a parrot are usually in for the surprise of a lifetime. When I say lifetime, I mean LIFETIME. Many bird species will be with us for the majority of our lives. Some will even outlive us.Having been an active member of the avian community for a while now, I have had the extreme pleasure of meeting many fine human beings whose level of commitment to their birds is inspiring. That makes it all the more difficult when one of them suddenly confesses that they “just can’t do it anymore”.
I understand; I totally understand. Owning a parrot might mean having less time to spend with family and friends, having less money for yourself, and having to rearrange your house to accommodate your bird to keep it safe. We have to do things differently and use different products which can be inconvenient. It also might mean experiencing guilt when you are away.
To top it off, when you find a minute to sit down to watch a movie, your bird decides to verbalize his list of grievances- for two hours! It is no wonder that some people consider throwing in the towel.
If you have reached this point with your bird/s, I want to remind you that parrots are supposed to enhance our lives not bring us misery. I want to invite you to lighten your load on those occasions when these feelings overwhelm you. There are ways of cutting corners that don’t compromise the quality of care you give your bird.
This is HUGE! I discovered later that I have spent more time over the years in the kitchen fixing fresh meals for the birds than had ever been necessary. Now I am smart and prepare meals weeks, even months, in advance and FREEZE them. My vacuum sealer is one of the most used appliances in my house.
If you are tired, ill or just unable to cope with the idea of housework on a particular day, choose what MUST be done and leave the rest for another day. Things that you cannot walk away from are things which might endanger your bird, such as: dishes always have to be cleaned and old food within reach must be discarded. Unless the perches or cage grates are caked with food and/or feces and present a bacterial growth problem, they can wait. Vacuuming under the cage can wait. Cleaning the cage covers can wait. Your bird will not die if you don’t do these chores today. As long as you are responsible about how and when you slack off, you can cut yourself a break here and there. Eliminating the pressure and expectation of being perfect can lighten your load quite a bit emotionally.
Figure out the fastest and most efficient ways of getting the work done, especially if you have multiple birds. I use a lightweight plastic tray to collect dirty dishes and replenish food and water. I also don’t service just one cage at a time anymore. It helps to keep paper towels, a trash can, and a broom or hand held vacuum tucked away in the bird room. When you are changing the cage liners, keep a damp rag nearby for wipe-ups. These practices will save you time and energy.
Is there a kid in your neighborhood that might be willing to help out to earn money? Some professional housekeeping services will do this as well. However, it is up to you to make them understand a bird’s fragility around chemicals. Perhaps consider providing the bird safe cleaning supplies yourself. I like to get my cages outside and thoroughly scrubbed down top to bottom a few times a year. I would pay almost anything to have that done for me.
From an emotional point of view, you need to have a place of peace in your home. Consider the following, a place where there are...
⦁ no intrusions.
⦁ no demands on your time.
⦁ no bird mess or damage.
⦁ no bird chewing on your ear trying to get your attention while you read.
You have the right to NOT have the birds around at all times. Take it!
If you do not have a boarder or bird sitter that you trust, you should be actively looking for one. Emergencies happen, and you can’t leave birds alone for more than a day. Besides out of town trips, there are other ways to use these services too. If you are entertaining, perhaps over the holidays, sometimes it is the right choice for all concerned to take the birds to a boarder. I use the boarder if I have cleaning to do that involves chemicals. I also use the boarder when I need a break from the cockatoos. It is rare that I actually do it, but it is very therapeutic just knowing I can send them there if I need a break. It’s kind of like sending them to the grandparents for the weekend.
I came across this quote from dailyom.com via Adventures In Toucanland just the other day which sums things up well:
“Most of the chores we don’t like doing are intimately intertwined with our blessings. Any task can be transformed from a burden to a necessary aspect of caring for something we love.” Try to see the work load with your parrot not as a punishment, but as a labor of love.
These are the most important things to remember: birds pick up on all of our emotions. Your bird will notice if you are unhappy, and it will cause him stress. Do whatever you have to do to make the workload bearable. No one expects you to be perfect. The safety, health and happiness of your bird are your main responsibilities. Your time is much better spent playing with your bird than sweeping up the wood chips on the floor.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.