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Breeding Parrots, Cockatiels and Lovebirds.

Specific care

Although many people speculate as to whether dogs come to man or man went to dog, it is commonly known that it has been a very long and successful relationship between the two. Some 45,000 years ago the friendship commenced and it was based a on a two sided blade, man provided food while dog provided protection. Take into account that since that first introduction we have probably shared over 60,000 generations of dogs. Today's domesticated dog is a very loyal friend who even after vicious attack from one human will still forgive another, if shown love. What's more is the fact that a bitch will give birth in front of man and let a stranger (vet) inspect the newly born pups without showing any signs of threat or fear.

Parrots however are slightly different; first of all we certainly know that parrot did not come to man. In fact parrots on the whole detest man at this stage in their history, why? Because man stole parrot for his own selfish reasons and there was never ever going to be any working together. We took parrot because he looks nice, others throughout history have used parrots for food or feathers for medicinal or superstitious purposes, but civilised man wanted it for its talking abilities and the status appeal it demanded when sat in a living room.

Although we are now breeding parrots in captivity and hand-rearing them, this does not make them domesticated. In fact, if you look at the breeding records you will find that 99% of today's chicks are still bred from wild caught stock, which in reality means they are still wild creatures. Breeders may be very successful at what they do and produce a number of chicks per year but these are still on the original 'rung-one' bloodline. Domestication can only kick in when they start breeding from hand-reared bloodlines, to which very few are doing at present. In fact I believe that less than 1% of breeders are onto this yet and a minute amount maybe on rung 2 or more.



Remembering dogs are on rung 60,000 you can now understand why parrots do not take much pushing to go back wild. Science has found out that wild dogs tame down naturally at around the 10th generation, as parrots seem to show more expertise in evolutionary acclimatisation and the fact that we, are playing a part in their rearing, we should expect parrots to start showing domestic tendencies at around 8 generations of hand-reared lines.

With this in mind we should treat today’s parrots as temporary tamed parrots and not pets. We should naturally expect Mother Nature to take her course on a wild creature and on hormones kicking in we should see a different parrot from that original cuddly bundle of feathers we got a few years before. This becomes apparent by the temperament change and the way he reacts to certain members of the household, remember we have conned him into thinking he was part of the family for the last few years but now his hormones are telling him different and he is going to let us know about it. On average 1 out of 100 will go through this period unchanged and will stay the calm steady parrot for life.

It is at his time we have to question what is correct for the bird and not ourselves. You have to question what you have given him over the past few years and whether you have done it because he genuinely needed it, or because it made you feel better. Sadly you will be in love with him and cannot bear to part with him even though he is attacking you on every chance he gets, so we have to go through the options.

• Put up with it for the next few years and hope he settles back down. Would you settle down?
•Pass him onto a breeder who can breed from him and carry on the generations.Remember due to their monogamous nature
once he is paired, he will be for life so unlike a dog you will not be able to have him back
•Get a companion for him.This will mean some changes for everyone around him, but is a very good thing to do.
You will get far more out your parrot if you watch him being a parrot and going through all the natural things parrots do. Remember parrots are monogamous so have their companion around 24 hours a day they will preen each other and have contact for some 5 hours, they will play and argue for a further 1 hour, eating for around 3 hours, napping for a further 3 and sound sleep for the remaining 12 or so hours.

All in all they expect to spend their entire lives together and can set their body clocks to suit. The main point here is CONTACT, parrots are very socials creatures and therefore depend on lots of physical contact. Now think about what you actually give him, and especially how much 'one to one' contact he gets. The average person has to leave him on his own for work, be it part time or full time, say for around 6 hours per day, he will be sound asleep for 12, napping for 3 and eating for 3. Now that means the day is gone so we have to interfere somewhere, usually into his 3 hours napping. On doing this we let him out of his cage, have a fly around and give him a stroke!! How long do you actually stroke or mock preen him?

Be honest. It will probably be around 20 minutes or so. Well, we all have lives to lead and there are usually others in our lives that need tending too, children, family etc. Then take into consideration the fact that you are probably doing this at a time when he would usually be napping and very similar to young children if they do not get their required amount of rest, stress induced bad behaviour arises. This all accumulates to an unstable parrot and can, and usually does induce habits such as screaming, biting or plucking. Doing normal family things, like, going on holiday, going into hospital, can also bring this on. Parrots cannot accept these normal parts of human lifestyles.

Putting this in reality means we are not really suited to having a single parrot in our households for the rest of its life and doing so has to be deemed cruel and very selfish on our parts. If we intend having parrots for a long period we must take this into consideration and take on 2 at a young stage of their lives and preferably of the same species, this will at least have a two-fold positive effect.

• The parrot will now know it is a parrot and will have someone that it can depend on for life, irrelevant of what we do.
• You will feel far less guilty when you have to go out for long periods of the day, or just run your normal lifestyle, simple
things like going on holiday or going into hospital. It is just common sense, although our generation will probably never see a parrot rear its own chick and introduce it to humans with no fear attached and we can class it as domesticated, we will at least have the satisfaction that we have played a part in getting rid of that old anecdote;

'If a dog, did a quarter of what a parrot gets away with, it would be put to sleep"

First Aid for Parrots

First Aid - First aid is not intended to replace proper diagnosis and treatment of a case but to simply provide emergency care for the bird until you can reach your vet. The items in the kit should be used in conjunction with the two main principals of avian first aid.

Reduce stress – an injured bird is stressed so reduced handling to the minimum and as soon as you have finished treating the bird put it in a dark area (either a box or its cage) and do not disturb it. Birds use much of their energy to produce heat and injured birds will often become hypothermic. Provide heat either via wrapping the bird up in a clean dry towel if it is collapsed or invest in a hospital cage designed to provide heat. At the practice we use garden heated propagators to provide a simple direct form of heat at around 80 degrees.

If you are intending to be able to give even basic first aid to your birds then crop tubing is a vital technique to master. It is worth asking your own avian veterinarian to show you how to tube your bird for a simple procedure such as worming so you are prepared when your bird is ill. There are obviously many emergency situations which can occur at home varying from the very mild “just off colour” to critical “live or death” situations – the aim of this article is to help you provide basic care to stabilise your bird and is at no time a substitute for proper veterinary care.

Bleeding - Bleeding varies from a serious arterial bleed where blood is pumping from the bird to the more common slow loss of blood from a broken feather or nail. It is best to assess the situation to determine the rate of blood loss quickly and calmly. If the blood loss is slow (drip or less) then clean the wound with pevidine scrub and apply the silver nitrate pencil that aids clotting. Once the blood vessel has clotted put the bird back in a quiet area, as disturbance of this initial fragile clot will cause further bleeding.

If the bleeding is more severe (steady drip) then apply firm pressure to the area using the sterile melolin dressing. This can be applied by firm hand pressure or in many cases attached with the zinc oxide tape. In very severe bleeding (blood gushing from the wound) firm pressure must be applied immediately using the melolin dressing and co form bandage. The co form bandage is a “constricting bandage” and will naturally apply pressure to the wound when applied tightly. If you have put a tight constricting bandage onto the bird it must be checked within 15 minutes that it has not been applied too tightly as you will lose the blood supply to tissues below the bandage.

The main rule is not to panic, be calm most cases of blood loss are not has bad as people think as there is a natural tendency to exaggerate blood loss. All bleeding wounds should be checked by a veterinary surgeon at some stage to ensure that further treatment is not required.

Collapsing -If you find your bird in a collapsed state it is vital to give medication quickly and calmly. It is useful to make an initial diagnosis as to why the bird as collapsed if possible and this can be divided into 3 sections:
-Collapse due to accident e.g. flying into window.
-Collapse due to metabolic problem e.g. low calcium in greys.
-Collapse due to illness e.g. serious infection

All these different situations can be treated with the same basic crop tubing combination that will cover most eventualities and in many cases save the live of your bird. It will buy you valuable time to get to the veterinary surgeons for continuation treatment. We use the critical care solution (which is a useful treatment for shock an supplies a rapidly absorbable energy source) mixed with calcium in the form of Zol-Cal D. The two solutions can be mixed together and given by crop tube to the bird. In many cases of shock or hypocalcaemia this simple procedure will transform the bird.

Broken legs and wings- If you suspect that your bird has broken either its leg or wing it is obviously vital to get the bird to an avian veterinary surgeon as soon as possible but there are some simple procedures that you could carry out before travel to ensure no further damage occurs. Only a thin layer of skin and muscle covers the bones in birds and when a bone breaks they can easily penetrate through the skin causing a compound fracture. Compound fractures are harder to repair due to the increased chance of infection. Most fractures do not start off as compound fractures but become them on the way to the vets due to the leg not being supported – this is obviously very painful for the bird so it is best to apply a splint or supportive dressing prior to travel.

Use co form bandage on broken legs wrap it round the fracture site until the leg is supported and no movement can occur. If the fracture is already compound then it is useful to apply the melolin dressing over the broken bones prior to using the co form to reduce infection. Wing fractures should be dealt with by reducing the movement of the wings by strapping all the primary feathers together. If you are confident at handling your bird then it is worth strapping the birds’ wing to the body to further prevent movement.

Wounds - Any skin wound should be cleaned and covered to prevent infection developing. The immune system in the bird is different from that of mammals and this causes us some problems healing wounds. Ensure bleeding has stopped and clean the wounds with the pevidine applied with the swabs. The wound should then be dressed with the sterile melolin dressing and co form bandage until it can be inspected by a veterinary surgeon.


a) Have a first aid kit and know how to use it
b) Never use the kit as an alternative to seeking good professional advice
c) Learn how to crop tube BEFORE you might have too!
d) Always telephone for advice if in doubt

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