“Oh, I want one!” People will sometimes squeal excitedly when they get a load of my African Grey, Parker. He’s a good looking bird with those “50 Shades of Grey” and that bright red tail. He does a few tricks and he’s a complete hussy; he’ll go to anyone. Parker is a nice bird. He’s exceptionally well-socialized and a sweetheart.
Because of this good behavior and quiet nature when he’s out and about, people think parrots are a wonderful companion in a relatively small package.
And they are.
They can also be loud, messy, confrontational, demanding, self-centered, and pushy. They are often total pigs that throw their food, tear up their toys, (which is the entire point of the toy) and they want you to be with them every minute of every day. Or they ignore you and I’m not sure which is worse.
But they sure are interesting. They are incredibly intelligent. And they can be one of the most loving and amazing companions you could ever have.
The problem is, many people see that adorable cockatoo sitting nicely on the play stand and they think that’s what they are going to get. And so they bring it home and they realize that what they brought home isn’t what they had in mind at all. They didn't realize that parrots need enrichment and attention.
What they didn’t bargain for is the loud screaming two or three times a day, the demands for your time, your attention, your lunch and your spouse.
They want it all. And they want it now.
This has a tendency to unnerve people who have absolutely no idea what they are about to enter into. It is a deal with Nature. And Nature usually prevails.
You can take the bird out of the jungle but you can’t take the jungle out of the bird. These aren’t domesticated animals we’re dealing with.
They are wild. And they act that way. They are really sharp little creatures and for the most part they are pretty good communicators. This is another way of saying that they can be loud. Really loud.
Many people have tough time with this. It disrupts their lives, cuts into their sleep, and makes occasionally impossible to even watch the evening news.
They will interrupt you when you are on the telephone because they see you talking and not only are you not talking to them, you aren’t paying attention to them.
This can be a problem when you’re trying to lower your credit card interest rate, talking to someone about a work situation or closing a business deal over the phone.
In short, parrots aren’t for everyone. They’re a pretty high-maintenance companion. And you occasionally need the patience of a saint to train them properly as well as training yourself on how to care for them.
Not all of them talk and if they do, they might say inappropriate things at the wrong time. They also have the unique ability to test your patience beyond any edge you thought you might have.
If you are looking for an easy animal companion, cross that parrot off your list. No, they don’t need to be walked.
But they occasionally have the ability to turn you into a raving lunatic.
So why do people get them? Why did I get an African Grey? First of all, I had lived with parrots before. I knew what I was up against and I was willing to do the homework and learn what I needed to learn.
There is a charm about them. And there are just some people who are drawn to them just as there are dog people, horse people and cat people. And to be honest, people who love them are simply fierce in their feelings about them. They simply love their birds. And when they make their way into your heart, there's no going back.
I like cats just fine. What I dislike is the need for a litter box. I don’t like the smell and I don’t like having to clean the box out.
I’m fine with parrot poop. It doesn’t smell, it doesn’t stain and it’s pretty innocuous stuff.
In other words, I don’t mind it.
I chose African Greys to share my home with. Two are relinquishments that I adopted so that makes me feel good that I am giving a place in the world for two who needed homes. That makes me feel pretty positive about having them.
But I must warn you. Singing the “How Much is that Birdie in the Window” song when you’re out and about and making an impulse purchase is a huge mistake. It does not serve you well and it’s even worse for the bird.
Ensure that you do your research before doing something as possibly overwhelming as suddenly being the caregiver for an animal that has the ability to make you nuts if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you don’t have the time, the patience, the backup from friends, the support system, the knowledge and the willingness to learn new stuff every day, birds are simply not for you.
But if you are a bird person through-and-through, welcome to my world. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy. But it can be an amazing journey.