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 impulse buy a parrot are usually in for the surprise of a lifetime. And when I say lifetime, I mean lifetime. Many bird species will be with us for the majority of our lives – some will 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. Having a parrot might mean less time to spend with family and friends, less money for yourself, having to rearrange your house to accommodate your bird and keep it safe. We have to do things differently, use different products, which can be inconvenient. It might mean experiencing guilt when you are away.
Then when you find a minute to sit down to watch a movie it is then that 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.
- Prepare meals ahead
This is HUGE. I have spent more time in the kitchen fixing fresh meals for the birds over the years than has ever been necessary, as I later discovered. 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.
- Chore TRIAGE
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 – ie dishes always have to be cleaned, 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, and 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.
- Get smarter in the way you work
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 and I don’t service just one cage at a time anymore. It helps to keep a broom or hand held vacuum, paper towels and a trash can 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.
- Pay someone else to do the cleaning sometimes
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 and perhaps provide 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.
- Have at least one room where there are no birds
From an emotional point of view, you need to have a place of peace in your house. Somewhere there are no intrusions or demands on your time. A place where there is no bird mess or damage and no bird is 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!
- Learn to get over fears and guilt about boarding
If you do not have a boarder or bird sitter that you trust, you should be activiely looking for one because emergencies happen and you can’t leave birds alone for more than a day. But 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. 🙂
- Change the way you view the chores that are necessary to keep on top of.
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.
- Understand that your happiness (or lack of it) will affect how good a companion you are for your bird
This is the most important thing to remember. Birds pick up on all of our emotions. If you are unhappy, your bird will notice and it will cause him stress. Do what you have to do to make the workload bearable. No one expects you to be perfect. Safe, healthy and happy are your main responsibilities with your bird. Your time is much better spent playing with your bird than sweeping up the wood chips on the floor.