LIGHT OF LIFE
It is important to learn and understand the commitment, dedication, time and financial requirements needed to keep parrots, parakeets, budgerigars or cockatoos.
The 4 non-CITES listed parrot species that are not restricted are the Peach-Faced lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis), Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus), Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) and Ring-necked
parakeet (Psittacula krameri) [AVS Website, Verified April 2019].
Below shows the estimated cost of keeping a relatively, healthy small sized parrot (about 100-120g when fully grown) with basic parrot medical care in Singapore, not considering the other premium, luxury products and options commonly available.
*Currency used SGD
Estimation does not include diagnostics like xrays, MRI, CT Scan; other major or additional surgeries or medication and treatment associated with sudden or chronic diseases.
CARE FOR VERY YOUNG PARROTS
Buy a good quality heater fan with no teflon coating for convection heating.
Buy a good quality food thermometer for checking temperature of baby formula.
Buy a good quality weighing scale with a resolution of 0.1 gram.
The normal temperature of a young nestlings should be kept between the range of 39.0˚C to 40.0˚C.
Featherless hatchlings or nestlings (altricial chicks) cannot maintain their body temperature [2,4].
Do not feed a cold nestling because their cold body cannot digest the formula and have a slower intestinal movement. It will cause sour crop (yeast infection in the crop).
Do not feed cold or stale parrot formula. Feed only freshly reconstituted formula .
Use the food thermometer to check the temperature of the parrot formula before feeding. It should be about 40-41˚C [2,12].
Always warm a cold nestling slowly before feeding any formula.
You have to fulfill the role of the mother parrot if you have adopted/ rescued a very young nestling  by feeding it regularly with properly prepared parrot formula or the nestling will not develop normally and may die abruptly .
Always discard unused milk after 24 hours .
Always sterilize all the equipment used for feeding, e.g., crop needle, crop tube, spoons and bowls .
Touch base with a qualified avian veterinarian within the first few days of acquiring your baby parrot.
Please note that 90% of the parrot diseases are associated with improper and inadequate feeding [2,7].
Above: Parrots are altricial which means they hatch naked with eyes closed, completely dependent on parental care. Pic by LOLVet.
Above: Different feeding equipment. Pic by LOLVet.
WE RECOMMEND THAT
ALL BABY PARROTS ADOPTION
SHOULD OCCUR AFTER THEY
HAVE BEEN PROPERLY WEANED
AND EATING FULL MEALS INDEPENDENTLY
EMERGENCY PARROT FORMULA
*This formula is NOT for long term use.
Buy a baby parrot food formula as soon as possible.
Any high protein baby cereal can be used as an emergency, short-term food for one or two days.
All food must be fed at a constant 40˚C .
Use a food grade thermometer to constantly check the temperature of the food you are feeding.
Warm it up if it cools down during feeding.
The guide below estimates the amount of formula to feed a baby cockatiel as an example.
In general, each meal should be about 10% of the baby parrot's body weight recorded for that morning . The amount of formula and frequency of feeding should be adjusted according to the resultant weight changes of the baby parrot.
These figures should be used only as guidelines because the individual requirements of baby parrots can vary greatly.
DO NOT FEED COLD FOOD
FEED COMMERCIAL BABY PARROT FORMULA
Commercial parrot rearing formulas are the preferred source of nutrition as they have been tested for the specific purpose of raising baby parrots [2,4,7,10]. Baby parrot food formula from reputable manufacturers are now easily available in Singapore pet shops.
Store your parrot rearing formulas powder in the freezer because Singapore's humidity and ambient temperature will cause the ingredients to become moldy easily.
The bottle or packaging of these parrot baby formulas should have clear mixing and feeding instruction to guide you.
An important aspect of feeding a very young nestling is to ensure that the formula is mixed with the correct amount of water appropriate for the age of the baby parrot otherwise dehydration may set in and kill it .
Maintaining the baby parrot's body temperature and feeding food that is at a constant temperature of 40˚C is vital [2,12].
Two to five days old budgies. Pic by LOLVet.
Seven to ten days old budgies. Pic by LOLVet.
About two weeks old cockatiels. Pic by LOLVet.
What is quarantine?
To place a pet in an area isolated and separated from the main activity area, such that other animals have no access to it.
When the pet is under quarantine, the primary care taker must thoroughly clean and disinfect himself/herself before and after attending to that quarantined pet to prevent fomite transmission (refer to flow diagram below).
Why must we quarantine?
Since many avian diseases are airborne, it is vital to quarantine your new baby parrot from your other pets, including cats, dogs, and especially your other parrots, etc.
This will prevent any infectious diseases from passing between the baby parrot and your home pets.
For how long must the quarantine be?
We recommend a minimum quarantine period of 30 days from other pets (an ideal quarantine period would be 60 days).
During the quarantine period, the primary care taker must ensure that the baby parrot is putting on weight by weighing it every day, eating readily from the syringe for every meal, monitor if the mouth or stool smells sour, the urine amount is adequate, and if the baby parrot develops other conditions such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, refusing food and to seek medical attention immediately [6,7].
We recommend that all new parrots be at least tested for feather mites/ lice, endoparasites, Avian Chlamydiosis , Circovirus (Beak and Feather Disease), Proventricular Dilatation Disease (a.k.a PDD or Macaw Wasting Syndrome) before they are taken out of quarantine and introduced to your own flock [6,7].
SEEDS AND SOAKED BREAD
ARE NOT BALANCED MEALS FOR PARROTS OF ANY AGES.
CARE FOR OLDER BABY PARROTS (FEATHERED FLEDGLINGS)
Ten things you should know:
The parrots become covered fully in their feather from about 30 days old onward (species dependent).
Fully feathered and weaned fledglings can be maintained at room temperature in Singapore but their enclosure should still be draft-free and covered with a big thick towel.
Due to the prey nature of the parrots, many of them will hide their illnesses and pretend to be well, and owner will discover their abnormal condition only much later .
Weighing and recording the parrots' weight daily can help the owner identify the earliest sign of inappetance, which is normally the first sign of illness .
It was documented that 90% of pet parrot diseases and deaths were caused by malnutrition or inadequate nutrition. It is vital that parrot owners get their pet parrots' diet right from the start [2,4,7].
Always feed commercially formulated pellets and baby parrot formula from a reputable company to ensure that adequate protein, Vitamin A, E, D, calcium and trace elements are consumed [2,3,4,5,10].
We recommend that you expose your baby parrots, at this stage, to a large variety of fresh vegetables, e.g. carrot, spinach, peppers broccoli, and moderate amount of fruits daily, in order to condition them to accept a healthy diet [1,2,3,4,7,10].
All fresh food should be washed thoroughly with running water.
You can also sprout seeds, add herbs, cook some legumes and bake specially formulated cookies and muffins for them [1,2,10].
The process of weaning a parrot is an art - baby parrots should still received one evening feed during weaning even if they are perceived to be independent and eating full meals on their own [2,4].
They should never be forcefully weaned on to seeds or millet at 2 months old. Instead, the amount of the baby parrot formula fed in the evening should be slowly reduced until they reject it completely [2,4].
Every parrot species has a different nutritional requirement. For example an Amazon parrot will need more fruits and vegetables in their diet, unlike an African Grey that has a more omnivores dietary need [2,5,7]. Each individual parrot has, again, it own personal needs and wants that must be addressed and catered to. Therefore force-weaning is a bad practice and will harm the baby parrot physically as well as emotionally, leading to diseases and behavioural problems in the future [1,2,4,7].
The parrots eat to fulfill their energy needs. Pet parrots, with low energy requirement (unlike their wild counterparts that have to forage for food) eats a lesser quantity. They should, therefore, be fed a diet which has a lower energy supply but a higher level of trace element and vitamins to combat against physiological and emotional stress - i.e. a large variety of fresh vegetables and some fruits [2,8,10,12].
Above: Freshly washed fruits and vegetables. Pics by LOLVet.
Always ensure that the parrots have fresh, clean water available .
Ensure that there is at least one bowl of fresh water available to the parrots when you are training them to drink from a drinking bottle .
This will prevent dehydration from setting in while the parrots get used to drinking from the drip spout.
All parrot owners must be familiar and educated about the difference between a stool with the right and wrong consistency [6,10].
Anti-intestinal-worm and other medication can be given if worm infestation or other parasite infestation is confirmed with a faecal check using direct microscopy by the clinic.
The future schedule of faecal check can be quarterly, 6 monthly or annually, depending on the lifestyle of the parrot.
FEATHERED MITES AND LICE CONTROL
External parasites should be eliminated because they cause extreme discomfort to your parrot, and make them sick and pluck their own feathers.
There are many topical and oralmedication medication available to prevent infestation of these external parasites.
We only recommend medication that has been authorized and at a carefully calculated dosage to eliminate the parasites permanently and completely.
We encourage owners to minimize contact between their parrot and other pet birds, especially those of unknown origins, and wild or native birds.
Above: DIY drinking bottle for small sized parrots and parakeet. Pic by LOLVet.
Above: Normal parrot poop of a cockatiel. Pic by LOLVet.
Buy a cage that is large enough for your parrot to flap their wings freely without getting injured.
Parrots should not be kept in their cages 24 hours a day, everyday .
Parrots must be let out of their cage to exercise and explore, and this sessions can be important bonding time with theowners owners .
We recommend that all parrots sleep in a cage - it should be considered as the parrot's own personal space that allows the parrot its full privacy and complete protection from the outside world.
BONDING AND EXERCISE
Start spending one-on-one quality time with your baby parrot to create a special bond and friendship because they are flock and social animals by nature [2,3,8]. Learn more about their personalities, likes and dislikes, especially their body language to communicate with them better and avoid being bitten due to misunderstandings .
Regular, maintenance training and speech training should be in place to teach the baby parrot to step up and step down, to come to you when you call them, to shower when a dish of water is provided and communicate through human speech [2,8,13]. This will ensure that your parrot has the skill to live happily in the human world, reduce excessive vocalization and stay out of trouble, generally [3,8,13].
Novel training, i.e. training cued behaviours that are new to your parrots, such as consenting to being wrapped in a towel, having the toes and wings examined; holding wings elevated for
examination of the underwing area; standing on scales for weighing; and taking medication from a syringe. More advanced medical-examination based training can include consenting for venepuncture, aspiration of masses and examination of the oral cavity, eyes and ears [2,3,8].
Owner must be extremely patient with these sessions and aim to make them rewarding and fun for the baby parrot, and not stressful or frustrating [2,3,8].
TOYS AND ACCESSORIES
Products that claimed to be "parrot-safe" are not always parrot-safe. Owner must examine it carefully to ensure that they do not contain toxic paint, lacquer or other chemicals .
For accessories like feeding bowls and water bowls, we recommend those made of good quality stainless steel that will not rust because it is sturdy, easy to clean and chemical free.
Toys should be edible ideally or difficult to break off into pieces and easily cleaned if
inedible. Homemade toys made of natural branches can provide better engagement and motivation than commercial toys .
New toys should be constantly provided and changed in order to keep your parrot's mind engaged and active .
Foraging boxes, containers and toys, pellets of different sizes and colour must be provided to encourage and maintain their normal cognitive ability and behaviour [2,8,14].
Above: Foraging food. Pic by LOLVet.
Above: Variation in food presentation method. Pic by LOLVet.
Above: List of potential household dangers. Adapted from BSAVA Manual of Avian Practice. A Foundation Manual. Pic by LOLVet.
Above: Feather mites at a microscopic level. Pic by LOLVet.
Above Left: Two months old budgies. Pic by LOLVet.
Above Middle: Two months old Mustache Parakeet. Pic by LOLVet.
Above Right: Two months old cockatiel still on two meals of 6ml parrot formula feeding, ad lib pellets and one meal of a mixture of chopped vegetbles and fruits daily. Weight = 97g. Pic by LOLVet.
CARE FOR ADULT PARROTS
When you first adopted a baby parrot, you have officially become the parent of the parrot and must be well educated about the species' unique requirement and normal, instinctive behaviour, in order to be fully responsible for educating and guiding your parrot to become a healthy, balanced and happy being [2,3,8].
Your parrot needs you to teach them what kind of food they can and cannot eat, what behaviour is socially acceptable in the human family and what is not, and to love them completely, with no prejudice [2,3,8].
In the wild, many of them are not considered a full grown adult until they are at least about 3-4 years old, when they can be totally independent and leave the immediate care of their parent-flock and start a family of their own [2,8].
Until that time, you are extensively responsible for their physical and mental health .
After that, you are still extensively responsible for their physical and mental health because they cannot proceed to the next stage of life to find a mate and build a nest, unlike their wild counterpart, forever [2,8].
You still have to continue to manage, tirelessly, the ten things we listed above.
UVA and UVB [1,2]
Supplementing with a UVA/UVB lighting at least 1 hours a day in tropical Singapore is recommended if your parrots are kept indoors most of the time.
Vitamin D3 is produced by your parrot when exposed to UVB light, this will support skeletal development and egg shell quality by assisting with calcium absorption from the food in their intestines.
Research with normal light and UVA light shows that the latter helps the parrots see better and thus eat better, reduces fear and are happier in general.
If you are already feeding a commercially formulated parrot pellets, supplementation with Vitamin D or calcium is not needed because the pellets would have adequate amount integrated, unless recommended by a qualified avian vet.
Above: Peach-Faced lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis).
ISOLATION AND HOUSEKEEPING
It is important to prevent contact between your parrots and wild birds or wild animals to avoid contamination, infection, and other untreatable diseases.
All outdoor housing or play area for your parrots must be situated in a place where the contamination of your parrots' food or water bowls by faecal material from the wild birds or wild animals is avoided.
Wash your parrots' food and water bowls daily. Discard old food and overnight water, and refill with fresh food and water daily.
Always clear away the food at night to discourage pests, such as ants, cockroaches, lizards, rats or shrews. Daily vacuuming is essential to remove molted feathers and feather dust from your parrots' environment that may lead to respiratory conditions in both parrots and humans if left to accumulate .
CARE FOR AGING PARROTS
Most smaller parrots and parakeets can live for 12-14 years while other bigger parrots can live up to 60-80 years.
The oldest parrot known is Cookie, a Major Mitchell's cockatoo (Cacatua leadbeateri). He arrived at Brookfield Zoo in May 1934 and lived for at least 82 years and 88 days old when he passed away on
27 August 2016. Therefore, nobody really knew how much older Cookie really was.
Please click for reference: http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/442525-oldest-parrot-ever
If you have done the initial training and bonding, you should have a very loving and happy parrot - child.
Organic herbs and seeds. Pic by LOLVet.
Ten things you should know:
A CHAT WITH THE VET
By now, you should have established a very close working relationship with your regular avian veterinary clinic and team. Your biannual to annual veterinary check for your apparently healthy parrot should continue even if he/she appears perfectly healthy, as parrots being a prey animal will hide their discomfort during the early stages of many diseases.
Remember, the accumulated bill for regular check ups is still cheaper than the treatment for any advanced, unmanaged and complicated disease that can cause death.
Your parrot should have already a good eating habit, accepting fresh vegetable and fruits, cooked legumes, a variety of good parrot pellets and organic seeds, herbs and nuts as daily sustenance [1,2,10].
With aging, super food like berries, kale, spinach, broccoli, wheatgrass and rosehip can be increased in their daily ration. Moderate amount of healthy nuts (like hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans) can be given to control their bad cholesterol level and provide important Vitamin E and Omega 3 [1,5,7,9].
Below are some reputable parrot pellets available in Singapore. Can you identify them?
Water intake of a parrot can be approximately 5-10% of their body weight per day in sunny and hot Singapore.
You will notice that your parrot will tend to drink less water if he/she is eating large amount of fresh vegetables or fruits, and drink more if the weather becomes warmer [1,5,7].
That means, a 120g cockatiel will need to drink 6-12ml of water per day to replenish their normal water loss; while a 35g budgerigar will need about 1.75 - 3.5ml per day.
Ensure that cool, clean water is available all the time.
If you older parrot does not drink enough water, his /her organs can start to malfunction and develop problems such as kidney, liver and cardiopulmonary failure easily.
Feeding the correct type of food that suits your parrot's unique body requirement will ensure that your senior parrot stays healthy and fit, with an ideal body weight.
Obese parrots can develop diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, skin diseases,
feather plucking and even fat related cancer .
Emaciated parrots are prone to have poor immune system, skin diseases, poor feather condition, digestive problem, sudden collapse, cancer and premature death .
Always check that the keel bone is not protruding excessively and that the pectoral muscle is substantiate in order to determine the real body condition of your parrot (Above - Body condition score chart by Kaytee).
The simplest supplement to help fortify your senior parrot's health is an avian specific probiotic. It has been shown to improve nutrient absorption and consequently improve the immune system in pet parrots .
Other supplements like plant-based omega 3 oil, echinecea and milk thistle can be introduced at the recommended lowest dose to support and ease the aging process  (dosage should be calculated and recommended by a qualified avian veterinarian).
Moderate to slow indoor exercises and flying should be scheduled into the daily lives of senior parrots.
Low climbing stands and foot toys should be provided to encourage activity and interaction .
Toys, at this point of time, should not require them to climb too high or fly around at high speed.
Foraging boxes, containers and toys, pellets if different sizes and colour must be provided to encourage and maintain their normal cognitive ability and avoiding stereotypical behaviour [8,11,14].
Daily training with rewards must continue throughout their lives to create interest, strengthen their bond with you and prevent psychological issues [2,11,13].
Novel training, i.e. training cued behaviours that are new to your parrot will continue to provide structured interaction; strengthen the existing relationship
between the parrot and the owner; and giving the bird mental stimulation, again to prevent psychological stress [2,11].
Some senior parrots may need you to change your lifestyle in order to accommodate their aging physiological requirements.
For example, parrots with arthritis need their perches lowered, they may need more frequent feeding with smaller amount of food to aid digestion, their feathers may need to be blown dry after shower to avoid lowering their body temperature for a long time, their nail and beak may require frequent trimming and they may need longer period of UV light exposure.
Spending quiet, quality and exclusive time with your older parrot is the most important aspect of loving him/her as most parrots in the wild are monogamous and crave for companionship of family members [3,8].
Your senior pet can already feel more secure, draw strength and comfort from just sitting on your shoulder or resting beside you on the bed and probably can maintain a better cognitive connection with his/her surrounding and people with such interactions.
Other boisterous pets should be kept away from your aging, slower parrots to prevent accidents and injuries.
ANNUAL GERIATRIC PROTOCOL
Complete blood count
Corneal surface assessment
Intraocular pressure (IOP) measurement
Oral cavity examination
Mobility and weight bearing analysis
GENERAL DIAGNOSTIC TESTS TO CONSIDER
Direct microscopic analysis of feathers - identification of feather mites/ lice
Circovirus (Beak and feather disease)
Proventricular dilatation disease (a.k.a PDD or Macaw Wasting Syndrome)
1. Black, R. G. (2007). Parrot Nutrition. USA: Avian Publication.
2. Chitty, J.; Monks, D. (2018) BSAVA Manual of Avian Practice. A Foundation Manual. UK: BSAVA
3. Doane, B. M. (2001). Parrot Training: A Guide to Taming and Gentling Your Avian Companion. CA: Howell
4. Gage, L. J., Duerr, R. S. (2008). Hand Rearing Birds. UK: Wiley-Blackwell
5. Girling, S.J. (2013). Veterinary Nursing of Exotic Pets, 2nd Ed. UK: Wiley-Blackwell
6. Graham, J. E. (2016). Blackwell's Five Minutes Veterinary Consult: Avian. UK: Wiley-Blackwell
7. Harcourt-Brown, N.; Chitty, J. (2005). BSAVA Manual of Psittacine Birds, 2nd Edition. UK: BSAVA
8. Luescher, A.U. (2006). Manual of Parrot Behaviour. UK: Wiley-Blackwell
9. Mejia-Fava, J.; Colitz, C.M.H. (2014). Supplement for Exotic Pets. USA: Elsevier
10. Donoghue, S. & Stahl, S. (1997). Clinical Nutrition of Companion Birds. J of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 11(4), 228-246.
11. Garner, J. P., Meehan, C. L. & Mench, J. A. (2003). Stereotypies in caged parrots, schizophrenia and autism: evidence for a common
mechanism. Behavioural Brain Research, 145 (2003), 125-134.
12. Groffen, H. M., Watson, R., Hammer, S., DrVetMed & Raidal, S. R. (2008). Analysis of Growth Rate Variables and Post Feeding Regurgitation
in Hand-reared Spix's Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) Chicks. J of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 22(3), 189-198.
13. Pepperberg, I. M. (2006). Cognitive and communicative abilities of Grey parrots. App Anim Behav Sci, 100 (2006), 77-86.
14. Rozak, J. C., Millam, J. R., (2011). Preference and motivation of different diet forms and their effect on motivation for a foraging enrichment
in captive Orange winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica). App Anim Behav Sci, 2011(129), 153-161.
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