The Cost of a Parrot’s Companionship

Contrary to the idea that pet store employees would like you to believe, parrots are not cheap or easy pets. They are noisy, messy, demanding, and expensive well beyond the initial cost.

The ASPCA says that, for a small bird (like a budgie or cockatiel), a cage will run about $75, and the annual cost of food and toys will amount to about $105 for food, toys, and treats. According to them, they “toys and treats” portion of that equasion is only about $30. I’m not sure what planet they’re getting these cost estimates from, but it is certainly not the same planet I live on. It’s true that the initial cost of acquiring a parrot is the most you’ll likely spend at once on your birdy buddy, but the reality is that parrots – even very small ones – are very expensive pets.

When I bought my first parrot, a lesser Jardine’s, from an exotic bird specialty store, my initial cost was close to $2,000. The breakdown for that price looks something like this:

  • Parrot: $1,200.00
  • 22″x17″ cage: $275.00
  • Several pounds of food, treats, & supplements: $100.00
  • Toys, perches, and other cage accessories: $200.00
  • Playstand: $200.00
  • Wing & nail membership: $25.00

And that was just the initial cost. The playstand was made of pine, and she reduced it to toothpicks in about three weeks. We only utilized our wing & nail membership once, and only to have her nails trimmed, but I didn’t like the way she was handled and I didn’t like that I was harassed for letting her flight feathers grow in, so I never brought her back. The toys were demolished in a month and had to be replaced, and three months after buying that $300 cage, I decided that it was just too small for her. I felt guilty that she could barely spread her wings, and that the cage didn’t really provide me with enough room to give her enough toys to occupy her throughout the day while we were away. So I spent another $450.00 on a much larger cage. I also got her full spectrum and UV lighting, which came to about $100.00; the bulbs are about $30.00 and need to be replaced every six months or so.

Once I got her switched to a healthier diet that included organic pellets, organic sprouts, whole grains, and lots of fresh fruits and veggies, I was able to get a real figure for what it would cost to feed her every month. That breakdown looks like this:

  • Organic pellets (4lbs): $25.00
  • Organic sprouts: about $10.00, give or take (I buy them in bulk at the rate of $140.00 for 20 pounds including shipping.)
  • Whole grains: about $15.00 (various types bought in bulk at the health food store.)
  • Various fruits & veggies: about $50.00 (organic when possible)

Please don’t feed your parrot a seed-based diet. For the vast majority of parrot species, a diet based on seed is seriously detrimental to their health and results in nutritional deficiencies very quickly. Dry seeds should not be more than 10% of most parrot’s diets.

That’s a total of about $100.00 just for food every month, and that doesn’t include treats like Harrison’s Power Treats, which go for about $10.00 a bag retail, or training rewards.

When it comes to toys, she is my One Bird Wrecking Crew. She enjoys toys both large and small; she buzzes through wooden toys, shreds paper and palm based toys, and breaks plastic toys. Not even toys much larger than her last very long. Unless, for some reason, a toy doesn’t hold her interest, it rarely lasts more than a week. I’ve learned to get crafty and fashion new toys out of remnants of store bought ones (or out of household items), but that has only cut my store-bought-toy-budget by about 30%. I still spend about $50 a month on new toys for her, and at least an hour each week putting together new toys. And this is just for one big-beaked little bird.

Some of the cost from her diet and toys are absorbed by the other birds. For example, I waste less fresh produce because I’m splitting it between four birds, and some toys that one bird isn’t interested in can be given to one of the other birds if safe and appropriate. All the birds can use the same play stands and shower perches, so I didn’t have to buy multiples of those. However, I spend more on pellets and sprouts – about double what I spent on just one bird. So now we’re at $150.00-$200.00 each month just to feed four small/medium parrots, depending on the produce I get. Since they all spend a good deal of their day foraging and I’ve invested a lot in re-usable and “indestructable” foraging toys, I spend less overall on toys for everyone. I also spend about four hours each week making foraging toys and non-foraging toys alike. My toy cost still comes to about $100.00 for all of them for the month.

For these four, I spend about $250.00 each month, and that’s the low end of the estimate. This number also doesn’t include annual vet costs, which amount to about $200.00 per bird for a simple exam and bloodwork. When my Timneh developed a yeast infection recently, it cost about $300.00 total for the exam, testing, and medication. When I first adopted my “UnCape” parrot, who is about ten years old, the initial vet visit cost me over $500.00. When I adopted my six year old Senegal, his first vet visit cost me about $400.00 to do blood testing and rule out any medical problems for his feather destructive behavior. My healthy little Jardine’s vet visit this year still cost me about $170.00. And most vets won’t give you a “bulk discount” if you own multiple parrots, either.

Then there are all of the things that people – especially people who don’t already have any pets – won’t think of until after their new parrot is home. Things like air purifiers (essential for anyone with a “dust” bird like a Grey, Cockatoo, or Amazon), a high quality floor vacuum, a good hand vacuum, timers for any full spectrum lighting, a gram scale, bird-safe (and bird-specific) cleaning supplies, bathing supplies, a cage cover, and storage for all of the supplies you’ve just bought.

In general, you can expect to spend at least the same amount that you spent on your bird each year for supplies. So if you paid $1,000.00 for your parrot, then you can expect to spend at least $1,000.00 each year on food and toys, and this is likely for bare-bones necessities, not spoiling.

Now, I have no doubt that costs are much lower for much smaller birds,  but my parrots are considered “small” by most parrot people’s standards. For macaws, the estimates range from $100.00 to $1,000.00 each month for general upkeep, depending on size and dietary requirements. Large macaws, especially Greenwinged and Hyacinth macaws, require a lot of in-shell nuts in their diet, and consume (and waste) a lot of produce.

Are you prepared to spend this much money on your parrot? Seriously consider whether or not you can put in the time, effort, and money that it takes to properly care for a parrot before you bring one home!

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