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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
All parrots, from the smallest budgerigar parakeets, cockatiels, and lories to the largest Hyacinth macaw, are highly social birds with a very strong flock instinct and need what really amounts to an enormous deal of social interaction to remain healthy. This can theoretically either occur via human interaction, interaction with other bird species, or interaction with one or more additional birds.

However - in my experience, both personal and other birds I have worked with and known and observed, a single parrot-like bird - of any species - never behaves as naturally as a bird kept with at least one companion bird of its own species. And to me, personally, I therefore find the practice of intentionally depriving a parrot of proper avian companionship to be unethical.

It is true that a parrot can form a very strong, affectionate mate bond to a human being. If it has been hand-reared and left without any other avian contact for even a short while, it may even preferentially try to do so. However, I believe that this is something that - contrary to all popular practice - should not be encouraged. To create a parrot that only knows humans and never learns to understand what it means to be a bird is to also create a damaged animal to some extent in even the best case scenario. For sure, with enough work, it will make a bird that is initially highly affectionate. However, it will also make a bird that is extremely dependent, requiring constant attention from its owner. Even in the best case scenario, where this is trained out or never allowed to become a huge issue, it will create a bird conditioned to the always stressful (even if it's not outwardly causing neurosis such a plucking or screaming) state of loneliness. Even if it learns to accept it, should any parrot - which in the wild would never be left in solitude - be made to be alone for any length of time, let alone the hours (or in worse cases much longer) the average pet parrot must endure when its owner is away? To find an owner willing and able to spend virtually all of his or her waking hours with their bird, as the bird really needs to be fully healthy on an emotional level, is not a simple feat and something very few can truly do. An hour a day is not enough time with your bird. Four hours is not enough. Birds truly require constant attention to be fully emotionally healthy, happy, and stable. Every moment a bonded bird cannot be with its mate - which becomes the human in this situation - it is undergoing stress in some way. I don't think it is fair to force this upon the bird.

Birds kept singly even in busy and enriching environments where they may always have ambient companionship are still missing the healthy affect provided by proper avian companions with whom they may not only see and talk to from a distance, through a cage, but groom, preen, and cuddle with whenever they may like - which is usually far more than they get when they must wait for a human to find the time for them. Single birds reared with only human contact sometimes become so fixated on their owners that they do not even learn to play on their own, which is about the saddest thing ever in my book, to see a parrot with a cage full of toys who has no idea what they're supposed to do with them. They become absolutely dependent on us for every single thing in their lives. I don't think this is fair to them simply in exchange for an especially devoted pet for our amusement when much better adjusted and less needy animals for such purposes exist, such as dogs and cats, as well as less dependent birds such as canaries, which are all far better suited to single-pet situations.

Many will say that their parrot does not get along with other birds. Sadly, this is all too common, and it is another very unfortunate affect of the manner in which we as a society are conditioned to keep parrots. By forcing or encouraging them in youth to form only human attachments, this is hurting them in the end by inhibiting them from ever properly learning how to form them with other birds. Second perhaps only to the bird who has never learned to play is the clearly lonely and distressed bird who rejects the advances of a willing avian friend with either fear, aggression, or indifference despite the fact that if it would just get to know the other bird the social interaction would be incredibly beneficial to it. Given a choice, when they are young and impressionable, a parrot will always - 100% of the time - choose to be with other parrots, even if they are not its exact species. No matter how bonded they are to people, a baby parrot will always want to associate with other parrots. An adult who has lived alone for years and rejects avian companionship now is already a lost cause, and a loving, attentive single life with the species he thinks he is - humans - is the best he can ask for. But this is because he has already been damaged by his upbringing. I think this is a practice which should stop, for the birds' well-being AND our own. I cringe whenever I hear of someone adopting a single baby bird, be it a cockatiel, a budgie, or an African grey. Everyone - everyone - involved would be happier in the end if it became common practice, instead, to adopt two.

And this is because the myth that a young and socialized parrot, like virtually everyone these days opts to get, will utterly shun you and focus wholly on another parrot if kept in pairs or flocks is just that - a very well-known but fundamentally untrue myth which I believe stems from the "old days" when parrots were all wild-caught adults or juveniles which had to be forcibly tamed and made to trust humans having had no human socialization during infancy. In this situation, yes, a wild bird will choose a bird over a human, because that is all it has ever known (these birds are the increasingly uncommon ones which will often still bond to birds even after years of solitude after learning to trust humans, because fundamentally they never forget that they are birds and were raised by birds, unlike our now more common handfeds which can come, if we let them, to truly think they are humans.) About the only birds we regularly still adopt as juveniles or adults with no human socialization today are our ever-common little budgies. Of course these birds who've never gotten to know human affection, if bought together from day one, will prefer each other to you. Even a budgie will remain friendly with its owner amongst a flock, however, if it has been socialized as a baby - even if it hasn't been handfed. I have one such bird myself named Sam. Sam lives with two older budgies who are not especially tame and always has been with other birds. However, he was handled every day from one week of age and learned to trust people. Many people would have warned me to keep Sam singly lest he lose his friendliness, but I went against common advice and never separated him. He remains the sweetest and friendliest bird today, always right there on my shoulder, playing in my hair, giving me kisses the second I open the cage. He loves his budgie friends, even if they could care less for me, but he has in no way shunned me. I am part of his flock too. But the beautiful thing is, with Sam, is that he is never lonely. I can go out of town for a week and know Sam is in good company with his fellow budgies, with whom he plays and plays and plays constantly, and he is as sweet as ever when I return, showering me with birdie kisses and singing to me on my finger like I never left.

I also find this true with my cockatiels. I have two now - Freddy, who was untame when I got him, timid and parent-raised, and Todd, who was affectionately hand-raised and very highly socialized. I got them both young and they very quickly bonded extremely closely, to the point where they're truly best friends now, snuggling and preening and playing together ever hour of the day and absolutely never more than a flutter away from each other. And yet, though he is clearly very bonded to Freddy, the first thing Todd does when he sees me is come running full speed, wings outspread, and jump to my shoulder to snuggle on my shoulder and get a good cuddle - seeing his comfort, Todd also overcame his fears and became comfortable with handling and excited to be with me, too (though not yet desiring of scritches - he seems satisfied by Todd's preening in that regard). I have a total of three budgies and two cockatiels who all live together in a flock and sometimes go a number of days with little human playtime and except for the two budgie adopted as adults who've never totally warmed up to people, Sam and both cockatiels are still extremely happy to be with me and play and show me affection. If they've been taught to trust people when young and don' just get shoved alone in a cage and neglected they don't forget that. Birds kept in bonded pairs or groups don't self-mutilate and they almost never scream. They are happier and more well-adjusted. They are much easier to convince to eat new foods and bolder of new situations in general. They're allowed a much more natural life.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
I truly feel the healthiest state for a pet parrot is that of both human AND avian socialization and companionship and wish this were more widespread and that old myths would die. So for anyone considering "just one handfed baby bird, so it bonds to me" - especially a tiel or a budgie, please consider "just two handfed baby birds - they'll still be sweet, but will never be lonesome, and will be a lot less demanding of me, too!" I really feel it's just a lack of education with so many new owners, perhaps hearing of of a friends' single bird who hates other birds (because he was raised alone) or "went wild" when put with another bird (because he was not properly socialized as a baby.) These issues are avoided by adopting two or more young birds together, which results in much more balanced pets. I have had a cockatiel who could not be kept with other birds, for he had spent ten years alone and never learned how to relate. He was the sweetest little bird - sometimes. Other times, he was extremely hormonal frustrated, with no outlet (even same-sex pairs of birds will sometimes mate, however, avoiding this issue.) He would bite and be quite ferocious, but I could hardly blame him. He was neurotic from his impoverished upbringing and unable to understand what toys were for. He desired so much to be with his humans constantly but was also constantly under stress from his hormones telling him to do things that just don't work with humans and also from having to ever be alone, which he simply had to be sometimes. He would pace his cage and scream in terror every second he was by himself. I would not say he was a happy bird and he made me feel very sad, but also the reason have vowed to never again keep a bird by itself. I have two cockatiels now, both socialized young with birds and humans, and the difference is unbelievable. It's such a more pleasant experience all around for me and for them. While it is true that cockatiels and budgies cope less badly with being kept singly than many parrots, the fact that they may not badly self-pluck or become insane is more a simple - blunt, but true- result of their lower cognitive and emotional capability than anything else and does not mean the practice is any better for them (not implying they are dumb, also - but that big parrots are really, really smart - like toddler smart, and much more prone to problems if not properly kept. The number of times I've been told a single bird who plucks is "just fine" is way too high - a bird who plucks is never fine!)

I've also found two birds will often even be quieter than one, since they do not have to scream for your attention, always having someone to fall back on! I personally feel "I can only afford one" is no excuse - a cage truly appropriate for one also fits two, and anything smaller isn't really enough for one in the first place. Food cost for a small parrot is very little, and mess is only marginally more for two. I would simply consider the extra cost of a second bird to be another thing to plan for in order to properly keep them. Just as you'd make sure to plan for the expense of good food to keep their bodies healthy and toys to keep them occupied, should you plan for a friend to keep them emotionally healthy.

My experience personally falls mainly with cockatiels and parakeets, who really, really seem to do well and stay friendly with their owners even when housed in groups so long as they were properly socialized when young. However, I've visited a number of zoo collections also keeping much bigger parrots as large as macaws. All of their birds, too, were tame and very bonded to each other, yet every one adored their keepers and visitors just as much, so I do know it is possible with the larger birds as well. I do think it is just key to never allow the bird to develop the single bird mentality impossible to avoid by keeping a handfed parrot alone during its formative years, which will often forever destroy its natural ability to bond with another bird. Wild-caught birds or those bred with no human socialization are another case, admittedly, which may never warm up to human contact if kept with other birds - but is this really bad? I'd much rather have a pet which chooses to like me because it likes me to one which accepts me begrungingly because it's been deprived of a better option! Wouldn't you agree?

Only a single thing can change the situation, I've been informed, and that is if you have a tame male/female pair and decide to let them breed. During the nesting process - more so in big parrots than our little ones - one or more parents may become aggressive towards their human until the nesting process is finished, then usually returning to their old selves quite quickly. As a result of this, same-sex pairs of the larger parrots are more advisable. Cockatiels and parakeets, being more domesticated, are generally not an issue, with well-socialized birds often being both very good breeders as well as pets. I've also met a pair of sun conures who were as sweet as could be even with babies in the nest.

I write this with the goal to dispel certain myths that seem all too present in the parrot-owner community, and with the small-parrot one especially, with the goal in mind to make the bird-owner experience the best it can be for human and parrot alike, going by my own research, and personal experience with the parrot family. I think that the solo parrot trope is one which should follow the barren cage and seed-only diet into the record books as past bad advice, and hope the practice of multiple bird ownership one day becomes the norm as nutritious diets and enriching cage environments have become today, as the last problem I still see too often with bird care.
 

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I don't think I've ever actually seen anyone suggest only getting one parrot so they "bond better to you", but forum goers tend to be more forward thinkers.

Even if people decide to for that reason, they will soon find that such an intense (mate) bond with their bird is not all sunshine and rainbows and they are usually the first to create the "HELP my bird is attacking me/hates anyone but me/is screaming nonstop" threads.

I do find it interesting how you stress letting them lead a more "natural life" but clip them. I would like to hear your reasoning for that.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I hear that phrase so much in real life whenever anyone has discussed a parrot (especially at the shop I visit), it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

On their wings; they were adopted already having been clipped and are growing out. I don't like clipping at all and hate seeing them disabled, honestly (especially Freddy who was way overdone) and they will never be clipped again when they grow new flights but well, what was done is done. Their habitat has been set up to let them climb around the room as much as if possible until then.



Fresh branches to chew a few times a week, new arrangements to climb on, I hide treats and vary their feeding stations so they can forage. The birds have their own room so while they have a large cage full of toys it's almost always open.







I just see it that parrots, even cockatiels aren't really domestic animals like dogs or cats, and I don't treat them like such. While they're living in a house across the world from their native habitat I try to make it as enriching and natural as I can for them.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Also all of this is only my opinion, it's not necessarily the almighty truth, I just felt like saying what I think and don't want to ruffle anyone up or anything. :)
 

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Generally I feel tiels are too social to be left singly. It's one reason why I have so many birds - I want them to feel secure in a social environment.
 

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I know I could not keep a single bird. I love having two cockatiels. They seem happy and well-adjusted.
 
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