How and When to Acquire a Parrot - The Best "Talkers " - How to Treat and Feed the Bird It Can Easily be Tamed - The Parrot's Talking and Sincrinar Lessons
A good parrot is one of the most enter-taining and delightful of companions. As a family pet he is quite the most popular of cage-birds, and, if properly chosen, can be bought more cheaply than most people seem to imagine.
It is best to get a young but acclimatised bird of about eighteen months old from some reliable dealer, and to undertake its entire education oneself. A talking parrot does not begin to speak until the end of its second year. Its choice of words and topics of conversation, therefore, remain entirely in its owner's hands, and all fear of a sudden stream of "imprecations" or of "language unfit for ears polite" is entirely avoided.
The African grey parrot, with its deep rose-coloured tail, which is so familiar to all parrot-lovers, is imported from the Gold Coast. This species almost invariably turn out good speakers, and may be bought, warranted to be thoroughly acclimatised, from a reliable dealer at the above-mentioned age for about three guineas.
The second best parrot for talking purposes is the blue-fronted green Amazon. Although its home lies in the forests of South America, it is a much hardier bird than the African grey, and less expensive. A young and thoroughly acclimatised bird may be had for about thirty shillings.
It is not so certain to turn out a fluent talker as the African grey, but many of them speak extremely well, and are splendid mimics, imitating the drawing of corks, barking of dogs, children crying, etc., in a very droll manner.
There is no special limit to a talking parrot's powers of learning, and it will add constantly to its vocabulary.
A well-trained talking parrot of from five to ten years old costs six or eight guineas, or even more, so that it is well worth while to train it oneself, even apart from the interest and pleasure to be gained by doing so.
A parrot must be kept in a proper parrot's cage, made of stout wire, with wooden perches - made of the hardest wood obtainable, a parrot will whittle anything to pieces - with metal caps where the ends fit into the cage. Metal perches are dangerous, and should be avoided. They are cold, and have been known to cause such diseases as inflammation of the lungs.
Before putting the parrot into his new home, remove the criss-cross of wire which is, as a rule, to be found placed an inch or two above the tray - made to draw in and out for cleaning purposes - which forms the bottom of the cage, because it prevents the bird from getting at the sand and grit (which must be placed there daily); and that he should eat this is most necessary for his good health. The tiny sharp stones of the grit remain in the parrot's crop, and take the place of teeth in grinding up the hard grains which form much of its food. Without a good supply of grit it would soon sutler from severe indigestion.
Keep a lump of rock-salt in the cage, and sprinkle the tray daily with a thin layer of sea-sand.
A parrot will enjoy a lukewarm bath once or twice a week in summer-time, and it is a delightful plan, directly the bird is tame enough, to place the bath on a square of oilcloth in a patch of sunshine, and let it splash there to its heart's content, and afterwards to dry itself and preen its feathers in the sun.
Another plan which the parrot much enjoys is to be given a gentle shower-bath from a watering-can to which a very fine rose has been fitted. The water should be warmed to the temperature of a summer shower.
At night, during both summer and winter, it is advisable to cover the bird up carefully. Nothing is so fatal to a parrot as draughts.
A green baize cover, with plenty of air-holes pierced in the top, to draw on right over the cage at night is a necessity. Also it proves an effective Way of silencing a bird who is addicted to the tiresome habit of screaming persistently.
Parrots are more affected by the proper choice of food than almost any cage-bird; to improper feeding may be ascribed almost every illness which affects the parrot tribe. With proper attention to its diet a parrot may live to be over fifty years of age.
Maize, well dried, boiled until fairly soft, and carefully drained of water, must form the staple part of the parrot's daily fare. This should be supplemented with hemp-seed and good sound oats.
A change of diet occasionally is very beneficial. The changes may be rung on stale bread soaked in water and well drained, boiled rice, walnuts, and peanuts. A little ripe fruit, grapes, apple, plum, pear, or banana, or a slice of carrot should invariably find a place in the parrot's daily bill of fare.
A small cup of clean drinking-water must always be kept in the cage.
The following articles of diet are strictly forbidden: Meat, butter, lard, or any other form of fat, all of which are too heating and quite unnatural foods for a parrot, and soon lead to the dreadful habit of feather-picking, the bane of all parrot-keepers.
Milk or cream should also be avoided,
The Grey Pa: rot
This bird is generally a good talker. It is imported from the Gold
Coast of Africa, and is one of the most 'popular of all cage-birds.
Taming a Parrot
In order to tame a parrot and to accustom it to being handled, its mistress should take entire charge of it from the first, feed it, clean out its cage, and keep it in her own room, out of draughts, but in a sunny window, so that it may grow thoroughly accustomed to the sight of her.
The best and safest way to get to be able to handle it is to begin by accustoming the parrot to feeling one's hand moving about inside the cage - replenishing food and water vessels - after dark, for all parrots become very subdued when the light is withdrawn, and will permit many liberties which they would not endure for an instant in broad daylight.
After a few days one may stroke it gently with the finger in the dark. After a few weeks the bird can be freely handled and will not attempt to bite. The whole process should then be repeated in twilight, and finally by broad day-light,when the mastery over one's pet will be complete.
If it be intended to allow the bird out of its cage directly it is tame enough to be handled, it should have the feathers of one of its wings cut at the shop where it is purchased,before being sent home. This is quite a painless operation, and if properly done does not show. The feathers grow again after the bird has moulted, but meantime it will be found to have lost the desire to use its wings, and will, as a rule, make no attempt to fly away. The parrot's talking lessons may begin when it is two years old. Commence by giving it a ten minutes' lesson three or four times a day on the same short sentences for several weeks. To teach a young grey parrot, stand in a room next to that in which the parrot's cage is standing, with the door ajar so that it can hear and not see its instructress, and repeat the same sentence, such as "Where's Polly?" "Pretty Polly!" "Puss, puss, puss" or "Polly wants his dinner," etc., until it has been repeated by the parrot accurately.
To teach a parrot to whistle an air, repeat one or two bars over and over again until the bird has thoroughly mastered them before going on with the tune, which should be a very well-known one in order that one's pupil's successful endeavours may be generally recognised and appreciated.