Young Red-sided Eclectus hen

Old World Aviaries

Your new Eclectus Parrot

by Linda and Scott Lewis
Old World Aviaries
Austin, TX

(Last updated September, 2007)

Congratulations on the purchase of your new Eclectus baby! We have worked hard to raise a healthy, happy baby. Now, we're turning the baby over to you, and we're confident you'll have a fun, loving, and rewarding life together. This care sheet provides the basic information needed to make your baby's addition to your home successful.

I. Socialization

Like all parrots, Eclectus are highly social creatures. We handfed your baby to ensure that it would become a good companion bird. As a result, your baby depends on people to fill its needs for social interaction. Your family is its flock. For a healthy, happy pet we recommend spending at least two hours per day with your new Eclectus out of the cage and interacting with you. More time is better.

If you want your new Eclectus to accept your family, all family members should spend significant time with it. It is unrealistic to think that your Eclectus will be as accepting of someone who spends 15 minutes a week with it as it will be of someone who spends 15 hours.

Eclectus are sweet birds. They respond well to kisses on the beak accompanied by soft, affectionate vocalizations. Talk softly to your baby. Give physical affection, but do not force it upon the baby. Your baby will probably like to be petted on its back, but it's a rare Eclectus that likes its head touched.

Like human babies, baby parrots must learn appropriate behavior. Because they explore and learn with their beaks, occasional nips are part of the territory, but you should discourage them. Never strike or scream at your bird even if you're hurt. Repeated, firm, "No biting" messages combined with moving the bird should do the trick. Do not shake your bird to the floor as one book recommends. This may result in injury.

Handle the baby with confidence, and don't be afraid. Parrots are sensitive to the nonverbal messages of their human pets. One note of caution--interaction between the baby and small children should be closely supervised because both parties are often scared and nervous.

After your Eclectus is comfortable perching on your shoulder, don't be surprised when the baby starts preening your hair and clothes. The baby is simply taking care of one of its flock. Just don't let it nibble your good clothes! And, watch those buttons and earrings.

At maturity: In nature, it is the male Eclectus' job to perch outside the nest hollow and yell his fool head off, if he things something is wrong; it is the female's job to protect the hollow. What does this translate to in captivity? When your mature male is upset about something, everyone in your home, and perhaps close neighbors will know about it. Your mature female will go through periods of being territorial about her cage. It's the closest thing she has to a nest hollow. When she's feeling her hormones and being territorial, open the cage door and let her come out to neutral territory before interacting with her. If she doesn't want to come out, respect her feelings. Follow this advice, and everything will be fine. If you ignore this advice and try to force her out of the cage, have band aids available for your fingers.

II. Diet

Your baby has been weaned to the following diet. It is not critical that you follow it 100%, but try to keep the basic nutrients similar.

Give your baby fresh food and water in clean dishes daily. We recommend three dishes, one each for water, pellets plus Nutriberries, and soak-n-cook plus fruits and vegetables. That way, the pellets need not be thrown out daily if some are left over. Eclectus love and need fresh fruits and vegetables. Ensure that they are available daily. If you are using frozen vegetables, remove the dish leftovers after a few hours because they spoil more quickly than do fresh.

Eclectus can be offered most vegetables, but avocado is poisonous and can kill parrots. We recommend fresh apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, carrots or sweet potatoes, and a green vegetable (we alternate broccoli and jalapeños). Most green vegetables are good sources of vitamin A and calcium. However, spinach can bind calcium and should be avoided in excess. Our birds love corn-on-the-cob and get it daily. And, they love grapes, but don't overdo the grapes because your baby may fill up on them, and they're mostly water.

The soak-n-cook we feed can be ordered on line from Cuttlebone Plus (760/591-4951). It is a simple but good mixture, refrigerates well, and is reasonably priced. However, a soak-n-cook mixture should be available at a full-service pet store. Dr. D's pellets are available at http://www.avi-sci.com/main.htm, or call 800-942-3438. Nutriberries and spray millet should available from your pet store.

You can make your own soak-and-cook, but avoid lots of pulses (beans and peas). Although many pulses are very nutritious, they sour quickly after cooking.

If your bird is eating a well-balanced diet, it does not need supplemental vitamins or minerals. However, adding a mineral block to the cage is fine. Parrots do not need grit. Do not supply grit regardless of what well-intentioned friends might say. Grit can impact the digestive track.

A seed mix can be offered sparingly as a treat, although we use Nutriberries instead. Be careful about offering too much seed because your baby may eat seeds to the exclusion of other foods that provide better nutrition.

Parrots enjoy human food. You can feed them what you're having, just watch the fat and salt content. Do not let your baby have beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol. And, chocolate, especially dark chocolate such as Baker's Chocolate, causes kidney damage and can be fatal. (Don't panic if your baby gets hold of a Hershey's Kiss. Milk chocolate, such as that found in most candies, contains very little real chocolate.)

We'll warn you now, many Eclectus love to make soup. They must be related to raccoons because they often dip virtually everything into their water before eating.

III. Housing

Get as large a cage as you can afford within reason. We recommend:

We encourage you to buy a high-quality cage. Cages vary significantly in construction quality, coating quality, and features.

We use newspaper for cage bottoms. Today's newsprint is nontoxic. Do not use ground corn cob, ground walnut shells, or other such substrates because your bird may ingest the substrate, which may result in an impacted digestive tract. And, with a little dropped water and food, such substrates make excellent growth media for bacteria and fungi.

Most of our Eclectus like swings. We prefer relatively large swings with natural-wood perches. In addition, we suggest a couple of hanging toys. Hang the swing and other toys with quick ("C") links instead of "S" (key-chain) rings because birds may get their nails and beaks caught in the latter. If need be, get quick links from a hardware store and replace S-rings yourself. There has been some implication of standard quick links and high zinc levels in pet birds. Stainless steel quick links are available.

Avoid toys that have soft cotton rope. It is easily unraveled, and your baby may get its feet caught, which can result in serious injury. Don't worry about wooden chew toys being quickly destroyed. Eclectus are not in the same league as Cockatoos or Greys when it comes to chewing.

Consider a T-Stand or free-standing play gym for your baby. If the cage is not located in a central family area, your Eclectus will enjoy being on a stand with the family when you're home.

IV. Care and safety

Find an avian vet before you get your baby. Check references, because good dog-and-cat vets often have little experience with parrots.

First-aid supplies to have on hand include Kwik Stop, needle-nosed pliers, and vet wrap. Use Kwik Stop to stop bleeding after nail clipping or if your baby should accidentally tear a toenail, which is not that uncommon. (Some may recommend cornstarch, but we have not found that it works very well.) Pliers are used to pull a broken blood feather, if it's bleeding profusely and you can't get the bird to a vet immediately. Do not use Kwik Stop on a feather follicle after pulling a blood feather because it may kill the follicle. Instead, apply pressure with your fingers until the bleeding stops. Vet wrap is a self-adhering bandage that can be used to bandage an injury until you can get to a vet. Unlike other bandages, birds cannot take off vet wrap.

One note of caution--if you're treating a bird for such an injury, you need another person to hold the bird firmly in a towel. Hold the bird by the head with three fingers--thumb on one side of the head, one finger on top, and one finger on the other side. An alternative way to hold a bird is to make a circle out of your thumb and forefinger just around its neck. You can hold the bird tightly without worrying about choking it. Unlike humans, a parrot's trachea is fully enclosed in cartilage. The other hand should encircle the body below the breast. Do not hold the bird too tightly around the breast. Parrots do not have diaphragms, and holding the bird too tightly tightly around the breast can stop breathing.

Watch your baby to monitor its health. Parrots will go to great lengths to conceal illness from flock members and predators, so a sick bird may not appear obviously sick. If the bird's feathers lose their luster, its poop doesn't look normal over an extended period of time, it has a runny nose, or it sits with its feathers fluffed while perching on two feet, take the bird to a vet. If a bird is really sick, it will stop perching and eating and sit in the bottom of the cage, typically with feathers fluffed.

Baths are an important part of parrot care. Some birds like to take a bath in a large crock. Others like to take showers with their owners. (Shower perches are available through suppliers who advertise on the Internet and in Bird Talk.) Another option is to keep fresh, clean water in a spray bottle and mist your bird. Don't be afraid to soak your bird--it's good for the feathers and skin. They can dry naturally, but some birds love a blow dry with the unit held a foot or so away on the warm, slow setting.

Wing clipping is vital to the well being of your bird. Your baby will arrive clipped, but pay close attention over the next several months as new feathers grow in. No matter what you're told, don't clip just one wing. This unbalances the bird, and the resulting uncontrolled flight may result in injury. The goal is to have enough primary flight feathers clipped so that the bird can flutter to the floor rather than hit with a thud, which may result in injury, but cannot gain altitude.

Leaving too many feathers is equally dangerous. Many birds considered well-clipped by their owners have been known to fly great distances if frightened or startled. Ceiling fans, mirrors, open toilets, uncovered windows, and uncovered pots and pans are major hazards to an unclipped or insufficiently clipped parrot.

We suggest having wings and nails clipped every 6 months. If you do it yourself, use scissors with blunt ends for the wing clip. The addition of a short concrete perch to the cage will help keep nails trim. We use professional quality cat-claw clippers to do nails. A Dremmel tool set on low sped with the sanding drum works well, too. Be sure you have some Kwik Stop on hand in case you clip too much and the nail bleeds.

We know you love your bird, so hopefully it won't be too traumatic to rid yourself of TeflonTM products. When overheated, Teflon, which really includes all nonstick-surfaced products, gives off an odorless toxic gas that will kill your bird. Besides cookware, don't forget such items as irons and ironing board covers. Because it's so difficult to find irons that don't have a nonstick surface, simply change the location of its use to a totally separate area of the house that is well-ventilated.

Your kitchen may contain other hazards. The self-cleaning cycle on some ovens can be lethal. We know of one person who lost two large Macaws and nearly lost two more to a self-cleaning oven. If you must use the self-cleaning cycle on your oven, remove your bird from your house first, and ensure that the house has been totally aired out before returning your bird. And, we have heard that some cook-tops and ovens have a coating that burns off the first time the stove is used and can cause respiratory arrest. We have heard of several birds that have been killed by new stoves.

Other items reported as dangerous include plug-in, spray aerosols, and chemical carpet cleaners. Parrots have incredibly efficient respiratory systems and, are therefore, sensitive to concentrations of vapors that don't bother other animals or people. As a general rule, if something emits strong odors, it may be injurious to your bird. And, never spray an aerosol around your bird.

While on the subject of poisonous items, you should that know certain "organic" items are off-limits. Items that can be dangerous include peach and apricot pits and some houseplants including philodendron and dumb cane. You may hear that apples seeds are toxic. Apple seeds do contain cyanide, but in such tiny amounts that you don't need to worry about coring apples before feeding.

Birds need sunlight just like we do. If you can, place the cage by a window that can be opened. Unfortunately, sunlight filtered through glass loses its beneficial properties for vitamin D production. However, if your Eclectus eats a reasonable amount of a pelleted diet, this diet will be fortified with vitamin D.

Finally, Eclectus are perhaps the worst parrots about hiding dangerous obesity. They add fat in the body cavity. They do not show us that they are obese by developing fat breasts. At maturity, we recommend weighing your Eclectus monthly to ensure that it is not becoming obese.

V. Recommended reading

"Eclectus Parrots" by Katy McElroy.

 

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