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Parrots kept as pets need a companion to be happy and healthy. Sometimes that role is filled by a human and other times another parrot friend is best, but introducing two parrots can be challenging. Jessi is here to help!

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Hi guys.  Welcome back to Animal Wonders.  Animal Wonders is a place that provides a permanent home for a variety of animals that have nowhere else to go.  Often they're abused or neglected pets.  I'm passionate about animals and education and I like sharing what I've learned with others.  Today, I'd like to share what I've learned about introducing one parrot to another.


I've worked with 34 species of birds and well over 100 individuals throughout my animal career and if I don't know the answer to something, I have an amazing network of zookeepers, veterinarians, and wildlife educators to turn to.  In this episode, when I say 'parrot', I mean all parrot-type birds, including parakeets, macaws, cockatoos, and others.  My biggest source of knowledge for introducing birds is from working with rescued parrots.  

Most of the parrots we rescue need a lot of time to recover from whatever trauma they've experienced in life.  While all animals are affected by native experiences, parrots tend to be extra sensitive to traumatic events.  Parrots are highly intelligent, social animals that do best in a stable home with patient, understanding humans and a nutritious diet.  Since we end up taking in a huge variety of species, I have quite a bit of experience introducing parrots to each other.

Some haven't worked out, but many have, so here's what I've learned from my experiences.  Number one: Each parrot is an individual.  Don't typecast them by sex or species.  Number two: Don't anthropomorphize.  Parrots don't think like humans.  They think like parrots and since we don't know what they're thinking, all we can do is observe their behavior and listen to their verbal and non-verbal communications.  

Number three: go slow.  It can take days or weeks for them to get comfortable with each other.  Number four: You can't force them to like each other, no matter how hard you try.  Number five: If they have a serious fight, they absolutely cannot live together or be left unsupervised out of their cages.  Number six: Be prepared to make separate living arrangements, because it's likely they won't get along.  Number seven: Parrots who are least likely to accept a new companion are hand raised adult pet parrots, parrots who have been singly housed for many years, hormonal parrots, parrots who are  bonded to a human, parrots who have a large size difference, and territorial species living in a small space.

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Number eight: Parrots who are more likely, though not guaranteed, to accept a new companion are young parrots, parent raised or co-raised parents, parrots who are similarly sized, and parrots who have previously bonded to another parrot.  Okay, if you have a singly housed parrot and you think that they would enjoy having a parrot companion, first ask yourself which list do they fall into, least likely or more likely to accept a companion.  If you think they are likely to enjoy a feathered friend, your next move is to go and purchase a second enclosure before bringing the new bird home.  Both birds will need time and space to adjust to their new surroundings.

The first week is the worst week to try and introduce the new bird to the current resident, since both are going to be stressed out and likely to react to most things with defensive behavior.  After a few weeks of the birds being in the same room and seeing each other with no displays of aggression, bring them both into a neutral space, like a separate room.  Don't force them to interact.  If they move away from each other, let them.  This is how they communicate that they need space.  It's good to let them feel each other out before direct contact.

If you ignore the non-verbal communication here, you can accidentally make them react with a bite towards the other parrot and ruin the chances of a friendship.  If they just seem to be ignoring each other in the neutral space, this is actually okay.  It means that they don't feel threatened by each other.  Over the next few days, you can have little playdates just like this.  

During this time, a good social event to have them engage in is to sprinkle a good amount of treats like little seeds all over the floor or counter, but make sure there's enough that they don't feel the need to compete with each other.  Watch for signs of aggression like hissing, open beak, lunging, raised head feathers, and rapid pinning and dilation of the pupils.  Watch for signs of fear, like pinning of the pupils, running away, screaming, trying to hide behind you or climb onto you, and open beak hissing while leaning away.

Watch for signs of friendliness like following the other in a non-aggressive way.  

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Tilting head and showing curiosity about the other, and ignoring the other in a passive way.  If they get along in a neutral or open space, try putting them together on a large perch, but on opposite ends.  Watch their behavior and read their communications for aggression, fear, or friendliness.  If they pass the perch test, choose which cage you'd like to house them in.  I recommend choosing the newcomer's cage, since it's less likely to cause territorial issues.  

Now, take out all the perches and familiar toys and complete renovate so it's a new space with perches in different places and different toys.  Move them into the enclosure, place them on separate perches, and let them explore.  Watch closely to make sure there's no bullying over perches, chasing around the space, or other concerning behaviors.  Sometimes if a parrot feels cornered, they will lash out in self-defense, causing a fight. 

If this all goes well and they've been close together for several sessions without incident, you can now shut the door with them both inside, but watch from a distance.  If you see no signs of aggression or fear through all these steps, it's likely your parrots will get along.  Here are some sure signs that your parrots like each other: grooming each other, eating out of the same bowl, sleeping next to each other on the same perch or the same hut, and quickly resolving a small conflict without either being chased away.  These are great ways to know two parrots have found a lifelong friend and it's so incredible to see this happen.

Some sure signs that they will not get along are: one immediately runs toward the other with raised head feathers, open beak, and lunges.  One bites the other, attempting to cause injury.  I'm not talking about a small warning nip.  Those can be worked through, but a true bite is a dealbreaker.  They have a small conflict that escalates and one is chased away or pushed off a perch.  They can't resolve a conflict on their own and have to be separated, or one chases the other around the enclosure non-stop.  If any of these things happen, the parrots cannot live together and they'll have to be housed separately.  

They can be housed next to or in the same room as each other, but never together, or you're putting their lives at risk.  Introducing parrots can be a challenge and honestly, the end result is often out of our hands.  Parrots are individuals, and they like who they like and dislike who they dislike.  

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