Here’s everything you need to know about taking care of your new feathered friend!
Mike Jerome/ShutterstockOwning a bird is a lifelong commitment. Unfortunately, birds are often given away when the owner realizes how much work is required to care for it (or for other varying circumstances). This is especially true for macaws, which are the largest of all the parrot species. Before purchasing a macaw, there are a plethora of details to take into consideration, like its social needs, cage, diet, and hygiene.
Over 3.6 million American households have exotic birds, like macaws. (Did you hear about this woman who has 362 exotic birds living in her backyard?) In the wild, macaws are typically found in rainforests in Central America, Mexico, and South America and are usually in flocks. Their loud squawks make communication with other birds easy. In other words, they tend to be very loud, so if you’re looking for peace and quiet, you may want to invest in a quieter pet.
The good news? Macaws make great companions! They’re social, smart, and playful birds. As you could imagine, they come from an active social life and owners should expect to devote an ample amount of time to socializing their macaw. Exposing your bird to many different situations and environments at a young age, like taking trips to the vet, having their wings and nails trimmed, and having them meet new people, will help them adapt more easily. “Start off small in a calm, confined area with very few people around. Remember, you are teaching her to like people and feel safe with them around,” says birdsupplies.com. “As your bird becomes more comfortable being around people, start having them scratch your bird on the head or the side of the face, just like you do.” Without this exposure to social environments, your macaw may develop a fear of new things. It’s also pivotal to be wary of introducing your macaw to other birds. Some bird combinations don’t do well together.
As mentioned before, macaws are huge birds. Out of the 370 different types of parrots in the world, it’s the largest weighing 2 to 4 pounds and some can grow to be up to 3.5 feet long in length. It’s important to note that their wingspan can measure up to 60 inches. A small cage for your new feathered friend is not an option. A cage for a large macaw should measure w36” x d48” x h60”, with bars spaced no more than 1” apart. Macaws also tend to chew on almost anything, so it’s very important to make sure their cage is durable. A good cage starts at $250 but they can cost up to thousands of dollars depending on its size. This rule applies to toys, as well. Durability is key or you might find yourself spending a lot more money on toys than you thought you would. Toys typically range from $5 to $100. (Don’t miss these 50 secrets your pet won’t tell you.)
As with any pet, a macaw has specific dietary needs. Macaws should be fed at least once a day, with regular treats and snacks for bonding. Keep an eye on your bird’s water and make sure it’s always fresh. It’s not unusual for some birds to dunk their food in their water bowls. An ideal diet for a macaw consists of ½ cup of macaw pellets and ½ cup of fresh fruits and vegetables. Pellets typically consist of ground corn and soybean meal and costs from $10 to $40 depending on its quantity. (They’re available for purchase online, in most supermarkets, or in any pet store.) If you want to give your macaw a treat, a nut two or three times a day will keep your macaw very happy. It should cost about $10 to $15 a week to keep your macaw fed.
Perhaps one of the the most difficult parts of having a macaw is keeping up with its hygiene. Macaws need to be bathed in lukewarm water regularly and have their wings, nails, and sometimes beaks trimmed. Learning how to properly trim their wings, nails, and beak can be complicated. Baby macaws should not have their wings clipped until they learn to fly. After that, trimmings should be once a year. According to thespruce.com, some indications that your bird might need a nail trimming are if they’re standing on one foot more than the other, preferring the floor of their cage instead of their perches, or any other difference in its normal stance. A beak should only be trimmed if it becomes overgrown or takes on an odd shape. Even if you’ve done it before, you might still want to brush up on your trimming skills to make sure you won’t hurt your new feathered friend. If you don’t have experience, consult your vet before you try to do it for yourself. (Here are 50 things your veterinarian won’t tell you.)
As with any pet owner, your personality reflects on your bird–and not just because they might mimic your voice. Macaws didn’t evolve to live in your human home with you, so be patient as it learns about its environment. Try not to switch up their routine too much. Its feeding, cleaning, and playtime schedule should be fairly consistent every day. This way, your macaw will learn to trust you.
Patience also comes into play when it comes to training. We know, it’d be awesome for your bird to learn how to speak, sing, and wave right off the bat, but it takes time. (You might even want to try teaching your macaw how to “step-up” or these other tricks.) Only teach your macaw one trick at a time until it masters each one. Too many can become overwhelming. Also, NEVER hit your bird. It’s not an effective way of punishment and your bird will lose all of your trust. Macaws respond well to tenderness, not to violence. Here are some more things to keep in mind before adopting an exotic pet.
If you love and care for your macaw, it will be a wonderful companion for a long, long time–some macaws can live as long as 80 years. Take care of your new feathered friend!