Parrot With a New Baby in the House - Can Parrots and Children Get Along?

Q: I'm thinking about adopting a new male parrot - Binky, a blue and gold Macaw. The problem is, I just had a baby last June. Can a parrot get along with babies and small children?

Should I wait to adopt this fid from the pet store? I just can't help but think once Marcus starts walking, and getting more active, we might have some close calls with fingers getting bitten off. In fact, my mother had an Umbrella cockatoo when I was a baby - she had to rehome the parrot because he left a scar on her finger, he bit so hard. Who knows how hard a cockatoo would bite a baby who got too close to his cage? Can't the larger species of parrots bite off small fingers if they want to?

Answer: Yes, large parrot beaks are strong enough to crack brazil nuts and gouge nesting holes in trees. A parrot beak has enough bite strength to sever a child's finger in half, if the parrot was stressed enough. But, would a parrot bite children that hard? It's hard to say, but a parrot's bite is unlikely to result in serious injury.

Should You Get a Bird With a Baby in the House?

Newborns and toddlers get into all sorts of trouble - tasting the light socket, putting objects in their mouths, and jumping off the bed. It's inevitable that a toddler will get too close to a parrot's cage one day, and get a warning nip from their beak. Bird personalities vary, and some parrots (especially cockatoos which can be emotionally jealous of a new baby) are likely to bite infants harder.

What Age is Best to Get a Child a Bird?

Age 11 or 12 is the best time to get your child a bird. Birds require more care than cats or dogs, and children under 11 can't handle the responsibility of a large bird. Children 10 and under may be able to handle beginner birds, like budgies and finches. 11 through 15 year olds might be able to handle a medium sized bird, like an Amazon parrot, Quaker, or an Eclectus parrot. Large birds, like Macaws and Cockatoos, should only be handled or adopted by children 16 or older.

Can Parrots Cause Asthma in Kids?

Parrots can't cause asthma by themselves, but they can bring out or worsen asthma problems in children that were previously hidden. If you have a bird and children, you must clean out the bird's cage, droppings, and feathers several times a week to prevent breathing trouble.

Cockatoos are bad pets for kids not just because they have a highly emotional, complex personality, but because they have a lot of bird dander that can make asthma worse. African greys are not good with kids either, because African Greys are high dander birds, too. 

Help, I Don't Want My Bird Biting my Baby!

If you don't want your child to get hurt from the friendly warning nips of large beak:
  • Rehome the parrot
  • Adopt a small parrot who can't draw blood from little fingers (like a conure or a parakeet)
  • Teach your child patiently not to go near the bird's cage
  • Train Your Bird not to bite (hardest option)

Signs Your Bird Will Not Get Along With (or Bite) Your Child

If your parrot bites you frequently, even if the bird is just "playing," expect the bird not to get along with your child. Look for signs of eye pining, ruffled feathers, or screaming to signal a bite. Also, if you had the bird first, and then got pregnant, expect your parrot to be jealous of the new baby. What causes jealousy in parrots? Jealousy is the number one cause of aggression in companion birds.

Parrots get lonely, and often view their owners as a mate. Your parrot (especially if it's an African Grey or Cockatoo) will resent you paying all your attention to a new, tiny person. Your parrot may even fly over and try to bite the baby on purpose.

Best Parrots for Kids

While some parrots (like Cockatoos) become surgically attached to their owners, and don't easily get along with a baby, other parrot species are great for kids. Parrots are a great way to teach children responsibility, and being gentle with pets.

Lorikeets, Parakeets, Cockatiels, Green Cheek Conures, Sun Conures, Indian Ring Necks, Kiwi Birds, Canaries, Wrens, Society Finches, and other song birds love all family members, and have small enough beaks that even pinching a young child's skin shouldn't hurt much.

Of course, parrot personality depends on individual members of bird species as well. Before adopting a parrot, check that it will get along with small children. Bring your child to the pet shop to look at the caged parrot, let the bird balance on their finger or hand, and assess their individual personality before buying.
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