Parrotlet care

Parrotlets are huge birds in a tiny body. They make wonderful pets, and will quickly become members of the family. Highly intelligent creatures, they can often be taught tricks and learn to talk. Parrotlets have an average lifespan of 15 to 20 years. 

Parrotlets kept as single birds make the best pets. In pairs, one parrotlet often becomes dominant over the other, exhibiting possessive behavior and even picking on the other bird. “Share” does not seem to be a word in the parrotlet vocabulary.

Intelligent and fearless birds, these little parrots can get into a lot of trouble if they are not supervised when out of their cage. They're also very territorial and can attack other animals, especially other birds, if given the opportunity. This doesn't mean they need to be the only pet in the household, but they should be physically separated from other birds and pets for their own safety.

Medical needs

Always keep a pet parrotlet’s wings clipped. Many veterinary clinics offer this service.

You should prevent parrotlets access to:

  • Ceiling fans
  • Hot cooking oil
  • Teflon-coated items (overheated)
  • Sandpaper-covered perches
  • Tobacco and cigarette smoke
  • Chocolate, avocado, salt, alcohol
  • Toxic houseplants
  • Pesticides
  • Easily dismantled toys
  • Dogs, cats, ferrets, and young children
  • Cedar, redwood, and pressure-treated wood shavings
  • Sources of lead or zinc

Diet

The parrotlet diet is similar to that of a cockatiel, parakeet or lovebird: 25-45% pellets, 15-25% low-fat seed mix (millet, barley, anise, cantaloupe, flax, various grass seeds, greens, etc.), 30-50 percent fresh vegetables, grains, legumes, and fruits.

Remove and replace food and water containers twice daily to maximize activity in a healthy bird. Provide clean, fresh, uncontaminated water (try using water bottles).

Housing

Although parrotlets are small, they are very active and intelligent, so they need room and a lot of toys to play with. A single parrotlet should have a cage at least 18" x 18" in size. A larger cage is fine, unless it is so big that the parrotlet could get lost in it. Cage bar spacing should be no larger than 1/2" or 5/8" to ensure that your pet's head cannot get caught. The cage should have feed doors that allow for easy access to all dishes, and a door big enough to stick in a hand. Cages should have pull-out trays with grates to keep the parrotlet off of the bottom. Open food dishes should be used, as many parrotlets will not stick their heads into a dish with a hood and could starve. Food and water should be placed so droppings cannot soil them. 

Natural wood perches made from manzanita or eucalyptus should be used. Perches made from cement or sand can also be added to help keep nails worn down. If using one of these perches, only provide one, in a high spot in the cage, as your pet's feet can become irritated if it is the only place for them to perch. Never use sandpaper covers on perches, as they do not wear down nails and can cut the bottoms of the parrotlet’s feet. The parrotlet’s cage should be kept out of drafts and direct sunlight. A quiet corner in a busy room is a good place. Keep the cage covered at night to ensure sound sleep and control daylight hours. Parrotlets should have at least 12 hours of darkness per night.

Pet parrotlets are usually bundles of energy, spending hours swinging, climbing, and playing with lots of toys that their cage should accommodate. Ropes, ladders, leather chew toys, bells, beads, and rings are particular favorites. However, parrotlets have very strong beaks for their tiny size, so it is important to provide safe, strong toys. Buy toys designed for cockatiels and conures, not budgies or finches. Continually check toys and perches for wear and make sure there are no sharp edges or areas to enclose a beak or toe.

For caring, compassionate advice and resources to address all your animal concerns.

Contact the Pet Helpline