Parrots are well known for their ability to listen to command and repeat words that humans say.
Because of this, it can seem without research, that parrots are domesticated.
Parrots, like the budgie, have become a popular house pet.
However, are they fully domesticated at this point?
The answer to the question “Are Parrots Domesticated?” is no. Parrots are naturally wild birds and have only recently been kept as pets. They have not yet been domesticated for enough generations to curb their wild instincts.
While parrots aren’t domesticated, they are a tame wild animal.
This allows parrots to be an option for pets.
The difference between a domesticated animal and a tame wild animal will become clear throughout this article’s discussion.
We will cover:
What makes an animal domesticated?
History of keeping parrots as pets
Wild instincts parrots still have
Disadvantages to domesticating parrots
If parrots will ever be domesticated
With so much information to discuss, let’s dive in!
What makes an animal domesticated & why are parrots not domesticated?
By definition, domestication of animals can be defined as “the process of taming an animal and keeping it as a pet or on a farm.”
This definition is slightly misleading, as many parrots are currently kept as pets.
However, unlike a dog or a cat, even when kept as a pet, their nature is not truly domesticated.
Centuries of Domestication of Dogs and Cats vs. Decades for Parrots
Animals like dogs and cats have been domesticated as pets for various reasons for centuries.
The domestication of dogs by common people can be seen since before times of Christ.
Since dogs, for example, have been taught to live a domesticated routine for centuries, this domestication has woven itself into the dog’s DNA.
Yes, dogs can still be wild, hunt, and survive on their own.
However, a dog can easily be tamed, live a bountiful life in a house, and be submissive to an owner.
A parrot cannot.
Parrots can be taught commands and tricks.
Often parrot shows will occur in zoos to show off the parrot’s ability to follow command.
However, this ability to learn tricks does not indicate that the parrot is fit for domestication.
Parrots have only been truly kept as pets by average families for the last couple of decades.
This isn’t enough time for a genetic code to be woven into the parrot’s DNA.
The vast majority of parrots are born in the wild and remain in the wild.
Centuries of keeping parrots as pets will have to occur before they are considered genuinely domesticated.
Ability to Procreate Fast Can Speed Up the Process of Domestication
Dogs, cats, and parrots have a longer life expectancy than animals like ferrets or rats.
This long life expectancy is a blessing and a curse.
Humans have been able to domesticate rats quickly because they have a lifespan of around 1-2 years.
This allows for a quicker turnover rate of domestication.
Parrots have a long life expectancy, with some breeds able to live up to 95 years.
This means the process of domestication is far longer for parrots than for rats.
New generations only come around every dozens of years, versus every couple of months with rodents.
The DNA code for domestication has not had time to evolve from generation to generation in the parrot species, yet.
When Were Parrots First Kept as Pets?
Parrots have been recorded as companions of the rich and elite for many centuries.
The first account of parrots being kept as pets was in the first millennium B.C. by rulers of Asia and Africa. Alexander the Great popularized the bird in Europe in 327 B.C., when he took ring-necked parrots back to his home in Greece after conquering India.
Parrots became a status symbol for the elite classes.
Parrots were rare, which made them enticing to those who could afford them.
If parrots have been companions for so long, why are they not domesticated?
Despite parrots being kept as companions since ancient times, they have not been widely kept until the 1970s.
In order to domesticate a species, you need time for the species to procreate and live generations under domestication.
You also need a wide array of people domesticating the animal.
Parrots had only been kept by elite rulers as status symbols and not passed on through generations.
Parrots were not bred under rulers and the elite of the ancient world but instead kept as a status until death.
This left parrots captured, but not able to evolve their DNA to a domesticated animal.
Parrots as Pets for the Average Family
In the modern world, parrots are a popular pet.
Breeding of various parrot breeds became popularized in the 1970’s.
The Association of Avian Veterinarians was made in the 1980s to help keep pet parrots safe.
Pet stores began displaying large birds that had been tamed.
This display allowed people to feel more comfortable with parrots and view them as domesticated creatures.
Today, parrot shelters and sanctuaries have been made for parrots that have been displaced.
These sites along with breeders are taking the first steps in domesticating birds for the purpose of family pets.
However, as mentioned before, it will be centuries before parrots are fully considered domesticated.
Wild Instincts Still Seen in Parrots
Since parrots are only a few generations removed from their native habitats, they are still largely seen as wild.
The main thing that is lacking from a domesticated home is a stimulus for the parrot.
Wild parrots live with flocks, fly miles a day, search for food, and much more.
In captivity, the parrot has much less stimulus and room to roam.
Even in the best of circumstances, the parrot is not able to fully live a life similar to that of in the wild.
Natural behaviors, such as this, often do not fit with the human lifestyle.
This makes raising a parrot a difficult task that should be approached with knowledge.
Disadvantages to Keeping a Parrot in Captivity?
There are quite a few disadvantages for parrots in captivity and the owners of the parrots.
Here are a few major disadvantages that can come with a parrot that’s unhappy in captivity.
A Diet that Lacks Nutrition
A large reason parrots are unhappy in captivity is because they are not being fed a proper diet.
When feeding your parrot try to use a ratio of 60:40 percent in terms of bird food and natural food from the wild.
40% of your parrot’s diet should be fruits, vegetables, and seeds from the wild.
These foods deliver more beneficial nutrients than those found in pellet bird food and keep your bird stimulated by the various food options.
Lack of space to fly, stimulus, and interaction can lead to aggressive behaviors in parrots, such as screaming and biting.
This type of behavior can be avoided if proper attention is given to the parrot.
Parrots are not meant to be caged, so proper flight time should be allotted to keep your parrot happy.
Without attention and stimulus, your parrot’s aggressive behaviors can lead to feather plucking, self-mutilation, and obesity.
Their aggression will turn to anxiety and your parrot will end up hurting itself.
Is It Morally Correct to Domesticate a Parrot?
Aside from the disadvantages of capturing and domesticating parrots, the life span of a healthy captured parrot is not far off from their wild counterparts.
If a parrot is treated with proper care, it can still live up to 80 years as a pet.
This means the decision to buy a parrot is one that needs to be heavily thought through, as the parrot can often outlive their owner.
Also, once a parrot is in captivity, they cannot be released to the wild again.
Parrots survive in packs and a domesticated parrot wouldn’t be accepted to any wild family.
This does not justify keeping parrots as pets, but does allow us to release some guilt.
The disadvantages of domesticating parrots occur when bad treatment of the parrot occurs.
Under a responsible owner, a parrot can live a different but satisfying life.
Parrots should not be a spur-of-the-moment decision but instead treated as a lifelong change to your household.
Will Parrots Ever Be Domesticated?
We can not say with certainty if parrots will continue to be bred and kept as pets.
However, so far, the business and care of keeping parrots as companions is only rising.
Parrot breeds like budgies and cockatoos are becoming more and more known as an option for a pet.
With responsible care, centuries down the line parrots can become just as domesticated as dogs or cats.
Parrots are not a domesticated species, and will not be for many centuries.
However, we can not stop the breeding of parrots.
Because of this, we must adapt with it and make responsible decisions when choosing to buy a parrot.
Keep in mind that it is a lifelong decision to buy a parrot and proper caring steps will have to be taken to ensure your captive parrot still leads a fulfilling healthy life.