How To Care For A Macaw (Detailed Instructions)
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Learning how to how to care for a macaw can be tricky. Macaws are large birds and do have individual temperaments. They are very socially inclined and love the interaction with you and also other birds.
However, you’ll find that if your macaw is having a bad day they won’t be shy in letting you know. They draw attention by shouting, singing, screaming and even hitting the sides of a cage. Although this behaviour can sometimes be a bit intimidating it’s reassuring to know that it’s a normal part of macaw life and socialisation.
Most macaw’s show tender care and affection and are they are generally friendly birds.
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There are exactly 18 species of macaws and each is different in very unique and interesting ways. Not all species have been socialised with humans and there are some species that we prefer to keep as pets. The most common type of macaw is the blue-and-gold macaw (Ara ararauna), This is closely followed by:
- Hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus),
- Green-winged macaw (Ara chloropterus),
- Scarlet macaw (Ara macao),
- Military macaw (Ara militaris),
- Hahn’s macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis nobilis),
- Severe macaw (Ara severus).
You’ll find that many of these macaws have nicknames (blue-and-gold macaw is usually called the blue-and-yellow macaw) but whatever you call them they are beautiful pets to have but do take a bit of time and patience to nurture and keep as pets.
Most adult macaws range form around 20 inches and can grow to as big as 42 inches including their tails.
There are smaller “mini” macaws’ that some pet owners find to be more manageable (especially new bird owners). These can range from between 10 – 20 inches in length. Overall most macaws have a rather long lifespan and will live anywhere between 30 – 50 years depending on the environment, their state of health and other factors.
How To Care For A Macaw
There are 4 main areas when learning how to care for a macaw. These are:
- Feeding Your Macaw
- Providing a Proper Habitat
- Caring for Macaws
- Monitoring their Health
The most important thing to remember with macaw care is that you must be patient and proactive. Just like any other pets macaws do take a lot of time and attention and they need regular supervision. Be sure to read all instructions on food labels and toys labels and if there are signs that you are uncertain about contact your local vet for a closer look.
Feeding Your Macaw
Parrots eat pelleted parrot feed. A good quality parrot food will contain all of the correct nutrition and vitamins that your bird will need. Seeds and muesli mixes do not contain the vital nutritional foods so be careful to read all packaging before giving it to your parrot.
At least 75% – 80% of your macaw’s diet will consist of just pellets. The other 20% – 25% will include other things like fruit and vegetables.
Remember All fruits and vegetables should be washed and prepared for your parrot which means cut up into bite-size pieces. Here are some good examples of what to feed them:
- Sweet potatoes,
- leafy greens
What about Macaw treats?
Although it’s not essential it’s always nice to feed your macaw special treats from time to time. Just like in the wild your parrot will eat a variety of foods and this is all apart of a balanced and healthy diet. Nuts are a perfect example.
You can feed your macaw a variety of nuts but the best ones are walnuts. almonds and macadamia nuts.
Some pet owners do give their macaw’s cooked meats like chicken and while the jury is out on whether or not they need it you should only give your macaw meat in very small portions.
What about Water?
Macaw’s need a regular supply of freshwater topped up daily. This must be chlorine-free and always available to drink from within the cage. Make sure to keep their water dish clean as a dirty water dish will almost certainly cause adverse health concerns.
What Should My Macaw Not Eat?
There are a few items of food that is highly recommended never to give a macaw. This will have immediate and lasting effects on the bird and can even lead to death if given in large qualities.
These prohibited foods include avocados, chocolate, and caffeine.
Remember it is your reasonability to keep your macaw as healthy as possible so try to remind other people that visit as well. Chocolate is a perfect example of unwanted treats that some visitors will try to feed your parrot.
Macaws need a lot of space to grow, learn and play. Bigger parrots like the blue-and-gold macaw or hyacinth macaw need very large cages as they are bigger in size so need more room to spread their wings without injury.
As well as providing a large cage it’s advisable, if space permits, to set up an outdoor area of some kind.
This can be done in a conservatory or a Locked off area of your house. This will give your large bird the chance to spread their wings in a bigger environment.
Recommend Cage Sizes for Large Macaws:
You should buy a cage bigger than 5 feet wide, 6 feet high, and 3.5 feet deep. It’s never recommended to house a larger bird in any cage that is smaller than this.
Recommend Cage Sizes for Smaller Macaws:
At least 24 inches wide, 24 inches high, and 18 inches deep.
Heavy Duty Cages
All Macaws are very strong and your cage will need to reflect this. All macaws will bite and hit the bars so if you don’t have a durable and strong cage it won’t stand the test of time. Worst still a fractured cage can cause injury to your macaw so make sure you buy for strength and quality as it will be worth it in the long run.
All bars should be 3 inches thick at least.
This is the recommended minimum standard but you should go for thicker if you have a bigger bird. The latch on the cage is also important. Make sure to test and ensure it securely locks when checking which macaw cage to buy. A Stainless steel cage is recommended as it will securely house your macaw no matter how strong or fierce they are.
1. A Perch
A Perch will help your parrot expertise and can even prevent long term illness like arthritis. Try to include a perch in your macaw’s cage and you can even buy an additional one for inside your home. A Perch should be around 12 inches long and 1.5 wide.
We recommend as many toys as possible as they will help your macaw learn, play and in general not feel so confined and bored. This is a great tip to know when learning how to care for a Macaw. Rotating toys will help birds that lack enthusiasm and will also keep your macaw active and alert. Great examples of toys include climbing ropes, bells, swings, and chains.
An additional benefit for a variety of toys is that they will prevent your macaw from bitting or damaging your homes furniture and fittings.
Where To Position The Cage
Some pet owners mistakenly leave the birdcage in a quiet or small corner of the house. This is not recommended as macaws are highly social birds and will prefer being in the centre of things.
Although macaws can be loud it’s better for them to be in the middle of the house as you may have noise complaints having them to close to walls or near neighbours (especially when they are signing at early hours of the morning)
Keep them in a location that you and other people in the house can view and interact with them more regularly. The cage should be situated at eye level and in a generally bright sunny area of the house. It’s important you keep the cage away from drafts to prevent illness.
A good example of the ideal position for your macaw cage is the family room or living room. This will give them ample opportunity to socialise and you can monitor them regularly as you go in and out of the room.
Try not to keep them too close to the kitchen to reduce risk of unwanted smells and fumes.
Learning How To Care For A Macaw is about keeping your macaw happy and healthy. To do this it’s important you keep their cage clean and bacteria-free. This will ensure they don’t eat anything nasty or unwanted and will help to keep them healthier for longer.
Normal daily cleaning duties include cleaning the water dish and food dishes. You need to clean and sanitise any perches and toys once a week including cleaning the bottom of the cage. Remember bacteria can build up beneath objects so anything that has been left in there for too long will build up nasty bacterias.
We recommend thoroughly cleaning your macaw cage from top to bottom once every 6 months but If you can do it more frequently then the better.
Additional Macaw Care: 7 Top Tips
Caring for a macaw takes a little bit of practice and a lot of commitment. They are very caring birds and will benefit from constant time and attention. Your job is to provide them with as comfortable a home as possible and to do this you need to increase your social interaction with them. Macaws that get lots of attention tend to have fewer health issues both physical and mental
Try and talk with and handle your macaw frequently each day.
1. Give Your Macaw Freedom (Outside Of The Cage)
It’s healthy and recommended that macaws’ spend as much time (or more) outside their cage than in it. This is especially true for bigger birds that will need the extra room and breathing space outside the cage.
Consequently, bigger birds will benefit from more outside time as they have bigger wings and will need more space to stretch them. Some owners go for a macaw playground, so check to make sure it’s within your budget to include it.
Common rules when you eat your macaw out of the cage:
- Make sure the room is enclosed
- Remove loose or fragile furniture
- Keep other pets in their cage or away to prevent injury
- Keep windows and doors closed
- Give them room to play, stretch and be free
2. Macaw Bathing
Most Macaw’s like water and do like to take baths. You should spray or mist your bird with lukewarm water and gently rub away any dirt, grit and bacteria from their feathers and face and claws.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to macaws is to bathe them once per week.
You can bathe them more or less but it’s recommended that once per week should be enough to keep away any nasties.
- Use plain, clear water (bird shampoo isn’t necessary)
- Bathe them at the warmest part of the day to prevent drafts and ensure they get back to normal temperature faster
- Lukewarm water is preferred
- Don’t dip entire body parts of your bird in water (saturate feathers) it’s dangerous and can cause Is not recommend
3. Clip Their Feathers
It’s recommended you clip your birds’ feathers to prevent them from escaping or to them doing damage to themselves while trying to fly indoors. Most home pet owners do have their macaw feathers clipped.
You can go to a trained VET near you and get more information on feather clipping.
4. Keep Claws Short
Macaws are known for causing damage to others due to long or excessive nails growth. It’s recommended that you don’t let their nails get dangerous long. You can either cut your macaw’s nails at home (can be dangerous) or ask at your local vet who has the experience and training to do it.
Remember macaws can die from being injured by reckless nail cutting jobs at home so always seek professional help. One additional purchase you could make is a concrete perch. This will keep their nails shorter for longer.
5. Specialist Toys (Mould Beaks)
Most Macaws need help to keep their beaks strong and healthy. To avoid damage you can purchase specific toys that will keep your macaw’s beak short and safe. Things like mineral blocks and lava blocks are perfect examples.
This will help your macaw’s beak for getting too overgrown or looking a bit deformed. Your Macaw will use these blocks to chew having the consequence of helping manage the size and mould of their beak.
6. Macaw’s Mental Health
Whether you have Young or older macaw it’s important you take steps to check on their mental health. Like all pets macaw’s can get stressed or act up deepening on their environments and lack of social interaction.
On top of that, they can catch common illness so it’s important you understand what to look for when thinking about health and care of your macaw.
Common illness amongst most macaws is psittacosis and macaw wasting disease.
Look out for:
- Plucked or soiled feathers.
- Loss of appetite.
- Excessive coughing or wheezing
- Red eyes
- Discharge from the eyes or nose
- The use of one foot substantially more than the other
- Discoloured stools that may be runny
If you see any or a combination of these signs book a consultation in with your local vet immediately. Don’t leave it too late as some macaws immune systems as strong as others and it’s not worth the risk.
It’s important to note the there are other behavioural problems that some macaws can suffer from. If you see a repeated Behavioural issue then it’s important you seek help. Things like constant biting or feather plucking can be a sign of ill mental health.
This occurring with excessive screaming and a general lack of interaction could be a general sign of boredom or a social issue. You should continually interact and socialise with your macaw to ensure that they feel stimulated and contented.
Learning how to how to care for a macaw can be challenging. As long as you are proactive and keep interacting with your Macaw you will be able to see the signs of any bad habits or traits and help control them. They really are fascinating birds and you should feel special to be able to bond with one!
Hey, I’m Amy and I’m in love with my Pets! I have a diverse variety, including 2 cats, 1 dog, 3 rabbits, 2 guinea pigs, a rat and a beautiful macaw. I love writing about everything pet-related and spend as much time as I can sharing my personal experiences.