- Part 2

The 3rd Biggest Mistake We Make With Our Birds

 November 22nd, 2015
Posted By:
Patty
Camelot macaw

Camelot and military macaws

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article about the biggest mistake we make as parrot owners which you can read about HERE.  Following that post was the second biggest mistake we make – which can be read HERE.

Both of these article explain ways we unintentionally sabotage our own efforts with our parrots. Our third biggest mistake is yet another stumbling block we place our own paths. Sometimes we make things much harder than they have to be…

This mistake is made purely because we love our birds. It happens because we want them to have the best possible life with us and we want to be the best parrot guardian and companion we can be.

These are absolutely noble intentions. Sometimes, however, we get a little lost in our mission. The third biggest mistake is about over-thinking everything.

Back when I had my first birds, there was very little practical information on parrot care. I admit I had to muddle my way through everything. Sometimes it feels like a miracle my birds survived my inept care in those early days.

Current parrot owners are educated about product safety and proper nutrition. We now have the benefits of advanced health care. But even with all these developments, birds themselves have not changed at all.

Today, when we are faced with a behavioral problem (the same ones that have always existed), we read and read and try to soak in all the information. In the end, it just leaves most people feeling conflicted because it is impossible to follow everyone’s advice.

Some of the emails we get here are from people who are desperate and pleading for help and I know the biggest obstacle they face is themselves. Their confusion and panic is a result of applying too much pressure to find answers so they can be the kind of bird owner they expect themselves to be.

Goffins cockatoo

Goffins cockatoo

One common piece of advice you will find on line when you are searching for the answer to a biting problem is to examine your actions in the seconds before you received a bite. This will tell you exactly what your bird is responding to when it chooses to bite you. This is true, but only when the problem is at its most formative stages.

More often than not, though, by the time biting is recognized as a “problem” by the average bird owner, it has become a default behavior by the bird – it just bites hands whenever hands are around. It doesn’t make any sense to suggest someone go back in time to revisit the very first event because when that first bite happens, what most people remember is the emotional and physical shock of being bitten and nothing more.

Further, scrutinizing your actions before that first bite may not identify the problem at all. By the time a bird is so exasperated it has resorted to biting, the very presence of your hands might be reason enough to bite regardless of what they were doing. Your hands have probably been objectionable for a while and the bite indicates a breaking point for the bird, but not the starting point of the problem.

See how complicated this is getting?

Don’t waste your effort and sanity trying to go backwards in time to find the root of a problem. You aren’t going to find it – and even if you did, it is useless information. The solution to the problem is the same no matter how much stress and self-flagellation you endure about past events. You have to re-earn your bird’s trust. Period.

Move forward with the solution and don’t waste your energy looking backwards. Know that your hands are responsible for the problem and be conscious of their movements and how you handle your bird with them from here on. Prove to your bird through your actions that you and your hands can be trusted again. It’s a pretty straight forward and simple plan of action – and not at all scary.

Overthinking will only divert you away from what might otherwise be an obvious solution and by the time you find your way back to the basics, time will have passed and problems will have grown. If you allow yourself to feel panic, you will pass that stress along to your bird and compound the existing issues.

Behavioral problems happen, they always have and they always will. It is not a reflection on you as a bird owner unless you do nothing about it. Unnecessary worry and regret will interfere with the happy journey you are supposed to be having with your bird. There is such a thing as trying too hard.

Some additional reading for you:

REBUILDING BROKEN BONDS OF TRUST WITH YOUR PARROT

WHY TRAINING YOUR BIRD CAN SAVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP

Teaching Your Bird To Play Independently

 November 15th, 2015
Posted By:
Patty
blue fronted amazon

blue fronted amazon

I remember seeing a heart-wrenching meme a few years ago that left a huge impact on me. It pictured a bird inside a cage: “You have your job, your family, your friends. I only have you.”  I actually laid awake that night thinking about the truth of it. How many bird spend the majority of their days, unmotivated and inactive, waiting for their humans to come home from work?

It makes sense that these same birds are the ones who insist on your attention the minute you walk in the door at night and are unwilling to spend any time alone on the weekend. And who could blame them for their demanding behaviors? They have 40 hours of utter boredom every week to make up for.

As I am writing this, my cockatoos are about 5 feet behind me. They are both happily engaged in activities inside their cage and neither is clamoring for my attention even though I am close enough that they could bounce their pellets off my head.

Every now and then Linus will pull himself away from his busy work just to say hi. I return the greeting and he goes back about his bird things and I go back to my human things.  This is “independent” play. My birds do not NEED me to fill their day for them. That makes me very happy because when I am gone for long stretches during the day, I know my birds will still have a satisfying life. No bird should be so reliant on their human companion that they languish in their absence.

blue and gold macaws

blue and gold macaws

The idea of teaching independent play reminds me of the old Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” In this case it’s: “Be your bird’s entertainment and he will be happy for an hour. Teach your bird to play and he will entertain himself for a lifetime.” My version is a little awkward, but you get the point.

Teaching a bird to play is a tricky business for a human. First, you might have to spark an interest in toys in general before going on to make them an indispensable part of your bird’s everyday life. Our part in this procedure is providing the toys, offering encouragement and seizing opportunities.

The first thing you have to do is come to know what types of toys your bird likes – it makes all the difference when you are trying to get your bird to play with something. Understand and accept that, to a bird, “playing“ means “dismembering”. Your bird’s favorite toys will be the ones in pieces on the cage floor. Those are the ones to try to duplicate in the future.

Birds may have preferences for color or shape, but the biggest consideration is the material the toy is made from. Birds love to destroy stuff (you already know that) and you can use that knowledge in a helpful way. Pay attention to the things your bird targets for destruction when out of the cage. Does he go after the chair legs? The junk mail on the counter? Or does your bird like the jingling of your key ring?  Your bird’s choices will give you all the information you need about what interests him.

I have never known a bird that couldn’t be interested in a paper product once its potential is revealed. The sounds of wadding paper into a ball or tearing it into strips catches the attention of pretty much any bird. Once you have their attention, you only need to encourage them to approach.  From there, strips of paper can be tossed into the air, paper “soccer” balls batted back and forth on the table.

Inside the cage, strips of paper can be woven into cage bars or placed on top of the cage for your bird to pull inside. Balls of paper can be hung on a metal skewers or stuffed into the ends of a paper towel rolls. From there you can graduate to phone books, paper plates…the list is endless, and congratulations! You have shown your bird the magical world of toys and the value of play.

galah

galah

Now you have to teach your bird to be happy to play inside the cage when you are in sight. Why? Because you are not a bird toy and while you have an obligation to give your bird time out of the cage and meaningful interaction, it is unrealistic to presume every moment of the night or weekend can be spent lavishing attention on your bird.

Since evenings and weekends for the average working person requires that at least some time be spent on cleaning or meal preparation, you will be miserable if the soundtrack of your weekends is your bird screaming at you. Your bird will be miserable when his expectations for your undivided attention are not met whenever you are in the same room.

The next step towards independent play is more than teaching your bird to accept being in the cage when you are home. It is about your bird being content with that arrangement.

This is something that develops over time. If it has been your practice to always respond to your bird’s insistence for out of cage time when you are home, you can imagine his reaction if you were to just stop responding one day. You will have to slowly set new standards.

There are a few things you can do to push the idea along:

  • After you have had your bird for a while, you will notice patterns of typical behavior. Take advantage! One thing that is true of all birds is that right after a bath comes quiet preening and often a nap. Give your bird a drenching bath and while he is otherwise occupied arranging his feathers, stay in the room to get some housework done or sit and read. This will help him adjust to the notion of him remaining in the cage while you are in the room.
  • Foraging is a perfect in-cage activity. Not only does this help a bird learn how to play with toys (because it teaches that there is a positive result from interacting with something in the cage) but food is very motivating and engaging for a bird.  When you get home from work you can offer a favorite food in a forager which will keep your bird busy in the cage while you remain in the room.
  • You can hold back a favorite toy or in-cage activity for the weekends or nights and only offer it at times when you plan to stay in the room. For instance, right before you start washing the dishes, this would be a good time to cover the top of the cage with paper strips or if your bird loves a particular shredder toy, put it in the cage just before you sit down to sew on a button.

As time passes and you continue to show your bird how to be both apart from you and with you at the same time, eventually it will feel right to him. Some of my most cherished interactions with my cockatoos have been while they were in their cage – we have fun together no matter where we are all physically situated in the house.

The fact that my birds do not NEED to be out all the time to be happy gives me the freedom to do things I need to do without feeling guilty. When I am gone, I know they can keep themselves occupied. It is the ideal arrangement.

How To Get Your Bird Past A Fear Of Objects: A Step By Step Guide

 November 8th, 2015
Posted By:
Patty
Blue and gold macaw

Blue and gold macaw

Back some years ago after Linus first came to live with me it took me a while to get to know his likes and dislikes. I did a lot of experimenting with different toy types to determine what he liked to play with most. There were good choices and bad at first. Mostly, bad choices were toys that he was disinterested in, but there was one toy that he showed a genuine concern towards. This was unusual because Linus is rarely “fearful” of anything. While he plays the tough guy and prefers things to be afraid of him, in reality, he’s a marshmallow, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Unless it is a duplicate of an older favorite toy, I don’t place new toys directly into my bird’s cages and so I placed this toy up on a table in full view to test the waters. He wasn’t exactly cowering in its presence, but he couldn’t take his eyes off it either. That was the first clue that there was going to be an issue with this toy.

When I let him out of the cage he did not want to be in the same area as this toy and would go to extra effort to avoid it.  Eventually the toy wound up being called my “destruction deterrent” and since Linus would not go near it, I just placed it wherever I didn’t want him to be.

It was a clever, but temporary, solution. After a while, he discovered that the toy was harmless and he would simply toss it out of his path (he still didn’t like it) and make his way to areas needing his handiwork. This describes desensitization –in this case, a process I had nothing to do with.

Desensitizing sounds like it is about forcing your bird to accept something he doesn’t like, but it’s not. It’s about giving your bird the opportunity to learn that something worrisome is actually perfectly safe which replaces the fear with comfort.

Birds living in the human environment are continually faced with things that are strange and suspicious. It is our duty as their guardians to see that our birds do not live in fear. Desensitizing is the gentle art of helping your bird move past a fear that interrupts the quality of its life.

Quaker parrot

Quaker parrot

Our biggest problem in accomplishing this is our own impatience. When we see the slightest hint of progress, it is our tendency to push through to the next level.

You must be sure not to push your bird out of its comfort zone. In order for desensitizing to be successful, your bird has to learn on its own that there is no cause for fear and take that first step outside of the comfort zone on its own.

Birds learn through experience and desensitizing creates scenarios through which positive experiences can happen. Our job in this process is to open up the doors for our bird birds to walk through willingly and in their own time. A “hurry up” attitude will cause setbacks in your bird’s willingness to proceed and will ultimately slow you down.

If this is your tendency (be honest), your best plan is to write down a course of action, and stick to it. Unless each step in your program is proven successful – etched in stone (by which I mean that your bird has consistently shown comfort with that step), you should delay the start of the following step.

There is no time limit on each step. This is a very individual process and your bird may move slower or faster than someone else’s bird. It does not matter if your friend’s bird got over a scary toy in week. Your bird might take a month.

The signs of fear in a bird might be holding out the wings and shifting its weight back and forth. It might be stretching out its neck to get a better view. It might be shrieking. It might also look less obvious: pacing, climbing laps around the cage or nail biting. If you see this at any time in your process – you have pushed too far and will have to go back a few steps or even start over from the beginning. Remember, you will only get so many do-overs before your bird loses trust in you.

If you are feeling frustrated, keep this in mind: every time you are successful in teaching your bird that something you brought to them is safe, each future item will be viewed with less suspicion. You will be the hero that helped your bird feel safe in its environment and improved its life.

Galah

Galah

As I said earlier, this is an individual process and you will have to tailor each step to your bird and your home. If your bird is fearful of new objects (like a toy or a broom), your outline might look like this (make sure that you let your bird observe you having contact with the object throughout each step of your plan so your bird sees that your interactions were all safe):

  1. Place the new object within view of your bird, but as far away as possible. This could be in another room, but still in your bird’s view. If this item is of concern to your bird, he will know it’s there and will keep his eye on it to make sure it is staying far away.
  2. Once your bird seems less watchful of the object (this could take days), move it. Not closer but just to a different location. Watch your bird watching the object. When he is no longer focused on it, move a little closer. Just a little. If you push this step too far too fast, you will have to move it back to the original spot and start over. These first steps are important because your bird’s reaction will indicate the level of fear your bird has towards this object and that information will help you make better decisions.
  3. Over the next few days continue to move the item closer. Watch your bird carefully to be sure you aren’t pushing his threshold of tolerance.
  4. Eventually, you want to be able to move the item over nearer to the bird’s cage. However, if you have a dog or cat, you may not be able to leave a toy on the floor without your other pets slobbering their gram negative bacteria all over it. You may need to involve a chair or something else to put it on as you move it closer to your bird’s cage which might cause further stress to your bird. This will have to be factored in to your plan. Your process may be temporarily slowed down to account for the arrival of the chair. Or not. Your bird is making the rules. If it is an object that your bird will not have contact with, you can keep it on the floor. Your other pet’s fearlessness with it might have a positive impact on your bird.
  5. When you start getting the object within about 10 feet, make sure that you are placing it somewhere that doesn’t interfere with your bird’s willingness to come out of the cage. If that is the case, you have moved it too close too fast. Remember each step should not cause discomfort.
  6. With any luck at all, your bird will not be at all concerned about the object and will go about business as usual when outside of the cage. If the gods are smiling on you, your bird may be brave enough to go over to the toy on his own. Just don’t make the mistake of bringing your bird to the object just to see how it will go. Let it happen in its own time.
  7. All movement closer to the cage from this point on might feel very invasive to your bird. Each step must be very deliberate and your bird closely monitored. If you have carefully and thoughtfully moved from step to step so far, the approaching object will be concerning, but not terrifying, because he knows by now you won’t do anything with it that will cause distress.
  8. If the object is small, like nail clippers or a target stick, you can carry it around with you. Keep it in your hands when you go to visit your bird in the cage, but keep it non-threatening from your bird’s point of view. In other words, don’t wave the target stick around like you are conducting an invisible orchestra. Just holding it in your hand with your arm by your side will give your bird a safe, up-close look.
  9. Don’t put anything against or in the cage until your bird is, without question, okay with its presence. His cage is his sanctuary and fear has no place there. To do anything else would be cruel

I know these steps seem painfully slow and arduous, but it goes faster and more smoothly with future things you bring into the environment. That is because you have earned the trust of your bird.  Your diligence and patience might spare your bird hours of boredom because of a fear of the toys you put in his cage or a total meltdown over your new furniture.

When The Power Goes Out…And You Have A Parrot!

 September 27th, 2015
Posted By:
Patty
Timneh african grey

Timneh african grey

There are a lot of reasons we might lose power – it isn’t just a seasonal event. Of course, we brace for it when there is a severe storm on the way but there are crashes due to excessive usage, equipment failures or damage caused by accidents. Every now and then squirrels or a flock of feral quaker parrots get the blame, probably unjustly.

I know many of you know I live in Florida, so I want to point out that I grew up in New England and lived most of my life in Chicago. I understand cold weather and the pervasive effect that a long season of freezing temperatures has.

When the temperatures drop below freezing here in the south it might last two, occasionally three days – not long enough for the ground or bodies of water to freeze. 20f degrees (-7c) here is not the same as 20f degrees in the north. We southerners still complain bitterly, though, and act as though an ice age has hit, but it is our plants that suffer the most.

There are many who live in the north with parrot who live in fear of power outages in the winter. I am most afraid of summer outages.

Most people do not realize that hot weather is much more dangerous than cold weather. Say there was a power outage in your area after you left for work in the morning during below freezing temperatures. You return home to find your power has been out for hours. Depending on how warm you typically keep your house and how well it is insulated, your house would not yet be “cold”, but chilly. Your birds would be fine.

If the air conditioning were lost under the same circumstance during the summer heat, you would very likely return to dead or dying birds. Without air movement and ventilation, your house would become an oven within a few hours. I live with this concern through most of the year here in Florida.

When we are dealing with a power outage there are two main concerns: climate control and lighting. These are the things we tend to address first and worry about the loss of refrigeration and cooking after.

When we have birds, though, we have to be doubly careful of the solutions we opt for. Because of their sensitive respiratory system, we cannot use anything that burns any kind of fuel which emits oily, smoky toxic fumes which you can smell and the combustion produces carbon monoxide as a by-product, which you will not be able to detect.

This means nothing that is run on gasoline, kerosene or propane can be used in the house – not even for just long enough to warm things up. NO camping equipment: lamps, heaters, stoves etc that burn fuel are suitable for indoor use – even the ones that run on propane that manufacturer’s claim are safe. This is not something you should do even if you don’t have birds.

In a perfect world, home owners would have solar power or a power generator to fall back on to keep the lights on and the temperatures more comfortable at least for part of the time, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that most people do not have either. Many of us are not home owners. This might mean roughing it until the power comes back on…

Camelot macaw

Camelot macaw

Summer Outages:

As I mentioned earlier, the bigger problems arise from excessive heat. When the power goes out and it is over 80f degrees (27c), the walls in your house are your worst enemy. The sun will raise the temperature and the wall will hold it in. Even your carpeting and furniture will absorb and hold in the heat. After a surprisingly short period of time, it will become increasingly difficult to breath, and then heat stroke…unconsciousness…death.

When parrots are suffering from excessive heat, you will at first notice a change in the position of their wings. They will keep them folded into a closed position but deliberately hold them away from their body to allow air to circulate there.

If conditions do not improve for the bird, the next thing you will see is drooping wings. The difference being that the wings are slack and hanging instead of being intentionally positioned, and you might see open mouth breathing. At this point your bird is in trouble and you will have to act quickly by soaking it down in lukewarm water (NEVER cold water as this can cause shock and even death).

Obviously, you want to prevent this from happening at all, so be sure to keep your bird near north or south facing open windows (where there is less direct sun), in a room with cross-ventilation if possible, and keep him soaked down with warm water, all day if necessary.

TIPS:

  • Pick one or two rooms in the house to live in and focus on keeping just those rooms cool. If you have one room with windows on more than one wall offering good cross-ventilation, that would be the best choice. Otherwise, you might be able to get better ventilation taking advantage of open windows in an adjoining room.
  • Keep your doors and curtains or blinds closed in rooms that you are not occupying during the day, especially if they have an east or west exposure.
  • At night open up all windows and curtains to utilize the cool night air. Close the windows and blinds in unused rooms again in the morning.
  • Sometimes it might be cooler outside in the shade.
Smaller cages are easier to keep warm in the cold.

Smaller cages are easier to keep warm in the cold.

Winter Outages:

There is actually a lot more control you have over the cold than you do the heat. You will no doubt be worrying about your bird getting too cold, but birds are very resilient and can handle colder temps better than we think they can. Consider this: wild birds can survive a week of unseasonably cold temperatures. Our indoor birds are sheltered and dry – they will survive as well.

Unless the temperatures are below freezing, your bird will not be in immediate danger. Cold air doesn’t kill – it lowers the immune system so the disease prevention team is otherwise occupied while trying to maintain body temperature. That leaves them more susceptible to disease, but a healthy bird will come out of the experience well.

GENERAL TIPS:

  • Pick a single room in your house to live in while the power is out. The smaller the better, as it is easier to heat a small room with low ceilings.
  • Close off all other doors in the house. Keep the curtains or blinds closed in those rooms.
  • Keep blinds open during the day and closed at night in the room you are occupying to utilize heat from the sun.
  • Close off all air vents.
  • Roll up towels to put under doors or leaky windows.
  • The basement might be the warmest place in the house. The ground will keep it insulated and more moderate in temperature.
  • If you have a fireplace, remember that smoke is a problem for birds. Make sure your flue is open. If your nose is not reliable, check frequently for smoke using a flashlight. Send a beam of light across the darkened room and the smoke will be evident in the light.
  • Open the doors to the outside as little as possible to avoid letting the cold air in.
  • After you are done cooking outside, use the residual heat from the grill to heat up pots of water and bring them inside.

BIRD TIPS:

  • Keep your bird’s cage covered with a sheet or blanket on three sides and point the open side towards any heat source such as a fireplace or a sunny window. Smaller cages are easier to heat up that larger ones and are easier to re-position throughout the day as necessary.
  • Don’t put your bird too close to the fireplace. The cover on the cage can hold in too much heat and it will also hold in smoke if it is in the air. So be aware of that and check your bird often.
  • Make sure you have beeswax or other non-paraffin type candles for a light source. Paraffin is a petroleum product and is not safe for use with birds.
  • Keep your bird in the cage. Even if your fireplace is screened and the candles are extinguished, your house will be dimmer than normal and it is easy to lose a bird in dark places. It is also very easy to accidentally step or sit on them.
  • When possible warm up your birds drinking water and wet food (warm NOT hot!). Warm grains and pasta is a good choice for your bird while in the cold. Dry food shouldn’t be heated.
  • A power inverter might become your best friend in a power outage. It is a device that allows your electrical appliances to be run on battery power (using the cigarette lighter in your car or cables connecting to a 12v battery.) This is a BIG help for bird owners as it will allow you to heat up sources of warmth for your bird, such as hot water bottles in a microwave and heating pads which can be placed in the tray on the bottom of the cage. A word of caution: make sure you get a power inverter that can handle the wattage of your microwave.
  • Don’t forget about the heater in your car! It can warm you up for a bit in a pinch.
  • I reiterate that you must NOT use a generator or camping equipment, like lanterns, heaters or stoves in your house!

This experience doesn’t have to be the nightmare that you anticipate it being. In fact, you will probably discover how much more resourceful you are than you thought. You will be happy to get back to normal, of course, but the experience will stay with you and make you just a little bit better than you were. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Your First Month With Your New Parrot

 September 6th, 2015
Posted By:
Patty
Cockatiel

Cockatiel

Following a recent blog article, there was a comment from someone who had just gotten her first bird. She had done research, but said: “Once I got him home, I realized there were some serious gaps in my knowledge, and I feel like I can already see some problems cropping up after just a few days.” She requested a blog post that discusses the first month with a new bird. Thanks for the great post idea, Ashley!

Your bird’s behavior in the first few days…

It is always highly recommended that anyone considering getting a bird deeply research the species they are interested in before bringing her home. It will help you make the right decision about which bird will work best in your home. However, this information will not be helpful in the weeks immediately following your bird’s arrival. For the time being, you should throw any expectations out the window.

Whether you have a purchased a young bird or have rehomed or rescued an older bird, your new bird’s behavior will be in reaction to their displacement. We know that new things in the environment can be unnerving to a parrot. Imagine how frightening it might be when not just the “things” in the environment change, but the ENTIRE environment is gone replaced with a new one. For a hyper-aware prey animal, such as a parrot, that can be beyond terrifying. We are at the top of the food chain and this could be the subject of OUR nightmares.

How you respond to their behavior will be a key factor in what opinion your bird forms about you. During these first few weeks, you are laying a foundation that will need to support this relationship forever and you don’t want to start out building on a shaky foundation.

YOUR behavior in the first few days…

I feel very strongly that a new bird should remain in the cage for at least the first few days while she adjusts to the sights and sounds of her new home. Birds that are let out of the cage before they are comfortable with the comings and goings of their family are often frightened into flight by something unfamiliar.

Envision this scenario: Your new bird is out of the cage. Your child suddenly runs into the room and the bird takes off into the air. Your attempts to catch her fail. She finally comes to rest behind the couch. You try reaching for her from different angles but eventually you have to move the couch, scoop her up and return to her cage.

Even with your best intentions your bird has undergone a horrific ordeal – she has been frightened, stalked and captured forcibly by the same human she is expected to come to trust. You are already off to a terrible start.

Regardless of the demeanor of the bird you selected, the one that is now in your house might be anything from amiable and interactive, to wary and standoffish, to terrified and aggressive. Most often, the bird showing the fewest signs of aggression is the one that suffers the most in the early days. We, in our excitement, tend to over-handle the bird we are least afraid of.

Always remember that trust is earned. Let your initial interactions be hands-off – don’t force physical attention. Talk quietly to her with your hands by your sides while she is in the cage and instruct your family to tread softly. Give her a gentle introduction to your home. You want her to adapt to the energy level in your house but she does not have to do it the first day.

After a few days you can open the cage door and let her make the decisions about when to come out. She will do so when she feels safe and not a moment sooner. When your new bird eventually comes to you for attention, don’t make assumptions that she is inviting your hands to the party. Let her sit with you and enjoy your company with no stressors. Keep in mind that humans are predators and your bird knows that.

I promise that your show of respect in these earliest days will be remembered and that respect will be returned.

Starting good habits early:

In the early days, your bird will probably not have much interest in playing with toys you have provided. Part of the reason is that her concerns will be more about her safety than her entertainment. The other part may be that she has not had much exposure to toys and may not understand their purpose. For many birds, toys are just one more thing to be concerned about in the new environment. For this reason, fewer toys are better in the beginning.

Many birds are very fond of paper and cardboard products and sometimes these make good choices for early toys. Depending on your bird, who may not be the explorative type, you might find yourself needing to show your bird the merits of toy play. An emotionally healthy bird knows how to entertain herself with toys. They will keep her mind AND her body active throughout the day whether or not you are there. You can add foraging to her world down the road. Click HERE to learn how to make good toy choices for your bird.

Blue and gold macaw

Blue and gold macaw

Before you head home with your new bird, you should be made aware of the diet she has been on to date. If you don’t have that information, get on the phone with the place you bought your bird and ask them what she was fed while there.

You want to initiate a good diet in your home, but if your bird has not been introduced to the foods in a proper diet, you can’t just put a new food in the cage and expect her to eat it. She will starve if you simply try to replace her seed with a bowl of vegetables which she won’t identify as food.

Click HERE for safe diet conversion instructions and click HERE for our parrot nutrition course and cookbook set.

The introduction to the foods in her new diet should start on day one. Remember her early days are all about becoming acclimated to her new home and good food is going to be a large part of her new life with you.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to win her heart by over serving the snacks foods early on. Not only will this interfere with her willingness to eat the diet you want her to eat, but she will develop expectations about your delivery of the snack foods.

If you start your relationship with her by bribing her for her affection with snacks, how do you suppose she will react when you try to stop? You could wind up with a screaming bird early on, or a fat and unhealthy bird down the road if you give in to her demands. Win her affection by being a trustworthy human, not with food.

Snack foods can have a part in your bird’s life (it is part of what makes life good) but use them wisely. Especially in the beginning of your relationship, it is a good idea to use treats only when…wait for it…

Congo african grey

Training your bird:

Training is the fastest way for you to get to know your bird and to show her your intentions. It will give you both a close up opportunity to observe each other and learn body language. Target training can persuade a reluctant bird to take that first trip out of the cage and it will quickly teach her that it is safe to be near you and will speed up her willingness to have physical contact with you.

Pre-training DOs and DON’Ts:

  • DO determine what you bird’s favorite treat is by offering a choice of a few small pieces of different nuts and take note of the first one she eats. That will be the treat you use for training and she will only get that treat when you train.
  • DON’T freak her out by suddenly presenting a target stick. You need her to willingly come over and touch it which won’t happen if she is afraid of it. Gently introduce it by keeping it passively in your hands whenever you approach her cage.
  • DO encourage her to come to the side of the cage when you visit with her early on and entice her to accept a treat from your hand.
  • DO begin training while she is in the cage once she has begun to show relaxed behavior in your presence. There is no time frame to impose on her readiness to begin training. She will be ready when she trusts you enough to approach you.
  • DON’T ever force training on your bird! That is the best way to ensure she never participates in it willingly.

Click HERE for our One Day Miracles DVD set to learn how to use training to fix or avoid problems with your bird.

Other general tips:

  1. Be sure to name your bird right away and use the name often. Because birds mimic our language and come to associate items with their labels, their name is your verbal connection to them. You will likely have nicknames for your bird at some point, but for now make a choice and use only that name.
  2. A very good method of getting your bird to relax around you is to sit quietly nearby and read. This will give your bird a chance to observe you being relaxed and non-threatening. You can every now and again quietly address her, calling her by name.
  3. You are going to be anxious to learn about your new bird and you will best learn by watching her. Try not to stare at her, though. You are a predator. Your staring will be highly creepy to your new bird.
  4. Your bird, no matter what her species, is an individual and will act according to her own nature. She will not have read her manual before coming to live with you. Her success or failure will be determined by how well you do your job as her guardian.
  5. You may have heard about a “honeymoon period” with your new bird. With humans, that term is generally a reference to a time frame prior to when one person starts taking another for granted. With birds, it is the period before a bird decides he is not happy and begins to rebel OR has learned how to effectively manipulate his human’s behavior with his own actions. At this point it will be apparent that the bird’s behavior has changed. However, the honeymoon never really needs to come to an end, and it won’t if you are paying attention to details.

 

 

Will I Have A Closer Bond With A BABY Bird?

 August 31st, 2015
Posted By:
Patty
Congo african grey

Congo african grey

Q: I read that you will have a closer bond with a bird if you get it as a baby. Will the bond be even closer if I hand feed it?

-Max W.,  Clarksville, TN

A: In the last 10-15 years, bird keepers have undergone a drastic and much needed transformation in the way they care for their birds. It is much more widely known that birds cannot survive on seed-only diets or live in tiny cages. The avian sciences have had huge advances and veterinary care has improved. The internet gives us instant access to everything we want to know and it has changed the lives of millions of pet birds all over the world.

The problem with the internet, though, is that once something is published it is there forever, good or bad, right or wrong. Articles written 20 years ago turn up in a google search as readily as those written last year and unless you actively look for the date it was published, you have no idea if the information it contains is current.

I have no doubt that you turned up several sources suggesting that getting a bird as a baby will create a closer human/parrot bond. But let me assure you, this is old school thinking which originated with breeders. Years ago, the majority of parrot care books were written by people who bred parrots and breeders were once considered to be the go-to people for bird information. These books, some written in the early 1990s, are still available and are still used by people researching parrot ownership.

In the current world, we know that parrots kept for breeding and parrots kept for companionship have very different lives. A parrot that is used for breeding purposes is typically left to procreate with its mate with little, or at least reduced, human interaction.

A companion parrot is encouraged to socialize with humans and will come to regard them as flock members. Breeders have different experiences with their birds than owners do and without living with a companion parrot, one isn’t qualified to make judgments about their bonding practices.

Since parrots have become so popular as pets, it has given the world’s parrot owners time and opportunity to conduct our own parrot “studies” (without realizing that’s what we were doing) and we compare notes with our counterparts.  We are finally getting practical information with which to work.

Galah

Galah

What has been discovered is that bonding with a parrot has nothing to do with the parrot’s age. Bonding does not begin with hand feeding. At no point does a nestling look up at you and think you are its mother. You aren’t adored – you are the person with the food and that is all. If someone else enters the room with a syringe full of formula, that person will get the same attention and response from the bird. Parent raised chicks go on to be great companion birds as well, which tells us that hand feeding by a human is not necessary at all.

Once a bird has been weaned and is independent enough to feed itself, it enters a new phase in its development and the hand feeding experience becomes irrelevant. This new bird does not spend the day thinking about food and survival. It has wings and toys and there is a room out there beyond the cage to conquer. The hand fed bird is altogether gone and you start over to build a relationship with this bird.

A few years later, as your bird reaches sexual maturity, a new bird emerges again. With each change your bird goes through, you have to relearn and adapt to a changing relationship. Your bird sees you a little differently and reassesses the purpose of your relationship with each change.

Bonding doesn’t start at any specific point in time. It is a constantly evolving endeavor. Bonding is entirely the result of accumulated experiences with you. Those experiences can start at any age and your relationship will always be a work in progress.