Every creature in the animal kingdom must sleep. Sleep is the time of restoration for the body and mind. Without it, we’d be useless. You know how you feel when you don’t get enough sleep, so does it surprise you to know that your parrot won’t be at his best either if he doesn’t get enough? In fact, there are several behavior problems for which improper sleep can be a contributing factor. Parrots tend to want to be up if we’re up, and that’s not really what’s best for them. Screaming, nippy, cranky parrots may need more shut-eye, especially if they’re acting fussy at night. Making sure your bird gets his rest is extremely important for his well-being.
Parrots are sun-up to sun-down creatures, with a natural preference for rising at first light and roosting at dusk so they can get the 10 to 12 hours of sleep they need. Most families don’t adhere to this schedule. Not only do we stay up past sundown, leaving lights and televisions on into the wee hours, but we sometimes don’t even get home before our parrots should be winding down for the day. Spending quality time with your bird can be a challenge in this situation. For the most part, parrots are adaptable and learn to deal with our schedules, but we should accommodate their needs as best we can so they aren’t stressed too much.
Those of you who are home during the day for whatever reason, consider yourself fortunate. It’s often the “nine to fivers” that struggle, balancing time with a bird and allowing him his proper sleep hours. One of the easiest ways to be with your parrot when he’s in full swing is to do so in the mornings whenever possible. If you allow yourself just an extra 15 or 20 minutes before heading off to work or school, you can fit in a play or training session. Or maybe he can sit with you as you eat your breakfast, read the paper, put on makeup, whatever. Just that little bit can mean a lot to your bird. If you come home for lunch, that’s great, too. That gives you another chance to interact with him.
But what can you do when you come home in the late afternoon, or have other commitments that keep you away until well into the evening? During the spring and summer, it’s probably easier to manage, since we have longer daylight hours and parrots will naturally want to be up later anyway. But, in the winter when it’s dark at 5pm, and even you may feel like going to bed, that’s another matter. Keeping the bird up really late isn’t doing him any favors. If the primary bird people are mainly home in the evening, the focus needs to be on the quality of bird time, because there won’t be much in the way of quantity. Even if it’s a good hour of interaction and play, that may not be enough, though. Hopefully some members of the household are there to provide the bird some during-the-day face time.
After your parrot has had his time with you, it’s time for him to settle down for the night. But you plan on being up for several more hours. So do you just put him in his cage, cover him and figure he’ll sleep through your family’s conversations and television shows? Not the best plan. If you tend to stay in the same room where your parrot is trying to sleep, it’s likely he’s not getting the relaxing, uninterrupted sleep he should be getting. Consider setting up a sleeping cage in a dark, quiet room that your bird can have all to himself. This cage doesn’t have to be very large or elaborate, only needing a couple of perches and some water, with enough space for your bird to spread his wings. By putting your bird here when it’s his bedtime, not only will he be away from wakeful distractions, but it can help you establish a routine that he finds familiar and comforting. He’ll know he’s “Done” for the day when he goes to his bedtime cage. If your parrot can talk, he may literally tell you when he’s ready for bed. Hopefully you will listen to his request.
Chet Womach’s Comments: I’ve had a client tell me just the other day how changin their African Grey’s sleeping schedule made all the difference in his nippy behavior. Even though my courses are designed to teach people techniques to get their birds to stop biting, sometimes you really can fix a birds behavior by just getting it some more shut eye.