Excerpt from BIRD TALK Magazine, September 2011 issue, with permission from its publisher, BowTie Magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. To purchase digital back issues of BIRD TALK Magazine, click here.
September can be a difficult month for some pet bird and parrot family members in homes where there are school-aged children or teachers going back to work. Birds love their human flock and are naturally programmed for flock life. If their needs are not taken into consideration, negative behavior, such as screaming or feather destruction, can arise. If, however, the situation is addressed early and appropriately, the change can be relatively simple for both people and their beloved birds.
Although some birds dislike the racket of having people around all the time and are thrilled when school begins again and things quiet down, the calm after an exciting summer of constant company and summer hubbub can almost be jarring, and extremely sociable pet bird family members may begin to show undesirable behaviors as a result of boredom. Ideally, it is best if possible negative consequences can be avoided; however, if it is too late, a few simple changes may be all it takes to get your little pet bird back on track.
When it's time to go back to school, prepare your parrot for the household changes.
Put yourself in your pet bird’s place. What are the summer months like at your house? Are they like any other month? If so, you have little to worry about. Status quo has been maintained, and your bird should continue with his normal behavior. If, however, the past few months in your home were different than they are now, you may begin to see some changes in your pet bird’s behavior, too.
Similar changes may be seen during any time in which your pet bird has become accustomed to a different environment or routine. It is important to determine if, and/or how, your parrot is reacting to the addition or the absences of those particular situations. For example, if your pet bird likes a bit of noise and visual stimulation, put a television on a timer, and have it play when you leave for work. Around noon, program it to shut off for a few hours until about an hour or two before you return home. Have it click on again so your pet bird has some entertainment before you arrive home. Coming home during a television program can greatly cut down on the desperate types of interactions that arise from a parrot feeling abandoned during your absence.
Figure out what your pet bird likes to watch. Many parrots enjoy children’s programs or musicals. Take care when offering nature shows, since your bird may love them until he sees a parrot or other prey animal being savaged and killed by a predator.
Bring Your Parrot Into The Mix
During the first few weeks of acclimating to school and after-school activities, it is easy to forget about how your pet bird has been affected by the changes in his home. For example, if he experienced considerably more interactions during the summer, he may feel abandoned by his family. Maintain his feeling of being an important part of his flock. Luckily, this can be relatively simple.
Most pet birds can be placed on a moveable perch and taken from room to room while their principle people are getting ready for school or work or eating breakfast. They do not require being held constantly, but enjoy simply “hanging out” with their flock, as they would in the wild.
Give them something to look forward to by offering a favorite food or treat when you place them back into the cage right before you leave. This will leave them with the feeling that, although things have changed, they have not been abandoned by those they love and depend upon.
When returning home vocally greet your pet bird member right away, using his name. Then, once things have settled down a bit, take him out on the perch with you for a little while, as you do whatever needs to be done at that time. Although having a bird out in a kitchen while food is cooked is not a safe practice, he can be there during the prepping period and returned to his cage with a treat or favorite food as the food cooks.
Even paperwork or homework can be done while under your bird’s “supervision” while he perches nearby. Again, holding him is not necessary during those times, but placing his perch so that you can easily make eye contact when you look up intermittently will help him feel included in the activity.
Give your bird something to do when you leave in the morning. I ask mine to look after each other and to keep an eye on the house. They enjoy this interaction and fluff up with importance at being told their “job” for the day. Do they understand all that I say? I do not know. I do know, however, that they enjoy being asked to do something for me and that it fulfills some sort of need they have to relate to me on that particular level.
When I return, I thank them for doing the job I assigned them and tell them that they did a great job. I ask them about their day and tell them that I hope it went well for them. I share a little about my day with them; if it was good, or hectic, or if I’m tired. I then tell them that I love them and that I must go fix dinner, or do whatever task I need to do at that time. I often hand them a little treat or a piece of their favorite fruit before leaving the room.
Even with multiple birds, a simple two-to-three-minute interaction like this can completely turn the evening around. They have received a few minutes of my undivided attention, and I have praised them and rewarded them for a job well done. Usually, that is all everyone needs to feel content at the end of the day, until I have time to be with them later.
Household changes can be positive, or negative, for people and their pet birds. By anticipating how our feathered family members may be affected by those changes and addressing the situation before a problem arises, the transition from one situation to another can be relatively painless for all involved.