De-Stress Your Bird Step 6 – “Flap Off” Some Stress
Just as with people, exercise is a great way to reduce the symptoms of stress in your bird. “It doesn’t eliminate the stressor or whatever is causing your bird anxiety, but it can minimize the physical reactions to stress,” said avian veterinarian Jeffrey Jenkins, DVM, of California. “Exercise can help your bird burn off some tension and keep it more relaxed.”
If your bird’s wing feathers aren’t trimmed and you’re in a situation where you can bird-proof your house so that it can fly indoors under close supervision, give it the opportunity to fly for a 15- to 20- minute period each day. Or, if you have access to an indoor or outdoor flight, use it.
If flying isn’t an option, one way to encourage wing flapping is to attach a free-hanging coil rope or swinging perch from the ceiling, and let your bird play on that. You can also use a hand-held rope toy to encourage your parrot to flip and flap its wings while you swing the rope back and forth.
In addition to swinging perches and ropes, there are many other ways to get your bird flapping. Take your parrot outside for walks while on a harness and leash. Play a game of toss, fetch and catch with your parrot using a soft, lightweight object such as a Koosh ball or soft stuffed toy. Teach your parrot to play basketball using a birdie-sized basketball hoop. Not only are you exercising your bird, you’re also spending quality time together.
De-Stress Your Bird Step 7 – Don’t Force Pet Interaction
Unless you’ve got an exceptionally brave bird, keep your bird’s interactions with your dog and cat to a minimum. Make sure there’s no shelf, kitty condo, cat tree or other resting place near your bird’s cage where your cat might hang out. If your cat likes to nap on top of a bookcase that’s next to your bird’s cage, either move the bird’s cage or move the bookcase to another location.
If your dog likes to run up to your bird’s cage and wildly wag its tail and bark, either gate the door to the room so your dog can’t go in there or move your bird to another room, like the den or a study, where it will still get some attention — but not from the dog.
Of course, maybe it’s not your dog or cat that’s upsetting your bird, but another bird in the household. If you’ve got a bird that’s intimidated by its more aggressive cagemate, buy another cage so you can separate them. Depending on whether the less-dominant bird is still being frightened by the other bird, it may also be necessary to put them in separate rooms so they can’t see each other.
Bird owners reacting to stressful situations may find they have stressed birds.
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De-Stress Your Bird Step 8 – Provide A Sleep Cage
If you’re having a lot of late-night parties, stay up late yourself or have daytime visitors who get on your bird’s nerves, you may want to get your bird a “sleep cage.” A sleep cage is a smaller cage that your bird uses for sleeping in, or to escape to whenever it needs a retreat.
The sleep cage should be put in a low-traffic part of the house, such as a spare bedroom, laundry room or even a large walk-in closet. “If you’re having a people over and it’s 10 o’clock at night and everyone’s talking and laughing in the living room where you keep your bird, you can take your bird out of that cage and put it in its sleep cage in the other room where it can rest,” Bear suggested.
Or, if you know Uncle Fred’s coming over this afternoon and he’s bringing his hunting dogs and they drive your bird nuts, locate your bird to its sleeping cage before they arrive. Once they leave, you can bring your bird back to its regular cage.
De-Stress Your Bird Step 9 – Don’t Fight
Never have an argument in front of your parrot. “Ideally, you should never yell and fight,” Karras said. “But if you think you’re going to have a fight with your spouse (or other family member), go in the garage, away from your bird. Or, drive to the park and sit in the car at the park and scream. Just don’t do it in front of your bird.”
Or, if you are having a discussion while you’re in the living room next to your bird’s cage and things start to escalate, stop and put your bird in its sleeping cage in another room, before you say another word. It may sound hokey, but you wouldn’t want to argue in front of another person, right?
De-Stress Your Bird Step 10 – Soothe With Music
Play some relaxing music or a relaxation CD for your bird to listen to. Sandra Levy of Louisiana plays James Galway classical flute music to her cockatiel, Ivan, whenever the bird seems tense.
“Sometimes Ivan will be wildly pacing back and forth on his perch, and, within minutes of playing the music, he calms down,” Levy said. Just about any music you think is relaxing would probably soothe your bird.
CDs specifically recorded to aid in relaxation also work well. Often these are of rain forests, rainstorms or other nature sounds. Any of these can do the trick, but if you choose a nature CD, “opt for one that does not have sounds of predators on it,” Karras cautioned. “If your bird hears an owl on the CD, that’s going to defeat the whole purpose.” Play the CDs whenever you believe your bird feels a little uptight to help it relax.
You can even “pattern” your bird to some piece of soothing music. Simply put, what you do is select a piece of relaxing music. Watch for times when your parrot is resting and relaxed, and play the music. Also play the music when your bird is winding down at night, right before you turn off the lights in the bird’s room or when you first put the bird in its sleeping cage.
Eventually, your bird will become “patterned” to relax every time it hears this particular music. You will then be able to use this music during times of high stress, like when you’ve got company coming over or when the workmen are in your kitchen doing a remodeling project. Playing the music will help put your bird in “relaxation mode.”
De-Stress Your Bird Step 11 – Homeopathic Herbs
Another idea is to put some Bach flower essences into your bird’s drinking water. This is a homeopathic remedy made of extracts of various flowers. Several types of flower essences are available, but the one Karras recommends for stressed birds is called “Rescue Remedy.”
“It is a combination of five of the Bach flowers,” she explained. “Rescue Remedy is a wonderful, calming essence that works on the emotions of the body to help the bird relax and de-stress.” Rescue Remedy comes in a liquid form, and can be dropped into the birds water, a so it is easily administered. It can be used during any time of stress. (It’s always a safe bet to check with your vet on changes made to your bird’s health regimen. — Ed.)
De-Stress Your Bird Step 12 – Know Your Bird’s Needs
Just like with people, what stresses one bird may not stress out another. There are differences in terms of species, as well as individual birds within a species.
“What’s stress for one bird may be another’s excitement,” said Washington state avian veterinarian, Cathy Johnson-Delaney, DVM. “Some of the really raucous birds, such as a grey-cheeked parakeet, may have a great time being in the same room with a teenager who’s playing the stereo loudly and having people dance around. But if you bring in a shyer bird like an umbrella cockatoo, it would probably have a nervous breakdown.”
How the bird was raised is also a big factor. “If you’ve got a cockatoo that’s always been babied, it may become stressed if its owner has a baby and now it’s not getting as much attention,” explained Veterinarian Richard Nye, DVM. “On the other hand, a parrot that is more independent may actually be relieved because it doesn’t like having that much attention from its owner and just wants to be left alone.”
The key is to understand your particular bird so that you know what stresses it out and what makes it comfortable and happy so you can care for it in an appropriate way.
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