This time of year always sneaks up on me. Looking back on the previous years, I can trace an ever-lengthening list of New Year’s resolutions I not only did not keep, but that I circumvented or forgot completely. A quick poll of my friends tells me that I’m not the only one with this problem. Many of you probably share it as well.
Throughout the years, clients have shared their concerns about their pet birds and their common desire to make their lives happier and more secure. It seems that we all feel that there is more we can do to achieve this, but we don’t always know exactly what to do for our pet birds.
We often feel overwhelmed by daily life, but just doing one of the following suggestions can make a huge difference in your pet bird’s life. The more of these changes you make, the better both of your lives will be. Take a year or two to do them all, and watch your life, and that of your feathered loved one, consistently improve.
Be Prepared For Natural Disasters
Make an emergency evacuation kit for your pet bird. Place clean newspaper, a commercial bottle of water with a long shelf-life date, your pet bird’s favorite foods, treats and toy inside a transport carrier or cage. Include a small folding travel perch, if your pet bird is comfortable with one. Place the entire carrier in a large, clean trash bag that is sealed and labeled with your pet bird’s name, as well as the dates that the food and water need to be changed. I found this to be very convenient when I had to evacuate because of wild fires in California. I was able to evacuate numerous birds within a very short time.
Make a List Of Your Pet Bird's Information
Prepare a list of everything important to your pet bird’s well-being. Include her name, age and species; also, the name and contact information for her veterinarian, her usual boarding facility or pet sitter and whatever friends or family she knows who can care for her in case of an emergency. List her usual waking and bedtimes. Does she prefer being covered? If so, identify where her particular cover can be found.
Include other routines, likes and dislikes, favorite foods, activities, toys and treats. Also include the location of her evacuation kit. Make several copies of the list, and keep one where it can be easily found in case of an emergency. Also give a copy to two or three of your most trusted friends and to your pet bird’s veterinarian to be placed in her veterinary record.
Add To Your Pet Bird's Menus
Does your bird only like one kind of food? This is a good time to begin introducing other healthful foods to your pet bird’s diet. Remember, your bird can only eat the foods that you provide. All parrots can benefit from the addition of fresh fruits and vegetables to their usual diet. If your pet bird already eats a variety of foods, continue to offer her other healthy, unfamiliar, items. Be sure to praise her when she tries them. When possible, provide organic produce from a reputable source. If you have a little space in your yard or have room for a couple of large pots on the patio, decide what healthy foods you can plant for your bird in the spring. Plant those with the maximum nutritional and entertainment values.
Host A Social! Introduce Your Pet Bird To New People
Is your pet bird comfortable having strangers or non family members around her? If not, get her accustomed to visitors. It is not necessary to allow them to violate her personal space or to handle her, but she should not be stressed when people are around. It’s also a great excuse to invite a few close friends over for pizza! Let her see that strangers will not pester her and that watching them can be a fun and very interesting pastime. Don’t allow your pet bird to become afraid or overly nervous. If she becomes easily overwhelmed, simply remove her to a safe area and bring her out on your hand for brief periods. Offer tons of praise while she is comfortable and well-behaved.
Teach The Basics To Your Pet Bird
Keep your pet bird’s mind active by teaching her new things. Does she know some simple commands, such as going into her cage or getting onto your hand? If not, it’s time to teach her some essential behaviors that will make life easier for both of you. Once she knows the essentials, work on some new commands and behaviors.
Fix Any Pet Bird Behaviorial Problems
Perhaps you have always intended to work on a behavior problem that your pet bird exhibits. Get some professional advice, and take care of it. You and your pet bird will be much happier for it. Think of all the time you have spent being frustrated with your bird and, she with you. Instead, spend your time making things better for both of you, it’s worth it!
Decorate Your Pet Bird's Area
Have you been meaning to get your pet bird a new cage or fix up the area where she spends her time? If you were a pet bird, would you enjoy looking out at the room she is staying in? Maybe some pretty posters, plants or other objects would make life a bit more interesting. Monitor her response in case she doesn’t share your idea of what constitutes good art or home decor.
Take A Look Around Your Pet Bird's Enviroment
Is your bird often nervous? Take time to look at the environment from her point of view. Is she under sky lights or in front of a large picture window where she cannot visually escape constant stimulus? Offer her some privacy by covering one end of her cage, thus giving her the option of sitting on the perch out of constant view of the world. Maybe her cage is in the path of foot traffic. Most birds don’t like that. Find the area where your bird enjoys being, and place her cage in that location.
She might be destroying her feathers or screaming because you keep her up too late at night. If she is in the main room, get another TV for your bedroom or your home office, or simply read quietly before you go to sleep.
Hang Out With Your Pet Bird
Want to spend more time with your pet bird, but are often too tired to do so after work? Most birds do not need to be played with constantly but are happy to simply hang out with their favorite flock member: you! Get a comfortable portable perch or playgym, and take her with you as you get ready for work or when you are performing necessary tasks after you return home.
To encourage your bird to happily return to her cage before you leave for work, offer her a favorite treat, such as a nut, a piece of fruit or a healthy cracker. Give it to her immediately before placing her back into her cage. If it’s the only time she gets that particular treat, she will gladly enter her cage so that she can eat it. In the evening, allow her to sit near you and "help” you sift through the mail, watch television or read a magazine. Praise her briefly, but frequently, while she is sitting quietly so that she learns you prefer that particular behavior.
Be Silly With Your Pet Bird
Play some new games with your pet bird. Sing her a lullaby before bedtime. Play peek-a-boo or chase a tiny ball that you roll around. Dance the tango or bunny hop with her. Tickle her toes and tummy. Tell her she’s a fabulous bird and that you adore her.
Speak To Your Pet Bird
Take the time to talk to your pet bird in complete sentences. Make eye contact and speak slowly and clearly, as you would to a child. She will begin to understand more words and phrases and will respond accordingly, even if she decides not to talk. Talking birds begin to appropriately incorporate words into their repertoire if they hear them used regularly and in context.
Keep An Eye On The "Birdie"
Do not let an adorable behavior or pose go undocumented. Keep a camera handy, and take lots of photos of your avian family member. Use the photos for bookmarks and greeting cards to keep in touch with your friends and family.
Make A New Year’s Resolution
Resolve to love your bird for who she is and not for who you want her to be!
Live For Today
Finally, I offer the most important suggestion: Every day, treat your avian family member, and everyone else, as if it were your, or their, last day on earth. Try it. It puts everything into a clearer, more compassionate, perspective.
I hope you find this list useful. I would enjoy hearing your ideas for improving your avian family member’s life so that we can share them with other readers.