Restraining a parrot is something that is typically reserved for situations in which your bird might require medical attention. This type of handling is not usually something most parrot owners practice; however, it is a good skill to have and a good behavior to train your parrot to tolerate. This can reduce stress for both you and your parrot if you ever need to use restraint, such as for grooming or to administer medication.
Most people prefer to use a towel to restrain a parrot. For larger birds, such as macaws and bigger cockatoos, a beach or bath towel can be helpful. For smaller birds, these types of towels might be too thick and large, so baby blankets and dish towels often make good towels for them, plus less fabric makes it easier to feel the bird within the towel.
You can train your parrot to walk onto a towel using food treats. You can also schedule playtime and cuddling sessions on the towel so your bird associates the towel with pleasant experiences. Once your parrot is accustomed to the presence of the towel, start including some movement of the towel in your interactions.
Over time, you will be able to drape the towel over your parrot’s back. Eventually you will be able to place your hands on the towel while it is over the bird’s wings. You can then gently apply some pressure and gently lift the bird in the air briefly.
When your bird has become quite comfortable with the towel, you will be able to hold your bird in the towel and rest it on its back while it remains relaxed and comfortable. Pair positive reinforcers, such as treats, toys, head scratches and attention, with each exposure to the towel.
It does not usually take much pressure to hold a parrot in a towel, but keep in mind that parrots can bruise easily. If a bird is inclined to bite, sometimes the person doing the handling places two fingers under the beak of the bird and one on the top of the bird’s head. Bruising on the face can occur if the bird is held too tightly. This is especially evident on parrots with facial patches, such as macaws.
In addition, it is very important not to constrict a parrot’s chest during handling. Parrots need to be able to fully expand their chest in order to breathe. If your bird appears overly stressed during handling, stop and give it a chance to recover.
Restraint involves some intricacies, so have an experienced veterinary professional do the restraining or coach you on how to do it if restraint is required in the home.
Handling your parrot can include stepping up, cuddling, touching, playing and restraining for medical procedures. All of these interactions can be pleasant experiences for you and your parrot when trained with positive reinforcement.
Empower your parrot to choose to interact with you by making each interaction a positive experience, and generously reward your bird with verbal praise, a treat or head scratch as a thank you for participating. You will soon discover that handling your parrot is something both you and bird look forward to every day.
Want to learn more about interacting with your parrot? Check out these articles:
How To Pet Your Parrot
How To Train Your Parrot To Step Up