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How To Prepare Your Bird For Autumn Changes

With longer nights and Halloween coming up, your bird might react negatively to the changes. Here's how to work with your bird in fall.

Chris Davis

Green-cheeked conure

Although the first day of fall occurs in September, I never quite believe that is has arrived until October: when the slanting of the sun’s rays and the glorious colors of deciduous leaves tells me that it has truly arrived. Night also comes ever earlier until mid-December, when it begins to climb out of that particular pattern in preparation for spring.

Although we notice the various changes brought by the season, we often forget to plan for how it affects our avian friends. This can sometimes lead to problem behaviors, such as when a sleepy, grumpy bird nips to tell his people that it is past his bedtime, or he becomes agitated by what he perceives to be late-night activity and is crabby, or he begins squawking or fussing with his feathers.

By understanding how our birds perceive the world and acting appropriately, we can often stop negative behaviors or completely avoid their occurrence. For example, in addition to the shortening days, we also experience daylight-saving time in the United States. Although we may find it easy to "fall back,” our avian family members probably wonder what the heck is going on, and why we insist on profoundly altering our schedules starting on one particular day of the year. 

This has to be an extremely confusing time for all of our animal friends, but especially, for our daylight-dependent birds! When you think about it, this is simply an agreed-upon shift in how we handle time, and there is absolutely nothing in the natural world that compares!

This can create problems. Although the clock assures us that it is 7 pm, our birds know that it is really 8 pm and, if this is their regular bed time, it is up to us to make the shift comfortable for them. This can be difficult, especially if you do not return home from work until that time.

Some people are concerned that they will not see their birds if they put them to bed at their regular biological time. Although this is true for some birds, many do well if they are gradually reconditioned to the new time. You can actually start this a little in advance of the time change, if you wish. 

For example, put your avian family member to bed five minutes later for a couple of days and then once he feels comfortable with that, add another five minutes for a few days until he feels comfortable with that, and so on.

Eventually, most birds accept at least a half an hour later bedtime, and many accept the entire hour. This, however, takes some time to assimilate, which is not bad, considering that almost six months of the year are spent in each of the two time modes.

Give Your Bird Time To Adjust
If your bird’s cage is in a busy room and, if his behavior has negatively changed after daylight-saving time, it may be a good idea to put him into a sleep cage in a quiet room of the house. Once he catches up on his sleep and is back to his normal behavior, you can implement the gradual time shift. 

Despite your best attempts, some birds simply will not accept the altered time frame and need to be put to bed at the earlier hour. I recommend that those particular birds be interacted with in the morning, as you get ready to leave for the day. If at all possible, rise a few minutes earlier and eat breakfast with your bird, or cuddle with him for a while.

On weekends, spend additional daytime hours with your avian sleepy head before he gets tired or grumpy. Remember that it is he, not you, that is actually keeping the time that was established as being normal for the past six months! Asking him to alter an hour, a large percentage of his day, simply does not make physical or behavioral sense to him.

Your feathered friend is a beloved and valuable family member that experiences and shares all changes and other events that take place in your home. By taking his emotional and physical well-being seriously, you can greatly increase your chances of happily growing old together, and that is what we all hope for, isn’t it?  l

Halloween & Birds
Another important October consideration in the United States is Halloween, when neighborhood munchkins dress up in assorted outfits and threaten to "trick” you, if they do not get a treat. Although this is usually an enjoyable activity for all, remember the safety of your avian family members during this time.

To you, your birds are beloved and intrinsically valuable family members. Unfortunately, some might see them as potential dollar signs, especially during these tough financial times. To protect your flock from bird theft, it is a good idea not to let the general public know that you have birds or, if this is already common knowledge because of the "This house is protected by an attack parrot” sign attached to your front window, don’t broadcast how many or what types of birds you have.

Even if you live in a safe neighborhood and know most of the people who will come to your door on Halloween night, they may innocently mention your avian family member to others who may not be so honest or trustworthy. The risk is far too great to your beloved companion.

If your bird becomes noisy when trick-or-treaters arrive, place him in a room that is farthest away from the front door and leave a television on to buffer some of the noise coming from outside. Sometimes, having a person stay in the room to play and talk with him will also help him to be quiet. If his cage or perch can be viewed through an opened door or a window, move your bird to a different part of your home until after festivities end. 

Some bird lovers place a "Beware of attack dog” sign in front of the home and play a recording of a large, aggressive dog each time the doorbell sounds.  It makes those who do not know them think twice before trying to break into their home. (Of course, if you have an African grey, this can lead to another problem down the line if he decides that sounding like a very large dog is a fabulous and wildly entertaining idea.)

Want to learn more about birds and autumn?

Bird-Safe Fall Activities and Snacks
Festive & Tasty Pumpkin Treats

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Posted: September 30, 2014, 2:00 p.m. PDT

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