The following are five things we all need to know how to do to give us the advantage in day to day life with our birds:
1. TARGET TRAINING
Target training might be one of the most important things you do with your parrot. This activity, which many parrots literally pick up in minutes, is the first step in training. The joy felt by both the owner and the bird during that first AHA! moment when it makes the association between the requested behavior, the click and the treat is unparalleled and opens up a world of possibilities. Besides the many, many tricks your parrot will learn in the future, it is the precursor to teaching your bird behaviors that will be necessary during it’s life, such as going peacefully into a carrier, willingly taking medications, and getting him safely into his cage during an uncooperative moment.
In a perfect world, no bird would ever need to be toweled. In the real world, however, it is likely to be necessary at some time during your parrot’s life. If, for instance, your bird is injured, it may require restraint during the trip to the vet so as not to further injure itself (or you). Some birds require toweling for grooming, and some, unfortunately, need toweling for behavior issues. In any event, it is something you would be wise to learn how to do effectively and safely. Teaching your bird to accept this practice will greatly reduce its stress during any procedure or experience. This link will provide you with the definitive description of how to properly towel and restrain different sized birds.
A good avian vet, along with the help of his trained technician, will manage to control a parrot, even one who wishes to kill them for taking too many liberties. However, the level of stress to your bird during even a routine exam can keep them from getting testing they require and puts a bird in an unnecessary state of frenzy. The key to getting your bird to tolerate a physical examination (no one says they have to like it!) is in keeping it well socialized by being handled by different people including strangers. Your bird should also be used to the idea of being touched on different areas of it’s body, having its wings extended manually, and accept having its beak opened.
It is also important to understand your bird’s unique needs. For example, my very well socialized cockatiels will go to anyone, but they don’t like being apart. When Tinky needed to see the vet a few years ago, I knew to bring both cockatiels with me for this reason. The vet took Tinky into another room to draw blood and his reaction to the separation from his lifelong cage-mate was so extreme that it resulted in him needing fluids and being held for observation. They did not get the blood they needed during that visit. Most bird’s do not like to go to the vet, and who can blame them. Make the experience as easy on everyone as possible.
4. READ BODY LANGUAGE
Body language is the posture or expression one gets during or following an experience. In a person, shoulders might sag when depressed or the face might get red when angry. A bird’s body language reveals its best kept secrets. By watching your bird’s reactions to the things around him, you will be able to tell if it is happy, angry, frightened, stressed, and much more. The different species of parrots have different signs that depict their moods and responses. Get to know the signs typical to the species of bird you keep and take into account your bird’s personality. Some are harder to read than others, and you have to remember that pinning eyes and a flaring tail signifies excitement, but excitement comes in different forms: happy excited, angry excited or frightened excited, for example. By being observant, you will learn the difference and will be able to make judgement calls much more accurately.
Anything you see, hear, smell or feel on your bird that is out of the ordinary should send up a red flag. A healthy bird is consistent in how it eats, how it behaves and vocalizes, and how it poops, and anything outside the norm lasting more that a couple of days could be the onset of an illness. Your ability to identify a problem quickly can save your bird’s life. Please read our blog article 8 Signs That You Have A Sick Bird.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.