Giving Your Parrot Too Much Freedom Can Be Dangerous

Posted by Patty on


My cockatiels were my first parrots and they were very patient with me while I learned how to be a good caregiver. I hated the idea of them being confined and they spent their days out of their cage intermingling with the humans. Most often, they were riding on a shoulder while we went about our activities but, as ground foragers, they would often make their way to the floor to explore.

I bird proofed the house as much as possible, removed electrical cords and any toxic substances from reach, and made sure the doors and windows remained shut. Our birds were out so often that we actually knocked on our own front door before entering the house just to be sure the coast was clear.

Exploring cockatiels

The biggest danger to them, as it turned out, was one we couldn’t eliminate: the movements of the much larger humans they shared the house with. We had a young child who, though she was excellent with the birds, would sometimes race recklessly through the house, or fling herself onto the couch without out first checking for feathers. Ther were some near misses in the early days.

I, personally, have sat on two cockatiels, and my ex-husband accidentally dropped a heavy boot on one. Luckily, and it was just a matter of luck, none of these occurances resulted in injury. One day, my daughter raced out of her bedroom and pulled the door shut behind her. One of the cockatiels raced out behind her and his head was caught in the closing door. There was a visible injury and he was dazed and off balance.

We rushed him to the vet, where he was treated for a severe concussion. He fully recovered but I never really did. From that point on, I felt nervous when the tiels were out and about. We had a family meeting discussing the birds’ safety and decided that they would no longer be allowed to roam freely throughout the house. We had to step up our game.

Cockatiel being where he shouldn’t…

We turned a spare bedroom into a cockatiel play room, where everything inside was safe. We had a great time filling the room with new finds that would provide exploring or chewing opportunities for them. We brought them out into the rest of the house ONLY when we knew we could be constantly aware of their presence.

We love to let our birds out to join in the family fun, but allowing them too much freedom often puts their lives at risk. For obvious reasons, birds are not aware of the many things that pose danger to them in the human world. There are reports of birds that die each year in accidents related to cooking, fireplaces, electical shock, and broken necks when they fly into windows or mirrors. There are many more accidents that we do not hear about.

Birds are explorers and they WILL find all the things we missed when we bird-proofed the house. They are safest when confined to a designated play area – it is easier to control the happenings in a single room. We should never have to ask: “Where are the birds??”

Cockatiel – A favorite hang out.

Some lessons in life are learned the hard way. A reader wrote in to us that she lost her beloved, young cockatiel recently when he was accidentally stepped on. Sadly, her other cockatiel witnessed the tragic event and now views humans as less than trustworthy. She asked that we pass this important message along to all of you as a reminder. We are very sorry for your loss, Ruby. We thank you for thinking about the welfare of other birds in your time of grief.

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  • I love to have my birds out too, but I have to be ready and relaxed, I cannot have them just running around unsupervised. They have their playtime outside of the cage and then if I have to do something in another room I put them in their cages or ask one of my daughters to sit with them for a second. I have a 5 month old Umbrella Cockatoo whose wings are not clipped and who loves to fly back and forth from cage to couch. I have a CAG who is 11 mons old and a Sun Conure who is also 11 mons old. Both birds wings were clipped because they would fly into the window and I was afraid they would hurt themselves badly. I am letting their wings come back in now that they are calmer and trained. Thank goodness I have a sun room that you have to go through out the main door we use and in the event one of them gets out the door, they would be contained in the sun room!! Sorry to hear about your experience, but happy to hear they have a room of their own. Prayers to your friend.

    Denise Zmijewski Bunch on
  • I was taking a walk down a bike trail with picky, my Dusky Conure, on my shoulder while pushing a pet stroller with a kitty in it. I bent down to pick up a plastic bag to put it in the trash. The sound of the plastic spooked Picky and he flew to the top of a sycamore tree (100’?) I ran over to the house where the tree was. I banged on the door (it was in their backyard). The people must have thought it was a DEA agent, the way I was banging on that door. She opened the door and let me in her backyard. I called for Picky (frantically). I found him in the English Ivy, perfectly matched to the color of it. He was scared and jumped right back on my finger. Picky didn’t know he could fly and I think the experience scared him. Never took him outside again.

    Terri McDonnell on
  • I have a Myers parrot; we’ve been together for 6 years now. I routinely get her wings clipped, but all you bird owners should know when a bird gets spooked, no matter how clipped or calm you think they are, they will find a way to fly! It’s a survival instinct that they will always have. The first year I had Charlie, and a day after a vet clipped her wings, Charlie few out the door, crossed the street to a rooftop, then back across the street to land in a wooded area. The neighborhood was too noisy and she was to camouflaged to find. I got lucky and found her the next morning hiding under a red truck (she really wanted me to find her) clucking like a chicken. She was so happy I found her she’s never attempted to go outside again (except the day we had an earthquake and her instinct tried to get her out to clear sky). She hit a window and fell to the floor, dazed, but okay.

    She still has free range in the house, but only when I have the time and can spare the attention needed to keep her out of trouble. Accidents still happen, and human distractions do take me away, but I make sure every decision involves, “How does this affect Charlie?”

    Valorie on
  • Sooo many comments lots of good tips. I think it is all about responsibale pet care, my senegal is very spoiled and has the rule of the roost…. on
  • When my Lucy is out and I am upstairs she will walk the steps to get to me. When we are not home they are in their houses, its safe for the dogs :) Lucy would torture them

    Colleen Howard on

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