In the spring and fall, hormones are often at their worst for our pet parrots. They turn into apparently crazy terrors who would sooner eat you than look at you. These are ten quick safety tips to keep YOU safe this season (the Spring Horrormones course will help you stay sane in the meantime):
- Know how to towel or restrain your bird – if he or she charges you, you need to know how to gently, calmly, and efficiently restrain them.
- Master touch training before the hormonal season starts – directing a bird from place to place via touch training is a great strategy for staying safe. If you haven’t taught this yet, however, start now! I often target my birds right into their cages. They’re so focussed on treats that they don’t care. If I need to reach in, I can have someone else target them around to the other side and keep them there with the chopstick.
- Don’t cuddle – cuddling your parrot is not a good idea, especially at this time of year. Even if you’re doing everything else to reduce seasonal hormones, once you start touching your bird outside of his head, neck, and feet, you’re inviting him to mate with you. This triggers hormones big time.
- Put food in the cage when you want your bird to go in – mealtimes work great, or slipping in a jackpot reward of seeds and nuts that are otherwise removed from the diet. Maverick the Senegal will climb right into his cage with no issue when I make a big deal of putting his supper inside.
- Try not to handle an aggressive bird directly – use a T-perch, pillow, towel, glove, extra layers of clothing, or whatever it takes to make sure you stay safe. Just remember not to scare your bird in doing so, or you will lose his trust. You need to feel calm and confident so that your bird does not pick up on your negative emotions and react.
- If you have issues with biting, offer treats via spoon, cup, tongue dispenser, or by dropping it nearby – don’t try to offer treats to a bird who is just going to bite you anyway.
- Have at least one hands-off trick to that can distract from biting – I like stand tall, myself. Spin, wave, roll-over, or speaking on cue all work too. If you notice the signs of a parrot about to bite, simply cue this, reward, and move on to a different activity. Teaching tricks at this time of year is the best! It’s a hands-off enrichment process that’s safe for everyone.
- More foraging and new toys – owning parrots is all about knowing how to distract them and re-direct their energy. Toys and foraging do both. At this time of year, it’s also important to swap cage contents around. I do so weekly, adding in fresh toys each time.
- The power of treats – your parrot’s most treasured reward can be anything, and you should use this to your advantage. During the spring, I choose one particular treat and use it as my last resort only. For Maverick the Senegal, this is hemp seed. For Ptak the parrotlet, this is his jingling ball toy.
- Don’t put yourself in a situation you know will trigger your bird – there are certain things I know will set my birds off: For instance, my Senegal will charge me if I make prolonged eye contact. I avoid these things like the plague at this time of year. It can be hard to know what’ll trigger a hormonal response, but if you can recognise the main things, that’s a great start.
::Bonus:: The magical travel-carrier – this is my big secret. I train all my birds to go into their carriers (via touch-training, again) at a time of year when everyone is much more relaxed. My flock all associate the carrier with good things. Come spring and autumn, if I’m having issues with biting, I target them inside and off we go. It’s a hands-off activity that tuckers them out, entertains them, and lets me stay safe.