The other day a parrot-training friend who I admire and adore asked me why we didn’t board parrots in our homes in order to give them focused training sessions and allow their owners the opportunity to maintain behaviors rather than build them from scratch. I scoffed at this idea. In fact, I think I puffed out my chest and said, “ANYONE CAN LEARN TO TRAIN!”
Of course, anyone CAN learn to train, but as my friend pointed out — not everyone wants to learn to train new behaviors. Doing things you’re not good at is frustrating. Sometimes people just want to do right by their pets and enjoy them. Why does everyone have to be an expert? Dog owners send their dogs off to be trained all the time.
“I’d never send my dog off to be trained!” I said. Except that even as I said it I realized it was a lie. I’ve happily sent a dog off to “bird dog” school to learn to point upland game and have every intention of sending my puppy off to do the same this summer. Who am I kidding? There is nothing wrong with boarding/training situations in the hands of the right trainer.
Then I started thinking about the opportunity to build a relationship with a parrot on a daily basis and build behavior on our own time, rather than in the afternoon allotted to an in-home consult. The whole idea of it got me kind of excited about the possibilities.
I have always been frustrated by my limited ability to shape behavior in a single consultation and the pressure of knowing a parrot might have to be re-homed if you can’t help the household learn to train can be immense. I realize that behaviors are easy to reshape and sometimes aren’t transferable, but I do find myself wondering if I couldn’t do a better job of helping loving, dedicated and frustrated parrot owners succeed in building or renewing a relationship with their parrots that works for everyone. Why not set them up to succeed with a bird that already had the basics? I want to try!
So here we are… I’m officially offering a very select number of train and board opportunities in my home that include:
Flexible training plans based on your needs.
Ongoing and consistent daily training.
Multiple daily training sessions and ongoing household interactions.
Opportunities for socialization, short trips and new experiences.
I know everyone can’t afford this luxury (and I hope to get to a place where I have slots for pro bono birds every year). Still, I hope a few people are interested and I’m curious what parrot folks will think of this opportunity. I suspect it will be a bit controversial. I bet you all will let me know! 🙂
Sunday morning is my favorite time to make toys. A cup of coffee, a power drill, what morning could a girl ask for?
I could give you some instructions, but with drilled tongue depressors, wooden pieces, leather lace and some imagination, you can make a wide variety of toys. Don’t forget that you can also save pieces from other toys that have been mostly destroyed and re-use them.
Of course, the real fun is when the toys get doled out…
I was recently asked what to do when living with a mixed flock and wanting your birds to interact. There is no simple answer to this, because all species interact differently and your birds will have their own group dynamics that you need to read yourself, but here’s a couple of things to consider.
The first thing to think about is what species do you have in your home? And then look at their habits in the wild. Many of the South American parrots actually travel in groups of mixed species and perhaps have a propensity to interact without too much fuss. However, African grey parrots travel pretty much exclusively in a flock of greys. They may not have as much tolerance for other species. Does this mean its simple to mix macaws or impossible to have a mixed flock of African parrots? No, but it may give you a way to gauge what your up against in training.
The next thing to consider is size difference. A big macaw can do a tremendous amount of damage to a pionus or some other small parrot. It isn’t unusual for veterinarians to deal with broken and damaged beaks in cases like this. Is it worth it to you to take a chance? Are you that confident that the birds can get along?
Remember too that sexual maturity and the breeding season can change the dynamics of relationships between birds. Just because your mixed species flock is getting along as babies doesn’t mean that this will continue when they are adults. Nor does it mean a steady relationship all through the year.
If you do see aggression, get the parrots away from each other right away. Don’t allow it to escalate. Aggression begets more aggression. If one of the parrots wants the other out their space, make it happen. And make sure that you are not a part of rewarding the aggression. Don’t play with the parrot displaying aggression to distract him, this is only rewarding the behavior.
I do firmly believe that anything can be trained and that appropriate behaviors can be shaped with effort. However, whenever you have animals involved, you never know what will happen. So mixed species, sharing space should always be supervised. You never know what will tip the dynamics in a relationship between two birds. In the wild, one would display agressive body language and the other bird would heed it and get the heck out of there. However, our parrots may be confined or clipped, so offender may get hurt before he can give his buddy space.
So in the end, I suppose you have to ask yourself, do your parrots need to physically interact with one another? If they have a tendency to display aggressive body language to one another, what are they really getting out of being close enough to touch one another? Safety first and then decide what makes the most sense for you in your home. The answer may be different for everyone.
If your parrot is one of those species that breeds in the spring, you might be dealing with some behaviors that are less than desirable lately. I seem to be getting more requests than usual for ideas on managing broody and suddenly territorial parrots. A bird that a chosen a mate in the household and is setting up nesting space to defend can be more than a handful. So here’s a few quick tips.
Yes, breeding is a natural behavior. No, parrots do not feel like they have less of a life if they cannot raise a brood of chicks. If you are worried about your parrot’s mental well-being make sure that it has plenty of activities to keep his or her mind occupied on things other than setting up a nest. Stimulation in the form of enrichment is incredibly important, but breeding does not have to be the enrichment of necessity. If you want to be anthropomorphic, then look at it this way, do you really want to torture your loved ones with your PMS? Well, your parrot probably doesn’t either.
So what can you do to battle something that is biological? Just be careful not to exacerbate the problem. It can make a huge difference if you don’t encourage breeding behavior in any way. If your bird is a hen, you really don’t want to stimulate egg laying. Egg binding can be difficult to spot and many a parrot has died from an impacted egg. So what can you do?
Avoid touching your bird on the back, below the belly or anywhere that seems to encourage the presentation of mating body language. (wings out, body hunkered down, skirt puffed up, regurgitation for example.) And when you see any of these behaviors prompty put your bird away. This isn’t punishment, it’s simply not encouraging the behavior.
Remove any toys in the cage your bird has become extra “friendly” with and replace them with other toys.
Avoid allowing you bird under the couch, in a drawer, in a box or anywhere that simulates a nesting hollow.
If your bird has chosen a person in the house to bond to, then limit the time she spends with that person.
Give your bird space if he is wound up. Don’t give him an opportunity to bite and lunge.
Do encourage play that is nonsexual and try to give your bird as much to do with his time as possible. The more enrichment the better. Forgaging and puzzle toys are a great diversion. Spring will come and go quickly and your birds hormones will subside, returning that nice bird you remember before the breeding season started. In the meantime, good luck!
I completely understand. Although I’m way to old to be concerned about my reading outloud skills, I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you really want to proof your writing, nothing beats reading it outloud. I read my manuscripts to my parrots when I’m proofing them or preparing for a presentation.
It might be the only time they don’t heckle me, bless my feathered entourage. Although they are probably just listening intently for the next great word with which to annoy me.
Make your pets a part of a better year. A few thoughts from Mind Body Smile.
Your pets in the New Year, getting more grins
There’s no doubt about it, the New Year promises potential added stress for all. There is already plenty of swirling doubts and worries in the outside world, so why not make an effort this year to make your home a sanctuary for you and your pets. How do you do that? Easy, pets are fun!
1. Leave your Worries at the Door.
Remember that happy pets live their lives stress free and mirror them. Your dog isn’t worried about the economy. He’s happy if you are happy. His great day just got better because you came home. Isn’t your day better because he is happy to see you?
Matt and I just saw each other for the first time in about 8 years, volunteering our time teaching at The Gabriel Foundation Behavior and Learning Workshop for Professionals. We were too busy to watch each other train (even experience trainers learn a lot from watching one another!). So it’s serious fun to get to see him working with his Amazon.
I’ve always loved working with Amazons. I’m a Grey Girl at my core, of course. The reserved and serious demeanor of my thinking parrot suits me better than the party parrots — dancers like cockatoos or singers like Amazons. Still, nothing steals a scene like a crowd pleasing Amazon. If I had more cocktail parties in my home that involved loud music and lampshades, I might switch allegiances.
Every parrot species has its tendencies towards different strengths and quirks. However, every parrot is an individual. Not all Amazons sing. Plenty of cockatoos are standoffish. Some greys never utter a word. So its worth noting that you should know your species from top to bottom before you get a parrot. And then don’t get a parrot because you want one…get a parrot because you could not live without the company of one.
Little boys all over the world want to grow up to be magicians. Maybe they need to take lessons from Luigi “the psychic parrot” He’s the most famous parrot in the world of magic.
From the OC Register:
HOLLYWOOD It is a packed house in the Palace of Mystery at Hollywood’s Magic Castle – the most famous magic nightclub in the world. The crowd is here to watch a “psychic” parrot that does, well, absolutely nothing, to be honest.
Maybe he does “nothing” but apparently he has won some top awards in the magic industry and the audience loves him. But then, doesn’t everyone love a psychic parrot??
I bet as well that Luigi is well adjusted and living large. I was often asked by people with sour faces at the end of a bird show why our birds didn’t fly away, why they didn’t reject being asked to “perform.” I can’t really speak for the parrots, but I’ve always thought they loved it! I saw it in their shiny perfect plumage, bright eyes and animated body language. These birds have something to do with their day. Something to ponder. A reason to keep learning. And their interactions with people almost always involved a treat, a smile, laughter and noise. What a life!
Truth is, it was a great life for me too. That’s why I still train my own animals even though no one pays me to do it. I decided I could make a bigger impact on conservation by writing and fundraising (there are many fantastic performers and better animal trainers out there!) All the same, training animals (and boyfriends ssshhh! don’t tell them!) is so rewarding I can’t stop myself. Have you taught your parrots to do something fun? If not, what’s stopping you?