|ARE YOU PREPARING YOUR BIRD FOR THE FUTURE?
by Bonnie Kenk
||Under the right conditions, i.e., good nutrition, good lighting, lots of entertaining activities and lots of love, parrots are very long-lived creatures. Let’s face it, unless you got your bird when you were a small child, it will probably outlive you. Are you preparing your bird now to live in someone else’s home? PEAC frequently takes in birds that have come from “dysfunctional” home environments. Some of these birds adapt readily to life in a strange home. Most do not. Not only are they depressed, but most are extremely unhappy when they find out that what worked for them in their dysfunctional home isn’t gonna cut it anymore.One bird in particular prompted this article. He lived with someone for 14 years. In his 15th year of life, he was sold to a family with small children. Because he wasn’t properly prepared to live in a strange home, he ended up biting one of the children and eventually was turned over to PEAC. This bird was obviously allowed to have the run of his house for the first 14 years. He was extremely territorial around his cage and would only come out on his own. Any hand placed in or near the cage while he was in it was promptly bitten.
His first owner wrote 12 pages of instructions on his likes and dislikes. Her instructions are almost impossible to duplicate. Her lifestyle was such that it was conducive to his “needs.” Most people could not provide for him in the manner he was accustomed to. Therefore, he became a biting, screaming maniac.
At this point we should discuss the difference between being predictable and being consistent. I recently had a conversation on this topic which caused me to consider the difference. With pet birds, actually any pet for that matter, you DO NOT want to become predictable, however, you MUST be consistent.
You are predictable when you get up at exactly 5:30 each and every morning to feed your bird. You are consistent when you get up around 5:30 each and every morning to feed your bird. You are predictable when you get up at exactly 5:30 each and every morning, feed your bird, then take him out and place him on his perch at exactly 6:00. You are consistent when you get up around 5:30 each morning, feed your bird then place him on his perch between 6:00 and 6:30. You are predictable when you walk in the door from work and immediately take your bird out of his cage and place him on his perch. You are consistent when you walk in the door from work, greet your bird verbally, go about your business, then take him out and place him on his perch. One more example…You are predictable when you place your hand in your bird’s cage, say UP, the bird gets on your hand, you say DOWN, and he is placed in the exact same place at the exact same time each day. You are consistent when you place your hand in the cage, say UP, the bird gets on your hand, and you take a walk with him, or put him in the kitchen while you fix his food for tomorrow or some other such activity. You are consistent; not predictable when you say UP each and every time you pick your bird up and DOWN each and every time that you put your bird down. Enough. I think you get the idea.
Can you see how being predictable is probably not a good way to prepare your bird for the future in a different home? For some of us (me included), it’s easier to be predictable. If you do the same thing at the same time each day, you won’t forget to do it. Predictability simplifies life. I used to be the most predictable person I knew. When I worked, my fellow workers teased me because you could set your watch by my actions. When I fell in love with African greys, it took me years before I actually acquired one. I just knew that I was the type of owner who would create a feather-picking maniac. And, you know what? I probably was. But I so badly wanted a grey that didn’t feather pick that I decided to change. So, I became less and less predictable until today, you can no longer set your watch by me. I actually find I can accomplish much more with my day without the strict time lines to follow. And my 5-year-old, Moe, has never even considered picking a feather.
To put it in a nutshell, what I’m trying to say is, it’s not wise to structure your day around your bird. Sure, you always need to attend to his needs, which include time out of his cage with his human(s). Just don’t do it according to a strict time schedule. Birds need consistency, not predictability. Prepare him for the time when you’re no longer around and he has to cope with life with another human. If you do this now, his transition to another home will be oh so much easier.
It is a good breeder’s responsibility to properly socialize baby parrots in order to prepare them for life in our homes. It is a parent’s responsibility to prepare human children for life as adults. And it is our responsibility to prepare our parrots for life without us.