No bird is perfect – not yours, not mine. Throughout your bird’s lifetime you will encounter many occasions where you will find it necessary to help your bird make behavior modifications that will ultimately make life more satisfying for you both.
Changing a bird’s behavior is never as simple as moving from point A to point B. It requires intricate steps, thoughtfulness and lots of patience. Outlining the procedure ahead of time will help to move through these steps, but without acknowledging the following tips, your job will be much harder.
1) Understand the nature of the problem
The fact is, you can’t fix something without knowing how it works.You would never open up your computer and start fiddling around with parts without having an understanding of their purpose. It’s much the same when addressing problem behaviors.
Ask yourself these two questions: why would a bird do this? AND, why does MY bird do this? You might think that the answer to those questions would be the same, but they are actually very different questions.
Using property and house destruction as an example of a behavior that needs to be altered, something we all have endured, you will first need to understand why birds do this. Wild birds are hard-wired to chew because of their innate nesting instincts. Likewise with our captive birds. They are compelled to chew, and will find a way to satisfy that need.
When you ask yourself why YOUR bird does this, it requires that you take a look into your bird’s environment. Your bird may destroy your furniture because you aren’t providing enough wood and shreddable materials in his cage and play areas. He may also be suffering from boredom during his out of cage time and find himself headed for the nearest chair leg when left unsupervised.
You will want to take these facts and your observations into account. This knowledge is essential in getting to the root of any problem. The deeper you probe, the more you will be able to fine tune the solution.
2) Offer alternative interests
Think for a minute what it would feel like to have a favorite form of entertainment suddenly denied you. If it were something that occupied a lot of your idle time, you would feel a sense of loss.You would feel restless and miserable until you found something to fill that void.
When trying to effect changes in your bird, you will find it necessary to divert their attentions away from the problem behaviors. Always replace the old activities with new alternatives.You will find it unproductive to simply take away object of your bird’s desire or remove the bird from the area.
Stripping something from your bird’s environment does not lead to a change in behavior. You might temporarily stop the activity, but the inclination will remain, and given the first opportunity, the bird will be back at it. It’s up to you to direct your bird towards something new that substitutes for, or minimizes, the loss of the former activity.
3) The Do-Over
Modifying behaviors is challenging, and there will be occasional set backs. It takes time to break habits Birds, like children, will continually test you to see what they can get away with. Even after you have guided them to new opportunities, it may still occur to them from time to time that the old ones are still available.
If your bird regresses back to his former unwanted behaviors, you will have to correct him accordingly, but be sure to allow him the opportunity to right his wrong. Take your bird away from the situation for a few moments and return him to the scene of the crime without assuming he will repeat the same behavior.This do-over gives him the opportunity to change his OWN behavior and affords him a measure of control in his environment. This is very empowering to a bird, and a very positive experience. You’ll be surprised how many birds CHOOSE to get it right the second time around.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.