One of the most common questions we receive at BirdTricks is how to get the family parrot to be a family parrot and not just Mom’s bird, or little Joey’s bird. It is frustrating and disappointing to have a bird in the house that doesn’t want to be loved by you. It hurts and it turns what should be a wonderful experience sour in the eyes of those rejected.
In most homes facing this problem, the bird’s behavior is reinforced on a daily basis.
Without even being aware of it, the bird’s chosen person will take charge of the bird’s care, thereby excluding the other members of the household from any positive interaction. And those not in favor with the bird watch from the sidelines, having all but given up.
When you don’t implement changes, they don’t occur. So here are three steps to help you win over your bird’s affections and make him the family member that you dreamed he would be when you first brought him home:
Understanding the behavior…
Very often, a one person bird does not only have a preference for one person but is often only handlable by that one person. This leaves only that person able to feed and interact with the bird because everyone else must take cover when he is out. The bird might even regard this family member as it’s mate and feel the need to protect or defend the relationship against the “advances” of other potential “suitors” in the household. This defense might include attacks on the other family members.
Everyday the same person offers heathy, life sustaining foods and lavishes the bird with treats and attention. Can you think of one good reason your bird might want to change this routine? Why would he? It sounds like a fine arrangement from a bird’s standpoint.
Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, or angry with the bird for its rejection, try understand that your bird’s choices have nothing to do with you personally. You bird is simply looking out for it’s own best interests in the way that birds typically do. Birds are very selfish in that they gravitate towards whatever is most beneficial for them. If you don’t appear to serve a purpose, the bird will look elsewhere. You can change your bird’s opinion of you by making yourself a more important part of his life.
Change the daily procedure…
It is very important that a plan to turn your bird into a family member includes ALL members of the family. It doesn’t make much sense to turn the “one person bird” into a “two person bird” when there are four family members in the household. It becomes just a slightly lesser version of the same problem.
With all family members on board with the plan, start to reconstruct your bird’s daily schedule to include interaction from everyone. If your bird has shown itself t be a biter, these interaction can begin while the bird is safely locked up behind bars.
The bird’s preferred person should not, for the time being, be a part of the bird’s daily care, and should only be there for reassurance and for supervising out of cage time. The other family members should rotate feedings daily and everyone should interact calmly and quietly with the bird during the course of each day and offer treats when the bird displays relaxed behavior.
Clicker training will work magic with your bird under these circumstances. Target training (aka touch training) can begin with your bird in its cage so everyone, both human and avian, can feel secure. This will establish trust and will eventually result in your bird approaching you without concern or aggressiveness – and most importantly he will CHOOSE to be there.
The objective of these exercises is to show your bird that you, too, have value and are a worthwhile addition to his life.
Don’t fall back into old patterns…
One thing I have learned throughout the years is to NEVER take the relationship I have with my bird for granted. Some bonds have been hard won and require daily maintenance to keep them solid. This means that consistency on my part is crucial.
Birds are not like dogs who strive to please their caregivers. Dogs will look at you with those big, moist eyes begging your forgiveness for peeing on the floor, when you were the one who neglected to let him out. You will never get that from your bird. If you outlive you usefulness, or show yourself to be untrustworthy, they are done with you. Period. And they will make you work your tail off to regain that trust and will constantly remind you that you are on probation.
Once you have reached the point where your bird has grown to love having you around, don’t blow it by not being there. Remember…if you want a friend, you have to be a friend.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.