It seems to me that the people who have the most success with their parrots are the same ones who have evolved child rearing skills. The two jobs are, after all, very much alike. A good parent knows to encourage good behavior rather than expect it, because freedom of choice means that it can go either way.
I was recently having an online discussion with some other parrot owners about setting our birds up for success. One person was saying that she believed the best way to handle behavioral problems was to remove the problem trigger from the equation. For instance, don’t leave the remote control available to the bird that is compelled to destroy it. That makes it a non-issue.
I agree that method is compassionate – it takes away the probability for a negative exchange with your bird. There is no question that sometimes avoidance is the best strategy. But you cannot expect to ever make any progress with an unwanted behavior that way.
An example: You have a child that throws a tantrum in the supermarket checkout line whenever you deny him candy. One solution would be to not take him with you to the store anymore. If you have a child that is prone to tantrums, it makes sense not to put him in situations that might produce a tantrum. That seems fair.
However, you cannot change the child’s behavior by manipulating the environment to produce a desired result: no store, no candy. ..no tantrum. If your child never reaches the crossroads where the decision is his, there can be no progress.
Sometimes we have to let our kids be bad so that we can teach them to be good. The same applies to our birds.
A bird can only learn about our expectations of them by experiencing our reactions to their behaviors. If we make it a habit to eliminate anything potentially problematic, we will never know what their choices might be and we will not have the opportunity to work with and alter that behavior.
Food for thought.
Parrot behavior can be complicated and confusing. It can take years of studying your parrot before you feel like you have a clue. But who has years when behavior problems can get out of hand in just months? Let us help you get through that learning curve faster – click here to learn more.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.