I was reading a thread on a parrot forum the other day that questioned if parrots have a need for routine. One of the posters took control of the discussion and went on to claim that it was very important to a parrot’s emotional health that you maintain a schedule and do things at the same time every day. She said this is what you need to do to keep your parrot feeling secure and comforted.
Most of the posters fell in line with this thinking except one, who received quite a smackdown for his assertion that parrots are adaptable and able to accept change. As usual, chaos erupted and the learning stopped at this point. I suspect it was his last post in this forum.
So who is right? I am with the guy who dared to buck the system. However, the lady promoting the need for routine was very right about one thing: parrots need to feel secure.
As parrots are prey animals, they can be most at ease when they are familiar with their surroundings. It makes it easier to spot things that are out of place and may signal danger. However, the reins of a schedule will eventually cause a parrot to feel less secure.
In the wild, the only real constant in a parrot’s life is the rising and setting of the sun and even that will change seasonally. Food and water sources dry up. Fires, flooding, drought and severe weather can dramatically change the terrain and force a bird to look for a new home. A wild bird that cannot adapt will not survive. Why do we think our companion parrots are incapable of it?
For the companion parrot, life is further complicated by the ever changing lives of their human caregiver. Because our parrots live in the human environment, they are subjected to moves to new homes, changes in our work schedules and the occasional addition of anything from new furniture to new children. Birds that are unable to cope with life in our homes will not be secure.
Doesn’t it make sense then, that we should not make them rigid in their expectations by delivering each daily event at the same time and in the same way? Shouldn’t we be trying to make variety familiar to them so when new things happen, they are comfortable with it?
You cannot guarantee that the life you lead today will be the same in five years, no matter how stable you consider yourself to be. Keeping your bird on a routine will only make him less able to cope with the changes that your life will inflict on him. Prepare him now by making him okay with whatever prevails.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.