The Womachs have been saying this for a long time and it is some pretty terrific advice.
Because of the fact that birds are prey animals, they are naturally wary of the things in their environment. In the wild, they have to be if they are to avoid being another animal’s lunch.
In captivity, most birds will show at least some reservation about unfamiliar things in their environment. Reactions vary, bird by bird. Some brave souls may hang back for minute or two before they go over to explore the new addition to their cage.
Other birds will scream and flail and try desperately to put distance between itself and the new object. The typical bird will fall somewhere in the middle, having a healthy concern for strange things – somewhere that is neither complacency nor terror.
The life experiences of some birds will sometimes cause apprehensions to grow into fears as life goes on. These birds have at some point learned that the unfamiliar is dangerous. The african grey is well known for this tendency.
To keep fears from mounting and undermining your bird’s sense of well-being, you should introduce it to one new thing a day.
This doesn’t mean you have to buy it a new toy every day. Nor does it require any planning on your part. There are brand new things and experiences all around your house:
- Take your bird with you whenever you go into the garage or basement or another room he rarely or never visits and bring him with you (on a harness) on trips to the mailbox.
- Let him explore the contents of the refrigerator.
- Show him a fun app on your phone
- Show your bird how to flip on the light switch when you enter a dark room.
- Fill a water bottle with stones and shake it and roll it around
- If you live in a cold climate, bring in a pail of snow and put it in the tub for your bird to explore.
- Talk to him through an empty paper towel roll and let him do the same.
As your bird has an increasing amount of great experiences that involve the introduction of new things, faces and places, the idea that the unfamiliar is scary will subside and leave your bird with a more open mind about the unexpected things in life.
Note: Always be mindful of your birds’s threshold of tolerance. Pushing your bird to accept frightening things will have the opposite effect than the one you are working towards. If you put your bird into frightening situations, not only will it confirm his idea that new things are scary, but it will also teach your birds to mistrust YOUR intentions.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.