Offering Choices to Your Parrot

Maybe it’s the rebellious kid in me, but nothing makes me more uncooperative than being told what to do.  Ask me to do something, sure, no problem.  Suggest that something needs to be done, I’m all over it. Barking an order to me is the surest way of seeing that I’ll get to it in my own sweet time, which might mean next month.  My umbrella cockatoo, Linus, seems to take after his mom.

I think it’s really important to allow our parrots to have some control over their environment. We make all of the important decisions for them: we feed them what we believe they need, they get their baths when we decide it’s time, we provide their sources of entertainment.  Left to their own devices in the wild, they would be more than capable of fulfilling these needs and wants on their own.  In situations where giving them the choice to decide what they want to do is appropriate, it will only make for a happier, more well adjusted parrot, and will strengthen the relationship between you.

If he’s not in the mood for training and is being uncooperative in his efforts, let him be.  Chances are you wouldn’t have had much success at this time anyways.  If he doesn’t care to step up, and he’s fine where he is, respect his decision to stay put and try again later.  If he is swinging from the cord to your iron and doesn’t want to step onto your hand, this is when you put your foot down. But otherwise, always forcing a parrot to bend to your will either break his spirit or bring about resentment, and most likely the latter.

I find my parrots to be  pretty cooperative.  With a little gentle coaxing, I can usually get the behaviors from them that I want or need.  I think the biggest part of this is mutual respect.  As I continually respond to their wishes to do or not do something, they respectfully comply when I require cooperation from them.  If something has come up and I need to leave the house in a hurry, I can count on that  Linus will step up for me regardless of his mood because he respects me. 

Another part is trust. They know I wouldn’t hurt them or put them in harm’s way. Aside from trips to the vet, which are occasionally held against me for an afternoon, I have never put them in a situation causing them to question my judgment where their well-being is concerned.

Like people, a parrot is inclined to be more agreeable about things they don’t want to do, when they are given the opportunity to make some of the decisions. When my daughter was young, I would often let her choose what our vegetable would be served with dinner that night.  Giving her the responsibility of that decision made the “eat your veggies” argument a thing of the past.  It made her feel grown up and less excluded from decisions that were important to her. Eating broccoli was no longer a thing that was being done to her.

Your parrot is more likely to offer respect when he is treated respectfully.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.



Robert, I’m sorry about the loss of your parakeet. It’s very hard for the one remaining because they do grieve the loss of a mate just like you or I would. Parakeets can be very high strung at times, but what you are describing sounds a little extreme. It is likely that one fed off the high energy level of the other and it became the norm for both. Before you get another mate for your parrot, if that’s your intention, try some target training with him to calm and focus him so that you don’t have a repeat situation. There are some great recent blogs here (with video!) showing you how to do that, including one that Chet did with a newly purchased, untamed parakeet. It’s easy, fast and produces great results. I will ask someone to respond to your questions about the training videos. Have fun! Patty


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Robert J. Humphrey

The photo’s are beautiful and quite self explanatory it seems. Question if it is appropriate please… I have a little Scarlet Chested Parakeet (who was once half of a mated pair). His mate died quite suddenly about 3 months ago. I purchased them originally from an area pet shop, and had read online about how unusually quiet and gentle mannered these little guys are. From the beginning I found them both to be entirely the opposite, and they seemed to be the most nervous, high strung birds that I’ve ever seen or dealt with; and that is putting it mildly. I also have a delightful pair of cockatiels that are adorable. My question is simply would your training series help in any meaningful way with this extremely high strung little male Scarlet Chested Parakeet, or could it be that there is just “something” in his past that is not at all likely to be over come at all? And while I’ve been trying without success thus far to find a mate for him, would this help to calm him down even a little? In the event that these training materials may help, I’d like to get them, but being on a limited income due to SDI, it will take me a bit of saving, unless you are able to accomodate some monthly payment feature via a card… Many Thanks, R. Humphrey

Robert J. Humphrey

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