The picture above is of me with my blue throated macaw, Jinx, in Illuscination’s All Access Pre-Show. The pre-show is one hour before the main show and lets people get up close and personal with not only the circus performers but also the circus animals, and this includes our parrots!
Because of this crazy chaotic environment we’re in with our birds in this pre-show, our birds have to be social to everyone! Sure makes the problem with your friend or spouse seem small now, huh? Try socializing your bird to 1,000’s of people… and that’s just one show! We sometimes have two or three shows per day!
I decided to incorporate Jinx into the pre-show because I wanted to give the audience a chance to meet a macaw up close. And it was a huge hit – everyone loves seeing how beautiful Jinx is and his first three shows (all in one day) I simply kept him on me and let him absorb his surroundings of all the people around.
Dave walked around with Bondi, our rose breasted cockatoo, who has already been socialized to various people and will go to anyone. Jinx was able to watch her interactions with people and see what he is supposed to do down the road. I posed for photos with people while holding Jinx but that’s as close as anyone got. There was no physical contact between the bird and the people during his first three shows. This was so that he never felt like it was going to be forced upon him and I always kept him on my “outer” arm (when possible… not always is when you’re surrounded!) this was so that he felt in control of the distance between him and excited audience members.
I explained to people that we were just working him into the show now and he was simply getting used to things. That he was doing well, as they could tell from his random poofyness of contentment, but that I didn’t want to rush into putting him on people just yet. Everyone loved that they got to meet him on one of his first interactions, and be apart of his growth into the show.
One of the biggest tips I can give when attempting to socialize your bird with new people is that you try your hardest not to let the first interaction with a new person be negative. This is why I create a mini “barrier” between Jinx and the audience. I do this with the position of my body so that no one can just reach out and grab at him or touch him unexpectedly. If this happened, Jinx could get spooked and then have an initial fear of people that I would have to fix before getting into the root of socializing.
I also hold him up high when walking through large, tight crowds. This separates him and makes sure that he doesn’t feel like he is going to be bombarded by hands of strangers. With everything around me going on I have to be very in tune with other people’s body language as well as that of my bird’s to be able to make everyone comfortable.
These are two things I’ve been doing to make sure that the socializing process with Jinx goes smoothly. And remember, he is in an extreme environment so the progress will be MUCH faster in a less stimulated environment. I come running out from the portal with Jinx and dance in the ring with him, then he has tons of people and mostly kids dancing around him in the circus ring. He is surrounded by people the entire time we come out of the portal. And it’s up to me to make it as fun and safe-feeling for him as possible.
After just six shows (3 shows per day) Jinx was going to anyone I offered to put him on, on his 6th show! This progress was made in just TWO DAYS! By show 5, I began putting him on just a couple people backstage that I knew well. And then during that show in the pre-show, a friend of mine came to the show who has birds as well and I was able to test Jinx out on him in the real environment. He did great and showed absolutely no signs of stress, whatsoever! I was so excited that I told Dave he was ready to start going on people during the 6th show.
… and he did great with it all!
Just remember when introducing new people to your bird to make it as positive as possible and be very in tune with all your bird’s signs of discomfort so you can aid in eliminating it and working through those things to make them more comfortable.
I’m very excited to share Jinx’s success with all of you and to finally have him as part of the show – come out and see his success for yourself by coming to see us on tour!