Let me put it right out there: Owning parrots isn’t natural. What else are we supposed to do with parrots who could never survive in the wild, other than place them in loving homes that strive to meet their unique needs? That’s the best place for these amazing animals.
We owners put a lot of time into caring for our babies, and sometimes this involves making choices that would be unnatural for a wild parrot.
A captive-bred parrot is the exception to the rule. Harness-training and trick-training, for example, are highly unnatural behaviours to teach. So is caged-living – but that’s a necessity for most parrot owners.
The benefits outweigh the negatives of these things. Ask yourself:
- Does this enrich my bird’s life in a positive way?
- Will it hurt my bird if I do it?
If something makes you uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to stand by what you think. Make sure you understand the full extent of it, however, because many things have hidden benefits. Trick-training, for instance, is sometimes viewed as silly. Why would I want to teach my bird parlour tricks?
Well, I trick train because it is an awesome source of enrichment. A parrot in the wild doesn’t just get a bowl of food every morning. Nor do mine – they forage and work for their treats, one part of which happens to be during training sessions. This is an exercise for the brain. They love it!
Harness training? Look at it this way: Unless highly flight-trained, it is not safe to take an unrestrained parrot outside even if it is clipped. (Clipped birds can still fly!) There are HUGE benefits to getting your parrot enough sunlight, and for those of us who can’t afford an aviary at this point in our lives, it comes down to two safe options: A full-body harness (not jesses or other leg restraints), or a carrier.
Either one is a good option, but a harnessed bird can more easily go places than one in a carrier. The benefits of sunlight include brighter, more vibrant feathers, a reduced chance of biting, screaming, and plucking and other anxiety-based behaviours, and an overall healthier bird with a stronger immune system. And it’s enriching for birds to meet new people and experience new places.
So you can see, it’s well worth the ‘unnaturalness’ of wearing a harness. It’s not demeaning to the parrots – they love it! Would you sacrifice a good activity just because it’s unnatural?
What about feeding pellets? Sure, it’s not something they’d eat in the wild – but nor would they be eating that kale, broccoli, or berry medley. Pellets have added health benefits when used in conjunction with a fresh food diet. Do you need to feed pellets? No (and I personally am experimenting with NOT feeding them for now), but for many species they present a great, simple way of filling in the gaps nutritionally, and absolutely ensuring your bird gets what it needs.
It’s good to try and provide your parrots with a life that is as close as possible to nature – say, with aviaries, sunlight, diet, and flight – but many times, for the good of the animal, ‘unnatural’ comes into it.