The question of when to re-home a bird is an extremely difficult one. It’s not as simple as just giving up the bird to ensure its happiness, because the very act of re-homing will cause the bird emotional trauma.
Here’s how parrots function: When you move them from home to home, they grieve for their people, their flock. It’s not like giving a dog a new home. After a short period of time, a dog will often be overjoyed with attention; they tend to recover much faster emotionally. Parrots are built to function in flocks, and those flocks are like family. They depend on social bonds for security. With each subsequent new home (a parrot has, on average, seven homes in the first five years of its life), it becomes harder for a bird to trust and move on. They remember their past experiences.
When you make the decision to re-home a bird, please, make sure that it is a last-resort on your behalf.
Re-homing is not (always) a failure. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Can this situation be changed, re-worked, or helped with time?
- Is the bird suffering, and if so, can I fix that?
If it is a matter of an aggressive or phobic bird who is not getting what it needs in terms of attention or socialisation, this can be worked on! I would encourage anyone who is thinking of re-homing their pet to give it three to six more months. Training is one thing that takes time to work, so setting yourself a time-limit can actually be detrimental to your goals — but if that’s what it takes for your own sanity, do it. Instigate a short daily training regime, get your bird on a good diet (which can help behavioural issues all by itself), and put in the work required.
I have seen many owners too quick to give up. I have also seen a great deal of families who struggled through a difficult time and trained their bird to become the companion they dreamt of. It’s all down to you.
You may find yourself with a human baby on the way, wondering if you will need to find new homes for your flock. But I know plenty of families who survive in harmony with a flock and children in the same home. Just look at Jamieleigh and Dave! They take safety measures (because parrots and kids can’t just be let loose together and expected to both be happy), and have aviaries so the birds can get vital sunlight and enrichment out of earshot. She has lots of tips on her blog!
Another all-too common situation that may test your sanity: Your bird has suddenly turned on you, choosing another family member after months or years together. (A similar version of this is a bird who turns on the whole family save for yourself, causing serious injury.) Again, training is your solution, which will take time and effort. Training works by creating a positive and engaging interaction between the two of you. It can even be done through the bars of the cage. You can even stop screaming with the right training regime. Plucking is another problem that upsets many owners, and I think that needs to be saved for a post of its own.
There are ways to work through lots of difficult situations. Say, if you find yourself in a financial crisis, there are money-crunching options to help your wallet in the meantime — like making your own toys, or cutting costs in other areas of the home. I’ve had to do this myself. If you find yourself moving, take your flock with you – I imported mine overseas with me, which was a huge amount of work, but SO worth it! If you suddenly have to work late, implement a foraging routine while you’re out, invest in fresh toys, and go straight to interact with your bird until his bedtime when you get home. Getting home really late? Move your birds’ bedtime up, or wake them earlier so that you can spend valuable time together in the mornings.
If you find that your parrot is tearing apart your home because of its behaviour (screaming, biting, or generally being a terror), there are ways that you can temporarily regain your sanity before you tackle the issue. Hire a trusted bird-sitter and take a two-day weekend away, work on training with your bird, mix your routine up. Always persevere. Life with a parrot can be extremely challenging, but your health and well-being are just as important. Without you, your bird has no one.
When to re-home your bird:
- IF a bird does not, cannot, or will not get the attention or care it needs
- A bird is suffering and/or not suited to life in a human household
- You are suffering because your bird is causing you physical or mental anguish, and you have made attempts to remedy this
- You have been working on a situation for several months, and it just isn’t improving
- Other unchangeable circumstances that come up in human lives (such as a forced move, or chronic illness)
Parrot ownership is about sacrifice. You can work through many situations by getting creative and giving it time. Just remember, again, that re-homing isn’t about failure as long as you make it about what’s best for your bird as well as your family.
P.S. If you are thinking about bringing a parrot into your home, please consider adopting. There are thousands of homeless birds who are just as loving and unique as a baby parrot, and not all have ‘issues.’ A good rescue will help you find a perfect match — and guess what? You may well miss out on the worst years of parrot hormones!