Q: My bird keeps wandering over to my kitchen set to chew on the wooden chairs. Everything I have tried to make him stop has failed. What can I do?
– Donna M., Casper, WY
A: Most species of parrots are cavity dwellers. In preparing the nest site, they will sometimes need to excavate a hole into a tree, or renovate and existing hole, to just the right specifications for the family. This involves chewing, chewing and more chewing. Once the nest site is created, it is lined with soft woods, branches and leaves. More chewing.
Chewing things is what a parrot does best. It is an innate activity and wood is a particular favorite with many species. It is not a behavior that you will be able to relieve him of, nor should you want to. It is a healthy occupation that serves the purpose of keeping him mentally stimulated and emotionally satisfied.
In short, birds will chew stuff with or without your permission. He will not discriminate between the pine 2X4s that are used in the making of most bird toys and the leg of your Louis XVI desk. Wood is wood. If you value your expensive furniture, you will supervise your bird’s playtime. Should he remodel your antiques, it’s on you. He’s just busy being a parrot in good standing.
What you CAN do is provide lots of wooden toys in his cage and play area. It is your job as caregiver to set boundaries for your bird. Create a play area where he less likely to find trouble and limit his “wandering” to that area. Will he try to escape? Yes. Everyday. But it has been my experience that once you have firmly established limitations, the bird’s challenge will be in crossing those invisible boundary lines whenever possible and the focus will be less on bee-lining to the wooden chairs. Will you still want to pull your hair out in your efforts to keep him in bounds? Probably, but at least the furniture will be safe.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.