My six month old daughter Sydney holding my sun conure "Lily".
Recently my sun conures Lily, Phoebe and Detka have been escaping from their cage and making surprise visits to me throughout the warehouse - they always seem to find me wherever I am! One of the feeders is broken on their cage, and other than the occasional piece of tape, I haven't bothered to fix it yet. I guess I kind of like the surprise visits! Although this visit was intentional, but still unplanned as far as including my daughter in it.
As much as I want to force the birds on her and be like, "LOVE THEM AS MUCH AS I DO, MY CHILD!!!" I have refrained from doing that, and actually been able to completely push it from my mind at all. But that doesn't mean I don't still totally want her to be an animal lover, love my birds like I do, and meet them. So as certain times show themselves appropriate for interaction, I am definitely taking advantage of them! This was one of those times.
The girls (my three conures) were hanging out on me and my daughter was playing in her play chair on the floor (like seen in the top photo - her legs reach through and she can move around a bit - though mostly backwards right now). The way my daughter looked at me and those moving balls of colorful feathers I just knew I HAD to take advantage of the excitement in her eye.
The conures and myself keeping an eye on my daughter who wanted to photo bomb and did.
Between the look of complete curiosity and happiness on my daughter's face and the overall playfulness and contentment of my conures, I knew the opportunity was there. This is the first big thing when it comes to socializing your birds - being able to read both parties equally so you know when the time is right, and when it's not. Being able to do that just comes from experience and learning subtle signs and body language.
Sydney wanting to pet/touch the sun conure and going for it!
Knowing that my daughter's reflexes and such aren't fully developed yet - meaning petting is not so gentle (we still say when she wants something she WIGGLES at it!) I knew I had to be in control of the situation more than usual so that the birds, as little as they are, didn't feel threatened or hit when she attempted to touch them. I held them just far enough away - and they were not interested in moving closer on their own so it was all on me to determine the right distance. I chose a distance where she felt like she was touching them and they felt just a bit uncomfortable with her lack of petting skills but not upset by it.
Then I spoke softly to Sydney, telling her how cute the conures are and how sweet they are, and asking her if she wanted to hold one. She was SO interested in what I was saying. I explained to her how I was going to hold her hand so that she could hold a conure on it and she listened soooo intently and complied perfectly. My sun conure Lily happily obliged...
Sydney holding my hand as I hold hers, explaining how she can hold the conure best.
After she got to hold Lily on her hand, she was SO happy! This was seriously her face immediately afterwards when I asked her how it was:
This face says THAT WAS FREAKING AWESOME, MOM.
I think I can confidently say this is the day I fell in love with my daughter. It was just amazing all the way around from her experience to mine, to my birds learning that she is OK as well. Not to the point where they would initiate contact which she would be too young for anyway, but to the point where if I am there to initiate it, they trust me enough to go with it. Just amazing. Love my birds. Love my daughter. I'm realistic enough to realize I can't control every interaction and keep it positive forever, but for as long as I can, I will... especially during this crucial introduction period.
For those of you that follow me more closely, you will notice I use the same techniques when introducing any of our birds to other people (such as at the pre-show in the circus when people wanted their photo with a bird on them) - holding people's arms, especially KIDS, is important because many people will get spooked no matter how confident they go into the experience - and drop their arm.
Plus, when you hold their arm it makes it so that the bird, if suddenly too uncomfortable, can easily make its way back onto you and feel immediately better and safe again without having to go to extremes of biting, screaming, flying, spooking, etc.
Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.