Photo by Rachael Baker in Moab, UtahSocializing your bird with new people can be really hard, not usually because of the bird, but because people react to things and sometimes they can react really dramatically. You don’t want the interactions your bird has with new people to be negative, and that’s why it’s best to start socializing with people who already have experience with birds. I tend to like to use other animal trainers first, as they are the most experienced. These can be animal handlers as well if you don’t know any trainers. Living in Florida I have gotten to know a lot of the trainers at the theme parks and surrounding areas. Also, Sarasota is the base for circus people which obviously offers a lot of different animal related people who won’t pull away, scream or react in an unsafe manner to make the experience bad for the bird (or person). I’ve tested out little behaviors like feeding a treat to one of my birds just to see how the bird will react to the person first. However, there are methods that are completely hands-off for the person and bird so that neither is forced to get hurt or cause hurt. These methods take work on your part, though. I know we never really like to hear that. But the method is training and cuing. You do the training, the people you socialize your bird with then do the cuing. You know. I’m going to apologize now if this blog post is unfocused because I’m highly distracted with my new baby toucan who keeps flying to and from and making noises in my ear and then nibbling at my laptop... and, and, and... Anyway... When it comes to what to train, it can be anything from trick training to speech training. Then the people that cue will either be cuing your bird to perform tricks or they’ll be giving cues to have your bird speak. Either way, they’re both hands off for the strangers so there’s no biting that can possibly take place meaning no reason for either party to be fearful of the interaction. If you haven’t already trained your bird tricks or speech/words, try out these links:
Once your bird knows either tricks like the wave (lifting of a foot), shaking the head yes or no, spinning around in a circle, etc... or saying words on cue as simple as hello or I love you, you can teach the cues to friends and family (or whomever you wish to socialize your bird with) and you can hand the bird the treats for performing the cues properly. It’s completely hands off, no chance of anyone getting bitten, and it’s positive interaction for your bird.
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 flock full of parrots whom she shares the stage with.