My husband Dave with our 6 month old daughter Sydney, galah Bondi and grey Cressi.
One major player in making me encourage a relationship early on between my birds and my daughter has been my daughter's enthusiasm about the birds. If she was less than interested, I wouldn't be meshing them so much as I am. So if your child shows no interest in your birds, don't force it. The best thing you can do is show your kid how awesome it is for you, and hope they will want to be a part of that, too. But I've learned you can't force someone to care about animals the way you do (I wish!)
My daughter is SO happy just watching the birds, as you can see here.
I take in information - I watch for a while. When I first go on a house consult, I just listen and watch and observe. And that's a big part of what I do with my birds and daughter to make this whole thing work without anyone getting hurt. I watch how Sydney reacts and responds to my birds while they're with me, my husband, in their cage, out but far away, etc. And it really helps me know what to do when they're both in proximity of one another.
Bondi wanting to snuggle close for a kiss but Sydney is not so sure...
Cressi showed no interest in getting any closer to Sydney, so she stayed contently with her favorite person; my husband Dave. Bondi, however, is SUPER social and loves everyone so she was moreso curious and happy to come closer if we wanted. My husband held her closer, and then held Sydney's hand still so there would be no sudden movements to scare either one of them. I don't recommend you do this with your kids and birds just because if you aren't great at reading body language, your kid could get bit in the face. Cockatoos are especially harder to read when it comes to body language. Bondi, however, we are confident in and this lasted merely seconds. Bondi became more interested in chewing Sydney's sweatshirt zipper so their time together was quickly over!
Sydney's THIS IS AWESOME face.
One day we were all just playing on my bed, Sydney and "the girls" as I call my three sun conures (all sisters). I put Sydney's hat on her and we hung with the birds a bit. I figured if they landed on her head, she wouldn't get freaked out about it because she would barely be able to feel it. Sharp claws scare kids away FAST! So keeping the nails of your birds trimmed is ideal.
Me being so proud of Sydney for being this excited about hanging with the girls.
The girls were constantly landing on Sydney's back and climbing up, and would land on her head and she would look around - knowing she felt something and then getting excited when she couldn't see them but would know where they were. It was to die for.
Leaning in for a photo!
My birds are mostly OK with this because being with me is reinforcing to them, second they really trust me not to put them in a scary or harmful situation (this doesn't mean they aren't sometimes uncomfortable with how Sydney tends to move or something). And, a huge part I feel is that my birds are fully flighted so anytime they feel uneasy, they leave. Simple as that. They are never scared that they won't be able to get away, or be forced into anything, so they feel in control with no need to feel intimidated. That's HUGE.
This is seriously the face she makes whenever she realizes there is a bird in view. Pure excitement.
IT'S PREENING, THAT'S AWESOME!
Did I mention it's the conures who encouraged her to finally crawl? She was going to skip that stage otherwise.
Me with one of the conures talking to Sydney about them...
I just recently began taking the girls into Sydney's play room to hang out as well. This way Sydney gets distracted playing with toys and things, and only devotes some of her attention to the birds vs 100% which can get overwhelming for the girls. This keeps things more manageable and makes it so that I can spend more time with the girls while Sydney plays. Then when she comes over, it's like a break and it just works. Finding your own balance is going to be important.
As I continue to raise my daughter with my birds, I will keep you all updated in new things I discover and of course, I will also be sharing my mistakes along the way. Which in a way, I am DREADING, but also know there's no learning without mistakes.
Note: Just because I titled this "kidS" doesn't mean I have any more in my sight for the future. It just sounded better, and more likely for people to relate to than "raising A kid…" so yeah, don't go looking into that title!
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..