The Cageless Parrot Lifestyle...

Photo provided by Sandra Van Hoek (interview-ee)

Wanna know how to save on parrot cage prices? Don’t use one!  It seems entirely against the norm and we’re all always looking for the next best cage... the biggest, the coolest, the prettiest... but what about those parrots who live cageless? How do people do it without having everything destroyed? Well, I wanted to know so I decided to interview as many people as I could find on how they go about it and what got them started so the rest of us could learn a thing or two about his amazing cageless parrot lifestyle. I ended up getting great photos from Sandra and the most detailed answers, and I also liked that she kept her cageless bird fully flighted which I figured was half the battle!  

Photo provided by Sandra Van Hoek (interview-ee)

What type of parrot do you have and what is his/her name and age? How long have you had him/her? Max- A male severe macaw- the name was given by the workers at the store and we chose to keep it that way, never changing it, not wanting to confuse him - Yet patience pays off likewise. He was 11 Months old when we got him and is now 13 years old.

Have you always not used a cage for your parrot? The first few weeks he did not want to get out of his cage, it was the safety he always knew, we would eventually force him to explore, since he would bite, we’d use gloves to protect our hands to even get him out of the cage. Realizing himself we meant no harm, eventually after a few weeks he would not get back into the cage anymore, now its standing in the guest room all dusty, a waste of money really, sleeping would take place for the first three years in bed between pillows and blankets and after some time he wanted his own perch in the room. So we build him one, of course parrots choose their own little hiding corner, as they want to be sitting high up, this being their natural instinct, we build several places with little house where he could jump into if he wished.

How did you come to start letting your bird live cage-less? The reason to give him as much freedom as possible is based on the concept of the many critters that sit behind bars everyday, we simply did not wish this for him, as it seems like imprisonment, he did not wish to be born in captivity, yet he was, so to give him as much space a domesticated life allows is the best we can do. Since he was fully clipped in the beginning and noticed also the torture the bird endures when someone clips them, we decided, it would be best not to clip his feathers One problem was however, is that he never learned to fly, he was fearful of this at first and so we’d stand on one side of the room and sort of push him until he overcame that fear.  

Photo provided by Sandra Van Hoek (interview-ee) 

Have you noticed any changes in your bird’s behavior, positive or negative, from having such freedom? Over the years as he matured, I’ve noticed changes, he is less afraid of objects, still fears anything that is white in color, long sticks are off limits or sudden loud noises, he understands our language and yes due to the fact that he can fly, sometimes one can see he feels the urge to fly with other wild birds. He does not understand that this would mean his death, as ravens among other situations could lead to such. As he is getting older, he is less afraid and rather even senses the stove being hot, a bird who might land on a hot stove yet cannot fly will have serious injury, a bird that wings, even though this might sound cruel, senses within seconds he is burned and flies off. That said, he never had such encounter, we’d approach the stove with him, and tell him (hot) no no. This he understands over time. I think there are always positive aspects and negative ones, in the end he had more positive traits then negative- he has his own will and character.  

Photo provided by Sandra Van Hoek (interview-ee) 

How did you go about “birdie proofing” the environment? I think animals have the intelligence of knowing what the limits are and how far they are allowed to go. Just like children, making the environment safe for him is certainly easy; anything that is deadly or dangerous for a parrot is locked away. Screened windows etc. is all a must, Electrical sockets are always a concern, and talking to him by telling Max- No! And he no longer even wanders to such areas, He understands. What they need is direction and a daily routine. Just like child.

How often are you home with your bird? one family member is always home to watch him, taking turns, he cannot be left alone, not because of safety issue only, as he would fly through the house and start looking where each of us are, but I’d rather translate this as simply being bonded and wanting to be a part of your projects for instance. When I write he’d sit on my arm and prune, this can go on for hours, it also confines you in your lifestyle, as you cannot simply head out, make sudden plans with friends etc. Shopping is planed, feeding him his peanuts, sometimes yes he does want to eat from your mouth and the shower he comes along, he has a free choice if he wants sprinkles or not. Everything is rather a very strict daily routine, and this must be taken into account. This also creates a bonding to other members of his flock and not just one person alone.  

Photo provided by Sandra Van Hoek (interview-ee) 

Would you recommend other parrot owners go cage-less for their parrots? Why or why not? Would I recommend a free style parrot in captivity? Absolutely not! This is not for everyone, as it’s a large undertaking and task. As most people do not have jobs nor are home based careers, nor the 24 hour attention a parrots seeks and needs, unless your 100% sure your lifestyle itself will not change either plus you have the help to care for a bird this way. Moving, new family members, small chores, like cleaning he becomes involved, doing dishes, cooking, again he is involved, a different room can create jealousy, stress in a bird and even death We are his family, his so called flock, he does not understand that we are human and him being a bird, what normally a wild bird would have, as they have grandpas, grandmas and parents as well as siblings in the wild, that is what makes a flock of 20 birds, each entertaining each other and fulfilling the duties they need as a bird in the daily life and participating in daily activities, in essence your replacing this 24/7.

Is your parrot fully flighted? Why or why not? Involving him in the activities yet also making it clear what he can and cannot do. However I do think each bird, like humans is a different character, one needs to use their senses and instinct to really find out what works best in such a relationship, because animals work with senses. its also a dramatic life change for yourself, you are to some extend confined to your house, and you cannot do this alone, though the outcome is unconditional love and devotion of an animal towards you. Yes he flies through the house and into the screen house ( his playground) and has a free choice on where he wishes to sit, yet knows the rules.

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.

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