parrots have rights, as any living creature does. One of those
rights is to “be a parrot”.
As the least-tamed, least cuddly
bird here at SevenParrots, I was elected by the others to write an
article about training, boundaries, and expectations.
Please don't expect us to be
little winged people. We simply don’t see things the way you do, and we
don’t want to. You must allow us to make noise, be messy and destroy
You can help us to channel our
natural behaviors so that they don't make you crazy. You can
encourage us to vocalize at times that are more convenient to you.
You can give us cages and place to play that are parrot-proof and easy
to clean. You can help us develop good manners by giving us potty
training. You can channel our destructive tendencies by giving us
lots of amusing and varied toys that we can chew, shred and otherwise
destroy, and by limiting our access to delicate furniture and things
that we shouldn't chew on. But channeling a behavior is not the
same as stopping it. We will always want to make noise and destroy
things - and we just can't help being messy.
You must not require that we
perform on que. You certainly will enjoy us and will often be
entertained by us, but if you demand that we dance, sing, talk, or do
anything just because you tell us to, you are going to be disappointed.
Parrots do what we want when we want to, and for our own reasons.
Entertaining you just isn't a priority for us.
We deserve clean, fresh food and
water. You should never force us to eat things we don’t like, or that
aren’t good for us (sugar is a good example). You should never offer
food to us that you wouldn’t be willing to put in your own mouths. If
it isn’t good enough for you, it’s not good enough for us.
A bird who is eating, preening,
sleeping or otherwise occupied with important “birdly business” should
not be interrupted or forced to change activities. You don't get
to decide what is "important". We decide what is
important for us, using our own wisdom and
eons of instinct. It’s one
thing to invite us to come and play, but quite another to demand it,
especially if we're doing something else important. You risk a nasty
nip for your bad manners – and you'll deserve it.
We should not be forced to
associate with people that we have taken a dislike to. I’m not talking
about family members (where even we parrots must learn to be tolerant).
I’m talking about “Uncle Joe” who visits occasionally, talks too loud
and likes to poke his fingers into Polly’s cage. If Polly doesn’t like
Uncle Joe, you need to find ways to distract Uncle Joe and not force
Polly to defend herself (which she will do if necessary).
We birds are very sensitive to
routine. Once you start a routine involving us, it’s important that you
maintain it as much as possible. As an example, I’ll tell you about our
mealtime routine. Some time ago, Mom started having me "join them" at
the table when they eat in our dinette (which is close to my cage). The
dinette area has small bay window, and Mom placed a window perch there
for me to sit on during meals. I quickly learned the routine; I know
that when I see or hear plates and glasses being arranged on the table,
that soon I'll be taken over to the perch. I also learned that sitting
there at dinner meant I'll be offered bits of whatever the humans
are eating. After one week, the pattern was set. Now if you have the
gall to eat in the dinette without first bringing me over, you are
serenaded by a cacophony of angry screeching. And when I do this, am I
being “bad”? No. You are the bad ones for being so rude as to exclude
me from the dinnertime socialization I have (rightly) come to expect.
You cannot expect
us to be disciplined and stay within reasonable boundaries if you are
not willing to be equally as disciplined and respectful. Birds are
smart and we resent it when you demand more than you are willing to
A final word about this, and one
that may shock you:
When (not “if”,
but “when”) you are bitten by your bird, you should adopt the
attitude that you did something to deserve it. Then
it’s your job to figure out what boundary you have violated, and
make sure it doesn’t happen again. 99% of the time, you did deserve
A healthy, well
socialized bird does not bite without some provocation. So, if your
bird bites you, teach yourself to say “That was my fault”
and then set about learning how not to get bitten for the same thing
again. It does no good to blame us; you can only change your own
behavior and reward us when we do what you want.