Where do YOU stand on the issue of clipping vs
not clipping a bird? Me? I prefer my birds to be
unclipped. Flight is a vital part of a well adjusted, healthy bird's
But if you (like me) want to take your bird
outside (and not clip it's wings), you need to look into appropriate and
viable restraint systems. I'm a big fan of "The
Aviator", a harness designed by my friend Steve Hartman. I've
used the "feather tether", but was never really happy with it (too
many buckles, too complicated, too heavy). The Aviator, as far as I'm
concerned, is the way to go. It's actually more than a restraint
system, but more about that in a bit.
I had already had success with this
harness, and trained our
Catalina macaw Jesse with it before coming to Australia. Jesse
was a baby (only about 3-4 months old when we took her home), so training
her was a snap. Laka, however, was a 7-month old. A very
With the harness is a DVD that includes detailed instructions of how to
put the harness on - AND (perhaps just as important) how to approach the
bird with it a bird when training. The first step of the training
(as the DVD will show you) is to pull the bird's wings outward, push the
bird a little off balance, and get him/her used to you putting your hand
over his/her head. I started this part of the training on Laka's
second day in our home.
I knew that we had to proceed
carefully. Properly introduced to the harness, Laka would accept it
and all would be well. If I managed, however, to upset her with it,
we'd have a very difficult situation on our hands.
I began showing her the harness and
draping it over one corner of her cage. As soon as she started to
show interest in it (she'd grab it, pull it into the cage and start
playing with it), I started draping it around my neck when I'd take her
out to play.
Next I started draping it across
one end of her T-stand.
Laka with the harness on her T-stand.
Notice that she's standing away from it - she WAS NOT HAPPY that it was
(Feb, 2007). This photo was taken on
day 7 of her harness training. Patience is important. Older
birds can take months to adjust to the idea of a harness.
Working over several days, I slowly began
to move the harness closer and closer to the center of the T-stand.
She REALLY didn't like it... note the distrustful body language in this
(Feb, 2007) Wouldn't you just LOVE to
read Laka's thoughts right about now?
Whew! now it's REALLY CLOSE! In the
center of the stand (where she normally liked to sit).
I look at this photo and just crack up every
time - look at her eye-balling that strap.
At this point, she would glare at it, but
wouldn't actually move away from it. This is when I started to drape
it on my arm and would try to stroke her back and head with the
harness. She didn't care for that, and resisted at first.
(Feb, 2007) HAH! Look!
She's actually touching it for the first time of her own volition.
Ah-hah! Finally... although she still
didn't exactly "like it", she was willing on her own to walk over
the harness to get to her favorite spot (center of the perch).
Now we were ready to put it on her.
(Feb, 2007) The harness I ordered from
Steve was an XL harness. A mistake on my part. I should have
gotten an "L" size for her (I was thinking of Jesse, who was a
larger bird and needed the XL size when I ordered Laka's)
This photo was taken about 15 minutes after the
She'd shown me that she was ready to touch
it. I pulled the harness off the T-stand and stroked her back with my
hand (with the harness draped over my wrist), and all the while told her
what a "good girl" and what a "brave girl" she
was. She growled a little, but that was all.
I put her back on the T-stand and very
quickly got her into the harness.
(Feb, 2007) Here we are strolling
through the garden just a few minutes after putting the harness on.
Look at how relaxed she is! She's never
been outside with me before, and she's loving it all. We were out for
about a half hour. As soon as she started fussing (picking) at the
straps of the harness, I took her inside and removed it. When the bird
is more interested in the harness than the "bye bye" experience,
it's time to stop (esp. with a bird who's not used to the harness).
happened in early 2007. It's 2008 now. I ordered a new
harness for Laka (one of the appropriate size) and we continue to take
These days, when Laka
sees the harness, she gets very excited because she
Harness = bye-bye time
...and Laka loves to go
"bye bye". When we visit her breeder John (who,
with his wife, have been come good friends of ours),
we take Laka along with us - I generally hold her in her harness with
a towel on my lap (for those mid-road accidents... Laka IS potty
trained, but bye-bye time is a little too stimulating...).
And Laka looks out the car window and vocalizes happily all the way.
I haven't yet taken her
out to fly in it (we use the harness as restraint for the most part),
but I've recently acquired a "Flight
Line" from Hartman Aviary, and we'll be trying that soon!