Guest Author - Heather Thomas
It’s easy to fall into habits that produce undesirable behaviors in your pet bird. A well-socialized bird does not happen by chance. Make socialization a priority in your bird’s life; consider these simple suggestions.
Birds are flock animals and thrive in a very social environment. However, many species bond to a single mate for life. That relationship runs deeper than the relationship with the rest of the flock, but both are normal healthy bird behaviors. When birds are brought into the home these normal behaviors require some delicate navigation to promote an environment where everyone is comfortable. Most birds will naturally favor one person in the household over others. Often, this is the primary caregiver but sometimes it is not. It is not uncommon for the bird to aggressively defend this person as a potential mate in an attempt to prevent other people or pets from coming too close. This behavior is exacerbated by excessive preening or spending large amounts of time in a spot that is easily defendable by your bird. Every time your bird successfully “scares away” a potential threat, its undesirable behavior is reinforced. If allowed to continue this aggressive behavior can become dangerous, especially to children and other pets. Discourage this behavior; enlist others in the household to help care for the bird and avoid scenarios that encourage the bird to defend its territory.
Timid birds require very purposeful exposure to ordinary items in their environment. It is not uncommon for a shy bird to be fearful when new toys are introduced, furniture is rearranged or the location of its cage is changed. While it is important to avoid overly stressful situations for your bird, it is equally important for your bird to overcome this fear and be able to function when ordinary life-changes happen. This is easily accomplished when a bird is young but older birds can be desensitized with a little patience. Rotate your bird’s supply of toys weekly to keep its environment interesting. Place new items near the bird’s cage often. Move its cage when possible. Bring your bird with you when you leave the room, especially when you are do things that could be perceived as scary such as running water or operating the washer and dryer. Use verbal reassurance every step of the way.
It is very easy for birds to become used to their immediate flock family and hesitate to interact with those outside the flock. Purposefully expose your bird to many different people. Allow supervised and controlled interaction with responsible young children and pets. It is important that your bird is always reassured that safe situations are ok. You must remain calm because your bird will sense when your stress level increases. A fun way to socialize your bird is ask a small group of friends to help. Instruct everyone to sit on the floor in a circle. Gently pass the bird from person to person with a “step up” command. Additionally, encourage each guest to say something nice to the bird.