Instilling Confidence In Your Bird

Instilling Confidence In Your Bird

 August 7th, 2011
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Mitred conure

As a human being, I have witnessed, and experienced, how seriously a lack of confidence can hold a person back in life. The belief that one is not up to a challenge or living in fear of possible failure can be debilhitating, and the result can be a life of missed opportunities.

Any intelligent being that has the ability to weigh up a decision also has the capacity for doubt. Doubt can be useful in keeping oneself safe when the odds aren’t in your favor – sometimes a risk is not worth taking. However, doubt is sometimes directed inwardly, where it is not the circumstances that make one uneasy, but the questioning of one’s own ability to make a sound decision or to successfully complete a task. Lack of self confidence is a fear of oneself, and often it is in our own best interest to push ourselves to confront the things that make us uncomfortable, or even afraid, so that we might live a more fulfilling life..

Blue and gold macaw

Many captive birds live very structured lives. We feed them and provide them with forms of entertainment. We decide the convenient times for out of cage play. We put them to bed when we are ready to settle down for the evening. There is little decision making in their lives. They have few experiences where they are naturally inclined to learn through trial and error. Without life lessons, they will continue to be wary and avoid stepping outside the box. Experience breeds growth and without it, there is fear of the unknown.

I believe that many of the phobias our birds experience are rooted in a lack of confidence that has resulted in fear.Your bird’s level of self confidence will impact all of the most important areas of his life from his interactions with humans, to his use of the toys that your provide, to his willingness to eat the foods that are good for him.

Blue and gold macaw

There are three critical parts to creating an environment that will build a bird’s confidence:

  • 1) Allow your bird plenty of experiences in life. The most confident birds invariably are the ones that are the most experienced: a bird well socialized to humans, a bird that is not over-protected and sheltered from life, a bird whose life that is not made simple because we perceive them as simple creatures. Try not to think in terms of making life “easy” for your birds. Instead, look to making it interesting. The more experiences a bird has that have a positive outcome, the less wary it will be when approaching new things.
  • 2) Allow your bird opportunities to learn. Many of the toys available today rely on the need to develop a skill.  Foraging toys require that a bird mentally calculate a series of moves that will allow them access to the food inside. Puzzle toys, or toys with moving parts, will teach a bird that: “if I do this, that will happen.” It is important to note that they will play with, even labor over, these toys even without a food motivator. This fact will tell you how important mental engagement is to a bird. They will work for food, but they will also work to learn. Confidence grows as a bird overcomes each hurdle and completes each task.
  • 3) Teach your bird to play independently. Your bird should be happy at play when it’s inside it’s cage or on a playstand without your involvement. You should encourage independent play even when you are at home and available to your bird. This will increase the understanding that independent play is expected and that your presence in the house does not automatically mean that your bird will be spending time with you. It will learn how to productively occupy it’s own time. When a bird lacks the confidence to engage in activities separately from its owner, it will become increasingly dependent on your in all areas.

Rosebreasted cockatoo

As your bird matures, the combination of its experiences will determine its demeanor. The more you broaden your bird’s boundaries of discovery, the more adaptable it will become. You will find yourself with a bird that is comfortable, confident and eager to explore what the world has to offer.

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11 Comments on “Instilling Confidence In Your Bird”

Marty  08/08/2011 3:49 am

What method would you advise learning a bird to play independantly?

bill taylor  08/09/2011 3:53 am

Learning to fly is good. Actually, it seems essential for correct formation of a healthy bird body and bird mind. EB Cravens’ writing on the physical, emotional and intellectual differences fully fledging young Greys at the normal time during their growth made while running a large aviary in Arizona point to how firmly the skills and physical capability of controlled flight molds confident happy birds.

teresa  08/09/2011 8:55 am

I wish i knew how to encourage independant play! We have a corella and he is always hungry for attention. If you carry on with normal household duties he will fly around on every ones shoulder looking for someone to “scratch” or “kiss” him.

Liz  08/09/2011 12:29 pm

My Mom owns a little parrotlet that bonded with her, but they both now live with me and Mom is too ill to pay attention to Kermit and I’ve been trying for 5 YEARS to befriend Kermit. She was handraised but has always been afraid of hands. At Mom’s house, she used to come out and play and was a happy little bird. Now she’s pulled out half her feathers (she’s left with gray down at least, not just skin), won’t come out of her cage, and just seems miserable no matter what I try. I’ve tried Chet’s methods but have failed so I’m doing something wrong! Any ideas welcome! I would love to enjoy Kermit’s company myself, and to see her a happy, healthy bird.

Margaret Quintanar  08/09/2011 12:43 pm

I got my severe macaw, Beorht (Bert), from a bird farm/rescue when he was 1 1/2 years old. He had been handfed, but as he got older, he and his sisters were moved to a back room in cages near the floor where they received less attention. He spent all of his time clinging to the side of his cage nearest his sisters’ cage. He had become fearful of people, which he has mostly gotten over, and was even hesitant or overly cautious about moving around in his cage, which really concerned me. We had him about a year when we had to go to a family funeral. We were driving to Arizona and would be gone for almost two weeks. Although we arranged for a friend to feed him and visit with him, I also bought a few foraging toys, which I filled with his favorite treats. I hung these and chewing toys in a cluster in the center of his cage so that he had to maneuver around them to get at the treats. I came home to a bird much more confident about his own abilities. I thought about this just yesterday when I saw Bert go straight through a cluster of toys to get from one side of the cage to the other.

Sue Ellis  08/09/2011 3:09 pm

Patsy, Sometimes it can take months for my Amazon to get interested in a toy. I usually set a new toy outside his cage but in sight for a week or so. I’ll put somewhere I can leave it without moving it for a few days then when I think about it I’ll move it or turn it over. Just something to change the view. Then I’ll move it to his cage. Sometimes he’ll play with it right away & sometimes he’ll ignore it for months….then he’ll decide it’s his favorite toy. I’ve just learned to go with the flow. (He’s got me trained!) Sometimes with larger toys when I put it on or in his cage I’ll put treats on it for a few days. I’ll also remove & replace larger pieces of nut shells. Even if they don’t have any nut meat left in them he still seems to enjoy chewing on them. I do have to take them out for a few days & then put them back. Otherwise he ignores them. Silly bird!

Brenda Allen  08/09/2011 4:40 pm

Great posting! I know I’m on the right path with my blue crown conure (18 years old, a rescue and now adopted by me one year ago). When I first brought him home he DID NOT want to be touched, now the neighbors come over JUST TO SEE and PLAY WITH HIM! I loved the comments as well. Thank you for your website and DVD/CD offers – very helpful.

Nicola  08/09/2011 7:47 pm

Dear Marileze,
I think you could set your scared conure up where he can watch you eat and work etc. you could eat when you put his dinner in the cage so you eat together. If you take him somewhere new, you may be the ‘constant’ or the safe part of the environment and he may bond a little there.
He may like to be in the shower with you, having his shower while you have yours?

Nicola  08/09/2011 7:47 pm

Dear Marileze,
I think you could set your scared conure up where he can watch you eat and work etc. you could eat when you put his dinner in the cage so you eat together. If you take him somewhere new, you may be the ‘constant’ or the safe part of the environment and he may bond a little there.
He may like to be in the shower with you, having his shower while you have yours?

Holly the MOM  08/10/2011 10:33 pm

I have a male Conure and 6 cats–he pretty much keeps them in their place (surprise!), but he is sooo attached to me that it is rare I can leave him alone when I am home–he screams mercifully! When he is with me, no matter if I try to play, he just wants to give ‘kisses’, clean my hair (plucking-ouch), tires to clean my teeth, ears, etc… in other words ‘preening’ mom! IT is often difficult to get him to play alone even though I try to provide lots to entertain and chew on–I am feeling like a failure and wondering if I should try to find him a new home… I love him dearly, but do not feel it is fair to keep him if he is unhappy or could have a better existince elsewhere.
P.S. he’s impossible when I have people in the house–never stops screaming… COMMENTS WELCOME!

Sarah  08/20/2011 5:35 am

My Galah won’t play with toys. I have tried so many different types and nothing works. any suggestions on how i can help her realise it is a fun thing to do?