The Second Biggest Mistake We Make With Our Birds

The Second Biggest Mistake We Make With Our Birds

 February 8th, 2015
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Congo african grey

Congo african grey

A while back I wrote an article about the biggest mistake we make with our birds, you can read that here. This article is about our second biggest mistake…

This is a mistake that we make with the best of intentions. It can sideline our plans for our birds, cause us to lose their trust and cause them to lose their willingness to expand their horizons.

It is – impatience.

We live in a results oriented world. Our actions are judged by their outcome. Our employers encourage us to push forward toward goals that are set for us. We keep our eyes on the prize. Results are good things.

However, we also live in a world where we want everything done yesterday. In our hurry to achieve results in the fastest possible time we cut corners and apply pressure to those we are partnered with so we can get to where we’re going faster.

While your employer may appreciate this quality, your bird will not. Results are important to a bird, but the journey towards the goal is just as important. If the experience along the way is unpleasant, your bird will abandon ship and you will lose any hope of arriving at the place you set out for.

Your bird does not understand your great intentions – that you are trying to improve his life by making him healthier and happier. Your actions right here, right now are being evaluated by your bird and you must be careful not to risk running him off before you meet your goals.

Blue and gold macaw

Blue and gold macaw

Here are some typical examples where people make mistakes:

  1. Pushing past your bird’s threshold of tolerance

Because they are prey animals, birds have to be very aware of their environment in order to feel secure that all is well. When something new suddenly shows up, it is suspect – even the new toy you bought for your bird to enjoy. Expecting your bird to accept something questionable by forcing close interaction with it (i.e. immediately hanging it in the cage where your bird cannot escape from it) will have the exact opposite effect than the one you hoped for. The bad experience will not only make every new thing something to be dreaded, but you will no longer be trusted either. Give your bird the time he needs to learn that you will only introduce GOOD things to his world. Be patient – not pushy and insistent for his acceptance – you cannot force a feeling of comfort.

  1. Not knowing when to stop

A lot of people contact us asking why their bird, which used to love to train, is suddenly resistant. When we ask them to describe a typical session, we often find the reluctance is the result of the human making the experience unpleasant by being demanding and pushing the bird to do repetition after repetition. In their excitement that their bird is finally interacting in positive ways, they are inadvertently undoing all they have accomplished by drawing the sessions out way too long. Every session must end on a positive note or your bird will not want to participate in future training. For many birds, more than five minutes is too much. Take your cues from your bird and watch for signs that you should be ending the session. If you are to be successful in training, be patient – your bird’s progress is not being evaluated and he does not have to have a deadline to meet. Neither do you.

  1. Moving from stage to stage too quickly

It warms my heart that the message is finally starting to get out to bird owners all over the world about the appropriate parrot diet and they are anxious to get their bird started on the road to a healthier life. However, as with all changes that you make to your bird’s world, they must be done in incremental stages so that your bird does not feel overwhelmed or threatened. Diet conversion is the best example of how easily derailed our plans can be while we struggle to get our bird on track with what we know is best for them. If you push too much change too fast you might very well destroy your efforts permanently, which will impact the rest of his life. Be persistent but patient. This is one of the most important things you will do for your bird.

Parrots are long lived animals. Some will be with us for the rest of our lives – literally. We should not proceed as if we are running a race against time. I am not suggesting that you put off your goals, but that you exercise patience and let the great results you are hoping for unfold in a natural, unrushed way. You will have a much higher rate of success if you don’t put the pressure of expectation on yourself or your bird.


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13 Comments on “The Second Biggest Mistake We Make With Our Birds”

Saemma  02/10/2015 10:38 am

Great post!

les ives  02/19/2015 10:44 am

I was dumped with 2 African greys by an animal hoarder to was leaving the country, They were not in the best of condition and she had severely cut one of their wings – which I have allowed to grow fully. She said they were and now are 9 and 11yrs. The darker one she says is male Charlie who is blind in one eye and has rickets. Jasmine the less stocky lighter one and is fine and after a year she is wonderfully friendly – on my shoulder, etc. Charlie sadly is very aggressive and I cannot really interact with him. I have always known with all animals (and humans) that consistency is vital for all. we need consistency to know how wide/narrow are our parallels are. And I believe that my birds are reasonably happy and now in good condition.

Lenny Urso  02/19/2015 11:01 am

My African Grey started to pick out her small pin feathers a while ago. I started to spray her chest with a tonic mixed with 2oz of water. She hates to be spayed, even gently.. I have to chase her all over the cage.. After she’s sprayed she’ll sit for awhile. I talk to her with comforting words she understands, and she’s fine after that.. However, she is still picking out the pin feathers. Nothing that I’m aware of has changed in her environment .. Want to add I started with the spray regimen about 2 weeks ago.. Any suggestions will be appreciated.. Thanks, Len Urso

John Pearson  02/19/2015 1:16 pm

And if we let them, our bird companions can teach us patience. My ten year old cockatiel loved sitting on my shoulder and having his head rubbed, but only by my chin or mouth. He was a pet store bird that was given to me and he had a deep fear of fingers. When he was ten. I became determined because I knew he would like it much more if he let me massage his head and neck with my fingers. So I set out to show him that. And it took almost a full year of my patience to slowly get him to trust my fingers. And once he did, he would come to my shoulder and demand a massage two or three times a day. He’d put his head down and get massaged. He loved it and trusted me completely. You can teach an old bird new tricks. Binx is gone now, but he taught me so much he will be with me forever.

Joy Colby  02/19/2015 1:31 pm

Hello. I have 4 birdz, a blue and gold macaw. an African grey
a dyh amazon and a cockatiel.
My mom has become ill and we must go to visit her.
What do you think about leaving my birds home and have someone
come in twice a day to feed and visit with them.
Will my birds be ok in my absents?

Nel  02/19/2015 6:39 pm

So true and so easy overlooked, I made that mistake and speak from experience when I tried to train them from seed to pellets. I did learn but it took a lot longer as I had to regain their trust again.
Thanks again to highlight this common mistake.

jan peterson  02/19/2015 11:17 pm

So true! I adopted a quaker parrot who had suffered five years of horrendous abuse and neglect. She would have happily ripped my face off when I first got her! But, I have had her five years now, and she is the most affectionate, cuddlebird imaginable. She had lived on a diet of soda crackers and cheerios and didn’t even recognize real food as food! I let her go seven days without anything but healthy food in her cage. On the seventh day, she finally ate it! Now, she eats anything and everything that is good for her with gusto! Her favorite is pomegranit juice. She watches TV on my shoulder, purrs happily and packs her body in the curve of my neck and rests her head on my cheek. Five years of patience was a small price to pay to be so loved and trusted by such an exquisite creature.

stacey lundy  02/21/2015 3:15 am

A little attention goes a long way. When I walk by my birds I stop for a sec and talk to them. When they stop screaming for a minute I reward them with a piece of peanut and say “Hush” (peanuts are fattening and can cause fatty liver if you give too much). We bought some bulk “trail mix” at the birdy store – I eat it, too – only $3.99/lb. and it’s just like real trail mix. Anyway, they love a bit of papaya or date; it makes for great healthy rewards. When they scream, I always say “Hush.” no variety of “Quiet!” and “Shut up!” and Cut it!” Just “Hush” so they don’t get confused. They have done an about-face and become loveable, great companions in a very short amount of time.

They are Willie, Red Lord, and Bronson, Mealy.

PS I have been bitten twice and haven’t picked them up in years. That will change, soon.

Peter Newlands  02/22/2015 6:51 pm

Bare in mind that ‘The Patience’ can be years and could be never depending on your bird’s experience before you obtained it. For example our Senegal has taken 5.5 years to accept cooked carrot! Raw carrot never a problem but cooked….!

Joanne MacIntyre  02/27/2015 6:08 pm

I read a book entitled, Birds for Dummies, and the author states that a bird MUST step up when asked. I purchased this book on the recommendation of my vet. Boy, what a mistake. I forced my Rocco to step up one too many times and now he’s deathly afraid of me. I can’t even get near him and he flies away from me!!! He’s a 5 year old African Grey , BTW. He used to talk up a storm and be so funny, now when I enter he room he’s on guard and I have to walk very slow towards him. If I get too close, he flies around the room!! Someone please help me because I miss my little buddy!!!

Bill Taylor  03/16/2015 7:38 am

Food ‘plasticity’ is total when a bird is eating from the parent’s beaks or following them around the neighborhood learning what and where to eat. By the time they are living with their age mates and the parents are starting the new brood, they Can’t be eating strange foods or they are likely to eat something poisonous. The living older birds teach the impressionable young ones what is safe in their environment. They then ‘turn off’ food acceptance of new, and possibly dangerous foods.
The flock survives best this way. They do learn new foods to fully exploit their environment, but Slowly. If one bird is eating something exceptional, the rest May try it, after observing the non-fatal choice over time. Eventually new food sources are discovered this way at the safest method for the whole flock.
We have to deal with this inherent food learning pattern in all flocking prey birds. Eating with them may help. Once they get used to sharing meals with us, it’s more likely they will accept new foods from their ‘family’ by seeing us eat and offer them unfamiliar foods. Birds who do this from fledging age on are more likely, adults less.
I’ve found no rules for All parrots, except every one wants to participate in my phone calls. Loudly.

alana  03/20/2015 11:00 pm

Adopted an 18yr old Female Grey . Loves my hubby doesn’t really care for me . I have lots of time
and patience . any tips

Bettina  03/25/2015 11:08 pm

I think the main mistake we do with our pets is that we keep on thinking (when we interact and share with them) as they are human, and maybe they are kind of, but then we should think and treat them as children as we know how to (or we think we know…!), patiently, lovely and knowledgeably…