In Part One of this series, I talked about how I became smitten with Peachy but before bringing him home, I did my homework about the specific species prior to bringing Peachy home. Doing my homework prior to making a lifelong commitment is the foundation of the PARROT Pyramid model for successful pet birds – or homing an exotic pet.
Parrots are beautiful and endearing, but they are only a few generations away from the wild. That’s not enough time to change an animals genetics to acculturate it to living in a house with people. Pet birds still have strong instinctual needs that you must find a way to meet.
Parrots choose their mates for life and they guard that relationship fiercely. Just because I choose a pet bird doesn’t mean that the bird chooses me. That’s what’s so cool about parrot adoption. A mature parrot can actually choose you! Some parrots guard the relationship with their chosen person with gusto !In the parrots eyes, it is protecting it’s family and future generations but we humans tend to interpret this aggressive behavior as jealousy or meanness. Peachy and I chose each other!
Parrots defend their territory. Wild parrots must defend their home and territory against intruders. Some domestic parrots have difficulties with territorial behavior too, unless they feel that you are a “flock member.” Pet parrots may become defensive of their cage. I contend with territorialism by insuring that Peachy has several hours of out of cage time and is involved in my daily activities. Peachy becomes much more territorial about his cage and whereabouts when he is experiencing hormonal surges. It was critical for me to learn to anticipate seasonal behavior and learn to read Peachy’s body language.
Very social parrots constantly communicate with their flock. Sometimes very loudly. A major survival mechanism for parrots is life in a flock. So parrots need a lot of socialization. Have you ever looked up in the sky and seen swarms of birds flying in unison or Canadian Geese flying south? Imagine the communication that is going on between the birds to master these tasks. Each bird has to be like a switchboard customer service expert. Each bird has to develop and maintain a team work relationship with all in the flock. Your parrot needs you to be on it’s “parrot team.” You have to think like a parrot. It is normal and expected that a pet parrot will call out to learn your whereabouts several times per day, most notably in the morning as it wakes and evening before it settles down for bed. But on top of that, whistles, chatter and squawks will be heard throughout the day. It is absolutely essential to find a way to communicate and interact with pet birds several times daily with your parrot to meet its social and communication needs while being attentive to refrain from unwittingly teaching your parrot to scream and screech for attention. Peach and I sing and dance a lot. We have developed a special call and we wave at each other in passing throughout the day. When Peachy engages in screaming I refer to Good Bird Behavior training techniques.
Every aspect of a parrots body is designed for flight
Parrots need to chew. A lot! Did you know that wild macaws can excavate trees to make a nest? Parrots can chew through branches, dig under bark an crack open nuts. Parrots chew up wood to find food and make nests as well as groom their beak. Chewing is a strong instinctual drive for all parrots. Parrots need lots of bird toys because they truly don’t understand the difference between bird toys and the trim around the door or grandma’s antique table. Keeping your parrot away from stuff you don’t want it to chew and providing safe, thought provoking bird toys that are safe for it to chew is easy, although the second biggest expense of having a pet parrot. A pet bird that doesn’t have enough safe stuff to chew will chew furniture, walls, electrical cords or whatever else might look fun – at the time. Peachy gets new bird toys frequently. I recycle as many bird toy parts as possible, hiding them in cereal boxes, cleaned out milk cartons or reusable bird toys like the Crazy Leather Box.
Smart parrots need to forage. Wild parrots forage for hours each day. Foraging is literally the process of using ingenuity to search out food sources. As described above, I make a lot of cheap foraging toys for Peachy. Any toy that allows digging and exploration is filled with hidden treats, nuts or dried fruits. Sometimes I’ll put plastic bird toy parts in the bird food dish so that Peachy has to dig through his dish to get a morsal. A super reference to learn how to make your own foraging bird toys is the Enriching Your Parrots Life DVD.
Mature parrots also go through seasonal hormonal changes at least once a year. Expect your parrot to become more excitable, loud and potentially aggressive during seasonal hormonal surges. There are about 8 -12 weeks a year that I have to handle Peachy with increased caution. My usually easy going, la se fair parrot becomes less predictable, much more irritable and much more excitable. I’ve had to learn to mark my calendar, predict and prevent bites. Since I have Peachy out and about with the family so much I have learned to read his moods. But Good Birds ___ has been a real life saver. I’m a woman and I know how hormones can effect mood and behavior. My task to accommodate Peachy is to PREVENT behavioral issues that will cause him to feel shame and cause me to fear him. Complimenting reading parrot behavior, Peachy goes through wood bird toys really quickly when he is hormonal.
While beautiful, endearing and talkative, parrots may fail to satisfy most people’s expectations as pet because their instinctual behaviors and needs are not practical in a home environment. The expenses involved in meeting a wild animal’s needs, the noise, complicated diet and tendency to become aggressive cause people to become disheartened and look for opportunities to re-home the parrot.