It was great having a chance to present at Parrot Palooza again this year. My headline presentation was 5 Things you can do with your parrot today to improve your parrot's behavior.
Here is a brief summary of the talk followed by a video of the actual presentation.
#1 - Double up on toys
Parrots are extremely intelligent animals that get bored easily. They need a lot to keep them occupied. Otherwise they will find other ways to occupy themselves and these things generally don't mesh well with the household. If a parrot is out of the cage and bored, it may opt to fly around and chew on moldings, furniture, your keyboard or phone, and wreak havoc on a home.
Locked away in the cage, a bored parrot may be more limited in what it can get its beak on. If destroying toys isn't the go-to option, the next one will be destroying perches. However, when both of those are short to come by, their next favorite misbehavior tends to be screaming! Parrots love the sound of their own voice, which can be quite loud, and they can go on all day. Unlike you, parrots aren't prone to hearing damage or loss so there's nothing to stop them. When the screaming runs out, then parrots turn to feather plucking or self-mutilation. Once it starts, it is often difficult or impossible to reverse. Likewise, bad behavior is seldom untaught.
For these, reasons it is far more worthwhile to pile up the bird toys and shovel out hoards of splinters from the bottom of the cage than to leave the parrot to entertain itself. You will want about 8-12 toys in the bird's cage at any given time and 5+ perches to help them get around and get access to those toys. Not only do you need the quantity of toys, but also the quality. Find bird toys that will last your parrot about 2 weeks. That means that after about 2-4 weeks, there is nothing but the chain or rope left behind because the parrot destroyed all of the rest. Toys that last for less time are great too but you will have to keep replacing them frequently so it will get costly. Learning your bird's chewing abilities and habits will help you shop smart and find the toys that will be the right level of challenge to keep your parrot interested and chewing for a reasonable length of time.
Be sure to check out the selection of bird toys and particularly the Woodland Parrot line of artisan bird toys from the Parrot Wizard store.
#2 - 12 hours of sleep
It is very important to give your parrot 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep all year round. This not only ensures that your bird isn't misbehaving from being sleep deprived but also helps tone down the hormones. By reducing the effects of seasons, through variation in daylight cycles, you can largely reduce the highly undesired consequences of a hormonal parrot. A lot of biting, territorial aggression, excessive preference for specific people, and unpredictable mood swings can be curbed by managing the light schedule.
You can cover the cage with a black bed sheet when it is time for the parrot to fall asleep and until it is time to wake up. My preferred way is to have the bird room lights on a timer so that they turn on and off automatically to help control the bird's sleep schedule. Some black out curtains or automatic shutters on a timer are also important in order to keep the sun out when the natural daylight period is longer than 12 hours.
#3 - Provide a tree stand
A fantastic way to improve or maintain your parrot's behavior is to provide a tree stand or activity center for your parrot away from the cage. All too often, people allow their parrot to hang out on top of the cage or playtop. This breeds some pretty strongly undesirable behavior. Parrots tend to be territorial and weird around their cages as it is. And on top of the cage it only gets worse. With a tall cage it is difficult to reach the bird so it runs to the distant ends of the cage while you are chasing and it only makes things worse. Instead, having the daily routine of taking the bird to a remote playstand every day not only provides the parrot with something to do but also strengthens the bond.
It's important to provide an extensive, exciting, climbable tree stand with the ability to hang toys. A simple Training Perch or Tabletop Perch is not suitable for this particular purpose. Simple perches are great for the purpose of training or interacting with the parrot. However, when you wish to put the parrot down and for the bird to keep itself busy, a complete tree stand or activity center is required.
Now having a bare tree stand alone isn't enough either. Just like in point 1, double up on those toys! Don't let your bored get bored and revert to undesirable behavior. Outfit the tree stand with toys, ropes, swings, foraging opportunities, and as many things to do as possible. Don't fill the food bowls with food though! Fill them with foot toys and activities instead.
The Parrot Wizard line of NU Perch Climbing Trees provides tree stands ideally suited for this purpose! These, ready to ship online, purpose built tree stands are designed so that your parrot could actually get around on them and reach the toys and activities you set up. The Parrot Wizard Trees are highly customizable to assist you in creating a captivating out of cage experience for your bird! Explore the Parrot Wizard Lifestyle to further learn how you can use the complete line of Parrot Wizard products as behavioral bird furniture to perfect your parrot keeping experience!
#4 - Enrich with variety of foods
Keep your parrot engaged with a more interesting variety of foods. Mix things up and keep it entertaining. Now this isn't to say to feed your parrot unhealthy. It is very important that you research and determine a healthy staple diet for your parrot's well-being. About 50-80% of the diet will be for nutritional purposes. However, for the remainder of your bird's daily intake, providing alternative, fun, and interesting foods will enhance their behavior as well.
Rather than just giving your bird it's favorite treats all the time, holding them back and getting your parrot to explore an assortment of tastes will actually drive better behavior! The parrot will be kept more busy weaving through the different foods, picking and choosing, deciding what it likes and doesn't like. Getting favorite foods all the time just doesn't do that. And a great benefit of this is that the favorite foods will become even more effective treats for training.
Explore a variety of natural fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for your bird. Not the typical seeds you see in a bird-store seed mix, but completely different stuff. Flax seeds, quinoa, sweet potato, papaya, and other exotic things like that. You can shop for some special mixes or come up with your own. But as you expand your parrot's pallet from just pellets + seeds to a wide variety, your bird will be more engaged and also drive a higher motivation for training. Which leads me to the 5th thing you can start doing to improve your parrot's behavior.
#5 - Clicker Training
Incorporating clicker training into your daily routine with your parrot will greatly improve your parrot's behavior in so many ways! First and most obviously, you can use clicker training to practice essential skills with your parrot such as step-up, handling, and flight recall. However, the benefits go far beyond just the basics. As you continue teaching your parrot more and more things, you will inadvertently be making the more basic things second nature.
In order to perform many of the tricks that you can teach, your parrot will inevitably have to step-up, be touched, or be in close proximity to hands in the process. As the parrot focuses on dunking the basketball or sorting colors, it won't even notice the proximity to hands or step-ups that it is doing while focused on a goal. This builds a much higher and more automatic level of good-behavior for general pet interactions with your bird throughout the day.
Not only does a daily training habit help build a relationship, it also helps the bird burn off energy in a productive way. Rather than screaming, getting overly amped up and biting, or becoming too destructive, by performing daily training you are having the bird spend energy in a beneficial rather than harmful way! It's a win-win. The bird learns good behavior and the bird is less tempted to engage in bad behavior simultaneously because it is more calm and relaxed after training!
Treat training as a necessary part of your daily parrot care routine. Just as it is important to change food, water, and cage papers, treat training as an equally simple, quick, and essential part of parrot care! Just a few minutes of focused training every day will go a long way in improving your parrot's behavior both directly and indirectly for life!
Grab a copy of my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots. It comes with a free bonus clicker and target stick to get you started right away! In addition, you'll want a Parrot Training Perch Kit as a comfortable platform for engaging in the training. Not only are the Training Perches going to make it easy to do the training, they will also help your parrot focus and be in the mood for training every day!
So, there are 5 things you can do to start improving your parrot's behavior! Of course, there is a bit more to it, but these 5 things are a great start. You can start making big progress toward having your perfect magical parrot keeping experience with these 5 things. I hope that this advice can help you improve your parrot's behavior and I hope that the Parrot Wizard supplies I came up with will aid you in making this parrot behavior be as simple to achieve as possible! Wishing you success.
Here is a video of my presentation at the 2019 Bird Paradise Parrot Palooza:
Everyone knows that bird stores sell birds, toys, food, etc., but here are some things you didn't know! Here are 8 bird store secrets that bird stores won't tell you exposed.
At the end of the article is a video of these bird store secrets being revealed at Bird Paradise in Burlington, NJ. But for those who prefer to read rather than watch, this article goes over those secrets in text form.
So here are 8 bird store secrets that bird stores won't tell you:
Secret #1 - Rugs have disinfectant on them
At least at Bird Paradise, they moisten the floor mats at the entrance down with a disinfectant solution to prevent avian diseases from hitching a ride into the store on the bottom of people's shoes. Who knows if those people have a sick bird at home or stepped in some wild bird poop on the way? Best to keep those shoes clean and disinfected before exposing the immune suppressed baby birds!
Different bird stores will have different measures or policies when it comes to preventing diseases. Not a bad idea to look into a bird store's policies and health guarantee on baby birds.
Secret #2 - Stores don't recommend bird shampoos
Bird shampoos don't serve a purpose. Unlike people and dogs, birds don't have hair so they don't need shampoo. In fact parrot's secret their own oils to serve as a conditioner for their feathers naturally so no shampoo needed. Stores sell those products only because customers keep asking for them.
Secret #3 - Food in bulk bins may be fresher than in packages
Some bird stores have a very high turn around on their bulk bin foods. Sometimes the food in the factory packaging is sitting around longer than the food in the dispensers or bins. On the other hand, at smaller stores it may be the other way around. Learn about package shelf life and keep an eye on what is being bought more at the cashier to ensure that you are getting the freshest food for your parrot.
Secret #4 - Don't feed sunflower seeds
Even though bird stores sell them, I have not been to a single bird store in recent years that actually recommends that anyone feeds them to parrots. Everyone with any experience in the bird world will tell you that sunflower seeds are not a suitable diet and in fact unhealthy for pet parrots. Why do stores still sell them? Some customers have older birds that were fed sunflower seeds their whole life and are set in their ways. Other times there are younger birds with older owners that are too set in their ways. If you're going to give sunflower seeds to your parrot, only use them as training treats in extreme moderation (hint if you don't have enough fingers to count them, it's too much).
Secret #5 - Save money by making your own toys
Your parrot needs a lot of toys and activities to prevent boredom, screaming, and self-mutilating behavior while in the cage. This is an important part of parrot ownership and you shouldn't short change the highly intelligent parrot on these activities. However, this can also get quite costly. You can save money by making your own bird toys whether you buy bird toy parts at the bird store or find your own (bird safe, non-toxic) alternatives. But, there's nothing like letting your feathered friend indulge in a nice retail toy every now and then!
Secret #6 - Boarding can be hazardous to your bird's health
Boarding your bird when you go away can be challenging. Options may be limited and it can get pretty costly. However, take caution because many bird stores that offer boarding have no precautions or health requirements and your bird could pick up an illness from another bird boarding there. Even with a treatable illness, the vet costs are astronomical and many diseases are only preventable but not treatable. Only consider boarding at stores or vet clinics that have health testing requirements. While it may seem like a costly burden to get your bird tested to be able to board, using a facility that mandates this from every bird will help keep yours safe.
Secret #7 - Out of season parrots are "leftovers"
There are specific breeding seasons that vary by species. Although some like conures and greys will breed year round, most parrots will breed a certain time of year. If you come at the right time of year for the specific species, you will be met with the biggest selection of babies and get to choose the one for you. However, if you come out of season you may not be able to find the species you are looking for. But, if you do find the species, it may be a leftover baby that was passed over by others for one reason or another. Sometimes it is because it has a nastier personality, poor feathering, or a physical abnormality. Other times it could be nothing wrong with the bird at all and just excessive supply and insufficient demand. But whatever the reason, if you take your time and start looking for your baby in the right season, you will have the best chance of finding the one for you.
Secret #8 - Don't get a bird on the spot, plan ahead
Getting a bird from a store shouldn't be a spontaneous decision. You want to take your time and plan ahead. If you start your search early, you will be there when the new batch of baby birds arrives and you will have the best chance to get to know them and pick the one for you. You will get first "dibs" and get to choose the one you want instead of being left getting one only because it is the last one remaining. Put a deposit down early to hold your spot in the line and get first choice on the baby that is right for you.
So there's 8 bird store secrets revealed. Feel free to share your bird store secrets in the comments. And watch this video of these bird store secrets exposed at Bird Paradise:
Come out to Bird Paradise October 12/13 2019 for the Bird Paradise Parrot Palooza and come to my free presentations, book signings, and Q&A.
Although you may have seen glimpses of the various special features of my bird room throughout my videos, I have never specifically done a video that shows everything in one place until now.
I had my custom purpose built bird room put in when I moved from apartment to house. I selected the back of the house, immediately off the bedroom as the best location. This puts the birds on the quietest side of the house and furthest away from the street. Also by keeping them close to the bedroom it is actually an effective noise mitigation strategy. The parrots sleep more hours than I do so it is guaranteed that they are quiet when I am in bed. On the other hand, it puts the bedroom (and other rooms) between them and me during the day time when I might choose to spend time in the kitchen or living room without them. This places the greatest distance and most noise reduction for those kinds of times. Keeping the parrots away from the kitchen also reduces the danger of potentially toxic fumes.
While I occasionally get nasty comments about how I "just keep those parrots in the bathroom" there is only a hint of truth to that. No, they are not in a bathroom. The tile walls were deliberately built to contain the mess! However, the current cage room was formerly a stand alone bathroom and the big bird room was at some point a kitchen. I had the house plan reorganized and it made the dimensions of those kitchen and bathroom be perfect for setting up as bird rooms. However, nothing, not even the original plumbing remained when it was rebuilt entirely to become the bird room.
I had to have the electrically wiring run with outlets throughout the room to code. However, I had those lines shut off and tiled over to avoid having exposed outlets near birds or water. The only accessible power outlets are inside the closet which is closed when a bird is out unsupervised. The light switch was initially wired just inside the room by the door like a normal room but then immediately rewired to outside the room on purpose. This way there are no light switches inside the bird room. Instead, I can control the lights to both the big bird room and the adjoining cage room without setting foot inside. Further still, the lights are controlled by a timer so that the birds could maintain a more consistent schedule and receive a more natural tropical duration of daylight and darkness. This way, even if I am away from home, the birds can maintain their familiar schedule.
However, just turning the lights on/off at a specific time would not ensure that the birds are sleeping when they are supposed to. At different times of the year the sun rise would wake the birds before the lights would come on. So, I have a second timer that controls the motorized gates across both rooms windows. Thus in the early morning, although it may be light outside, it is still dark in the bird room and the birds don't go waking up the house and neighbors.
I have an outside door dividing the bird room from my bedroom because it is waterproof and provides greater isolation from drafts and noise than a regular door. The entire bird room is tiled and has a concrete floor with drain. The walls and floor can be hosed down and washed on a regular basis. Except for the cages, nothing else stands on the floor. All of the bird stands are hanging so that it is easy to wash underneath them. The bird stands hang using stainless steel cable and not chain so that the birds could not climb up the cable to the ceiling.
The bird room is divided into the main bird room and the cage room so that a bird could be left out all day while the others are in their cages. Since my birds are different sizes and can't be left out together, this is the most effective way to give them a chance to take turns enjoying the big room on their own.
There are two large sliding doors which reveal not only a closer but also a countertop and sink for washing bird bowls and bottles. Several more closets provide plenty of storage space for bird supplies. The air conditioner is covered by a custom built stainless steel cover to ensure that the bird cannot chew on the air conditioner and more importantly the wires. This also covers the dedicated thermostat. The bird room has its own heating zone so that I can keep the temperature independent and consistent for the birds. The heat comes from the floor which helps evaporate water after washing. The tiles help keep the moisture in so in the winter it is like a natural humidifier, keeping the moisture level more comfortable as well.
Here is a video tour to show you these various features of the Parrot Wizard bird room:
Now you are familiar with the layout of my bird room. Check out the whole line of Parrot Wizard trees and stands to help you create your dream bird room as well!
On October 6/7 I had the pleasure of being the headline speaker at the 2018 Bird Paradise Parrot Palooza. The Parrot Palooza is the huge annual event with the biggest sale of the year at the Bird Paradise store.
Located in Burlington New Jersey, Bird Paradise is one of the largest bird stores in the US. They have an enormous selection of toys, bird food, and supplies to choose from. The annual Parrot Palooza event is one of the biggest parrot events in the country and the world. With over 2,000 attendees coming from far and wide, it's a parrot extravaganza like no other.
In addition to headline speakers, the Parrot Palooza also features: free food, door prizes, penguine races, face painting, chinese auction, parrot shows, make your own bird toy, pumpkin carving, cage building contest, toy making contest, vendors, and huge sale. Fun for bird lovers of all ages.
Now the first time I had gone to Parrot Palooza was back in 2010 when Truman was still a baby. Back then it was a smaller event and didn't have the enormous parking lot tent. I got to meet Dr. Irene Pepperburg from the Alex Studies and attend her talks. So now, 8 years later, it was my honor and pleasure to get to fill that same role as headline speaker at the Parrot Palooza as the Parrot Wizard.
What can I say? The birds were good. Kili did all of her tricks like a champ. Truman was a chatter box as usual. Rachel was big and pretty and drew a lot of praise. All three wore their Aviator Harnesses all day long and were ambassadors for how a pet parrot should safely go outside.
Countless people asked me "how did you get that harness on them!?" or exclaimed, "my parrot would never let me stick one on it." Every time my response was, "we don't get the harness onto the parrot, they put it on themselves." When the parrot is trained how to put on the harness and wants to put it on, it looks something like this:
Truman meets a Golden Conure
Michael presenting at Parrot Palooza
Parrotsrus with Curacao
Lori with Rachel
Lori, the one who adopted Santina from me, came to the event to help us out. Rachel and Lori quickly became friends. Lori really enjoyed the Palooza and said she was "still grinning from ear to ear... Beautiful friends. Beautiful Parrots. Great time!!" She was thrilled to meet people she had been following online and mentioned, "for me, I enjoyed meeting instagram people."
It was a thrill getting to meet so many fans at the event. I signed books and chatted with parrot owners. My presentations were routine but enthusiastically watched by huge audiences. Kili helped me demonstrate how exciting trick training can be and Truman and Rachel helped illustrate how parrots can be taught to play with their toys.
All in all, it was an exciting event, great food, wonderful participants, big sales, and an all around fantastic way for people to be excited about their pet parrots. Here's a video recap of all the Parrot Palooza action:
There are so many great reasons why you need to get an Aviator Harness and start taking your parrot outside!
First of all, safety! No matter how bonded your parrot is to you, no matter how well trained it is, no matter whether its wings are clipped or not, any parrot can accidentally fly away and be lost outside. Quite likely your parrot will not be able to find its way back to you and will not be able to survive on its own. For this reason, a leash is a great safety net.
Now I certainly don't recommend using a harness as a primary means of keeping your parrot from flying away. Your bond, relationship, training, etc should always be the main reason that your parrot chooses to stay with you. The harness is merely a very unlikely backup plan just in case anything unexpected goes wrong. Think of the harness as a seat belt and not as a chain. Just because you wear a seat belt, isn't a license to drive dangerously. Instead, it is only an important line of protection in the event that something unexpectedly goes wrong. Some folks make excuses not to wear a seat belt, maybe even calling it uncomfortable, but it is the best safety catch in the event of an accident. Likewise, for your parrot's safety it is a reasonable compromise.
That said, the harness should not be a point of torture. Forcing a terrified parrot into a harness just for the purpose of taking it outside is cruel and counterproductive. The bird will be so distraught by the harness on its body that it will not have a chance to notice or enjoy the surroundings. This will also harm the parrot's relationship with you. It is better to take a parrot out in a travel cage or not at all than to mistreat it by misusing a harness. But, there is a way to teach the parrot to wear the harness voluntarily.
Parrots are very intelligent and capable learners. So if we teach them the purpose and method of putting on a harness such that they agree to wear it, then there is no problem. The most important thing that I teach my students is to ask the parrot if it agrees to wear the harness and until the parrot says yes (through its behavior), you are not to make the parrot wear it. Instead, I teach parrot owners how to use positive reinforcement and a carefully developed training regime to teach the parrot to want to wear the harness.
Watching my videos, you might get the impression that it's easy to put a harness on a parrot. And guess what? It is! On a parrot that was properly trained to wear it that is. Of course it is not easy at all to wrestle a resisting parrot into a leash and maybe impossible the next time when it knows what it is used for. However, after spending the initial effort to complete the training, they really do put the harness on easily for the rest of their lives. Realizing how long parrots can live, that's a lot of years of great harness wearing and outdoor adventures that you can have. It more than justifies the cost and effort to learn to teach your parrot to wear a harness properly.
This is just the beginning! There are so many more ways you can involve your parrot in your outdoor life and the Aviator Harness is your tool to being able to do that! Hiking in the forest, roller skating, maybe even rock climbing are just some possibilities. Get your parrot more involved in your active life.
The good news is that when you order a copy of the book and an Aviator Harness from ParrotWizard.com. the $19.99 Harness Training DVD comes free! Patiently follow the steps in the book and DVD to harness train your parrot and you can partake in outdoor Aviator Harness Adventures with your parrot for life!
So what are you waiting for? Your bird isn't going to learn to wear a harness by itself! If you want to enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle with your parrot, you have to start somewhere. You have to set yourself a goal to get the tools and start using them. Then, you have to take a deep breath and calm down. The harness training process requires patience. Patience is the quickest way to successfully teaching a bird to wear the aviator harness. Any attempt to rush this process will only set you back when the bird develops a distrust for the harness. This is where the tortoise beats the hare every time. Slowly work on following the steps you'll learn from me until the parrot is completely comfortable with the harness. And then you can scale mountains and do anything outside as long as you and your parrot are having fun!