After a long cold winter, spring has finally come. The weather is nice and getting the parrots outside is on people's minds. But for the parrots, wearing a harness is something long past. So what to do? This is where "reharness" training the parrots comes in!
My parrots all know how to put on a harness. They have all received the training to not be scared and know how to put the harness on. However, after such a winter that we didn't get to go out even once, their harness wearing skills are a bit rusty. They are less eager to put the harness on or don't quite remember how to get their heads into the collar. But all it takes is a little bit of reharness training to get them back to normal.
Out of my flock, Santina needed the most reminding and that is not surprising because she has least harness experience. After a treat or two, Kili already recalled exactly what to do. Truman, well he's a bit of a thick headed bird. In more ways than one! So he needed a little more work to help him remember how to get his big Poicephalus head through the collar. He was trying to assure me that he can get it in easily but that was for the wrong part! But with a bit of practice, he got it all sorted out as well.
The process of reharness training a parrot is quite simple. It's an expedited retrace of the steps it took for the bird to learn to wear a harness in the first place. If your parrot did not learn how to wear a harness in the first place, then there are no steps to retrace. First of all, if your parrot never wore a harness in the first place, you need to follow a procedure for teaching it in the first place. However, I am also addressing the people who managed to just get the harness on their parrot (like when it was a baby or maybe just by luck). If the steps taken to teach the parrot to wear a harness were not specific and memorable, then you have nothing to trace back on. In either case, my harness training solution is thoroughly explained between my book and harness training dvd. The book teaches you all the basic taming requisites before you can being harness training and the DVD has Santina demonstrate step by step as she learns to wear the harness for the first time. So if you have not followed this method initially, do that this time. Next time, the following reharness training steps will work for you.
Depending on how rusty the bird is will affect how much I need to go back to basics. Since none of my parrots were scared or uncomfortable with the harness, I immediately skipped the desensitization. Nothing bad ever happened with the harness or at least not since they've last worn them successfully so the good we initially established persists. All of the birds have remained tame through the winter because of continued handling so that required no work either. All they needed help with is remembering how to stick their heads in the collar and rekindling a desire to wear the harness at all.
Seeing the harness alone did not evoke a desire to put it on. However, the sight of the welcoming harness collar and a treat in my hand reminded them of the "harness trick" they had once learned to put the collar on. They quickly recalled the learning that had taken place some time ago and were back on track.
To aid with the harness retraining, I make the collar stick out in a more convenient manner so that the birds can find where to put their head. As they get better, I have them work a bit harder. Just like with all training, it has to start easy at first and then get progressively more challenging. I increase how much contact the harness makes and duration on subsequent success. If the process moves along smoothly, I move quickly. If I find any trouble spots, I slow down and work on those.
Not only has Kili been harness trained, but she has also been reharness trained so many times that it only takes flashing a treat to make her go back to putting the harness on right. This is the benefit of following reproducible procedures year after year.
When I get the birds outside for the first time of the season, I assume things will be a bit frightening so I take my time. I don't keep them out for too long at first. But it only takes a few minutes or sessions outside until things return to normal. The more years that this is repeated, the more quickly and easily it all comes back.
Three things I offer when it comes to harness training your parrot to safely go outside:
My Book - This will teach you what you need to be able to do before you can even begin harness training Harness Training DVD - Step by step procedure for harness training an already tame parrot Aviator Harness - Get your leash on sale from Parrot Wizard
This article is about giving medication to multiple parrots in a multi-parrot home. For instructions on giving medication to a single (particularly untrained) parrot, I previously wrote about giving medication to my Green-Winged Macaw.
My flock was diagnosed with Clostridium so now they all have to take medication for 21 days. Santina previously had it and received treatment but it did not stop the other birds from catching it as well. It is not clear if it is the food, environment, or other bird that is the cause. But regardless the entire flock needs to be medicated. The medication is administered orally once a day. The trouble is the duration for which it has to be given. This is a long enough of a period that the parrots must be trained to accept medication. Clever trickery may get you by a few days or a week. But anything longer and the parrot must be on board.
In most cases where a parrot requires medication in a multi-parrot home, the rest of the flock should receive the medication even if they don't show symptoms. My birds all seem to have it because they have been having smelly poop.
So on to the process of medicating a bunch of birds together. This may seem like a lot of work but actually if done right makes things a heck of a lot easier! Using modeling and a healthy dose of competition can get the birds to be more excited about doing something undesirable (like taking medication)!
I medicate the entire flock together and have turned it into a fun game for them. I have been taking advantage of each of my bird's strong points while avoiding their weaknesses in this medication process. This makes it appear to each of the other birds that the one they are watching really loves getting medication.
Kili is a super trained parrot so for her I set taking medication to be like a trick. I taught her to target the syringe, then to sip water, and finally to sip and swallow. Thus when I make the unexpected switch to real medication she just takes it. Santina is a great follower. She likes to do what the others are doing. So between the original medication sessions that I had with her modeling off of me and the recent ones of modeling from the other birds, she is doing very well. Truman is a bit of a runt and doesn't want to take medication but I've been working past that with him as well. He drinks water like a camel so I've been letting him get thirsty and then enjoy drinking a lot of water from the syringe. Because each bird appears eager to participate in the medication process (although each for different reasons) it encourages the remaining birds to cooperate and try harder. Nobody wants the competition to get more!
Here are some more elements that have made the process so successful. I practice the "medication process" with just water in the syringe twice a day although medication only comes once. For every 1 sip of medication, the birds are probably getting 40 sips of water. This makes the undesirable medication not only unpredictable but also fairly negligible in the greater scheme of getting water from the syringe. The birds get pellets as treats so this makes them more thirsty for water sips from the syringe. The pellets also soak up medication in their beaks and ensure that it is swallowed. Also I stopped providing water in the cage and have been giving it by hand only to ensure that the birds desire fluids at the necessary time. Spitting out and not receiving the medicine is far worse. So instead I let them sip some of their drinking water from the syringe and the rest they get from a bowl in my hands. This is similar to when we travel so they are perfectly used to it.
The thirstier/hungrier birds are far less picky. They used to spit out pellets that got medication on them from inside their beaks. Truman in particular would shake his head and spit out the medication. But now with this training system in place, the birds are far more cooperative. With practice, they now know the routine very well and are even more cooperative. In their competition with each other to get water and treats, they seem to forget their resistance to the medication and it is a win/win for everyone.
It is important to understand that the objective is not to simply get the medicine into the bird but to succeed in completing the entire medication process. Tricking or forcing the bird to take medication will only work a few times. In an emergency, you do what you gotta do. But if the bird is in condition to be trained, it is far far better to have a bird that wants to take medication than a bird that flies away or bites you because it knows what is coming. This is why even after the birds get the real medication, I keep practicing with them with the water. In fact, I would say they get the real medication about a quarter of the way into the session. This is when motivation is highest and it makes it least predictable as to when it will happen. Since they all come over to me when they see a syringe, I know I have succeeded in applying positive reinforcement to taking medication!
Being single with parrots isn't easy. When it comes to dating, it's kind of like being divorced with kids. People look at you funny. They don't want to inherit your feathered children problems. I think I can speak for a lot of single parrot owners that it certainly makes things difficult.
My commitment is first and foremost to my parrots. They were there for me when I was alone, when I was happy, and just the same when I was sad. My parrots are family and you can't turn your back on family. So, if you want to be my lover, you've got to love my parrots too.
Yet, finding a potential match required that she would accept my parrots but not have other pets herself. A bit selfish, but what could I do when I was already committed to my birds? I wasn't looking for someone who has parrots or even necessarily likes them, but just someone who could accept them as part of me.
The kind of person that could say “it's me or the parrot” isn't even the kind of person I could have a relationship with regardless. If someone could think that way, then what would stop them from saying “it's me or the TV” or “it's me or your family” etc. No. The way someone feels about my bird family is how they feel about me.
So here's the story of how I met my lovebird, my perfect match. The story goes back to this spring when my little rascal Truman went out on his city adventure. While Truman was lost, I got some help from a parrot loving guy called Ronen. Ronen didn't find Truman, but he helped give me spirit to go on searching after 2 hard days and he took me to the place where Truman would be found. Ronen and I became friends and began to take our parrots out together. We started the NYC Parrot Adventures Group together to invite even more parrot loving New Yorkers to join us with their birds.
I remember the first day Marianna came out to meet us in Coney Island with her Blue and Gold Macaw named Rachel. She was late and rather shy. My first reaction was of annoyance. It was a cold gloomy evening and I was just anxious to take my birds home. I had Kili and Truman with me. She was so excited to meet the celebrity birds that she just couldn't get the words out or be herself. I guess I can say at that point, I didn't even like her.
Marianna came to further parrot group outings and the first time I really noticed her was the way she handled Truman. Truman would just melt away in her hands. I caught a glimpse of her kind and loving nature. She held and caressed Truman endlessly and he would close his eyes in delight. Although Truman will tolerate anyone, he is still choosing about who he actually likes. I've been passing that feathered monkey around long enough to be able to really tell.
Like in a romantic comedy, when bumped together by others in our group (like sending us to get food), we would just stand there ignoring each other. It's easy to go on making a fool of yourself or talk about parrots to everyone else. But when it comes to talking to the pretty girl you have a crush on, you just end up looking mad because you don't know what to say. What Marianna couldn't say to my face, she told me through her love of my parrots. She communicated through them how she felt. Marianna volunteered to help me with Santina's Roar shoot and was a big help. With something specific to do together, we began talking and we began to discover how right we are for each other.
Marianna told me that she was leaving for 3 weeks on vacation and didn't even have a place arranged for her macaw to stay. She said that as a last resort she'd just board it at her local bird store. I thought about it and the next day called to let her know I'd board her bird for her! For 3 weeks, Rachel was a trained parrot! I didn't have time to teach her tricks but I focused on bonding and good behavior. Now Rachel is by no means a bad bird. She's only a 2 year old macaw so quite young. But in the last year as she has been getting older, she has begun to bite people other than her owner. I had previously worked on step-up with Rachel outdoors, so once under my influence, I had no trouble getting Rachel to step up. However, Rachel would not let me pet her head or hold her. So during the time Rachel stayed with me, I got her comfortable being pet, held, grabbed, and putting her harness on. As you can imagine, Marianna and I stayed in close contact about things while she was away. Marianna came back from her trip not only to find a tamer parrot, but also an invitation to go out on a date.
Things have really taken off ever since. Not only did it turn out we have a common interest in parrots but also just about everything else as well. It's a one of a kind match that started as something more akin to a rivalry. Now we do everything together.
What's great is that our parrots get along with each other and with both of us. All of our parrots are great with both of us. Even Kili, who has a history of terrorizing people I'd invite home, likes Marianna and asks her for head-scratches. Truman may well like Marianna better than me. Kili, sitting on my shoulder, will let Marianna hug me and be near without any jealousy (for a Senegal, that is pretty unbelievable). Santina, although she doesn't want to be touched, likes Marianna too. Santina starts dancing and talking whenever Marianna is near. Also Santina gets along well with Rachel. And Rachel gets along with me. That's our awesome parrot family.
Getting the parrots to get along with each person and each other is no coincidence. It is the culmination of years of training, the right environment, and the right approach. Marianna and I make sure to include our parrots in our lives in such a way that makes them enjoy being part of this group in harmony rather than rivalry. They all get their special attention both privately and as a group. We include the birds on outings and in our daily routines. I left a big travel cage with Marianna so that Kili or Truman can come spend a week at a time with her and get even more used to things. Our parrots' approval is probably the most important of all and it is evident that we have it.
So all you parrot singles out there, I want to introduce you to a concept called parrot mingles. Join a parrot club, volunteer at a rescue, hang around your local bird store, start a parrot outing group. Who knows maybe you or your parrot will find their match!
I just want to mention Kristine who met her boyfriend Justin while taking her Senegal Parrot Qubit to the park. She's a member of our NYC Parrot Adventures Group and is working on taming Justin to be comfortable with her birdie. Show your parrot love and maybe some day it will help you find yours as well!
I hope Santina can serve as an example and a role model in the adoption of rescue parrots. On one hand, may she show that even “second hand” birds are worthy of care and love. But on the other hand, she serves to show what a training minded approach can achieve. Without teaching her a single “trick,” I have been able to tame Santina and build a relationship as well as the cooperation that is necessary to be able to keep this pet.
Kili came from a store, Truman from a breeder, and Santina from a rescue. Not only do I frequently speak to owners of parrots from these differing sources but even my own birds come from each. So I know what these are all like. Ultimately what I have found is that it doesn't matter where you get your parrot, what matters is what you do with it.
The myth that you have to get a parrot as a baby so that it would like you is downright untrue. All you have to do is visit a rescue to see all the adolescent parrots that were relinquished because the owner couldn't get along with it. This has nothing to do with the bird and all to do with the owner not taking the time to teach, train, and take proper care. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who have adopted parrots from rescues and had tremendous success with parrots that even as babies couldn't develop a relationship with their owner. What this goes to show is that it is not about age or source but what you can do with the bird.
The best reason to adopt a parrot from a rescue is not out of sympathy. Many rescues and people will try to convince you that you should adopt/rescue because you feel bad for the bird. The problem with this approach is that it is very shortsighted. At first, there certainly is the temptation to save a living creature from a bad situation. But in the long term this will wear off and there will be infinitely more parrots that need rescuing. So while compassion should play a role, it is not a good reason to adopt.
In reality, the best reason to adopt a parrot is because you and the bird will have the freedom of choice. Unlike the arranged marriage of “buying a baby” - where the grown adult personality is not yet known – when you visit and mutually choose an adult parrot, what you see is what you get. Adoption allows you to see the adult parrot as it is and likely will remain (at least in general, a lot of behavior can be shaped with training but personality won't change). If you like the parrot and the parrot likes you, you've really got a good shot with this bird. On the other hand, a baby's allegiance may drift with time as it matures.
Having one of each, a parrot from a store, breeder, and rescue, I have come to realize that it makes far less difference where you get the bird from and that it all comes down to the training and relationship you develop. Thus I encourage anyone looking for their first or another parrot to consider adopting. Check out my book to learn about my complete parrot owning approach that has worked on all three of my parrots regardless of their source.
To promote rescue and awareness of how wonderful rescue birds can be, I made this video. I hope you enjoy and share it with everyone you know. It is not only important that people know that there are rescue birds that need help/adoption but also that they can become absolutely wonderful pets and deserve a chance.
Here is your chance to help a rescue parrot find its roar. To help the rescue cause and get the word out there, I am running a contest along with this video. Simply nominate your favorite rescues in the video comments (on youtube). When the video exceeds one million views, I will be holding a random drawing to select a rescue from the comments to receive $1,000.00. There will also be a second and third prize of wizard merchandise for rescues as well. Second prize is 3x 25lb bags Roudybush pellets (small, medium, and large). Third prize is a Parrot Wizard Gift Set.
I also have some prizes for participants as well! Another set of drawings will take place along with the rescue drawing. Viewers who nominate rescues will be eligible for a first prize of a Parrot Training Perch Kit, second prize Parrot Wizard Gift Set, third prize a signed copy of the Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots.
Briefly, here are the contest conditions. Viewers can nominate as many parrot rescues as they would like in the video comments, one comment per rescue. First put the name of the rescue and then below you are welcome to talk a little about the rescue. What you say about the rescue won't affect its chances of winning but may help encourage other readers to donate or rescue from there. Please no spamming. Genuine nomination of many rescues is encouraged but if you post the same rescue over and over again, youtube will automatically block it as spam. Only US based Parrot rescues are eligible for the contest. For the cash prize, only a 501c3 non-profit rescue is eligible. For the other prizes, they only need to be a verifiable parrot rescue that accepts donations and adopts out parrots (even if unofficially). Random drawings will be held consecutively until an eligible winner is drawn. For the participant prizes, the participant simply needs to nominate an eligible rescue for their comment to count as a raffle ticket toward the random prize drawings. Free-shipping to US based participants only. Participants from outside the US are welcome to receive their prize if they pay the international shipping costs. When Santina's video roars for the millionth view, the drawings will be held to celebrate so much exposure for parrot rescue.
Nominated rescues will be added to a list at the back of the video and on this page to help viewers learn about all the local adoption options and where to donate! Help rescues win, and I'm not talking just about prizes but about awareness and donations, by sharing and spreading the word.
Watch Santina's Roar video and then help another rescue parrot find its roar by:
1) Comment, Like, and Share Santina's Roar Video 2) Donate to a parrot rescue 3) Adopt a rescue parrot