Posted by Beth Anne Quinlan, PhD Avian Sciences on 2/20/2021 to Companion Birds
...and what to do instead.
Careful interactions during the first, formative weeks of ownership are a great way to enjoy your new bird without resulting in bad habits that can result in rehoming.
And a healthy, life-long relationship with your bird is what you want, right?
Great! So here are three common mistakes new bird owners make and how you can easily avoid them.
3 Harmful Mistakes Bird Owners Make with their New Birds
New Bird Ownership Mistake #1: Responding to Screaming.
I know you think it's obnoxious. Especially if you're on the phone. But birds respond strongly to negative reinforcement.
Yelling at your bird will encourage him to scream, and worse, your bird may repeat what you're yelling. One of my close friends has a macaw that screams, "Stop it!" every time she wants attention. I can only imagine what the neighbors think when they hear blood-curdling screams followed by "Stop it!"
Covering your bird in response to screaming means that you come close to his cage each time he screams--so if he was screaming to get attention, that's even worse--you just rewarded him and he'll do it again!
All birds make noise at sun-up and sun-down. Accept that. Ignore it. It typically will last no more than 15 minutes. By ignoring it, your bird will discover that screaming doesn't get your attention and the undesirable behavior will cease.
New Bird Ownership Mistake #2: Spending too much time with your new bird.
What? You can spend too much time loving your bird? What you do in the first days of your relationship will be expected until your bird passes. Many of our birds will outlive us.
Your bird will probably enjoy the first days when everything you do is about your bird. Five hours of play time, spread throughout the day doesn't seem like much when you have the excitement of a new bird. Twenty years from now, it will seem like an eternity. Every day. Even holidays. Without vacation. Ugh!
Instead, think about what you anticipate your life to be like twenty years from now. Do you think you will be want your new bird to have a place at the kitchen table when your grandchildren are eating? I'm guessing not. Do you think you will watch the news (or other TV show) for an hour each evening? Do you think that time could include playing with your bird? If so, start that routine. If not, think about how often and how long you expect to play with your bird each and every day until you (or your bird) leave the earth. That's the habit you should be starting.
New Bird Ownership Mistake #3: Over-treating your new companion.
From tiny birds, such as parakeets and finches, to the largest macaws, all birds enjoy a treat! And since most birds are food-motivated, providing a tasty morsel such as a sunflower seed, can be highly motivational--especially during the critical early days of your relationship. But sunflower seeds (and many other treats) are high in fat and can result in fatal fatty liver disease. Many species, especially Pionus, Amazons and Cockatiels, are highly-prone to this avoidable disease.
A lot of other, healthier, foods are considered treats to birds (don't pre-judge, your bird has different tastes). Try grapes, squash, hot peppers, and other fruits and veggies as rewards. Budgies and cockatiels enjoy leafy greens that are moistened with cool water. Other birds, such as cockatoos, can be rewarded with head scritches. Consider cutting almonds and other larger treats into tiny morsels. Once your bird has the hang of a desirable behavior, provide the treat only once he has correctly responded more than once.
I have a surprise for you!
Super New Bird Ownership Bonus Tip: Most birds thrive best when they have a separate play area. Get started now by clicking here and discovering how mental stimulation can help prevent a multitude of bad habits.