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Birds Off the Perch

Therapy and Training for Your Pet Bird

About The Book

You love your pet bird, even when he misbehaves, but how can you train him with compassion? Birds off the Perch proves that rewarding good behavior is kinder and more effective than traditional discipline through punishment. This revolutionary approach combines the expertise of an animal behaviorist, a companion parrot consultant and a veterinarian who use "family therapy techniques" -- such as learning to respect the bird's boundaries and viewing sibling rivalry in a broad, environmental context -- to help you change the mischievous behavior of domesticated birds, including:
• Biting or aggression • Screaming • Sibling/bird rivalry
• Jealousy toward its human flock members, and • Feather plucking

With additional chapters on choosing the right species for your family, breeding behavior and the appropriate medical care for your bird, Birds off the Perch is the only guide you'll need to keep your pet birds healthy and happy.


Chapter One

Birds of a Feather Fly Together

Picking the Right Bird for You

So live that you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip. -- WILL ROGERS

So you're thinking of getting a companion bird? Or you're adding to your flock? It makes a difference in your happiness if you are living with a species of bird compatible with your lifestyle and personality. In addition to examining the family system, you should also consider your individual personality type and your pet bird's natural temperament. But a word of warning before we do this: Any individual bird may differ from the temperament generaliza- tions customarily assigned to its species as a group. The following descriptions that we provide are merely to serve as pointers, a place to start if you are considering what kind of bird to get.

Matching Your Personality with the Right Bird

In both of his earlier books, Dogs on the Couch and Cats on the Counter, Dr. Larry emphasized the importance of matching your personality style with the right breed of dog or cat. The same applies to selecting the bird species best suited for you and your family.

Dr. Larry uses the concepts of "personality types" developed by analytic psychologist Dr. Carl Jung, who once served as a protégé of Sigmund Freud, along with two personality tests designed to assess these personality types: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter Test. Using these concepts and tests, Dr. Larry describes four "base" temperament types for people. You can be an "SP" type (Sensation/Perceiving), who needs to be free to act on impulse and yearns for action and fun. You can be an "SJ" type (Sensation/Judging), who needs to be useful to society, to belong and be appreciated by your social group for doing hard work. You can be an "NT" type (Intuitive/Thinking), who needs to be in control, likes organization, and seeks competence. Or you can be an "NF" type (Intuitive/Feeling), who needs to be in the moment, to be authentic, and has to "feel" things out first. By taking either the Myers-Briggs or the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (, you can come up with your "base" type and then know what personality temperament you are and match the right species of bird to that temperament style.

In addition, some species of pet birds also demonstrate SP, SJ, NT or NF-like characteristics (see the following chapter for more details). Assessing both your own personality temperament and the temperament of your prospective pet bird is an important preventive measure against ending up with a severe mismatch, which can lead to a serious
behavior problem and/or having to adopt out your fine feathered friend.

The Most Popular Companion Bird

Despite the allure of the largest parrots, in reality it is a few species of small birds that are most commonly kept as pets in the U.S. These include cockatiels, budgies, lovebirds, canaries, zebra finches and doves. Cockatiels, the "NFs" of the bird world, are small, crested parrots originally native to Australia. They are related to the much larger cockatoos and have characteristics that many people look for in a companion parrot. Cockatiels deserve their popularity. They like to be held and scratched, and are extremely interactive with their owners. Cockatiels stay tame and friendly throughout their lives, with a life expectancy as long as twenty-five years. Cockatiels make good companions for people of many ages. They can entertain themselves when they belong to a person who works outside the home, they are generally gentle enough for responsible children to handle, and they are outstanding companions to both students and the elderly. Cockatiels have been in captivity for about 150 years, long enough to develop many pleasing color mutations. They are also a small bird, with a smaller price tag than many parrot species, and space requirements that can be met by most households.

Budgerigars, popularly known as "budgies," the "SPs" among pet birds, are often considered children's pets. They blossom under the tutelage of an adult, so don't discount the satisfaction available from working with a gregarious budgie. Male budgies can develop the largest vocabularies of any parrot species. One budgie mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records acquired a vocabulary of more than 1,700 words by the time he was four years old. Budgies vocalize in a fast, high-pitched voice. It's not uncommon for someone to have a talking budgie without knowing it. Be alert to your budgie's vocalizations! Budgies come in a fantastic variety of colors and color combinations. Generally, males are friendlier than females when kept as pets. Budgies don't like to sit and be petted or cuddled, but will learn to perch readily on a finger and to accept other restraint and handling. Budgies like to be with their human companion and can be trained to stay on a play perch or shoulder as you go about activities. Budgies can live ten to twelve years, though many die by the time they are four years old. Budgies are prone to cancer, and that has shortened their life expectancy.

Lovebirds have a pugnacious personality. Lovebirds make good companion birds if obtained as a hand-fed baby, then handled on a regular basis. They love to tunnel and burrow into things, like pockets or T-shirts. Female peach-faced lovebirds have an endearing habit of tucking sticks or leaves into their rump feathers to use to make nests. There are three species of lovebirds commonly available, with many mutation colors in each species: peach-faced lovebirds, Fischer's lovebirds, and masked lovebirds. The peachfaced lovebirds are most often kept as pets. Despite their reputation, you shouldn't keep lovebirds with others of their own or different species. They can be nasty cage mates for another bird, but loving individual people companions.

Canaries, finches, and doves are quiet, hands-off pets. They should be provided with an enclosure with room to fly and a proper diet for their species, but they don't require the same amount of socialization as many parrot species. Canaries have been in captivity for about 500 years. There actually are "breeds" of canaries. You shouldn't expect that every canary will be a yellow Tweety bird. Canaries come in colors from sparrow brown to bright red, and with types from trim singers to elongated living feather dusters. If you want a singing canary, you will want to choose a male and keep him by himself. Usually the best time of year to find a canary is in the fall, when breeders are picking out which youngsters to keep for the next year and which need to find new homes. Canaries actually learn new songs every spring, so offer your male canary plenty of music and birdsong.

There are many types and colors of finches, with price tags that also vary. Do your homework about the finch species you choose to keep. Some need live food in their diet, or commonly lay their eggs in another species' nest and so should be housed with a separate species. The type of nest or sleeping quarters they require will vary, so you should learn all you can before setting up a cage of finches. Most finches are kept in pairs or colonies. Both zebra finches and society finches are common, hardy species.

Doves or pigeons have much to recommend them as gentle pets. They don't bite and they do make a lovely "cooing" sound. Most often, doves are kept in aviaries, but small diamond doves or a single ring-necked dove could be kept in a cage and socialized as a pet. There are myriad dove and pigeon breeds. Some tumble in the sky, homing pigeons are trained to race long distances, and there are pigeons with outlandish coloring and feathering.

What Did You Say?

People are drawn to birds because of their ability to use our language. Though most parrot species have the potential for learning to speak, some are more likely to pick up human language. The bird species most likely to talk include the African grey parrot (the "NTs" of the parrot world), Timneh African grey, yellow-naped Amazon, double yellow-headed Amazon, eclectus parrots (the "SJs" of the bird world), blue and gold macaw (one of the "SP" temperament species of the bird world), lories, ringnecked parakeets and some conures (also "SPs" of the bird world). A few non-parrot species are also good talkers. These include the mynah, crow and starling.

With somber grey feathers, a prominent patch of white facial skin and a flash of bright red only in their tail feathers, African grey parrots and Timneh African grey parrots are not highly colored. They are renowned, however, for their ability to accurately mimic sounds and voices. An African grey parrot not only learns words and phrases, but can learn to imitate different voices. Occasionally, a companion grey may not learn to talk at all. Our high expectations for greys come from the results of intelligence research by Dr. Irene Pepperberg with Alex the African grey. Alex has learned to name the shape and material of objects, as well as to voice comparisons such as same and different. As a companion, African greys are not always cuddly, but they are intelligent and companionable. Their natural calls are clicks and whistles, which earn a grey the label of a "quiet" parrot. Of course, if a grey learns a cockatiel call or even a canary trill, it will come out at a big greysized volume and you'll rethink the "quiet" designation.

An African grey parrot or Timneh can live for fifty years, perhaps more. The grey is an intelligent and sensitive species. They need intellectual stimulation and companionship. A grey who does not receive socialization and stimulation may well turn to feather-plucking out of boredom or anxiety. Greys are susceptible to Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease, especially in the first three years of his life. Talk to your veterinarian about prevention of this fatal disease in your pet. Both male and female African grey parrots can talk and can be good companion birds. These birds do not have external signs of their sex; to know a male from a female will require a DNA blood test or surgical sexing.

Many of the large Amazon species speak clearly. Yellow-naped and double yellow-headed Amazon parrots are every pirate's fantasy bird. They are stocky, short-tailed, predominantly green birds. They often have large, loud and hilarious vocabularies. The double yellow-headed Amazon gains a yellow head as it matures, with markings varying widely among individuals. The yellow-naped Amazon is an even larger bird, usually with a tick of yellow at the back of the neck.

Amazons are not dependent on their human companions. They're independent and capable of entertaining themselves. Both sexes of these species are talented talkers, because they are naturally verbal birds. In fact, these are large birds with large voices. Keep that in mind in case you're considering an Amazon. Amazon parrots have gained a reputation as nippy birds that bite without warning. Those who know them best learn to read their body language, and also learn not to try to handle an excited Amazon. Some warning signals are flashing eyes or a wide-spread tail and stiff movements. Setting strict limits for your Amazon is also helpful. These birds are intelligent and need guidance.

Since our companion birds cannot be neutered, most do exhibit some sexual behavior. Amazon parrots are famous for being "hormonal" in the spring, and it is at that time they are particularly difficult to handle. They are also vocal in these seasonal periods. These episodes are most severe when the bird is five to twelve years old. Hang in there, and you'll have many calmer years with a bird who will live to be fifty or more years old. Because of the discipline required to work with an Amazon parrot, and the subtlety involved in reading their "I'm gonna bite" behavior, this is not a good species to choose for families with children.

Both species are among the commonly smuggled species, as they come to us from Central and South America as well as Mexico. Buy your yellow-naped or double yellow-headed Amazon from a reputable breeder. If one of these Amazons is offered to you at a price that's too low to believe, look elsewhere. It is not worth supporting bird smuggling and the parrot abuse associated with it.

Eclectus parrots can be incredibly talented talkers. The male birds are predominantly green, and the females are predominantly red. They make striking couples. Since the sex of most parrots is not evident, this is a plus for the eclectus and makes naming them easier. Eclectus are low-key, quiet parrots. Both sexes can talk, though there is no guarantee that that an eclectus will talk. Eclectus who do talk are adept at learning words, phrases and songs, and speak almost as clearly as an African grey parrot. An eclectus doesn't demand a lot of an owner's attention to be happy, a positive characteristic in busy homes. There are four species of eclectus parrots available in the U.S. They vary somewhat in coloration and size, but are kept equally well as companion birds. All of the eclectus are large parrots and require an appropriately sized cage and play area, along with a supply of chewable toys, and interesting toys and experiences to stimulate their intellect. Eclectus are bright birds, but that's not always a person's first impression. They are deliberate in their movements. When you ask an eclectus to step "up" on your hand, he will think about it for a while, then slowly react. This is not a bird for an impatient owner. Eclectus have bright, iridescent feathering that is almost fur-like and they need to bathe frequently. An eclectus owner should discuss their diet thoroughly with an eclectus expert before taking on their care and feeding. They don't respond to formulated diets as well as other parrots, and will need a lot of fresh foods in their diet.

Lories are bright, brightly colored and intelligent companion parrots. They have special dietary and caging needs, as most species of lories eat nectar and fruit, thus producing loose squirts for droppings. Likewise, softbill talkers such as the mynah, crow and starling have special dietary and caging needs appropriate to the species. It is illegal to keep our native crows as pet birds, but there are non-native species that can be kept and trained to talk. Starlings live in the wild in the U.S., but are an introduced species and so can be brought up as a cage bird and trained to talk. The ring-necked parakeet and many talking conure species, such as the blue-crowned conure, are affordable for more people than larger parrots. Like most parakeets, the ring-necked parakeet is not cuddly or affectionate as a pet, but can learn to speak very clearly. Talkative birds are verbal birds, so keep in mind that none of these species are recommended for the urban or apartment dweller.

Velcro Birds Love Cuddling

Many a companion bird owner has been smitten by the loving, cuddly quality of an umbrella cockatoo. These, along with another large white cockatoo, the Moluccan (the "NFs" of the bird world), are also those most frequently turned in to parrot adoption and rescue centers. If you're at all interested in a cockatoo, do a lot of reading about the species and learn how to acclimate your bird to living with your family. Learn about avian adolescence, so that you can get through it with your companion without adding to parrot rescue statistics.

Umbrella cockatoos are large white cockatoos with an impressive crest, which they can raise when startled or alarmed. The underside of their wings and tail is lemon yellow. They can raise most of the feathers on their body, and will do so in an aggressive stance, or if you design a dancing play activity with one. Cockatoos like to posture when they play, making wild head and wing movements, bouncing and pacing and acting crazy. They're good companions for actors and dancers. Like all of the cockatoos, including cockatiels, umbrella cockatoos produce down feathers that disintegrate into powder. If you have allergies or respiratory problems, this is not the bird for you. Umbrella cockatoos can live to be eighty years old. There is a commitment involved in obtaining an umbrella cockatoo who needs to be provided for past your own lifetime. Umbrella cockatoos are indeed cuddlers, accepting endless amounts of cuddling and handling. Most people don't have endless amounts of time to spend doing this, so an umbrella cockatoo should also be taught to entertain herself.

The Moluccan is a majestic cockatoo. The Moluccan is large and white. If fed a diet high in vitamin A, a Moluccan approaches a light peach in coloration. Their crest is salmon-colored and can be lifted in an impressive display. Occasionally, a Moluccan will learn to speak in a small, soft voice. Male cockatoos can become vocal, aggressive and demanding as they reach maturity. They are one of the parrots most frequently turned in to adoption centers.

In breeding situations, aggressive males may injure their mates, so some arrive via this route as well. The sad thing is that the Moluccan cockatoo is an endangered species. We should think carefully about how we are managing our important population of these parrots. A Moluccan cockatoo may live to be eighty or older. They are more sensitive and more demanding than an umbrella cockatoo. They're larger birds as well. A Moluccan cockatoo may feather pick after changes in a household. They are susceptible to Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). Moluccans can develop incessant screaming behaviors. Their larger frame produces louder vocalizations than those of an umbrella cockatoo. This is not the bird for everyone. They need behavioral guidance, a prudent amount of cuddling and a great understanding of cockatoo behavior.

Cockatoos are high-strung, sensitive and manipulative birds. A cockatoo naturally has morning and evening periods of boisterous glad-to-be-alive screaming. This is at a decibel level that can rattle walls and numb eardrums. You do not want to raise a cockatoo who becomes a problem screamer. Cockatoos can be picky eaters. If you're searching for a young cockatoo, find one that has been weaned to a variety of foods and continue to offer your companion a banquet of foods. Cockatoos are notorious for developing feather-picking and screaming behavior problems. They are susceptible to the fatal Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease, so you should talk to your veterinarian about testing for and preventing this disease in your companion bird.

Pint-Sized Birds

Parrots come in all shapes and sizes. Senegals, Meyer's and brown-headed parrots are small but colorful, and quiet enough to live in an apartment. Parrotlets are the size of a thumb. Greencheeked conures delight many owners.

The Senegals, Meyer's and brown-headed parrots are from the family of small African parrots called the poicephalus. Senegals are the best known and most widely available members of their family. Hand-fed Senegal parrots make outstanding parrot companions. They are small-sized compact parrots with short tails. Senegals are mostly green, with grey heads and improbably bright yellow or orange markings on their chest that make them look like they're dressed in fashionable vests. Though a Senegal, Meyer's or brownheaded parrot, like any parrot, can have behavioral screaming problems, they most often use soft vocalizations. Occasionally a Senegal parrot will learn to talk in a squeaky mechanical voice and they can be taught trick behaviors as well. The Senegal is a suitable choice for an apartment parrot. All parrots go through a sort of "teething" stage just after they wean. Parrots don't have teeth, so they don't teethe. Just after weaning, however, they nibble on everything. They test the boundaries of teething on human fingers, furniture and all types of food. The Senegal especially needs consistent, gentle behavior training at this stage. Then you'll have a wonderful companion for thirty or more years to come.

Parrotlets are feisty and don't know that they're the size of Tom Thumb. As diminutive parrots, they are easy to house. Expect to spend plenty of time working with that big parrot personality though!

Many conures are loud and gregarious, but a few are smaller, quieter birds such as the green-cheeked conure. These cockatielsized birds are little clowns like their cousins and are attractively marked. They like being in pockets, will play on their backs and can learn to speak.

Breathtaking Birds

One of the things that attracts people to birds is their striking coloration. Some outstanding examples in the bird world include the sun conure, the large macaws, such as the blue and gold macaw, scarlet macaw and green-winged macaw, eclectus parrots and the lories.

The sun conure is a gorgeous bird with a loud, raucous call. Anyone who sees an adult sun conure for the first time finds it hard to forget this bright yellow bird with orange trim and green wing feathers. Anyone who is seriously considering sharing their abode with a sun conure should spend some time listening to the vocalizations this species can produce. They have a strident call. This is an appropriate bird for a family who has no close neighbors, those with deaf neighbors and those who love their bird so much they can overlook its call. A sun conure is a medium-sized bird with a long tail. They're playful and will enjoy being handled. Conures love to be placed on their back and love to crawl in things. Conures have a sense of humor and affection for their owner. The conures and macaws are probably closely related species, with similar personality traits. If you are attracted to the gaudily colorful but much larger macaws, a conure is a good choice. A conure companion will share your life for up to forty years. They are not demanding birds. A conure will entertain himself while you're at work. He'll like some scratches and affection, and plenty of play, but will usually not become neurotic about changes in his environment.

The blue and gold macaw is a stunning clown of a bird who may also talk well. The blue and gold macaw is a striking bird, with iridescent turquoise feathers and a bright gold chest. You can probably guess that this huge macaw has a huge voice. If you choose to have a macaw in your life, everything about keeping him will be huge. Can you provide a bird with a five-foot wingspan adequate space to exercise? A macaw nibbles on trees for entertainment. Can you provide adequate material for that? Take time to learn about macaws before you invest in one. They are adapted to a low protein, high fat diet and their care requires the purchase of large quantities of nuts. Yes, this is the kind of bird who can crack a Brazil nut with his beak.

The green-winged macaw is a very large bird and quite gentle, though not widely available. The green-winged macaw is deep red, with a light colored upper beak and distinct feathers on its area of facial skin. The scarlet macaw has a reputation for being nippy as a companion parrot, but is indescribably beautiful. It is bright red, with a band of yellow on its wings and no apparent feathers on its bare facial patch. The hyacinth macaw is very endangered in the wild. It is the largest of the macaws, with the loudest voice. Hyacinths are known as the "gentle giants" for their even temperaments. Macaws are intelligent, interesting companions, but socializing them at a young age is important. A macaw loves to play and wrestle. They have a sense of humor, and the blue and gold macaw can often talk quite well. A macaw's normal method of testing a new acquaintance and at times his owner is called "bluffing." The bird comes rushing at the person, formidable beak extended and threatening to bite. This is bluffing because the macaw doesn't intend to bite at all. It is quite a show, however. If a person gives way, the macaw loves to play the game over and over. As a macaw owner, you'll have to learn to work with this behavior and to establish good behavior guidelines while your bird is young. Macaws become sexually mature at about five years of age and can live to be seventy-five years old. A macaw is a large, long-term investment and should be considered carefully. This is not the right
bird for most home situations.

Long-Lived Birds

Some of the longer living birds include the large cockatoos and large macaws. Zoos have documented cockatoos that have lived into their eighties. A Moluccan cockatoo at the San Diego Zoo was at least eighty years old when he died. Since he had been caught in the wild, his exact age was unknown. A Leadbeater's cockatoo at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo is the only animal left from their original collection -- he's now in his sixties. Macaws have a prospective lifespan of seventy-five years, and the Amazons live to their forties and fifties. With the longevity of parrots comes the responsibility of providing for your companion beyond your own death. If you have a long-lived species of parrot as a companion, consider ensuring that the bird makes friends among your acquaintances, and that it is clear to your friends and family where your bird should go when you can no longer care for him.

Though the cockatoos, macaws and Amazons can be longlived, they may also succumb at earlier-than-expected ages to many ailments. These include ailments linked to obesity and stress as well as household accidents.

The Secret Pet Bird

There are many species of birds that are not common companion birds, but which make excellent pets. It's too bad they aren't more popular. Though little known as companions, parrots of the pionus species have a lot to recommend them. They are mediumsized parrots who are sturdily built like an Amazon, but have very quiet, mellow personalities. All of the pionus have a prominent eye ring and a triangular patch of red feathers under their tails. The Maximillian pionus can be a good talker, while the smaller bronze-winged and blue-headed pionus are more subdued companions. Two Amazon species to consider as steady, happy family companions are the orange-winged and the lilac-crowned Amazons. They are medium-sized parrots with even temperaments. The Timneh grey is just as talented at talking as his bigger cousin, the Congo African grey. A Timneh's top beak is horn-colored and his tail is maroon instead of the bright red of a Congo's tail. If cockatoos are attractive to you but you'd like a parrot who is lower maintenance than an umbrella or Moluccan cockatoo, consider the small Goffin's cockatoo. Goffin's are lively companions that fit into many families.

If you're considering a conure, meet a few blue-crowned conures. They're often personable, talkative birds. Though not the stunning sunny yellow of the sun conure, they are still attractive and their decibel level is slightly (I said slightly) lower. In fact, if you're thinking that a macaw should join your family, you'll find the same personality in a conure or a mini macaw, without the necessity to build a rain-forest habitat on your property. The mini macaws include the yellow-collared macaw and severe macaw as well as the diminutive, conure-sized Hahn's macaw. As you read about the socialization characteristics of parrots, as well as their vocal abilities, are you a little intimidated? Hands-off birds such as canaries or finches can provide you with companionship. Their care is different from that of parrots. Be sure to learn how to care for the species you choose. Finally, if you can't stand the thought of ever being bitten by your companion animal, consider a dove as a companion bird!

Bringing Birdie Home:
Things to Prepare

Once you've made that all-important decision about what species of bird to adopt, you'll want to make your new bird's arrival as smooth as possible. Bringing a playful, passionate bird into your family will cause disruption as well as excitement (affecting the entire family system, as described earlier). Your bird will look like an adult, even if he is a youngster. He will have attained his full size and feathering before he comes to your house. His mannerisms will still be those of a baby, however, and he'll still be learning things.

If you bring an older bird into your home, he will be adjusting to a new "flock" at your house and will start learning your flock's language and schedule. If he's learned manipulative behaviors, he may try those out with your family. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Education first. Learn all you can about your new bird from his breeder, the pet store where you find him, or his former family. Your first concern in moving your bird to join your
family is keeping his stress to a minimum. You can do this by offering your bird a diet with which he is familiar, similar waking hours (maintaining that "stable-sameness" that birds, dogs and cats seek) and by saying comforting and familiar words to him. You'll develop your own routine for care and for playing, over time. If you adopt a bird who had a previous owner, using his familiar cage and cage cover for the first month or so will help him make the adjustment.

Taking precautions. If you already have avian members in your household, the first month to six weeks for a new bird should be a quarantine period. As prey animals, birds do not show outward signs of illness. Doing so would make them vulnerable to attack in the wild. You certainly don't want to pass on any illness your new bird may have to the existing birds in your household. During quarantine, take your new bird to an avian veterinarian for a "well-bird check" (see Chapter 2 for more details). Talk to your veterinarian about what tests are appropriate for the species and age of bird you have acquired. Quarantine should take place in a room that is separate from your other pet birds. For many people, this is a spare room or a bathroom. During quarantine, you should care for your new bird as though it has an infectious disease. Care for it last and do not wear the same footwear around both sets of birds. Be observant of the new bird's behavior. Definitely wash your hands after caring for the quarantined bird. Consider wearing a smock or garment to cover your clothes in the quarantine area.

Meeting the family. After the quarantine is over, a new bird can then meet the other birds and get better acquainted with his new "human flock." Let birds eye each other from their own cages at first. Don't ever move a new bird into the cage of an established bird! A cage is a bird's haven and its own territory, so it is better for birds and other companion animals to meet each other in neutral territory, outside of their own cage. Monitor the interactions of birds with dogs and cats closely. If your predatory dog or cat is hunting your bird, you may have to keep the animals separated for safety reasons.

Building trust. Spend time building trust. If your new bird is shy, then offer him treats as you go by his cage to make friends. If there are many people in your family, have each of them offer treats so that a relationship is established with the whole flock of people in the household.

Trick training to establish rapport. (See Part 3 for more details on this.) One of the behaviors you can do with your new bird, if he will step on your hand, is to take him throughout the house. Get him used to each room and to changes in scenery. After a few hours, or days or months, depending on the tameness of the bird you have acquired, you can start working on training the "up" command, or trick training, and taking your bird into the shower with you. All members of the family should learn how to ask your bird to step up. If you have any indication that your bird may occasionally be aggressive, or that a member of the family is afraid of the bird, then teach your bird to step "up" onto a stick while you're working on useful commands.


Your most important goal in introducing a new pet to your home should be to make your new bird feel like a member of the family system. Include him in appropriate activities. Teach him to be quiet, to play and to accept cuddling. Give him what he needs, including a clean environment, healthy food, exercise and appropriate behavioral guidelines. Birds are very vocal and visual animals, so it's natural and beneficial to interact with them in vocal and visual ways. Early on, establish a "contact" call between your bird and the rest of the family (see Chapter 13) by calling out and talking to him as you travel throughout the house so he knows where you and the rest of his flock are at any given moment.

During this "getting-to-know-each-other period," take the time to read all you can about your bird's species and behavior in general. This book should go a long way in helping you do this. And you'll recognize that you and your "flock," or family system, are in for a long and wonderful adventure with your pet bird. By reading the chapters in this book and implementing what's relevant to you and your pet bird, both of you will be off to a very good start -- the start of a fruitful and fulfilling relationship with your family animal. Congratulations!

Copyright © 2003 by Larry Lachman

About The Authors

Larry Lachman, PsyD, is an animal behavior consultant specializing in dog, cat, and pet bird behavior. He was the Social Cat Columnist for Cat Fancy and lives in Monterey, California.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Touchstone (March 18, 2003)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743227049

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