17 Aug How To Prevent Your Parrot Chewing Up Your Home
We have all been there. You walk into a room (when you left it was clean, tidy, and nothing was destroyed) only to discover that since you last visited, new beak holes have appeared in the woodwork, papers have been chewed, and your possessions scattered. Then you spot “the destroyer” – the parrot, and you are annoyed. You shout at him, “You’re a bad boy!”, as you stomp around the room to tidy up again. You look up, and there he is – making a mess again. So, you return him to his cage, and go on line for some advice….or you read some of the very outdated advice given in many parrot books. Here are some bits of advice that you will undoubtedly read in various sources – along with an explanation of why they don’t work, and examples of alternative ways to address the issues.
1) “Give the parrot a ‘time out’ so he will know that destroying your room was naughty. Punishing him each time he commits the crime will decrease the chances that he will destroy the room.” Right? Wrong.
Behaviourists know that from start to finish, this argument is flawed. If confinement worked, it would work on human prisoners who often leave prison and re-offend. If “time out” was an effective punisher, then you should only have to do it the once – not repeatedly. I have yet to hear of the person who used time-out once, and once only. What is more likely to happen is that the parrot will begin to resent his cage – and you for putting him back in it. Thus, he will learn to bite you in order to stop you from returning him to his cage.
2) “Clip his wings.” Seriously – I have read this gem of advice on many parrot forums. The idea behind this is that if he cant fly, then he can’t fly from place to place and destroy your items. Right? Wrong.
Parrots were designed to fly and they fly for a reason – not the least of which is to escape something that may cause them injury, or when they are startled. Taking away their ability to fly will increase their fear and apprehension.
3) “Use a play stand, and only allow the parrot to be on this play stand. Tethering and/or clipping their wings should also help with this.” Right? Wrong.
Parrots were designed to explore their environment – to investigate, and, yes – chew up their environment! A play stand – even the most elaborate – is a poor alternative. Lack of appropriate exercise is a bigger killer to captive parrots than inappropriate food (not that junk food is all that great, either).
4) “Have a designated bird room.” Right? You guessed it. Wrong (again).
This sounds like a great idea. In theory, if all that mess is contained in one area, the rest of your house can then look like a… well, like a home with no parrots. It doesn’t matter how large room this new bird room is, it is still a large caged area to the parrot. Parrots are flock creatures who really enjoy being in the centre of family life – in other words, where you are. They rarely do well in bird rooms, either on their own, or with other parrots.
SO, HOW DO YOU PREVENT THEM FROM CHEWING UP YOUR HOME?
– Just as you would with a human toddler, you must supervise them at all times when they are out of their cage.
– Provide multiple play stations for them to seek out and explore.
– Develop a sense of humour. You will need this in abundance when you live with a parrot. Recently, the majority of my house was re-painted and repaired following a fire. It was perfect – really, it was – FOR TWO WHOLE HOURS! (I have pictures of this perfection that I took during those two hours I had to appreciate and enjoy it.) Now there are beak marks on the wood work again. Yes, back to normal – normal for a home shared by humans and parrots.
– Before you bring a parrot to live with you, ACCEPT the fact that parrots are messy creatures.
– Provide your parrot with a range of toys – one or two toys is not sufficient.
– Discover your parrot’s preferred play style. Some are acrobats, some are chain saws, some prefer puzzle toys, and some prefer enrichment activities.
Photo credit: Kim and “The Legend that is Boo”.