When Polly becomes stressed, she can wind up with some pretty serious health issues. Calm your anxious avian friend by engaging her mentally and physically, so she won't feel the need to pluck out her feathers or squawk repeatedly throughout the day or night.
Provide your pet bird with a calm, peaceful environment and space for her to feel safe. Birds are easily startled by people walking by their cages, birds flying around outside the window, loud sounds or even nature programming on television. To prevent upset, pick a spot in your home away from high-traffic areas, windows and noisy electronic devices. Place a cover around three sides of her cage so her view is limited. Choose a quiet spot that's still near where you do spend some time so she's not left alone and away from her human flock, "The African Grey Parrot Handbook" suggests.
Sounds and Sights
Play a little soft music for your bird a few minutes before bed each night so she associates it with feeling peaceful and sleepy. This way, if you play it when she gets especially anxious during the day, it will have an immediate relaxing effect. While you want to keep your bird's environment peaceful, it shouldn't be completely silent during the day because silence itself can be stressful, too. Instead, leave the radio or the television on to entertain her. Set the television to a children's programming channel that typically features shows that won't contain loud sounds or scary scenes.
A bored bird will become an anxious bird who plucks her own feathers, stops eating properly or vocalizes constantly. Provide your bird an array of toys to play with, rotating them every week or so. This keeps the toys fresh for your feathered friend. Stuff puzzle toys with her favorite foods so that she has to work for her meals, keeping busy. Share a little warm oatmeal with her to remind her of when she was feeding from her mama, a comforting behavior that allows her to bond with you and relax.
Positive Reinforcement Training
Never yell at your bird if she is shivering, screeching or throwing a fit. Such negative attention will inadvertently reinforce and encourage the behavior. Instead, ignore her when she's throwing a ruckus; give her attention, praise and treats when she's quiet and calm. This teaches her to remain calm more often to receive the attention she seeks. Use the same logic to teach her tricks to perform and phrases to repeat. By engaging her attention in reward-based training, she'll be too tired to be naughty. You can even teach her a "Calm" or "Quiet" command that you can say to calm her on demand. Reward her when she lightens up.
Visiting the Vet
If, no matter what, your bird appears stressed-out and upset even after taking steps to calm her, visit the vet. Your avian vet can rule out illnesses or injuries that could be causing her behavior, or may prescribe psychoactive medications to use along with behavior modification techniques to calm her.
- BirdChannel.com: 10 Steps to a Calmer Pet Bird
- AvianWeb: Feather Plucking
- petMD: Feather Plucking in Birds
- Cockatiel Cottage: Cockatiels and Screaming
- BirdChannel.com: Stress-Free Fireworks Tips For Bird Owners
- BirdChannel.com: Reasons Why Pet Birds Bite
- The African Grey Parrot Handbook; Mattie Sue Athan and Dianalee Deter
- Holistic Bird Newsletter: Stress Reduction Methods for Companion Parrots
- Pet Tails Magazine: Anxiety Disorders
- Great Western Exotic Vets: Behavioral Problems in Parrots
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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