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the first parrot blog
Friday, October 15, 2004
Potty Training Your Parrot
Joey and Tracy at Pretty Parrots have a great article in this month's newsletter about potty training your parrot. I've reprinted it here with permission. Be nice and go to their site and sign up for their newsletter, it's worth the read.
Tips on "Potty-Training" Your Bird
Tired of bird poop on your shoulder? Love your bird but wish that, aside from installing a volume control, that you could install a poop control too? But you CAN potty train your bird.
It helps to realize that most parrots (cockatiels, lovebirds, & larger birds) have some sort of instinctive desire not to poop on their favorite human perch. I don't know how this evolved, but it's there. So, how does this training process work?
It's actually very similar to potty-training a dog. Dog books will tell you to learn and anticipate when the dog will go to the bathroom: right after waking up, right after eating, etc etc (though it depends on the dog); you're supposed to take the dog to the right spot every time you think he's likely to go, wait til he does his stuff (repeating a key phrase all the while, even if you feel like an idiot for it), and then praise him profusely. Birds are a lot like that, with one really BIG difference: they go as often as once every few minutes!
So the trick is to get in the habit of picking up the bird every few minutes --- you really have to learn to watch your bird to figure out the timing --- and then hold it over the appropriate object (newspaper, trash can, cage, whatever), repeat a simple phrase, and wait for the "plop." Then, praise the bird profusely and give it back its previous perch.
Here are some tips:
• Birds usually get antsy just before they want to go. A cockatiel on your shoulder might start climbing down, for example.
• RIGHT before going, most birds do an odd little squatting or backing-up motion. You can sometimes (not always) interrupt the bird long enough to pick him up and get him over something more appropriate than your table or your shirt.
• Don't use a key phrase common to daily language. One article in BIRD TALK mentioned how this can cause social embarrassments....
• Be consistent.
• It may be hard to keep the bird over the trash can ... they often really don't want to stay there. Be patient, and don't force the bird to sit there longer than seems reasonable (certainly don't hurt him!). Try again in a minute or so, though. Also check your shirt or the floor to see if the bird went while you weren't watching.
• Some birds have a stronger instinct than others. Lovebirds, for example, seem to have have more of a "don't poop on the human" sense than cockatiels. But remember all birds are still individuals.
• One idea: some birds might possibly cue off a particular object beneath them. In other words, you MIGHT be able to teach your bird to poop over a bit of kleenex (for example) -- but that means anything that looks like that will probably become fair game.
• When uncovering the bird cage in the morning, try waiting until the bird poops before letting him out (though in the morning, there may be multiple large "presents" waiting to come out of the bird). Make sure to open the door very soon after the act, or else the bird has no reason to associate the action with the result.
• Likewise, you may try waiting until the bird poops to let him out of his cage at other times of the day. The bird may start associating the cage with pooping, especially if you use a key phrase, and also if...
• ...You try putting the bird periodically on/in his cage and refuse to pick him up again until he poops (it helps to wait til you know he's due to poop to do this, and use that same silly key phrase). Again, this must be done cause-and-effect style, and the hope is that the bird realizes that pooping in/on the cage is a Good Thing.
• BIRD TALK warns against getting a parrot so well trained he doesn't poop without a command -- that's just bad for his health. Expect a few messy shirts, tables, chairs, etc. -- don't expect perfection!
• It might take only a few days for some birds ... or it might take weeks! In the long run, it usually is up to the instructor's patience and persistence.
• If potty training is too frustrating for you and the bird, it may be just best to live with the occasional mess rather than get everyone upset.
In any case, those are the basics! Remember, take it easy ... birds aren't THAT instinctively into the potty-training business. There will always be mistakes --- usually caused by an inattentive human who didn't read his bird's body language, or who forgot how long it had been since the last birdie potty session. But still, in good cases, the mistakes can go down by nearly 90% or more ... and wouldn't that be great?
- posted by J-Birds @ 5:48 AM |
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