The autonomous parrot


The autonomous parrot

My parrot howls as soon as I leave the room and he can’t see me anymore …. My neighbors complain that my parrot screams for hours when I leave the house … My parrot won’t stay in his cage. He always asks to be in my arms, otherwise he screams like hell until I take him with me … My parrot doesn’t want to play alone with his toys. I always have to play with him otherwise he throws his toys on the ground … My parrot accepts new foods only if I glisten them between my fingers so that he eats them … and potato and potato … I think that my parrot lacks autonomy …!

This is “ZE” subject, the one that comes up very frequently when people write to me or talk to me about his parrot. At this point, I don’t know if the term autonomous is appropriate… In all the cases mentioned above, I believe that the parrot is very autonomous and that he knows exactly what he wants and how to get it. What he wants here … is your company or at least, know your location at all times and if possible, get you back to him.

The word autonomous comes from autonomos “which is governed by its own laws”, from nomos “law”. Philosophically, autonomous is defined by “the right of the individual to freely determine the rules to which he submits ” (Petit Robert). So a parrot that acts like this surely does not lack autonomy. He misuses it, which is a whole different thing. If he has not learned to occupy his time alone with periods of free play, if his only interactions with humans have always amounted to “getting caught with” or being cuddled, if he does not never had the opportunity to explore,), his only emotionality will be very, very low – he will inevitably cling to what he considers safe, to what he knows, not trying to get out of this mold that suits him perfectly, that is – that is to say, by refusing all novelties, whatever the form.

The parrot is unfortunately not a diviner and nothing in its genetic background prepares it to act or react adequately in an environment that is not that of its ancestors. He can therefore only interact with you as he would have done with a companion of his kind in the wild. A parrot that behaves this way is quite simply governed by a very basic herd instinct and confirmed in its actions by the responses of its human. The need for presence, for a constant companion, is not abnormal behavior in the parrot, with some exceptions; it is programmed to work with two or more, but never alone. It is not lack of autonomy, but genetic programming. It is the lack of socialization that is sorely lacking …

The autonomous parrot

This is why the bird will need guidance to evolve well in life in captivity: it must learn to become a good companion bird (this is the role it is destined to play for all its life ) in s ‘adapting to this human environment in which it will have to evolve. If he doesn’t adapt, he will spend his life in confusion and develop behaviors that will only seem to work for him and cause his human a lot of worry.

You can get a lot out of a parrot if it is fortunate enough to understand its environment and what is expected of it. Where the shoe pinches is when our actions exceed his capacity for comprehension. This is the beginning of the problems. Still, securing a parrot is not difficult. Your mediation will be essential for him in his socialization, you will have to teach him ( so that he understands your explanations naturally … ) what is happening concretely in his immediate environment, whether it is at the level of food learning, accessories ( toys) that dangle in the four corners of his cage, the actions of his social group (family), and accept the constraints that come as standard with captivity, among other things that, in the human world, the concept of constant companion is impossible ( hard, hard ), but that there are alternatives.

My parrot howls as soon as I leave the room

The parrot is not programmed to live on its own. It is a gregarious animal which functions in pairs or in groups and which depends on its social group to survive. It is therefore normal for him to panic as soon as he no longer has eye contact with the member (s) of his group ( in this case, you). If he no longer has eye contact, he will use bonding calls to create auditory contact. We can respond to his liaison call: “OK, everything is fine. I am here!” to reassure him. That’s good, but in the parrot’s head, where is “here”? In many cases, he will then shout even louder to try to locate you. Because in his head, “here” is not an effective response and he still doesn’t know where you are. In the wild, parrots call out to each other by shouting ( link calls) and the partner’s response is often sufficient to secure the other. But we must not lose sight of the fact that in their habitat, parrots know their territory perfectly and can almost exactly locate the place of the response of the companion or congeners.

The autonomous parrot

So, in a “domestic” context, it is essential for your bird to recognize its territory ( your home ). To do this, you will (at a minimum ) have to walk him around the house, show him his territory room by room by naming them ( in human language, the only one that both will be able to identify.): the living room … the bathroom … the bedroom … etc. and encourage him to come and join you. You repeat this ritual every time you enter a room. Then, when you get out of his field of vision and your bird howls to try to locate you, you will only have to answer him: “OK, everything is fine. I am in the bedroom or the living room, etc. . ” The bird, in many cases, will be satisfied with this concrete, clear and, above all, precise answer ( since the arbitrary sound “living room” will have acquired a meaning for him ). He knows where the bedroom or living room is; he now knows his territory ( since you have traveled it with him) and, if he wishes, he will simply come and find you … provided of course that he wants your company and that he has the possibility of joining you ( that he is not locked in his cage or severely trimmed flight feathers ). Did I ever tell you that a parrot that can move around will be less likely to cry?


My parrot screams when I leave the house

Same dynamic again. No eye contact, search for hearing contact … No answer … panic! For your parrot, you disappear completely when you leave the house, and he cannot admit to being abandoned in this way. The parrot asks to understand what is happening in its territory and The autonomous parrotdo an errand”. This statement means that he can expect your return shortly. On the other hand, if you go to work or go shopping all day, you will say: “I am going away for a long time”. This statement means that you will be away for a long period of time and that he should not worry that even if it is long you will come back. You don’t have to use my terms ( long / runs). What matters is to always use the same statements in the same situations and stick to them. If you tell your bird that you are going for a run ( within the half hour ), don’t grab your feet on the way to coffee with a buddy. This is the best way to lose your bird’s confidence. Parrots are not known for their flexibility. If it’s white, it’s white, not yellow. “Race” is “race”, not “long”. If you do not stick to the statement, your parrot will learn to no longer trust you and may develop a lot of anxiety.

My parrot always wants to be on top of me …

… and yet he has lots of toys and a big cage …

We certainly cannot speak here of a lack of autonomy. The parrot knows what he wants and he has already established his priorities: the couple you form with him. He needs your presence and he knows how to communicate it to you. For the parrot, it is not natural to take care of it alone. In its natural habitat, most daily activities take place in pairs or groups. All he does is transpose this innate trait of his kind in a different environment. It is not a whim! If this need is not met, he will communicate it, probably in the most effective way he has learned from human contact: howling.

In most cases, it is easy to notice a lack of socialization of the bird, the latter having then developed a quickly capped emotional threshold. In such a case, if he does not know what all these colored things dangling all over his cage are used for and if these objects are unfamiliar to him, he may fear them and not approach them. A poorly socialized parrot has not developed its curiosity ( nor its creativity ) due to a lack of exploration and stimulation and, as a result, it has absolutely no idea how to play and / or take care of itself, is afraid to move. and categorically refuses to explore novelty.

The autonomous parrot

Waiting is not part of the parrot vocabulary

Waiting and caring alone is not part of the parrot’s genetic makeup. These are not natural behaviors for him ( read “right now” ). He must try to adapt these unknown and unexplored situations to his condition as a very gregarious animal. He will absolutely need your mediation to come to terms with these contexts, to adapt his innate + + gregarious attitudes, which are contradictory to these concepts.
The bird will not develop the ability to organize its activities alone. In the wild, a parrot is always interacting with other members of its group and never waits for anything. If he wants something or to go somewhere, it’s right now. He does not know how to wait!

The “domesticity” requires him to spend most of his time alone and in a situation of waiting. Wait for him to be taken out of the cage, wait for his food to be served, wait for someone to pay attention to him …. Wait … Wait … Wait … So it’s a minimum that we teaches to do it with joy and good humor.

As the notions of solitary activity or waiting are ( naturally ) unknown to the parrot, whenever it is ignored or that one does not have time to interact with it, it does not understand and, to the limit, makes it a personal matter. He will then use vocalizations to try to get some attention. If the bird has not learned to take care of itself, if it does not know how to wait, this behavior will be normal ( and correct ) for it. He understood that the best way to attract attention was to shout and it is the human attitude that made him right to do so. What is needed is for Coco to manage his autonomy, to be patient, to take care of himself, without taking it personally … Phew!

First thing, learn to use his toys. It is not enough to place an object next to it for the bird to know its use. Introduce the new toy by playing with it, making it touch, chew or teach it how to use it if it is a complex toy. As soon as he understands the principle, he will know how to use it and with the experience ( which we wish good ), he will develop a healthy curiosity for other toys or objects that you will present to him later and he will cultivate his taste. to learn.

A simple concept: I’m busy

Now that he knows how to use the toy for entertainment, he must now learn to do it on his own for those ( so many ) times of the day when you won’t be available for direct interaction with him. If you have to do an activity and you don’t have the time to physically care for your bird ( which invariably happens whenever the parrot wants attention, at least depending on its perspective ) , you will have to prepare him to deal with his small business on his own.  

You put your parrot in a place where it can preferably see you, and you surround it with its favorite toys ( for nibbling, foraging, or interactive ), you look it in the eye and say, “Now you’re going to be. ‘having fun on my own, I ( your name ) am BUSY’ with emphasis on the word busy. Then you turn on your heels and go about your business. From the moment you say the word BUSY, you can’t see or hear the bird anymore. Whether he’s screaming, coming towards you, trying to grab hold of your pants, you don’t pay him any attention. You gently pull him back to his toys, without looking him in the eye ( which is a powerful form of attention.). You repeat: “I am OCCUPIED” and you return to your work.

The autonomous parrot

The first time you are BUSY three minutes, then the next time five minutes, then ten or twenty minutes. Then, when you have finished what you had to do, you come back to Coco by saying “OK I have DONE” and you start playing with him again, talking to him, in short, giving him attention.

With consistency in utterances and repetition, the parrot will learn very quickly the meaning of the word OCCUPIED, and he will be able to anticipate that afterwards it will be OVER and that you will come back to him. The message he will receive at that moment will be: “I don’t have time to play with you, but it is not because I am excluding you that I am abandoning you”. If the parrot understands what is going on and what is expected of it, it will feel like a full member of its social group and accept this way of doing things as something quite natural.

Then, when you are sure that the bird has really understood the meaning of the statement OCCUPIED, you can resume having auditory ( talking to him ) or visual contact ( looking at him ) with him, without him expecting to physical contact ( picking it up with you or stroking it ) from you. As he will understand the situation well, he will not be frustrated. For him, it is quite simply a new form of interaction and he will feel perfectly comfortable with this concept. At this time, you will be able to interact remotely with games that do not require direct contact with him.

The autonomous parrot

Ex: If the bird can recognize colors, you have several toys of different colors on the table and, at a distance ( while vacating your occupations ), you play: go look for… the red toys… the green toys… everything by verbally encouraging him. This will give you a free hand to go about your business, while giving Coco the impression of giving her all your time.

Guide your parrot in its learning (both social and fun) will always be a plus in your relationship. It is not uncommon, when I work at my desk, to see my birds busying themselves with games of colors or shapes, alone or in pairs, interacting with me, or at least, with my voice. Often a single bowl and a ball keep a parrot occupied in a frenzied game of basketball, without me having to touch the ball once, and two bowls and a few small marbles can keep a bird occupied for almost an hour with it. the requests “pick up and drop” marbles from bowl to bowl. At this point, the parrot “takes” the marbles from the right bowl and then “drops” them into the left bowl. After success, reward ( a hurray and a knowing look) from me and we start again, from the left bowl to the right bowl, and vice versa… You offer ambient attention to your parrot, without having to get too wet and everyone is happy!

My parrot will only accept new foods if I hold them in my hand for him to eat

The “house” parrot does not immediately know what is and is not edible, and in many cases it does not even know that what that new piece of color you are giving it in its bowl is food ( in nature, young people learn by imitating the parent who chooses and swallows food ). It is therefore normal that when presenting a new food, it needs a little help from you – you eat it in front of it ( you will then be a model ), you offer it to your child or your spouse, who naturally accepts this offering with a good heart ( the bird thus receives an indirect reinforcement) and you treat Coco who, by imitation, might want to try it too. On the other hand, once the food is known, savored and appreciated, there is no reason to continue to hold it between your fingers so that the bird will eat it. A known food must go in the bowl so as not to establish bad habits. This kind of behavior is not the only fact of parrots, many domestic animals act in this way when this kind of behavior is allowed to be ritualized. I only have to think of my mother’s little Bichon Maltese who refuses any form of food that does not come from the hands of her human darling, including very fragrant foods such as meats and poultry …

The autonomous parrot

It is important to encourage the bird to consume a variety of foods of equally different textures and colors as soon as possible upon arrival in your home, regardless of age. He will thus learn to become more daring in the face of novelty and eventually, will develop a healthy curiosity in the face of all these new foods that you present to him. If the experience was pleasant ( and tasty ), he will show less reluctance to taste new, unfamiliar flavors.

It is important that the bird learns to integrate well into this habitat so human so far from that of its ancestors. Its autonomy will depend on the understanding of its environment and its adaptation to it. But remember that it will be impossible for him to do this without your help.
Humans should consider their parrot as a being of intelligence and autonomy who deserves to be patiently socialized with their environment. It will make him live stimulating adventures, some pleasant and others less, and will teach him to anticipate certain situations. In addition, he will nourish his feeling of security, helping him to develop his curiosity while respecting his instincts.

The parrot needs to understand the world in which it lives, this is fundamental. To remain in ignorance is to live in fear. And fear puts the parrot at risk of developing aberrant behaviors due to anxiety. It should be normal for a parrot to feel comfortable in its environment, in its house.

A parrot that is too physically and emotionally dependent on its human will not be able to thrive. It will only work by repeating these behaviors over and over again that will lead you to think that it is having serious problems. It will not be for lack of autonomy. It’s just that he instinctively doesn’t know how to express it in the human world.


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