We have a lot of birds in our family of bird people. Yet each one is a social pet. True some birds pick their favorite person and some are nicer than others, but all of our birds were previously owned, ancient and imported.
Our birds are great because we pay attention to their emotions. All birds in nature are flock oriented and those in captivity must adapt to humans if they are to have a pampered pet life. So our simple rule is to spend at least two hours each day to keep them tame.
You might say two hours is quite a bit, but in reality it is not. The secret is to bring them into your life either as singles or in groups and use plenty of imagination. Every day, I chop and peel vegetables for supper. Never am I without a feathered friend. It probably takes at least 30 minutes to wash, peel and clean up, but I have buddies who share this activity and many catch a shower at the sink. Running around the house with a vacuum with a few more buddies on my shoulder adds another hour. Daily as I wash dishes a few more moments pass by.
The best part is my mom. She has Alzheimer's Disease, but she spends much time counting our birds. The finches are her favorites because they always have a few little guys sneaking in and out of the nest for her to spy.
My daughter, Katrina will read her book reports, sing her chorus songs or simply give a room full of amazons some advice. Other times she'll dance with a few cockatoos or dress up some macaws. Many cockatiels have gone riding in her skates and Barbie cars. This lapses at least another hour. Finally, there is Al. He's the busy one. After work he spends two to three hours feeding and cleaning all the large parrots and checking nest boxes, talking to all the guys as he goes. When he's finished he takes out a few birds to help him do paperwork, answer e-mail or watch TV. I'd say at least two hours go by as the birds destroy my furniture after he falls asleep on the couch. These are the happiest campers, searching his pockets, pulling off his buttons and chewing his hair and glasses.
We think our birds are happy because we give them at least two hours of our time each day. Sometimes it is complicated and other times it is simply sitting on a playpen near us. The main idea is to keep them company for their emotional health. To keep them from becoming dependent on people you must vary each individual bird's routine daily. If they can't predict their life, there is less chance that they will perceive a change that will cause them to become neurotic, screaming, feather pickers. They only need to know that they will get their quality time, not when. The bird that gets handled every day at 6:18 when Dad gets home from work will be very confused and depressed the first day of overtime. You'll have friendlier pets as a result. It is not the handfeeding that makes the bond, but the attention it receives for the rest of its long life. Find a couple of hours and try it for a month, bet you'll make your winged friends happier.
By Nina Wegner