My personal parrot philosophy

Perhaps this comes out of having a formerly abused older timneh, maybe it comes from who I am and my own childhood but I have to say I disagree with a lot of the common parrot training ideologies—some presented on this forum as well. I don’t like to bend people or animals to my will—parrots included. In my early years of living with Jacko I followed the height dominance/flock leader/don’t show fear mantra religiously—never again. Never have I had a more stressful and uncomfortable relationship. Perhaps I’m more sensitive to fear or a sense of helplessness, but I refuse to see a parrot as a little feathered demon out to manipulate me that I have to discipline constantly or else it will finally succeed in dominating me or one-upping me. I do not, and will not, ever see Jacko as a sum of behaviours to be reinforced or ignored or disciplined or that it’s as easy as ‘Reinforce A and Ignore B’. She isn’t something I put away when she’s ‘being annoying and I have something to do’—guess what, if she’s shredding my stuff its part of the deal and probably happening because I didn’t respect her need to do something and have something for her to fulfill that need with. When her agenda becomes just as valuable as my own, and she starts to become her own independent being who needs me to care for her but is not subservient to me because of it—thats where she and I find peace. Its when I feel she is mine to control and modify as I wish that things get messy. Amongst friends of mine she is indeed her own identity—whereas other people refer to their birds as ‘my cockatiel’ I always come in the door with a grin “Guys, she did it to me again!”. I take issue with the whole ‘don’t show fear and don’t move when it bites so it learns it doesn’t work’ thing. Most people gasp when I say that when bitten, I do pull away, I do show pain and shock and all of those…and yet I have a parrot that I get bitten by so rarely I can say its usally only a few times in the span of a few years at most. In fact lol I’m forgetting what it feels like. When Jacko feels the need to nip me…I, of all ungodly things in the ‘parrot training world’, I apologize to her. I withdraw my hand, apologize sincerely, look her in the eye and try to let her see how much I am sorry and shocked and hurt, I tentatively offer my finger, we ‘beak rub/nibble’ to apologize and end with a scritching session. The bird is communicating something (and at that point you’ve missed the boat pretty bad as most will not bite first), communicating discomfort or fear, and you completely push past that determined to control the situation and not reinforce ‘aggression’ and eventually the bird learns it has no where to go and no control—its all about you, and the only way it can get any relief is to give you something you want. What a lack of respect. Why not just apologize and back off? Isn’t one of the keys to any healthy relationship feeling safe and having the ability to communicate their needs and be vulnerable with each other?All parrots speak their own language beyond ‘pinning eyes mean…’ or ‘slicked body feathers mean…’ each species and individual communicates a certain way. For Jacko more than anything her eyes and face speak the most, but every sound has a meaning. I mean…we force them to learn our language why not meet halfway? We use a common flock language in my household and I encourage most bird people to learn theirs. I honestly think sometimes we forget they have personalities and feelings too. It becomes all about what we want, how to get them to overcome their ‘problem/thinking issue’ in order for them to do what we want/‘should’ be doing (be it fly to us on command, or to come out of the cage, or not to flock call, or to not wander off the stand we bought and placed where ‘we’ wanted it). At the end of the day—I think treating parrots much like people, with the same respect, is a better approach than treating them ‘like animals’.I can’t come with a word to describe my approach, my feelings, but my views on parenting are much the same and hopefully illuminate my parrot philosophy and both fill me with rage maybe due to my sensitivity to the vulnerable and helpless. ‘Let him cry himself to sleep, its good for him, he has to learn’…what in your right mind makes you think this is ok? What in your right mind makes one think that yes, a small child who is completely vulnerable and scared ‘just needs to learn to be independent’ and sleep all alone in the dark by himself when nothing in his biology makes him ready for it?We draw comparisons between our kids and our birds saying they’re just as smart and then we break them and teach them the same learned helplessness. If your bird is screaming—rather than just think to yourself, ‘the brat, he needs to learn to play by himself, he’ll learn it does no good—ill ignore him’ why not look at it in the mind of the bird. I…its hard to put into words how I feel…but I just think some of the training advice out there, for kids or for birds or any other animal is just plain wrong. Ok sure, you reward them (for doing what YOU want) and yet…what about them? Why are they not allowed rewards unless it is for what you desire? If thats the case, can they ignore you when you’re desperately trying to communicate but its not in the ‘appropriate’ way? And when you give up and do what they want reward you? Even positive reinforcement doesn’t seem so nice when the scenario’s reversed. I dunno, I’m a big believer in respecting the plans laid by nature, and for respect for all life. The Earth Mother made parrots a certain way, why do we insist on trying to change it? I’m a member of the HolisticBird group on Yahoo—and am currently looking into working with bach essences and colour healing, chakras and energy…maybe its the pagan in me. I just think a sort of New Age approach with birds being fear-based beings of prey works better. Sorry for the rant guys.

Well- some people are just ignorant. The flock dominance thing doesn’t even exist, birds are prey animals and they don’t have a ‘disciplinary’ hierarchy. Birds sit high up because they feel confident up there, and if they’re being cage aggressive…it’s an instinct to protect their roost. If anyone didn’t know, the pack dominance thing doesn’t even exist in dogs/wolves either, it’s been recently proved. Dogs show submission and all that yada yada because they’ve been conditioned to do so for so long. They learn what gets them a praise or a punishment from their life experiences.As for biting… I agree with you. If you ever look at a group of birds interact with each other, since when does one just sit there and take it while the other bird is pecking/attaching? They peck back and forth for a bit.

GlassOnion wrote:…If anyone didn’t know, the pack dominance thing doesn’t even exist in dogs/wolves either, it’s been recently proved. Dogs show submission and all that yada yada because they’ve been conditioned to do so for so long. They learn what gets them a praise or a punishment from their life experiences… .Glass Onion what do you define as pack dominance? Because if you do observe and study wolves you will see that they is a Alpha male and Alpha female which are the only pair allowed to breed within the pack. This Alpha Dominance can also be observed within dogs but it is much less with domestication.I do agree to an extend about the high dominance, as I personally have observed Ruby trying to dominate my father in-law when he is on his shoulder because Ruby choose Brad as the perfect mate.

To be honest, I very much think the biting thing and how to react depends on WHY they are biting. If they have bitten because the person is not paying attention to the birds body language or is persuing an activity the bird is clearly not wanting then frankly that person deserves that bite and a bit of drama and making up after shouldnt cause too much of a problem.However some birds can and do just bite for the hell of it, to get attention, jealousy, avoidence of something that is necersary for say safety reasons (going back into the cage for example). As much as I like your theory sometimes it just isn’t practical. Ollie for example used to bite for attention, this behaviour definitely needed ignoring otherwise I would be being bitten constantly. Its just not possible to give him 24 hour attention that he craves- he HAD to learn to be by himself sometimes and be happy with that/able to entertain himself. He also used to bite when I had to do things he doesn’t like, like check under his wings when he was sick. This was obviously a sign of stress, whereas training him to tolerate it means he is no longer stressed by having his wings checked, which to me is the more preferable option. Unfortunately when you take an animal with its own ways of living/own communication sytems and bring them into a domestic or captive environment you have to make the choice to encourage the animal to be as well behaved as possible. Fair enough you may not want to teach tricks, but you do need to be able to reliably get your bird to step up without the risk of having your finger severed if its in a potentially dangerous situation or of course you could just let it get eletrocuted when it manages to access that wire you so carefully bird proofed because it doesnt want to stop… frankly that situation should never happen.Treating a bird completely naturally in an un-natural environment unfortunately just wouldn’t happen and just wouldn’t work. When keeping animals I do belive very much in the middle of the road. Try to keep things as stimulating and natural as possible but also adapt them to our way of life.

everyone needs to rant sometimes. my cousin used to irritate me by insisting she was going to teach my bluefront to say please,she would hold a treat in front of him and say please over and over i would just give him a treat and tell her to leave him be i didn’t care if the only word he ever said was no and that his purpose in life was not for anyones amusement.do i like it when penny says mommy i love you yes would i still love him as much if he never said a word yes.he doesn’t say i love you expecting a treat he says it because i say it to him all the time.mya says alot but my favorite is when she interupts conversation with blah blah blah to get attention.my birds don’t play basketball,or rollerskate,or dance on command they chew my stuff they scream divebomb my head in a fly by and sometimes bite use my house as as a toilet,i’m waiting for the day when mya responds to what are you doing with cleaning your shit since that’s usually what i’m doing when she asks me.

LOL Penny.We do need to remember that every parrot has it’s own personality but every parrot species has it’s own degree of traits.

RedDragon,Not to offend you or play devils advocate, but what if Ruby’s ‘dominance’ is a result of your mindset and your viewpoint (human society after all is very much about masters and dominance and do what I say)?See I could view Jacko running away from my hand when I ask her to step up as her ‘refusing to obey’ or when she nips from atop her cage as ‘feeling dominant and in charge’ because that would play to my view of myself as a master.Reality? She’s uncomfortable, feels safer/happier up there or plain just doesn’t feel like it—there’s no secret her trying to make herself the boss.Perhaps Ruby finally feels confidence up on your dad’s shoulder to express that she is uncomfortable with him, or wishing to drive him away from her chosen mate—but it is not dominance.

Reddragon, I can’t comment that far unfortunately, but if you search ‘pack dominance theory’ on google, you’ll see a number of sources stating that it’s been proven false. I also know a professional dog trainer and she swears that it’s an old idea that’s been debunked with a long explanation on the matter.As for the amazon, no there is no dominance of trying to be the ‘leader’ in parrots… Now that is a common fact in the avian society. There really isn’t. He’s probably showing signs of jealousy or territoriality but he’s not trying to get higher in the family hierarchy. Amazons are just bossy to begin with

These little guys are individual beings. No two are alike. My human kids are exact opposites.I treat each one as an idividual. They all know the word no and just like kids they try to see how much they can get away with. When I say ouch they know what I mean. Myrtle forgot to do her parrot call coming through a doorway. We collided heads. When I put my hand up where she hit me she said ouch before I could.I am rambling on. What I mean to say is feathered, fur or even scales they are beings in their own right and should get that respect.I don’t trane anything. They learn just like human kids.

I agree liz. Oh and grey, merry meet. I’m wiccan.