How to calm a parrot down

How to calm a parrot down

OMG! Peachy, my cockatoo is screaming so loud that I think that the neighbors are going to call the cops. And, Timmy, my Timneh Grey, is pulling out his tail feathers. Here, at, we get messages like this every day. How can I calm my parrot down? The truth is, you can't make your parrot calm down and there is no quick fix.  But, you can teach your pet parrot to calm down quickly and encourage longer periods of quiet activity.

Right, you say.  Ha.  Guess what?  You can train your exotic pet to enjoy calmer behaviors, but it takes some effort on your part.  First, you have to come to grips that you acquired an exotic, somewhat naturally anxious pet in the first place.  Yes.  Parrots are still exotic pets that, in the jungle, are animals of prey.  That means that they rely on their anxiety to warn all of their flock members about potential danger. Once you, as an exotic pet owner come to realize this, you can parront your pet more compassionately. And, it can be rewarding for you both!

How to calm a parrot down by knowing it's needs

So, now that you realize that your parrot has wild behaviors, similar to most animals of prey (in other words, they are lower on the food chain in the jungle), think about how to make your parrot feel safe.  You'll find tons of blog posts regarding parrot enrichment and parrot anxiety here.  But, think about these three take-aways:

  1. Your bird repeats a behavior that has been rewarded. Reward wanted behavior.
  2. Focus on boredom busting foraging fun.
  3. Teach wanted behaviors.
  4. Let your parrot be a parrot.

How to calm a parrot down by reading it's body language

When you know how to read your parrot's body language, it opens up a whole new level of communication with your pet. Your parrot will learn to recognize your body language, sort of, in due time.  It's mind is at about a three year-olds level, so it is pretty ego-centric.  And, that means, the burden of communicating with your pet does lye on you. Learn about parrot body language here.

Parrots give warning when they are anxious.  An anxious parrot will go into fight or flight mode quicker than you can shake a stick. If you had a stick, that is. But, a bird that has been conditioned to trust you, with positive behavior training strategies will naturally feel calmer.

The way that you accomplish this is by using positive bird training strategies, such as Clicker Training for Birds, to teach simple, yet fun behaviors.  Imagine how proud your bird feels when it learns a simple behavior such as "wave," and it get the attention and response from you that it desires.

How to calm a parrot down

Next, imagine how proud, safe and bonded your parrot feels when you communicate with it with whistles or dancing or even a simple tug of war game with bird safe rope. You can teach your bird your bird a set of whistles or behaviors so it can let you know what it needs.  At my house, when Timmy is hungry, he jiggles his bowl.  Peachy hollers in a pitch that I recognize. And, Smokey and I have a special whistle that we do to let each other know we're thinking of each other. When I recognize their needs and act accordingly, they learn to trust me more.  That translates to calmer behavior. 

Science tells us that all of us, people and animals alike, perform a behavior because it serves a purpose.  We either want to gain something from another, be it attention or a reward, or we need to escape something, which is quite common for animals of prey.  A parrot may need to experience some sort of sensory stimulation, too. And, a forth reason for behavior is gain something desired.

Sure, you have to learn to read parrot body language, but a good old "Behavior Time Study" will help you to understand why and what is promoting anxious behavior that you are uncomfortable with.  Common unwanted behaviors might include anxious and unwanted behavior that, in parrot speak looks like aggression (biting, screaming) or anxiety (hurting itself through feather plucking and self-mutilation). So, whether your parrot is pushing you away with aggression and screaming or turning its worries inward with feather plucking you can learn to shape it's behavior.  And, the learning takes place rather quickly when you understand the techniques.  

1. Teach calm, but nurture nature

Parrots are naturally noisy and boisterous. That's how they communicate in the jungle.  This behavior is a matter of life and death for wild birds and it is in your exotic pets genes. But, more then that, remember above where I discussed the "why" of behavior.  There's more to it.  

Every bird behavior that happens over and over again has somehow been rewarded or your bird wouldn't keep doing it. Imagine this scenerio. Your bird is pitching a fit and you stop by and toss it a few treats to get it to hush up.  You may even have a conversation with it..."Why do you keep screaming, you silly bird?"  In your birds mind, your bird actually hears this, “When you act crazy, you get a reward.” So, the next time that your bird wants attention or a favorite treat, guess what it will do? Right. It will pitch a fit. Once you you know this, you can work on having a different response when your bird pitches a fit. Make it a point to reward the behaviors you want to see more of, not the one's you want to stop.

2. Reward Your Pet Bird’s Calm Behavior

When you're trying to calm your parrot down, make it a special point to always generously reward desired, calm behavior. Toss a treat in his dish as a reward.  Or, stop and talk to your bird, whistle and dance with it.  Jingle a toy or play directly with the bird.  A good head scritch will do the trick, too!  Reward your bird for natural parrot behaviors such as playing, talking, whistling, dancing, performing a trick, and of course, foraging!  

3. Read Your Pet Parrot’s Body Language

The single most important thing you can do to help your bird calm down is to learn to read its body language. But, how do you do this?  You can't read your parrots mind! The solution is to start teaching your parrot basic tricks. I highly recommend the book, Clicker Training for Birds.  Teach tricks such as, shooting hoops or waving on cue. As you are training your parrot, you learn to carefully watch your parrots body language. You become familiar with how his eyes and posture change with various emotional states. You begin to observe whether your bird is paying attention to you and how it communicates what it wants and needs.  Is it about to fly off of it's perch? Is it getting bored?  Does it need more encouragement? The are all emotional states that you learn to read during trick training sessions.

"Calming down a pet parrot requires knowing if he is reacting to a situation or trying to get you to react." As you learn to observe your birds emotions, you can prevent anxious moments. Say your bird is afraid of a new play stand lurking in the corner of the room.  You can calm your parrot down by reading it's body language and introducing scary things slowly. 

4. Speaking of Training, Train a Behavior.

Now that you know that any type of training is really focused one-on-one time.  Parrots need your time just like a child does. It's essential for a healthy, calm psyche. Does your bird get wound up every time you take it out of its cage, with a screaming fit?  If he’s already screaming and flapping his wings, don’t reward this behavior. Instead, offer up a little one on one time before he gets wound up or at the first glimmer of silence. Use that opportunity to offer up a treat or a new toy.

5. Cue for Trained Behavior.

If you’re going to spend some time training your parrot, why not teach him some things that he can’t do and act crazy at the same time? For example, have you ever noticed that a bird can't scream and wave at the same time? Yes!  It's a fact. You can cue an already learned behavior to interrupt a fit. Or, how about teaching your bird a special whistle.  Then, cue the whistle when it's screaming. The more that you get into the habit of giving your bird attention for doing the "tricks" that you've taught it, the less it will use problem behavior to get your attention.

6. Address Your Pet Bird’s Behavior, Not it's Emotion

Even though, number two was all about reading your parrots body language, you're not a parrot shrink.  The only thing that you can really modify is the unwanted behavior that your parrot engages in.  It could be screaming, biting or feather plucking.  Think about what caused the behavior in the first place.  These behaviors often start with a recognizable reason that somehow results in a reward.  What has your reaction been? Now, you can surmise what is is that your bird really wants. Next, generously rewarding the behaviors that you want to see with what it is that your parrot wants. 

7. Kick parrot meal planning up a notch

A busy parrot is a calm parrot.  The best way to keep your bird busy is by offering up daily foraging opportunities.  Foraging is when an animal has to work for it's food.  Wild parrots spend hours a day foraging for food.  They explore where food sources are at and then have to think about how to get to the nutrition.  You can simulate these activities for your pet parrot to calm it down.  Trek on over to Pintrest to search for parrot foraging ideas and put some of these to use each day. You'll be amazed at how fun it is to make foraging toys for your bird.  But, even more amazed at the difference that foraging makes in parrot behavior.  A parrot that has opportunities to occupy itself with natural parrot behaviors is naturally calmer.  

How to Calm a Parrot Down with Foraging Toys

Pintrest: Niki Roberts saved to Northeast Avian Rescue - Ideas for the Birds

8. Provide Interesting Pet Bird Toys for Your Parrot

Why stop with enriching meal planning? Take the fun to the toy box. Parrots need toys that they can chew, pick apart and problem-solve with. Set up an enrichment schedule to remind yourself to rotate toys on a regular basis.  Re-use older toys that are still in safe condition or repurpose reusable bird toy parts.  Peachy loves his stainless steel foraging bucket.  I fill it with a bunch of toy parts and foot toys. And, I keep his interest alive by tossing in a few nuts and dried fruit treats that won't spoil.

9. Get Out of the Rut

Hey, we all love a good routine, but on the other ha nd, we thrive on special surprises.  So does your bird.  Shuffle up your parrot care routine so that your bird feels special.  Say that your normal weekend routine is to get your bird out of the cage at 9:00AM.  Guess who starts screaming at 8:00Am? After all, that wakes you up and you saunter to the cage to get your noisy feathered friend out.  Rather than rewarding the rambunctious behavior, how about getting your bird out when he's being quiet?  Make it a real jackpot by cooking up your parrots favorite warm breakfast.  Did I hear someone say, "how about a warm vegetable omelet, birdie?"

10. Plan For Natural Parrot Chaos

Don’t forget that parrots will be parrots. You can’t expect perfect behavior all the time. There should be a time and a place for craziness. Some pet birds seem to love a grand session of loud vocalization and play at dawn and dusk. Some get going when you vacuum. They are all individuals. If it isn’t repetitive, incessant behavior, make an allowance for the occasional burst of chaos. Why not enjoy it and join in? Bursting into song and dance is good for everyone’s soul. Any one of these 10 steps can help your pet bird become a calmer member of the household. If you use all of these steps, you’ll have a happier parrot as well. If you’ve never trained a pet parrot before, pick up some books on parrot training, or attend a parrot-training workshop. Watch for events in your area. If you’re looking for ways to keep your parrots busy-beaked or want to know more about training, check out Pet Central for articles and community discussions. Above all else though, don’t forget the most important rule of sharing your life with a parrot. Have fun!

5 FREE Foraging Toys

  1. Empty food boxes stuffed with toys and treats.
  2. Brown paper sack loaded with shredded paper and some nuts.
  3. Tongue depressors wrapped in brown kraft paper.
  4. Empty paper towel rolls with treats inside and the ends squished closed.
  5. Clean cardboard egg cartons jammed full of crinkled paper and dried fruits,

5 Fun Behaviors To Train With Your Pet Parrot

  1. Target Training: Teach your parrot to touch a target stick for a treat.
  2. Transfer this to putting a ball in a basketball hoop
  3. Wave: Train your parrot to lift its foot up when you wave at it.
  4. Dance: Spin around in a circle and rock out to YouTube Video's for fun 1:1 time!
  5. Spread Wings: Lift wings up and bow for a scritch on the head.

4 Excellent Calming Supplements

If you need immediate help to calm your parrot down, consider natural, bird safe calming supplements for parrots.  Here are a few of our best selling concoctions:

1. L-Theanine Based (Green Tea) products.  Previously sold under the name AviCalm, UnRuffledRx has improved the mixture called Parrot Calming Formula with additional herbal calming agents in a taste-free, white, water soluble mixture.

2. Parrot Calming Herbs 

3.  Bird Calming Drops.

4. Bird Hemp.


Join Facebook Group for Feather Plucking Parrots

Diane Burroughs, LCSW

Located in Denver, I'm a Mile High author and parrot feather plucking expert. I've always been a devoted animal lover with a special passion for parrots, Diane is also a behavior specialist. Make sure to join my Facebook group, UnRuffledRx Parrot Feather Plucking Help now!

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  • Diane Burroughs, LCSW
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