By Diane Burroughs
The holidays are upon us! But what if you have a pet bird that has anxiety? ? No one feels festive when there is a lot of screaming and biting going on. With some planning and preparation, you can ensure a pleasant holiday for everyone, including your pet.
Why it is important to calm your anxious bird
The holidays are a hectic time for everyone, but especially so for nervous birds. Here are a few facts on why it is important to put your feathered friend at ease during holiday gatherings.
Birds are often frightened of new people in their space. My nervous African Grey is known to make a smoke alarm sound when a new person enters the house. It's cute the first time. Not so much on the 50th time, though.
Holiday gatherings mean lots of unfamiliar smells, sights, and sounds for birds. This can put your bird in sensory overload. It is best to plan ahead to slowly desensitize your pet to holiday commotion and if need be, make plans of how you can reduce your birds distress before it even starts.
Nervous birds often react by biting or screaming. At best, these behaviors are an annoyance, but biting can put your guests at risk. You'll want to tell your guests ahead of time to be cautious around your bird but, it may be best to make plans to prevent a mishap in the first place.
Finally, many nervous birds might start taking their fears out on themselves by developing a feather plucking or self-mutilation habit.
Create a safe haven for your bird
Create a safe haven for your bird to retreat to when he or she needs a break from the hustle and bustle of holiday activities. This might mean that if your bird's cage is in your main living area, you move its cage to a quiet area where it doesn't have to worry about strangers petting it or children scaring it.
If you have other visiting pets, it might be best to put your bird's safe haven away from them so they don't get too stressed out. Bird Carriers and sleep cages work well as a short-term set up. Keep normal routines as much as possible with feeding times, playtime, and bedtime.
Keep to the routine
I don't know about you but my calendar starts filling up all of the sudden after Halloween. It's not just holiday engagements. I want to get as much outdoor time as possible before the weather turns bitter cold.
Keep normal routines as much as possible with feeding times, playtime, and bedtime. The more time is spent following regular routines, the easier it will be for your bird to adjust to new situations and people. Try not to introduce any new foods while visitors are there; sticking with familiar flavors will make everyone more comfortable!
If possible, try to stick to your bird's regular routine during the holidays. This will help reduce stress and anxiety. But what if you can't? The best thing is to prepare for the unexpected by first asking yourself: What is my bird's favorite activity? If you're not sure, try watching them closely during the day and see what they do when they're relaxed. Then, make those favorite activities available during the hectic holiday season.
Start socializing your bird to new people and situations a few months ahead of time
It's important to give your bird plenty of opportunities for socializing and exploring new places, as this can help calm their behavior when they're faced with new environments and people. If you've been letting your bird out on a playpen or in a room by themselves, it's time to start getting them used to the idea of being around new people, tolerating new sounds, and enjoying new experiences.
This is why it's so important to begin socializing your bird several months ahead of time. The more exposure they get to new people and new situations, especially when your bird is calm and not under duress, the easier it will be for them to adapt when you're hosting a holiday gathering. Start small with an afternoon tea at a friend’s house or an hour or two in a coffee shop. Always bring familiar items like toys or food, just in case your bird gets nervous.
Always reinforce calm behavior with "lovey-dovies" and treats. As tempting as it may be, do not resort to scolding or punishment if your bird begins acting up; instead, create a safe space for them that limits their options and provides access to favorite things while they work through their stress. Keeping control over the environment goes hand-in-hand with keeping control over your nerves, which will allow everyone--birds included!--to have an enjoyable experience during the holidays!
Bird Training products
Reward calm behavior with favorite treats
If you are introducing a new person to your bird, be sure to introduce them in a way that is comfortable for both you and your bird. Offer treats and reward calm behavior. The more positive associations you can make with new people, the easier it will be for your bird to adjust.
1) Treats work wonders when first meeting someone new! You'll want to get into the habit of reinforcing calm behavior a few months in advance of your holiday gathering. Also, get into the habit of observing to find out your bird's favorite treats, toys, and games. Guests can get in on the action too. Let them offer the bird its favorite treat or a favorite toy. This way they can associate this person with something they enjoy.
2) Introduce the new person slowly by having them keep a safe distance. They can slowly inch closer when the bird is calm. However, if the bird backs up or acts like it wants to fly off, that is an indication that the interactions are making them nervous. Make sure both the bird and the guest are comfortable with the interaction as your parrot might feed off of a nervous guest's mood.
Watch for parrot body language showing signs of discomfort
Watching for signs of discomfort can help you prepare your parrot before they visit. If your parrot is not comfortable in their current environment, they may be showing signs such as excessive shaking, screaming, backing away, attempting to fly off, and potentially biting. These are all signs that your bird may not be feeling safe and should not be expected to interact with guests at this time.
In this downloadable infographic, you can see how a bird can go from nervousness to aggression quickly. When you're on the lookout for nervous or tired behavior, you can then make efforts to give your bird a break from the festivities. It's okay if your bird needs some down-time.
If you're new to birds or don't know how to read parrot body language, grab a. copy of my book, The Complete Guide To Reading Parrot Emotions & Parrot Body Language. It can be a life-saver in many situations and will even help you bond better with your bird.
The holidays can be a stressful time for many people. If your bird is a nervous nelly, it's important to take steps to make the holidays as stress-free as possible. Below are some things you can do to put your parrot at ease during the holidays:
* Talk with your friends and family about what makes your bird feel safe.
* Arrange for plenty of private playtime (preferably outside) for their favorite activities, such as preening or playing on a swing.
Keep in mind that the goal is for everyone to have a good time, even your bird!
Related blog posts