Can you have birds with babies?
When I was on the Humane Society of the United States' website recently I learned how to prepare your pet for the arrival of your baby. It made me realize how negligent I had been before our child's arrival. Let's just say that between the dogs and the parrots, we've got a little bit of a zoo thing going on here.
Undeniably, children and pets have been happily mixing it up for generations. But, safely introducing a jealous, sometimes nippy and moody parrot to a new child requires a little planning.
There's no need to rehome your parrot. Just follow these simple tips on how to prepare your parrot for a new family member.
How to prepare your parrot for your new baby
You just found out that you’re expecting. Congratulations!
There is a lot to plan for. But, one thing that you don't have to plan for is rehoming your bird. Instead, you can prepare your parrot for the new arrival.
Remember, parrots are sensitive, lifelong flock mates. That's one reason that you got a pet bird in the first place. Parrots take their position in your family very seriously. Instead, we at BirdSupplies.com hope that you prepare your parrot for the new baby's arrival as much as possible before the stork visits your house.
Keep in mind that your parrot has a few changes that it has to get used to. First of all, you won't be able to be at the bird beck and call all of the time. It will be important to teach your bird how to entertain itself with activities like foraging and playing with toys.
Next, if your parrot has formed a mate-like bond with you or your partner, now is the time to turn that around. It's not as hard as you think.
Third, your bird has to get used to new sounds and stimuli. These days it's easy to introduce your bird to the sounds of a new little one in the house. Just play baby videos on YouTube for your parrot to listen to and watch. You might enjoy listening to it too!
I’ll talk about these tips and much more, so continue reading on what to do to make this happy celebration go as smoothly as possible.
Teach your bird basic manners
If you haven't done so already, now is the time to start teaching your bird basic manners. A bird with good manners is a lot more predictable and fun to be around. It knows what's expected. And, now that a child is coming along, a predictable bird is a must.
As a bird behavior consultant, I've come across many people who didn't know how easy birds are to train. Your pet bird is as smart as a toddler and it will learn manners very quickly. In fact, I think birds are easier to train than dogs.
Some manners that you should consider teaching include the following:
- Coming and going from the cage on cue
- Potty training
- “Leave it” or back off
- Staying on its play gym
- Returning to its play area on cue
- Tolerating basic grooming like bathing, toweling, wing trims, toe nail trims, on basic body handling
- Wearing a harness and how to ride on a stroller handle when you go on a walk!
It will also be important to train your bird “natural parrot behaviors” such as how to forage and play with toys, eating a nutritious diet of vegetables and plant-based foods, and sleeping for 10 to 12 hours a night.
A exotic bird that knows what's expected of it, has its natural parrot behaviors satisfied, and that feels physically well will be much calmer through these normal life changes.
Commitment to training your bird today. Make sure that your partner gets involved too. All you need is a book called Clicker Training For Birds, a clicker, a T- style bird stand, and a bad of your bird's favorite treats.
Provide your bird with activities, exercise and sensory stimulation
As you learned above, birds need a considerable amount of sleep each night. That will work out well with a new baby. But, birds like to be active for a good portion of their waking hours. There's no better time than now to teach your bird how to entertain itself.
Foraging is a natural parrot behavior that birds learn from their parents. If your bird has not learned how to forage yet, take some time to teach it how. When your bird knows how to forage it can entertain itself while you're involved in baby care.
There are plenty of resources on social media that show you how to make fun foraging toys for your bird on a budget. If you need to teach your bird to forage check out my video:
Another great way to keep your bird occupied throughout the day is to play the television or radio for it. Birds have outstanding hearing and visual capabilities. They love that mental stimulation that they receive from TV.
My birds love children's cartoons and music TV, but they are especially fond of Bird TV For Parrots on YouTube.
Consider creating a dedicated bird area that the new baby can't get to
Animal behaviorists warn that the most difficult moments in parrot-child relations occur when the child starts walking. Your parrot is then confronted with a curious toddler! A once docile parrot may become so scared or agitated that it bites out of fear. You can prevent that.
Once your baby learns to crawl and walk you'll need to protect your bird from your curious toddler. Young children don't know how to properly handle or treat pets yet. Our pets are often exposed to mistreatment when children poke the bird, pull its feathers, stick their fingers in the cage, and bang on the cage.
Don't wait for an accident to happen. Prevent it from happening in the first place. Make a dedicated bird area that your child can't get into. A dedicated bird room is ideal but not everyone has a spare room for their bird. You may have to purchase a few baby gates to block off the area around the cage.
You might also want to get a baby monitor to place near the birdcage so that you can see and hear what your bird is experiencing.
Better yet, make your child's play area in a different room than the bird is housed in.
Set up baby accessories well before the baby comes home
Some birds get overwhelmed with too many changes happening all at once. Some birds even get reactive with new furniture in the house.
Why not let your bird get used to the new baby accessories before your baby comes home? This will help you avoid having too many changes all at once when the baby comes home.
The goal is to spread the changes out over time. When the baby comes home there will be a schedule change. Plus, you and your partner will be exhausted for those first several weeks. Plan ahead to reduce the number of changes that your family, including your bird will be going through for those first several weeks.
Desensitize your bird to baby sounds
Young babies cry a lot. In fact, there's a phenomenon called Purple Crying. All baby mammals go through this period. But, parrots are not mammals. During purple crying, a baby can cry for hours at a time and still be perfectly healthy and normal. The peak period of purple crying occurs in month two.
Even though purple crying is a predictable stage, it is still quite stressful. The last thing you want to have happen is for your parrot to start screaming in response to the constant crying. Plan on desensitizing your parrot to the sound of a crying baby by playing videos of babies crying on YouTube. That way when the inevitable happens, your bird will be used to the noise and may not be as reactive.
If your parrot has not been around children before you can desensitize it by putting it in a carrier and taking it to a nearby park. Plan on doing this several times so that your bird can get used to children's activity level, laughing, crying, and how they move about.
Develop bonding rituals that you can continue with your bird after the baby comes home
People and parrots are creatures of habit. A lot of new parents feel guilty about not being able to spend as much time with their bird as they used to. And, the bird may feel a sense of grief over the diminished attention, too.
Developing some rituals and routines that you can continue to share with your parrot after the baby comes home will be really helpful for the both of you.
Your bird will really appreciate it if you create a special whistle with it so that it knows your whereabouts and that you care - even when you can't be in the same room with it. I got into the habit of whistling “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” with my African grey parrots when my son was young and we still greet each other with that whistle 25 years later!
Also, set aside some cuddle time with your feathered friend each day. Rather than looking at this activity as a chore or one more thing that you “have” to do, consider it a gift to yourself. We all know that our pets can be great stress relievers and how they love unconditionally. Your pet bird is your ally.
You can either cuddle your bird or continue with the training sessions that you started early on. You might just want to sit down and watch bird TV for parrots with your bird for 10 minutes or so. Your bird will love the one-on-one attention. And, you'll probably come to enjoy that special time, as well.
Whatever activities you decide to do with your bird consider it time well spent as a stress reliever for you both.
Not to diminish the love I feel for my son, but my birds have lived with me longer than he ever did. He grew up and now has his own adult life right now, but the rituals that I established with my birds early on, when he was a baby, are still part of my daily routine with them. It still puts a smile on my face every time we whistle “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” to this very day.
Schedule a wellness checkup before bringing baby home
I am a strong advocate for parrot wellness. After all, BirdSupplies.com is all about science-backed parrot wellness. Book a wellness exam with your avian vet before you bring your baby home.
First off, that's one thing you can check off of your to-do list.
And, secondly, your vet can groom your bird so that you don't have to worry about that for a while.
Third, it's a great time to talk with your vet, who hopefully knows your bird and its disposition, to get some suggestions on how to make this celebrated transition go off smoothly.
High strung parrots may benefit from calming supplements. After all, your bird is going through as many changes as you are. It will probably experience some minor grief issues at the changes In your lifestyle. All families go through that kind of stuff. Change is normal.
Well, again, congratulations. I hope that this article helps you out. Just because you're having a baby doesn't mean that you need to get rid of your bird. Your family is expanding. That's all! Now that you've got a plan, things should feel much better.
Everything in this plan dovetails very nicely into optimum parrot care.
Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. With over 30 years experience, in a range of settings, she’s created thousands of successful behavior plans to help turn around challenging behavior. Diane got parrot fever in the ‘90’s and founded BirdSupplies.com in 1998. Nowadays, BirdSupplies.com focuses solely on Science-backed Parrot Wellness with bird collars for feather plucking birds, nutritional supplements to support avian wellness, and a range of educational materials to support bird behavior. Diane’s authored a number of books on supporting challenging behavior in birds.
Hey there! Because of conscientious parrot caretakers like you we are able to continue to offer valuable, science-backed parrot wellness support that will help your feathered friend to thrive so that you can enjoy it for years to come.
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