Home > Enrichment, Uncategorized > Time For You & Independence For Them…

Time For You & Independence For Them…

Rocky and I enjoying time together after my return from being out of town.

It’s easy to do…it’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily lives of taking care of our bird(s). Change waters, fresh food, fresh veggies, new toys, stuffing foraging toys, time outside of the cage, making sure they get time to with the ones they love, making sure they have enough exercise, vet checks, nail trims, etc. No one said birds were easy to take care of. There is a lot of detail to pay attention to and it’s not easy keeping such intelligent minds occupied.

I hear from parrot owners that don’t have the time to sit and relax. They don’t have the time they would like to spend with loved ones. They don’t take the time to make sure they spend on themselves. It is easy to do, I know. This can be stressful on the parrot owner, the parrots, the family, the spouses, and most of all on you.

I’ve been there. I’ve been so wrapped up in training birds, flying birds, enriching birds, working with nocturnal birds, dreaming about birds, and leaving town for extended periods of time to work with other birds. I’ve realized this and it’s not fair to the others in the household which need or want your time also. It’s not fair for you to not take care of yourself either and this can have a great effect on the birds.

I intentionally take the time to take vacations, take certain days of the week and do things for myself, with my family, and with my spouse. It makes for a healthy balance in life and healthy time for ourselves also proves beneficial for the birds we take care of. Coming home rejuvenated and with a clear mind, even if it is just for a day or an afternoon, can really be beneficial for the birds.

Someone sent me an e-mail recently saying they envied that I could take off out of town for a couple of days at a time. As we dove deeper in conversation, I encouraged this person to begin doing the same. It’s healthy and mentally rejuvenating. This person said they would never trust anyone else with their birds. I encouraged this person to begin picking out a few people they thought they could trust to stop in once or twice a day to check on the birds. Then begin leaving the house on some personal time, even if it is for six hours one day a week. They mentioned that this would be doable. Then try it a few other times throughout the week. Stock the bird’s cages with foraging toys and different enrichment toys. The variety in toys and goals in foraging creates environments for them that are full of choices. When we get stuck in a rut in thinking our birds need our full attention all the time, we begin shaping their behavior of becoming extremely dependent on us. This isn’t healthy for them and it isn’t healthy for us. We begin falling into routines with our birds that force us to stick to them because if these routines are broken, it becomes very stressful for the bird. We train this! By doing this, we are training our birds to become very dependent on us. Routines are nice to a certain extent because it makes things easy for us to remember to make sure we don’t forget to do them. Routines can be unhealthy also because when certain things happen in life that cause us to break them, it causes a lot of stress for all people and birds involved.

Start mixing up schedules. This is what I do. My birds aren’t always fed at the same time every day. My birds aren’t always fed their fresh fruit and veggies in the morning. Foraging toys are stocked the night before and food is always in their cages or on play stations if they decide to eat or forage. The delivery of their fresh fruits and veggies always varies. Sometimes I’ll deliver them at 10 in the morning. Sometimes it is at noon, sometimes it is at three in the afternoon, and sometimes I feed them these at dinner time. There is no routine for them to rely on and there is no routine to cause them stress or anxiety when that routine is broken. As I said before, food is in their cages at all times, the delivery and presentation varies. Predictability can cause boredom. Studies prove this.

I don’t always get my birds out of their cages at ten in the morning. Sometimes I get them all out at noon. Sometimes I get two out at eleven in the morning while leaving the others in foraging and exploring their cages. Sometimes one goes in the back bird room, sometimes three of them go in the back bird room. Sometimes two are in the living room with me while one goes in another bird’s cage and the other two are in another bird room. I know we all don’t have the opportunity to be this flexible throughout the day, but if you put some thought into it, there is a way to provide variety in daily schedules and in smaller time restrictions.

Routines also help birds become over bonded to certain people. It is easy to do. When I have family or visitors over to my house, I’ll ask them to go say ‘hi’ to the birds and hand them a nut or drop a treat into a foraging toy. I encourage them to interact with them verbally. So many times I see people not allow people over to the house because it is either too stressful for the birds or too stressful for the visitors. This is when we are allowing the birds to train us and this is also how many behavior issues are formed with our birds.

So there are two messages here in this post. Take the time for yourself. It is so important. Also, be careful on leaning on routines heavily with

Rocky, the re-homed moluccan that didn't play with toys, shown here foraging from a toy

our birds. It can cause stress, anxiety, and boredom with the birds. If your birds aren’t foraging for their food, really take the time into seeing how to incorporate this into their lives. It keeps their minds occupied while we are gone from the house, from their sides, or for a few days. Foraging toys helps in giving them goals and puzzles to solve, tasks to accomplish, and incorporates more choices in their environments. Keep their puzzles solvable though. If they aren’t, they can induce stress and frustration on the bird. If their mind’s are occupied and busy, that is time that they are spending not becoming over dependent on you.

When I come home from being gone for a few days, I am so excited to see my birds and they are so excited to see me. My mind is refreshed

and cleared and ready to get back to bird business and I usually have a few great ideas in mind for things to provide to them. When I have to or want to take off for a day again in the future, the birds get used to this and it is not stressful on them when that time comes. It always brings a smile to my face when I see a bird choose to go back into its cage to interact with a toy. This also helps me rest in knowing that when I leave the house, they are occupied and continuing to learn from their environments inside their cage and verbally interacting with one another.

  1. Mary Hitchcock
    January 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    This really gives me food for thought…thank you! I think I have two main issues going on with my birds that I just didn’t see. The biggest one being routine. I am OCD when it comes to routine. The second is boredom. What I may have been blaming on birdie hormones may just be these two things.

  2. Cathy Roesler
    January 22, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Lara….I think you might be referring to the email I sent you about “how do you leave your birds….tell me HOW to do that”. I am literally tearing up here because this IS ME to a T. But your reply to my email SUNK IN so greatly & you were able to give me a “bird’s eye” view of how to acclimate my birds slowly for getting away once in a while. I want you to know that I studied on every word of your advice & it made such sense to me. You told me what I really really needed to hear…..that I CAN take a vacation once in a while. As I told you, I’ve never been away from my birds (cockatoos) since my first bird (cockatoo that I still have) for 12 yrs. Although I am a single person & my life is all about the birds, that never seemed too much of a problem. But the past couple yrs, I’ve been yearning to have some “me time”….without the birds.

    I have followed your advice pretty much….but need to stretch it further still. Because I am often ill, I have at least gotten them acclimated to some days only coming out of their cages for a couple hrs in the evening. Sometimes (rarely) …not at all even. And you know what….they do just fine. They are all 5 (4 cockatoos & a grey) in their own room except when they come out to their playstands each day. I have done as you suggested & VARIED the routine. Some days, they get their fresh veggies/fruit early, other days in the early afternoon…..when I feel ill, maybe not til evening (I usually feed warmed cooked veggies & pasta, rice, etc for dinner)…..but I realize the FRESH produce is more nutritious anyway….so I hate to skip on that….even if they wait til dinner time to get it.

    They also have gotten accustomed to me being in bed all day some days. On those days, I uncover them, open the blinds to their big window, feed them & go back to bed. They KNOW I’m HERE….they hear me…..yet they have become SO good at keeping themselves entertained that they don’t scream or carry on. If anything, they talk to each other. LOL.

    This subject of your blog is SO IMPORTANT I feel to keep parrot/cockatoo keepers from “burnout”…..especially if you keep cockatoos…..then they end up in shelters or worse….dark closets, etc.

    I would like for you to write MORE about this subject as I feel it is SO important & often times makes a difference of whether a bird owner keeps their bird or NOT.

    Lara….I love you & love your advice. THANK YOU SO MUCH for the knowledge you so willingly give us bird folks to help enrich not only our birds’ lives, but to keep us sane also.

    You are one of a kind.

    Cathy in Tucson (aka Paloma Perch) (I’m anxious to see you this year on your trip out here too) ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. January 22, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Awesome article Lara! I try to keep my birds schedule but I am guilty of not leaving them ever during their waking hours. After reading your article I now realize this was truly doing them an injustice. They need to depend on others more and to also accept that I wont always be here for them. Thank you again for this article and for helping me change and learn one more way to care for my birds even better!


    • January 26, 2012 at 11:43 am

      oops meant to say ” I try to keep my birds schedule Flexible” ๐Ÿ™‚

      • January 26, 2012 at 11:56 am

        I think that is healthy, Deb. Each day I interact with my birds, I interact in a way where I think of their future. I likely will pass before they do and then what? I love spoiling my birds but that’s not setting them up for success for their future home if I’m not here.
        I’ve had quite a few family incidents over the past few years which have caused me to leave town quickly and for unknown periods of time. Because my birds are used to variety and no set routines, this was one area of stress I was able to prevent for them and it came in so handy.

  4. January 22, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Oh and I will be sharing this article ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. January 22, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    I’m glad you both liked the information in the article. I could write another based on this one. I’m trying to keep them shorter to not bore anyone. Thanks for the feedback. It is very valuable. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Annette Pipes
    January 22, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Excellent article and terrific food for thought. I am very guilty of sticking to routine, even down to the times of day that I give my birds certain foods. I do leave the house daily and am gone at different times of the day and for varying lengths of time. But I need to be better about providing foraginv opportunities in the cage and being less predictable at mealtimes.

  7. John
    January 22, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Great read Lara.

  8. Fran
    January 22, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Thank you! This puts my mind at ease especially now.

  9. January 23, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I wholeheartedly agree! I have a houseful of parrots and varying the routine is good for them and necessary for me. There’s too much stress if a routine is expected. Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner…it’s always enjoyed.

  10. January 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    All I can say is, “AMEN! You preach it, sister!”

  11. February 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    That is all really great advice. Especially about mixing up the routine, luckily I do that already but I didn’t realize how important it will be when I leave them and things change a bit. I have been dying to go visit my friend but I don’t want to leave my birds! Finally, my friend said – bring the birds! But you know, it would be better for the birds to stay home. I have to work on finding a bird sitter….they’re just so cute and sweet – how can you leave them? ๐Ÿ™‚

    • February 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      They are hard to leave, Dorothy but it makes it all that much worth while to come back to. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Cathy R
    February 24, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I found it really DID prove to be important to have my birds accustomed to no particular routine. Just after I replied to this article on the 22nd, my dad entered into hospice care at home (my parent’s home nearby). With only my mom & I to care for him around the clock, I had to be there day & night….I only came home for an hour or 2 each afternoon to feed & take care of the birds….getting them out of their cages only quickly if at all. My dad passed on the 31st, however, was still spending time at my mother’s. Things are coming back to normal now. But I was SO glad that I had practiced your advice about not having a strict routine. They seemed to do just fine even though everything was all mixed up as far as any schedule or feed regiment went. I think our birds are much more flexible than we often realize. THANKS LARA! ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. January 25, 2012 at 8:47 am

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