Involve Your Flock in Everyday Activities

Snuggling Parrot
Snuggling Is Fun!. Sean Murphy/ Getty Images

Parrots are flock animals. They have a family or a group of families 

If you think about it, if you have a child who misbehaves, they are sent away from the presence of the family in a “time out “ to calm down and rethink their behavior. In effect, what you are doing is sequestering the child away from the rest of the tribe or “flock.” This is painful and difficult for the child and it is perceived that they must be away from the rest of the members until they can behave in such a way that does not disturb everyone else.

 

Now how would it be any different with your parrots? Believe it or not you are a flock member by virtue of the fact that you live with them. Separating yourself from them can be hard for them and finding inventive ways to include them in your everyday activities is easy if you just take the time to think about it. 

I try to remain as conscious of this as I can. If I am vacuuming, I have an African Grey on my shoulder. When I am changing out of my work clothes and into something more casual, one of the Greys comes with me. Cleaning the sink in the guest bath? One is with me. The one hard and fast rule I have is that they are kept in their houses if the oven or stove top is on. I’m not really interested in my Greys suddenly careening into the oven while I’m roasting some root vegetables. It wouldn’t be a pretty picture. So the “Safety First” rule reigns supreme here. 

There are endless opportunities for interaction with them.

You can sing to them while you’re dusting the furniture, have one in your lap while you’re watching the news or one on the counter playing with some foot toy or another or snacking on the scraps of vegetables while making a salad.

My African Grey, Parker is especially adamant about being in the kitchen when I am.

I keep thinking he is a reincarnation of James Beard or Julia Child because he has such an interest in the activities in there. But it makes sense. He knows where the food comes from and he’s quite interested in watching it being prepared. So that is something I allow him to participate in if there is no actual cooking with the stove or oven going on at the time. 

One little game I’ve taught him is to “slide.” I don’t have a “Roomba.” You know, one of those automated frisbee-shaped vacuums that wanders from place to place all the while sucking up their leftovers. But I do have paper plates. Occasionally I’ll get on the floor with Parker, place him on a paper plate and slide him around. He seems to enjoy this game and has gotten pretty good at maintaining his balance while I gently tug on the paper plate and drag it across the floor. I haven’t tried this game with Pepper or Nyla yet, but I promise to keep you posted. Just this little one-minute game is enough to keep him happy for a little while,. 

Because I am a writer, I spend a lot of time on my laptop. I have an office, but I don’t use it for writing anymore. My flock’s attention demands got to the point where it was simply easier to just plop down on the sofa and write in the living room where my Greys are situated.

The entire flock, (which apparently includes me) is together. And I will on occasion scoop up a Grey and they can sit on my left shoulder while I write or do research. I’ve gotten to the point where I have specific shirts I wear while I write so if they poop down my back or begin chewing my shirt, I don’t care. I just have to remember to change my shirt if I need to run to the store or go out somewhere. 

The hard part of this is remembering to employ these snatches of non-direct attention. It isn’t directly playing with your birds, but it is enough sometimes simply to be “with” you that keeps them happy. 

I don’t know how to recommend that you remind yourself to keep this in your moment-by-moment memory, but trying make it a habit and doing it a little more each day will most likely result in a happier and calmer flock.

And I have found through the years that if they are happy, you’ll be happy.