Bird Lifestyle, Housing & Environment

How can I make sure my clipped Amazon parrot gets enough exercise?

Q: I had to clip my 13 year old amazon’s wings last year and I worry that he might gain weight. I weigh him regularly and so far he hasn’t gained any weight. How can I exercise him?

A: Our HARI Flock includes many amazons and as some of them are some of the originating flock (1985) we study a great deal of their lifestyle and life stage needs. It is interesting that you had mentioned exercise and weight monitoring. We applaud you for monitoring his weight. Clipping wings is a personal matter, and while it takes away from his ability to exercise in accordance to him a bird, you can still provide exercises that work the same muscles as a bird in flight. We’d like to suggest that you that start a routine of misting him while he is hanging off a toy. He will automatically flap his wings and as a bonus, his feet will get exercised as he tightens his grip on to hold on. And…he’ll also be getting a bath to help keep his feathers in great shape! Also you can have him perch on your hand while you move your hand up and down in succession for about 2-3 minutes. This activity compares to us humans doing a series of jumping jacks for good cardio activity.

Difference between a night cage (sleeping cage) and a day cage?

Q. We have heard a lot about having a Night cage and a Day cage for our parrots. Why do we need two cages?

A. The concept of providing your companion bird with a Day Cage and a Night or Sleep cage is a proven strategy to avoid aggressive behavior due to hormones as your pet advances through normal life stages. When a bird is limited to just one cage, he might interpret his cage as a nest that needs to be protected. By providing versatility in your parrot’s daily life, you break up the nesting behaviors. A Night cage or sleep cage is a smaller retreat, located in a very quiet room in the house. The night cage should be equipped with only formulated diet, water, a comfortable perch and if a toy is provided, it should be limited to a foraging type toy without dangerous components. The bird should be allowed 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep; and sometimes a cover can be provided. Some species prone to night flight, such as cockatiels, also benefit from a night light. A Day cage, on the other hand, is generally located in the busiest part of the household so he can socialize with the rest of the family. It’s here that he will have his favorite toys and a greater variety of enrichment food items.

Best room in the house for my bird’s cage?

Q: We have just acquired a new cockatiel and we are trying to decide which room of the house to keep his cage. We want him to be in the center of the house but we’ve heard that the kitchen is not a good place to keep him.

A: Congratulations on your new family addition! Choosing a place for your new cockatiel’s cage is an important one. And, to address your concern about the kitchen being unsuitable-yes the kitchen, despite the fact that most kitchens are the busiest room in most households, is not the best choice for a pet bird. Too many dangers lurk in the kitchen such as open pots on the stove, the kitchen sink and even some of the scents coming from typical kitchen activity. We suggest the family room or den so your cockatiel can be part of the family.

Traveling with a parrot?

Q: We will be spending a lot of time in our lake cottage, which is over 3 hour drive and we have never traveled with our macaw. He freaks out when we have to take him to the veterinarian. What is the best way to prepare him for this trip? We do not want him to get stressed.

A. Most parrots do enjoy a trip in the car, but you do want to desensitize him to the trip long before you plan to leave. A 3 hour drive is a long time if your bird starts to scream! You should have a pet transporter (carrier) and you should begin by encouraging him to visit his carrier on his own accord. A good strategy for this is to place some of his favorite enrichment foods in the carrier. If you use a foraging device, he will be apt to spend more time in the carrier simply looking for his favorite foods. Once he’s in the transporter, gently close the door and let him enjoy his treats. Each day, make the time in the transporter a little bit longer. After a few successful sessions in the transporter, begin to take him in the car for short trips. Always speak softly to him as your voice is reassuring. It is also advisable to bring a towel to cover the side of the transporter so he feels a bit more secure. Be sure to avoid any stops that would require him to be left alone in the vehicle. And, always be aware of temperatures…either too hot or too cold, depending on the time of the year. If you try this for a few weeks consistently, he should be fine and will hopefully look forward to a little versatile lifestyle.

Bird Grooming?

Q. How often should our sun conure be clipped? We get his wings and nails done about 4 times a year and he’s always nippy afterwards.

A. Even if they are partially clipped, birds will use their wings to maintain balance and their nails to firmly and securely grip their perch. When both wings and nails are done at the same time, they lose their ability to remain stable, which results in excessive biting. We recommend wings and nails be groomed on separate occasions. You or your groomer can work out a plan for flight trimming based on your bird’s feather growth and alternate the nails in between the growth of the flight feathers. Some caretakers opt for a strategically placed grooming perch and some birds allow their owners to slightly ‘sand’ off the sharp points with a salon nail file.

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