Introducing Your Parrot To Your New Baby
By Diane Burroughs, owner of BirdSupplies.com
When I was reading on the Humane Society of the United States' website I learned suggestions for 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. Lets just say that between the dogs and the parrots, we've got a little bit of a zoo thing going on here.
In the months before Max's birth, I was supposed to be anointing myself with eau de baby powder to get our pets accustomed to new scents. I should have held, bathed, and diapered a swaddled doll in my bird's presence. Or played CD's and DVD's of cooing and crying babies so my parrots and dogs could become accustomed to new baby noises. I found one here: www.preparingfido.com.
Undeniably, children and pets have been happily mixing it up for generations but introducing a jealous, sometimes nippy and often moody parrot to a new child requires planning. Many people sadly choose to relinquish their parrot to a new home.
STOP! No need to go there!
Just because you're having a baby doesn't mean you have to loose the bird! 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.
BirdSupplies.com Hint: The unbreakable rule of young children and parrots is: NEVER, EVER leave parrots and young children unsupervised. Put your parrot or pet bird in a bird cage out of reach of tiny fingers. We always believe that it is better to be safe than sorry. DON'T create a situation in which you start to think that you need to rehome your pet bird.
You must convince your parrot that the baby's arrival is not going to make your parrot lose his place in the family flock. Frequently, owners make the mistake of only paying attention to their parrot once the baby is down for a nap. The obvious conclusion in your parrot's mind is, "Baby gone, life is good." It doesn't take an animal scientist to figure out that the displaced parrot will get jealous and angry.
BirdSupplies.com Hint: Train your parrot to entertain itself by enriching it's life BEFORE baby arrives. GOODBIRD Bird Training Video's are an important resource. Divert your parrot from brooding in jealousy as you hold your baby with The Bird Sitter Video. Check out the Captive Foraging DVD and get a Parrot Enrichment and Foraging Bird Toys well before the stork makes his visit.
If your parrot feels ignored, it will seek other ways to solicit your attention. Parrots are too smart for that stuff. (Hey, didn't you get your feathered friend in the first place because parrots are smart and interactive???) Parrots are very social pets that need attention each day. They thrive in flock experiences. And, all flocks have a pecking order. YOU need to be at the top of the pecking order in a household that has children and figure out ways to integrate your parrot in your child-rearing activities.
Follow These Parrot Socialization Steps:
- Establish the adults in the household as being at the TOP OF THE PECKING ORDER before Mr. Stork arrives. Establish rules and guidelines for behavior and stick to them!
- Socialize your parrot BEFORE you have a baby! (Or, maybe once you become concerned about jealousy issues.)
- Take your bird out in a bird carrier or bird harness to the pet store, in the car and on errands so it has to experience you around other people.
- Invite friends over routinely so that your parrot has to experience SHARING you with other people. Better yet, have your parrot out on a bird stand while company is over so that it MUST adjust to sharing you with others while AT THE SAME TIME learns to entertain itself as it becomes accustomed to new sounds and activities.
- Make sure both adults in the house have a strong relationship with your parrot before bringing in baby
A jealous, lonely or displaced parrot may begin feather picking, screaming or biting. So, involve your parrot in your day to day activities as much as possible. Keep your parrot involved on a sturdy bird stand. Our bird stands are a great way to keep your parrot out with the family yet inaccessible to toddlers (and dogs for that matter!)
Animal behaviorists warn that the most difficult moments in parrot-child relations occur when the child starts walking. Your parrot is then confronted with toddling terror! A once docile parrot may become so scared or agitated that it bites out of fear. Young children poke their fingers in the bird cage, bang on the bird cage door, are loud and try to pull at feathers. Sudden fast movements are scary to parrots and a healthy parrot will react. But what looks like aggression to you is often fear. Your pet bird finds itself cornered by a squealing, poking, pulling human. And the child, is too young to realize what raised feathers and pinning eyes means, "Please step away from the parrot - NOW!" Well bonded parrots often give a warning to stop before they lunge and bite. Again, never leave toddlers and parrots alone unsupervised.
Remember, that if you've socialized your parrot, it will give warning before biting. Most parrot bites are provoked.
Then there's the other extreme in parrot-child relations. Occasionally a parrot will bond so completely with children that witnessing the daily upsets of child-rearing can become unbearable. My parrot, Peachy, quickly learned that I'd come running when my toddler cried loudly and yelled "Mommy, come here!" He still mimics my son years later! My neighbors think I'm a nut.
Bringing in a new flock member takes a lot of time and effort, no matter the species type and track record of the parrot (i.e...,..Second home, etc.). Here are a few suggestions to consider, should you choose this path:
Keep parrots and children separated!!! There will always be some level of discomfort on the parrots part when a new family member is introduced to the flock. It is wise to keep young children and parrots physically separated. Create some space for your parrot, only so that it feels like it has it's own territory or safe place. Use baby gates to keep the child away from the parrots cage and consider a hanging style bird stand thatallows you to socialize your parrot yet make it inaccessible to your child.
Prepare your parrot for the new arrival. As stated by Sally Blanchard many times, prepare for the new arrival by setting up the crib and baby accessories beforehand. You may consider getting a doll to tote about the house and cuddle before you actually bring the baby home. Play a CD of baby noises to prepare your bird to the new sounds.
Develop bonding rituals with your parrot that you can continue after the baby arrives. Special whistles, a scheduled cuddle time and developing a routine will set the stage for letting your parrot know that it has an important place in your family. Set aside time each day. Remember, you got your parrot in the first place because you were fascinated with birds. Your bond with your parrot can bring you a sense of peace when you are stressed with the responsibilities of a new baby. Provide your parrot with flock experiences even when you are busy with The Bird Sitter Video.
Change your behavior and routine. Re-look at your behavior, even if you’re not introducing a new arrival. If you have a parrot that demonstrates feather picking or other destructive displacement behaviors work with your bird to resolve these issues. Would it make a difference to reestablish or change your guidelines, routine, care or behavior?
Keep a positive attitude. Since parrots are so reflective of our energies, moods and attitudes, a positive attitude can improve flock relations, very quickly. Establish a positive order in your mind, and give a clear message that you intend for everyone to get along.
- Take your parrot to the veterinarian for a routine health exam and necessary vaccinations.
- Consult with a veterinarian and pediatrician if the thought of your newborn interacting with the family parrot makes you uncomfortable. By working with these experts before your baby is born, you can resolve problems early and put your mind at ease.
- Address any parrot training and behavior problems before the baby arrives. Parrots learn quickly so you have time. If your parrot exhibits fear and anxiety, now is the time to get help from an animal behavior specialist. Or, try AviCalm to temporarily calm an anxious parrot or loud parrot.
BirdSupplies.com Hint: Calm your Parrot: If your parrot's behavior includes mouthing or nibbling or screaming, redirect that behavior to appropriate bird toys. AviCalm is homeopathic agents for birds can help calm an aggressive or anxious parrot. Provide your parrot with flock experiences even when you are busy with your baby with The Bird Sitter Video.
- Groom your parrot regularly. Parrots with clipped wings behave more appropriately.
- Train your parrot to remain calmly in it's cage or on it's bird stand by providing bird toys. If your parrot flies off of it's bird stand, calmly walk over to it and put it back on the stand.
- Encourage friends with infants to visit your home to accustom your parrot to babies. Supervise all parrot and infant interactions.
- Accustom your parrot to baby-related noises months before the baby is expected. For example, play recordings of a baby crying, turn on the mechanical infant swing, and use the rocking chair. Make these positive experiences for your parrot by offering a treat or playtime.
- If the baby's room will be off-limits to your parrot, install a sturdy barrier such as a removable gate (available at baby supply stores) or, for jumpers, even a screen door. Because these barriers still allow your parrot to see and hear what's happening in the room, he'll feel less isolated from the family and more comfortable with the new baby noises.
- Use a baby doll to help your parrot get used to the real thing. Carry around a swaddled baby doll, take the doll in the stroller when you walk your dog, and use the doll to get your parrot used to routine baby activities, such as bathing and diaper changing.
- Talk to your parrot about the baby, using the baby's name if you've selected one.
- Sprinkle baby powder or baby oil on your skin so your parrot becomes familiar with the new smells.
- Finally, plan ahead to make sure your parrot gets proper care while you're at the birthing center.