Bringing Home Birdy

Baby Black Headed Caique at Golden Cockatoo

Baby Black Headed Caique at Golden Cockatoo

We’ve been writing a lot lately about Spring and the breeding season, and with all those cute baby birds around you may be thinking of adding another bird to your flock. Birds are social animals that can really benefit from having a companion. If you’ve given it some thought and decided that adding another bird is right for you, then great! Here are a few suggestions for an easy transition of a new bird into an existing flock.

Firstly, you must be sure to house each bird in its own cage. Like us, parrots like to have their own space. The older bird won’t be too pleased if you suddenly force a roommate on him and tell him he has to share his toys. Even birds that have been successfully housed together in the past may eventually injure one another in a squabble. Additionally, even if they never fight, a startled or frightened bird may injure his cage mate while flapping around. His flapping may startle the second bird and cause both of them to continue thrashing about. Housing your parrots individually is the easiest way to keep them safe and happy.

We recommend that you engage any existing parrots in the process of building the cage for the new parrot. Allow him to sit nearby and talk to him as you build. Show him that this new object is not scary. If the existing bird is terrified of the new cage then putting a strange bird inside of it may frighten him more. This will not create good associations and will make the bonding process and the integration of the new parrot much more difficult.

Talk to your birds while they're in their cages

Talk to your birds while they’re in their cages

Once you have the new cage built and the new bird safely inside, interact with the birds while they can see one another, but are still inside their cages. In the beginning, always greet the older bird first. Offer them treats, but always feed the older bird before the newcomer. This will help him to understand that he is still important to you and is not being replaced. Go about your daily business and talk to them as you pass by. Allow them to have time out of their cages individually, always letting the older bird have his turn first. Remember, although you are showing him preference by acknowledging him first, the amount of time and treats given to each bird should ultimately be equal.

Over time, gradually move the cages closer together. Watch for signs of stress or anger as they experience the transition – toe nail biting or feather pulling, aggressive behavior from one parrot to the other, screeching, etc. If either bird exhibits these behaviors, move their cages further apart. After a while – and sometimes immediately – they should be able to live side-by-side harmoniously.

Foot toys can occupy birds when they're meeting for the first time

Foot toys can occupy birds when they’re meeting for the first time

Once the birds are comfortable being near each other it’s time to begin introducing them outside of their cages. Ideally, each parrot should have his own play stand so that you can repeat the same process used with the cages if needed. However, if you do not have multiple play stands, the next best thing is to take both parrots to a neutral space. A good place for this is a bed with towels to protect the blankets and some small foot toys to occupy the birds.

Supervise them carefully and watch their body language. Happy, curious birds will greet each other cautiously but without aggression. They may approach from the side, touch beaks – the birdy version of a handshake – or even initiate a preening session. Preening is a VERY good sign. Behaviors to watch out for include lunging, feather pulling, screaming, biting, or toe nail chewing. All of these are signs of stress and indicate that the birds need to be separated. Additionally, if either bird puffs up his feathers and displays his wings this is an indication that a fight may be about to occur and they should be separated immediately. As long as the birds are not displaying any of these signs of stress or aggression, you can interact with them together.

Two Scarlet Macaws giving a “birdy handshake”

Puffed-up and biting his nails, this macaw might not be too happy...

Puffed-up and biting his nails, this macaw might not be too happy…

After some time, alternate which parrot you greet first. In this way, they will come to understand that they are of equal importance within your flock. Offer them small treats while they are together so they associate each other with good experiences. The key is simply to make them understand that they have nothing to fear and they are both important members of your flock.

It may take a great deal of time and patience, or it may happen effortlessly, but almost any parrot will learn to appreciate having a companion if you take the right approach.

Have something to add or want to share an experience you’ve had? Leave us a comment – we love to hear from you!

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