I hate getting bit by a parrot! Those beaks are sharp and strong! They can leave painful bloody marks for weeks. In fact, I dislike parrots biting so much that I just avoid getting bit altogether! In this article and video, I want to present to you my guaranteed method to never getting bit by your parrot!
So if you are wondering, how can I stop a parrot from biting? How to teach a parrot not to bite? How to punish a parrot for biting? Or what can I do to avoid bites from a parrot or parakeet, you've come to the right place.
What is a parrot bite? Let's start by defining a parrot bite. Not every contact of the beak to hand is necessarily a bite. For the message conveyed in this article, we will set using the beak to touch, feel, grasp, nip, or hold aside. A parrot bite is when a parrot uses its beak upon your hand or body in a strong enough manner to break skin, possibly cause bleeding, for the purpose of affecting your behavior or action. So, basically if the parrot uses its beak to hurt you because it wants or doesn't want something from you.
The solution to get your parrot to stop biting you? Very simple! Keep your hands to yourself! If you and your hands are never close enough for the parrot to bite you, virtually all biting will be prevented. A parrot almost never comes over to you with the purpose to bite you. Bites occur almost exclusively when you are trying to touch, pick up, put down, or hold your parrot. If you stop doing that, you will stop getting bit!
Don't forget this applies to other body parts besides hands as well. If you stick your nose toward your parrot, try to kiss, or have your parrot on your shoulder, you could get bit on the face. If you keep your hands and body parts away from the parrot, you won't be bit.
In the most extreme case of a parrot that deliberately walks over to bite you or worse yet flies at you to bite you, one further step may be required which is to keep a physical barrier between you and the bird like the bars of the cage. If the bird is in a cage and you don't stick your hands in or near the cage, I guarantee that bird will not bite you either. That's it, simple as that, biting is solved. I bid you adieu.
But, wait a minute, if you can't use any part of your body on the bird, then how can you take it out of the cage? If you can't take the bird out of the cage, how can you change food/water and clean the cage? How can you enjoy this bird as a pet if you aren't allowed to do anything in order to avoid getting bit? Now that is where the real effort begins. As I have pointed out, solving biting is extremely easy. Keep your hands/body away from the parrot and you won't get bit or keep the bird in the cage. The real effort comes in how to take the bird out of the cage without your hands. How can you put the parrot back into the cage? How can you play with the bird without using your hands?
First off, especially if you have a particularly bad biter, starting with hands off interactions is a great place to begin. There are many things you can start doing with your parrot right away that don't involve your hands being close enough that the parrot can bite you. Target training, trick training, and talking can often be done without any close contact or biting. These are a great place to start.
Next, you should learn how to apply training to teach your parrot to target reliably. You can use a Parrot Training Perch to practice step up exercises where your parrot learns to want to come onto your hand by itself rather than you putting your hand up to the parrot and getting bit. The DVD included with the Parrot Training Perch Kit demonstrates how to practice these exercises.
As you build good habits and routines based on positive reinforcement training, you will start being able to do things that you want with the parrot without getting bit. The exercises described in my book and other supplies teach you how to build up training momentum gradually where the parrot is able to feel comfortable and does not feel the desire or need to bite you. Using tools like the clicker, target stick, training perch, and more, you will be able to keep your hands safely away from the bird while teaching cooperation. The entire time that training is going on, you are going to feel safe from biting and the parrot will not feel the need to bite. A win/win for everybody and good habits to follow.
Now when it comes to punishment for biting, that is the trap that most people fall into. When most people think about how to stop a parrot from biting, they are thinking about some kind of punishment or consequence that would convince a parrot not to bite any more. The punishments that people try to inflict can range from a stern look, to shouting, saying no, pushing, hitting, squirting, putting down, returning to cage, or throwing the bird. Unfortunately, not a single one of these or any other responses will actually teach the parrot not to bite next time. The milder punishments don't do anything or possibly even encourage biting because it might be fun for the bird to get you to react and talk. The harsher punishments will make the parrot entirely fearful of you and even more likely to bite in the future to try to keep you away and thus protect itself from you inflicting further punishment or harm to it. This is why the punishment or consequence in response to biting does not help prevent future biting. But, keeping your hands to yourself and using positive reinforcement training to teach the bird to voluntarily do what you want it to do is what really works.
Some people feel that if they don't respond to a parrot biting with some sort of punishment or consequence that the parrot will think it is boss and bite more in the future. The problem is that it will still hurt to get that bite and the parrot still keeps biting in its arsenal of ways to behave. By keeping your hands to yourself and avoiding any bite in the first place, this is the first and correct step in taking biting entirely out of your parrot's toolbox of trying to get you to do or not do something. It is better to use positive reinforcement training to get the parrot to come onto your hand because it wants to rather than to try to hurt the parrot in response for being forced onto your arm when it did not want to step up in the first place. Responses to biting keep biting going. Avoiding opportunities for bites to happen actually teach a parrot how to behave instead of biting for the long run!
Many people will talk about what they do in response to a bite. The thing is, if their response was a smart and effective one, they would not have to have a response to biting anymore because it would be resolved. Punishments and responses don't work and that's why people keep trying them with no solution. On the other hand, using the approach I have outlined here and teach throughout my site, I haven't received a single parrot bite in many years. I don't have a response to biting! Instead, I keep my hands away from a parrot that doesn't want contact or that I am not familiar with until I can develop a friendship where the parrot would welcome it.
This is why the bite photos I used in this article are fake. They were staged. My parrots don't actually bite me so I would not be able to show you a photo of what that looks like. So, I just put my finger in Rachel's beak and just pretended to be in severe pain. Even though her beak was on my finger during the photo, she was not actually squeezing or causing me any actual discomfort. Acting. That's what you gotta do when you have such an effective solution to parrot biting that you can't even show or remember what it looks like!
So, please stop having to endure painful parrot bites going further by following this advice. Do things that keep your hands away and safe for the parrot while working on incorporating training to teach the bird how to cooperate voluntarily. Here is a video with more information and thoughts about stopping parrots from biting.
If you are thinking about getting your first parrot, just got your first parrot, or even thinking of getting another parrot, here is a page with videos that will help get you started. These videos will give you guidance and answer questions such as where can I buy a parrot? Should I get a parrot at a bird store, rescue, or breeder? How do I know what kind of parrot to get? How much does a parrot cost? What are the pros and cons of getting a parrot or parakeet? How to adopt a parrot from a rescue? And much more.
You will find several hours of free video tutorials that will help you make informed decisions when getting your first bird! Videos that will get you on the path to parrot ownership, answer basic questions, and give you guidance to doing it all right. Once you actually get a parrot, then you will find all the rest of my parrot care and training videos to be more relevant.
It was great having a chance to present at Parrot Palooza again this year. My headline presentation was 5 Things you can do with your parrot today to improve your parrot's behavior.
Here is a brief summary of the talk followed by a video of the actual presentation.
#1 - Double up on toys
Parrots are extremely intelligent animals that get bored easily. They need a lot to keep them occupied. Otherwise they will find other ways to occupy themselves and these things generally don't mesh well with the household. If a parrot is out of the cage and bored, it may opt to fly around and chew on moldings, furniture, your keyboard or phone, and wreak havoc on a home.
Locked away in the cage, a bored parrot may be more limited in what it can get its beak on. If destroying toys isn't the go-to option, the next one will be destroying perches. However, when both of those are short to come by, their next favorite misbehavior tends to be screaming! Parrots love the sound of their own voice, which can be quite loud, and they can go on all day. Unlike you, parrots aren't prone to hearing damage or loss so there's nothing to stop them. When the screaming runs out, then parrots turn to feather plucking or self-mutilation. Once it starts, it is often difficult or impossible to reverse. Likewise, bad behavior is seldom untaught.
For these, reasons it is far more worthwhile to pile up the bird toys and shovel out hoards of splinters from the bottom of the cage than to leave the parrot to entertain itself. You will want about 8-12 toys in the bird's cage at any given time and 5+ perches to help them get around and get access to those toys. Not only do you need the quantity of toys, but also the quality. Find bird toys that will last your parrot about 2 weeks. That means that after about 2-4 weeks, there is nothing but the chain or rope left behind because the parrot destroyed all of the rest. Toys that last for less time are great too but you will have to keep replacing them frequently so it will get costly. Learning your bird's chewing abilities and habits will help you shop smart and find the toys that will be the right level of challenge to keep your parrot interested and chewing for a reasonable length of time.
Be sure to check out the selection of bird toys and particularly the Woodland Parrot line of artisan bird toys from the Parrot Wizard store.
#2 - 12 hours of sleep
It is very important to give your parrot 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep all year round. This not only ensures that your bird isn't misbehaving from being sleep deprived but also helps tone down the hormones. By reducing the effects of seasons, through variation in daylight cycles, you can largely reduce the highly undesired consequences of a hormonal parrot. A lot of biting, territorial aggression, excessive preference for specific people, and unpredictable mood swings can be curbed by managing the light schedule.
You can cover the cage with a black bed sheet when it is time for the parrot to fall asleep and until it is time to wake up. My preferred way is to have the bird room lights on a timer so that they turn on and off automatically to help control the bird's sleep schedule. Some black out curtains or automatic shutters on a timer are also important in order to keep the sun out when the natural daylight period is longer than 12 hours.
#3 - Provide a tree stand
A fantastic way to improve or maintain your parrot's behavior is to provide a tree stand or activity center for your parrot away from the cage. All too often, people allow their parrot to hang out on top of the cage or playtop. This breeds some pretty strongly undesirable behavior. Parrots tend to be territorial and weird around their cages as it is. And on top of the cage it only gets worse. With a tall cage it is difficult to reach the bird so it runs to the distant ends of the cage while you are chasing and it only makes things worse. Instead, having the daily routine of taking the bird to a remote playstand every day not only provides the parrot with something to do but also strengthens the bond.
It's important to provide an extensive, exciting, climbable tree stand with the ability to hang toys. A simple Training Perch or Tabletop Perch is not suitable for this particular purpose. Simple perches are great for the purpose of training or interacting with the parrot. However, when you wish to put the parrot down and for the bird to keep itself busy, a complete tree stand or activity center is required.
Now having a bare tree stand alone isn't enough either. Just like in point 1, double up on those toys! Don't let your bored get bored and revert to undesirable behavior. Outfit the tree stand with toys, ropes, swings, foraging opportunities, and as many things to do as possible. Don't fill the food bowls with food though! Fill them with foot toys and activities instead.
The Parrot Wizard line of NU Perch Climbing Trees provides tree stands ideally suited for this purpose! These, ready to ship online, purpose built tree stands are designed so that your parrot could actually get around on them and reach the toys and activities you set up. The Parrot Wizard Trees are highly customizable to assist you in creating a captivating out of cage experience for your bird! Explore the Parrot Wizard Lifestyle to further learn how you can use the complete line of Parrot Wizard products as behavioral bird furniture to perfect your parrot keeping experience!
#4 - Enrich with variety of foods
Keep your parrot engaged with a more interesting variety of foods. Mix things up and keep it entertaining. Now this isn't to say to feed your parrot unhealthy. It is very important that you research and determine a healthy staple diet for your parrot's well-being. About 50-80% of the diet will be for nutritional purposes. However, for the remainder of your bird's daily intake, providing alternative, fun, and interesting foods will enhance their behavior as well.
Rather than just giving your bird it's favorite treats all the time, holding them back and getting your parrot to explore an assortment of tastes will actually drive better behavior! The parrot will be kept more busy weaving through the different foods, picking and choosing, deciding what it likes and doesn't like. Getting favorite foods all the time just doesn't do that. And a great benefit of this is that the favorite foods will become even more effective treats for training.
Explore a variety of natural fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for your bird. Not the typical seeds you see in a bird-store seed mix, but completely different stuff. Flax seeds, quinoa, sweet potato, papaya, and other exotic things like that. You can shop for some special mixes or come up with your own. But as you expand your parrot's pallet from just pellets + seeds to a wide variety, your bird will be more engaged and also drive a higher motivation for training. Which leads me to the 5th thing you can start doing to improve your parrot's behavior.
#5 - Clicker Training
Incorporating clicker training into your daily routine with your parrot will greatly improve your parrot's behavior in so many ways! First and most obviously, you can use clicker training to practice essential skills with your parrot such as step-up, handling, and flight recall. However, the benefits go far beyond just the basics. As you continue teaching your parrot more and more things, you will inadvertently be making the more basic things second nature.
In order to perform many of the tricks that you can teach, your parrot will inevitably have to step-up, be touched, or be in close proximity to hands in the process. As the parrot focuses on dunking the basketball or sorting colors, it won't even notice the proximity to hands or step-ups that it is doing while focused on a goal. This builds a much higher and more automatic level of good-behavior for general pet interactions with your bird throughout the day.
Not only does a daily training habit help build a relationship, it also helps the bird burn off energy in a productive way. Rather than screaming, getting overly amped up and biting, or becoming too destructive, by performing daily training you are having the bird spend energy in a beneficial rather than harmful way! It's a win-win. The bird learns good behavior and the bird is less tempted to engage in bad behavior simultaneously because it is more calm and relaxed after training!
Treat training as a necessary part of your daily parrot care routine. Just as it is important to change food, water, and cage papers, treat training as an equally simple, quick, and essential part of parrot care! Just a few minutes of focused training every day will go a long way in improving your parrot's behavior both directly and indirectly for life!
Grab a copy of my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots. It comes with a free bonus clicker and target stick to get you started right away! In addition, you'll want a Parrot Training Perch Kit as a comfortable platform for engaging in the training. Not only are the Training Perches going to make it easy to do the training, they will also help your parrot focus and be in the mood for training every day!
So, there are 5 things you can do to start improving your parrot's behavior! Of course, there is a bit more to it, but these 5 things are a great start. You can start making big progress toward having your perfect magical parrot keeping experience with these 5 things. I hope that this advice can help you improve your parrot's behavior and I hope that the Parrot Wizard supplies I came up with will aid you in making this parrot behavior be as simple to achieve as possible! Wishing you success.
Here is a video of my presentation at the 2019 Bird Paradise Parrot Palooza:
The 2019 Bird Paradise Parrot Palooza is right around the corner. It's coming up on Saturday and Sunday October 12/13. I will have 3 free presentations on Saturday and 2 on Sunday.
The schedule has just been posted and I would like to briefly mention the topics of the talks. I'm keeping things fresh and doing presentations on topics I have not done at prior events.
Of course there will be the same free food, toy making, contests, prizes, and more from the hosts.
Parrot Wizard Presentations will be as follows.
Saturday October 12:
11:00AM Teach your parrot 3 tricks at Parrot Palooza - I will be teaching how you can train your parrots some fun and easy tricks
2:00PM 5 things you can do with your parrot today to improve your parrot's behavior - Some practical suggestions that you can implement easily in order to bring better behavior out of your companion parrot. Many aspects of parrot keeping and training take a long time but this talk will focus on some of the easier things that can help almost immediately.
5:00PM Taking your parrot outside (harness, etc) - I get a lot of questions and fascination from attendees that see my parrots wearing their harnesses all day long outside at the event. At this presentation, I will discuss not only proper use of the harness but also general advice about taking parrots outdoors safely.
Sunday October 13:
12:30PM 5 things you can do with your parrot today to improve your parrot's behavior - A repeat of Saturday's headline talk for those who come on Sunday instead.
3:30PM - Solve Parrot Problems Q&A - An open discussion question and answer session with the audience to give practical tips and guidance for solving the issues that concern you.
I will have a limited assortment of trick training toys and books available for purchase at the Palooza. Get your book signed and meet my birds throughout the day. Here is a video announcement about the presentations:
Everyone knows that bird stores sell birds, toys, food, etc., but here are some things you didn't know! Here are 8 bird store secrets that bird stores won't tell you exposed.
At the end of the article is a video of these bird store secrets being revealed at Bird Paradise in Burlington, NJ. But for those who prefer to read rather than watch, this article goes over those secrets in text form.
So here are 8 bird store secrets that bird stores won't tell you:
Secret #1 - Rugs have disinfectant on them
At least at Bird Paradise, they moisten the floor mats at the entrance down with a disinfectant solution to prevent avian diseases from hitching a ride into the store on the bottom of people's shoes. Who knows if those people have a sick bird at home or stepped in some wild bird poop on the way? Best to keep those shoes clean and disinfected before exposing the immune suppressed baby birds!
Different bird stores will have different measures or policies when it comes to preventing diseases. Not a bad idea to look into a bird store's policies and health guarantee on baby birds.
Secret #2 - Stores don't recommend bird shampoos
Bird shampoos don't serve a purpose. Unlike people and dogs, birds don't have hair so they don't need shampoo. In fact parrot's secret their own oils to serve as a conditioner for their feathers naturally so no shampoo needed. Stores sell those products only because customers keep asking for them.
Secret #3 - Food in bulk bins may be fresher than in packages
Some bird stores have a very high turn around on their bulk bin foods. Sometimes the food in the factory packaging is sitting around longer than the food in the dispensers or bins. On the other hand, at smaller stores it may be the other way around. Learn about package shelf life and keep an eye on what is being bought more at the cashier to ensure that you are getting the freshest food for your parrot.
Secret #4 - Don't feed sunflower seeds
Even though bird stores sell them, I have not been to a single bird store in recent years that actually recommends that anyone feeds them to parrots. Everyone with any experience in the bird world will tell you that sunflower seeds are not a suitable diet and in fact unhealthy for pet parrots. Why do stores still sell them? Some customers have older birds that were fed sunflower seeds their whole life and are set in their ways. Other times there are younger birds with older owners that are too set in their ways. If you're going to give sunflower seeds to your parrot, only use them as training treats in extreme moderation (hint if you don't have enough fingers to count them, it's too much).
Secret #5 - Save money by making your own toys
Your parrot needs a lot of toys and activities to prevent boredom, screaming, and self-mutilating behavior while in the cage. This is an important part of parrot ownership and you shouldn't short change the highly intelligent parrot on these activities. However, this can also get quite costly. You can save money by making your own bird toys whether you buy bird toy parts at the bird store or find your own (bird safe, non-toxic) alternatives. But, there's nothing like letting your feathered friend indulge in a nice retail toy every now and then!
Secret #6 - Boarding can be hazardous to your bird's health
Boarding your bird when you go away can be challenging. Options may be limited and it can get pretty costly. However, take caution because many bird stores that offer boarding have no precautions or health requirements and your bird could pick up an illness from another bird boarding there. Even with a treatable illness, the vet costs are astronomical and many diseases are only preventable but not treatable. Only consider boarding at stores or vet clinics that have health testing requirements. While it may seem like a costly burden to get your bird tested to be able to board, using a facility that mandates this from every bird will help keep yours safe.
Secret #7 - Out of season parrots are "leftovers"
There are specific breeding seasons that vary by species. Although some like conures and greys will breed year round, most parrots will breed a certain time of year. If you come at the right time of year for the specific species, you will be met with the biggest selection of babies and get to choose the one for you. However, if you come out of season you may not be able to find the species you are looking for. But, if you do find the species, it may be a leftover baby that was passed over by others for one reason or another. Sometimes it is because it has a nastier personality, poor feathering, or a physical abnormality. Other times it could be nothing wrong with the bird at all and just excessive supply and insufficient demand. But whatever the reason, if you take your time and start looking for your baby in the right season, you will have the best chance of finding the one for you.
Secret #8 - Don't get a bird on the spot, plan ahead
Getting a bird from a store shouldn't be a spontaneous decision. You want to take your time and plan ahead. If you start your search early, you will be there when the new batch of baby birds arrives and you will have the best chance to get to know them and pick the one for you. You will get first "dibs" and get to choose the one you want instead of being left getting one only because it is the last one remaining. Put a deposit down early to hold your spot in the line and get first choice on the baby that is right for you.
So there's 8 bird store secrets revealed. Feel free to share your bird store secrets in the comments. And watch this video of these bird store secrets exposed at Bird Paradise:
Come out to Bird Paradise October 12/13 2019 for the Bird Paradise Parrot Palooza and come to my free presentations, book signings, and Q&A.