The greatest perceived safety hazard to keeping fully flighted parrots is the potential for escape. Once outside of the human household, the parrot is exposed to infinite dangers from starvation to predation. Therefore it is critical for owners of all parrots (including clipped ones because they have been known to have just enough might to fly out the door and into a tree) to maintain a 100% safety record in terms of preventing accidental escape.
This article is about ways to bird proof your home or set up your parrot's out of cage time in order to guarantee safety. There aren't many pictures because this is a more conceptual article but I hope you take this into full consideration nonetheless. It is my hope that all parrot owners can come away from reading this with a better understanding of how to keep their parrots safe indoors whether they are flighted or clipped. Furthermore, I hope that for owners of clipped parrots this will give them a means of providing safety so that they could allow their parrot flight in their home.
The most common way a companion parrot is unexpectedly lost is actually by taking it outside unrestrained and not out from the house. This happens to clipped and flighted parrots alike. The owner doesn't realize the parrot's potential for flight and then is shocked when it takes off and drifts away out of sight. This mostly happens to clipped parrots because their owners don't realize that clipped parrots, although poorly, are still capable of flight. A less common way is when owners of flighted parrots think their parrot is reliable enough that it will stay with them or come back. The problem with this is that without the proper training, the bird may simply be unprepared to deal with wind and outdoor factors adequately. And the other way is when owners of flighted parrots walk outside with their flighted parrot on them without remembering. Folks will go out to pick up the mail with their parrot on their shoulder and then something scares it into flying off. For all of these reasons, it is absolutely necessary that owners do not intentionally or accidentally take their parrot outdoors without proper restraint (carrier or harness). It only takes one time so it's necessary to use proper precautions every time.
From inside the house, the most suspect escape path is the front door. This door is most frequently (and unexpectedly) opened so it should receive the most thoughtful attention. Ideally, there should always be 2 doors between where the parrot is and outside. Only one door must ever be open at a time. In my situation, I have a front door at street level which leads to a staircase and another door at the second floor entrance. This is a perfect safety catch and has the added bonus of the vertical separation in addition to two doors. I realize most people do not have this convenience so I will mention options I have thought about and DIY means of ensuring there are 2 doors between the parrot and outside. If you have birds and are planning on moving, definitely keep this two door entry situation in mind when searching for a new place.
For home owners that have a front door that leads straight into their living room (or through hallways but without doors), I very highly suggest installing a second safety door. When you realize that your parrot will be living there with you for 20-80 years easily, it is an invaluable investment that will ensure that your parrot lives out that entire span safely with you. This is by far the easiest and most secure solution but it is also the more costly. If you already have an entry room or hallway that goes from the front door into your living area, you may be able to mount a door directly in that space. Ideally you should have a professional or someone handy do it. But if you don't care as much how it looks, you can save a lot of money by buying a couple 2x4s and a prehung door at Home Depot and installing it yourself. This can be done for as little as $200. That is just $10 a year or less than a dollar a month in the lifespan of a single 20 year living parrot! You will end up spending more on bird food to keep it alive so don't overlook this important means of keeping it in and alive.
If you absolutely can't put a solid door but have that narrowing area to hang something, you can try to find a sliding curtain to hang. I don't recommend strings of beads for small birds because I have seen them fly through that or at least land on them. If you have more than one or two people living there, I would strongly suggest hanging a sign on the inside door or in plain sight to remind people “Live Birds - Only open one door at a time.”
The next scenario is a front door that drops you smack into the living area without any narrowing area or hallway for a second door. In this case my best suggestion is to build out a small piece of wall to produce a small hallway to mount a door. It can be as small as 3ftx3ft but allows sufficient space to have a second door to ensure safety. If you are serious about keeping a parrot for the many years that it will live, this is still a small price to pay to ensure its safety. The beauty of having two doors is that it is virtually fool proof. There is still a bit of risk involved in the event that someone opens both doors at once but it still makes things tighter and the bird is more likely to be caught in the safety catch room. If there is any chance to have a 90 degree turn upon entrance, that makes things even safer than a straight two door run.
If you live in a situation where is is outright impossible to make modifications and a second door is not possible, there are other ways to ensure that a parrot is kept safe behind two doors or to ensure a procedure for entry that prevents escape. For example, it is possible to limit the parrot to out of cage time only in a removed room that has its own door (that door makes the remainder of the home act as a safety catch prior to the front door. Although, less fool proof, keeping a parrot on an upper or lower floor separated by an open staircase, it is much less likely to fly that angle AND out the door in the same flight. Still it is best to add a door at one end of the staircase or at least hang some form of curtain to ensure safety.
Another way to establish a safety catch and second door is to put the second door outside instead of inside. It may be possible to enclose a portion outside with netting or walls and add a second door outside to avoid taking up space on the inside. Just keep in mind that security, screen, and storm doors are no substitute for a separate safety door.
Now for the scenario of a rented one room studio with an outside facing single door or someone who could make the modifications but is too cheap, you can change the lock to a dead bolt and always keep it locked. Whenever anyone from the household arrives, they must ring the bell or call anyone who is already inside the house to arrange that birds be put away into their cages prior to opening the door. The reason I specifically suggest a deadbolt is because it forces anyone opening the door from inside to go out to take the time to get a key which slows things down just enough to think and not do it spontaneously. For example, doorbell rings for a delivery or you hear a siren outside, having to go through the process of locating a key and opening the extra door should provide some reminder that this is done to ensure parrot safety. Of course having a sign on the door as a reminder is a great idea too. For fire hazard safety it is best to hang a copy of the key near the door inside. A sliding latch lock from inside is another option.
I don't suggest hanging a sign outside whenever bird is out because this is more easily forgotten. Instead, the standard operating procedure must be that no one goes in or out without first checking with someone (best designate one person in charge) that the bird is secured. And it goes without say that prior to opening the sole front door, it is an absolute must that the bird be enclosed in a cage or another room. For families with young children that come and go, it may be necessary not to give them keys but to always have them ring the doorbell or call in order to ensure safe operation of the door to prevent an unexpected entry when a bird is out.
For additional outside facing doors such as the back door, the best procedure is to dead bolt the door shut and agree not to use it. If there are multiple people, hang a sign on the door to say not to use that door except in an emergency. The same applies to sliding doors. Some people have sliding doors that lead to balconies or porches. It is a great idea to enclose the porch so that both you and your parrot can enjoy it together. The fewer doors that are used, the simpler it is to keep track of things. There is no point of going through the effort to add a safety catch to each door if only the front door is utilized and has a safety system in place.
If the back door must be used on occasion, keep it well lock and always ensure that the bird is away prior to use. If the back door must be used regularly, install an indoor or outdoor safety catch as described previously for front doors. This is really the only way to be able to safely open doors without risk of the parrot ending up out doors.
Windows are the other way by which parents end up getting outside. Since the window is relatively small it makes it easy for the bird to get out but hard to get back in. The bird most likely has never even seen your house from outside so it would be entirely lost once it makes it outside. For this reason all windows should stay closed whenever parrots are out. The real problem with windows is remembering to ensure they are closed when parrots are taken out. For this reason it is best to make the system foolproof instead. Put screens on all windows (even though they might not prevent a curious chewing parrot from getting out, they will prevent a flying one) or a security mesh. Make a habit of keeping windows closed to the extent possible. Keep blinds or curtains over the windows that let air but not birds through so that the birds don't even think of flying there (whether they are closed or not).
Another terrible danger to flying parrots is ceiling fans. Just remembering not to use them isn't enough. Someone can accidentally throw the wrong switch when turning on the lights or just have one of those moments when they forget. You must disable the fan all together to prevent a catastrophe waiting to happen. There are only two foolproof ways of doing this without completely replacing the device. Either have an electrician disable the electric switch for the ceiling fan or remove the fan blades yourself. I know there are people who think it is ok to use the fan when the parrot isn't out and that they will remember to shut it off when the parrot is taken out, but this simply isn't enough. There will be that one time when you have friends over midday and the fan is running and you suddenly get the urge to show them your parrot and completely forget about the fan. This is why it is best disabled entirely. An air conditioner or an enclosed fan are the best replacements.
I have already written extensively about other commonly cited safety hazards to parrot flight such as toilets, pots of boiling water, crashing into windows, and other pets in this article. But just for a quick recap, these dangers are very easily avoidable (much more so than the ones discussed above). Always keep bathroom doors closed. Don't worry about the toilet seat, if the door is closed, then the parrot can't get to it. If you want to be extra cautious, you can close both. Never cook or perform dangerous tasks while your bird is out (even if it is clipped). Cover windows with blinds or curtains at least partially. Never let birds and other pets out simultaneously to ensure their safety.
It is essential to make foolproof safety measures and not to rely on standard operating procedures. Telling everyone not to do something isn't as reliable as making it difficult to impossible to do. Marking windows and doors with notes may help remind people not to do things more in the moment than a general verbal warning. Even if you live alone, you may not be completely safe. I recall a time when I was seriously ill and my mother brought a meal over. She said it was really stuffy and opened windows while my birds were out. Luckily there are screens on the windows so this wasn't a catastrophic risk. Had there not been screens and the system simply relied on my remembering to close windows, things could have been different. So keep in mind that making all these safety measures aren't necessarily against yourself but other people who live with you or may show up unexpectedly. The more robust the safety measures you have in place, the safer your parrot will be regardless of the circumstances.
Foolproof safety measures must be implemented regardless of how well trained your parrot is. However, having an extensively flight recall trained parrot should greatly help should something ever happen despite all possible physical safety boundaries in place. I not only practice flight recall inside at home, but also outside on a harness, and at a large gym. Should recovery of my parrots ever be necessary, they have extensive prior experience both flying in large spaces and outdoors. Don't wait until your parrot is lost to think about flight training. If your flighted parrot isn't already flight recall trained, start working on it now. If all else fails, it could be the thing that gets it back.
One thing to keep in mind is that every home, parrot, and situation is different. These are general guidelines to help you start thinking about implementing robust flight safety. However, you must take into consideration all escape routes, people involved, location of the bird, and other variables. Be sure to analyze the situation fully and adjust the suggestions to work in your situation.
Please don't think that clipping a parrot's wings in any way absolves you from undertaking these extensive safety measures. Although these types of accidents are more frequent in flighted parrots, they do happen to clipped parrots just the same. These types of accidents would not happen to clipped or flighted parrots if the proper safety precautions were taken in advance. Don't wait until something bad happens and don't think that clipping has anything to do with this. Birds have wings and birds fly. Please remember this and do everything necessary to keep your flying family members safe.
When I was visiting Arizona for my seminar, I spent a lot of time with Ginger and her flock. Her living room is full of foraging trees for her expansive flock of rescue parrots. She has a large climbing tree that she custom built for her Congo African Grey Parrot, Ozzy. On several occasions I let Truman loose on this tree (while its occupant wasn't around) and he was absolutely thrilled. He was just climbing all around and checking the different toys out. I'd never seen him get more excited about a playstand. Since it was built for an African Grey, it was the perfect size for a Cape Parrot. Truman navigated his way through the expanse of branches and found toys that he was able to snap with ease.
Toward the end of my stay we had my birds and her (clipped) birds out at the same time. I put Kili and Truman on an unoccupied stand while the other birds were out. Truman was getting bored so he flew over to a seemingly unoccupied tree. However, its Senegal Parrot occupant came charging at him with open beak! It didn't take long for Truman to realize that not only was he unwelcome but that his assailant looked a heck of a lot like the one back home that kicks his butt. He flew off in the nick of time and headed for his favorite tree in the house, Ozzy's. Little did he know, however, Ozzy was actually out on his tree. Truman landed on the tree not far from Ozzy and the two Psittacinae came face to face for the first time.
Ozzy the African Grey on his custom built tree
The stand off ensued. Truman was like "who are you?" Ozzy was even more shocked, "I cannot believe you are on my tree. Don't you know this is my tree? What are you doing here?" For a while the two parrots stood dumbfounded, waiting for the other to make the first move. Eventually, Truman in his playful nature went for a toy and proceeded to play. Ozzy, still staring in disbelief at this uninvited stranger was unsure whether to attack or flee. Truman saw a toy near Ozzy and began walking toward it. Ozzy got a bit defensive and flashed his hooked bill in warning and Truman demonstrated his. In a moment it was all over and Ozzy retreated to a sulking corner of the tree while Truman roamed freely from toy to toy as he wished. This was the first and only time Truman won a fight. He is used to being bullied by Kili but here he did not even have to fight. The skittish Grey yielded his beloved tree to the uninvited guest with a bowie knife for a beak.
Thus I was persuaded to seek a bigger tree back home for Truman. I never bothered buying a large tree for him because at first I did not want it to block of his flight space but later because I got an aviary for him to spend time outside. Kili and Truman each had their own little table top tree at home but never gave much mind to them. One of the benefits of a larger tree that I learned from Ginger is that you can hang swings from them.
I spent some time searching for a ready to go Java tree. But not only are they very expensive, but none are perfect. Since they are all natural trees, there are a multitude of compromises in each. The thickness of the branches, the spacing between branches, the overhang of branches to hang toys from, and the size/shape of it all play major roles. However, after looking at dozens of trees, I realized that the only way to have one the ideal size, shape, and thrill for Truman, would be to engineer it myself. Thanks to Ginger, I realized that building a custom tree is a possibility.
I bought a variety of Java branches meant for mounting in the cage, some swings, and new toys. I also bought a cheap coffee table to mount this tree on to get it elevated without the cost of more branches. From the moment I was picking the branches, I was seeking ones that would be able to join together well. Deciding which branches would connect to other ones posed the biggest challenge. I had to find ends that would mate with the limbs of other branches and align it so higher branches could serve as toy hangars for lower ones. The tree also had to fit a specific contour of the space I had set aside for it.
Unlike most trees/stands for sale, I bolted an extensive series of stainless steel eye screws throughout the tree. This stand was engineered from start to finish to be a parrot dreamhouse. Large eye hooks suitable for mounting entire swings were factored into the original design. The tree was partly built in my workshop but then had to be completed on location because it would not fit through the door. What was extremely difficult was that I could not build further branches until prior ones were mounted but I needed to see the prior ones to know where the further ones would end up. So there was a lot of back and forth work assembling and disassembling the tree in order to be able to put everything together.
It took the greater part of a day to complete assembly of this deluxe custom built foraging empire. 4 swings and 11 toys completed the expansive mosaic of climbing locations for the parrots. Unlike the random branching of natural foraging trees, this one is layered in a way that guarantees the parrot can access every level. If Truman can't get to a specific branch from another, he can always climb up a toy or swing to get there. This may not be a huge tree, but it's highly accessible and efficient.
This morning I took Truman out to see his tree for the first time. He was like a little boy on Christmas morning. He ran around from perch to perch to try each toy. His eyes were running wild and he couldn't decide what part he wanted to play with first. Ironically he laid greatest preference to the two cheap toys I built for him myself rather than all the ones I paid good money for.
Kili was a bit weary of jumping straight on the tree at first. She watched from a safe distance but later decided to join. I put her on a perch at a distance from Truman and she proceeded to check things out as well. The tree is big enough and convoluted enough that the birds can play at opposite ends without the proximity to fight. Kili preferred some of the thinner swings and rope perches while Truman searched for tougher things to destroy.
Now with this homebuilt parrot amusement park I am hoping to be able to leave Truman out for longer spans of time. In the past I would inevitably have to put him away because he'd get into too much mischief. By concentrating everything a playful parrot could want on one tree, it will hopefully contain his attention for more time. Today he has spent hours playing and napping in his tree while I took care of other things. Yet, despite his expansive fun house, he still flew over to me from time to time to cuddle. This is an important balance. Truman is able to spend hours having fun independently, yet remains a cuddly people friendly bird.
After visiting Ginger's flock, rescues, and parrot stores on my Phoenix trip, I realized the pressing need for affordable parrot trees. With my experience building training perches, trees, and toys I intend to launch a new line of practical, affordable, quality parrot play stands with the busy parrot in mind. Stay tuned for an announcement about this new line of stands on the Parrot Wizard website. In the meantime, enjoy this video of Kili & Truman in their new custom built climbing tree:
If you recall my trip to southeast Asia, you'll remember that I brought back a bunch of really cool parrot coins that I picked up in Indonesia. After a little clean up and product development work, I now have an awesome gift set for parrot owners.
Until now, everything I've sold on the Parrot Wizard Store website was specifically meant for parrots. However, now for the first time I have an item that is specifically for parrot owners. This is a gorgeous 100 Rupiah Palm Cockatoo Coin from Indonesia. The coin demonstrates the country's pride in providing a native home for the majestic Palm Cockatoo which inhabits Indonesia in New Guinea.
I encapsulated the coin in a clear plastic capsule for protection and then put this inside a stylish leatherette gift case. But this set features more than just a coin. Parrot artwork decorates the box and certificate inside which explains the origins of the coin as well as some facts about the Palm Cockatoo. But that's not all. 10% of every sale of this coin will be shared with the World Parrot Trust to promote conservation of endangered parrot populations. It is most suitable that some of the proceeds from the Palm Cockatoo Coin go to the World Parrot Trust which embodies the Palm Cockatoo as its logo mascot.
This Palm Cockatoo Gift Set makes a great gift for any parrot lover. I'm sure any parrot owner would appreciate the conservation contribution as much as the excitement of having a coin with a parrot on it! So go ahead and order the Palm Cockatoo Coin for yourself, parrot owning friends, or as a gift for someone in your family that loves parrots.
Keep in mind that it pays to order multiple items when shopping the Parrot Wizard website. Shipping on most items is $3.49 for the first item you buy but then just $1.75 for any additional items. So buy a coin for yourself and another for a friend. Or better yet, get a toy for your parrot too while you're at it! For more pictures/details about the coin and to place an order, visit the product page:
International shipping will be available for just $5.00 USD more than the standard US listed price. If you're interested in ordering this from outside the US, contact me directly on the Parrot Wizard Website. For any kind of bulk or special request orders, just contact me and I'll see what we can do. Here's a promotional video of Kili and Truman helping me feature the coin.
I haven't made a new toy in a while so Kili and Truman were especially excited about the new Popsicle Paradise toy. For nearly an entire minute they put aside their differences checking out the toy together before getting in a fight over who'd get to play with it first. Of course Kili was the one left standing but I let them try it in turns.
The Popsicle Paradise toy is not only great for small parrots and parakeets but also for any parrot that isn't into toys. The pieces are easy enough to break that it is encouraging to any parrot. Yet there are so many pieces and the structure is durable enough that it will keep them busy for a long time and provide hours of chewing pleasure. I don't want to downplay my previous toy designs, but I think this is probably the best one yet. The color combinations and poofy design should as much appeal to owners as parrots themselves.
I'm good at coming up with toys for parrots because I can get feedback directly from my guys about whether they like it or not. But whether or not it appeals to owners to actually buy them is a whole other story. Hopefully this one will be a big success with everyone. So consider buying a Popsicle Paradise Toy for your parrot:
Truman is really looking forward to the Superbowl now that he thinks he's a star quarterback. Not only is he good at passing the ball around by flinging it with his beak, he can also hold the ball for kicking a field goal. Check out these photos, cartoon, and video of my Cape Parrot playing with his football!
Then Truman becomes the football himself! He's just about the right size come to think of it. I can play the role of both quaterback and receiver! We started playing a game with Truman where I hold him like a football and throw him and he turns around and comes back to me. Originally this started out as me just trying to get rid of him when he was being annoying not letting me get things done but he'd just turn around and come back to keep bugging me. But then we realized the trick potential and I began encouraging these boomerang flights with treats.
Truman the Cape Parrot lining up to play some football. Set...
...Hut! Truman snaps the football
It's a fumble! Quick, recover the ball!
Ok, let's play it safe and go for the field goal! Cartoon of parrots kicking a field goal.