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Preferring One Person To Another

Posted: 26/09/2016

Preferring One Person To Another

Written by Arlette de Jager – Companion Pets

One of the biggest problems in companion pet birds is that the bird has only bonded to one person in the house. Many don’t see it as a problem, or as the origins of the problems they are experiencing on a daily basis. In many cases issues like biting and screaming are rooted in the birds unwillingness to interact with all the family members.

You might think it’s wonderful that the bird has selected you – that it finds you to be the most trustworthy and desirable member of the whole family. Naturally you will want to nurture this special bond and be all that your bird needs and wants.

Please understand that in doing so it is a terrible disservice to your bird and you are compromising its future. If you allow your bird to become a one-person bird, to the point where it will not tolerate anyone else in the household, you will guarantee that it will be disliked by the rest of the household. Screaming for your attention and unpredictable behaviour will make it unpleasant to have around. In your absence, your bird will have no-one and in the event of your death or even illness the bird will land in the nearest rescue or the first person willing to take the bird. Very often in a relationship an ultimatum is given, “Either the bird goes or I go.”

Birds are highly social creatures. The strength of the social structures keeps a wild flock alive and healthy and they interact with each individual in the flock. They will have their preferred mates and tolerate others. These flock dynamics exist in captive bred birds. The difference is that the humans now become their flock and you might be the “chosen” one. If you allow this attachment to continue your bird will begin to look at you as more than just a friend and will begin to act defensively when other “flock members = family” try to interact with the bird or make the mistake of approaching you. Now the problem begins – it can scream incessantly for you attention and will bite to avoid any potential suitor.

It is imperative that you socialize the bird with every member of the family. This must begin from the first day you take your bird home. Every member of the household must handle the bird, share in its upkeep, and spend meaningful time with it during play time or in training.

If you are currently experiencing this problem you must step back from the bird and allow others in the house to step forward to participate in the birds care and handling. You must allow them to build a relationship from square one – while you wait in the background. Be prepared for more screaming as your bird makes this adjustment. But if you step in at any stage when it is screaming, you will set the whole process back. Remember you are doing it for the good of your bird.

Once your family has gained the trust of the bird you can resume physical interaction with it. If it shows signs of trying to renew that bond with you – shunning the rest of the family – hand it off to the nearest family member unless it is showing aggression. In this instance return the bird to its cage and later ask another family member to retrieve it after a short while.

Your bird will still likely have a preferred person but it will enjoy a more fulfilling life with a multitude of playmates and will no longer spend its day pining just for you.

In the wild, once a parrot is weaned it would normally join a group of sub adults and will choose a mate from that group to avoid inbreeding. Relating that to humans –you bring up you children, you are their primary care giver and they are bonded to you. But as they mature they do not look to their parents to find a mate, they look to others. Parrots raised by a human and who see them as their “parent”, may avoid choosing that person as their partner later on. If your parrot has an unpleasant experience with you it can also cause the parrot to be wary of you and avoid you and look for another favourite person.

Hormonal changes in the breeding season may change the preference of a parrot for the breeding period.

Treating one person birds:        

·     Expose the parrot from a young age to a large variety of people; allow them to handle the bird in a safe and calm environment. Parrots do not enjoy loud noisy children and will back away from them. Teach your children from the get go that when they are around the parrot to be calm and talk softly.

·      It is best if all family members spend equal time with the parrot to avoid the parrot bonding with one person only. Make the life of your parrot as interesting as possible and give and make toys to enrich their environment.

·     Let the person that is not preferred feed the parrot’s favourite food and do things that the parrot enjoys, e.g. letting the parrot out of the cage and giving a treat.

·     A parrot that is bonded to one person will do better with a new person when the person they are bonded with is not around.

·     You will need to work slowly with positive reinforcement to teach your parrot to trust and feel safe with new people.

·     When at the end of the day, your parrot still prefers one person to another, live with it and do not try to force the other person onto the parrot.

A parrot that is well socialized with different people early in life may be less likely to form strong bonds with one person later in life.

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