Socializing Your Avian Companion
By Theresa Jordan
Intensive socialization, along with proper handfeeding and abundance weaning, are the
most critical building blocks of a chicks early development. The absence of any one of
these could be detrimental to raising a secure, confident, friendly pet bird.
Socializing a bird is not a difficult or complicated procedure. In fact, facets of this
process occur almost without conscious thought through the actions of care givers who
sincerely care about their pet birds. Quality time spent with chicks, their continued
handling by more than one or two people on a routine basis, and their exposure to many
different aspects of their environment are all forms of socialization techniques.
To begin teaching socialization, young baby birds should be gently handled and handfed
by more than one person. This process will teach them that humans can be relied on as a
food source, and get them used to being in close proximity to different people. While it's
common for birds to take a special liking to one particular person as they get older, they
should be taught to accept handling from others, too; this will go far in preventing the
"one owner bird" problem. A good way to teach a bird to be comfortable with
"multi-person socialization" is to have a few people sit on the floor or couch,
and gently pass the bird around from person to person, with each one spending a few
moments holding, cuddling, and talking softly to the bird. Older babies who are able to
perch should be passed by using the "Step Up" and "Step Down"
To continue teaching socialization, vary the time of day that things occur which affect
your bird directly. For instance, if you have set aside a special time during the day to
spend with him, alter that time. Vary the amount of time spent with your bird. Introduce
him to different activities. Feed him at a different time. If he insists on an apple every
morning for breakfast, give him grapes or orange pieces instead. It is also a good idea to
allow your bird to be in the same room with the family during mealtime. Eating is a
social/flock activity for birds, and they may feel left out and proceed to vocalize their
unhappiness when they perceive that they have been denied their association with the
"flock" during this crucial activity.
Birds must be taught to understand that changes are normal, are to be expected, and can
be fun. If you have already established your dominance and gained your bird's trust, he
will accept these changes more readily knowing that you are in control and will not allow
any harm to come to him. After you have practiced the "small" changes and the
bird has become used to them, gradually move on to bigger and better changes --- take him
for a ride in your car, on a bike, or take him visiting with you. Let him sit at the table
during mealtimes. If he is friendly and accepting of being handled by others, you may even
allow him an overnight visit at someone's house. After all, you may want to take a
vacation sometime, or go away for the weekend. Showing your bird that you accept and even
expect some alteration in the day-to-day activities will help him to adjust socially.
The 3 Types of Contact
To adequately provide for your birds social needs, there are three individual types of
contact that s/he should be exposed to: shared, ambient, and direct.
Shared attention is exactly what it implies; the bird is
sharing your attention with someone or something else. Watching television while holding
your bird on your lap, scratching the bird with one hand while you hold the telephone with
the other, or letting the bird share your shower are all examples of shared attention.
This is also the most common form of attention.
Ambient attention focuses on allowing the bird to be close
to everyday "activites" by placing him in a strategic position, usually out of
his cage and on a gym or T-stand, close to the center of activity. He is not receiving
direct attention, but can easily hear and see what is going on around him.
"One on one" is the truest example of direct attention.
Your total, undivided attention is centered on the bird, and is accompanied by
verbalizations, cuddling, petting, scratching, and direct eye contact. If your bird is not
well socialized and currently doesn't tolerate handling, simply physically standing next
to the cage or wherever the bird is located and focusing your attention entirely on the
bird is perfectly acceptable.
Birds should also spend an adequate amount of time alone each day. Handling your bird
constantly for the first few weeks or months may in time become expected behavior, and
only serve in developing possible behavior problems later when the initial excitement of
having a new bird wears off and you spend less time giving your bird direct attention.
Teach your bird how to amuse himself, and how to play with his toys. Providing simple but
interesting "toys" can keep a bird occupied for hours. Something as simple as a
set of plastic measuring cups, plain popsicle sticks that he can destroy or a clean, empty
paper towel roll will often hold a bird's interest and turn out to be his favorite
At a bare minimum, the amount of time you spend daily with your bird
should be enough to properly service the cage, replenish the water and food containers,
and perform a visual assessment of your bird. However, this will provide only for his
physical needs. A bird's psychological needs must also be met in order for him to
remain happy and totally healthy, and adequate socialization is a wonderful start to
meeting those needs.
© Theresa Jordan
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Certificate No: 1170
First Registered: 3/1/1997