6 Things to Keep in Mind About Rehomed Parrots by Cathy Coleman
A rehomed parrot often has a second chance at happiness that it might not otherwise get. When a parrot’s past is a mystery, sometimes we need to see things from their perspective to help them acclimate.
Allow your parrot to learn your body language ... but more importantly, take the time to learn theirs before asking something that might initially be a demand instead of a request. It's an amazing feeling, adopting a parrot. We want to make a positive difference in their lives, give them as much love as possible, share our lives with them and provide for their every want and need.
Sometimes, it takes a fair amount of "sleuthing" to understand what a re-homed parrot has been through. Some are fortunate enough to have had loving caregivers. But sadly, the larger majority are acquired on "whimsy" ... and then dumped after the newness wears off and the reality of responsibility sets in. Those parrots need us to understand and help them the most.
Here are 6 tips on helping to acclimate a rehomed parrot into your home.
1. Do not Lay Down "The Rules" Immediately
How would you feel if someone you just met started making demands of you right away? You would probably turn and run the other direction, right?
Parrots do not have that luxury, and their typical defense is to bite, which does not good friends make. When we first brought home Thor, a Moluccan cockatoo, I immediately tried to establish dominance by telling her to "step up" in a very firm voice with a very firmly held arm in her face. She looked at me with an expression that simply said, "I know nothing ..." and clamped her feet tightly onto her perch. The more demanding I became, the more upset she got, which soon resulted in a very "polite" pinch with her beak to prove her point. As I sat there trying to soothe my wounded pride, I asked her” What am I going to do with you?” Thor looked at me and quietly raised her foot to step up. I learned that I never really gave her the opportunity to respond ... only to react. Having a quiet place to observe their new home and the people in it is important to a rehomed parrot.
2. Allow For "Soak Time “
Going from one environment to another can be very stressful for a parrot. They may often assume that how they were treated previously — especially if it was bad — is how they are going to be treated in their new home. Allow your parrot to get to know "you" and your household from a quiet distance. Putting their cage in a quiet but visible area where they can observe will be much more effective than putting them in a middle of what they might perceive as a terrifying "circus" of unfamiliarity.
3. Lower Your Expectations & Wait
This is a tough one, especially because we know we mean well ... but a newly re-homed parrot may not. Building a relationship often takes more time than we can possibly imagine, especially if a parrot has been in a difficult situation previously. It is important not to expect a lot in the beginning. Give your parrot plenty of "space" — mentally as well as physically — to come to their own conclusions about their new life and being able to trust you. If you take the time it takes to be patient in the beginning, regardless of how long that is ... it will take less time to become their trusted friend in the end.
4. Do not get your feelings hurt
As humans, how often do we have to remind ourselves, and each other, not to "take it personal?" And yet, we do that very thing when the parrot we adore and want to adore us gives us the cold-feathered shoulder. For a newly rehomed parrot, sometimes this is merely a self-preservation technique. But occasionally, this tactic does backfire! I knew that Petrie, our adopted Timneh African grey, came with first, no matter how hard I tried, I got nothing short of the birdie "finger. "Offering any sort of treat was thrown on the floor with great Scarlett O'Hara drama. A simple "Hi Petrie" was rewarded with gunfire. Putting my hand in a tank full of piranhas was no different than asking Petrie to step up. And using a stick for stepping up only gave him a runway up my arm to bite my ear. Of course, my feelings were hurt, among other things. I was trying so hard and he was just kicking seed in my face with every attempt. Finally, I decided on another approach: Doing absolutely nothing. No going out of my way to offer treats. No sitting by his cage chatting or reading stories. Nothing. Nada. Zippo. To my surprise, Petrie quickly became VERY interested in trying to get my attention: talking, whistling, and just making a general fool of himself anytime I was in the vicinity. It was only THEN that Petrie began to understand that bad behavior did not get him anywhere, and his behavior subsequently began to improve. Parrots do not care how much you know … until they know how much you care.
5. Expect A Little ... Reward A Lot
It is the small things that count, especially for a parrot trying to fit into a new household. Their initial efforts are often imperceptible and sometimes go unnoticed because we are usually looking for a "fireworks" response to our own big efforts. Remember how your parents celebrated your first attempt at riding a bicycle? It did not matter that you only pedalled two feet before toppling over — they were full of enthusiasm and excitement... and that made you try even harder. Parrots are no different, really. When we notice the smallest effort and reward the slightest try, it tells a parrot that we are aware of their presence ... and that they matter. A reward can be something as simple as an acknowledgement in their direction, a small treat, or a scratch on the head. Give your rehomed parrot plenty of space at first and you may be pleasantly surprised!
6. Put Yourself in Their Feathers
Look at the world through the eyes of your parrot. It is important to remember to have not only empathy for each other, but also for them. Too many people forget that parrots live and breathe just like us. They fear, they hurt, they worry. They feel what we do, but do not always understand. Imagine the terror in their hearts, the fear that strikes them as they wonder why things are happening ... why they are being hurt. Imagine you are captive in a place you do not know with people you cannot communicate with. Imagine how horrifying that could be. It is important to be compassionate, and to be patient enough to allow our rehomed parrots to learn to trust us as humans all over again