I've found the solution for the fastest growing group of displaced companion animals; parrots. After 5 years working on 4 Continents via the Internet and working directly with hundreds of flocks around the world; I know the way to fix the symptoms of that single issue harming all parrots around the world. And this fix will also reverberate throughout our own personal flocks creating a successful companion parrot lifestyle. The problem and the fix are contained in one simple word; expectation.
Understanding the parrot's sincere expectations to life and their sincere behaviors from those is paramount to a successful companion parrot lifestyle. And mandatory for fixing their plight of homelessness, rejection and mill breeding. Understanding and acknowledging their sincerity will not only improve our own flock and flock lifestyle but if we share this with others, we can literally stem the tide of their growing plight.
It's time to sincerely rethink our approach to companion parrots. It's time to retool the words we use, the approaches we start with, and most importantly, the expectations that have become presumptions inside the world of companion parrots. Parrots are not pets. Choosing to bring a companion parrot into our lives is a lifestyle choice. This isn't about bringing home a pet to keep. Our life will change and must change if we choose this lifestyle of companionship. So let's look at expectation; human and parrot.
Human expectations can not be sincere. Humans are not sincere by nature.
We humans get ideas, and while we are considering those ideas we tend to fantasize, rationalize and literally tell a story that has not happened with facts that may not even exist yet. We will build unreasonable expectations on a foundation of maybes for motivation, self preservation and to literally enable us to execute a plan that we may find very uncomfortable. Or a plan that we may find impossible. You know the old saying; fake it till you make it. It's easy to see this in day to day life. Anger while driving in traffic is a great example. The only reason we become angry at another driver is unreasonable expectation. Think about it. Why are we yelling at the guy speeding, or going too slow or using a cellphone if you did not first expect them to not? I know, the laws of the land yield expectation but going into unknown traffic expecting compliance is unreasonable, we all know that 40% of the drivers out there are in some sort of emotional state or tired, or not awake or are thinking of something yet to come in their day. The laws themselves lay on a foundation of assumptions that the humans in the cars are paying attention and are 100% willing to comply. All this leads to the simple truth that joining traffic requires us to expect instability and chaos.
There are times in our days where we didn't even know we had unreasonable expectations until they were not met. And at that very moment of unrealized unknown expectation we become frustrated or offended. We may rant or act out, or get in a car to join traffic flow in a state of frustration. We'll later wonder "why did I get so bent out of shape about that?" Insincere unreasonable expectations, that's why.
Parrots are sincere by nature so all their expectations are developed in a simple sincere state of being. Parrots are black or white, up or down, yin or yang. They are in the here and the now and sincerely mean everything they do. There is no gray area for a companion parrot. Parrots in the wild inside a flock can not afford gray area thinking. A bird that will rationalize it's own desires over the flock's needs will harm himself and the flock. A parrot's expectations are based on this requirement of black and white sincerity. We, as the human in the room, could wipe away unreasonable expectations by simply welcoming their sincerity into the process of creating our flock lifestyle. We are the humans, they are the exotics, but we are both intelligent, emotional, empathetic and cognitive. We just need to learn how to talk to each other. There is middle ground to be sown by acknowledging their sincere expectations and identifying the correlating sincere behaviors to create choice, communication and understanding.
This means a "no" is as good as a "yes" from our companions. Expect and embrace your parrot's full range of possible responses. To create communication we have to build a language of trust. Trust is a collection of pieces and parts found inside the choices are parrots are allowed to freely make. Choice is simply behavior. When we discuss modifying behavior what we are really talking about is modifying their freedom of choice.
A flock operating by a strong personal language built from their sincere expectations and choices (behaviors) and our responses to those choices made, will either build trust or remove trust. Choice is a behavior result from their expectations. In the wild a parrot can do anything. Anything they choose in flight or perch or ground. They have super powers and with those powers they have full choice. Imagine your state of mind if you were born into a mindset of super powers like flight with no limitations. There would be a certainty to us. A mind already made up to most of the things around us. We might even be arrogant! When we bring such a super powered being into the human dynamic we immediately change what can happen inside their natural expectations. By limiting the choices (as it will have to happen) we have limited communication between ourselves and our companion. We've literally limited one avenue of sharing information simply by bringing them into our home. Choices made are their communication to us.
One way to build your personal language highway with your companion is by offering Immersive Choice. Creating multiple options that offer multiple choice answers that can all be correct, will give them the opportunity to communicate with you through choice patterns. Because every action choice is communication inside a flock. A flock of birds is in constant communication during their waking hours. They never cease giving and taking in information about themselves and their flock mates. Unlike humans who can say, "see ya later" and walk away without discomfort a parrot isn't hardwired for such limited information from a flock mate. They are hardwired to be in constant conversation about everything.
You have to be a bit fearless with all this because like humans, parrots can make a mistake. That's how we all learn; through mistakes and wrong choices. I'm not saying let your bird raid the pantry and eat the chocolate I am saying create an environment that promotes investigation, searching, play, rest, thought and humor. Multiple food stations offering varying foods in varying sizes in varying states of being. Having more than one appropriate perching location. Having extra cages simply to investigate, nap in and allowing them a choice in caging for the day. Cast a wide net of variables, you'll find yourself removing the ideas they ignore and learning their opinions and motivations along the way. It won't be long before you know intimate details about how your parrot thinks, and you will have built a magnificent Environmental System for communicating bedtime, dinner time, nap time, cage time and all the routines that make a parrot confident and a human calm.
Triage their choices to find what your companion is choosing not to do. When our companions choose to do something, whether it fits our expectations or preferences or not, consider the options they did NOT choose. Every choice made is communication to you from them. And every choice declined is more communication. You can learn intimate details about your parrot's personality simply by paying equal attention to their "no's" as you do to their "yes's".
I pay very close attention to our flock's "no's" during the day. I take exceptional notations to body languages when they are in the process of deciding to accept or decline an action or a new object or food. Their sincere expectations are revealed by their body language far before the sincere behavior takes place. Knowing those small millisecond cues is priceless. Stress builds fast for a parrot inside an expectation moment. We want to literally remove the moment of stress when we are trying to communicate with our bird. There are two kinds of stress, the good and the bad. Each has their own chemical makeup. The bad fires off and we feel threatened (I don't have enough money to pay my bills). The good stress fires and we are exhilarated (I love roller coasters!) Humans literally choose stress for fun. Parrots hate all stress. They want non of it for any reason. Which is why we get bit. They are literally pushing the stress they are feeling away, and you are the recipient of that message. So we are literally looking for that moment just before the stress of decision becomes a choice of action. There are 4 steps; OPTION, DECISION, CHOICE/BEHAVIOR. We want to read that body language just between the DECISION and CHOICE/BEHAVIOR.
Identify their body language cues, disengage immediately when we see them express a stress cue and stress doesn't get a chance to invade our conversations. This is what we are really after, good conversations that end on a positive note. I don't get bit by any one in our flock simply because stress never makes it's way into our conversations. And that is a direct result of paying very close attention to the "no's". But you can't get a no if you don't allow them to choose first.
By utilizing immersive choice and communication we offer a wider format of options that meet our parrot halfway between human need and parrot expectation. Remember, we are working inside that fertile ground shared between human and parrot that I mentioned earlier. Our shared emotional and cognitive states are ready to grow trust, communication and sincere behaviors on the part of the human and the parrot. But it is up to the human in the room to allow that harvest to be planted. And that takes a bit of fearlessness, empathy and patience.
By creating our own personal flock language based on expectations we naturally create sincere behaviors on both our parts; human and parrot! Because, you see, we've been judging successful communication all wrong. Judging communication based on our preferred results is a faulty barometer to successful communication. Communication and trust is built on "no's" as much as the "yes's". Successful communication, between humans/humans and human/parrots is simply compromise for the health of the relationship. Like I said; this is a LIFESTYLE choice. We've all entered a relationship, not an ownership.
When we decide to get into a relationship, friend, lover or spouse; hopefully we are going in knowing compromise and appreciation of the little things that drive us nuts is all part of the success of companionship. Married? In a serious relationship? We all know each of us has that one "thing" that drives the other mad, and yet, it's the one thing that drew them to us. We thought the dirty socks left on the floor by the bed was so cute at one time. There placement reminded us of our love. We all thought our parrot's beak and voice were so cute at one time. The face of their personality. What happened? They say familiarity breeds contempt. They are wrong. Familiarity breeds Expectation. Trust and respect demand selfless expectation. There is no room for unreasonable expectation but all the need in the world for sincerity. Because you can't fool a parrot with insincere effort and you can't have a relationship based on self-centered wants.
There's another expectation in all parrots of simply being part of the action. Your action, the flock's action. Humans don't flock. We herd quite well, but that's not the same as flocking. Parrots flock. They require group think and concern.
A flock is a dynamic, organic constantly moving and communicating group of individuals interconnected and inter-concerned with each other's whereabouts, status, focus and goals. By it's very definition a flock is interdependent and connected for each individual's wellness for the ultimate group's wellness. You can not have a healthy flock if a member or a number of members are out of sync due to illness or attitude.
Humans herd. Consider a herd of cattle. Dr Temple Grandin writes heavily on the subject of herd mentality. An Animal and Human Behaviorist, she designs corrals and hardware to take advantage of the herd mentality so that ranchers can quietly, peacefully and easily cause a large count of steers to literally walk to their death. Because her design signals safety to the herd mass think. She then applies these principles to lowering rage and fear in people. You know how lines are snaked in S's at airports and theme parks? That was her idea based on the cattle idea but filtered for human perception needs. It wasn't just to pack more people in the area, it was to allow the human to feel "progress movement". Standing in a straight line looking down to the front makes it all feel much, MUCH slower. And it is harder to feel "progress movement". At some point we all break down into an impatient edgy "COME ON! This is taking forever!" Her ideas are based on EXPECTATIONS. And her theories work, on ranches and in cities. Because humans herd. We aren't interdependent or interested in what's best for our neighbor, we are interested only in our own preservation or self perception of safety. Which is why we like to join groups, dress "in fashion", belong to a Home Owner's Association and create circles of trust. It is why advertisers love us so very much. A herd is a safe place to be for the individual, but the individual is not concerned with the herd as a group, the individual is only concerned with being in the herd for better protection. The individuals on the outside of that herd, are lunch. The older members who lose position in the herd, are lunch. The young separated from the mother and herd, are lunch. Yet the herd keeps moving forward during the losses.
You can see how a herder's expectation may not align with a flocker's expectation. To walk away from your parrot(s) and do things separately makes no sense to them. Of course there are times it's inappropriate to have them near you, safety being first. That is where we can insert alternative sincere expected items, actions, views or routines. If our companion needs to be in a cage and they are less than enthused, we simply change the conversation to a language of fun. Fill that cage with favorites only had when they are in that cage. Create a transition system the reboots their focus and changes their expectations. Kirby, our IRN, doesn't have his own real day cage. We use Felix's Travel Cage during times when we need to leave the house. Kirby does enjoy this cage, next to the cockatiel's flight cage, in front of his favorite window. BUT Kirby could care less about all of that and will evade that cage at all costs. UNLESS I ask him to go upstairs with me and "help me get ready". He happily rides my shoulder upstairs and project manages from the towel hanger. When I'm finished and ready, he happily goes back downstairs on my hand talking furiously and giving kisses. All the way to his cage. No problem. He simply needed the conversation about my leaving first. And so we talked our own language of being together before I leave.
All the toys in the world can not compensate for being left out of the flock action endlessly. And by flock action I mean shared information. Their sincere expectation to being "in a flock" can not be replaced by inanimate objects, music, TV or other distractions. Sure, you'll buy time and a little comfort for them, but in the end they will begin to show the stress of that missing sincerity behavior, flocking. Flocking is not necessarily being out of a cage. It is the quality of the time out, not the quantity. Additionally the major value of flock action is simply shared and constant information between us, the environment and them. Sight lines from perches and cages that allow them to gather visual information on your location or arrival through a door, proximity to the action spots of your home, and letting your companion tag along during your housework or such are simple and powerful flock choices. We want choices of view, items, food location, light, sound and us to create choices of action and thought. Choices reveal expectations that reveal behaviors that fuel the knowledge shared between you and your companion.
Once inside a strong and communicating flock a parrot will choose to meet the flock's (your) expectations before their own, for the benefit of the flock's health and happiness. That truth is a natural instinct. By allowing our companions to sincerely expect, choose and behave our natural expectations will become more reasonable inside our flock lifestyle. Because we simply compromised between their and our expectations. As we do in all our most excellent relationships.
The one expectation we should bring to our parrot lifestyle that is not unreasonable and totally sincere is this; No matter what, our companions will always act like a parrot first. It is to be expected. It is who they are, and they are good at it. They sincerely want to be themselves. The more we allow them to reveal themselves sincerely, the bigger the truth of companion parrots will be inside our own flocks, and to the world around us.
This is all simply a chosen relationship we've all gotten into. And like any relationship it takes both parties participating, communicating and listening to create that trust and strong bond we are all seeking in our lives from bird and human. And here's the thing. If this conversation bleeds out into other flocks and they share to the next to salvage or rebuild a broken flock and they share their healing with another, I wonder just how that will affect companion parrot homelessness and rehoming? I wonder if we all admit to their sentient status in action not just word, how easily the general public can get behind treaties and sanctuary, anti-poaching, rescue and ending the despicable practice of mill breeding? I wonder if we fix the human's expectations first, just how far will our success travel around the world to give every parrot, everywhere a happy home? And I wonder, won't happier parrots be indicative of happier humans? And if so, what will happen if we all become kinder to each other? I think about this every day. These possibilities keep me awake at night. They fuel my work. I dream big because while I reach for the Moon I'll surely capture a comet.
Expectation, ours and theirs, is the focal point for change in all the best directions. We just need to change ours first.