Children do best inside structure. That's what my mom told me, and my grandmother as well. As I grew up they would both give me pearls of wisdom to carry forward into my own family. I find many of those pearls show their brilliance inside a companion parrot lifestyle as well.
Structure allows our birds to know their flock is in good working order. Schedules and routines open opportunity for reasonable expectations on our part and theirs while building trust between parrot and human. A child who knows dinner is always at 5, is free to feel confident not only in that simple fact, but all the actions and events that happen during dinner at 5.
Allowing structure itself to lay the rules rather than behavior modification and training builds a trusting relationship between two personalities. I bristle just little bit when people ask me "how to train" their bird to do an action. I bristle because tricks and obedience alone do not support the flock necessity; shared trusted information. Although it can deliver required actions for the convenience of the human in the room. A hybrid flock of human and bird requires the same as a flock of parrots. Consistent and constantly shared information about the health, safety and well being of every member of the flock, thereby assuring the health, safety and well being of the whole.
Creating scheduled moments and routines creates sincere expectations for our parrots. They will literally act toward and for that expected routine or event. And they will do it with a happy joy. Their sincere actions toward and for routine expectations creates an opportunity to communicate about what we would like that moment to become with them.
For example, every bird in this house knows I will be working at the computer until 11. Their expectations for breakfast and interesting foraging is the structure I provide so that I can work until 11 without any trouble. Multiple food bowls containing varying foods in varying states of being meets their morning foraging and feasting needs. I set each parrot at their favorite bowls to start, and announce that it is time for breakfast and I need to work. I go into the adjacent room with full view and accessibility for them, and they remain in the bird room. 4 hours pass quietly with only the sound of rejected items hitting the hardwood floor while 4 parrots climb, fly, scamper, run and jump between a dozen food bowls in a dozen different locations.
I could have simply locked them all in cages for 4 hours with limited personal space and bowls. That would be effective to be sure. I could have trained them to sit still, sit tight and post. Yes, that's an option as well. But neither of those options build the relationships I want with each of our parrots. I want to trust them and they want to trust me. In that we both need to allow the other the option of a mistake. There are days I have a macaw on my head in the morning, because she would rather roost a few more hours than forage. And in those days the rest will follow into the office. We've created a new structured event for those days. Snickers, our other macaw perches on the large tree stand and calls out to be rolled into the office so he can look out the window and wait for me to finish there. Kirby then follows in to perch on the cockatiel aviary in front of the adjacent dining room window to observe. And finally I bring Felix and his tree tent in to join the flock migration. I call this option the Migration. We all worked this out together over time. Now on the Migration days they sit tight, and I still work. We had a few conversations about what they needed and I wanted and together we found our middle ground of compromise. Because great relationships use compromise for the health and strength of that relationship.
Structure is not about control, it's about creating an atmosphere that supports compromise and tells our companions they are safe in a healthy flock. This is a relationship we are creating. And all good relationships require good conversation and compromises.
More importantly, structure, routines and schedules tell our birds they are safe. Like human children structure, routines and schedules provide a simple road map of do's and do not's. And rather than reacting to things, we proactively provide an atmosphere of safety and calm. The environment itself creates the limits they need and seek inside a flock.
Structured lifestyle isn't about control, it is about freedom for both human and parrot. Freedom from stress, surprises and danger. It provides freedom of choice for our birds. Structure is the framework that communication, compromise, trust and a relationship grows around. This is the very fabric that builds the T.R.U.S.T.