A Cockatoo's Bedtime Negotiation

Some may call it parrot training. But anyone inside a real parrot companionship knows it's all negotiation.

A Cockatoo's Bedtime Negotiation

My husband teases me for being strict about birdy bedtime, but if you've lived with parrots, you know a bird who hasn't had adequate sleep is a grouch who will chomp, much like an overtired toddler will have tantrums. 

Clyde, Chief Bird in Charge, who started my bird obsession with his unexpected appearance in our backyard in 2008, is the worst offender in this regard. If Clyde ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. If he doesn't get enough sleep, enough Mom time, enough everything, he is a hotel room wrecking rock star diva. He'll zoom across the room with blood in his eye and mayhem on his mind and attack over and over. 

Then Rocky Too and his giant terrifying beak joined the family, and his cage had to be in the living room, where we would not be able to give him the quiet and dark that the others, in their room at the back of the house, can have. Rocky goes to bed early, but he stays up late. I was convinced that, along with his many other issues due to past abuse and rejection, we were going to have a chomping, grouchy and dangerous large parrot.

I was wrong.

Rocky yells for a while when we cover his cage, even though he sets his own bedtime. Then he starts talking to himself and to us, or whistling, or chuckling if we laugh at something or if he thinks we're funny. He dozes and wakes. He hangs upside down and peeks at us under the edge of his cover and chirps "hello!" or "I love you!" When we go to bed, we pull up the cover to say goodnight. He often sidles over and makes the little lovey sounds that melt my heart, reaches out with his foot to hold hands, and I scratch his head and rub his beak. I would not dream of sticking my hand through the bars to pet Clyde in his cage or ask him to step up. A Quaker's cage is his castle and I would most assuredly bleed. Rocky closes his eyes and grunts and purrs and doesn't mind at all. In fact, he expects it. He'd be disappointed if I didn't do that. And he isn't grouchy the next day. He takes naps during the day if he needs extra sleep. We do turn the lights down when we cover him so he can snooze if he likes, and he does.

Sometimes we have band gigs or I work exceptionally late and he doesn't want to go to bed until I'm home to tuck him in, so he doesn't get covered at his self-appointed bedtime of 7:30 or 8 p.m. However, once I do get home, give him his snuggles and kisses and put him in his cage, we go through the same routine. He settles down a bit sooner if it's late, but the next morning, he's up and rarin' to go when we are and without being grouchy and chompy like Clyde would be. 

Another amazing thing is that he won't start yelling first thing in the morning. He amuses himself until he knows somebody's up, and then he wants to be uncovered and then he will yell if he doesn't get uncovered, but if we're sleeping in on a weekend, he's quiet and lets us. Of course, the parrots in the back room don't. They wake up with the sun and raise Cain until somebody (me!) comes in and opens cages and hands out  morning kisses. 
In many ways, my “most difficult” bird is actually pretty easy to live with, at least until he decides it's time for a squawk session. Fortunately, he only does that a couple of times a day, and usually (USUALLY) only for a short time. Some days he does it for a long time and then the dogs give me looks like “make him STOP!” and we mammals contemplate leaving home forever, but mostly, he's a very good boy. 

Now … if only he'd give Clyde lessons in Good Parrot Comportment.

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