Companion Parrot, not pet

Harnessing our parrot's relationship means freeing them first.

Companion Parrot, not pet

A caged parrot should not be a prisoner. Deprived of the life nature intended for him, he can thrive in a human household. While the opportunity for flight may be drastically limited due to his adoptive state in a human environment, parrots are incredibly adaptive and forgiving, and their life requires much more than just flight for them to flourish.

Even in a human home there should be opportunities for them to exercise their natural inclination to take to the air, even if it is only to flit about within the confines of a human dwelling. There can be strategically placed perches and play stands throughout the abode, allowing the chance for a bird to navigate the home by means of flight. While many birds will be happy just wandering around on foot, exploring and seeking new adventures, the ability to fly need not be removed. Before such activities take place, the human in the equation must learn that a parrot cannot be expected to live the entirety of its long life locked in a cage, and accept that once brought into the home a parrot is, in fact a family member (flock member when seen through the parrots eyes).

So what happens now that we have opened the cage? Is the opportunity for flight enough to make the bird less a prisoner? Even prisoners have opportunities for recreation, so I think that more is needed to allow the parrot to feel at home and a meaningful part of the family. Of course it is great to be freed from the confines of the cage, and possibilities will quickly become apparent to him/her, but along with those possibilities are potential dangers. Now comes the time for learning to bond, developing trust, and establishing forms of communication.

A parrot in the home can be a source of great companionship, but there is a road that must be traveled together to make the relationship work. That is where developing a foundation of trust and communication comes in. Through respect, gradual lessening of relationship distances through calm body language and manner, the trust will be earned and you begin to see a parrot far from his natural environment and yet easily settling into a routine of familiarity and grace.

Unlike the days when I first shared my home with a parrot, now there is a great deal of easily accessible information regarding parrot care and treatment. Those entering the world of companion parrot care need not struggle to understand body language, feeding, housing, etc. the way I had to so long ago when introduced to my first feathered family member. While there is also a good deal of misinformation in the many online sources regarding parrot care, the fact is that neither the good information nor the bad have any impact if the human involved does not spend the time to research. This fact, I believe, is the biggest problem facing companion parrot advocacy: the blind entrance into a companion parrot care contract on the part of a lazy human. It would seem apparent that if every prospective parrot companion first researched the details of sharing life with a parrot, then there would be little or no need for the burgeoning numbers of parrots in sanctuaries and rescues. It takes very little research to understand whether a parrot is a suitable companion for a human home. Having learned the general characteristics of the many parrot species such as potential noise levels, propensity for destruction of household objects, general messiness, as well as their likelihood to be opinionated in a manner not unlike their human caretaker, anyone who is not suited to companionship to a parrot will quickly discover it, without the need to actually disrupt and possibly damage another parrot by bringing it into a promise of a good home only to have such contract quickly breached.

A parrot can add a great deal of life to a human home. They are incredibly smart and sensitive, with natural curiosity and a desire to be a part of the daily goings on around them. Beyond the ability to learn human speech (a too oft emphasized ability with no real importance to me personally) and a multitude of tricks, they naturally begin to develop behaviors which easily fit into the daily routines of the humans with whom they interact on a normal basis. Schedules begin to develop out of habit, and tend to make interactions both more meaningful and easy to accommodate, until the differences between parrots and humans become blurred lines defined more by human expectations than parrot behavior. A parrot no longer treated as a prisoner will quickly adapt and flourish in this new situation, and become less problematic than those kept caged and unloved, forced to resort to screaming, plucking and self destructive or aggressive behavior as a result of neglect. Parrots are social animals, naturally existing in harmony and symbiosis within a larger flock. When brought into a human home, the people within that home become their flock. To deprive a parrot of flock interactions is a form of punishment that the naturally social and outgoing parrot cannot understand. They will resort to whatever means at their disposal to correct it. Life in a cage, separated from meaningful interaction, love, and shared experiences is life as a prisoner, and no parrot need ever suffer such a fate. A parrot's only crime is to have been forced into contact with a human household that doesn't actually want or fully understand this magnificent being. Through education and intelligent choice, no human household should ever accept into its midst any animal whose natural behaviors cannot be properly and successfully integrated.

Of course there are many other aspects to proper treatment and care for a parrot in a human home, things such as feeding, household dangers, ways of encouraging "good" behaviors, but I believe that a parrot must first be freed from the prison into which it has been foisted as a result of human greed and need for ownership. They must be allowed to be an equal and full partner of the new flock and not be punished for crimes not committed. Not all parrots will bond equally or accept all members of a human family with the same fondness. They are, after all, as opinionated and preference-driven as humans. But they will learn to recognize their flock and set their own limits of acceptable interaction with each member, and given respect in return, will gladly bring joy into the family unit. I say no more prisoners!

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