Your home is not only the place you hang your mittens, but also the place your bird feels most comfortable. Unlike its human flock members, your bird spends the majority of its time inside your home. Over time, the sounds of family leaving for work and coming home from school, the sound of the mail truck at 2:00, the familiar humming of the appliances, and the occasional missed phone call all work together to create a beautiful symphony of comfort for your bird. These sounds serve as the “ringing school bell”, if you will, reliably mapping out the hours of your bird’s day. Once your bird becomes accustomed to these sounds and the events associated with them, any uncontrolled variance in the routine can result in stress and discomfort for both you and your feathered friend. This brings us to the subject at hand…those Happy Holidays!
During this time of year, the very things that put you and your family in the holiday mood are those that can result in feelings of stress and/or anxiety for your bird. Creating an enjoyable holiday for you and your bird is as easy as remembering P.O.L.L.Y.
Prepare your bird for change.
Imagine waking up and discovering that your house has been completely rearranged and is full of strange things, weird smells, and unfamiliar people. For most of us, this scenario alone would warrant psychiatric assistance. Now throw in a hungry giant constantly trying to have you for dinner. Sounds silly…but this is exactly what your bird experiences when you “Deck the Halls” and invite friends, family and four-legged cousins over for the holidays.
A sudden “Decking of the Halls” can come as a shock to your bird. Large trees with flashing lights, flickering candles, and randomly placed holiday figurines can all be interpreted as potential threats by your bird. These, combined with the irregular influx of guest (most strangers to your bird), often surface feelings of vulnerability in your bird, which can trigger sleepless nights and increased irritability (a screaming moody bird).
When planning those holiday gatherings, consider the impact they will have on your bird. Identify potential high traffic areas and their relationship to your bird’s cage. In addition to the occasional cage bump (i.e. clumsy guest + too much eggnog), areas that experience increased traffic flow also invite dangerous drafts and, although presented with good intentions, unhealthy food offerings. “Polly want a candy cane?” Avoiding these potential hazards is easy. Simply relocate your bird to a different, but familiar, part of the house; somewhere it feels protected from the chaos, but is still able to indulge its innate curiosity. For more sensitive birds, the transition from one location to another should be handled in steps. Try introducing the bird to the new location during out-of-cage play time each day for a week prior to actually moving the cage. This will encourage your bird to develop a positive association with the new location. This same technique can be used to introduce your bird to your holiday decorations. As you bring down the boxes of bulbs, garland, candles, cards, nick knacks, and “where did I get thats”, allow your bird to be a part of the change. Periodically communicate with your bird (Do you like the pretty lights? Listen to the wonderful music) using your fun playtime voice. Offer him a comfort treat in exchange for positive responses.
Open your mind to your bird’s point of view.
Now that you have prepared your beaked buddy for change, take a moment to see the new environment from your bird’s perspective. To do this you do not need to climb inside your bird’s cage, simply try thinking like a bird. Once the initial feelings of caution and uncertainty have been concurred, they are often quickly replaced with those of exploration and intrigue. It is okay to allow your bird to indulge these feelings, but important that it is done in a controlled and supervised manner. Make sure that your bird does not have access to common holiday temptations such as electrical cords, tree trimmings, holiday plants, burning candles, and unhealthy desserts. Investing in a padlock to secure the cage during the holidays can bring peace of mind for both you and your bird. Not only will this prevent “unauthorized exploration”, but it will also deter your guest’s urge to show off their animal magnetism.
Lay ground rules for your guest.
For many people the opportunity to interact with a companion bird wakes up the child within. Unfortunately, as the inner child is awakened their common sense identifies an opportunity to take a nap. If allowed to interact with your bird unadvised and unsupervised your guest may find that Jack Frost isn’t the only one doing the nose nipping. To protect both your guest and your bird, place a subtle, yet obvious written reminder of caution near the cage. For more conscientious visitors, allowing them to offer your bird a favorite treat or comfort food can result in valuable and welcomed socialization time. Introduce your guest to your bird by educating them on the do’s and don’ts.
Some important things to remember are:
- No poking and prodding of cage
- No smoking
- Avoid scented candles
- Only approved bird safe treats
- Do not open cage
- Avoid cooking with Teflon
Leave time for personal interaction.
During the holidays, it is easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season. For your bird, this means a break in the relationship with you. Companion birds develop strong bonds with their human caregivers and often depend on that relationship and its routines. For this reason, it is important that you plan special bonding times for just you and your bird. This is a time when you can indulge your bird with a gentle feather preen, offer him a favorite food, or just enjoy a good book while your bird relaxes on your knee.
During this period of change and planned chaos, one on one time is important to the mental well-being of your bird. If you plan to travel during the holidays, make arrangement for a friend or family member, familiar to your bird, to stop in for quality time.
Okay. Everything’s ready for the holidays. The bird has been prepared, invitations sent, and the charge cards have been charged. Your done…time to party! Not so fast.
What about the gifts? The holidays are the perfect time to treat your bird. Fill the stocking with a variety of nutritious and interactive treats! Invest in a new cage… it’s EZ.
Use this time to update your bird’s toy collection. When you are selecting treats and accessories for your bird, remember to see things from their point of view. Always make safety a primary factor in your decision making.