How Small Changes Can Have Big Impacts

It’s frustrating and embarrassing to admit, but the reason I posted recently about the idea of rehoming is because that topic has been discussed at our home a lot in the past few months. However, I don’t give up easily and I knew we are not ready to seriously consider it. I know that the behavior issues we are dealing with, as bad and hopeless as they sound – incessant screaming, dive bombing, unpredictable biting, over preening, and anxiety – were not only correctable, but that there were several small changes I could make that were likely to at least help a little. Hopefully my experience can help you, too!

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First, I looked at what issues I had and what I thought was an acceptable result to strive for. It’s not enough to simply say, “I don’t want my bird to scream.” It is not only unrealistic, but it doesn’t provide an actual goal. My goals became:

  • I want my birds to scream less during (my son’s) naptime
  • I want my birds to be less reliant on me for entertainment when I am not in the room
  • I want to limit the occurrences of dive bombs

Now that I have figured out what I wanted to work on, I needed to figure out what that really meant, and what changes I could make that would actually have an impact. Often, knowing the root of the issue can help give you the answer. It can be most challenging, then, to correct an issue when you don’t know what that issue is. Some things you can focus on for resolution, even without knowing the cause, are:

  • Environment – is it engaging? Where is their “territory”? What do they have that is all theirs? Is movement encouraged?
  • Diet – what food is available to them? Is it meeting their needs nutritionally as well as mentally? Are there supplements that you could incorporate to help?
  • Opportunities – what kind of opportunities do they have for outlets? Foraging, shredding, noise making, exercise?
  • Social – what kind of attention do they get? How much of it?

Now, there are two ways to go about this – you can add one idea at a time until you find a solution that works, or you can implement them all at once. I decided to go all in, because in all likelihood, the issues are multifaceted and it isn’t a single thing that needs to be done to achieve the desired results.

So what did I do?

  • Environment – I added more hanging gyms to the bird room, and am leaving their cages open 24/7. They are still locked in the room during the night or when we aren’t home, for their safety (I have cats), but they have free movement. They still have their cages to “defend”. I also added a new natural branch playstand!

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  • Diet – I started adding three products by Avitech to their diet – Featheriffic, AviCalm, and Relaxation and Calming. This is a company I have turned to before for supplements and have always been pleased with their results and quality. I add the full dose of Featheriffic and AviCalm (1/8 tsp or half a scoop each) into each bird’s food dish, as well as into the “community chop” dish where they get their fresh food each morning. The Relaxation and Calming I add a half dose into their water.

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  • Opportunities – I forced movement. I saw that most of the screaming from my birds seemed to result from boredom. Their seeds, pellets, chop and water was all in their cages, and their was little incentive to leave the cage. They ate, then got bored. So, seeds and chop are no longer available in their cages. If they want seed, they have to get it from one of the various foraging toys around the room, and if they want their chop, they have to climb out and get it from the desk or on top of the cage to eat it.

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  • I changed feeding time. Instead of feeding them in the morning when they were already pretty quiet, I changed it to my son’s naptime.
  • I try to encourage flying. Bobber is untame so simply getting near him causes him to take off, where Jingo needs more incentive.
  • Social – I found that I most of the times my birds were contact calling was when they were too lazy to come into the living room! So, I wheel a cage out into the living room if they aren’t willing to come out on their own.

What were my results?

Our lives have gone from stressful and worried about our future together to just shy of perfect in about 3 weeks. I realize that the results will vary for everyone, but these small changes, which I think you can agree are quite low on the level of effort required by me, have made a world of difference.

My birds are calmer and I have not been attacked or bit once since implementing these solutions. Jingo, who is my problem child and has been with me since 3 months old, actually regurgitated for me for the first time in his 5 year life, and is actually letting me pet him consistently instead of a few times a month.  The screaming issues in the house have been minimized tremendously, and Bobber has stopped overpreening his leg feathers. A fresh influx of millet in foragers, in particular, causes them to be quiet for an extra 30-60 minutes during nap time, which can be the difference between a rested toddler or a cranky one! And I believe that the forced movement, foraging and flying exercises their minds and bodies, which helps a lot, too!

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This is why I hope people put a little more effort into their pets before rehoming. Sometimes the smallest changes have the biggest impacts and can take you from hopeless thoughts to positive relationships again!

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