As humans, we strive to be successful in our endeavors, always pushing ourselves to be better, stronger, faster, smarter. We tend to do this very same thing with our parrots: teaching them to talk, step-up, wave, dance, sing, play, etc.
While those things are very important to the enrichment factor of a parrot? life, there is also another equally important factor that is often overlooked: the importance of doing nothing with them.
Have you ever watched a flock of parrots in the wild? Some are foraging around, some flying from branch-to-branch, some chatting, some bathing. Most of the time a flock of birds is a very busy bunch! But if you look closely, you will often see some just sitting quietly side-by-side, cheek feathers fluffed out over beaks, shoulders barely touching. What are they doing? Absolutely nothing Šand yet they are creating very strong bonds between each other at the same time.
Here are 3 ways to help understand how “doing nothing?with a parrot will help strengthen your human/bird relationship:
1) Make Time For Undemanding Time
“Undemanding time?is time spent where nothing is asked or required of the person or pet you are with. It? not about ignoring them. Let? call it “quality quiet time.?It sounds like a joke, but if you stop and take a look at the world from that perspective, you will find lots of undemanding time being spent together in the animal world. We do this as humans, but most of the time we simply don? realize it, or its value.
When I was young, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. We made homemade jelly. We tilled, planted, and harvested a garden. We washed clothes and hung them out on the clothesline. We were a hard-working team of a wise old woman and a gangly granddaughter. I remember those days fondly, but the times I cherished the most were not when we were busy, it was when we weren?. The times where we sat quietly in the porch swing, or when we washed dishes side-by-side in the evening Šthat was our undemanding time, and it left a life-long impression.
It is no different with our parrots.
Most of us ask a lot of our parrots: to “do?or to “learn.?But when we always approach our parrots with a “task,?eventually many parrots may see us as the dreaded “schoolmaster,?someone to be avoided instead of connecting with.
So imagine the surprise to a parrot when the former “task-master?appears and simply sits down, smiles softly, offers a kind word and then just opens up a book to read quietly nearby.
As “curmudgeon-y?and trigger-happy as my timneh African grey parrot, Petrie, is when I sit down in my grandmother? rocking chair beside his cage to drink my coffee in the morning, he will climb onto the closest perch to me he can get to and sit quietly with me the entire time.
Undemanding time. It means more than we could ever possibly imagine to our birds.
2) Know The Signs
So you have a pretty good idea what “Undemanding Time?is. The next question is, “Well, how do I know I? doing it right??lt;/span>
There are a hundred different ways to do something the right way, and really only a few ways to do anything wrong. And there really is no “right?way when it comes to spending undemanding time with our parrots. Mostly it just involves being quietly “near?without making a request.
Sitting and watching TV together, sharing a meal together, reading together or listening to their favorite relaxing music together. Undemanding time is usually a very “low-energy?endeavor, which may or may not work with parrots that have a pretty big “GO!?button, or ones that are very fearful. But even they might surprise you. The key is to know the signs that parrots show when they feel happy, safe and secure.
When parrots feel safe and secure, they will often tuck one foot up into their abdomen or will stretch out one wing and leg, and then the other. A parrot? instincts tell them that these are very vulnerable positions, so they will not indulge themselves unless they feel safe enough to do so.
A relaxed parrot will sometimes yawn, softly grind their beak and fluff out their cheek feathers over their face. These are all positive signs.
When I am spending undemanding time with my Moluccan cockatoo, Thor, she will sit quietly on my shoulder with her cheek feathers fluffed out and her shoulder touching my ear. It is a profound moment for her to share that “stillness?with me, and as much as I personally value those moments, I know that is also something equally valuable to her.
Some parrots that are not comfortable yet with their human in close proximity can benefit just as much from undemanding time ?it just has to be from a greater distance away. Many fearful parrots will exhibit the same positive signs of relaxation and security with their person being visibly nearby in another room, where the parrot can see them, but not feel threatened by any physical closeness. This is also a good way to take “baby steps?in helping a fearful parrot gain trust over time.
3) The Sounds Of Silence
Have you ever known someone that talks so much that you don? even have to? You? have to purchase an extra set of lungs just to keep up with the conversation. Sometimes we spend so much time happily chattering away to our parrots, that I wonder if perhaps they might see us the same way.
There is something to be said for silence. Of course, for those in the “cockatoo section?of the bird-world theatre, such a statement is: a) laughable and b) simply dreamed about.
It is amazing how quiet my parrots are when I am spending time doing nothing with them. They will preen, stretch their wings, yawn and sometimes even nap. This is the “silence between the notes?that tells me I? on the right track Šinto their minds as well as their hearts.
Our parrots want nothing more than to fit into our world ?to be a part of our lives, no matter how odd that life seems to them. They don? really “know?about how their wild cousins live Šbut their instincts do. Their instincts tell them that there is safety in numbers, even if that number is only “two.?
So when your parrot sits quietly near you, or climbs up onto your shoulder and sits with their cheek feathers puffed up Šcherish that moment for what it is: a huge compliment. You are part of their “flock,?and they are telling you that he or she feels safe enough in your presence to sit there and do absolutely nothing Šwith you.
It? the greatest gift our parrots can give us: their trust.
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