Pakshi (a Hahn's Macaw) came to live
with me at the age of 9 months. For the first 6 months or so, all was
well - but then suddenly he started biting me... HARD!
Suddenly he was drawing blood on me nearly every day. He's always been
a little high-strung - a bird with a short fuse - but oh-my... it was
getting to the point where I was having trouble offering him a finger to
climb up on. It didn't' take long before I was prettty sick of having
the flesh stripped from my hands, and friends and co-workers were starting to
ask about my hands ("What HAVE you been DOING?").
|There was an article in Bird Talk
magazine about that time suggesting that birds with behavior problems might
not be getting enough sleep. They pointed out that if you look at the
average daylight/nightime for the wild relatives of many of the parrots we
keep, and then compare that to the amount of time they spend in lighted
rooms in our homes, you begin to realize that they might not be getting
He's not very big, but that beak packs a
I have a small-sized "travel cage"
for Pakshi. I got it so that I would have a light-weight cage to put
him in for trips to the vets office and so that I could take him out on my
deck in the warmer months with me (he loves to accompany me when I am
pulling weeds). I put that in a spare bedroom and started
putting him "to bed" at about 8 p.m. every evening, and then getting him up
at 6 a.m. with me in the morning. This gave him a full 10 hours of
quiet, dark, and uninterrupted privacy. Within 3 days, he stopped
biting me and returned to the sweet tempered little guy I'd known before.
Pakshi's ancestors (macaws) come
from Brazil - very near the equator. There they don't get the seasonal
swings in daylight time that we see here in Ohio. There they have
pretty much 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. Covering Pakshi's
cage with a dark cloth or cage cover wasn't sufficient. From his point
of view, there's always the danger that some marauding raptor is going to
swoop from the ceiling (as long as there is any light or noise) and eat him.
That's pretty scary stuff - and there's no point in trying to reason with a
macaw; you're bucking eons of successful DNA encoding!
The further from the equator a
species lives, the more they can deal with periodic swings in daylight time.
But for macaws, at least, 7 hours of shut eye aren't enough.
So now... every weeknight evening
between 8-8:30, I take Pakshi to the stairwell and he walks himself up the
stairs (saying "up, up, up, GOOD BIRD" to himself as he climbs the stairs).
When he reaches the top, he stops and waits patiently for me to offer my
hand. Then he steps up on my finger and I take him to his sleep cage.
I tell him "nighty night" and that he was a good bird, and then pull a dark
terrycloth towel over the cage (for warmth and assured darkness).
Weekends he sleeps in his day-cage (so that I can sleep later if I want and
not have to worry about getting him out of bed).
When we adopted Jesse, one of the
first things I did was purchase a sleep cage for her. Having lived
through "grumpy sleepy parrot" with Pakshi (who is a very small fraction of
Jesse's size), I wasn't about to take any chances with her.
She's so large that her sleep cage isn't remotely "portable", but it is much
smaller than her day-cage. It's about 24"x24" width/depth and tall
enough on the inside so that she can sit on a perch and not have her head or
tail touching the top or bottom. The cage is built with wheels at the
bottom, so it's easy to move around and clean behind. There's not enough
room to stretch her wings, but this isn't a concern because she only sleeps
in it - she doesn't spend time in it beyond that.
So far, my conures and the cockatiel
don't seem to need special sleep accommodations. Bubba and Aussie's
cages are in the dinette, which is outside the family room, and not directly
lit when we have the lights and TV on in there. Even so, if we get too
rowdy, Bubba will holler out and scold us. Forte's cage is in the
family room, but she's got a "sleep tube" (made out of cardboard and fabric)
that she crawls into, and we cover her cage with a dark cloth.
Although I know she's not really "asleep" until we leave the room, she seems
to get enough rest and has not exhibited any behavior problems. But if
she does.. .the first thing we'll do is get her a sleep cage.
The one "downside" I've seen to all
of this (other than the obvious effort made each evening putting the birds
to bed), is that the macaws are VERY reluctant to defecate where they sleep.
The tend to try and "hold it" until they are away from their cage.
This is a natural, instinctive behavior of parrots in the wild and is not
associated with potty training. With this in mind, we are very
careful not to leave them in their sleep cages in the morning, but get up
and take them someplace where they can "go".
For Pakshi, I have a PVC pipe perch
in the master bath, and I keep a couple layers of toilet paper under it for
him. When he gets up in the morning, I take him straight there so he
can make his morning poo. For Jesse, if I am not going to go
downstairs right away after getting up, I put her in the showerstall (on her
bathing perch) and give her the potty command (the shower stall is the
easiest place to clean in the whole house). For both birds, we've
learned to look for that "morning dropping" when we take them out - and if
we don't see it (and we usually don't), we know not to dilly-dally on the
way to the next station, since we're holding a "loaded bird" (if you know
what I mean... grin...)