|Birds know when they need to "go". Once
they are old enough to recognize the sensation, you can potty train them.
Even adult birds can be trained (Siva, my first cockatiel was first trained
at the age of 5).
When can you begin potty training? Anytime.
With Jesse, we started her the first day we had her (she was about 3 months
old). We were seeing results within 3 days! There's no need to
worry about beginning too early - you aren't going to make your bird
neurotic by starting too early (you just won't have a lot of success if
he/she isn't ready). It takes a while for a young bird, however.
Very young baby parrots, like human babies, need a little time to recognize
the feeling and have enough control to "hold it". But once they can
connect the feeling to the action, you can train them. Know that unweaned babies' bowel movements are more frequent (and irregular) than
weaned birds' are. The bowel movements will become less frequent after
weaning - and more predictable/regular, too.
All you have to do is wait for the her to "go"...and then say "OH,
LOOK! EVERYBODY LOOK! (insert bird's name here) made a POOOOOOO!".
(For "poo", substitute whatever you are going to use for your command).
After 3-4 "poos", she'll start to realize what she is being praised for.
Birds are v. quick to understand the "topic" in this. You'll know you're
ready for the next step when the bird hears your praise and looks at the
dropping (as if to say "Oh... yes... there it
is..."). The tough part is not to laugh when they look
at you as if to say "Aren't YOU easily
The next step is to watch for when she's just about to go... then say
"(bird's name), make a poo" - and then praise her when she does.
Just be consistent.
The objective is twofold:
- Get her to evacuate on command (easy). Once she's
doing that, don't praise her for every poo - just the ones she did on command.
- Get her to "tell" you when she has to go. THAT
part - wonderfully enough - actually happens on it's own. The bird will
give you body language that lets you know it's coming. This is where YOU
get trained (grin). She'll eventually give you enough "warning" so you
have a few seconds to get her over some newspaper or whatever.
And... just wait until the day when she tells you
she has to go by saying "poo"... yes, that will happen, too, although
probably not consistently enough to rely on it 100%.
Of course.. when an accident happens, never scold. Scolding only upsets
them and doesn't really accomplish anything.
Oh.. and about the praising after poo-on-command... don't ever stop doing
that. It reinforces the behaviour.
Chose The Command
What I'm about to say may seem obvious, but
I'll say it anyway. The potty command needs to be a phrase or word
that doesn't come up in everyday conversation - and it needs to be something
you'll be comfortable saying regardless of who's nearby.
Once your bird is potty trained he/she will perform the
action (if possible) each and every time the command is given.
Give The Command
Consistently (why Mom gets better obedience
A command is a command. It
should never be stated as a question or request. When you give the
command, do it with a firm (not angry, but FIRM) voice. And say the
command in exactly the same tone using the same phrasing.
I have noticed that I seem to get better compliance
than my husband does. I am convinced that this is because I always
say the command in the same way: "Jesse, make a potty." My husband
varies his commands, and sometimes states them as questions "Jesse, let's
see our girl make a potty now." Eventually he gets results, but they
respond faster to me.
This is especially
noticeable with our conures, who seem to play the "I don't have to if I
don't want to" game with Stephen. Quite frequently, Stephen will
issue the command (using his words) and after no results happen, I follow
up with "Bubba, Make a POO!" and then a stern "DO IT!" All the kids
seem to know when Mom (me) says "DO IT!" it's time to surrender and do
what was asked.
Be consistent, be firm, use
the exact same words each time. You're looking for a "Pavlov's
Alternatives: Special Poo
It is possible to train a bird to go only in approved places. I've
read, however, that trying if you try to train a bird for both "do it on
command no matter where" and "do it only here", the results aren't as good
(the bird gets confused). I believe there's some sense to this: what
you want is instantaneous cooperation - not a bird who's confused.
Look at it from the bird's viewpoint. Polly is
trained to go only in her cage or on her T-Stand. But now she feels
the call of nature, but there's no stand or cage nearby. You give
the "potty word". What is she to do? Obey now? Wait?
What's the right thing? Hm... maybe flying to the cage or T-Stand is
the thing to do? Yes! That's it!. And so she begins her
flight, but just doesn't make it all the way and ends up having an
accident because she waited too long.
don't want a bird "in need" to be sitting there trying to reason out
whether it's OK to go or not after the command is given.
I've had pretty good luck with getting my birds to
recognize that some places are better for "potty" than others. But
that happened more because I tended to set them in the area before giving
the command, not because I focused them on the command.
I've heard stories about parrots who were trained to
fly to a human toilet and go there. I have no idea if this has been
done, but I have two reactions. One is that it sounds too much like
"urban legend" to me. The other is that I really don't want my birds
to be flying over to a place where they could fall into water and drown.
It sounds dangerous to me.
Focus on the command,
not the place. You'll get more consistent results.
Alternatives: Flight Suits
There are "flight suits" available for purchase. Kind of a "bird diaper".
It sounds like a great idea - and does have attraction that such a suit
might make it possible to take the bird to places where a "poo" would be a
I haven't tried one on any of my
birds because they prevent the bird from fluffing feathers - and parrots
must do that to control their body temp. Overheating is a very real
possibility with a flight suit (plus the suits are just plain ugly).
Potty Training in a
For those of you who, like us, have mulit-bird
households. Consider having different poo commands for each bird.
Our parrots are VERY obliging... and when they get the command, they try to
"give up whatever they've got" immediately. I read a story once about
a woman who had all her Cockatoos (large parrots... big poo's) trained on
the command "go potty". She had 3 Cockatoos sitting on her couch and
took out the fourth to join in play time. When she took out that last
bird, she held him over a trash can and said "go potty". He did.
And so did the other 3 (on the couch...).
of my birds have a different command. It's worked out beautifully.
Bubba gets "Make a Poo", Forte's is "Make a Grunt-Grunt", Pakshi's is
"Make a kakaboodee" (Ok.. go ahead and laugh, but
nobody ever says that one by mistake), and Jesse's is "Make