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SOCIALIZING YOUR BIRD

Most of us find it fairly easy to meet new people. For a bird, however, new faces, new voices and new surroundings are terrifying. A bird isn't naturally people-friendly; she doesn't gravitate naturally toward humankind, and people can appear frightening to her. It's up to you to establish guidelines and teach your bird how to maintain her composure in social situations.

With Children

Probably the trickiest time you'll have socializing your bird is with children. Children are full of life, vigor and especially noise, all of which can discomfit your bird upon her arrival to your home. It's important to remind your children, as well as visiting children, that the bird is sensitive to sound. She doesn't tolerate loud noises well and sudden movements can startle her and provoke her flight instinct. When she acts on it, because she is caged, the result is extra stress and possible injury.

Children also may leave loose toys and other items inside the cage when trying to play with the new family addition. You must remind them how sensitive your new bird is - how her ears can't take loud noises and that her cage isn't a storage area for rocks, twigs or candy wrappers. Teach children to walk slowly to the cage, talk softly to the bird and avoid waving their hands. Calm, smooth movements and peaceful surroundings let the bird know that everything is all right.

With Newcomers

Visitors will appreciate your bird just as you do; however, they may need some reminders about bird etiquette. Remind your guests that your bird doesn't know them, and ask them to move slowly and talk gently. Let them feed the bird a small treat through the cage bars to smooth over the introductions.

Day-to-Day Interactions

Your bird will grow accustomed to you as the days go by and you handle her regularly. With a larger bird you may need light gloves, in case of biting or sharp claws, especially if you are getting used to each other. Your bird specialist will be able to show you the proper way to handle your bird - from taking it out of the cage to appropriate "playtime interaction." Talking to your bird calms her and familiarizes her with your voice. Food treats, accompanied by your kind voice, will teach her that you are trustworthy.

With Other Animals

If you have a cat or a dog, you must be particularly careful about leaving him in the house with the bird unattended. Watch the cat carefully, as a bird's quick wing movement fascinates him, and he will investigate further. With a dog, make sure the cage is stable and high enough from the ground; a dog might get up on his hind feet to check the newcomer out and push the cage over. Within a few weeks the animals should adjust to one another but keep monitoring the situation. An open cage door and a sneaky cat or dog can create problems.

With Other Birds

When introducing your new bird to her companions, remember the bully factor. Older birds may feel put out at the sight of another bird; the younger the bird, the better chance there is of successful mixing. Also, the species should be the same, so keep canaries with canaries, parakeets with parakeets and so forth. However, introducing a new pet to an existing one doesn't always work out. Birds have their own personal preferences and might not be compatible with one another.

The birds should be allowed to get to know each other from separate cages initially. Within a short time, you can begin to move the cages closer together.

The birds' first encounter should be outside their cages. Observe their behavior and be prepared to separate them. Never leave the area until you are certain the two birds will be compatible. Even if your birds cannot occupy the same cage, they can still enjoy each other's company.

Playtime is double the fun with two birds, but to prevent jealousy, be sure you give each bird the same amount of individual attention.

When two birds socialize, be aware that they can transmit diseases to each other. You should monitor each bird daily and note its weight, food consumption and droppings. Also be on the lookout for accidental injuries.

Finally, socialize your bird slowly and over time with all the residents of your home. It's the smart way to achieve the happy and fulfilled experience you desire.