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How to Socialize Your Pet Bird

Most pet birds are social creatures that enjoy spending time with you and your family—after all, they’re used to being part of a flock. Socializing simply means interacting with your pet bird in a way that makes him feel like he is a member of your family. Spending quality time is vital to your bird’s overall health and well-being, develops mutual trust, and strengthens your bond.

If your bird has had limited human interaction, it may take time for him to learn how to socialize with you. Birds that were hand-fed or were well-socialized as babies may be able to interact more easily and quickly with their pet parents. Either way, there are a number of steps you can take to help tame your bird and teach him to socialize, while helping him feel safe and relaxed in his new home.

Your bird and you

To establish trust and further strengthen your relationship, interact with your bird daily. You want him to realize that you’re a safe, trustworthy companion.

Depending on the species of your bird, there are several activities that can help him learn how to socialize with you and other people:

  • Communicate with your bird as much as possible
  • Teach your bird to step up onto your finger or a perch
  • Eat meals together and share foods that are safe for him to eat
  • Interact with your bird using his favorite toys
  • Play fun games like peek-a-boo or fetch
  • Gently handle and pet your bird
  • Watch TV or listen to music together
  • Train your bird to talk or take cues

Approach your bird slowly from below his chest, and talk to him in a happy, reassuring voice. If he seems shy, start slowly by spending short periods of time with him, building up to more time together each day. Approach him and talk to him from a distance if he seems scared at first. Take it slow, building up to least an hour each day socializing with your bird. Over time, you’ll discover which activities you most enjoy doing together.

Meeting new people

Your bird is comfortable around you because you’re the one who has established a bond with him. Depending on the species, birds that weren’t hand-fed as babies and lacked human interaction may be less likely to realize that other humans can be just as friendly as you, so it’s up to you to act as the go-between. The best way to get your bird to socialize well with other people is to expose him to various people. In some cases, your bird may trust you, but still remain distrustful of others.

Let others know that your bird doesn’t like loud, startling noises or quick movements. When socializing your pet bird with young children, you must be in charge of keeping the situation under control so that they don’t scare the bird or vice versa. Allow your bird to observe new visitors at first. Let them come closer to talk to your bird only when he seems relaxed with the situation, and only when you are nearby to comfort him. If he enjoys sitting on your arm or hand, you can show him that other people aren’t so scary; this helps speed up the socialization process.

Other pets

Dogs and cats are naturally predatory animals. In most cases, your bird should be kept separate from any pets that share your home. Any time you take your bird out of his habitat, or even open the door, other pets should first be removed from the room. Your dog or cat may try to jump on or paw at your bird’s habitat or even try to eat his food.

Cats, naturally, will be fascinated with your bird’s rapid, fluttering movements, and even if she is well-behaved, the temptation of such a fun-looking toy may prove too much.

Some dogs, depending on their breed, may view your bird as something that needs to be hunted. Even if your dog or cat doesn’t intend to harm your bird, they are still much larger, and can be potentially harmful. Even a dog’s bark or a cat’s meow can cause stress for your bird. Snakes and ferrets are also natural predators, and should always be kept separated from birds.

If you have a dog or cat, keep your bird safely secured in his habitat in a dog- or cat-proof place where it can’t be tipped over. The key to helping your bird recognize that a dog or cat is just a normal part of his environment is to make sure that he feels safe and not threatened in any way.

Other birds

Whether or not your bird will be comfortable socializing with other birds really depends on several factors—including the species, whether or not they were hand-fed as babies and whether or not they were introduced when they were young. If you are unable to interact daily with your bird and form a bond, it may be better to get a species that enjoys bonding with a mate of the same species.

Some birds greatly enjoy the company of other birds from the same species. Finches, for example, prefer to be housed with at least one other finch. Others, like parakeets and cockatiels, can be kept alone to bond with their pet parent, or in pairs to bond with each other. Different species of birds should never be housed together.

Socializing your birds is an ongoing process that should continue throughout his lifetime. With a little patience and perseverance, you and your pet bird will be rewarded with a long-lasting, meaningful relationship.