Parrots are long- lived and always up to mischief, so at some point in their lives they will need medical treatment. When this happens, your parrot can become very stressed by restraint and medicating. Even if issues are minor, regular medications for a short period of time is very common. Stress has a massive impact on recovery during times of illness or injury, and repeated handling for medicating can begin to affect your bond with your parrot.
The upside is that before any illness or injury strikes, you can prepare your parrot to co-operate in their own care! With training you can remove the stress associated with medicating, teach willing acceptance of oral and even injectable medications, and train them to accept co-operative restraint – all with the use of positive reinforcement! Here is a few of the co-operative care behaviours that we recommend:
A foundation behaviour that forms the basis of fear-free handling. This should include a cue, so you can ‘ask’ your bird to allow touch.
This could include lifting the wings on cue, offering a foot, opening their mouth, and even turning around for you on cue. This training lets you physically check your parrot without stress and pick up on issues quickly in areas that you may not see or touch normally.
Towel Acceptance/Co-operative Restraint
Make towels a fun and safe place for you parrot by including them in the environment, associating them with treats, and practicing gently moving the towel around them for treats.
Train willing presentation of a foot for toenails to be filed, either directly, or while the bird is holding onto the cage or aviary.
A foundation behaviour that can be trained to be great fun for your parrot, rather than stressful! Teach your parrot to go in and out of a crate for treats, and teach them that carrying the crate or going for a car ride also brings lots of goodies and positive experiences.
Teach your parrot to jump onto scales for a treat, and you can keep a close eye on their weight. The first sign of illness if often a drop in weight.
This includes teaching your bird to take medications willingly from a syringe, and is quite fast to train even if you are already medicating your bird. The stages involve target training your bird to touch the end of the syringe for a reward, then adding a drop a water on the end, then rewarding the swallow. Once they accept this you can mix up the flavours of the liquid they are swallowing to prepare them for sometimes poor tasting medications. You can even train your bird to accept injections using a similar shaping method!
Want to get really fancy? Purchase a similar GA (general anesthetic) mask from your local avian vet, and teach your bird to put their head into it willingly for a treat (target training).
Happy Vet Visits
Once your bird is crate trained, talk to your local avian vet to see if you can bring your parrot in for a ‘Happy Vet Visit’! This is just a vet visit without treatments, with lots of treats and positive associations with the vet and the treatment room. These visits will work wonders for your parrot’s stress levels when they do have to go in for treatments. Even practice your new co-operative medical training in the treatment room and impress your vet!
If you need help training your parrot, book in for an online or in-home consultation with the Parrot Life® team. Visit www.parrotlife.com.au for more information.
Article written by Rachel Riley of Parrot Life