Co-operative Care Behaviours

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 from being restrained and medicated. Even if issues are minor, regular medication 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 are a few of the co-operative care behaviours that we recommend:

Touch acceptance

This is a foundation behaviour that forms the basic of free handling. It should include a cue, so you can ‘ask’ your bird to allow touch.

Body presentation

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 your parrot by including them in the environment, associating them with treats, and practising gently moving the towel around them for treats.

Nail trimming

Training willing presentation of a foot for toenails to be filed either directly or while the bird is holding onto the cage or aviary.

Crate training

This is a foundation behaviour that can become great fun for your parrot, rather than being 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.

Scale training

Teach your parrot to jump onto scales for a treat, and you can keep a close eye on their wieght. The first sign of illness is often a drop in weight.

Taking medications

This includes teaching your birds 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 of 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 similar shaping method!

GA masking

Want to get really fancy? Purchase a similar GA (general anaesthetic) 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 treatment, 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 practise 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 by Rachel Riley of Parrot Life.

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