Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Help yourself, Rock!

This scene presented itself to me yesterday, and I had to smile because it represents what we're trying to achieve with our parrots.

Thomas set his dessert of peaches and nuts on the kitchen table while he quickly ran downstairs. Instead of screaming because he wanted some, Rocky climbed onto the table and helped himself.

I've briefly mentioned our parrot philosophy of personal responsibility before, but will go into a bit more detail here.

In the wild, all of our parrots (with the possible exception of Stella who, at 5, is a bit young) would be raising families on their own. They would have responsibilities to their flock, to their mates, and to their offspring. If something was amiss (hunger, nesting site dispute, etc.) they would need to fix it themselves instead of screaming and hoping another parrot would.

While we realize that living in the artificial environment of our home is very different from the wild, these wild animals still retain enough of their instincts to act in ways that impact their own lives.

Our thinking has really been evolving since the addition of Rocky to our house two years ago. Prior to him, we just had Max, Calypso, and budgies, all of whom were quite easy going and content with life as we provided it to them.

And then our screamy macaw entered our lives. Screaming had been his main way of communicating, and he did that often. He'd scream when he was bored, hungry, thirsty, tired, angry, etc. Not acceptable!

In addition to working with him on learning a more appropriate way to communicate, we wanted him to learn that he could improve his circumstances without ever having to involve us.

For example, if we were in the kitchen and he was in the living room, we didn't want him screaming or calling to us to bring him in -- we wanted him to climb down from his cage and find us. If he was lonely and wanted attention, he needed to come and find one of us.

It's hard for me to succinctly explain how we accomplished this -- and it's something that we're constantly working on. Basically, we had talks with him (he understands so much more than you'd imagine!), called him to us when he'd make noises like he was lonely, offered him choices as often as possible, and praised him like crazy when he took the initiative.

After seeing how successful this was with Rocky, we've implemented it with the rest of the parrots. We try to offer them as many choices as possible so that they learn they CAN impact their lives.

I truly believe that it's made a more harmonious home for us, and more fulfilling lives for them. And that's why it brings a smile to my face when he climbs up to eat our food, or approaches one of us and drops a ball at our feet, asking for a game of fetch (trying to get this on video!)


Beloved Parrot said...

Yea for Rocky!

Cartooniste said...

double yay!
Parrot has no problem flying in to see what I'm doing in the mornings. But it helps that a few years ago we got her a dog to boss around.

Mary said...

Thanks guys!

Cartooniste -- I hope to have a dog someday, but not sure when/if that will happen. We've dog sat a few and Rocky was not happy. Maybe if he thought he could boss the dog around, though... :)