Speaking of Parrot Hormones - Part 2
You can find Part 1 of this series here.
- Tiered Locations
Addressing our parrot and their hormonal drives requires a few changes in our thinking and their lifestyle.
What's a Tiered Location?
- I have an art studio room. It is the one room where I "feel" creative without fail. It is one of my human tiered locations.
- Our bird room offers movie watching, parrot games, eating and flocking. It's the one room where every bird and human "feel" together.
- Our office room is all business. I know it, the parrots know it and we all conduct ourselves in a certain manner when we are in there. Because it's about business. I don't try to write books in this room. I may lay them out and conduct the structuring of those books, but that's business.
When you misuse a tiered location things can go wrong pretty fast. A bedroom's purpose is to provide comfort, sanctuary and rest. You shouldn't have a TV in your bedroom. You shouldn't have your cellphone in your bedroom. I know some use it as their alarm clock, but I'm here to tell you it has been scientifically proven that you are better off using an alarm clock and getting that cell signal out of your bedroom.
Like us, companion parrots do best inside a tiered locations environment. A purposeful location offers materials, views, and items that promote a certain "feel" to the area. Eating, playing, resting, and yes; hormonal tendencies. Offering places that allow your companion to "get away" help them self-regulate their hormones. Stress to them is the same as stress to us. The affects create the same problems. In humans, stress triggers all kinds of hormonal and biological breakdown. It is no different for parrots.
If you are thinking; "Ya, but I don't have that much room!" Not to worry. Tiered location setups don't need massive spaces to be successful. Clear separation and clear definitions through materials and items are a powerful answer to small space.
How to approach Tiering.For an example, for defined spaces, let's consider Snickers and his round soft jingle ball. It's actually a colorful canvas baby toy ball he loves so very much. He's also decided these balls are his girlfriends. Far be it from me to deny him his need to express his manhood. I don't find those tendencies offensive or try to affect them. He has every right and mental health need to experience these emotional rushes. So, three times a day in one very important spot, he exercises his rights. Specifically on the top of his macaw day cage. He'll fly all over with his girlfriends, (they need to be nearby), but there are only two places he consummates that adoration. On the top of his macaw day cage, and on the back of Dad's chair. When dad is in the chair. I'm not going to try to figure that last part out. These are two of his Tiered Locations in the same room.
Snickers' hormonal drive is addressed. It does not manifest itself in any negative manner anywhere else or any other time. He feels free to do his necessary thing. And he was freely allowed to define those spaces. The top of his cage is open space to all birds, and Butters is welcomed up there. He doesn't mind sharing with anyone and anytime. ALTHOUGH he does have an issue with me straightening out the crochet blanket up there. In the end, knowing he can go there and be who he is without interference or threat, makes for a very happy male scarlet macaw.
Yes, birds masturbate. No. This is not a bad thing.
You may be asking, well if he's allowed to accommodate that hormonal need doesn't he bother Butters (our female macaw)? Doesn't he "get worse". No. In fact, he was a far bigger annoyance to her before he figured out this girlfriend business. And now he comically offers his toy balls to Butters. Which again, I'm not going to judge. She has thus far, declined.
An example of tiered location environment.
Kirby, as with all others here, is fully flighted. He has always had a tendency toward wanting to choose to go upstairs alone. We did our best to keep him downstairs through light wing tip clipping and relocation. He has locations in each room downstairs that our exclusively his, but visually he can see every other bird in close proximity one way or the other. At times during the seasonal sun changes he'd gets pretty mean to others when he is on me or near me. He was expressing hormonal trends and frustration. Redirection, relocation, and caging all started creeping into the situation, and I hated it. He hated it more.
That's when I made the choice to open the upstairs to him by not wing tip clipping and leaving one door open upstairs. His upstairs adventures are limited to the master and master bath. All Kirby Proofed. He disappears every day for a couple hours to nap on the towel rod in the master bath. At 5:30 he goes back upstairs to wait for dad to come home, because he will then be first in line to see dad alone when dad comes upstairs. Smart boy. During the day nap he will flock call to me from upstairs. "KIRBY KIRBY!" I call back to let him know all is well. He will come downstairs when I ask him. He is so very proud and happy to have this tier location.
Hormones are not unnatural. And unless it comes with mental stress issues that lead to extreme plucking and self-mutilation they need to be accommodated. It is part of their natural status. And to accommodate them successfully, tiered locations need to be created. Kirby needs privacy. Snickers needs his girlfriends. Purposeful locations with purposeful items.
Hormones aren't something to fight, drug, and ponder with frustration. They are part of the parcel we brought into our home. I don't let a masturbating macaw bother me anymore than a regurgitating Ringneck. My dogs eat poop. Such is companion animal life.
Of course, locations must be safe and appropriate. But as with cagescaping, toys, and foraging foods, modification by observation will lead the way to a solid mentally healthy compromise.
Next up: Part 3 - Flight