Indian Ringneck Parakeet, Kirby, after flying downstairs with trimmed wings.

The Golden Rule of Negotiating with Parrots

The Golden Rule of Negotiating with Parrots

Every parrot is different. Take what you would apply to your parrot, and disregard that which would never fly. Pun intended.

Kirby, being a male Indian Ringneck, is proud, confident, opinionated, fearless, and adamant. I use those words with their full meaning. He will stand up for his perching rights against our macaws if allowed. When Kirby hit two years old, he turned into a mutinous pirate. I realized if a pirate doesn't want you to know where he is, a pirate can hide for hours. Trimming the tips off his first four flight feathers, both wings, changed his attitude. Not his ability to fly but the feel and precision of turning. The geometry lost (less than a half inch) gave him enough pause that our pirate became a parrot again. I only needed to do this through two molting cycles.

I used all our trust routines to create a volunteering parrot.

We abundance weaned and fledged Kirby here at home. His first flight was as though he'd been doing it in the egg. When he was flightless Kirby learned we could be trusted with his feet, beak, and wings. He allowed us to open his wings, rub his toes, open and close his feet and rub his beak. He learned to love burrito cuddling in a towel. We practiced recall via running rather than flight. He would always return to us on the couch with a little hop. Once he took flight, those lessons stuck and translated right through to the new Fighter Jet Kirby.

I decided I needed to find out where his favored location for relaxing would be. I let him fly free and ridiculous to observe his patterns. Bathroom mirrors of course. When he flew upstairs to the master bath, to sit on dad's small bath chest, I would follow. We would talk and laugh at the mirror. One day I didn't follow him up. I waited. I waited for his flock call.  

"Kirby!"  he sang out.

I went upstairs and joined him. That day I opened his wing kindly and said, "What a wing!" Kirby laughed.

With every bath mirror meeting I would hold his wing a bit longer, and every time Kirby would wait and allow that length of time to pass. Eventually he chose different bathroom mirrors, between the three available. I had to wait to see which bathroom he chose, and for his invitation call. Kirby loves this game of Marco Polo. It is a game even after a clip.

One day, I brought in scissors with me to the game. Small hair sheers, with his favorite color on the handles. I just laid them down. I did not reference them. I made the whole thing no big deal. For a few weeks we did this new exercise and then one morning, he hopped over to the scissors and investigated them. (They were locked shut). I didn't intervene, I just let him investigate safely. He soon got bored and went back to the mirror.

After iterations moving closer, the scissors, my hands and his open wing were in position for the first attempted clip. I held the scissors up in position to cut and waited. Kirby just looked at me, and I at him. I saw his eyes pin, and his body language change. I stopped and put the scissors down and completed the game as normal, "What a wing!" I said. I was not going to proceed if there was any sign of stress and lack of trust.

This step went on for a week. I was willing to take even longer, if necessary, I had no time frame in mind. This wasn't a race. On day 9 I trimmed his right wing and immediately released it. He looked shocked, I just laughed. He allowed the left wing. Again, he was shocked, I just laughed. He laughed.

It took 5 minutes. The pirate turned into a parrot, again.

The next year after his new molt, the pirate was back.

He flew upstairs. I followed. We laughed. I took a wing kindly and said, "What a wing!" Clip. And again, on the left. No big deal. He added, "Good boy, KirbyKirby!" the pirate attitude disappearing.

This learning process took from fledge to his first molt through first new growth and then some months. We never clipped his baby feathering. I suppose that's about a year's investment. But we would have played that game anyway, and in that year, he learned to trust me more, and I, him. We no longer trim his wings. He's grown out of his pirate phase. We still play "What a wing!", though.

The Golden Rule of Parrot Negotiations; Never use deceit in negotiations. This takes time, communication, and no unreasonable expectations. Enjoy the process. Every day with our parrots is one more day of joy.

Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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