Friday, November 19, 2010

Preparing for the Holidays?

I am sure most or even all of you have by now read many articles on handling the holidays with parrots, but despite that, I intend to face you with yet another. You can never be too prepared, right? The holidays can be very stressful, with all the decor changes, lighting changes (less sun, long artificial light hours) new people coming in, favorite people going out or staying busy, hustle bustle, and noise. This is all assuming you yourself are not stressed by holidays, which naturally can worry your parrot. So much stress can be a huge burden for any parrot! Despite all that, the holidays can also be a happy time for your parrot, and a wonderful opportunity for them to come out of their shell a little (if they have one, that is) and have new experiences. Nothing beats a little environmental stimulation to combat life boredom. A few simple tips will help ensure your holidays are a happy time for your parrot, so here are three things to consider for a better holiday season!

Problem: Thanks to human nature and impressive ad campaigns, many people firmly associate happy holidays with heavy artificial scents. This is not only very un-healthy for your parrot over the long term (meaning you may not be able to see damage immediately, but like pain, damage is not always visible, and that should not lessen it any) but can be immediately lethal in the worst cases, it all depends on the individual parrot. And new evidence is starting to emerge showing these artificial fragrances are not much safer for people. There is no one regulating what goes into them in the U.S. (Other countries are stricter), and they do not have to disclose ingredients to anyone. A few labs have studied the ingredients and found many known carcinogens and toxins that ARE strictly regulated by the government, as breathing even small amounts is known to be very hazardous to your health. Talk about a major loophole! With all that risk, why use them?

Solution: Try opening the window just an inch or so for five minutes; even that short amount of time can really freshen things up! If you want homey scents, try the real thing- fresh evergreen branches, oranges studded with cloves, and cinnamon and apple slices simmering on the stove.

Problem: Visitors, whether over night or just dropping in, are a regular thing for many people throughout the holiday season, Without knowledge or experience with parrots, close encounters between visitors and your feathered companion can quickly turn nasty for both parties. Most people do know, however, that sharing food is a great way to make friends with any animal, but what foods are dangerous for parrots is not nearly as widely shared. Late nights and loud (or even moderately quiet) parties can cause a lot for stress for some parrots, particularly those only regularly handled by one person. And if the guests arrive wearing heavy perfume or other fragrance, that is another burden on your parrot's system.

Solution: Talk to your parrot about what will be happening. Even with the busy schedule, take time each day to focus totally on him or her, or each of them in turn with more than one, and let them know what will be going on. Know your bird(s).

If you have a bird room or keep your parrots in a room other than where the guests will be, the best idea is to keep that room off limits. If your parrot really likes people and is trustworthy, you can bring them out to visit. You would definitely want to make sure that you are there to supervise the whole time, and that you explain some basic parrot handling rules before hand, such as how to hold your hand, what not to do, whether to pet or not, and why sticking your face in theirs or pulling their tail is not recommended. A friend of mine that I thought was so wonderful with all animals, very quiet and nice, for some reason thought it hilarious to pull my tiel's tale. So cover the basics even when you are sure it is not necessary. If there is a group of people, I would not recommend bringing your parrot out at all unless they have shown themselves to enjoy such situations and be very trustworthy, as things can get out of hand quickly.

If your parrots' cages are in the main part of the house where visitors will be, I highly recommend getting them accustomed to another cage (such as a sleep cage) in another part of the house. This way, you can control what is happening, and if the party is going on past your parrots' bedtime, they can be removed. I would not leave them in the party area unless you have explained to everyone there not to stick anything in the cage, and not to share food or drink with them. This is assuming, of course, that your parrots love being around people. If they are stressed by such goings on, you would of course want to remove them from the beginning. And to bring up the fragrances again, if any of your guests wear heavy fragrances, I would move them to another room regardless.

One or two visitors that can be trusted to follow parrot handling rules are a blessing, though, don't forget that! Our parrots can often get stuck in the same routine, seeing just the same people day in and day out. Even as fascinating and wonderful as I am sure you all are, everyone likes to see a new face once in a while! For parrots that are scared of new people, this can be a good time to adjust them to seeing someone else, even if all they do is stand in the door way and whisper hi.

Problem: Stress. Stress. And more stress. For many people, the holidays simple spell out stress. Time to clean, cook, shop, decorate, act nice, wrap presents, send cards, go to parties/engagements/performances, visit family, have family visit, and deal with neighbors that call with dog complaints on Christmas eve night (had to throw that one in there for my family.) Say it with me: S-T-R-E-S-S. As you all can guess, your parrots pick up on this immediately, and their behavior will show it, just adding to your (one more time now) stress.

Solution: Besides a day at the spa or permanently banning the holidays from crossing your threshold, there are ways to help with your, and therefore your parrot's, stress. In fact, your parrot may be one answer to your stress, and instead of giving tips on making schedules, managing time, setting priorities and any other advice people usually get, that is the one I am going to focus on. Whatever else your schedule includes, make sure it includes special one-on-one time with your bird. If necessary, take time to close your eyes and breathe deeply for a minute or two before this, so you really can focus on your parrot and reassure them. If you parrot likes being held, just hold them for a few minutes. If not, just sit near and talk to them. The "blinking game" is a great way to relax. Just make eye contact with your parrot, and then slowly close your eyes and open them again, your parrot should respond to this by blinking on his own, but it can take a few tries for him to get the idea. Mine even initiate the blinking game now.

After some calming, mind clearing, and reaffirming one-on-one time, think of ways to include your parrot in your activities. Baking is not safe with parrots in the kitchen, but prep work, as well as list making for groceries or anything else, is. Writing Christmas cards can also seem more pleasant with your parrot, providing you keep them on their gym with their own letters (little treats and toys wrapped in paper.) If you need an authoritative opinion on what the best present for your boss really is, look no further than your parrot. I am sure they will agree (as soon as you convince them a chewed up shirt and half eaten egg carton are not good ideas,) that nuts are a great present!

Most importantly, if there are going to be any big changes, explain them to your parrot well in advance. If you can manage it at all, keep up whatever base schedule and favorite activities you and your parrot have now. That will not only keep them happy, but it will help keep you happy, as well.

Hope your holidays are happy!

Claudia on her well-chewed Christmas swing.


Coco said...

What a wonderful post!! So informative and a great reminder to us all. We can never be too careful. Thank you!!

Coco said...

P.S. I added a link to your blog finally!! Sorry for the delay :)