Athlyn has shared her life with four parrots, written articles for avian publications, and helped owners address troubling parrot behaviors.
You've let Paco or Polly out to play on a stand or perch, but now it's time for your feathered friend to go back inside the cage. However, that stubborn creature has other ideas and has absolutely no intention of doing as it's told.
It's a given that a pet parrot should have plenty of freedom, spending lots of time outside of its cage. Conscientious owners see to it that their parrots do not spend their lives imprisoned; rather, they provide additional territories, similar to what a parrot might have in the wild. Providing your parrot with a play stand or a tree perch helps to meet its needs for exercise and stimulation and helps to ensure a happier, well-adjusted parrot. You've done that and seen to your parrot's needs, so you should have a well-behaved parrot, right? Wrong.
Your darling Paco may quite happily enter his cage most of the time, but other times, just like a truculent child, he may balk and refuse to do as he's supposed to.
Realistically speaking, there are times when a parrot has to go back inside its cage. An owner may have to go away for some hours, and the cage is the safest place for the bird to be when no human is near to keep an eye on things.
Normally, a parrot returns willingly to its cage at night to roost, and if it's a talker, it may even ask to go to its cage when it feels sleepy, but trying to get a parrot to go back inside its cage in the daytime may be a different matter entirely. The parrot may be having a moody day and just wants to be left undisturbed, or it's happily playing or grooming and does not want to be interrupted, or it's enjoying being close to its humans, content to be near the everyday goings-on in the household. You are now asking it to do something it doesn't want to do. And a parrot has a mind and a will of its own.
An owner should know a number of ways to gain a parrot's cooperation when it needs to spend time inside its cage. This article discusses effective methods to deal with a resistant bird.
A parrot backs away to the opposite side of the top of its cage, so it is harder for you to reach it
A parrot lunges and grabs onto the side of the cage with its beak, hanging on for dear life
A parrot lunges at you and threatens to attack
A parrot crawls down the back side on the outside of its cage, so you can't defintely can't reach it
A parrot grabs onto the side of the cage door opening
A parrot reaches down and bites your finger or hand
Let's now discuss some typical scenarios. For each situation, strategies will be offered so that you outsmart your parrot instead of him outsmarting you.
Your bird may have the occasional "off" day, and while you normally would let it rest quietly and allow it to choose whether to stay in its cage or rest on a perch, depending on your circumstances, you may need to return it to its cage. If your bird doesn't want to be disturbed, Mr. Grumpy may let you know by lunging in order to warn you away. Pay attention to your bird's body language.
If lunging doesn't work, your bird may ramp things up a notch and reach down and latch onto a finger. A parrot should never be allowed to use biting to avoid stepping up and returning to its cage.
A way to circumvent this behavior is a method called the double-handed swoop. Instead of offering one hand or a finger, you bring both hands under your parrot's belly while instructing the bird to step up.
You extend a finger or a hand, which gets promptly chomped on. Paco is trying to get his own way and get you to back off.
By using the double-handed swoop, your bird will be busy watching your hands coming in on either side of its head, and while trying to process this information, he will obediently step up.
The double-handed swoop is a extremely effective method to avoid getting bitten.
If you have managed to get your reluctant bird to step up, it may make a final effort to resist returning to its cage. As you approach the open cage door, your smart parrot lunges and grabs onto the side of the doorway with its beak, holding on tightly so that its body is anchored outside the cage.
You can avoid this contest of wills by implementing an effective method of returning a parrot to its cage. This involves actually backing the bird into the cage. With the bird in hand, position the parrot so that he is facing away from the cage, with his bottom pointed towards the open cage door. The parrot cannot see the opening so doesn't latch onto the side. Backing a parrot into the cage is a safe and effective method of returning a bird to its quarters.
Bum-First Means No Latching On
An easy way to return a parrot to his cage is to back him in. He can't see where to latch on.
In another scenario, a parrot may be perched on top of its cage, sitting quietly or dozing. He is in his own zone and quite happy sitting in a high position where he can survey all.
You approach and tell him to step up. Rather than complying, your bird backs away to the farthest top corner, or he may even inch down the back side of the cage. You follow after him with proffered fingers, but he dodging your hand, displaying remarkable acrobatic skills while he climbs all over the outside of his cage. This "merry-go-round-the-cage" continues indefinitely.
There's a simple trick to get your parrot to go back inside its cage voluntarily. This involves placing a favorite food treat inside the cage and then walking away and seemingly ignoring the bird.
Now, a wily parrot will likely keep a sharp eye out for you after it has entered the cage so that it can evacuate quickly. It still has no intention of "having" to stay in its cage and only entered because it couldn't resist the food treat—but a parrot in this frame of mind will move like lightning if it thinks you are going to close the cage door, so it will watch to see if you plan on "locking it in."
A smart owner acts busy and seemingly ignores the bird while slowly working their way towards the cage, waiting for the parrot to become less vigilant. Once the parrot is busily investigating the food in its dish, the owner moves quickly to close the cage door. Mission accomplished.
A Neat Food Trick to Lure Paco Back Inside
* Place food inside the cage.
* Ignore the bird.
* Once he is inside the cage and happily investigating the food, close the door.
|Hand Position||Body Position||Food Position|
The double-handed swoop prevents biting
Backing a parrot into a cage is effective
A new treat placed inside the cage can lure a parrot inside its cage
Truly, living with a precocious parrot entails coming up with inventive methods to elicit compliance. A parrot is not only smart but also can be very, very determined. At all times, owners should deal perceptively and kindly with their feathered friends—while retaining the upper hand.
Question: How can I help my parrot to relax inside his cage? He is not eating or playing with his toys.
Answer: Your parrot may need some time to sit quietly inside his cage and grow used to his surroundings. He may feel overwhelmed by so many new and strange things to look at.
If he still doesn't respond, try putting or tying some food on the top of the cage on the outside and opening the cage door for him. This might encourage him to leave the cage and crawl to the top to investigate and nibble on the food, and in doing so, this may help him to relax. Food, especially food that your parrot likes, may help him to associate a pleasurable activity connected to his cage and thus he may not find his cage as frightening.
© 2017 Athlyn Green
Colin sayers on July 01, 2020:
My parrot just won't go in his cage at night, no matter what I try
Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on April 14, 2017:
Bill, having a parrot is fabulous. Imagine a pet you can converse with. Ours used to great us in the mornings and ask to come out, then comment enthusiastically on their breakfasts, "This is yummy! Want more?"
When our Grey parrot got sleepy, he would say, "Sleepy buuuurd. Want to go night-night." If we didn't take him to his cage right away, he would become insistent: "Night now. Time to go night, night."
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 14, 2017:
We have six chickens and 200 quail...I suppose a parrot would be the next logical step. :) Seriously, I would love to have one...talking my wife into it will be the next hurdle. Thanks for the inspiration!
Thanks that realy helped with my bird
Excellent advice , I have only had my cockatoo a few days , bonding really well but the previous owner basically let him do as he pleased , so has a few bad habits , I have done some of the training tips no food out of cage , but the biting when he doesn't want to in , I hadn't experienced before and as I had said I think the bird olly was left to his own devices and top dog so to speak , this information is great on all levels thankyou .
Your advice was extremely helpful. I have a Senegal as well and he was very territorial on his cage.
Ok I'm going to be the jerk and tell you that what you are doing is not the best way to get that or any other behavior. As a matter of fact, i've watched a few of your youtube videos and as far as i can see, you either click too much, don't reward enough, click too late and otherwise really inhibit the subject's ability to learn quickly. For this behavior specifically, (going back into the cage) there are much faster and more efficient ways of getting the bird to respond without your "determination". I can usually get it don't in a few minutes, if not just a few reps. Proper operant conditioning should get the subject to WANT to do the proper behavior, without 500 different reasons why it may or may not want to go in. (PS when going back in if the bird bites it has nothing to do with your training it to bite per se, it has to do with what you are doing and not doing with and to the bird. I'll leave it to you to figure that out). There are a lot more things I saw on this one that aren't either the best way of doing things or just outright wrong. For example, climbing on the cage is bad. Really. Seriously. If your bird isn't trained well enough to come down when cued, that's not on the bird, that's on you. There are no such things as bad trainees, just bad trainers. You don't get to blame the subject for your lack of training skill. Sorry you don't. If you would like more clarity on what i've said and/or some help fixing up your mistakes, PM me. My feeling is that if you are calling yourself an expert on training behavior, you really ought to know the right ways of doing things. I'm sure you're not going to like this post and more than likely kick me off the forum and you're more than welcome to, but that doesn't suddenly change things and make you right. You will still be wrong.
We have MANY solutions for getting your bird to go back in its cage. I demonstrate some in the video above but remember, the enclosure your bird lives in should be a fun, enriching place for your bird to enjoy being. It should WANT to go back in it, spend time in it, but also want to spend time with you - sometimes it can be hard to find that balance.
These are all tips I didn't mention in my video - so be sure to not only read this post but also watch the video for real time tips and techniques.
Let your feathered friend come out when he feels like it. If you push him too hard, you'll end up with a freaked out bird who will never leave his cage. Close all windows and doors, shut the curtains -- so he doesn't crash against the glass when he does come out -- and just wait.
Make the room inviting. If you're playing hard rock at a deafening volume, do you really think your parakeet is going to come out? Turn very bright lights down, take the dog out and make sure the room is quiet. Curiosity will win out if the place doesn't sound and look terrifying.