Potty-training Your Bird

Tired of bird poop on your shoulder? Love your bird but wish that, aside from installing a volume control, that you could install a poop control too? But you CAN potty train your bird.

Our lovebird, for example, practically potty-trained himself --- he "goes" automatically when picked up and held over a trash can or piece of tissue paper set down for that purpose. Our cockatiel Torque acted "antsy" as a sign it's time to "poop" him (Tcsh, alas, is far more subtle about it, and in fact seems to deliberately poop on his less-favorite-human - while he seems to avoid pooping on his most favored human subject).

It helps to realize that most parrots (cockatiels, lovebirds, larger birds) have some sort of instinctive desire not to poop on their favorite human perch. I don't know how this evolved, but it's there. So, how does this training process work?

It's actually very similar to potty-training a dog. Dog books will tell you to learn and anticipate when the dog will go to the bathroom: right after waking up, right after eating, etc etc (though it depends on the dog); you're supposed to take the dog to the right spot every time you think he's likely to go, wait til he does his stuff (repeating a key phrase all the while, even if you feel like an idiot for it), and then praise him profusely. Birds are a lot like that, with one really BIG difference: they go as often as once every few minutes!

So the trick is to get in the habit of picking up the bird every few minutes --- you really have to learn to watch your bird to figure out the timing --- and then hold it over the appropriate object (newspaper, trash can, cage, whatever), repeat a simple phrase, and wait for the "plop." Then, praise the bird profusely and give it back its previous perch.

Here are some tips:

In any case, those are the basics! Remember, take it easy ... birds aren't THAT instinctively into the potty-training business. There will always be mistakes --- usually caused by an inattentive human who didn't read his bird's body language, or who forgot how long it had been since the last birdie potty session. But still, in good cases, the mistakes can go down by nearly 90% or more ... and wouldn't that be great?

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