Home | Bird Behavior | Socialization – a Vital First Step When Training Your Parrot – Part 2

Socialization – a Vital First Step When Training Your Parrot – Part 2

Conure with PuzzleIn Part I of this article we discussed the importance of socialization – the process of familiarizing your parrot with the people and things that make up its world.  Wild parrots are socialized by their parents, mates and flock members, but most or all of these important individuals may be unavailable to captives.  Un-socialized parrots generally live stress-filled lives and remain fearful of people.  Today we’ll take a look at some simple and effective socialization techniques.

Parents’ Influence

Although it seems almost “common knowledge” that hand-raised chicks pulled early from the nest make the “best pets”, this is not actually the case.  Ideally, chicks should be raised by tame, socialized parents – this gives them a great start in life, and saves much time and trouble later on.  Nestlings taken from their parents too soon may bond with a single person but often suffer from behavioral problems.

In General

As a general premise, socialization techniques expose the parrot, in a non-threatening or even attractive way, to numerous people and to the everyday and unusual situations and things that the bird will eventually experience.  Parrots so prepared tend to take surprises in stride – new situations may be viewed with suspicion, but will not cause undue stress.

Preparing for Unavoidable Stress

An important aspect of socialization is preparing the parrot for fearful encounters such as being wrapped in a towel for feather trimming or placed in a carrier for transport.

Introduce your parrot to towels by treating them as playthings – try different sizes and colors and use a towel to hide favored treats or toys.

During my time as a zookeeper, it was common practice to use carrying crates as nest boxes or feeding stations for all types of animals.  Doing so was much easier than just showing up with a crate when an animal needed to be transported somewhere.  Introduce your parrot to its crate by leaving it near the cage for a week or so.  Eventually, try placing treats and toys inside the crate when the parrot is at liberty.  Be sure to include a perch, as the addition of one at the last minute can short-circuit your efforts.

Change and Surprises

Macaw on a bicycleOnce your parrot is well adjusted to its home environment, begin to slowly introduce some “surprises”.  You might try wearing various coats, hats (some folks swear by wigs!) goggles…anything to prepare the bird for changing conditions.

If a particular item really “throws” your bird, try leaving the offending object in sight, but not too close to the bird.  Handling it, and allowing the parrot to approach on its own, may also help.  Do not leave stress-provoking objects (or people!) nearby while you are not present, or if the parrot seems overly-anxious.

New People

Strangers are particularly frightening to parrots, especially those that live with single individuals.  This can create quite a problem at the veterinarian’s office or if the bird must be cared for by others.

Introduce your parrot to as many people as possible, but do so slowly.  If a visitor is in a hurry, have that person just stop by the parrot’s cage…rushed contacts will do more harm than good.  At other times, have strangers offer treats to the bird, but watch your pet’s reactions carefully.  If it is frightened or aggressive, just let the bird observe the visitor, but do not force contact.

Further Reading

Learn about the socialization process in wild African Gray Parrots here.


Sun Conure with Puzzle image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Melanie Phung
Macaw on Bicycle image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Snomanradio, uploaded from Flickr from Papegoye and the Torch


  1. avatar

    This was an article I needed to see and hear. I agree wholeheartedly about the stress of living in a human environment for many parrots. Living with 6 neurotic buddies, each having their own triggers and being their only handler makes it challenging to get them over the hump. One of the techniques I use successfully is chamomile tea if I know in advance there will be disruption to our schedule.

    I will use one tea bag per 2 quarts of water as their drinking water a few days in advance of knowing there will be a major disruption in their lives. ie my grandchildren coming to stay or a new bird entering the mix. I learned of this through the site landofvos and it has helped us get through difficult times.

    Great article!

  2. avatar

    Hello Pat,

    Thanks for the note and kind words…I’ve used Chamomile for myself, when living in stressful human environments! Thanks for the tip – very interesting. I’ll keep on hand for future use,

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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