How to toilet train your feathered companion

Potty train your bird to prevent having blotches of bird poop on your clothes

You can often tell a parrot owner apart by the way they unknowingly walk around with bird poop on the back of their clothes. Training your bird not to poop on you can lead to less mess, less laundry, as well as more interaction with your pet bird.

When nature calls
Potty training your parrot is very similar to housetraining a new puppy. First of all you need to know the times that nature usually calls – that is first thing in the morning, after meals and naps, and last thing at night. The same applies to parrots except for one big difference. Parrots need to go all the time! Small birds like budgies and cockatiels may need to defecate every 15 to 30 minutes, while larger birds such as macaws and cockatoos may only need to go every hour or so. What and when they have eaten also plays a big part.

Step one
So you have decided you don’t like all the mess and that potty training your parrot is the way to go. What now? First you need to observe your bird and get used to his bathroom habits. How often does he go? When does he go? Does he go just before getting out of the cage or before getting onto your arm? Discovering how often
your bird needs to go will ultimately speed up the training..

More observation
Next you need to watch your bird to see what he does just before he defecates. Most birds do a little squat and lift the tail slightly, while others first take a step or two backwards. Learning to recognise these behaviours are essential, as we need to watch out for these signs and, during the training process, intervene quickly.

Where is the question
Lastly you need to decide where your bird is allowed to do his business. Many bird owners like their parrots to only poop in or on their cages. Others have a place on the play stand with newspaper on the floor to catch any droppings, while some owners go as far as taking their birds to the toilet or a dustbin. You need to decide
what it is exactly you would like to teach your bird. Is he only allowed to poop on his cage, or is he only allowed to go in certain places where there is newspaper on the floor? Bear in mind that the more places are accessible to the bird, the higher your rate of success will be.

‘Hurry up’
Ideally you should start teaching your bird to potty on cue while he is in the cage. You can pick any cue you like, just remember that parrots can learn to repeat words and this could lead to embarrassing situations! ‘Go potty’ or ‘Hurry up’ are common ones. Watch your parrot and if you start to see any signs that he is about to
go, quickly say the cue you have chosen. After he has pooped you can give him a treat, a head scratch, verbal praise or anything else he finds rewarding.

Poop before play
By now you should know how long he can last until his next poop. When the time is up, put him back into his cage and wait. Repeat the above steps until you are confident he has seemed to cotton on to the idea of pooping in his cage after the cue. Your parrot should by now also start to understand that he is only allowed out of the cage if he has already made a poop.

Telling when to go
With potty training, you need to get into the habit of picking up the bird every once in a while and taking him to his cage (or whatever desired place) to go poop. Once the bird is fully trained he will start to tell you himself when he needs to go. He may do this by acting agitated or doing funny dances. If you’re lucky he may even tell
you by repeating the cue!.

Higher metabolism
Parrots have a much higher metabolism than people and on average food takes about half an hour to pass through their digestive tracts. Parrots also don’t tend to poop at night when they are asleep, so watch out for the first bomb the next morning! If your bird can fly he will also tend to poop just before taking off. Breeding hens will also sit on their eggs and not make a mess in their nests.

Never punish
As your training progresses and your bird starts to understand what is required, it is still very important for you to pay attention to your bird and watch for any signs of needing to go. Just remember that accidents do happen and no bird can be 100% potty trained. Never punish or yell at your bird for making a mistake, as apart from damaging the relationship you have with your bird, it will also prolong the training process. However, even having your bird partially potty trained can be a bonus, as well as a clean shirt!

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