How to entertain an isolated parrot who hates leaving the cage?

parrotinherited

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Nov 11, 2015
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I'm not really a parrot person. Nobody in my family is, but we have one, nonetheless. Her (?) name is Teddy, and she's a thirty-something orange-winged Amazon. My dad got him from his ex-girlfriend back when Teddy was four and has kept her ever since. While he was in college the bird stayed with his parents; when he got married 25 years ago, the bird moved in with us. My brother and I grew up with Teddy. My dad moved out five years ago, leaving my mother with the parrot.

So Teddy is very attached to my family. She's hot and cold with my dad, likes my mother okay, but loves my brother and I. She’ll develop a favorite every now and then. Teddy lives in pretty good conditions. She has a nice big cage, plenty of toys (some bells and rope toys), isn't visibly unhealthy and eats well. She likes cheese and carrots (as treats) and loves attention, especially when you pet the top of her head, her cheek and her neck. What I'm concerned about is her mental health. Simply put, Teddy is bored, a lot, and I don’t know how to remedy that.

See, Teddy has lived in isolation since she was taken from the wild at a very young age. We’d get her a companion, but my understanding is that a parrot who’s been alone for so long would freak out or try to fight another bird. And because of the setup of my house, my mother's busy schedule (brother and I live hours away), and my dog (Teddy’s sworn nemesis), we can't take Teddy out of the cage and let her fly/explore. The closest she gets to company is when we wheel her cage out to the front porch and she chatters with the passerby, humans and birds. She loves being outside — provided she’s in her cage.

Teddy doesn't like to be grabbed, touch or held and gets scratchy when you try. We can't wear gloves because she's afraid of those, so you get your hands cut up if you pet her beyond about the top of her wing. My dad swears she used to sit on his arm many years ago, but she doesn’t do that now. She likes to sit on top of her cage, and often does so, but she doesn't want to go away from it completely. It's a huge pain to just get her into a travel cage because she's so - for lack of a better word — agoraphobic. There was one time when we left the door open, the dog barked and she startled out of her cage, more or less by accident. She flew out onto the table a few feet away, freaked out, ended up on the floor and tried to fight my dog, so we had to put her back. She was not a happy bird. And the thing is, she isn’t happy on the whole.

So, to summarize: Isolated parrot, very attached to the family, loves attention and is friendly but hates being handled or moved out of her cage, seems generally bored to death. We can’t set up an aviary at this point, and my mom works full-time. When I go home for break I pay attention to her, but breaks end. We’ve considered giving her to an adoption service, since like I said, nobody in my family really wants a parrot — but it feels wrong to do that after so long.

What can we do to help Teddy live the best possible life, within reason? Are there any toys that you’ve found very good for isolated parrots? Would training her to sit on my mom’s shoulder while she’s at home be helpful? Or is adoption by a proper parrot-owner better than an under-stimulated life with the family she knows?
 

Birdman666

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Sep 18, 2013
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San Antonio, TX
Parrots
Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
It's not that he hates leaving the cage so much, the cage has become all he knows.
Mess with the cage, it's all he has left in the world, and he will fight you because if he loses that, he has nothing left.
You're also messing with his nest/his home/his safety and security/the place where the food magically appears every day.
Those are cage territorial behaviors. The dynamic is NOT that he hates leaving the cage, it's that he must DEFEND THE NEST!

OUTSIDE THE CAGE, HE SIMPLY DOESN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO ANYMORE, AND MUST GRADUALLY BE REINTRODUCED TO EVERYTHING AND RE-LEARN IT.
AND WITH THE JOY OF DISCOVERY YOU WILL GET A BIRD THAT OPENS UP AGAIN...

1. Birds that don't get handled don't stay tame.

2. Obviously cage bound, most likely cage territorial as well.

3. Get the wings clipped/bird groomed so you can take her out of the cage. If she's locked up all the time anyway, she's not getting any use out of being fully flighted. Better to be clipped so you can let her out of the cage.

4. Go back to basics and teach the bird basic step up/no biting.

Stick train and/or use a long sleeved sweat shirt (closed bent fist so that there is nothing to latch onto, offer your arm. Wrap a towel under the shirt (with an ace bandage) step him up on an arm, so that if the bird bites anything he's biting towel. While he's preoccupied with biting the towel, you get his beak with two fingers and give the no biting command. Once he's calm, let go of the beak, and walk around with him on your arm for awhile, preferably taking him away from the cage.

Then gradually expand his horizons a little more each day until he becomes tame and interactive again.

(Nope. Never done this before. Well, maybe once or twice...)
 
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Minimaker

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Jul 29, 2014
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GW Macaw-Sailor, Goffins Cockatoo Mako, GC Conure-Tazzy, Turquoise Conure Yuki, Budgies-Percy, Annabeth, Elsa
Creative foraging. Your bird needs something to stimulate her intelligent mind. Free feeding doesn't happen in the wild, they have to search for food. You can recreate that a little bit with foraging toys that make her work to get the food out. This is not cruel because she will be smart enough to figure it out. Here are some examples (and a few different ones would help keep her busy and happier):

Creative Foraging Systems Foraging Sphere 3 inch Diameter New | eBay

Small Medium Hide Seek Foraging Toy JK614 Nikko Rico's Safe Bird Toys | eBay

Super Bird Creations Foraging Pouch Bird Toy 7" L x 2" W | eBay

Paradise Toys Foraging Wheel - parrot/bird

Super Bird Creations 10 by 5 inch Foraging Basket Bird Toy Medium New Free S | eBay
 

Minimaker

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GW Macaw-Sailor, Goffins Cockatoo Mako, GC Conure-Tazzy, Turquoise Conure Yuki, Budgies-Percy, Annabeth, Elsa
Here's an example of a busy bird working to get the food out of a foraging ball. Notice her excited eyes while she's working on it, also notice the stuff inside the cage. This is a busy bird :) One note, if you get a basket or anything and it isn't parrot safe she could get sick from it. Make sure you get parrot safe materials.

[ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkJy6dzT0mQ"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkJy6dzT0mQ[/ame]

www.mysafebirdstore.com is an excellent source for toys and parts.
 

Flboy

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Dec 28, 2014
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Greater Orlando area, Florida
Parrots
JoJo, 'Special' GCC, Bongo, Cinnamon GCC(wife's)
All wonderful suggestions! Please, for your bird, stay with us! They are amazing creatures! Your heart is in the right place!
 

Anansi

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Dec 18, 2013
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Maya (Female Solomon Island eclectus parrot), Jolly (Male Solomon Island eclectus parrot), Bixby (Male, red-sided eclectus. RIP), Suzie (Male cockatiel. RIP)
You've received some great suggestions and links from both Birdman and Minimaker. What they are proposing would help a lot with alleviating your bird's boredom AND working past her territorial issues.

But...

I'm going to address the other issue yet to be touched upon. Namely, the fact that no one in your family actually wants her.

Now, don't get me wrong. This isn't me raising issue with that fact. Given that you're not a bird person and have wound up with a bird in your possession despite that fact, (and through no fault of your own) I think it's laudable that you're reaching out to see how you might give her a better life.

But if no one wants her, and no one will be either willing or able to spend quality bonding time with her, you'll never be able to give her a good life. A better one than she currently enjoys? Certainly. But not a good one.

Macaws need interaction, and lots of it. And the only way to achieve all that Birdman outlined in his post is by giving her that needed interaction. She needs a few hours a day of your time. Or it's just not going to happen.

Sure, she can get into foraging toys. No doubt. And they will be great for stimulating her mind. But she'll still feel terribly alone.

So, if you or someone in your family could potentially put that kind of effort and love into forging a bond with her, then I say go for it.

But if none of you is a bird person at heart... if that kind of dedication to a parrot just really isn't within you (which is okay. Not everyone is a bird person) then I honestly think your time and energy would be better served finding a good home for her. We have a rehoming section on this very site for just that purpose.

Sometimes I think that people can end up holding onto things in their lives with all the best intentions... and for all the wrong reasons. This may be just such a case.
 

JerseyWendy

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Jul 20, 2012
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Bravo, Stephen!! Very VERY well said!! :emoticonc You said out loud what probably a lot of us were thinking. :)

And I'm sure you meant "Amazons", right? Of course macaws need interaction just the same. :D

......Macaws need interaction, and lots of it. And the only way to achieve all that Birdman outlined in his post is by giving her that needed interaction. She needs a few hours a day of your time. Or it's just not going to happen.

....
 

Anansi

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Dec 18, 2013
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Maya (Female Solomon Island eclectus parrot), Jolly (Male Solomon Island eclectus parrot), Bixby (Male, red-sided eclectus. RIP), Suzie (Male cockatiel. RIP)
Thank you, Wendy.

And yes, I did mean amazons. See what happens when I try to operate on little to no sleep? Smh.

Thank you for catching that. What I should've said is that parrots need interaction. Because they all do. Some more so than others, perhaps, but they all do.
 

Peppo

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Nov 27, 2015
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Paco-Male Double Yellow Head Amazon
One of the first games I tried with Paco while he was still in the cage was a gentle tug of war with a small wooden chew toy. Of course always let him win with lots of praise when he does every time! Once it looked like he enjoyed it, I opened the door and presented a small hard plastic ball that he could grasp until he did grasp it and threw it to the floor. Again lots of praise. They need to realize that you are fun! Once they do, I think the world will open up for her and that small bit of excitement that you will see will get both of you hooked on creating more games and fun. Try music and dancing, the day Paco started dancing and bopping on his perch to a veggie tales cd I knew that Paco found joy at 22 years old. Doesn't take long after that until they want to be out of the cage where the action is.
 

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