Potty Training Your Pet Bird

Three parakeets perched in a cage.

Poop from birds. It's one of those unavoidable costs of bird ownership that you must accept. The good news is that, despite popular belief that a bird cannot be "housebroken" or "potty trained," there are techniques to educate your pet where to empty itself— are an excellent example. While it won't happen immediately and is more difficult than training a cat or dog, many owners think that the advantages are well worth the effort.

Train Yourself

Training yourself is the first step in toilet training your bird. Pay special attention to any "signals" your pet may give you before relieving himself each day when you engage with him. A shift in posture, a certain "look" in the bird's eyes, or a ruffling of tailfeathers are all examples. When resting calmly in one place for a long period, some birds grow restless, which may suggest that they need to go to the toilet. Every bird is unique, and thus uses distinct body language, but if you get to know yours and learn to "read" it, you'll be fine in no time.

Pay Attention

The frequency of your bird's droppings is another factor to consider. Many birds will go to the bathroom every five to ten minutes, although this is extremely idiosyncratic. If you keep an eye on your bird, you could see a pattern in its bathroom habits, and if you keep track of how long it takes between poops, you'll be able to tell when your bird has to go.

Find Places to Go

Once you've figured out your bird's natural bathroom pattern, you can start working with him or her on learning where to go pee. The first step is to choose a location for your bird to discharge itself. This might be anywhere, including the bird's cage, a trash container, or a scrap of newspaper or cage liner. Whatever you choose, it's critical that you keep to it as much as possible. Many bird owners teach their creatures to use waste paper as a toilet since it is the most portable and readily disposed of.

When it's time to go pee, all you have to do is carry your bird there (or, if it's a piece of paper, hold it beneath the bird)— seems simple, right? The key is to anticipate the bird's desire to go to the toilet, which requires knowledge of your bird's potty habits. If your bird, for example, craps around every seven minutes, you should set your bird over its assigned poop location every seven minutes. If your bird doesn't poop after a minute or two of being held over the toilet space, let it play for a minute or two and try again after one to three minutes.

Give Praise

When your bird uses the potty in the proper location, reward it with praise and delectable goodies. With time, it will realize that pooping in the proper location reaps enormous benefits. However, because this might take months of training, don't be shocked if your bird has a few mishaps, and don't be irritated if it "misses the place." It's important to remember that it's your obligation to pay attention to your bird's body language and schedule, and to bring the bird to the right bathroom location.

Many birds respond well to potty training when given enough time and good reinforcement, and rapidly learn that pooping on humans (or furniture) is not acceptable. While ensuring that accidents do not occur requires work on the part of the owner, most believe that it is far simpler than dealing with the clothes and messes that untrained birds generate. Make toilet training a learning experience for both of you, and you'll never have to worry about losing your favorite shirt to a "bird bomb" again! (And know how to get bird poop out of clothing if your bird has an accident on your favorite shirt.)

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