The Talking Texan Parrot

Flying and Pooping

I get many questions about flying and pooping! I guess parrots are famous for that, and people want to know more about it! I can understand why. Parrots live in our homes, and you may not want a parrot flying all over the place and pooping on everything.

Can Einstein Fly?

Yes, Einstein can fly. However, we clip his wings for his safety. The trimming of the wings keeps them safe in the home environment. We don't want him flying into ceiling fans, windows, mirrors, electrical cords, or accidentally out the door to be possibly lost forever.

Some owners do train their parrots for free flight. The training must be done with the utmost safety. It is training that should not be taken lightly or rushed. A complete understanding of positive reinforcement training, your parrot’s behaviors and body language, aside from daily practice, and lots of consistency. My advice is to not attempt this type of training without consulting someone with experience and who can help you with a training plan. We made the personal decision not to pursue free flight training for Einstein, and he enjoys other forms of enrichment in his environment.

Although Einstein's wings are clipped, he's still a very strong flyer. In the video above, Einstein demonstrates his "fly-hop." He gets around very well using this technique when his wing feathers have grown out just a little. We have to be careful when one or two wings grow out, and we clip those as soon as we can. Feathers are like hair in that it doesn't hurt them when they are cut.

The Einstein Fly-ride!

We'll also let him go "fly-ride". He perches on my hand and I run with him through the house. We have a large living area, and he holds on to my hand and flaps his wings. It's great fun and good exercise for him! That is how he learned to say, "Wanna go fly? Weeeeeeeeeeee"

If your parrot is not used to this kind of activity. Start slowly. Do arm raises and get it used to just flapping. Then, gradually work up to where you start walking while the parrot flaps. Maybe go in a small circle or a short distance. Gradually over time increase the distance, providing you have enough room to run. Be careful and make sure there are no obstacle that you could trip over and fall down! Also, provide plenty of clearance for the bird through doorways between rooms.

To Clip or Not to Clip? That is the Question!

Clipping the wings is a controversial subject among parrot owners. The trimming of wings should be a personal decision after much reading and consideration of your lifestyle. Young parrots should learn to fly and be allowed to fledge, but allow them to do this under very controlled and supervised conditions.

If you decide to allow your parrot free flight in your home, make the necessary adjustments to your home or areas they will be allowed to fly. There are many dangers in a home. Some of these dangers include, but are not limited to: ceiling fans, electrical cords, windows (open or closed), mirrors, toilets without the lid down, and hot cooking surfaces.

If you chose to clip your parrot’s wings, clip only the proper number of feathers to allow your parrot to glide downward and learn how to do a proper clip from a qualified avian veterinarian. When taking your bird outside, always do so in a safe manner to prevent escape. Provide an outside cage, such a travel cage, a secure enclosure, or a harness such as the Aviator Bird Harness. Any bird, clipped or not, will take flight if scared or taken up by a swift breeze.

The Jury Is Still Out

In the fall of 2014 we allowed Einstein’s flight feathers to grow out and allow him to fly. The jury is still out whether we will continue this. Einstein has a, “I can do anything I want” attitude and is getting into practically every drawer and cabinet in the house. Mostly walks and climbs to those that are accessible, flies to the ones that are not. Also flying to the cooking area of the kitchen that is ABSOLUTELY OFF LIMITS. He has to be watched like a hawk and when stationed on a perch, it means nothing to him. I reward when he stays perched, but treats are not a big motivator when there are more fun things to explore and do! It’s like a 2 year old that just won’t listen. He is getting more cage time because I can’t always be watching him. This poses the question, how much “Freedom” does having flight feathers really allow if he gets more cage time?

Is Einstein Potty Trained?

Yes, Einstein is potty trained. Parrots can be trained to poop in certain "approved" areas. We know that in the wild, parrots sitting on eggs will not poop in the nest. Parrots will not defecate at night either. Instinctively they must hold their poop at night so not to be discovered by predators. This is why first thing in the morning a parrot poop will be very large. It is clear from these observations that parrots have an awareness of where and when to poop.

Bombs Away!

In this video Einstein is with Jeff in the office. All of a sudden he asked, "You know what?" Then announced "Bombs Away!" as he pooped!

Einstein will poop any time he wants when he is in his cage, on his play stands, or on the shower. When we want him to be with us or we walk across the house with him on our hand to another play perch; we have potty trained him to do his business before we take him by asking him to "Bombs Away!" He is always willing to comply, and we have a few less messes to clean!

Potty training a parrot is much like potty training a dog.
Be consistent - always go to the same “approved” place.
Be patient - wait until “potty” happens. Repeat the special “potty” cue word while you wait.
Praise and reward!

However, there is one major difference. A bird will make “potty” every few minutes! However, they can “hold” it. They do not poop at all during the night. Come morning, you can expect a really big POOP! Some parrots may even recognize other humans as part of the flock and will choose not to poop on them. Einstein is more fastidious than other birds. He will not poop anywhere on the kitchen drawer. Instead, he will wait to be moved to a suitable perch. Or, walk as far away from the drawer as possible and drop on off the side of the countertop.

We started to potty train Einstein at 4 month of age. I wouldn’t recommend training a bird younger. It is possible to teach an older parrot, it may require more time.

Be consistent! This process requires some training by the owner too! You must be constantly alert to when you think your parrot my need to go. Watch the clock. How much has the parrot had to eat or drink? Has it just woke from a nap? These are all clues to take you parrot to the location and say the cue word. You might also need to read a parrots “potty body language.” A parrot will start to get antsy when they need to go. Some, like Einstein, will do a funny little squatting, combined with a backing up motion. When you see this, immediately place the parrot on the approved perch or over a piece of newspaper, etc. (Caution, chose your approved target carefully. Choosing newspaper means that any newspaper will be fair game.)

The Cue Word

Tip: Chose a word that is not part of your daily conversation, something unique will cause less confusion and possible embarrassment. (We use, “Bombs Away!”)

Never scold a bird when he poops. Accidents will happen. Expect that your shirt and pants will get pooped on. (In addition, beaks will put holes in them.) Bird poop washes out very well! Protect your furniture with a towel if you have concerns about upholstery. (Never use upholstery cleaner around your parrot!)

When success does occur, praise with a “Oh! Good Parrot” and smile! (Parrots do read your body language too! They know from our facial expressions if we are happy, angry, or sad.) Then reward by taking him to his favorite place, to a favorite person, or give a favorite toy. I don’t recommend a food treat for this, as the favorite food treat might not be available when needed.

Don’t get frustrated. If after some time, you are not seeing any results after being consistent with this process it might just be best to live with a little mess. You never want to force or stress a parrot about doing something it either doesn’t want to do or doesn’t understand.