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Suggestions for Setting Up Your Parrot's Living Area
By Sally Blanchard
excerpts from

T-Stands and Playgyms...Stick and Towels
The Playgym
The Need for Good Lighting


T-Stands and Playgyms...Stick and Towels

Parrots need time out from their cages and places to hangout with their human flock. T-stands and playgyms are another indispensable product for companion parrots. These come in many shapes and sizes; a simple T-stand, T-stands with multiple perches and trays, small portable table stands, and elaborate climbing gyms with multiple perches and toys. I have seen some that could fill a room. Like most other parrot-related products, manufacturers of stands and gyms use a variety of materials; various woods, metals, and PVC. Some come loaded with accessories such toys, ladders, climbing rope, and play rings.
The T-stand and the playgym serve different purposes. It is not appropriate for a parrot to spend a great deal of time on a T-stand — there is not enough for them to do. However, T-stands are great for casual attention. I almost always have a parrot next to me while I work on the Companion Parrot Quarterly. This is when you are with your parrot but you are doing other things that keep you busy but you can still talk to the parrot or give him an occasional skritch. Your bird is with you but not in your face. Maybe you are working on your computer, preparing food in the kitchen (away from the dangers of the stove and pots of hot food), getting ready for work (no aerosols should be sprayed near the parrot), eating dinner, reading or watching television. Even though he is not getting any direct attention, he is nearby and still a part of what you are doing. Parrots like to spend time with you when you are busy but you can still acknowledge their presence. Many people I know have a T-stand next to the table when they eat dinner. Most parrots are social eaters and they enjoy sitting on their T-stands eating their own dinner or healthy tidbits from their human flock's dinner during this time.
There are two more essential, but very basic, training accessories; a stick (or branch) and a towel. I devoutly believe that all parrots should be stick trained when they are very young. At this time it can be introduced as a play object. As a part of early socialization, I recommend placing a towel flat on a couch or a bed. Then place the stick or branch, a few familiar toys, and some treats such as nuts or favorite seeds on the towel. Put the young parrot on the towel and let him see you handling and playing with everything. Once he is comfortable, involve him in the play and ask him to step on the stick with the "UP" cue in a non-threatening manner as part of the play. Once he is used to stepping on the stick, be sure and keep him used to it in a friendly manner by using it as part of the way you play with him or give him attention. While this may not seem important when your parrot is young, it may become crucial as he becomes older. I am not saying that all parrots will become aggressive as they get older. However, I am saying that maintaining hand control, even if it is by using a stick, is essential for the pet potential of any parrot. If the bird is used to stepping on a stick with the "UP" command, then he will be patterned to step on the stick and can be handled by the caregiver or anyone else who needs to move him from one place to another regardless of the situation. This could be particularly helpful as he gets older..
Many parrots become afraid or upset when they are toweled. Getting a tame bird used to being in a towel can also save trauma in the future. The vast majority of companion parrots will have to be toweled at some time in their lives. Most veterinarians will use a towel so they can examine a parrot more easily. If a parrot has learned to play in a towel, using one to restrain the bird will be much less traumatic for them. Using the same scenario as mentioned previously for the stick, place a neutral colored towel on a bed or couch. Put familiar toys and treats on the towel and then bring the parrot into the room and place him in the middle of the towel. Even parrots who are usually afraid of being encompassed by a towel will not have a negative reaction to £ flat towel. Sit down with the parrot and give him a treat and then play with some of his toys. Once he is comfortable, start lifting; corner of the towel to play peek-a-boo Gradually lift more of the towel until you can actually lower one part of it on him. If he seems at all uncomfortable, go slower until he is more relaxed about the situation. Eventually, most parrots introduced to the towel in this manner will enjoy playing in the towel and even being picked up and hugged while he is wrapped. Training a companion parrot to get used to both a stick and a towel should be done gradually in a nurturing, playful manner so the bird associates both items with fun.

The Playgym
A play gym is just what it says. It should have multiple perches with lots of opportunities for play, exercise, and lots of fun out of the cage. A good parrot playgym is like Disneyland for parrots. Everything on the playgym should be bird safe, but items that may not be absolutely safe in a cage can be placed on a gym because parrots on playgyms should always be supervised. Rope perches are safer on playgyms than in cages because the caregiver is there if a problem occurs. I have long strands of beaded leather and laces on the playgyms that would be potentially dangerous to hang in a cage. When they are out on their playgyms, my birds love to hang upside down and swing from these.
The advice of not having a parrot higher than you are on a gym or on his cage has many exceptions. If parrots are easy to get with a hand or a stick there is no reason to deny them the fun of a high swing or perch.

The Need for Good Lighting
Parrots thrive with good lighting. Over the years, I have been in many homes where the first thing I noticed is the lack of good lighting. Our eyes adjust well to poor lighting and we often don't realize that these conditions are not good for our parrots. Several years ago I saw clear evidence of this. I was doing a consultation with a Yellow-nape Amazon. Because of the story of his purchase, I was sure he was a smuggled bird. Since they were novices, the buyers did not realize this. The bird had stress bars in all of his feathers and he looked greasy. Since green is a reflected color, parts of the Amazon looked brown. As part of their consultation, I insisted that the couple improve his diet and provide him with full spectrum lighting above his cage. They were very receptive to my advice and I was sure that they would do the best they could do to take proper care of their Amazon. Several months later, they called and asked me to come and trim his wings and help them with their new Cockatoo. When I saw the Amazon I immediately noticed a drastic improvement in his feather condition but as I walked around him I noticed that, while the right side was green and velvety, the left side still had numerous stress bars and a somewhat oily appearance. They did not want to take the playgym tray off the top of the cage and they had not put the light on the wall above the cage but the right side. The Amazon's right side had been bathed in good lighting because he spent most of his time in the cage facing forward. The difference in the feather condition of the left and right side of the bird was obvious.
Good lighting is not only important for feather condition but also for behavior and physical health. Over the years I have watched many perch potatoes develop into active acrobats when they were given better lighting. It also seems that parrots are more likely to eat a variety of foods if they have better lighting. Health wise, daily sunlight or full-spectrum lighting is critical for the production of Vitamin D which is necessary for the production of calcium and it is one of the most essential nutrients in a parrot's diet. The ultraviolet spectrum of natural sunlight is filtered out by ordinary glass and plastic. Keeping a parrot's cage next to a window may provide better lighting for him to see his environment, but it does not provide the kind of light needed for health reasons.
There are several brands of full-spectrum lighting that are appropriate for birds. Lights that are manufactured for plants do not have the proper spectrum for parrots. There are various ideas about the amount of light a parrot needs and I would recommend following the manufacturer's guidelines. My first concern is that the light fixture should be no less than 18" away from the bird's cage and the cord should be placed in such a way that the bird has no access to it. Full spectrum light should never be kept on longer than the natural cycle of sunlight. Full-spectrum lighting is not a substitute for other lighting so other lights can be kept on at the same time. Many parrot caregivers find it very convenient to have their lights on timers. I turn my parrots' lighting on when I come down stairs and usually keep it on for 5 or 6 hours. Since I have individual lights over each cage, I cut down on the light gradually before the room is completely dark. Another consideration is the influence that full-spectrum lighting may have on breeding behavior since it is influenced by the amount of light. If a parrot is showing a great deal of sexual behavior, it may help to cut back on the amount of light that he receives on a daily basis. This said, some extra lighting on a daily basis is still essential for the parrot's well-being.


 
 
 
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