Keeping your parrot safe may seem like a pretty easy task. After all, they live in your home, have a cage to call home, and seem quite docile.
But there is never a guarantee that your bird will not fly out of an open window or door, especially in summer when you’re trying to get some fresh air and cool everything down. Clipping a bird’s wings can prevent flying, but many bird owners are against it because it is unnatural and causes their bird to rely on humans too much.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other ways in which you can escape-proof your home, from checking your home for potential routes to preparing for the worst-case scenario.
How to prevent a parrot escape
The risk of parrot escapes was brought to our attention in April 2020, after Chanel The African Grey escaped from her home in Liverpool. But as much as it was the viral video highlight of the Coronavirus lockdown, we don’t want another escapee for the sake of the parrot and the owner.
Keep windows shut
Firstly, you need to ensure that all of your windows and doors are kept shut.
This can be hard in hotter months, or when the house feels like it needs a bit of fresh air. But even if you were to shut them in the living room and open the windows and doors throughout the rest of the house, there is no guarantee the door won’t blow open or be opened by guests/the kids.
If you must have ventilation, securing screens or mesh against the window is best. Closing blinds can help, but you will still have to keep a very close eye on your bird and it is risky. Don’t be distracted; your bird can be very fast and clever, and African Grey’s especially are known as the ‘Great Houdinis’ of the parrot world.
Keeping doors and windows closed can also prevent accidental visitors, like next doors cat who could spook your bird.
Check the cage door is closed
If you’re leaving the house, or the doors and windows do have to be open, it is a good idea to have your parrot in their cage. Check the cage door is closed and locked before you leave them unattended, and double-check before you leave the room or house.
Ensure they have everything they need in the cage, so they aren’t tempted to break free.
Train your parrot
This can help your parrot to limit their wish to escape, and also help if your bird gets out.
You can teach your parrot to respond to its own name, know your name or a keyword. Making a note of how they say certain words is also good.
Ensure your parrot is used to loud noises in case they find themselves outside and will approach humans they recognise. You may not want them to be too friendly for the risk of theft, though.
Steps to take in case your parrot escapes
It isn’t just your parrot escaping out of the window that needs to be a concern of yours. Parrots are particularly vulnerable to theft too, whether this be from your home or if found in public.
So, if worst comes to worst, you will need to ensure that you have proof you are indeed the owner.
Have plenty of photographs of your parrot
Parrots can be microchipped which is a good start, but pictures are also a pretty simple way to prove ownership.
Take plenty of pictures of your parrot, from all angles. Ones with you in are also good. If your bird has any redeeming features, such as a mark on its plumage or a twisted beak, take pictures and notes of it.
Try to have physical copies of the photos which can be photocopied if needs be, and store the originals securely with the date and time stamps. The digital copy should also prove these dates.
Microchip your parrot
Microchipping a pet bird will have to be done by a specialist avian vet, and they cannot be removed or changed as easily as a ring on their leg.
If somebody did try to change the details on a microchip, you would be contacted, and previous data is never replaced – it is simply added to. Microchips are also unlikely to be painful for parrots.
Sign up to a vet ASAP
All pets should be signed up to a vet, who will also take your details and the history of the animal. This is another way to obtain third-party proof of ownership.
Parrot leg bands/rings
Leg bands are a good backup too. Like a dog or cat would have an ID tag, it gives immediate information about identity and ownership.
A closed leg band displays a unique ID inscription and is fitted to a parrot as a young chick, by the breeder. So, you may adopt your parrot already with a band on their leg.
This means it cannot be removed as they grow into it. A closed ring can be essential when applying for CITES licences as proof the bird must have been captive bred and not taken from the wild.
The inscription should include:
- Breeder’s initials
- Year of birth
- The certified number for the year linking it to a birth/hatch certificate copy passed to the new owner
Split rings are fitted to birds when they’re a little older. Unfortunately, split rings can easily be removed by thieves, and they can catch on cages and aviary mesh too.
Can I clip my parrot’s wings?
Wing (or feather) clipping involves clipping a bird’s flying feathers to prevent it from gaining full flight.
It doesn’t hurt a bird if done by a professional. However, it is in a bird’s natural instinct to fly. Therefore, if they realise that they can’t move around in this way, it could damage them psychologically. This frustration can lead to feather plucking and other worrying signs.
Wing feathers do grow back too. This is something that many owners do not realise, and putting your bird through this for a temporary solution is not recommended.
The National Theft Register states that 50% of lost birds have had their wings clipped at some stage.
Is it okay to take my parrot outside?
A suitable harness will allow you to take your parrot outside. They can usually be taken out for 2-4 hours and will let you know when they have had enough.
Taking your parrot outside and allowing free flight could reduce their wish to leave of their own accord.
Harness training can be a long process, though. They need to get used to the look of the harness, having it put on, and then wearing it. There are plenty of guides out there regarding measuring and fitting a parrot for a harness.
A leash will attach to this harness. You still need to keep your parrot close, safely attach the leash to your wrist or similar, and ensure they’re okay with going outside. Be aware that their lead or harness could catch on things, and always check it for wear and tear.
If your parrot loves wearing a harness, this could be a good way of taking your parrot around your home when windows are open, or even into the garden. Be aware that you should never use a harness and lead to tether your parrot to their cage or perch, however.