Go Cut Yourself A Switch

Written By: B.D. Butler - May• 14•12

Go cut yourself a switch, has a funny sounding undertone, doesn’t it?  That’s what our Aunt Toots (pronounced Too-t-s, and not Tootsie like the movie) would say when we were especially evil and bratty naughty children.  We would have to go cut a switch off of the willow tree in the back yard.  If we didn’t get one of adequate size, she would do it for you, and trust me, you didn’t want that.  Aunt Toots was old school discipline, and her spanking never turned into beating, just a couple swats, and you were done.  The build up of getting spanked was actually the worst part, and made the most impact.  Aunt Toots would often disappear after a spanking, and I think I secretly knew she was somewhere crying.  She was one of the most special and gentle people that ever walked this earth, and the phrase “this is going to hurt you, more than it hurts me” rang true.  She hated disciplining, but sometimes it had to be done.

Discipline varies in every household, country, and culture.  The same is true with every pet owner.  I have been researching how to discipline your parrot for a while now, my groomer will blow in her birds faces if they go to bite her and says it makes an impact without actually harming the bird.  Other people will have a staring contest with their companions and simply give them a firm “No!”.


Click on here for Mommy Dearest.

There are various behaviors that parrots do, chewing, whistling, squawking, and the list goes on and on.  I understand the frustration when they learn a new beep, or chirp, and do it incessantly.  I really get it, it can be like nails on the chalkboard.  However that’s really just  a parrot being a parrot.  It’s absolutely impossible to erase a natural behavior.  However sometimes it’s possible to curb a behavior, or divert a behavior.  I only allow the birds to be in certain areas, and not roam around freely.  I also have a couple of play gyms that they have plenty of items to chew on.  Dexter is not a chewer, so I can trust him a little more but Cooper will “test” the durability of anything that comes into his path.  So unless you want your little feathered friend taking on quality assurance tester on your new credenza, keep a watchful eye, and allow them to chew in proper areas. (Not to mention the dangers of them chewing on an electrical wire)

Click on here for Angry Parrot.

Some days parrots are just not in the mood, and maybe they got up on the wrong side of the cage.  Hey you have had those days, right?  So a squawk here, and a chirp there, doesn’t mean they are psychotic or intentionally being “bad children”, they are just trying to convey their feelings at the time.  Dexter is so timid of hands, and I think he was hit in his former household.  It irks me to no extent that someone would hit him, and I wish he never had to experience anything like that.  He will forever have that in the back of his mind every time anyone handles him.  He has come so far, and someday, I hope to scratch his head.

Click on here for parrot discipline.

Imagine working at Tropical Inc., (click here to read the article) an exotic animal sanctuary and hearing this Green Wing Macaw drop some f-bombs when they take him to schools for presentations to raise animal awareness in the UK.  So what do you do about a cussing parrot?  That’s easy, ignore it, and make sure you aren’t dropping those kind of phrases yourself.  They after all learn it from somewhere.  Parrots are very reaction oriented animals, and enjoy when they get a reaction for doing something.  Very similar to kids, they don’t care if it is good or bad attention, they are really just getting what they want.  A reaction.


Click here for distraction.

So, you may be thinking, how do I distract a parrot.  Well I happen to have an example.  Since parrots love the reaction portion of interaction with humans, make it a positive experience.  For instance, Cooper will try to chew on things that he knows will get a reaction from me.  I then will actually get up and walk out of the room,  this then diverts his attention, and he is not getting the desired result.  I’m not getting worked up, I don’t stomp out of the room, I just stop what I am doing and walk away.  There are times he will stretch out and  try to chew on his UV Lamp, because this is a dangerous situation, I act immediately.  I grab something else for him to chew on, and put it on top of his cage, or hand him a chew ring or ball.  This diverts his attention to not chewing on the lamp, and actually makes him forget all about it.

The important thing that most parrot owners forget to do is praise when your bird is doing something great.  Like simply being quiet, or preening, or playing with their toys.  It’s human to focus on the negative, and focus on the other aspects of the day, but like a child, its most important to be encouraging, and focus on the positive.  Not only does it tell your parrot, “he likes what I am doing, and if I do this, I get attention”, but its better to bond in the positive, rather than the negative. Your bird will thank you, and eventually when your bird starts to react properly, you’ll thank yourself.

Click here for parrot playing.

Keep your bird busy, toys, handling, plenty of out of cage time.  If you can, have an area that your bird can count on away from its cage.  Idle hands are the devils workshop, well let’s just say, so is a parrot’s beak.  Be diligent about seeing situations before they happen, and run interference.  Also make sure your bird is getting a proper diet of fresh fruits/veggies and the right amount of vitamins and minerals.  If your bird isn’t feeling well, that can affect behavior patterns, and so can hormones during spring mating season.

The greatest advice I can give you is; just imagine you are dealing with a two-year old, that does not speak or understand a word of your language.  The only commonality that you have is body language, tone of voice, and voice inflections.  You would be surprised if you say things in the form of a question instead of commanding “step up” the difference you will get with your bird.  We were always raised with the phrase, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”.  It rings such a truth.

There are many great training courses,books and dvd’s  out there that you can research to help you and your feathered companion.  It’s a matter of finding the right way that works for you and your bird.  Some may work better, depending on the bird, and the owner.

Sometimes you just can’t fit a square peg into a circle slot.  Do the research and the reading, it’s worth it.



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  1. Ronda says:

    This is good advice, I use distractions all the time to help behaviors (animals and children). Great artical ~ and well written~ You honor Aunt Toots well 🙂 The Bird we were thinking of getting is gone, the store went out of buisness… she was a cockatoo~ 🙁 if it is to be we may run into the people that had her again someday.

    • B.D. Butler says:

      thanks so much! Aunt Toots was a great woman, and helped mold me into the gentle and fair person that I am today. If you are looking into a bird, there are a lot of rescues that could probably help you find a bird. They are so much work, but SO rewarding. I wouldn’t trade my boys.

  2. Kyoske says:

    Thanks for the link!

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