Some birds love to be petted, while others enjoy company but not of the hands-on type.
For starters it’s important to know your bird and their limits.
You need to set your own limits too! Getting a new bird and handling them for several hours a day might seem natural, but if you can’t keep it up then this can be confusing for your bird. Start as you mean to go on and put in place a manageable, long-term routine.
All birds are delicate, even the larger species, so the first rule is to always be gentle. Gentle, firm restraint may be necessary for jobs like claw trimming, but squeezing can lead to broken bones, damaged organs and even death.
Grabbing your bird to get them out of their cage can also injure them. Teaching them a ‘step up’ command, where they perch on your finger or wrist to be lifted out, is a great way to keep you both safe and injury free.
If you do need to get your bird and they don’t know ‘step up’, don’t grab them by the legs, wings or tail. These extremities are delicate and easily damaged. Instead use a towel to wrap them in gently.
Towelling can be good for restraint, especially during procedures such as nail clipping, but should be done for as short a time as possible as birds are prone to overheating and stress. Towels should only be used when you truly need them, as ideally birds should never be forced into any situation.
Sadly the pirates of the past had it wrong and it is actually not advised to let your bird sit on your shoulder. Out of sight it can be difficult to read their body language, and if startled a bird could cause a nasty injury – not a good idea at face height!
Jewellery such as earrings can also be irresistible to a bird, who can give a sharp bite trying to get to something so lovely and shiny.
Instead, have your bird on your hand, wrist or forearm.