I love my bird – I hate the mess – A helping guide to bird mess containment

Benefits of Messless Feeders and Poopless Water Bottles


Every parrot owner deals with the issue of messiness with seeds or pellets that get tossed out of the cage or water splashes wetting the cage liners. No parrot parent likes to have just changed the cage liner, swept or vacuumed debris from around the cage and provided clean water dishes only to realized that their bird has just decided to soak the entire cage floor and the food by trying to bathe in their water dish or has decided to toss out part of their food in a wide sweep that sprinkles on the newly-cleaned floor, has just taken a poop in their water dish or had poop fall into the newly-served food. .


Here at Windy City Parrot, we offer a wide variety of replacement or spare food dishes and water dishes. You’ll find whatever size, shape, style, material and depth you need. We recommend that every parrot owner have at least one spare set up of water and food service so that fresh, clean food and water can be served without having to rush to wash and dry the only set that comes with most cages. We’d like to call your attention to some of the benefits of choosing food and water service for your parrot that cuts down on your work in the cleaning department. On first glance you may not realize how beneficial these new methods of providing for your bird’s dietary needs can be.



Some people like the clear plexiglass food service dishes and these do cut down on the mess to a large degree, but many birds to not like sticking their heads into an enclosed space even if it is clear or don’t find the perch on the dish comfortable. You want your bird to be comfortable while eating, just like you want to be comfy when having your breakfast or dinner.

The most effective solution that we at Windy City Parrot have found for medium, medium large and large birds is the Mess Less Feeder Dish and No Slip Perch. Designed to be the perfect solution for the parrot parent that has thought or said, “gee, if only the food and water dishes were in the middle of the cage, there wouldn’t be all this mess to clean up”, the 1-3/8 inch diameter no slip perch attaches to the cage bars and extends a full 20 inches into the cage where the 20 ounce round dish allows the bird to actually eat in or near the center of the cage so that debris falls onto the cage floor instead of into your carpet or on your floor covering.



The non-porous material from which the perch is made is easy to clean with a simple wipe with an antibacterial unscented wet wipe for small daily messes. For thorough cleaning, remove the perch of the cage and soak in soap and water, wash clean and then dry completely before replacing in the cage. The perch can not be placed in the dishwasher.


The bowl can be emptied, wiped with an antibacterial wipe. It is safe to wash on the top shelf of the dishwasher for easy cleaning. If you wish, you can wash it by hand with soap and water, drying before refilling with food and replacing on the perch. The bowl is easy on and easy off, so removal and replacement are simple and fast.


A product that uses a similar idea that is suited to small birds (and available for large ones too) is the coconut shell perch and feeder cup. While this product requires loosening the perch for each refill, the time saving in floor clean up time can make it well worthwhile. This bowl / perch combo is really a natural coconut shell attached to a 5/8ths inch perch that is 7-3/4 inches long. This mess reducing feeder is great for birds that may feel overwhelmed by the Mess Less Feeder Cup and No Slip Perch solution.



The very best way to prevent poop in any bird’s water is to use the sanitary and easy to use Lixit Bird water bottle. This bottle looks much like one you might be familiar with from hamster and guinea pig cages and, in fact, the Lixit Bird can be used by any small animal. These water bottles are available for small, medium and large birds and replacement parts ensure your bottle will last a long time.
With these modern solutions to the problem messy birds, you can remove the seed guard from your parrot’s cage. You’ll be happier and can spend the time saved in cleaning playing with your beautiful feathered companion. You’ll find keep your bird’s food and water safe and healthy much, much easier.


written by nora caterino

approved by mitch rezman


your zygodactyl footnote


Christmas morning foraging ideas for your parrots & a great foraging toy from a dog.

It’s the holidays – I get it. You are busy. Things to do – places to go – people to see.
Your solution? Lock up the bird with lots of fresh food and water and put the cartoon channel on TV for him or her to watch until January 2nd.
The thought of that plan just makes my head want to explode.
The relationship that you have with your bird is not something they can be turned off and on like a kitchen appliance.
Your bird sees you as its flock and or its mate. It doesn’t know about holidays. It doesn’t know about your plans. It only knows that he or she loves you and is sad when you are not there.
Resistance begets resistance. Why antagonize your bird with a lack of attention when you can easily include your bird as part of holiday festivities.
Here’s a simple solution for making an African grey parrot part of Christmas morning’s magic. Let’s turn those Christmas stockings into forging opportunities.
note “foraging drawer”
Christmas is also the time when dreams tend to exceed money. We want to lavish our birds with every opportunity imaginable but the holidays tend to have a sobering effect on our finances. We’d love to get the latest and greatest for our favorite feathered friend but all those humans that we have relationships with really should get a holiday gift as well.
We are here because people buy things for birds from us. We also know (having done this for almost a quarter century) sometimes your paycheck does not meet up with the needs of your bird. No worries. You needn’t spend big money on bird toys. Your bird will never ask for the receipt.
Are your credit cards maxed out? Do you have a little change left from the last ten dollar bill you used to pay for that 800 calorie latte? Watch this video below. Spend $5 at the dollar store. Redeem some points for hardware on our site and you can make a boat load of killer bird toys.
A foraging opportunity can be as simple as hanging a millet spray through the roof of the cage. Cup cake paper liners. Ice cube trays all offset creativity for money as illustrated in the video below.
You are now officially deficient of excuses.
aggregated by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing
your zygodactyl footnote

Learned Helplessness: A Big Parrot Taming and Training Mistake You Don’t Want to Make

Learned Helplessness: A Big Parrot Taming and Training Mistake You Don’t Want to Make


In a recent post, I mentioned learned helplessness and promised you a detailed explanation of what it means, its impacts and how it happens so that you can avoid making this huge mistake in taming or training your own parrot or companion bird. I mentioned that it has impacts on personality as well as desire and ability to learn, immune system response, plus it can cause depression and even reduce the bird’s will to live. You can easily see that learned helplessness is serious just from the problems that can result from making this mistake with a bird.


Wikipedia’s opening words about learned helplessness annotates research sources and states: “Learned helplessness is behavior typical of an organism (human or animal) that has endured repeated painful or otherwise aversive stimuli which it was unable to escape or avoid. After such experience, the organism often fails to learn escape or avoidance in new situations where such behavior would be effective. In other words, the organism seems to have learned that it is helpless in aversive situations, that it has lost control, and so it gives up trying. Such an organism is said to have acquired learned helplessness.” Sounds scary, doesn’t it? To state that same in my own, simpler words, it means that an organism has learned that situations that are negative, bad, scary or stressful can’t be controlled or avoided by the actions of that organism to which they are happening.



For example, there are people who advocate that a parrot will learn to enjoy being scratched and petted if you capture the bird, wrap it in a towel against its will, and then stroke and pet it while it is restrained. Now, think about this whole idea a bit but from YOUR point of view, as if it were happening to you.


Let’s say for this example that you are a small woman (the bird) and you are restrained by a very large very strong man (the human). The person restraining you against your will strokes your hair, tickles you and otherwise makes non-sexual contact with your body while you are unwillingly restrained. Then imagine this happens over and over again, whenever the larger, stronger person chooses to restrain you again. Soon you would learn that no matter what you do you simply can’t control the situation. Keep in mind, large parrots think on the level of 2-5 year old humans and even small parrots think like toddlers.


Controlled research experiments that were performed with young babies gave one group control over a pillow that turned on the spinning of an interesting toy mobile hanging over their cribs while another group were only allowed to look at the same interesting mobile hanging over their cribs. When the babies were all given the pillows that provided the choice to control causing the hanging mobile to move, the babies previously unable to control the toy mobiles failed to learn that they now had control over the situation. In this situation, the babies had developed the condition known as learned helplessness over the interesting toy, even when shown that the pillows controlled the toys by moving their heads on it.



The whole point that runs through each of these scenarios is that the baby, older human or parrot is given no choice about controlling their situation. They do not get the option of saying, “no, I don’t want that to happen to me.” If you have been around parrots for a while, you likely know that sometimes a bird wants to simply not perform a trick or not come out of its cage when you want them to, even when they know what you are asking it to do. It wants to have some choice over its situation. The same parrot that doesn’t want to perform a trick when you want to show the new trick to your friend will likely be more than willing to respond to the request when you say the word you have taught the bird to respond to at another time. Choice can mean a lot in building trust with your parrot while learned helplessness removes trust.


Because of learned helplessness, if a human repeatedly restrains the bird and pets it against its will, over time it will begin to relax and even accept the petting. However, it is not doing so because it trusts the human enough to allow its head or body to be touch; it is doing so because it knows it has no choice and might as well not struggle. This is a perfect example of learned helplessness.


Feed an aggressive Amazon & not get bit by building a trust bond (and maybe a spoon)


Now that you know what learned helplessness is, let’s look at what learned helplessness can do to a bird. A group of puppies were taught learned helplessness in a 1976 experiment. They were then tested along with puppies that had not learned helplessness. When the researchers taught both groups of puppies a new behavior — simply to flee the situation — two-thirds of the puppies that had been exposed to learned helplessness failed to learn the behavior even though it was simply to escape. The puppies not exposed to learned helplessness all very quickly learned the behavior. Other experiments with rats and other animals have proven the same results — lack of motivation to learn new behaviors or solve problems.


To avoid teaching learned helplessness, you should always give the parrot choice and allow it to learn a behavior along with your patient teaching. First you must define the behavior you want to teach, whether it is stepping up, taking food from your hand, being touched for scratching or another behavior. Then break that behavior down into the simplest steps possible. Let’s look at the steps for the behavior of simply coming out of the cage, one of the first steps of training and building trust.


Of course you would define a reward that the bird loves and you may want to look into clicker training and use a clicker. I personally haven’t done clicker training but I may start. The bird is in the cage. First, read the bird’s body language to see if it is willing to work with you at this time. Next is opening the door of the cage, of course. Then say the command you have chosen to invoke this behavior, perhaps “come out” and offer the high-value reward. At first the bird might only take one step toward the door and stop, but it is a step. Reward the movement toward the door by placing the treat in the bird’s food dish. The next time, patiently wait for the bird to take at least two steps toward the door before rewarding. Repeat these small steps until the bird actually reaches the door of the cage through its own will and desire and takes the reward directly from your hand.. This builds trust because you are not forcing the bird to do anything — you are asking it to do something instead.


How many of you reading this has experienced a “one person” bird?


This process can be used for initial taming, further training and building a positive relationship with a parrot so that it knows it has a choice to perform the action and get a treat or reward or simply not perform the action. The bird has control of its decision to act or not. While this may sound counter-intuitive to some who have read not to let the bird refuse to perform or get away with anything (domination training is what that is called), it is the only way a bird will trust you not to force it, unnecessarily restrain it and it will learn to enjoy your company and contact with it. It will become a smarter, healthier, happier bird that really considers you its flock. It will also be willing to learn other new behaviors faster because the first experience was a fun, positive one.


I hope this helps some of you better understand the training process. You can further research learned helplessness at many websites on the internet, but this is the basic idea that you must avoid if you want your bird to trust you and be happy.


written by nora caterino

written by mitch rezman


your zygodactyl foot note


R-E-S-P-E-C-T the Beak!

R-E-S-P-E-C-T that is what your parrot needs


Aretha Franklin famously sang the song Respect where that word was spelled out as above. The song was about demanding that a man respect her if he wanted her love. But the same word applies to our parrots just as much if we want to develop good, healthy, loving relationships with them.

These magnificent animals are not like domesticated dogs and, in some cases even cats, where upon first meeting, positive interaction is likely. Many companion dogs love everyone and pretty much never met a stranger. This is also true of some hand-reared well-socialized parrots, but when dealing with a semi-tamed or untamed parrot or a recently rehomed or rescued parrot, respect must be at the forefront of the relationship building process.

My Space – Your Space

We as humans become quite uncomfortable if a stranger gets too close, into our personal space. Even a friend can cause us to feel uncomfortable if they press into our personal space too often. For a rehomed or unsocialized parrot, its personal space can be quite large, demanding that you give it plenty of room until it becomes used to your presence. Of course, you have to approach the cage to provide food and water, but that can be done from outside the cage using feeder doors with well designed cages. Avoid passing your hands right in front of the parrot’s face or beak at first. Let it become used to your presence for a few days or even a few weeks, depending on the bird’s history. If it has a serious mistrust of humans, this process will take longer, but move slowly and calmly as you go about feeding, watering and cage cleaning at first.

Expect Nothing From An Abused Parrot

Too often we humans expect too much too fast from a parrot we are training or building a relationship with. It is far better to keep expectations low or even nonexistent and be happily surprised rather expecting rapid progress and being disappointed. Disappointment can lead to frustration on the human’s part and result in thoughtless actions that can revoke any progress that has been made. If you don’t respect the bird’s feelings, how can you expect it to want to please you?

Move in Tiny Steps

As you begin to build a relationship with a parrot, break things down into tiny baby steps with each step positively reinforced. Once you convince the bird to accept a morsel of a high value treat like a sunflower tidbit or bit of a nut from your fingers, you can begin to ask it to move closer to your hand, one step at a time, to earn the treat. During the early sessions, even putting on foot closer to you or making eye contact if it has been shy about that behavior should earn a treat. Once the bird begins to feel comfortable as evidenced in body language and readiness to get the treat, you can ask for another baby step to be added, perhaps taking two steps toward your hand, until eventually the bird will walk readily over to earn a treat. From there, you can begin to ask it to place a foot on your finger, eventually working toward having it step onto your hand for the reward and love. Respect every tiny bit of progress made and let the bird know how happy you are with it for making an effort to get to know you and trust you.

Never Lose Your Temper

If we let our frustrations during training get the best of us, we may lose our temper and shout at a the bird. This is sure to make the bird take two steps back as far as progress goes, just the reaction we don’t want. If you feel yourself becoming stressed because of lack of progress at the rate you desire, step away and come back when you feel calmer and more relaxed and the bird is also more relaxed. Respect your shortcomings just as you do the bird’s.

Never Force A Behavior

A big mistake some trainers make is forcing a bird to accept an action or behavior without allowing it the respect of being able to say no. This results in what is known as Learned Helplessness, a subject of a post in the very near future. Basically it means the bird has no choice or control about a situation and “gives up” because it feels helpless. This can have big impacts on future training, an overall relationship and removes any feeling the bird had of being respected by humans. It can even impact the bird’s immune system and will to live. 

Find a Way to Say Yes a Lot

As you train your parrot, if it indicates it wants something it can’t have or can’t have right now, avoid using that big two-letter NO word. Instead, focus on some way to tell it yes, for example, yes, you can play with this toy for now or yes, I will talk to you while I clean house. Don’t tell it NO all the time because that is a blocking word and doesn’t sound very nice and pleasant. Speak happily and seek out ways to say yes to something the bird will focus on instead of the thing or action that can’t be done right now.

Patience, Patience, Patience

Consider your childhood for a moment. When you were first born, someone in your life had to give you care 24/7, change smelly diapers and perform other frustrating and arduous tasks, often in the middle of the night without complaint. As you grew, you learned new things and new behaviors but still were quite a demand on your parent or caregiver for years to come. Then the teen years hit and it often becomes even more stressful for your guardian. This process of rearing you to be a productive, caring grownup required tons of patience on the part of your parents or guardians.

Give a bird the same patience and respect by caring for its needs calming, without resentment and with love. The bird won’t always do what you want when you want, but you can build a loving relationship by continuing to respect the bird as a magnificent intelligent creature that is both alike and different from you. A little patience can go a lot way in building a lifelong relationship with a parrot. Keep this in mind when those little things like cleaning up poop and changing cage papers may seem trying at best. Remember, just as with a child, the parrot did not ask you to place it in your home.

Above All, Keep Trying and Respecting
Sometimes progress may be painfully slow, especially with abused birds. Some birds may never progress as far as you’d like. But the key is to continue to try to consistently teach the parrot with loving respect the behaviors you desire through rewards, love, praise and attention and suddenly, one day, out of the blue, just as you feel like giving up, the bird may well perform what you have been working on and so much more. Don’t give up and never lose respect for the parrot.

written by nora caterino

approved by mitch rezman


your zygodactyl foot note

Why humans don’t use steel bars to wipe their mouth and parrots don’t use napkins on their beaks

Does your parrot need a napkin? Why is he wiping his beak on his perch or cage bars?


Have you noticed that sometimes your parrot wipes his beak on his perch or cage bars? Do you wonder why this behavior happens and what it means? There are two reasons a healthy parrot does this behavior, so let’s look at each reason.


why humans use napkins not steel bars


The first reason is pretty easy to spot if you pay close attention. If your bird eats any soft food, especially yams or other sticky food, some of the food will stick to the outside of the beak. Birds so not like to be dirty creatures and dried food on the beak could easily make it grow out of its normal shape, causing eating problems.


When you sit down at a table to eat a meal, it is considered good manners to place a paper or cloth napkin in your lap and use it to wipe your mouth as needed. Birds don’t have hands or laps, so when they get food on their “mouths” (beaks), they remove it by wiping on a perch or the cage bars. Some birds that don’t have enough perches to wipe their beaks on without messing up the places they must perch will sling the food off their beaks onto the walls near the cage or onto the floor. But it is normal for a bird to clean its beak after eating.


editors note: was creepy the norm in the fifties (asks a child of the prior century)?


who knew napkins could be so problematic?


carry on Nora:


The second reason a bird may appear to wipe its beak on perches or cage bars is a bit more complex. In the wild, parrots spend a great deal of time foraging, opening seeds or nuts, chewing holes into tree trunks to build nests, removing bark from branches to get to insects for protein and even chewing clay from certain types of dirt for minerals. In other words, the beak is used a LOT, a lot more than when living in our human homes.


If you look carefully, you will notice that around the edges of your bird’s beak are areas where pieces of beak have flaked off as new beak new. This process is normal and as long as the beak shape is normal and the flaked or worn edges do not deform the beak, it should not worry you.



In order to replace the wear and tear on the beak from natural use in the wild, birds living in our homes that have hardwood, concrete or mineral perches will often be seen rubbing their beaks along these perches to keep their beaks well-groomed and the growth in check. They usually do this action in a rapid back and forth manner, much like a human filing their fingernails; after all, the material that makes up the avian beak is very similar to the material from which our human nails are constructed. They are both forms of keratin, the stuff that makes up hair, new feather coverings, talons on birds and human nails. Generally you’ll see you bird rub one side of the beak rapidly and then the other side to ensure the wear is balanced. Their instincts tell them to do this.



To help your parrot ensure its beak does not overgrow, it should be given lots of wood toys and bird-safe beak conditioners to allow them to incorporate beak grooming into play and foraging activities. It is healthy and normal for every parrot to chew and chew a lot. By providing things that are healthy to chew on, the bird will be less tempted to chew on things you do not want destroyed. If you do not provide good chewing toys, it is more likely you will find holes chewed into the sofa, your shoes, the walls or door jambs and anywhere else the bird can locate chew material — however, those choices may not be safe and could well result in poisoning the bird and a horrible death of your beloved feathered buddy.


So, don’t give your bird a napkin to wipe its beak. That’s something that is only done when hand-feeding babies — yes, even when using a syringe or pipette for feeding, babies manage to get their little faces dirty and a good wipe down is required at the end of the meal, usually with a dampened napkin-like cloth.


why you don’t don’t give your bird a napkin to wipe it’s beak – it will get repurposed


Do give your bird lots of perches to wipe its beak on after eating. Do give your feathered pal even more opportunities for healthy chewing and toy destruction, especially of wooden toys, to keep its beak growth rate in balance with its beak wear rate. Don’t worry, the bird will know how to do it all by itself if you have taught it to play and introduce new toys often so that it is used to change and rearrangement of toys in the cage. This will hold the bird’s interest, preventing boredom when you can’t be with it and offering a very natural behavioral outlet.


written by nora caterino

approved by mitch rezman

your zygodactyl foot note

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