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Dr. Laurie: One of the biggest problems we face with birds as pets is that they scream and birds scream normally. Unfortunately, it’s not socially acceptable to us, but it is absolutely a normal behavior. Birds scream in the wild, most commonly at dawn and dusk. That’s when they’re social. They’re out there. They’re feeding and chatting with each other.

Unfortunately, this isn’t great for us, because who wants a bird to be screaming, first thing in the morning when the sun is rising or at night when you’re trying to go to bed. Unfortunately if you’re going to have a bird, you’re going to have to accept some level of screaming. However, you can work with a bird to try to minimize that screaming. How would you do that, Sarah?

Sarah: Positive reinforcement is pretty much the best way. First of all, if you’re holding the bird or if you’re next to the bird, or if you’re in the room with the bird, it screams at you. The best thing you can do is walk away. The worst thing you can do is yell. All that does is reinforce it.

They think, “Oh, I’m yelling and my person’s yelling, too. This is great. We can all yell together.” Obviously, that’s not the ideal situation. Put them down. Put them back in their cage. Walk away.
When they’re quiet, come in. Reinforce the quiet, but what you really, really, really don’t want to do is yell back at them.

Dr. Laurie: It’s human nature. I mean obviously if a bird is screaming, you just want to go over to the bird and say, “Stop it. Shut up,” but that really accomplishes the opposite of what we want.
So if your bird is screaming, put your bird down. Best of all, if you know when your bird’s going to scream, for example if a bird screams when you leave the room, give him something to do with his mouth.

Whether it’s to chew on a toy or food or whatever, so that he can’t scream at the same time. But you do have to accept that if you’re going to have a bird, they’re going to scream a little bit. Hopefully that’s okay with you. If it’s not, then maybe a bird isn’t the best choice for you as a pet.

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