Friday, January 14, 2011

Scale Training Parrots. A Life Saving Behavior

What simple behavior could save your parrot’s life? Scale training! Sounds silly but getting and recording regular weights on your parrot can be a life saver. One of the things we know about parrots is that they have a tendency to mask signs of illness. The theory behind this is that in the wild standing out as a sick parrot might make you a prime target for a predator. Therefore it is to your advantage to “pretend” to feel good, even when you don’t.

Many times when a parrot is not feeling well, they consume less of their diet and water. Sometimes they don’t process food properly. Such parrots can drop weight very quickly. Because parrots can easily fluff up their feathers and look quite robust, a weight loss may not be visible to the naked eye. However the scale doesn’t lie. A sick bird can drop quite a few grams, even overnight. And this rapid weight loss can be a signal to parrot owners to take their bird to their avian veterinarian or at the very least keep an eye out for more signs of illness.

A scale that can be used to weigh a parrot can be purchased at most office supplies stores. Look in the postage scale section. I was able to find one for around $30. Be sure to pick one that weighs in one gram increments. Five or ten grams increments are too great of a fluctuation for weighing parrots.

Some people prefer to use a scale that has a perch attached to it. Avian specialty stores often carry these. However I found it quite simple to train a parrot to step from my hand onto the flat surface of a scale. Just be sure to place the scale near the edge of the counter so that the tail of the bird can hang freely. If the tail is resting on a surface it will influence the number on the scale. You can get step by step instructions on how to train this and other behaviors helpful to the health and welfare of your parrot from my DVD Training Your Parrot for the Veterinary Exam.

In this clip you get to see Blu Lu the Blue Throated Macaw and Delbert both demonstrating how they step up onto a scale. I weigh them about one time per week just to make sure they are maintaining a healthy weight. Keep in mind each bird is an individual and the perfect weight for your bird may not be perfect for someone else’s. For example, I have two Amazon parrots in my home. One has weighed about 306 grams for over twenty years. The other typically weighs in at 460 grams. Neither is obese nor skinny. They are just right for their body size.

It takes practice and exposure to a number of parrots, but another great way to evaluate your parrot’s condition it to feel the muscle on either side of their keeled sternum. This is called body condition scoring. In the Summer 2010 (Vol 6 issue 2 )of Good Bird Magazine there is a chart provided by the Kaytee Learning Center to help you interpret what you are feeling for when checking a parrot’s condition by touch. This does take some practice and it helps to have an experienced person by your side to help you learn how to do this properly and tell you what to feel for. But if body condition scoring doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, rest assured that scale training is super easy and something most parrots can learn to eagerly do in one to two training sessions. I hope you will give this behavior a try with the parrots in your home. It’s a life saver!

Barbara Heidenreich
Copyright 2011 Good Bird Inc

No comments: