Birds can learn all kinds of tricks, including how to talk, dance, and fetch -- and yes, you can also potty train birds. But potty-training your avian friend isn't the same as house-training a puppy. In fact, some experts say training a bird to "hold it" for extended periods can potentially lead to health problems. Instead, bird potty training involves working with their natural elimination habits. With this approach, you can keep your bird healthy and your house mess-free.
What Does It Take to Potty Train a Bird?
Pet birds, even small birds like parakeets, are intelligent animals that can quickly learn commands. They also have a sphincter-like muscle that allows them to control when they defecate, but they go much more frequently than other animals. Depending on the size and species of your bird, they might defecate once an hour or as often as every 10 minutes. Smaller species tend to go more frequently than larger birds.
Bird potty training should be done very carefully. It can be harmful for a bird to hold their waste for too long. The goal with this training is to encourage them to go on command, which will help you avoid unwanted droppings on your clothes, hair, or favorite piece of furniture.
Before You Start Potty Training
There are a few prerequisites you should consider before you jump into the training. Each of these can impact how effectively you're able to train your bird. Keep these factors in mind, and you will improve your chances of success.
Understand Their Natural Bathroom Schedule
You don't need to learn exactly when your bird defecates, but you should have an idea of how often they need to go. Watch your bird closely for a few hours and record when they poop. From this information, you should be able to determine whether they go about every 15 minutes, every 40 minutes, etc.
It's also helpful if you can identify any signs your bird displays when preparing to defecate. Maybe they lower their tail or back up right before they go. This will help when training. Finally, watch to see if there's a specific location where they like to eliminate.
Settle on a "Potty" Command
You'll need to settle on a visual or verbal (or both) cue for "Potty." Make sure it's unique from any other commands your bird knows so they're not confused (and you don't accidentally give the cue at an inopportune time). The phrase "Go potty" with a gesture pointing downward may work well if you're searching for ideas. Be sure to settle on something and stay consistent throughout your training.
Be Open to Failure
Before you begin training, know that potty training your bird won't be foolproof. Because birds poop so often, there's a good chance they'll have at least a few messes. Holding it for too long is also harmful to birds, so never scold them for going outside the designated area.
Steps for Potty Training Your Bird
Are you ready to begin potty training your pet bird? Follow these steps to set yourself up for success.
- Time it: As soon as you see your bird defecate on their own, set a stopwatch, remove them from their cage, and begin playing with them.
- Get ready: When your watch reads that it's about time for your bird to poop (for example, 19 minutes later if you previously discovered your bird poops every 20 minutes), bring them to an easy-to-clean "potty" area. This can be a place you know they like to eliminate, a perch over a trash can, or back in their cage.
- Give the command: Calmly yet assertively use the potty command.
- Wait for it: Watch for any warning signs they're about to go and make sure you use the command right before they defecate.
- Reward the behavior: After they potty, take them back out and continue playing with them.
- Keep at it: Do this a few times a day for several days in a row.
- Enjoy the rewards: Your bird will eventually learn the command for "Potty," which you can use before playtime or visits with friends to minimize messes.
Safely Potty Train Birds
Training your bird can be a bonding experience. However, even with the "Potty" command, you'll still need to pay close attention to your bird's natural elimination schedule. Bring your bird back to their cage when it's about their usual time to go. Make sure they don't rely on your command to defecate. Instead, simply treat it as a trick. Potty training can certainly come in handy when you want to prevent messes for short periods.