Why is my flock like a playgroup?

I ’m often asked about my training style, I say training style but it really isn’t. Its more about just living life and incorporating someone else’s needs just like you would with a child.

Although the same species, personality can vary greatly, every bird is an individual.

Here at the Madhouse we have learnt that all birds are individuals. As a mother to 4 children, who grew up very close in age, I can tell you I’ve found very little difference in my parenting/parroting style.

I compare my daily life to running a small playgroup, where all the children are different ages, sizes and speak different languages, except I live with them so it’s 24/7.

We have a fairly structured routine here because in order for us to run successfully we need to be prepared, but I’ve found everyone adapts really quickly and after a few days of doing it they start doing it without prompting (with the right reward of course 😉).

Our days start pretty hectic so we usually begin late morning, with being uncovered, lights on and breakfast served around 9.30/10am, which frankly is amazing how quiet they are first thing.

A good breakfast to fuel the day

After breakfast though is when the fun starts, as soon as everyone has eaten and is ready for the day, it’s time for play and training.

Here at the Madhouse we believe, that like children, our flock learn by playing and positive reinforcement so that’s exactly what we do.

We always make sure we have a ton of tasty treats to hand (pine nuts and millet pieces are a firm favourite here) and happy, high and positive voices is key.

We provide a variety of different things to do throughout the day, such as having a pool party, dancing to music, making and playing with toys, even song times, anything to keep their beaks busy, because whilst they are busy they are not destroying your house.

Pool parties, the best way to get the cleaning done.

We mix in command training throughout the day, individually and as a group from day one because once you can all understand the same words it’s easier for things to work.

We like to try and get everyone to either step up or to return to their bedrooms on cue as a first priority, this makes any future issues immediately easier to resolve, being able to remove your bird as easily and as calmly as possible, even in the event of an emergency.

With time, trust and the right rewards anything is possible.

Around 1pm the whole group start getting tired, it starts to quieten down and you can see the sleepyheads heading to their napping spots, which is very convenient for us because we also have daily life to do too. This makes it a great opportunity for one on one cuddles and for Dillon to get some one on one time and training too as he is still working on playing nice when out with the others.

Siesta time, best time for sleepy cuddles

Around 3pm we are back to having an awake flock looking for entertainment but thankfully they are all able to self entertain. We interact and make sure we have music playing or a cartoon on but try to keep hands at a minimum so the flock learns that we aren’t at their beck and call and it’s ok to play without us, which allows us to adult or rest depending.

Come 5.30pm the humans are knackered so it’s dinner time for us which means sharing time for the flock usually. We eat a mostly vegan diet so we can share without any problems most of the time, however it’s always important to be aware of the ingredients because human safe doesn’t mean bird safe.

Cheeky monkeys will always want you to share your food.

At 6pm our bedroom routine begins which means everyone going in for the evening (with some exceptions but that’s another post). After a few days of doing this all of the flock members seem to figure out that’s what must happen everyday because it’s very rare we have to ‘catch’ anyone after day 3 or 4, monkey see – monkey do.

Once everyone is in their bedrooms it’s time for dinner rounds and ready for cover up at 8pm.

Again like a preschool you can’t just shove all kids/birds together and expect everyone to get on.

Everyone is an individual and may or may not play nicely with others, so supervision is mandatory, (nope you ain’t popping out to make a cup of tea and leaving them to it).

Mixing species needs to be done very carefully with full supervision.

Each birb or pair have their own bedrooms (cages but as used for mostly sleep we call them bedrooms) which we regularly fill with toys and foraging things that we rotate and exchange to keep them entertained when they are in use, so being in their bedroom is not a bad thing to them, this way when they are in their bedrooms they aren’t bored and screaming 😱.

We work with each bird individually to make sure they are suitable for a group environment and more importantly they are happy to cooperate with us (because if you have kids, you’ll know it’s always on their terms really).

Each bird needs one to one time and a safe space to retreat to.

Initially we used a rota basis, letting the flock free based on size. Again like a preschool I definitely think the bigger kids can be too boisterous for the smaller ones in general so very careful supervision is always needed. However, over time we have discovered each little group have their own areas they go to and they don’t tend to mix other than to wind another bird up or because food is involved.

Now as I said wind someone up, I want to bring up even with the best laid out plans you’re going to have little issues, like with children, birds have a sense of humour so I’ll often have to step in if someone gets too excited (yes Twankey I’m looking at you teasing Dillon because you’re faster).

Everything happens over time, you don’t trust a parrot you’ve just met instantly so you can’t expect them to trust you or others either.

Herd mentality does help in this way because I’ve found the flock teach each other what they have learned, for example Mr Mumble couldn’t fly when he first got here and always seemed to get lost trying to get to me from the floor, so Muffin started walking up and down the dog steps to the bed, encouraging Mumble to copy him and yes that’s how Muffin taught Mr Mumble how to climb the stairs.

Herd mentality, monkey see – monkey do, both the good and the bad.

Overall it’s taken a lot of time and trust to get to the stage where we can all hang out together without the need for their cages but it’s not without it’s trials.

We are fortunate enough to have the time available to do this, we couldn’t be this size and only have a couple of hours a day available to do so.

So lastly having a flock is like a playgroup because it’s a commitment, it’s daily, there is no real time off but you love it wholeheartedly anyway.

It’s all worth it, every minute.