Your parrot loves to chew your furniture to bits and now you’re frustrated. Hey, we’ve all been there; at the bare surface level, it seems like an act specifically made to annoy bird owners and make us pull our hair out, but I’m here to reassure you that your bird is doing it for a reason and that it can be stopped or, at least, mitigated.
There are all sorts of reasons for unwanted chewing and, like all problem behaviors, it can be nipped in the bud with hard work, patience, and a clear understanding of your bird’s thought process. Parrots are incredibly smart and complex animals, after all, and the sooner we understand this complex mind, the sooner we can stop this behavior and make an effort to truly bond with them.
Let’s start this guide off by saying you should never scream at your bird for chewing on furniture (or for any unwanted behavior, for that matter). They don’t do it because they want to see you upset, but screaming can cause them to get excited and want that reaction out of you in the future.
The more you yell at them for chewing on furniture, the more they’ll do it just to see you yell. It’s a dead-end cycle. Instead, think about why your parrot is chewing, and try to stop the problem at its very root.
Why Parrots Chew - Delving into a Parrot's Psyche
Parrots experience the world through their beak. They eat, preen, play, test, and climb with it. The beak is the single most important appendage for both defense and bonding, and is an essential multi-tool both in the wild and in captivity. It’s quite similar to a teething puppy, except with parrots it is a 24/7 teething experience throughout their entire lives!
It is no surprise that they use this powerful beak to bite and shred for fun, and that unfortunately includes shredding couches, tables, cords, outlets, and wall trimmings. However, these can be extremely dangerous outlets for chewing; your parrot can get electrical shocks, get caught on nails or staples, be pinned under reclining chairs, and ingest inedible or toxic materials (like paint and varnish chippings or cured leather). What’s worse is that they don’t understand these dangers until it’s too late and the damage has been done.
What is a frustrating inconvenience to a parrot owner is, in actuality, a very dangerous game for a parrot.
Keep this in mind, as we continue: We are not fixing this behavior because it is considered annoying, we are fixing this because it might injure or kill your bird. With a proper understanding of your bird, you can stop or otherwise minimize this problematic chewing. Ask yourself the following questions…
Does your Parrot have Enough Toys?
This biggest culprit for unwanted chewing is boredom. If your bird doesn’t have enough toys, is not personally engaged in these toys, or is bored with their current selection, then it’s time go buy some new ones. They don’t have to be big, fancy, expensive toys either, you can find a great selection outside of the bird toy aisle that will keep them thoroughly entertained.
Most parrots have a toy preference, whether it’s paper toys, wooden toys, plastic toys, etc. You should have a general idea of what they like most by observing them playing on a daily basis. A parrot should have a decent selection of different toys, but a large amount of the one they most prefer will ensure they never run out.
Depending on the bird, you should have anywhere between 10 to 16 toys they can make use of both inside the cage and outside the cage. This may seem like a lot at first, but the truth of it is this: imagine you were locked in the same room for hours a day, with only two or three things to do. You would go nuts, right? A parrot feels the same way, and the more you have for them to do, the less likely they are to be bored or pent-up.
It’s also important to rotate toys out for brand new toys every 2 months. This is called a rotation routine, and it follows the same principle as the above rule; you would get incredibly bored with the same 10 things in that room if that’s all you had for a year. Spicing things up once in a while greatly diminishes boredom.
Once you set up a good selection of toys with a proper rotation routine, I can promise you that your parrot will spend less time chewing on your furniture and spend more time with the toys they were meant to play with.
Are you Spending Enough Time with your Parrot?
This is another huge contributor to furniture chewing (along with many other unruly behaviors). You need to spend time with your parrot every day for them to feel engaged and socially fulfilled. Parrots are incredibly social creatures, just like humans, and they get pent-up and anxious without proper social interaction.
You should try to spend, at minimum, two hours a day with your bird on a face-to-face and personal basis. This doesn’t just include out-of-cage play time, it includes being in the vicinity of your bird and talking to them while they’re in the cage.
Try to put your parrot in a heavy traffic area of the house, like the living room or an office space. This way they get constant social interaction just by you being in the vicinity of them. My office is in my bedroom and so I spend 14 hours a day in my room, which is where I put my birds so they can always interact with me and see me in their line of sight.
If your bird is more socially engaged, they have less time to focus on chewing and more time to focus on you.
Is your Parrot Getting their Proper Daily Nutrition?
If a parrot’s proper dietary needs aren’t being met, then they may be chewing and eating unwanted objects as a method of gaining minor amounts of nutrients from them.
Human and animal brains can be wired a bit funny, and sometimes we think that we are gaining needed nutrients from inedible objects when in fact the nutrients gained is minimal to none (a common example of this is human toddlers eating dirt and sand).
You can tell this is the cause by if there are no residual pieces of the chewed object left on the ground. This means your parrot is eating them, rather than just chewing them.
This is incredibly dangerous for parrots and can kill them if left unchecked. You need to ensure your parrots are getting more than just seeds or pellets; a proper daily diet encompassing the main 3 food groups: fruits, veggies, and nuts, is important for a parrot’s health and happiness.
Once they have a good diet, they should stop eating inedible objects.
What is the Mental Health of your Parrot Like?
Some parrots, especially rescues that have been abused, are prone to odd compulsive acts or “ticks”, due to their extremely sensitive mindset.
Ticks include feather plucking, intense biting, triggered panic attacks (often caused by the previous aggressor’s means of punishment), night frights, and yes, compulsive unwanted chewing of unsavory objects.
Unlike other reasons for unwanted chewing, this one is tough to break out of a bird because it is a mental illness. Just like a human with mental illness, you should be as compassionate as possible about the situation and understand they may never be able to break out of this cycle.
Ask your local vet for options on how to ease this compulsive behavior and to help your bird on the right track towards better mental health.
Is it your Parrot's Breeding Season?
Love might be in the air. Female parrots like to nest during certain seasons out of the year. Your bird may be destroying your furniture because she is building a nest somewhere within the house and wants the best materials.
Males can also be… rowdy, during the breeding season, and may chew out of sexual tension.
This one is really easy to tell as the problem, because furniture chewing will start abruptly sometime in the year and then stop just as abruptly.
During the breeding seasons, keep a close eye on your parrot while he/she is out and about. For females, if you find a nest hidden in some nook or cranny, simply remove the nest and move her away from problem areas where she chews. For males, turn their attention towards their own toys instead.
Chewing will eventually stop, but this can end up being a yearly routine and a tough habit to break once they reach a mature age.
Is there a Miscommunication Between you and your Parrot?
As I mentioned before, you should never yell at your parrot when they are chewing on something you don’t want them to chew. It never solves the behavior and, in fact, will only make it harder for your bird to stop chewing. If you’ve already caused a ruckus over it before, then a miscommunication between you and your parrot may be the big culprit.
Once your bird sees excitement from you, negative or positive, they get an instinctual desire to cause that same excitement again, which leads to a never-ending cycle of chewing on furniture just to watch you get mad.
If this is the reason for chewing, then don’t yell when your bird is acting out. Simply pick them up and put them in time-out for about five to ten minutes. Don’t interact with them during this time, in fact move to another room so they can’t see or hear you at all. Once they start to realize you aren’t going to react, then the problem behavior will subside.
Your Parrot is Trying to Tell you Something
Parrots don’t just chew on furniture for no reason. Furniture isn’t exactly a fun thing to play with and they would much rather be playing with you or with their own toys. If they are chewing on furniture, then they are doing it for a very good reason – at least, in their own mind.
Don’t get mad at them; watch them carefully, be patient, and work hard to tackle the problem at its root cause. You’ll see results once the main cause for chewing has been fixed.
If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to comment below!