Why is flight suit/harness training so important?
NEW!! Crimson Bellied Conure
This article is written by my mom!
So why do I say "hats and halters?" This is a BIRD site. Well, it is like this. I have 3 wonderful daughters, a bunch of horses and a flock of birds!
When my daughters were young, all 3 of them wore hats when they were outside. Complete strangers would come up to me and say things like, "Wow, how did you manage to birth 3 girls who will all leave hats on their heads??" I would answer something to the effect that I was just blessed.....which I am, but they wore hats because they had been trained to do so and they knew it correlated with the adventure of going outside.
Same with my birds. Not one of them has accepted the harness/flight suit without a fight. Our pet Blue Headed Pionus who has not ever bitten any of us, bit everything in sight for a half hour or more. She also lost all concept of space and would have fallen off the table without some guidance. When it was safe to pick her up, we quickly scooped her up and took her outside. The birds learn that the harness means an excursion and they then come to accept it.
We do always give our birds a treat after putting on the flight suits/harnesses. The treat may be a cereal piece or a nut, it may be a big "let's go outside" followed up with a trip outside. We give lots of praise and loving for allowing us to put it on them. Always try to make it a positive experience. With a baby who is really fussy, I may even put them back in a supervised cage to wear it for a few hours.
Many other times, like small children wearing a hat, I hear that a bird will not tolerate it...I think they would if the "parront" would not give up. I guess all of this will depend on your pain tolerance, your determination and your desire to get your bird to wear the flight suit/harness.
For us, wearing a flight suit or harness is necessary for our pets. We love taking them on hikes and have even taken a select few on horseback rides. Many Saturday mornings, we feed babies and take a few yard sale-ing with us in a flight suit. Afternoon reading in bed is so much nicer with a flight suit on and no birdie poop piles on my pillow.
Finally, here comes the horse analogy. Foals hate when we halter break them. I think it is because we are asking them to give up their method of survival. Like horses, birds are prey animals and flight is their escape. So, being restrained or confined is a hard thing at first. We have used flight suits consistently on our pets, "consistently" meaning about 3 times per week for about 3-4 years,....and they have all adapted. I also believe they have grown in their trust relationship with us. Horses are herd animals. While training our horses, we use exercises and games with them (if any one know Parelli, that is what I am referring to) that mimic what goes on in the herd and the ways they communicate. We become the herd leader through this process and the horse turns to us as the safe leader to turn to when scared.
I cannot have a horse that does not accept a halter. When they are youngsters they fight that too and need guidance to keep from hurting themselves. The horses too finally accept the halter as part of life.
One pet recently went hiking with my family and she was so excited, she hissed all the way up the trail and loudly said hello to every passerby while bopping up and down. They LOVE going into the forest and their beauty shines while they are out in it.
I am writing this to encourage those of you who want to try. Those of you who give up, can mail me your unused harnesses and flight suit, hee, hee...we will use them :) I used to buy our harnesses from Fred Bird & Co., but have switched to the Feather Tether due to design problems with the Fred Bird. Because we so love the flight suits, I am now a distributor.
Why are harnesses and flight suits good for birds? It causes a trust relationship to grow as you expose your bird to new situations and the bird feels timid. The bird will lean on you as it develops confidence. This aids in your relationship. It also has helped subdue nippiness in Green Cheeks.
All of our babies are begun in either a harness or a flight suit. This does not mean that they will be happily wearing it when they are ready to come home, but we will have started them at a young age which makes the acceptance easier.
Click on the Blue Crown for more flight suit information. Click on the African Grey for flight suit sizing. Click on the male Eclectus to watch the video.