posted on Apr, 23 2005 @ 12:14 AM
First off, I put this in relationships because, if we have a pet, we have a relationship with it, and birds use petting (AKA preening) as a way to
Anyway, I'll start with the why. If you have a bird or know someone who has a bird, you may have noticed them, at times, kind of going crazy digging
for something in their feathers while they're all poofy-like. Heck, you may have seen wild birds doing the same thing. They act as if they're
searching for something burried in their feathers, and every once in a while grab one feather and check it specifically.
What they're doing is called preening. When a new feather comes in, it has a fragile sheath over it which the bird finds uncomfortable. They preen
looking for where these sheaths are coming in, and pull them off with their beaks. However, they cannot do this on their head an neck because of the
design of their bodies. This causes them to be very social animals. For those of you who have broken a bone, I equate the feeling they have to those
horrible itches you get where the bone is mending that you can't do anything about. However, they have this all the time, but have a solution. Other
birds preen their heads.
When you have a single bird, though, they don't have that luxury. Now for the how.
Birds are not like mamillian pets. They don't like to be stroked in the same manner. They are also extremely fragile; their bones are super light so
as to allow them to fly. They alsy typically die if they get cut or break a bone because their blood's clotting mechinism is not very effective. So
they don't like the rough, scratching motion long haired dogs adore.
First of all, if you try to pet a bird's body, they're going to let you know they don't like it. Some birds will just move away from you, others
will bite you. It really depends on their personality. All the attention should be given to the head and neck.
They really enjoy a gentle pulling movement. If the bird puts its head down and exposes the back of its neck to you, it wants you to gently pinch the
feathers on their neck and pull. There is just about zero pressure involved when you're doing this. You're just gently massaging the neck. Think of
it as giving a person a shoulder rub, but it's scaled down to the size of the bird and they want the massage on their feathers. Very gentle is the
Generally, if a bird doesn't know you or doesn't trust you, this is as far as it will go, they'll let you pet them like that, and then they'll
move away and scratch the back of their neck when they're done. However, if the bird trusts you, they will expose the sides of their face and the
underside of their neck for petting.
The technique I have noticed all birds seem to enjoy for the sides of their faces is a rubbing motion from the beak towards the eye and back again. If
you feel a feather that seems harder than the others, focus on this. You might take a group of feathers around it and including it between your
fingers and gently rub them together until they all feel the same. Then, using the same pincing motion for the back of the neck, gently pull the
feathers of the cheek, including the area that used to have the harder feather.
The bottom of the neck is more tricky. I've had many birds, and none of them have liked the same thing to be done. Usually, by the time the bird
allows you to preen it there, you have a pretty good idea as to the bird's personality and how to read it's reactions to figure out what feels best
Now, I'd be happy to answer any questions anyone has. I'd also be very grateful for anyone else to put some advise on here, too. My current
Cockatiel came from a rather abusive household, and he's having a really difficult time coming to trust my hands, though he breaks out of his cage
and sings to my face in the morning until I wake up. Rock, rock on!