What is Socialization?
Socializing a ringneck is a task that should not be taken lightly. We as humans expect our ringnecks to thrive in our environment, yet we do not spend enough time helping our parrots understand “our” way of living. Countless birds suffer as a result of poor socialization due to many breeders trying to make a quick buck. Unfortunately, many baby parrots are only hand fed, weaned, then sold. This continuous pattern is repeated and the baby parrots suffer when the breeder hardly interacts with the developing chicks. To make the situation worse, the average new owner who purchased the bird usually has little knowledge on the topic of socialization. The result is usually a parrot that can become phobic, difficult, and unfriendly.
Socialization is the foundation that helps our parrots reach their full potential when living with humans. It is important because it is a mental blueprint to how our ringnecks will react and approach new situations throughout their life. Baby parrots will benefit the most when proper socialization is done early; however, it should be noted that any bird can benefit from it and it’s an ongoing process that never ends.
Younger Parrots & Socialization
Younger ringnecks, and all baby parrots, have an early opportunity to learn about living with humans without biased notions. In this early developmental window cognitive development is increasing at a rapid rate. This helps all baby parrots in the wild develop their skills and helps them learn about their environment. When kept in captivity as pets, this developmental window can be used as an advantage when socializing and will make a lifelong lasting impression on the young bird.
During this accelerated learning window, the brain of the young bird is hard wiring and soaking up everything in its environment. Much like humans, parrots are learning their boundaries, what’s expected of them, and how to communicate. This can be seen by comparing a juvenile and an adult ringneck. Most adult parrots are set in their ways and find change to be difficult. A baby ringneck on the other hand who has just left the nest is carefree, uninhibited, and accepting of change. During this stage, the parrot is open to learning anything. It is during this window that a ringneck and the owner will benefit the most.
Older Ringnecks & Socialization
Older ringnecks who have not had an exposure to humans at a young age must first be tamed before they can be socialized. Once the bird has developed a bond, the socialization process can begin. Although it should be noted that during this phase ringnecks are usually set in their ways. To make a dramatic change, positive reinforcement is the best method available. The older the ringneck, the more difficult it is to tame and to socialize properly–but it can be done!
How to Socialize a Young Ringneck
The socialization of a ringneck begins as soon as the ringneck is a baby. In the wild, mother ringnecks stay with their chicks for at least 10 days. Humans simply cannot replicate this time spent with their mother but should make every effort to ensure the chick feels secure. During this time, it would be a good idea to give the chick something to snuggle with as this would help simulate early interaction between the mother and baby. During feeding sessions, the breeder should interact with the baby and make an effort to hold him for a few minutes. Gentile caresses and a soothing voice are all that is needed during this stage.
As the ringneck starts to feather out and can sustain its own temperature, the breeder should increase the holding sessions. It is important toys are added, the ringneck is petted, toes touched, and the baby held on his back. The more the baby is exposed to being touched and petting, the more it’ll enjoy this stimulation as it matures. Introducing new objects, environments, people, pets, and noises will help to mold a fearless ringneck when mature. Vacuums, ironing boards, and moving objects can be terrifying so these objects should be included as well.
When a ringneck is with its mother they can wean as early as 10 weeks. This is normal as the mother and father make perfect examples of what to do. When ringnecks are kept with humans they usually wean around 12-13 weeks but some chicks may take longer if kept alone.
Forcing a baby to wean by starvation is unacceptable and cruel. These tactics will quickly create a stressful environment and an uneasy parrot that could have long term psychological side effects down the road. Unfortunately, many breeders still practice this outdated method as it is believed a hungry chick will eventually eat when food is placed into the cage. This is untrue and this strategy should never be practiced. Starving ringnecks do not have time to learn how to eat, instead they beg continually for food until their demands are met. Ringnecks who are fed in smaller intervals and more frequently during this phase are more inclined to play with food and eventually learn how to eat.
Weaning is a process that takes time and patience. There is no need to rush the process as the babies will eventually learn how to eat. During weaning the babies will naturally drop weight and start to refuse larger feedings.
Weaning a baby ringneck can be fun and enjoyable for both the bird and breeder if done properly. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce different foods daily. The breeder should add foods that are colorful and have texture. Pellets, seeds, fruits, and vegetables should all be introduced. The more variety shown to the young ringnecks, the less likely a “seed only eating bird” will develop.
Nail Trimming & Wing Clipping
A stressful situation that almost all pet ringnecks must endure is the act of cutting the nails and wings. This unnecessary stress can be avoided if the breeder starts exposure of these grooming habits at a young age. Daily mock simulations of nail clipping and wing clipping can become just another part of the parrot’s routine if the breeder has thought ahead.
It is important to note that the wings and nails should never be clipped too early as the baby needs time to develop a level of confidence first. Before the ringnecks wings are clipped they should be allowed to fly, hover, and land. This helps to develop their motor skills. Once these skills are mastered the wings can be clipped to maintain tameness.
No Wrong or Right Way
Anyone who decides to breed ringnecks should be creative and always think ahead for the bird. It is important to note that there is no wrong or right way to approach this subject; however, there are countless breeders who write about their methods. Research and decide what works for you and your ringnecks. Always research and be open to new ideas as this gives the bird an optimal chance of having a successful life with their new owners. The benefits are enormous and well worth the effort. A well socialized bird will develop a healthy state of mind and will then reward their owners with countless years of loyalty, curiosity, and affection.
It is important to know the process of socialization never ends. The breeder should educate the buyers and the buyer should continue the process. Ringnecks continue to learn throughout their lives and this should be taken advantage of. A well socialized ringneck will enjoy the company of many humans and birds and thrive. Continue to simulate their curiosity and gently move them forward as they progress.