ARTICLES | Parrot Protection

Parrot Harnesses - Delight or Danger?

The girl on the phone sobbed inconsolably. She had taken her African grey parrot outside in a harness. When she realized she had forgotten her wallet, she passed the bird and its leash to her friend while she ran back inside to get her money. She was gone for just a few minutes. Time enough for her friend to get startled, let go of the leash and the bird to fly high up into a tree with the harness and leash still attached.

Many times I have been asked my opinion about harnesses. Harness marketing suggests that it is easy and safe to use them. This is wrong!

African Grey Parrot Trained to Wear a HarnessThe above story is just one reason why I deem them to be very dangerous. Even worse, many if not most parrot owners are unaware of the risks. However, I also know that if I tell people simply to β€œDon’t do it!” many of them will likely ignore such advice. Therefore I want to give you a more differentiated answer.

If you plan to use a harness please be absolutely sure to consider and strictly observe the following:

  1. Very gently and gradually get your bird used to the harness. It is not ok to stick a bird brute-force method into a harness just because you are able to do so.
  2. Getting a bird used to the harness goes beyond training it to allow you to put the device on. You also have to gradually get your bird used to wearing it for increasing amounts of time.
  3. You may also have to train your bird to leave the harness alone, to not open the fasteners or chew on it. Many birds are quite easily able to free themselves from the harness or the leash which means that they could escape.
  4. Have the fit and width adjustments checked by an experienced avian vet. Birds breathe with their whole bodies. Owners may unknowingly fit the harness too tight, hampering the bird’s breathing.
  5. Never just hold the leash in your hands. Have it firmly attached to your clothing, for example looped though a belt, before clipping it onto your bird. This way, if you get startled, stumble, get pushed, hit by a car, or whatever, you won’t let go of the leash.
  6. Never give the leash to another person to hold your bird as you just quickly dash to the loo, inside the house, or whatever.
  7. Never leave a bird in a harness unattended. A harness does not protect your bird from predators (sky borne or earthbound) or theft.
  8. Wearing a harness may damage feathers and irritate skin. Therefore you must keep outings short. Check your bird’s skin and feathers thoroughly after each outing for any signs of irritation, such as even the slightest redness or sore spots.
  9. Make sure you do not confuse your own pleasure of walking around with your bird with the bird’s. Many birds are scared when walking around with their owners in crowded places. While your bird may enjoy visiting your back yard with you, parrots often feel uncomfortable being exposed to people (and predators) staring, coming too close, even touching them. However, many owners don’t notice this, seeing only what they want to see. Ego, showing off, projecting your own wishes and believes, etc. are not good advisors when deciding whether to take your parrot for walks or not. Most parrots I have seen do in fact not enjoy such outings, especially not extended ones.

The girl on the phone got her bird back unharmed. But will you and your bird be equally lucky?

I hope this helps you and your birds. Please be safe and keep your birds safe, too. <3 πŸ™‚