Parrots Forever
Sanctuary & Rescue Foundation
   Home      THE DOUBLE CAGED EFFECT April 6, 2014
Misconception: The location of the parrot’s cage within the home does not matter to the parrot.
Fact: There are actually very few places within the home that work well as a location for a companion parrot’s cage. In particular, having the cage in a room where the parrot is isolated from the daily household activity is not only unhealthy, but is also psychologically detrimental to the well being of the parrot.
Our article, Pain Parrots Feel, explains not only why it is unnatural for a parrot to be kept in a cage, but also why it can be quite harmful emotionally, physically, and psychologically, especially if the parrot is not allowed out-of-cage time of at least 3 to 5 hours every single day.
As sad as this may sound, there is a situation that can be even worse than a companion parrot not being allowed out of the cage daily. It is what I call the Double Caged Effect.
Essentially, the Double Caged Effect is housing your companion parrot in a cage in a separate room of the home that is closed off and isolated from the rest of the home and common living areas. This situation occurs quite often. Parrots are housed in spare bedrooms, offices, basements, and even garages, usually for the convenience of the owners. Why is this so harmful for the parrot?
This is solitary confinement. Even if the parrot is allowed time out of the cage, the isolated room acts as a second cage onto itself. Imagine yourself confined in a small room. Even if you are free to move around the room, you are still isolated from everything outside that room. You are still locked in isolation. You cannot see what is going on outside your room, even though you can hear things happening that may sound very exciting. You are not able to leave the room on your own to go and find out what is happening or to find some company. The only time you ever have any interaction with another living being is when your caregiver opens the door and comes into the room. Your whole world is that single, unchanging room, four walls, and a door.
You sit in that room, day after day, year after year, waiting. Waiting for the door to open, waiting for company, waiting for food, waiting for something to change. You are completely dependent on your caregiver coming into your room to visit you. The visits may only be long enough for the caregiver to put food in the cage, say a few words to you, make sure that you are still alive, and leave. The visits may be longer, with lots of social and interaction time. All visits end the same way, however. The caregiver can leave, you cannot. You have no say in when the visits will occur, how long they will last, or what kind of interaction they will offer. The door shuts, and you wait some more for the next visit. You can hear life being lived beyond the door, but you are not part of it. You can only imagine.
This kind of treatment would make most people crazy. They would feel ignored, marginalized, and dehumanized. The long, lonely periods between visits would lead to boredom, depression, and anger. They would become dependent on the visits, and however regular and enjoyable these visits might be, they would become overly important. The visits would seem to never be long enough or happen often enough. The people thus confined would become more demanding, screaming, aggressive, paranoid, and maybe self-destructive. Parrots react in very much the same way. They, too, have no choice. They wait and focus on the time when the caregiver will appear, which eventually will never be often enough or for long enough. They learn that screaming and other undesirable behaviors may bring the caregiver into the room.
It has been said over and over again, on this website and in just about every article ever written on parrots, that parrots are social animals. They live together in social groups and in flocks. They pair with a mate and rear their young within the flock environment. This is in their DNA; this is their telos; this is what they are programmed to do. They are meant to never be alone at any time throughout their life.
A companion parrot kept alone in a cage and never allowed out is bad enough. But when that cage is placed in a room, segregated from the rest of the family, and removed from daily household activities, that parrot is being ostracized, excluded from the flock, and has no say in the where, when, or duration of social interactions.
I have personally witnessed the negative effects that this type of confinement has on parrots. Even from loving homes with all-good intentions. Because parrots are prone to become cage-bound and to develop coping mechanisms such as chewing and/or plucking their feathers, behavior problems, neurotic tendencies, and screaming episodes. Isolation has a similar effect on parrots as it has on people. Brain development is negatively affected, normal coping skills are not developed, and effective social interaction skills are never learned.
These types of parrots require a great deal more rehabilitation and take more time to correct their social ineptitude. Not only must the inappropriate behaviors be discouraged, but the parrots must also learn more appropriate behaviors to replace the inappropriate ones that have worked for them for so long. As with people, it takes much longer to unlearn a behavior than it does to learn one, especially when it has been effective in getting you what you want.
As the name implies, a companion parrot is usually brought into the home to be a companion to the caregiver. This is a reciprocal relationship. The caregiver is absolutely responsible for being a companion to the parrot. If the reason that parrots are brought into the home is for companionship, then why lock them away in an isolated and seldom-visited area of the house? A parrot not only relies on human touch and companionship, but also needs to feel like a valued member of the flock. This means that they have to be a part of daily activities. Even if they are watching it all from in or on their cage, they feel that they are a part of everything that is going on around them. Interaction is still very important, but it does not become the only important event.
A parrot’s cage SHOULD always be placed in a common area of the home where the parrot can feel included in household activity and community.
        Wesley J Savoy Parrots Forever Sanctuary & Rescue Foundation, April 6 2014
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