by Michelle Underhill
Some birds have no problem with thunderstorms or fireworks, and may even enjoy watching them. Others shake, hide, or, worse yet, bolt off or thrash. If you have one or more birds who are the latter, rather than the former, here are a few tips that might help calm your birds during Fourth of July fireworks or thunderstorms.
Tip 1: Keep them inside
If the July 4th neighborhood parties are in full swing, and firecrackers or fireworks are predicted, keep your bird inside. Even if they usually enjoy being in front of the window, make sure at least half of their cage or playstand is against a wall instead of glass, so they can move away from any scary sights. Of course, being inside and away from windows is important during a thunderstorm, too.
Tip 2: Make sure they have a place to hide if they choose to
In addition to having a place away from windows, put a large toy on their playstand or in their cage that they can go behind, and look out from, if they feel threatened. If your bird is fearful of new toys, add it in advance of storm season or a holiday with fireworks, to give them a chance to get used to it. Another option is to put a cover over part, but not all, of their cage, so they can go behind it if they choose to. Being able to choose whether they can hide or look around may help.
Tip 3: Be calm yourself, and present
We cannot always be home with our birds, but if you are home while neighborhood fireworks, or a thunderstorm, are happening, be in the same room with the bird who is anxious around loud noises, and do something calmly. It’s okay to talk to them quietly about the noises. This is a great time to read, perhaps even aloud to them! Or, to listen to music or watch a TV show together.
Tip 4: If away, leave some music on
If you are away when fireworks are scheduled or a thunderstorm is predicted, you may want to leave the radio on for your bird, or a white noise machine. If your bird has musical preferences, try leaving something on that they enjoy. This may help to give them something else to focus on.
Tip 5: Try a calming supplement
There are several supplements I have used to help calm nervous animals during thunderstorms or fireworks. As with anything, check with your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about using them with your birds. Bach’s Rescue Remedy is available at stores like Whole Foods, as well as at some good pet supply stores. The pet and children’s versions of Rescue Remedy do not contain alcohol in them, so are safer for pets. (Sometimes the children’s version is less expensive than the pet one.) I have also used Animal Essentials’ Tranquility Blend with birds. It does contain Valerian, so may make some birds sleepy. Many online retailers (Amazon, Chewy, etc.) sell these, too.
Adding dried chamomile and/or lavender flowers to food, or brewing some chamomile tea and serving it room temperature, may also be helpful. Always make sure fresh water is also available to the bird if serving tea. During thunderstorm season, I have at times left some room temperature chamomile tea that includes a few drops of Rescue Remedy in it in a bird’s cage who gets stressed by noisy thunderstorms while I am away at work.
Tip 6: Reward calm behavior during loud noises, storms, or fireworks
Especially if you already use positive reinforcement training with your birds, rewarding calm behavior in your birds during a thunderstorm or fireworks is a great way to assist them with remaining calm during such times. I start ahead of the storm or predicted fireworks by giving treats for doing everyday, normal behaviors. This means telling the bird s/he is good and rewarding with a tiny treat or attention (whatever the reinforcer might be) for eating, preening, playing with toys, sitting with fluffed, relaxed feathers, etc. You can continue rewarding calm behavior during the thunderstorm. Of course, never punish a bird for not being calm. Simply reward them if they are calm.
What are your tips for keeping birds calm during fireworks or thunderstorms?
If your birds aren’t concerned by fireworks or storms – wonderful! If you have had birds who are, and have found additional tips to help them, please share them in the comments.
We wish you a safe, happy, wonderful 4th of July!