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How to Get a Parrot to Go Back Inside Its Cage

Athlyn has shared her life with four parrots, written articles for avian publications, and helped owners address troubling parrot behaviors.

"Help! I'm locked in!" Birds like this blue and yellow macaw may be reluctant to go back inside their cages once they're out, but there are some techniques you can use.

"Help! I'm locked in!" Birds like this blue and yellow macaw may be reluctant to go back inside their cages once they're out, but there are some techniques you can use.

When It's Time to Go Back in the Cage

You've let Paco or Polly out to play on a stand or perch, but now it's time for your feathered friend to go back inside the cage. However, that stubborn creature has other ideas and has absolutely no intention of doing as it's told.

It's a given that a pet parrot should have plenty of freedom, spending lots of time outside of its cage. Conscientious owners see to it that their parrots do not spend their lives imprisoned; rather, they provide additional territories, similar to what a parrot might have in the wild. Providing your parrot with a play stand or a tree perch helps to meet its needs for exercise and stimulation and helps to ensure a happier, well-adjusted parrot.

You've done that and seen to your parrot's needs, so you should have a well-behaved parrot, right? Wrong.

Your darling Paco may quite happily enter his cage most of the time, but other times, just like a truculent child, he may balk and refuse to do as he's supposed to.

The Parrot Has a Mind and Will of Its Own

Realistically speaking, there are times when a parrot has to go back inside its cage. An owner may have to go away for some hours, and the cage is the safest place for the bird to be when no human is near to keep an eye on things.

Normally, a parrot returns willingly to its cage at night to roost, and if it's a talker, it may even ask to go to its cage when it feels sleepy, but trying to get a parrot to go back inside its cage in the daytime may be a different matter entirely. The parrot may be having a moody day and just wants to be left undisturbed, or it's happily playing or grooming and does not want to be interrupted, or its enjoying being close to its humans, content to be near the everyday goings-on in the household. You are now asking it to do something it doesn't want to do. And a parrot has a mind and a will of its own.

How to Get Your Parrot's Cooperation

An owner should know a number of ways to gain a parrot's cooperation when it needs to spend time inside its cage. This article discusses effective methods to deal with a resistant bird.

How Parrots Try to Avoid Cage Time


A parrot backs away to the opposite side of the top of its cage, so it is harder for you to reach it

A parrot lunges and grabs onto the side of the cage with its beak, hanging on for dear life

A parrot lunges at you and threatens to attack

A parrot crawls down the back side on the outside of its cage, so you can't defintely can't reach it

A parrot grabs onto the side of the cage door opening

A parrot reaches down and bites your finger or hand

Some Typical Scenarios Where a Parrot Tries to Outsmart Its Owner

Let's now discuss some typical scenarios. For each situation, strategies will be offered so that you outsmart your parrot instead of him outsmarting you.

  1. Lunging and Biting
  2. Latching on to the Cage
  3. Climbing All Over the Cage
"Don't bug me 'cause I'm having a bad day!"

"Don't bug me 'cause I'm having a bad day!"

1. Lunging and Biting

Your bird may have the occasional "off" day, and while you normally would let it rest quietly and allow it to choose whether to stay in its cage or rest on a perch, depending on your circumstances, you may need to return it to its cage. If your bird doesn't want to be disturbed, Mr. Grumpy may let you know by lunging in order to warn you away. Pay attention to your bird's body language.

"I'll distract you by biting you!" The parrot bites your hand instead of doing what it's told to do.

"I'll distract you by biting you!" The parrot bites your hand instead of doing what it's told to do.

If lunging doesn't work, your bird may ramp things up a notch and reach down and latch onto a finger. A parrot should never be allowed to use biting to avoid stepping up and returning to its cage.

How to Respond: The Double-Handed Swoop

A way to circumvent this behavior is a method called the double-handed swoop. Instead of offering one hand or a finger, you bring both hands under your parrot's belly while instructing the bird to step up.

You extend a finger or a hand, which gets promptly chomped on. Paco is trying to get his own way and get you to back off.

By using the double-handed swoop, your bird will be busy watching your hands coming in on either side of its head, and while trying to process this information, he will obediently step up.

The double-handed swoop is a extremely effective method to avoid getting bitten.

"You can't make me!" A parrot latches onto its cage to avoid having to go inside.

"You can't make me!" A parrot latches onto its cage to avoid having to go inside.

2. Latching on to the Cage

If you have managed to get your reluctant bird to step up, it may make a final effort to resist returning to its cage. As you approach the open cage door, your smart parrot lunges and grabs onto the side of the doorway with its beak, holding on tightly so that its body is anchored outside the cage.

How to Respond: Back Your Bird in

You can avoid this contest of wills by implementing an effective method of returning a parrot to its cage. This involves actually backing the bird into the cage. With the bird in hand, position the parrot so that he is facing away from the cage, with his bottom pointed towards the open cage door. The parrot cannot see the opening so doesn't latch onto the side. Backing a parrot into the cage is a safe and effective method of returning a bird to its quarters.

Bum-First Means No Latching On

An easy way to return a parrot to his cage is to back him in. He can't see where to latch on.

"I'll go anywhere but inside!" An African Grey parrot climbs to the top of its cage to avoid having to go inside when told to.

"I'll go anywhere but inside!" An African Grey parrot climbs to the top of its cage to avoid having to go inside when told to.

3. Climbing All Over the Cage

In another scenario, a parrot may be perched on top of its cage, sitting quietly or dozing. He is in his own zone and quite happy sitting in a high position where he can survey all.

You approach and tell him to step up. Rather than complying, your bird backs away to the farthest top corner, or he may even inch down the back side of the cage. You follow after him with proffered fingers, but he dodging your hand, displaying remarkable acrobatic skills while he climbs all over the outside of his cage. This "merry-go-round-the-cage" continues indefinitely.

How to Respond: Tempt the Bird With a Treat, Then Pretend to Ignore It

There's a simple trick to get your parrot to go back inside its cage voluntarily. This involves placing a favorite food treat inside the cage and then walking away and seemingly ignoring the bird.

Now, a wily parrot will likely keep a sharp eye out for you after it has entered the cage so that it can evacuate quickly. It still has no intention of "having" to stay in its cage and only entered because it couldn't resist the food treat—but a parrot in this frame of mind will move like lightning if it thinks you are going to close the cage door, so it will watch to see if you plan on "locking it in."

A smart owner acts busy and seemingly ignores the bird while slowly working their way towards the cage, waiting for the parrot to become less vigilant. Once the parrot is busily investigating the food in its dish, the owner moves quickly to close the cage door. Mission accomplished.

A Neat Food Trick to Lure Paco Back Inside

* Place food inside the cage.

* Ignore the bird.

* Once he is inside the cage and happily investigating the food, close the door.

Effective Methods to Return a Parrot to Its Cage

Hand PositionBody PositionFood Position

The double-handed swoop prevents biting

Backing a parrot into a cage is effective

A new treat placed inside the cage can lure a parrot inside its cage

"Huh! I was outsmarted."

"Huh! I was outsmarted."

Peaceful Coexistence

Truly, living with a precocious parrot entails coming up with inventive methods to elicit compliance. A parrot is not only smart but also can be very, very determined. At all times, owners should deal perceptively and kindly with their feathered friends—while retaining the upper hand.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: How can I help my parrot to relax inside his cage? He is not eating or playing with his toys.

Answer: Your parrot may need some time to sit quietly inside his cage and grow used to his surroundings. He may feel overwhelmed by so many new and strange things to look at.

If he still doesn't respond, try putting or tying some food on the top of the cage on the outside and opening the cage door for him. This might encourage him to leave the cage and crawl to the top to investigate and nibble on the food, and in doing so, this may help him to relax. Food, especially food that your parrot likes, may help him to associate a pleasurable activity connected to his cage and thus he may not find his cage as frightening.

© 2017 Athlyn Green


Colin sayers on July 01, 2020:

My parrot just won't go in his cage at night, no matter what I try

Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on April 14, 2017:

Bill, having a parrot is fabulous. Imagine a pet you can converse with. Ours used to great us in the mornings and ask to come out, then comment enthusiastically on their breakfasts, "This is yummy! Want more?"

When our Grey parrot got sleepy, he would say, "Sleepy buuuurd. Want to go night-night." If we didn't take him to his cage right away, he would become insistent: "Night now. Time to go night, night."

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 14, 2017:

We have six chickens and 200 quail...I suppose a parrot would be the next logical step. :) Seriously, I would love to have one...talking my wife into it will be the next hurdle. Thanks for the inspiration!