I remember the first time I distinctly noticed my pet senegal parrot seemed “grumpy.” It was as if my beloved pet wanted nothing to do with me. He was nippy and aggressive. I started to wonder what I was doing wrong when a friend asked me, “How much sleep is he getting?” It never occurred to me that Max could be grumpy because he was sleep deprived.I decided to see if making sure he got more sleep would help him with his attitude. Max’s cage was much too large to cover properly at night, so I decided to use a smaller cage at night for sleeping. I put Max in this “sleeping cage” and covered it with a dark cage cover at around 9:30 pm each night. I would remove the cover around 9 am in the morning. Within a week I noticed a dramatic change in Max’s mood and temperament. I realized that parrots are just like humans when it comes to sleep: if they don’t get enough of it, they are going to act differently.
Not all of my birds need to be covered. Some are in rooms that I let go dark naturally in the evening. They can sleep and rise with the changing of natural light.
So how much sleep does your bird need? If you take a look at the hours of light on a typical day, you can get a rough estimate of your bird’s sleep needs. This can even change seasonally. There are longer hours of light during the Summer, for example. However, even during the longest days, there are usually about 10 or more hours of darkness each night. Of course, if you live in certain parts of the world this will not be true (for example, I remember it being light out until 11 pm in Edinburgh during the Summer).
So what then should you use to determine sleep time?
The best thing to do is figure out an average for the year in that part of the world where your parrot originated. Most parrots come from countries near or below the Equator. On average, you will have around 11 hours of darkness in these parts of the world. Parrots in the wild start settling in for the night at dusk and begin to come alive in the morning at first light. Therefore, if your pet is kept awake by the bright changing lights of your television set until 11 pm, then gets up at 7 am while you get ready for work, your bird is probably not getting enough sleep.
Many people who have tried increasing the dark sleeptime period for their pet birds have noticed a very obvious change in behavior within a week or so. If you think your bird might be grumpy because it is not getting enough shut eye, try to arrange things so he or she can get a bit more sleep. If you decide to cover the cage, be sure to use a bird-safe cover with no loose strings that can get caught on the bird’s toenails, legs, or neck.
Remember, the early bird gets the worm, but not if he is too tired to go after it!