The concept of a bird harness, or leash, can be a tough one to wrap your mind around at first. After all, birds are not dogs. They are small, fragile and certainly, it isn’t customary to take them on walks!
But bird harnesses (also often called “flight suits” or “birdie diapers”) have become popular for other reasons – enough so that some companies now manufacture bird leashes.
In this article, we offer you another option – a way to make your own bird harness. We will also answer frequently asked questions about bird harnesses so you can decide whether to try out one with your pet bird.
What Is a Bird Harness?
A bird harness serves a number of different potentially useful purposes.
For example, you can use one to safely take your bird outside when out of the cage. The harness can greatly reduce (although not prevent) your bird from flying away.
Some owners also use it as a form of potty control. Many so-called “flight suits” feature built-in diapers that can retain droppings.
Bird harnesses are also a good way to just keep your bird with you and make sure your pet stays safe, whether you are indoors or outdoors together.
Are Harnesses Bad for Birds?
When used appropriately, harnesses can be a good addition to your bird training and enrichment toolkit.
However, keep in mind that many bird owners do not know how to safely and appropriately use a bird harness.
As The Bird School explains, far too many parrot owners have found out the hardest way possible that a bird harness is not a substitute for taking other safety precautions, especially when you and your bird are outside together.
It is also vitally important to know how to teach your bird to accept a bird harness. This needs to be done slowly and gently over time, as we will discuss in a later section here.
You also need to maintain firm control over the harness and lead. You must have a way to clip it to your clothing and a plan for keeping your bird with you at all times.
Most importantly, you need to ensure the harness fits your bird properly and does not cause chafing, stress, injury or breathing restriction.
It is also well worth mentioning that not all birds enjoy the experience of wearing a harness or of being away from their home and cage with their owner. What might be fun for you, the bird owner, might not be at all fun for your bird.
What Is the Best Bird Harness?
The best one is going to be one that meets all of these requirements:
- Is escape-proof (including by chewing or unlocking the harness from the leash, something many birds are quite good at!).
- Provides a close but not tight fit without chafing.
- Is made of bird-safe, breathable material.
- Can be put on and taken off with a minimum of steps.
How Do You Put it On?
This YouTube video offers an excellent short overview of the basic steps to putting a bird harness on your bird.
However, what the video does not show is how long it took to get the bird to accept being picked up, handled, having their wings touched and lifted, adjusting to the odd look and feel of the harness itself.
While some owners might advocate for a “just do it” approach to harness training, as this Parrot Forums thread showcases, this is really not the best tactic for your bird.
When done correctly, the process of teaching your bird to accept a harness can take days or weeks or months depending on your bird’s history and the amount of trust you have built up with your pet.
The basic steps to putting a bird harness on may differ depending on the type of harness you use or make. But here is the basic process assuming the harness has a head loop and two wing loops like the harness in the YouTube video you watched earlier.
- Slip the harness over your bird’s head.
- Lift one wing and slide the harness loop under that wing.
- Lift the other wing and do the same.
- Fasten the harness around your bird’s body.
- Check to be sure it is a secure but not tight fit.
- Clip the lead to your belt or clothing before moving around.
How Do You Make a Bird Harness?
While there are many more pre-made harness options than there once were, you may still find it easier, cheaper and actually more practical to make your own bird harness.
Follow these basic steps from Canopy Aviaries to make your own bird harness:
- Select a harness and leash material that is sufficiently sturdy for your bird.
- Measure your pet bird (neck width, body width, body length).
- Cut one length of material to fit around your bird’s body and lay it out horizontally on the table, leaving a little extra to loop around a body clasp and two O-rings.
- Cut two longer lengths of material to fit around your bird’s neck and under the wings and lay them out vertically, leaving a little at each end to loop for the body strap to fit through.
- Stitch the ends of the longer strips of material together to meet in the middle of the body strap.
- Stitch the two longer strips together at the other end, leaving extra material to loop so the body clasp can fit through.
- Use the O-rings to thread the leash through and secure it to your belt or clothing.
Choosing to make your own bird harness ensures you will have quality control over the whole process and can customize the fit for your species of pet bird. You can save money and get a better bird harness this way.