Tips for Training your Bird
Just like a dog, a bird will be a better companion once trained. Tame, trained birds also tend to receive more interaction from family and friends and get the socialization they need in order to thrive. The final result is a well-mannered pet that everyone can enjoy.
Training should be a positive experience for both you and your bird, therefore, never start a session if you are agitated, tired or impatient.
You will find training is much easier if her wing feathers are trimmed. See your Avian Veterinarian for assistance on wing trimming.
The secret to taming a bird, is simply gaining her trust. Here's how you can establish this type of rapport with your new bird:
- Hand feeding treats - without moving too abruptly, offer her a millet spray or her favorite seed or nut from your hand. She may be more likely to accept this treat in the late afternoon as most birds normally feed at this time. With practice, she will be completely at ease with this feeding method.
- "Step up" onto your hand - next, you'll want to teach her to step onto your hand or finger on command. Gently press your finger against her abdomen while saying "step up." You can reinforce positive behavior with a small treat, but only when she obeys the command. Repeat consistently, as often as necessary until she steps onto your hand anytime you press against her belly. If she has a tendency to bite, start by using a wooden perch instead of your hand.
Different species of birds have different talking abilities. While some can learn many words, others will only mumble a few. They can also mimic sounds like the doorbell or the telephone as well as songs. In general, males tend to be more vocal than females. Ultimately, however, talking depends on the individual bird.
The key to teaching your bird to talk is patience. When combined with the following tips, you may find yourself with a chatty new friend:
- Spend time with her each day. Daily 5-10 minute sessions are more effective than a long session once a week.
- Start with simple words such as "hello." The first few words are often the toughest, but once she has learned a few, new words will come quickly.
- Conduct lessons in different places such as the cage, on your arm or on a T-stand. This will prevent her from associating talking with a certain place.
- Some birds will repeat what they are taught, while others will say words unrelated to your sessions. For this reason, be sure you are not saying anything around your bird that you do not want repeated. Commonly heard sounds such as calling the kids to dinner or the dog's barking may be the first things your bird repeats!
By house training a bird, you are teaching her to eliminate on command. This is a convenient way to avoid a mess. To teach your bird this handy trick you must first select a word or phrase that will be used by every member of the household as the command to eliminate. Next, you should anticipate her elimination tendencies. Most birds relieve themselves first thing in the morning, after they have eaten, and immediately after you place them in or out of their cage. When you think she is ready to eliminate, have her "step up" onto your hand. Then, hold her over whatever item you would like her to use as a toilet (wastebasket, newspaper, etc.) and give her the command.
Overcoming behavior challenges
Some birds may develop negative behaviors. With patience and training, these characteristics can be changed. Here are some typical behaviors and how to train a bird to behave differently:
- Biting - birds use their beaks for climbing and grasping as well as to show affection. This is not painful biting and is typical bird behavior. If your bird bites hard, firmly say "no" so that she learns this behavior is unacceptable.
- Screeching - it's natural for a bird to produce a certain amount of noise. You can help avoid excess screeching by giving her an adequate amount of attention and stimulation, such as plenty of toys to keep her occupied. Covering the cage for a short period of time, then uncovering it and socializing with your bird may also stop this behavior. Never yell at your bird, as she may consider this a favorable response.
Any stressful situation may cause a bird to pluck out its feathers. Here are some of the most common reasons birds pluck:
- Boredom - this can be solved by more attention, a larger cage, moving the cage to a room that's more active, leaving the radio or television on while you're away, adding different or more toys, or even another bird.
- Jealousy or lack of attention - some birds get very attached to one person. If the bird observes this person giving attention to other people or pets or does not feel she is getting enough attention, she may start plucking.
- Inadequate diet - be sure your bird is eating a balanced diet with pellets, fruits, vegetables and vitamin/mineral supplements.
- Parasites or disease - these can cause itching and irritation. If you think this may be the cause, take your bird to an Avian Veterinarian.
- Lack of bathing - some birds will stop plucking if they are misted with water or given access to a water bath on a frequent basis.
If your bird continues to pluck her feathers, consult an Avian Veterinarian.
The one-person bird
Birds can become overly bonded to their primary caregiver. This can cause aggression toward others, which results in family members spending less time socializing with the bird, further compounding the problem. To prevent this from happening, each family member should spend time interacting with and caring for the bird. Periodically, bring all household members together and pass the bird from one person to the next. This allows all family members to equally interact with the bird.
If this behavior is already established, the favored person should firmly say "no" and walk away when the bird misbehaves. The non-favored person should then pick up the bird using the "step up" command. This teaches the bird to be handled by others. Be sure to always supervise children around your bird.