Bird Training is an important factor of having a well behaved hand raised bird. When you first get the bird home, let it settle down and get use to their new environment for a day or two. After these initial days, the bird should be handled in a quiet, relaxed situation. Spending time with your bird while watching TV or reading is perfect, but don’t over stress your bird in the first few weeks of taking it home, babies need their rest. The more time you spend with your bird, the better your bird will become.
When doing any training there are three basic concepts to keep in mind.
- When the bird does something good –> give it a reward
- When the bird does something undesirable –> ignore it
- Never punish your bird
Start training your bird with a simple command, like step up.
Have the bird on one hand, place the other hand against the birds’ chest and say the command, step up, as you apply a slight pressure to the birds’ chest. The bird will then put one leg up, pull slightly up with the second hand and the other leg will follow, reward your bird with a treat, like a favorite fruit, seed or nut. Then repeat, as the bird gets better, get it to step up a few times before rewarding. Once your bird catches on to it, instead of rewarding it with food, reward it with praise. This will soon become second nature to the bird.
It is important not to overdo the training, keep it short, but frequent.
Stopping your Bird from Bitting
If your bird is or becomes a little nippy or starts bitting, the worst think you could is pull away or pull the bird down. Pulling your hand away actually trains the bird to bite.
The method I use and my staff use at Birdsville, is called ‘stick training’. We remove the bird from its cage with a stick (similar to what you will use as a perch in the birds cage). Then use a second stick and get the bird to step up on to it with the ‘step up’ command. We repeatedly get the bird to step up until it stops biting the stick, this could take 1 minute to 5 minutes. Only once the bird stops bitting the stick is when you put it down . Repeat this a few times a day, until the bird doesn’t bite the stick anymore. This may take a couple of days of training.
When the bird is stepping up happily, use the second stick to stoke their back gently, get the bird use to being patted again. As the bird gets used to it, slowly move your hand closer to the bird and eventually pat the bird with your hand, while still holding the stick. The bird will soon learn that nipping or biting will not get it anywhere.
Stopping your Bird from Being Noisy or Squawking
Another thing I get asked regularly is how I stop my birds from being noisy or squawking. Firstly, you need to expect a little bit of noise, just like you would if you owned a dog, a cat or child. To stop the consistent noise or loud squawks, the best way it to start training them at a young age or it will just get worse and more difficult to get rid of the bad habit as they get older. But you can teach old birds new tricks.
Make sure your bird is in a reasonable size cage, remember you need enough space for your bird to spread its wings, to jump, to move, as well as toys, perches, food/water bowls and swings.
When you’re not home, make sure there are plenty of toys in your birds’ cage, as birds are very active and intelligent creature. They need different types of toys to keep them entertained. It is a good idea to rotate the toys in and out of the cage and in different spots around their cage, so your bird doesn’t get bored with them.
Choose toys they can destroy and chew on, like leather, wood and ropes, toys that make noise, like bells, toys that move, like swings, and toys that challenge them, like puzzle or reward toys. Branch from eucalyptus, grevillea, wattles and other native plants will also provide your bird some to do, leave the leaves and flowers on these branches and make sure they are wash to remove any unwanted bacteria.
The toys and branches will also reduce the chance of you bird developing physiological issues like feather plucking, which is extremely hard to train them out of.
When you are home, always reward your bird when it is doing the right thing i.e. being quiet or make soft noises. If it is sitting in it cage quietly take it out and have playtime or cuddle. If your bird is out of the cage and is being quiet, pay it some extra attention to it or give it a treat.
When your bird is being noisy or squawking, never yell at your bird just ignore it, don’t even look at your bird. If it is in its cage, leave it there. If it is out, put it way, with no pat or cuddles (get it to step straight up and straight in its cage) and only bring the bird back out when it is quiet again. Make a fuss of the bird when it is quiet and never when it is noisy.
For a short period of time the bird may get a little worse before it gets better, but make sure you don’t go back on your training. It will be tough and the whole family need to be a part of it. If you give in to your bird, all the training prior to that point is lost and the habit will be reconfirmed . So stay focused on the targeted goal and eventually you will have a quiet will behaved bird.
- Always end the training session on a positive note.
- Pick a favourite food as a reward, i.e. fruit or sunflower seed.
- Only train your bird in a relaxed situation.
- Training session should only be short but frequent.
- Keep your train sessions fun for your bird.
- Never hit your bird.
- Don’t give up, stay firm and strong.
- If your bird runs away from you the worst thing you can do is in leave your bird alone. Quickly pick your bird up and gently handle your bird. It wont take long for your bird to bond with you.
Frequently asked bird training questions
Q. My bird is biting and running away from me how do i train it?
A. If you want a tame bird the worst thing you can do is not play with your bird. Many people see the bird want to hold the bird try and grab the bird and it runs away. They chase the bird and then give up. If your bird is running away it is important to catch the bird up and gently hold the bird with gloves or a towel and only put the bird back in the cage or on a perch when they have calmed down this will give the bird a chance to bond with you. continue to do this and the bird will get better each time and before long you will no longer need to use a towel or gloves. The longer you do not play with your bird the worse it may become as young birds can revert back into a wild state easily at a young age.
Handling your bird
It is best to begin with the basics. Get it comfortable being touched and held. Always stand above the bird, never below, so that you remain in the master position. Place your finger against your bird’s lower breast, just above its feet, and encourage the bird to step onto your finger, with the commands “up” or “step up.” If it obeys, reward it with words, such as “good bird” or something similar. Be careful not to hold the bird too low or it may try to gain higher ground by climbing up your arm, but don’t the hold the bird too high, either. The proper level is about chest high.
During the sessions, repeat the stepping up motions and verbal commands by having your bird “ladder” with your hands. Using your free hand, place your finger against your bird’s lower breast, above its feet, and say, “step up.” Do this several times, as each hand becomes free, staying aware of your bird’s interest and ending the session before the bird bores with it. As you are holding the bird, use one of your fingers to lightly stroke and lift its toes. This will accustom the bird to having its toes touched, making later toe clippings easier.
To train your bird to step back down onto its perch, practice the same motions in reverse. Do not place your bird in the cage or on the perch backwards, but turn the bird so that it is facing its perch, and hold it just below the perch so that it has to step up onto the perch, thought you will be using the words “down,” or “step down” this time. When the bird follows this request, make sure to tell it that it is a “good bird.” You may also follow-up with a small treat after successful training sessions.
If your bird is going to grow into a large parrot, however, do not allow it to sit on your shoulder. This will enforce a bad habit that will certainly lead to a later injury. Birds, no matter how well trained, will bite when they get spooked, and you never want a spooked bird to be in the vicinity of your face. Small birds tend to have smaller and less injurious bites, but still keep this in mind.
This is some good basic information for anyone who is taming budgies and cockatiels.