Taming, Teaching and Training your Bird

parrot in bird house

Birds are magnificent creatures. They each have their own unique personalities and characteristics. They can be somewhat easy to care for, take up only a moderate amount of space within your home and will likely be by your side for many years to come. It’s no wonder why so many people choose birds as their pet companions.

If you’ve decided that a bird is the companion for you, there are a number of steps you should take to ensure that your bird has a smooth transition into his new home and proper acclimation into his new flock. You may be tempted to jump right into bird training and begin teaching your bird fun tricks that will delight your houseguests however, it’s important to remember that taming your bird is an essential first step. This is vital in creating a lasting relationship with your new companion. Taming is especially important if your bird is young or not used to human contact. When first introducing your bird into his new home, remember the following steps to help ease his transition.

Build Trust With Your New Bird

Birds are very adaptable animals and most will usually warm up to new people and new situations rather quickly. However, the first few days or weeks can be challenging depending on the bird’s previous circumstances. Give your new bird a few hours alone to explore his new home, find his food and water and acclimate to his new surroundings.

Try not to get too close to his cage, and don’t play with him or reach in to try to hold him right away. It’s important that he associates your presence with positive experiences, so you should slowly build trust and work up to holding and touching.

bird in wooden bird cage

Know How to Approach Shy and Fearful Birds

Most birds will adjust to their new environments in a few hours to a few days, and they often act peacefully when you enter the room or approach the cage. But some birds may show signs of shyness or fearfulness when you approach. Pay attention to the specific bird behavior your new bird exhibits when you come near the cage. If your bird climbs to the back of his cage when you come near, he may not be used to human contact. If he remains curious about you and watches what you do, he may simply be shy and it will take some time for him to warm up to you.

Birds are naturally skittish animals, so use slow movements when approaching. Talk to your bird every day in a calm, soothing tone. This will help him to feel safe and comfortable when you’re around.

If your bird thrashes around in his cage whenever you come near, he is showing signs of fear. He will often hiss at you or cling to the back of the cage staying very still, hoping that you won’t notice him. You should move slower when trying to tame a fearful bird, and the process could take weeks. Don’t become discouraged if your bird is fearful. It is possible for you two to build a lasting relationship, but the process may take longer than expected.

bird feeding in hand

Familiarize Your Bird With Your Hand

Once you reach a point where you can come near the cage without your bird acting afraid, it’s time to further the process of taming your bird and encourage him to become comfortable with your hand. When approaching your bird, always stand slightly above him so that you are in the dominant position. Never stand below your bird or you will appear submissive.

Follow these steps to familiarize your bird with your hand:

  • Place your hand near or directly on the outside of the cage while talking to him in a soothing voice. Do this a few times throughout the day, so he begins to get comfortable with your presence.
  • Once he becomes used to seeing your hand on the outside of the cage, start moving your hand to the inside of his cage. Don’t get too close to him or attempt to touch him yet. You only want him to get comfortable with the idea of your hand being inside his cage for now.
  • Once he seems okay with this, try offering him food or treats in the palm of your hand. Make sure it’s a treat you know he likes eating, as you want this to be a pleasant experience. Keep in mind that it may take several attempts for your bird to take the treat. Bird taming is all about patience!

Learn How to Teach Your Bird

When your bird reaches a good comfort level with you and he freely takes food from your hand, you can work on progressing your relationship even further. Remember, birds have a long lifespan, with some birds living well over 50 years. A Cockatoos’ average lifespan is around 40 years, Lories live up to 20 years, Parakeets live around 18 years, and Macaws live onwards of 50 years or more. Taking the proper steps for bird training early on will help make this a great relationship for years to come.

Here are four crucial things to teach your bird that should throughout his life:

  1. Step Up – Teaching your bird to step up is one of the most useful things you will work on together. It’s imperative that your bird knows how to step onto your finger or hand for removal from his cage. Birds are not born knowing how to do this. They are, however, born knowing how to perch, and your finger resembles a perch. Sometimes it’s instinctual for the bird to step onto your finger like he would when stepping onto a perch. Train your bird to step up by placing your finger in front of your bird near the bottom of his belly. If he doesn’t step on to your finger right away, try pushing very gently onto his belly, causing him to step forward onto your finger. Reinforce this behavior by saying “step up” every time you offer your finger. Be sure to give him verbal praise and a food treat each time he steps onto your hand, so he associates this behavior with rewards.
  2. Stick Training – If you ever need to retrieve your bird from a high place, stick training will come in handy. Stick training is similar to step up, except you use a stick or wooden dowel instead of your hand. If your bird is wary of your hand, you may want to try stick training first, as he may take to the stick over your hand. Some birds might fear the stick, so you will need to condition them to the presence of it.
  3. Laddering – After your bird has mastered step up and stick training, you can teach him the laddering technique. Laddering is simple, but it can be fun for both you and your bird. First, have your bird perched on your finger or hand. Then, place either a stick or your other hand in front of the bird. Once he firmly steps on, place your other hand back in front of your bird again, causing him to step back on to your other hand. Repeat this laddering motion for a minute or two, so he becomes used to the transition between your hands.
  4. Towel Training – Towel training may not be quite as fun as stepping up or laddering, but it’s no less useful. There may be times throughout your bird’s life — during activities like grooming, giving medications or dealing with injury — that require the use of a towel. Start by simply laying the towel on a flat surface and allowing your bird to step on it. Encourage him by laying treats on the towel. Once he is used to the towel, gently wrap it around your bird from behind. Never press against your bird’s chest area with your hand or the towel, as birds can easily suffocate when tension is placed on the chest. Hold the bird’s sides only with your hands so he can’t squirm out of your grip. If you need to give medication, you can hold the bird’s head by placing your thumb and middle finger on the sides of his head and resting your index finger on top of his head.

Learn to Train Your Bird With Positive Reinforcement

To train using positive reinforcement, you reward the good behavior and ignore the unwanted behavior. Birds need attention, and if they feel they aren’t receiving the attention they deserve, they can often act unruly. They will display behaviors like nonstop screeching when they want human interaction, or bite when they don’t want to be held.

If your bird is acting in a way that displeases you, take corrective actions right away. Don’t acknowledge negative behavior. If you hold your bird and he starts to bite, avoid dropping or putting the bird down if possible. This will only reinforce that biting means “put me down.” Remain calm, and once your bird calms down, put him back in his cage, say the phrase “step down.” Give him verbal praise and a food treat to reinforce that biting doesn’t earn him what he wants.

Here are a two ways to reinforce positive behavior:

  • Verbal Praise – Birds respond very well to verbal cues. They can sense your attitude through the tone and inflection in your voice. If your bird is doing something that you like, let him know by speaking to him in a happy, yet somewhat calm, voice. Never yell at your bird, even if he displays unwanted behavior. He will likely mistake your yelling for excitement, and therefore it could reinforce the unwanted behavior.
  • Food Treats – Food treats are one of the easiest ways to reinforce good behavior in birds. Birds love eating nuts, seeds and dried fruits like cranberries and raisins. Goldenfeast offers a large selection of premium bird treats that keep the health of your bird in mind. Options include carob almonds that are perfect for medium or large sized birds, yogurt raisins that are packed with protein, probiotics and iron, and the popular gourmet bird superfood: pine nuts. Find a treat that your bird likes, and offer it to him in combination with verbal praise to let him know he’s on the right track.

blue breasted parrots

Introduce Your New Bird to Other Birds

Keep your new bird away from other birds for about 30 days. Once a veterinarian clears him of any contagious diseases, you can begin the process of introducing him to the other birds in your home. Start by moving his cage into the same room with your established birds. Keep his cage away from the other cages at first, so he is in his own area of the room.

When you are ready to introduce the birds face to face, do it on neutral ground and not inside either bird’s cage. During the initial meeting, there are three distinct behaviors to notice:

  1. Bonding – If your birds begin to preen or feed each other, it’s a good sign that they are bonding. Sometimes birds who meet for the first time will engage in beaking, which is where they tap or grasp each other’s beaks. Beaking is not intended to hurt the other bird — it’s simply an inquisitive gesture. If you notice any of these behaviors, it’s a great sign! It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will always get along, but it’s a step toward showing that they may not be territorial with one another.
  2. Fighting – Wings flapping, feathers flying and loud screeching are definite signs that your birds are fighting. If your birds start fighting after their first introduction, immediately separate them and put them back in their respective cages. These birds will likely need to stay separated, potentially for good, and should not share a cage.
  3. Indifference – Some birds may not acknowledge the presence of the other bird. This indifference is not necessarily a bad thing. These birds likely won’t be best mates, and they may choose not to care about the other bird at all.

Shop Goldenfeast for Bird Food and Treats

Bringing a new bird into your home can be challenging at first, but taking the right steps toward taming and training him will provide a lasting and happy relationship for many years to come. Practicing patience and providing positive reinforcement with verbal praise and tasty food treats are essential in molding good behavior in your new feathered friend.

Goldenfeast understands that a bird’s diet requires a variety of dense, wholesome nutrients. Our complete line of bird food and treats include only quality ingredients, and never any synthetic vitamins or unwanted fillers. Each blend of bird food is customized to meet a specific bird’s needs, and each treat option is made so that a variety of birds will love to eat them. With free shipping to the contiguous U.S. on orders over $99; shop Goldenfeast products today, and give your birds a healthy start!

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