Having a bird as a pet means you will have a clever companion for years to come. Many birds have long lifespans, and taking the time to properly train your bird will help you both to have a positive and functional relationship for years to come.
Before you begin any training routine, equip yourself with the proper tools:
- Treats, such as nuts or fruits, that are not part of your bird’s regular meals
- A sturdy perch or dowel that you can hold in your hand
- A small, light colored towel
- A small sized stick or dowel
- Bitter apple spray for deterring your bird from biting and chewing inappropriate objects (e.g., window blinds, furniture)
- Bird harness/leash (choose the size according to your type of bird)
- Pet carrier or travel cage (for when you need to travel)
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.
Treats should not be given indiscriminately; they should be reserved for when the bird is doing something that is to be encouraged. While it is still young, begin to give your bird handheld treats after it has climbed onto your hand or followed a command. Just be careful of how you hold it.
The treat should be held with the tips of your fingers facing out to the sides rather than from top and bottom. This is to protect your fingers from accidental bites, because the bird may mistake your fingernail for a nut and bite into it. You can also hold the treat on your open fingertips.
Getting your bird accustomed to a towel is essential, since you will be using towels for various situations, such as for grooming, giving medication, or handling an injury. You will want to include towel training in your regular training sessions.
Using a small white or light colored hand towel (bright colors may alarm your bird), allow your bird to step onto the towel, perhaps to eat a small treat that has been laid on the towel. Once the bird is accustomed to the towel, take the towel and wrap the bird from behind, taking special care not to press against the bird’s chest with the towel or your hands. (Birds need to be unrestricted at the chest, or they can easily suffocate.) Hold the bird’s sides only, so that it cannot squirm out of your grasp, and using your other hand, place your middle finger and thumb on each side of its neck, with your index finger resting on top of the head to keep its head still.
If you are looking for more tips for bird owners, you can find our list here!
SRC: To see the original article and find additional bird training tips, look here: www.petmd.com/bird/training/evr_bd_training_baby_birds