A well trained bird is a joy to keep and interact with. Training your new pet is both important and fun. Poor training can create a lot of behavioral problems, and can take away from the enjoyment of bird keeping. Many pet birds lose their homes due to bad training techniques that have resulted in problem behaviors. In order to avoid a bad experience for both you and your new pet, training must begin the moment you bring the bird home, and continue throughout the bird's lifetime.
We recommend the newly purchased bird be examined by a vet within the first few days of being in the new home. The owner should ask the veterinarian to clip the bird’s wings at this visit. Following the visit the bird should be given a few days to adjust to the wing clipping and to the new environment. Training should begin following this time of adjustment. Wing clipping helps to prevent injury to your bird from flying into dangerous places, and gives you more control when taming it.
Your bird's environment will have a great effect on its behavior. For this reason, it is important to use consideration when choosing where the bird's cage will be kept. Place your bird's cage somewhere in the house where there is some calm activity, like a living room or a bedroom. Do not place your bird in a room that no one uses, or a room that is used for intense activity, as either situation may contribute to behavioral problems in the future. It is important that your bird feels secure in its cage, but that its surroundings are interesting, too. Make sure that the bird has a perch in its cage that is positioned close to the cage top, and in or near a corner. This will provide an area for the bird that feels secure, and will usually be used for resting and sleeping. Make sure your bird has toys and a variety of perches in its cage so that it can use the spaces inside the cage, and does not get bored. Bored animals often take up harmful or annoying activities if they have nothing to keep them occupied.
The next step in training your pet bird is to establish a trusting relationship with it. Your bird will be more cooperative with you if it is not afraid, and if you are not afraid of it. If your bird is not hand tamed, you can begin getting the bird accustomed to you by talking quietly to it in a positive tone of voice. Move slowly around the bird so that you don't startle it with jerky movements. If your bird is afraid of your approach, do not chase it, as aggressive actions will only hamper the progress of your training efforts. Offer the bird treat foods that you know it likes. This will help the bird to associate good experiences with your presence. Wait until your bird becomes fairly comfortable with your approach before you to try to handle it.
“Stepping” It Up
When you and your bird are ready, you can teach it to "step up." Slowly move your hand towards the bird. If the bird does not run or fly away, offer it a treat, and move a little closer. Position your hand in front of the bird with your palm facing you and your fingers extended with thumb on top. Tuck your thumb to your palm, and for small birds, tuck in your middle, ring and pinky fingers too. Offer your finger(s) to the bird by moving them toward the bird's chest, just above its legs. You may want to gently move your finger so that it touches the bird. This will often help the bird to understand what you are asking it to do. If your bird is still afraid of your hands, it may be useful to offer the bird a perch to step up on at first. While offering your hand or a perch, say, "Step up," or use a similar phrase. No matter what you decide to say, be consistent! Make sure you say the same thing every time so that the bird does not become confused and respond incorrectly. If you always use the same command with the same action, the bird will soon learn to step up onto a hand or perch without much effort on your part. If using a perch, use a longer perch at first, gradually shorten the length of the perch until the bird will sit right next to your hand. Then you can stop using the perch all together. After your bird has learned to step up, practice stepping up often. Stepping up is an important safety behavior. Practice is a good way to keep the behavior trained, so that you can rely on it in an emergency situation.
Slow and Gentle
After your bird has learned to step up consistently, you can begin to train it to do other things. Try to always keep your bird below your eye level when training. Being physically higher than the bird shows the bird that you are "in charge." This helps to reduce dominating and aggressive behavior in your bird. Keep this in mind when removing your bird from its cage if the cage is higher than your eye level. The bird may act aggressively if it is positioned higher than you. If you maintain a dominating position over the bird, it will be more likely to cooperate with you.
Speaking of Birds
If you want to train your bird to talk, you must keep in mind your bird's physical limitations. Some species of birds are better speakers than others. The ability to talk also varies within a species. The best talking birds are Amazons and African grey parrots, but cockatiels, cockatoos, parakeets, conures and many other species often make good speaking birds too. If you would like your bird to learn to speak, talk to it often. Birds will usually pick up words that they hear often , so repeat whatever you want the bird to say frequently.
Also, speak clearly so that the bird can hear the words correctly. Most of the talking species can learn words and short phrases, but some, such as the African greys, can learn to repeat complete sentences. As with any type of training, be patient and consistent.
Patience and Consistency
When training your bird, don't expect the animal to do what you want exactly right the first time. Most of the time, you will have to work with the bird for a while, taking small steps toward the complete behavior. Set reasonable goals for your bird's progress, and it will learn quickly. Also, try to keep training sessions positive for the bird, offering rewards such as treats, petting and praise, when it is behaving correctly. When the bird is not behaving correctly, do not yell or hit the animal. If you do, you will lose the trust you worked so hard to gain, and the training will fail. Simply ignore undesirable behavior and try again. Remember that birds have a short attention span, so working with your bird for too long each time you are training it will cause the bird (and you) to become frustrated and lose interest. If you make training fun for your bird, it will want to learn, and will do so quickly.