Training your Aviary Bird

Training is a great way to build trust, offer mental stimulation and establish heirarchy in the house.

Overview

Birds are naturally used to interacting amongst a flock. In nature, many parrots stay close to their parents and learn from them for at least 3 months to even years. The flock teaches them social skills during this time. Captive birds that live in households are often taken from their parents at around weaning time and therefor adopt the human family as their flock. Unfortunately, it is more difficult for us to take over the flock's teachings of social skills. However, we can aim to steer their behaviour in the right direction to teach them appropriate habits and good social skills, as well as reducing stress and anxiety for our bird. 

For general training, you may be able to seek the help of bird behaviour trainers. If you do have a bird with a behavioural problem, the best thing you can do for your bird's mental wellbeing, is contacting a Veterinary Bird Specialist.

Birds learn by trial and error. Behaviours that have a unwanted negative consequence are will more likely be avoided, and behaviours that have a positive (reward) consequence will most likely be repeated. Training your bird should be done through positive rewards only, punishments should not be used as they will break the bond between you and your bird, and may worsen certain unwanted behaviours.

 

Inappropriate training:

  • Allowing the bird to sit on the shoulder as this leads to overbonding with the human (a bit like sitting on someone's lap)
  • Giving into every vocal demand
  • Allowing them to eat from your food

Basic training

Parrots are intelligent birds that do well with training. Keeping your bird active with daily positive reward training, not only helps with mental and physical stimulation but also reduces the chance of behavioural problems.  

Here are some common skills that can be useful:

Up and Down

Up is an important term to request your bird step up onto your hand or a perch. 

Down is an important term to request your bird step off your hand or perch.

These are particularly important when a bird needs to be transported or examined.

Once your bird has become accustomed to this, train them to step on a branch and as you lift the branch with the bird, say "Up".

Towel handling

Gentle towel handling should be done every week. This allows the bird to be more comfortable if they require handling by a vet.

Playing a game of "peek-a-boo" will make towel handling more enjoyable.

Wing and toe handling

Training your bird to stand on its perch or lie gently in the towel while you examine each toe can come in use.

This is just as important for wing handling. Your bird should become accustomed to you lifting each wing.

Spoon or syringe feeding This is important for when your bird may require medication. on a weekly basis, train your bird to take mashed, boiled sweet potato from the spoon or syringe. 

Training tips

Birds generally have a short attention span. At the start, keep training to one skill for 15 minutes at a time. It's important to have no distractions - a quiet room with no windows or curtains drawn is ideal. Using treats and praise will help with the learning.

Always train birds individually and out of sight of each other to ensure maximum focus.