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Old 01-01-2019, 07:12 AM
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Hey everyone!
I have a five-month-old male cockatiel, Bowie. We've been doing pretty well so far. When I put my palm in his cage he rushes to get on it, and he likes climbing on me or just sitting on my hand with one of his feet in the air.
However, while he has no problem with my palm pressing against his belly, he is very scared of me going to touch him. If while he's on me I try to use my other hand to pet him or even just move my hand while it's close to him he gets scared and hisses. Any tips on how to get him to warm up to my hands?
Thanks in advice!
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Old 01-01-2019, 10:50 AM
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Re: Advice Needed

Welcome to the community!

It sounds like Bowie either wasn't hand-raised, or he was hand-raised but was then ignored until you brought him home, and the lack of human interaction caused him to start to fear people touching him...OR he had some type of bad interaction with someone's hands, and it made him fear all hands. It's hard to tell why he's fearing hands (unless he wasn't hand-raised, though if he steps-up for you and is fine sitting on you/climbing on you, then it sounds like he had at least some degree of hand-raising/feeding)...Regardless, you haven't yet earned his trust completely and that's what you need to work on. This will most-likely be a marathon, not a sprint, and it can takes months and months to over a year to accomplish this, but if you commit to working with him every single day for a short period of time, it will happen. You're already ahead of where most people are if he's willingly stepping-up and climbing on you/sitting on you. So that's a good thing.

How long have you had Bowie?

Also, where in your home is his cage located? Is it located in the "main room" of your house, where the you and the rest of the people who live there spend most of their time when they're home, or is it located in a spare-bedroom or other room away from "where the action is" in your house? This is extremely important when taming/socializing a bird and attempting to build a close bond with and earn the trust of a bird. Just having him in the room where you and others who live in your house are when they're watching TV, talking, eating, reading, playing video games, on the computer, etc. will not only help tremendously to get him comfortable being with people, but it will also encourage him to feel more comfortable/secure and to want to entertain himself while inside of his cage...Parrots are "Flock Animals", and with a pet parrot the people who live in the house with the parrot are his "Flock". And as such, it's very important that he is among "his flock" even if you guys are not directly interacting with him. So that's the first thing you can do if you haven't already, move his cage to the "main room" of your house, usually this is the living room, family room, kitchen/dining area, etc.

As far as working with him one-on-one to gradually earn his trust and make him comfortable with your hands, there are a few things you need to do...First, you need to figure out what is his absolute favorite treat in the world, something that is small and that he can eat very quickly, and that needs to be his "Training Treat", and you then need to ONLY give him that very special treat as a "Training Treat" to reward him when he does something you are asking him to do, or he does something positive, like allowing you to pet him. If you give him this special treat at any other times it loses it's enticement to him...That's the first thing.

Then you need to figure out a quiet, open space AWAY FROM HIS CAGE where you can work with him one-on-one and spend time with him...Parrots are extremely territorial about their cages, as they are their "safe spaces", their "territory", and even the most loving, most tame parrots who are bonded to "their person" very closely still get upset and often even nip their "person" when they stick their hands inside of their cages. So trying to get him to do anything while he's still inside of his cage is usually futile, especially trying to get him to accept hands. Never try to get him to do anything while he's inside of his cage or on his cage. And it's best that you actually take him to another room when you're working with him, where he can't even see his cage. That way he won't be constantly thinking about getting back to "his territory" or his "safe space", and he'll be able to concentrate on you.

And always keep in-mind that "punishment" or "negative-reinforcement" NEVER works with birds. Not ever. All it does is make them even more afraid of you and move you in the wrong direction. This means that you never yell at him or raise your voice to him ever, and it also means that punishing him when he does something wrong doesn't typically do any good. For example, if he bites you and you yell at him, you tap or hit him on the beak, or usually even if you put him back in his cage for a "time out", it doesn't work very well (especially if your bird is particularly cage-territorial)...So instead of punishing him when he does something wrong, the best thing you can do is to take something away from him to let him know that this behavior isn't going to fly. For example, a lot of birds love attention from their person or people more than anything in the world. So when they bite, simply putting the bird down on the floor and totally ignoring him and pretending like he doesn't even exist for 5 minutes is the best way to get your point across that biting isn't going to happen...And when you're trying to teach your bird to do something or trying to "tame" him or get him to accept hands, you need to always use "Positive-Reinforcement" whenever he accepts a pet from your hands, steps-up onto your hands, etc. So whenever he steps-up onto your hand for you, giving him immediate verbal praise and a special "training treat" is the best way to teach him that "hands are good" and that he can trust you. So you need to do short little training sessions where you have him step-up onto your hands repetitively, rewarding him with a training-treat and verbal praise each time. Then pet him on the head with only a finger, and when he allows you to do it, even just one little stroke of your finger on his head, you verbally praise him and give him a training treat...It's all about taking this at HIS PACE, not your pace, and gradually reinforcing to him that your hands are good and won't ever hurt him. And then just simply spending as much time with him on your shoulder/arm, just having him with you whenever you can, such as when you're watching TV, you're on the computer, etc., the more time he spends on you/with you, the more he'll trust you and bond with you, and so on.
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