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Old 10-21-2020, 04:53 PM
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How to desensitize a bird to new places

Hello, I was wondering how you desensitize a parrot to new places. I've gotten my african grey to wear a harness, however when I try and go out the door to the room he freaks out. I really want to be able to take him on walks and go places, but I cant even get out of the house. I read somewhere saying to just hold his feet down and make him face his fears, to show him that there is nothing to be worried about. But then I read somewhere else saying that by forcing them to overcome their fears it can make them lose trust in you. Does anyone have any advice on how to get him past his fears?
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Old 10-21-2020, 05:33 PM
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Re: How to desensitize a bird to new places

SLOWLY...Does he have a playstand that he likes? If he already knows that is his space, you can try moving that gradually away from his area and placing him on it so that he can see (but isn't in the other area). Don't move it while he is looking, but just gradually inch it every few days into the other room (so gradually, that the casual observer wouldn't necessarily notice a change). ALWAYS have favorite treats on there and always keep it calm (don't let someone start moving furniture, or large pots or laundry baskets, or pictures etc. during this period of adjustment. Keep your bird there for a few minutes while it eats the treat and maybe a bit after and then bring it back to its preferred spot. Keep yourself calm and do something familiar with your bird when he is acclimating to the new space. Let him see you moving in the new space and pretend to really like it (but in a calmish way). Don't leave your bird's sight during these short acclimation periods.

When my bird is really scared, she runs along me (usually closer to my shoulder) slims herself down and puts her wings slightly (like, away from her torso, but not extended) -- If I see that, she is going to fly ---and, likely, slam into things, as she only does that when very scared. She CAN fly, but prefers not to, as she is large and there isn't great space in a house for flight paths etc...plus..she's lazy.

I also used to walk with mine to the point where I felt her tensing and then just stand there and try to distract her...Gradually moving closer over multiple days/weeks. You have to read them.

I have a very old home with a dark hallway and Noodles doesn't like stairs much (especially in a very dark hallway with a chandalier)...So we started walking into the hallway--- first just a foot. I made it a stupid game where I would knock on the wall and say "knock knock" in an over the top voice (now, this would likely scare many birds, but mine is like a cracked out toddler so she tolerated it). We did this little ritual until she anticipated the knocking, but I would walk further in with her before returning to knock on the transom window (as established in previous routines).

It took a long time before I took my first step onto the steps with her because I could feel her shaking and tensing just walking in the hallway...

Once she relaxed a bit after a few weeks, we did 2 steps and I came back down, praised, knocked etc.

When we were able to go up half-way without her freaking out (on many occasions), I finally took her near the top (gently holding her feet --because if she flew, it would be a big slam and drop situation).

It's all about moving really slowly, doing things very gradually with repeat exposure, and pairing those exposures with whatever it is your bird loves (attention, certain treats etc etc). When it comes to a nervous bird, those things don't mean you get to move faster-- they just sort of distract and take the edge off of the memory.

You have to pay a lot attention to their body language. Holding feet should not feel forceful. If they are fighting it, you pushed too far. You only hold feet when you are pretty sure they can handle it, but as a precaution (for safety)...So, when we went upstairs, I held the feet because she couldn't have safely descended, BUT, she didn't try to fly etc, because we were at the point where it was scary, but not terrifying enough for her to panic.




When I started taking mine outside, she freaked out so we went right back in (and that was initially in a travel cage) . You might consider covering a travel cage and walking with your bird to the car and then back just to make your bird used to the sound of the door...(looking back, we went to the vet and I covered her whenever we walked from the house to the car, but she would have learned the sound during this time).
You have to get them fully comfortable with the path to the door (using the technique above). It doesn't hurt to have them see favorite people enter from the "scary door" (once they like the room nearest the door). I took a step back and started saying "want to look outside" and holding her up to the windows (talking abut outside, singing about outside etc). She actually learned to say "outside" during this time. So once she was excited about outside, I said, "want to GO outside?!?!" and she liked the idea of outside because it was fun in the past. So at the point (having gotten her all the way to the window on the door (which she enjoyed looking out) I opened it, held her feet and stepped out just for a second before coming back in. She started to really like that time on the porch, so then we started to go downstairs and into the yard a bit, but the second she lunged towards my shoulder in fear, I calmly said ok, took her back to the spot she liked on the porch and ended it on a positive/fun note.

Last edited by noodles123; 10-21-2020 at 05:49 PM.
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