How to train my parrot (GUIDE)

michaell089

New member
Feb 8, 2016
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Hi!, first of all let me introduce myself. My name is Michael and I'm from The Netherlands. I have an AG and in may a young B&G macaw will join my parrot family. I have done extensive scientific research, taken numerous parrot behaviour and training courses of the best parrot trainers and behaviour experts out there and I have been doing volunteering work at one of the biggest parrot rescue centre's of europe right here in The Netherlands where I have been training with neglected and troubled parrots.

I have been on this forum for a couple of months now and decided to register to start helping people with troubled parrots! This is why I'm making a guide where I will put in all my knowledge on how to train and handle parrots! Because unfortunately this still isn't widely known and it really should be!

I will mostly talk about the basics of bird training and care because birds can have many different reasons for acting out and with a good basic understanding of birds people will start to be able to read their parrot companion and find out what is making him act out. From there on you can take appropriate action to correct your and your birds behaviour! My behaviour? Yes your behaviour! Believe it or not but 95% of parrots that misbehave is because of the owners that just don't know how to handle parrots in a correct manner.

This guide will cover things like: handling, body language, training, enrichment, care and more!

First lets start with the basics!

First of all you need to understand that parrots don't do well with forceful behaviour. Always try to avoid forcing your bird to do something. Never force the bird to step up or pet him when he does not want to! These creatures are very very smart and just like you they do not like to be forced to do something they do not want to do. So start by getting yourself in a different mindset. Instead of telling the bird to do something start to ask him to do something. So don't say step-up, say: Want to step-up? this is mostly essential for your own mindset because we humans just love to command things but also for the bird. They are very empathic and can feel when you demand something versus ask something. Ofcourse there will be situations when you have to be quick and force him but thats okay, sometimes we just have to do something that the bird doesn't want to keep him safe or get his nails done.

Now you might be asking yourself "How am I supposed to show him boundaries or make him stop doing something I don't want him to do like chewing up my furniture?". We will discuss this at the training section!

Body Language

Ofcourse to know when you are doing something wrong or correct you have to know about body language! You have to understand your birds body language and this is mostly be done by trial and error. Watch the feathers! The feathers say everything! A birds body language is all about raising specific feathers or keeping them tight to their body so always closely observe their feathers and what they do in specific situations! Eye-pinning can also be a dead give away in combinations with specific feathers. Pinning their eyes means they are excited. However this can be in a good way but also a bad way, depending on the rest of the body language. Don't worry if you misread and the bites lunges for you or bites you! just remember what their feathers and overal body language was and remember it. Also when you get bit don't blame the bird blame yourself because the bird is doing its best trough body language to let you know if it doesn't want something. Take it like a man or woman and try to stay in a positive mindset! If you're not the bird will feel this and won't want anything to do with you at that moment so the best thing to do is just to take a few minutes, cool off and come back when you're in a good mood again! Try not to get scared when bitten and quickly pull your hand away because this will learn the bird to think like this: Aah when I bite, the human understands! the next time I will bite too! this works! Also don't worry about it too much because in the next part I will talk about training which will greatly strengthen your trust and repsect bond and the bird will be less inclined to bite you because this is also the stage where you really start to understand your birds body language.

Training!

For training we will dive into positive reinforcement. Since you can't force your bird to do anything because that won't do well, you have to positively reinforce your bird for desirable behaviour and what better way to positively reinforce a bird is there than to give it a nice treat?:09: The basics in this are in clicker training. Clicker training is super easy to learn a bird! This training will also be the basis for your bond with the bird. This method teaches the bird he will be respected, does not have to be afraid and can trust you. Young birds and the less troubled ones usually learn this concept in minutes and even extremely troubled/neglected ones often learn this in a day. The key is using their favourite treat.. for the smaller parrots and birds sunflower seeds usually do the trick and for anything larger than a AG like macaws nuts are also a good option. Ofcourse nuts and seeds aren't very healthy for your bird because of the high fat thats in them so if you can find a healthy alternative like fruit or something else they go bonkers for would be great. Clicker training is something you have to see to do it correctly and if I would have to explain every little detail about it this thread will be ridiculously long which it probably already is going to be so for clicker training I suggest you use google or youtube. There are many free video's on clicker training and if you really want a good guide I suggest you google some of the best parrot trainers out there. Some examples: Barbara Heidenreich(Excellent training video's and affordable), Parrot wizard(Lots of free videos), Chris biro(has everything including free flight), Birdtricks (expensive but very detailed videos) and there are lots of others on youtube that do clicker training very well. Essentially its taking a chopstick and a clicker and let the bird come to the chopstick click the moment the bird touches the chopstick don't let it bite the stick so let him reach for it so he can only touch it with the end of his upper beak! and click at that exact moment and reward him with his favourite treat! This is the start of all the training. With this you can make him do anything.. get out of his cage get off of something, get back in the cage, teach new tricks, learn to step-up and more! This method gives you the ability to let the bird choose out of his own free will to do something you ask it to do and reward him for that behaviour. Win-Win situation. Once behaviours have been learned like steppung up and going into the cage you won't need the stick and clicker to let him do those behaviours. Only when the behaviour starts to deteriorate you will take the stick and clicker so you can "maintain" that behaviour. On youtube there are alot of trick training video's that you can check out that use clicker/stick training (also known as touch training) to teach new tricks! Some tricks are never a bad idea to learn as it enriches the birds life, keeps his mind occupied and its just plain fun to see him doing tricks and goofing around with the stuff he's learned.

Enrichment

Parrots are still wild animals and have not been domesticated yet. They are also incredibly smart! Depending on the type of parrot it varies between the equivalent of a 2-5 year old human child! This means when your parrot is put in a cage with a bowl of food and water and not much else to do it will do insane pretty much like when you yourself get put in a cage with nothing to do all day. Its boring its horrible and you will eventually also start eating up your fingernails and maybe more out of stress and boredom.

So do parrots. They will start screaming for attention, plucking feathers, banging on the cage and even self mutilation. Anything to get your attention or any attention for that matter! This is where enrichment comes in. Specifically FORAGING this is a concept still very unknown but its what they do in the wild 1-2/3's of the day. Its what keeps their mind occupied and challenged because they have to get/find food in the trickiest places. This is why parrots need to be tought how to forage. If you don't do this they will start foraging your house, furniture and your mind by screaming and destroying stuff. With older birds that have never tought how to forage this can take some time. With younger birds and with baby birds it goes very fast!

Enrichment for your bird is also toys, stuff they can just destroy like wooden blocks cardboard etc.. but also learning tricks, going outside with you and even watching tv with you. Just give the bird something to do! But the most important one is foraging. In the beginning he will forage for treats but you can even go as far as letting the bird forage all of his daily meals together! Believe me they love it and they will thank you for it!

Because foraging will require a extensive guide to get you started, I suggest you look for one on the forums (not sure if there is one) and else google because there are many great guides on there. Also the parrot trainers I mentioned earlier usually have a foraging guide as well and maybe in the future I will try and post a detailed one on the forums.

more below because I have used up all my characters :22: BTW if a moderator could make this a sticky thread that would be great! :)
 
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michaell089

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Feb 8, 2016
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Care

Food

Good care for your bird is also important. If you don't care enough for your bird it will start feeling less healthy and just like with humans, when we don't feel healthy we tend to get cranky too. So what we want is to have our birds in a healthy condition so that will not be the source of their bad behaviour.

To keep a parrot in a healthy condition we have to give it the appropriate nutrients it needs. If your bird is on an all seed diet get him of it immediately. There is way to much fat and other nutrients in seed diets that they don't need. Especially not in captivity because they do not fly miles and miles in our living rooms so they do not need all those high fat and high whatnot thats in all those seeds. Get him on a good pelleted diet like: Harrissons, Zupreem natural, TOPS, Roudybush. There are some more good pellet brands but I highly suggest one of those. Changing your seed loving parrot to a healthy pellet diet is sometimes not easy at all because why eat pellets when he wants those yummy yummy seeds? Just like when humans have bad eating habits and rather eat mcdonalds and fries all day, so do the parrots. Big difference is that we are a bit smarter than birds and know when to eat healthy too. Birds in captivity don't have that logic like the ones in the wild because they have not learned this. Some parrots go easy but some can be really stubborn. Don't give up! most pellet brands give detailed instructions on how to switch them to pellets. This is usually a process that slowly replaces all the seed food with pellets. Never forcefully only give them pellets unless under supervision of a vet that continually monitors his weight and overall health to keep him healthy. There are also many guides on the internet in how to switch parrots to pellets. If you really have trouble I suggest searching help from a vet because some parrots are just so stubborn they have to be forced which will require some good health monitoring so the bird does not starve and stop eating all together.

Don't forget to clean their food and water bowl daily because they can get sick from all the bacteria that start growing, especially in water bowls at room temperature and all the stuff parrots love to throw in their water bowls. If you have a biological pellets give them fresh ones everyday because in open air they can spoil fast.

Lighting

Light? Yes! Birds needs UVA and UVB lighting to really take in all the nutrients from the food they eat and to see UV light that objects reflect so they can have a more colourful world and even recognise food better. It is also speculated that it prevents plucking, biting and overly destructive behaviours because they feel a lot better. Just like humans need D3 vitamins that we get from the sun to stay happy and not get cranky so do parrots. It also helps a lot with calcium deficiency in African greys's (which they are notorious for). The lighting helps them absorb all the calcium from food they need.

I'm sure there are some things I forgot in this guide but I have been typing for 3 hours or so now so i'm going to leave it at this and add more to the guide as needed! I'm sure you parrot owners will think of something! If you have any questions you can always PM me or ask in this thread!

Good luck,

Michaell:blue1:
 

JerseyWendy

New member
Jul 20, 2012
20,995
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Hi there, Michael, and welcome to the forums. :)

WOW! Thank you very much for taking the time and writing this extensive article. Much appreciated!! :)

FYI, you are still unable to write PMs due to your post count....but I'm certain it's only a matter of (short) time before that's a thing of the past. :D
 

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