training a scarlet macaw.. where to begin??

hNicholeh

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Jul 28, 2014
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gray court, south Carolina
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Scarlet macaw named Boomer
Okay so my scarlet macaw is about 8 yrs old and i have had em for about 4 yrs now and i never really thought about training that much but he does wave with his foot and i taught him to turn around. Hes very smart and catches on to what i want him to do pretty quick but i want him to trust me. He doesn't completely trust me bc he May become aggressive if i dont have his favorite chew stick with me when i handle him. When he is on a perch or branch in the outside cage i can touch his beak and give him a kiss and pet his feathers above his beak but i have to be careful and watch his movements to make sure he will be okay and not attack. But i want to be able to hold him without the stick and the fear of being bitten without the stick. With the the stick i can almost do anything i want with him without getting bitten or attacked. Id just like to know a correct way to go about training him and gaining his trust completely.
 

weco

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I saw your post early this morning, but refrained from posting, because the first response that popped into my head was "why not start at the beginning....."

But, since some around here don't take kindly to some of my off the cuff remarks, I thought better of it.....like Delfin mentioned, I'm sure Birdman will chime in when he sees your thread.....
 

MacawLoverOf3

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Jun 23, 2013
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Jody
Kalea
Donovan
I have to ask why you haven't gone forward with physical contact as 4 years is an awfully long time and Macaws are very much into being hands on birds.

I rehomed a Mac a year ago last April that had a history of doing some nasty bites. He had been rehomed once after biting a 22 month old baby's hand, was rehomed but went back to the original owner when he bit the lady's thumb really bad. The original owner went to get him but when trying to get him out of the cage she got nailed too and after that incident he only came out of his cage about once a week.

When he would get upset or scared he would give out a scream and turn his head to bite me or maybe just bit his foot. I soon learned that biting of his foot was not a real true bite as I started putting my hand there and found out he would not bite my hand.

Donovan saw how much cuddling Kalea would get and the first time he crawled up onto the arm to the boobs he did it verrryyy slowly, almost waiting to see what I would say but he had to start somewhere to sort of test the waters.

He has come a long way and doesn't scream as much and I am not afraid that he is going to bite me when he does scream but I was determined to turn him into a Mush Mellow and he has.

My recommendation for you is to stop using that stick. Put your big girl pants on, take a deep breath, put your arm out in front of him and ask him to step up. If you are more comfortable wearing a sweat shirt for a little arm protection do it but then bring him into your chest and let him snuggle a little if he wants. Tell him in a soft voice that you would like to pet him and then bring your other arm up and gently touch his upper body or wings. If he is comfortable with that, start scratching his head. I tend to give kisses on the top/back of his head when I am holding him low and my torso bends over him a little. By doing this, if he was to bite he won't be able to reach the face with the beak.

Remember, take things slowly and always explain to him what you are going to do. I also found singing softly to Donovan helped relax him. When he started sitting on my arm and putting his head on my shoulder I started singing 'Put Your Head On My Shoulder' then I started adding more songs, a lot of times singing my version of the songs but always in a soothing tone.

Are you ready to start turning this little guy into a cuddlier? I bet he has been waiting all this time for you to do it.
 
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hNicholeh

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Jul 28, 2014
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gray court, south Carolina
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Scarlet macaw named Boomer
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Thank you for the replies. I have handled him and pet him but only with the stick and just recently i started to do that step up without the stick and i put my hand or arm near him and hold It there for a moment so he will get used to my hand without the stick and not try to keep me away. Yeah i think Im going to have to start at the beginning. Just without bringing the stick with me. Any remarks of any kind is welcome. I do give him love but only with the stick with me and i want to be able to do it without the stick. Thanks
 

MacawLoverOf3

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Jun 23, 2013
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Kalea
Donovan
When you are offering an arm for him to step up on, keep your fist closed, fingers tight in that fist and the fist right side up with the skin taunt as I think you are afraid of a finger being bitten. If you keep your fist tight like this your fingers will be protected and it will be harder to do a bite on the back of the hand.

If he does bite you when on the arm do the earthquake move by just dropping your arm down some to get him off balance while telling him 'no bite'. When you shake up his world some he will forget about biting and wonder what just happened instead and soon learn.
 
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hNicholeh

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Scarlet macaw named Boomer
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Okay i will and when he does get a finger what should i do? In the past i have pushed my hand towards him when he had a finger but he didn't let go and just kept grinding a bit and so i pressed some more and then i think he let go its been awhile so i dont really remember. But what do you suggest i do? And i have an outside Aviary for him and i usually bring the stick with me and leave it out there with him. Should i leave it in the cage whenever i take him outside the inside cage? Or should i start by just having the stick near him but not in my hand?
 

Birdman666

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Sep 18, 2013
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Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
1. Scarlets are my least favorite bird to work with... They are the beakiest of the bunch. This bird needs to be bite pressure trained!!! Scarlet's use their beaks to communicate...

2. What he said. Four years is a long time to go without handling them. They need to be handled every day. Birds that do not get handled do not stay tame. In fact they tend to get very MAD.

3. Macaws sense fear a mile away. Control your fear around the bird. You can control that beak with two fingers.

4. Basic step up practice. Then touching exercises. Startle training is a very good idea for a bird that communicates with his beak...

And actually I only have two at the moment. I've worked with dozens...
 
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Birdman666

Well-known member
Sep 18, 2013
9,870
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San Antonio, TX
Parrots
Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
Thank you for the replies. I have handled him and pet him but only with the stick and just recently i started to do that step up without the stick and i put my hand or arm near him and hold It there for a moment so he will get used to my hand without the stick and not try to keep me away. Yeah i think Im going to have to start at the beginning. Just without bringing the stick with me. Any remarks of any kind is welcome. I do give him love but only with the stick with me and i want to be able to do it without the stick. Thanks

Just telegraph it. Bird you terrify me. Do you really think he can't sense that?

Try wrapping a thick beach towel around your perch arm. Use two fingers on the beak before stepping him up. That way you have control of the beak. Then slowly reach over with the fingers holding the beak and scratch his head. Watch for the head feathers to come up.

Is he clipped? If so if he tries to latch on then drop him to the floor. He doesn't get up until he behaves...
 
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MacawLoverOf3

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Jun 23, 2013
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Kalea
Donovan
Until you know that he can and will be gentle with you, keep your fist closed, don't allow him the chance to get ahold of a finger. Once you see he steps up nicely onto your arm, then have slowly touching him with one hand. Have in your other hand a 'stuffie' a little soft fabric stuffed animal/toy that you stuff in the beak with the other hand if you see he is going to bite. I had picked up a few of these cloth type balls at a Home Goods store a couple of years ago and just came across one last week. We love them because they are soft, a beak can grab on easily and they can toss them around. Check out soft small toys in the dog section.

[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Multipet-Nobbly-Wobbly-Plush-Multicolored/dp/B002RL9D3A"]Amazon.com : Multipet Nobbly Wobbly Plush Multicolored Dog Toy : Pet Toy Balls : Pet Supplies[/ame]#

Now Macaws test everything with their beak/tongue so you have to take a few 'risks' here until you know what he really wants, to just do the tactile thing or if he wants a little blood from you. It is also important to teach him what the limit of pressure is he can use with the beak. If he did not learn that in the past you need to teach him that.

Stick - are you using that because you are afraid of a bite and that is the only way you transfer him from one place to another? It is ok to admit you don't like getting bitten, it hurts but that is part and parcel of owning birds. If he has an indoor cage beside that outdoor aviary I would keep him inside, not use the stick and just start working with him stepping up onto your arm. Once the two of you have worked that out, then take him back outside and not use that stick.

If needed, you can also wrap an arm in an Ace bandage under that sweatshirt. If you avoid any pain you will be less fearful of handling him and can move forward.
 
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Birdman666

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Sep 18, 2013
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San Antonio, TX
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Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
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hNicholeh

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Jul 28, 2014
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gray court, south Carolina
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Scarlet macaw named Boomer
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How do you bite pressure train him? He isn't clipped but he doesn't know that he can fly he only ever flies if he is startled/scared or gets off balance. I use the stick bc he never wanted to leave the cage without it. I think maybe its like a comfort for him or something. I think i will use the towel idea bc it would give me less fear of being bitten. I can tell when he is just going to bite me and not step up bc he reaches his foot out to try and pull me toward his beak but if he is going to step up he will use his beak . I do use the stick to transport him. I was working with him today and he will step up on my arm but once he gets a treat from me he wants to step bk down but Im tryin to increase the amount of time on my arm before letting him down. Should i get him used to me without the stick before i try grabbing his beak ??
 

MacawLoverOf3

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Jun 23, 2013
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Donovan
Think baby steps. Since he is not comfortable with stepping up just keep working on that for now and make it short, mini lessons. For now, don't bring him close to your body, just outstretched and practice having him step up from a stand, praise him, give him a treat, tell him what a good boy he is then put him back and do it again.

When is gets acclimated to the step ups, and you both have confidence in yourselves, bring him in closer to your body and start touching him. If your are right handed, have him on your left arm. If he gets the idea to get on your shoulder, place your free arm in his way (fist closed again) and protect your face, always protect the face.

Always talk to him, in a quiet, soothing voice, praising him with everything. It will take some dedication but you can do this.
 
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hNicholeh

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Scarlet macaw named Boomer
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Okay i will do that and thanks for the many good advice. Is there anything else you think i should know?? Oh and if he does bite me, how should i react to that?
 

MacawLoverOf3

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Jun 23, 2013
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Kalea
Donovan
How to get a bird off your shoulder

First take a deep breath to calm yourself down. Actually, do that every time you are going to handle him.

Always protect your face with the opposite arm of the shoulder the bird is on.

Calmly walk over to a wall and back your butt into it. That will get the bird to move from totally sitting on the shoulder to starting to head down the arm. This method works great for birds like Kalea who love to hang from my back. I back up to the wall and she gets out of there other wise she knows she will get squeezed out.

If the bird does not start heading down the arm or for small birds (Macaw generally don't like their tails being caught between you and the wall so they tend to move over) but if you have a bird next to your head take that opposite hand and place it on top of your head. Slide the hand down the side of your head, over the ear and gently push against the bird so that it starts moving down the arm. Remember, always protect your face as you don't want to have to find a plastic surgeon.

When he reaches your forearm bend your elbow and hold him away from your body a little with his feet on your hand while you place your thumb over his toes so he does not go scampering back to the shoulder.

Practice this method several times and on both shoulders so if you have to do this you can perform it smoothly.
 

MacawLoverOf3

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Jun 23, 2013
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Donovan
If someone decides to give me a bite I give them the evil eye and tell him 'No, hurt, that's too hard' in a stern tone. I don't believe in not saying anything because they do it for the drama. Phooey on that. They need to know that it hurts and not to do it again. A mate is not going to be bitten and remain quiet, why should humans not react? If Jody bites too hard she knows it and even tells me 'hurt' which is her way of saying that she is sorry. After almost 25 years of being together I know that this is what she means.
 

Birdman666

Well-known member
Sep 18, 2013
9,870
56
San Antonio, TX
Parrots
Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
Okay thank you that helps alot :) ill work on him. And how many times a day should i train with him?

At least twice a day 7 days per week.
 

MacawLoverOf3

Member
Jun 23, 2013
194
4
Parrots
Jody
Kalea
Donovan
Lots. I will assume you work and leave the house 5 days a week. Mornings are rough but if you can do it once at least before you leave that would be good. In the evening when you come home always greet him with enthusiasm. If you have had a stressful day give yourself a little time to relax and allow the stress to dissipate but handle him 2, 3, 4 times in the evening. Always end on a happy note, and be generous with a special treat. Pine nuts work well if he is food motivated.

This coming weekend, try to clear your calendar and devote it to him and focus your attention to him. Interact with him. Talk to him, ask him questions, this is the time you can act like a complete fool and dance in front of him, sway back and forth, sing songs to him. Your purpose in life is to make him want to be with you because you are fun!!! Macaws want to be in the center of the fun, not sitting on the side lines. Donovan lived in a house with 3 children that were home schooled and can imagine there was a lot of singing so it surprised me yet did not surprise me when Donovan started singing along with me. We'll never get a label or record any records but we have FUN and that is what it is about. Remember all those childhood songs you shoved into a corner of your brain, never to be sung again? This is the time to pull them back out, dust them off and use them. It doesn't matter if you forgot some of the words, just put in anything else, it won't matter. The part that matters is the connection you are starting to work on.

I know a lot of people say to sit next to the cage and read a book but when I was to a seminar with Barbara Heidenreich she does not advocate that method because if a bird is uncomfortable with you he can't 'get away' from what he is fearing because you are sitting right there and he has no place to go. Birds do better if you interact with them from a distance. In your case, since you have had him for 4 years already, this should not apply to you but I want to put this out there.

Playing games such as peek-a-boo is something they get into and start establishing contact calls. Whistling is a great way. I can usually get Kalea to stop screaming by doing our wolf whistling or another one of our contact call we do.

The two of you might make huge changes at a time but even if they are only small steps those are important too and celebrate them and any little back steps - ignore them as there will be some of those in there too. Look at it as a long term project, not something that will be complete in a weeks time. Best to go in without a time frame in mind.

Oh, about the beak holding, you have to do that quickly so he doesn't see your hand coming in and do it from the side/top. If you bring your hand up from the bottom that would give him the opportunity to nail you with the beak.
 

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