Parrots love our company, despite how it may seem otherwise. Their biting is quite
often actually ‘beaking’, a way that they show of attention, an interaction that's normal
for them and would be well received by another bird of their species.
In order to teach them that it’s not acceptable for us, when the ‘beaking’ becomes
‘biting’, stop everything. Remove the bird from your presence, be very quiet about it
and give them 1 to 5 minutes of silence, no eye contact, no interaction, etc..
Then start over again.
You have to be consistent with this method. You can tell them "no biting" or "don't
bite" in a firm voice (not yelling) immediately after it happens and as you're about to
"shun" them for the 1-5 minutes (any longer than this is ineffective).
|Taming - Let's all just get along
There are a lot of factors involved in successful taming of a bird (of the pet variety). I’ve worked
predominantly with all varieties of macaws and eclectus, but also raptors (hawks, owls, etc) of all sizes.
The most important thing you need to arm yourself with is patience. Look at it this way, if you aren’t
patient and push for immediate or ‘quick’ results, you will fail and have an aggressive or frightened bird
for a long time, if not the rest of its life. Taking your time and letting the bird learn you, adjust to their
surroundings and ease into sharing life with you – is by far the better choice. Even if the bird never
learns to truly trust, at least to live in peace, comfort and care is a huge accomplishment.
Start by providing the largest cage appropriate for the species of bird you have.
Most advice is to provide the largest cage you can afford. Unfortunately I’ve found macaws in cockatiel
cages due to this suggestion.
You need to provide the largest cage available for the species. Period.
Include 3 different types of perches (suggested): 1 natural wood perch, 1 rope perch and 1 ‘rough’ perch
for grooming (concrete, mineral, etc.).
Never use those sandpaper perch covers. They do not provide secure grip and can result in injury; plus,
they just don’t do anything worthwhile.
Perches should be of varying widths as well, from where the feet wrap ¾ of the way around, to where the
feet wrap ¼ to ½ way around.
The rope perch will likely be chosen for sleep/nighttime; the concrete/rough perch should not be placed
where the bird is forced to stand on it without other options (such as to eat or drink). They’ll choose the
perch when they need it.
Approach the cage when the bird is calm. Be slow, keep your movements smooth and don’t raise
your hands above your own shoulder level – or above the eye level of the bird. Speak with a soft voice
and give the bird time to calm down and accept your presence. If it doesn’t adjust relatively quickly, back
away until it calms down – the last thing we want is for the bird to injure itself by flailing around in fear.
I approach our new additions (usually abused birds entering rescue/rehab) an hour or so after tucking
them in for nighttime. Their cages are covered on all sides, leaving just ½ of the front uncovered so they
can see out and feel secure. It also insures decent air circulation. The room light would be very dim, but
not totally dark. Most birds have poor night vision, unless they’re nocturnal birds like owls and
approaching them in total darkness is frightening to them.
At this time, whispering, putting a hand up against the cage and just holding it there is a start.
Remember, keep it non-threatening and below their eye level.
When you notice them calmly stretching a wing and leg slowly out to the side and back, mimic the action
with your own arm slowly stretching out to the side and softly stay engaged vocally (“what a good bird
you are”, “that’s a pretty bird”, etc).
After just a few minutes of nice interaction, leave them be for their night and the next day use the same
tone of voice and slow, calm movements around them.
Open the cage door (as long as your bird is not panicking and will be safe if they escape, unable to get
to places you cannot recover them from) and offer your finger/hand just above the feet and gently
touching at the breast area there say “step up”. This command is important to use every time so that
when the bird hears it they know it’s time to be on hand/finger.
Remember to respect your bird. Sometimes it won’t feel like stepping up or interacting, just like
sometimes you might not feel like doing something. That should be ok. Try again later.
Don’t wake a bird up to play and don’t interrupt them while they’re eating.
In an untamed bird there may be some biting and squawking, but if you can tolerate it until they are on
hand, you’ve accomplished a very important step. Once up they usually stop biting where they’re
perching (your hand) and if they don’t, giving them an “earthquake” a gentle shaking of your hand, but not
enough to dislodge them or cause them to feel insecure, will often distract them.
I’ve also found that walking quickly into a different room (which isn’t hard to do with a big macaw
chomping down on my arm like a pitbull) will surprise them enough to stop. Suddenly, in new
surroundings, I’m their best friend.
If you cannot get your bird to cooperate right away with hands, remember, you’ve got years ahead of you
– it’s worth it to do this right. Try just placing your hand in the cage for a minute and letting them get
used to it being there. Having a treat in hand will help make your fingers a positive thing.
Continue the night whispering and no matter what, don’t give up.
|Do You Speak BIRD ?
-- Are YOU screaming? --
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to their parrots is thinking of
them like a dog or cat. Parrots are actually much more intelligent than these mammals,
recently ranked with apes, chimpanzees and dolphins in their highly developed sense of
awareness and intelligence.
When your bird screams and you react, even if you're red in the face, yelling and flailing
your arms in the air, the bird is getting a reward for the scream - your attention. The worst
thing you can do to a bird is deny them your attention. So, when there's screaming going
on, stop and silence everything. Put the t.v. on mute, put the kids on mute and everybody
freeze, turning your back to the bird or even leaving the room.
Sure, this is an effort on your part, but think about it. If it stops the
screaming, isn't a few days of effort going to be worth it? There are
no quick solutions, no magic or secret tricks.
Once the bird stops screaming - and your timing needs to be impeccable to catch them
during those few seconds as they catch their breath - turn or re enter the room, face them,
quietly praise them and interact. The moment they start again, turn your back and hit all
those mute buttons again.
Set aside a couple times a day for the bird to be a bird. Usually in the morning and just
before going to roost in the evening most birds will chatter and call out to touch base with
everyone else in their flock, which under domestic conditions is you and your family.
Prepare the neighborhood and remind them that at least it's not loud music, annoying
children, barking dogs or fighting spouses (although you want to be careful about what you
say and to whom) - this is just a few minutes a couple times a day of a bird exercising
their vocal chords.
Another method of curbing the incessant screaming is a simple water bottle set on
stream. When the bird begins at the wrong time, firmly say "no" (which will quickly be
learned and repeated back to you by most parrots) and squirt at their tail feathers or feet,
just once or twice.
Always plain, clean water; never - ever at their body or head and do not do this repeatedly.
You want it to be a surprise that distracts them from the screaming, not something that
terrifies them of the bottle, the water or you!
This is far more effective if done just once - when the screaming seems out of control and
there is no calming your bird with other measures such as silence, leaving the room or
whispering. A squirt should be used just to break the pattern.
Very shortly you'll find you don't need to squirt at all, just point the bottle in their direction.,
or in some cases, just aim your finger - it works with ours sometimes.
What people need to do is look at things not from a human point of view, which makes
perfect sense to us since we're human; but, look at things from the parrot's point of view.
This is really much harder because we're not parrots.
Once you understand why they do something it's much, much easier to be understanding
and patient. Give them time, let them learn at their own pace and never be harsh. You
see, since most of them have many, many years to live, they don't see what the hurry is. If
you keep in mind that this bird will probably be around to see you go through significant
life changes, it helps put it in perspective for you too.
Bird Biting, Screaming