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Essential Skills For A New Parrot Owner

Essential Skills For A New Parrot Owner

Posted by New Parrot Ownership, New Parrot Tips, New Parrot Bonding on 4/12/2018

We’ve all been there - you get a new Parrot and then go online to research how to train them and are met by a barrage of conflicting opinions!

Some people recommend one thing and others say something else is better. How do you know what’s most useful and where to start? This article will set you on the right path to a good relationship with your bird.

Now before you begin, there are a few really useful things to know. The first is working out what your bird’s favourite treat is. This will help you greatly in giving your bird something good to motivate them to do what you’d like them to do willingly. Make sure you always give them a treat whenever they do something you want them to do too; no one likes to work for free.


The second is that it’s ok to take your time training. The internet will tell you THIS must be achieved in THAT amount of time. But reality doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t make you a failure as a trainer or owner and it doesn’t mean your bird is a difficult individual.

Make sure to let your bird say no, and positively reinforce when they do something you want to see more of. Relationships with our animals always work better when they are consent based and with good things they want such as tasty treats. If we have to resort to punishing them then it’s only going to make things scary for them and difficult for us!

Don’t forget to observe your bird lots too. Just watching their behaviours and interactions even when they don’t involve you can give lots of information about them and their body language. It’s tough to become a world-renowned Parrot expert, but you can definitely become an expert in your own bird!

Arguably one of the most essential skills for any Parrot owner, not just new ones is target training. For such a simple trick it has an amazing amount of utility and applications. It also opens up the door to many more behaviours and tricks that make both daily husbandry as well as exploration and training easier.

Target training involves encouraging your bird to touch the end of a small stick softly with their beak or tongue (usually a chopstick or similar bird safe item) in return for a food based reward. This reward has to be something your bird values highly, so make sure you know your bird’s favourite treats and use them!


What makes it essential?

It establishes a clear line of communication between you and your bird. You know exactly what you want them to do, and they know exactly what they need to do in return for a yummy treat. Once trained, it also allows you to lead your bird to points of interest and helps to teach them to explore and interact with their environment.

Target training also helps you offer them choices in situations where they may be doing something you don’t want them to do, for example nibbling your ear. If done correctly, it can even help to teach your bird to interact with you in a soft manner as they will link the stick and training to interacting with you.

Target training neatly leads on to a really easy trick you can train your Parrot called the ‘spin’. By using targeting and initially leading your bird in a circle as they follow the stick, you can train this behaviour pretty quickly depending on the individual. This is rewarding for you as a teacher as you’ve taught your bird a trick, and rewarding for them as they learn a new behaviour that earns them something good!

The other truly essential skill for any Parrot parent is a reliable step up. This behaviour along with target training is the cornerstone of having a good relationship with your bird. If your bird won’t step up reliably then it closes many doors to you when dealing with dangerous situations or even in daily interactions.

Step Up

It’s so important to remember that stepping up is a trick as it’s something we have to teach them. We often end up taking it for granted and assuming our bird will step up all the time when we ask. But often, what’s in it for them?

This is where training the step up properly and maintaining it is so vital. Ensuring your hand is a stable perch, presented in the same way every time makes it somewhere your bird will feel safe and comfortable on.

Next up is a clear verbal cue such as “step up” to let them know what to do. After they step up you want to mark the event with a clicker or by just saying “good” to let them know they’ve done it right. Then promptly give them a tasty treat to reinforce them for what they’ve done and make them more likely to do it for you again.

It’s really important to maintain it too. Always go through the steps in your mind - make sure you’re asking your bird and not demanding they comply. Present your hand, give them clear direction, allow them to step up and then click/say good and reinforce. This gives you the complete picture of the behaviour, and helps both you and your animal know what to do to keep it sharp.

Remember, don’t rush. It’s ok to take your time and do things right. There is no exact timescale for each bird as they are all individuals and will have different personalities.

You can be an expert in your own bird! Watch your bird closely, learn to read them and gain experience in your bird’s subtle tells and body language. Over time, they will teach you more about them than any internet article ever could.