How to Make Friends with your Parrot

How to make friends with your parrotIn this article Barbara covers the topic of How to Make Friends with your Parrot.

If you are a fan of parrots like me, you look forward to those moments when you get to make a new parrot friend. Unlike a dog or cat that may respond to a new person right away, birds can sometimes require a little extra effort on our part. Birds are often a bit nervous about meeting a stranger. Here are some things you can do to help them to be more comfortable when you are getting to know them.

How to Make Friends with your Parrot

1. Give the bird space: Although it is very tempting try not to go right up to a bird. Give him some time to get used to you being in the same room. Once he is looking relaxed and comfortable you can move a bit closer to the bird.

2. Move slowly: Birds can become frightened when people move too quickly. You don’t want to scare your soon-to-be new friend.

3. Approach from the front: Be sure to approach the parrot so that he can easily see you coming. Many birds don’t like it when someone is moving behind them.

4. Show him something special: Before walking closer to a parrot, it is a good idea to have some treats, parrot toys or other special item with you. Ask people who know the bird what he likes best. You can show the bird what you have to give him before you get too close.

5. Watch his body language: When you show the parrot the special treat or item you have for him, watch how the bird responds. If he leans towards you he is saying he would very much like to accept your gift. If he leans away he might be saying he is not sure he is ready to make friends right now. If he is not ready, you can always try again later.

6. Offer him the special treat: If the parrot leans forward and reaches his beak towards what you have to offer, you can move closer and give him what you have. Whenever you offer a treat or toy to a parrot for the first time try to present it so that the bird has to lean forward to take it with his beak. This way you don’t have to get too close to the bird’s beak. This is so you can be extra sure the bird is ready for the treat. Sometimes when we get too close or offer the item to fast, a bird might respond by biting.

7. Offer more treats: If the parrot takes the first treat or toy and enjoys it. He might look or lean towards you for another one. If he does, that is an invitation to really start getting to know each other. Continue to offer him special treats or items. This will cause your new parrot friend to really look forward to your visits.

Once a parrot understands good things happen when you visit, you will begin to notice he will really want to get to know you better. He might be eager to step onto your hand. He might even talk or sing to see if he can encourage you to come closer with a special treat. If he feels very comfortable with you, he might even let you stroke the feathers on his head. This is a good sign that you were very careful not to scare him and have done a good job earning his trust.

Making friends with a parrot sometimes takes a little extra effort. But it is a very special compliment when a parrot accepts you as a friend. Pay close attention to your actions when you are meeting a parrot for the first time, offer him yummy treats and fun toys. Soon you will find yourself surrounded by many new feathered friends.

Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Good Bird Inc (www.GoodBirdInc.com) provides parrot training DVDs, books and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara also consults on animal training in zoos.

Barbara Heidenreich
For more information on how to train your parrot visit Good Bird Inc
Barbara’s Force Free Animal Training www.BarbarasFFAT.com

Introducing me and my birds – Dorothy Schwarz

http://www.parrotessentials.co.uk/foraging-tower-mentally-stimulating-parrot-toy/I’m Dorothy Schwarz and in the coming months I’ll be sharing with you  some of the joys and heartaches, pleasant surprises and shocks of a parrot person’s life. I’ll tell about the lives of my birds and those of others that I know. I’d like to share some of the theoretical knowledge and insights that I’ve developed from my avian involvement. I trained at workshops and seminars with Steve Martin in Florida, Susan Friedman in France and Ireland and Barbara Heidenreich in USA and UK. These trainers all practice and teach positive reinforcement training and I’ll be talking about that quite a lot.

I am often asked how my parrot life began. Am I an ex zoo curator, like my friend Bill Naylor, am I an ornithologist, a zoologist or a professional trainer? No, I’m none of those. However, for the last fifteen years, parrots, people involved with them, learning about parrots, keeping parrots – even breeding them in a small way – has become my main preoccupation.

It began by chance as  I believe many of our passions do.

Barrett WatsonMost of my adult life has been  involved in some sort of breeding: six kids, horses as a small business, dogs, cats, rabbits and now birds. I had been riding, training and breeding horses in a small way. With middle age and the children leaving the nest, horses began to play a lesser role in our lives. And then one of my horsy friends, Barett Watson, who is one of the foremost UK trainers of show jumpers, opened up a new world for me. I’d known Barrett and his partner Tim Davies for years. Their yard is a visual delight of immaculate horses – and flocks of macaws, cockatoos, and greys in large flights with individual cages for breeding pairs. A pet bird that comes from Barrett is already accustomed to people and socialized.

Keen for a new challenge, I asked Barrett for one of his baby birds. We discussed the situation and decided that African Greys would be the best choice for a somewhat older couple.

Pair of African Greys Parrots BirdsBarrett had a bonded pair.  In early December, he phoned ‘the hen is sitting.’ Two weeks after hatching, the chicks were pulled for hand rearing and Barrett suggested I visit as often as possible to learn how to handle the birds. What a valuable education Barrett gave me! You learn so much more from hands-on practice than from books. The chicks looked unappealing, featherless and squirming, like blackbirds that had fallen out of the nest. ‘Aren’t they adorable?’ said Tim. He proceeded to hand feed them with skill and gentleness. He or Barrett had been doing this at 4- hourly intervals day and night and still found them adorable!

Pirdy - Cockatoo Parrot BirdAfter a few weeks they were nicely feathering up and sharing the incubator and then the weaning cage with a Moluccan cockatoo. One of the chicks seemed bolder than the other. I chose that one.

On my fortnightly visits, I started to hold MY chick and observe what was going on in the nursery. A clutch of military macaws was learning to fly, doing Charlie Chaplin imitations as soon as they landed; some eggs were in incubators. I learnt to handle Barrett’s two enormous Blue and Gold pet macaws. I learnt the difference between birds being reared as pets and ones for breeding. Everything Barrett and Tim did was explained; they were limitlessly patient.

The chicks were also taught to ‘Step up’ before they were even fledged. They were accustomed to household noises like vacuum cleaners and washing machines. On the last visit but one before we bought our bird home,  Tim emerged from the nursery with the 2 Greys and the Moluccan perched on his stretched out arm, all four looking pleased as Punch. Another advantage of buying a bird from a reputable breeder is that Artha was harness trained as she was being weaned. When the chicks pecked, Tim would gently blow the top of their heads and say, ‘Don’t bite.’ This technique worked with our bird once we got it home. Hand on heart I can say that Artha has never bitten a human in 15 years. (To be 100% honest, I have to say she has bitten other birds.)  Her name is Artha because she was at first thought to be a cock bird whom we named Arthur. After a month at home, I decided that Arthur perched like a hen bird. A DNA test proved me right. Being so used to calling Arthur we feminised the name to Artha. That happened fifteen years ago.

Siesta - Birds - AviaryA home-made aviary was constructed to give the birds  fresh air and space to fly.  And the aviary itself – like Topsy ‘it just growed’. We added sections yearly until the whole aviary now measures 40 meters in length. The trees inside have grown and I am terribly proud when I cannot see the inhabitants who are amongst the leaves.

Our family suffered a personal tragedy when our youngest daughter, Zoe, died at 27. Artha’s apparent empathy while I was grieving gave me the urge to devote time and effort to understand birds and providing a home for those in need. Because the aviary is  large, I have been offered birds in need of a home.

A year later Casper came from Barrett to keep Artha company. Sad to say they – although good friends – have never mated and produced the patter of tiny claws for us to marvel at.

With birds I entered a new world; birds are not mammals. A puppy, a kitten and a baby share far more traits in common than we do with our pet birds.  But one of the most fascinating aspects of parrot keeping is that the modern way of training them by positive reinforcement is also the best way to train your puppy, your kitten – or your partner!  I hope to describe positive reinforcement training and give case studies which illustrate how it works out in practice. Theories are great but if they don’t produce the result you want  you are apt to discard them.

Need for training your birds

Training is essential for full-winged birds, especially if any of them share your living space. They must know and accept the recall. I’ve had my birds fly out of the house through a carelessly left open  window or door but once found, they’ve flown down to me because they know the recall. Casper, an escape artist of almost indescribable genius, has scarpered to the village a quarter of a mile away even before his absence has been noticed. Unfortunately, he likes people and has flown into village houses and into open cars. I’ve been lucky; his newly found human friends were all honest folk and he was returned. But I dare not allow him the liberty he so clearly craves.