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Awwww, a new baby parrot.
Such sweet treasures to love and cuddle. In addition to the
joy they bring us, it is our responsibility to teach them things that will help
them integrate into our homes safely and happily.
The excitement and anxiety of bringing home that new baby
parrot is a day you will long remember. That baby parrot is going to grow up
fast and will be eager to learn new things. The following is a listing and brief
discussion of what I try to teach my baby parrots:
1. To step up to my hand on command and to step down on command. I use the
simple words Up and Down. This training is the most important thing I can teach
them. When this is learned, I consider my parrots hand trained and they are now
better companions for me and more trainable for future lessons. Down is not a
command my cockatoos like and is the harder command to teach. I put my hand into
the legs of the baby gently pushing saying Up and they have to or they fall off.
From there, they always progress to putting that foot out and stepping up
readily when they mature.
2. To come when called. Parrots are not obedient and I don't expect them to be.
Coming when called is not a natural thing for them to learn. But they are loving
and if you teach a baby parrot to come when called to get loved, it can help you
find them if they are lost. If they are ever in danger, you can call them out to
3. To wear their harness and leash. It is not considered safe to leave a parrot
unattended when wearing a harness and leash. If you want to take them outside
with you, a wing clip is not enough. A gust of wind can give them lift and they
are gone from your arm even with a clip. The harness and leash will prevent this
from occurring and is designed to keep the person and bird from becoming
separated outside. I put the harness and leash on my baby birds and take them
immediately outside to the nice sunshine. They quickly learn to associate that
leash with fun and raise their wings to assist me in getting the harness onto
4. To play with toys. Boredom is one of the critical parrot stresses that a
responsible parrot owner must help a parrot in a cage overcome. Teach them as
young birds to play with toys. If they seem uninterested, then you play with
them with the bird watching and try to make it an interactive event. Laugh and
ring the bell and show the bird how fun toys can be.
5. To eat a variety of foods. Offer a number of foods daily. Praise the bird
when they eat something new. Tie the broccoli up with a piece of birdy leather,
skewer the apple, and always try to make new foods fun. A varied, healthy diet
is producing a generation of spectacular parrots that feel good about themselves
and their person too.
6. To bite toys and not me. It is normal for a baby parrot to put things in
their beaks. They explore with them. Be sure there are toys to grab fast near
you to give a parrot so they will not learn to beak your fingers.
7. That sitting on my shoulder is a treat, not a right. If a parrot is alarmed
for its safety and/or yours, it will pinch bite you. Sometimes this bite is
hard. Face bites are painful, so keep them off your shoulder for your safety.
8. To do conditioned screaming. Establish a time and area where your bird can
scream all it wants. For my flock, I gather them all in the den, they sit on the
back of a chair or the breakfast bar stools, and when the final choir director
cockatoo is in place, they know it is time to scream together.
9. To go to other people that say "step up." Whether or not I can teach this has
been dependent on the parrot. Two of my parrots as baby birds refused to go to
others and still refuse.
10. To like a towel. Play peek a boo with a towel. There are times they will
have to be toweled like at the Veterinarian. If they are not afraid of a towel,
then there is less stress for them.
11. To eat from a spoon and from a bowl. The immediate benefit from spoon
feeding is the parrot bonds better. The long term effect is you can get them to
try new foods from a spoon and give medication if needed. If they have a bowl
they identify as theirs, then they will try new foods more readily from it.
12. Their names, parrots need an identity. My parrots quickly caught on to the
idea that I had a name, the dog had a name, and so did they. Pet names like
"Baby" are fine, but teach them what their name is.
13. To step up to a stick or a towel over my hand. Baby birds seem to learn this
easier than adults, so start young in case someone ever has to handle them that
is afraid of them, the stick can be a great tool to get the bird to cooperate by
stepping up to it.
14. To take food from your hand. This will help keep them tame. It also allows
you to introduce new foods.
15. The concept of being gentle with those mighty beaks. When they beak too
hard, tell them gentle and stroke their beak and try to get the idea across to
be gentle with you. The concept of telling a parrot "no bite" has not worked
with my baby parrots.
16. Stop when told, by holding your hand palm-up in the traditional stop symbol,
and saying stop. It could save them an injury.
17. There is a concept you may want to consider teaching. It is the concept of
"it's hot" or "it's dangerous." Stoves and ceiling fans are a hazard for indoor
birds. Rattle the pots on the stove, drop lids there, make lots of disturbing
noises so that is considered an area to avoid by your parrots. Take a broom and
knock around the ceiling fan, making noise, causing alarm in the bird. Perhaps
teaching the concept can help keep them accident free. It is teaching by fear.
Unless it is necessary in your parrot's environment, I would avoid teaching by
There are probably lots of other lessons you will want to try like teaching your
parrot to talk. Be consistent with the training. Build on their strengths. One
of my baby parrots was so communicative she learned to answer a few simple
questions. Today, I still feel so happy when I ask her "What's your name" and
she says, "Vanilla." Another idea to teach is to speak to me before I say step
up to take them out of the cage. Open the door, lean in expectantly and say
hello, hello, and wait to hear if your bird will make a sound in answer. A baby
bird sometimes only squeals. Then say "Step Up" in your best praise tone and hug
that baby bird close when you get him/her out. The effort to communicate with
you has been rewarded. To teach the lessons listed above and others designed to
enhance the bird's strengths enriches my life and the parrots.
Your expectations should be reasonable when teaching a parrot. No one can teach
a parrot to never scream. Parrots do that. It is instinctual behavior. Modifying
the behavior like creating conditioned screaming is the reasonable way. One
disappointment to me is my male Moluccan Cockatoo has never taken food from my
hand. It is not reasonable for me to insist he do this, but I am consistent and
offer him food at least once each day from my hand.
Be careful of teaching a lesson accidentally. My first parrot would bite when he
was a baby. I would take him back to his cage for a time out. He learned that
when he was tired or thirsty he should bite me so he could go back to his cage.
Ending each interactive session on a positive note is the way to teach lessons
to a parrot. An easy way for me to do this is to take them to see the bird in
the mirror. They all like to see their refelction in the mirror. After they
admire themselves a while, I return them to their cage and I always tell them,