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Scared Budgie

Discuss the methods and techniques of clicker training, target training and bonding. These are usually the first steps in training a young parrot.

Scared Budgie

Postby Shea H » Thu Nov 12, 2020 11:16 pm

Hi everyone. For the past couple years I've been trying to train my budgie. No matter what I do, my bird is always scared of me. She runs to the opposite side of her cage if I try to interact with her and won't comfortably eat if I'm in the room. I've been very persistent with her getting used to my hand and nothing works. Is there anything I can do to make her trust me? Thanks.
Shea H
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 3
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Budgie
Flight: No

Re: Scared Budgie

Postby Pajarita » Fri Nov 13, 2020 10:26 am

Hi, Shea, welcome to the forum. When you say "She runs to the opposite side of her cage if I try to interact with her" does it mean that you are sticking your hand inside the cage? Because if that is what you have been doing, that is the reason why she is still very afraid of you. The 'sticking your hand in the cage' is a flooding technique that was used many years ago and no longer used because instead of making the bird comfortable to your presence, it actually makes them more afraid. To put it simply, it's counterproductive - it does the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. Flooding training is when you, pretty much, force the bird to accept something it does not want to accept. The ONLY way to tame a bird (which is what you have been trying to do, it's not really training, it's taming) is to first show the bird that we not only present no threat but that we will also respect its wishes. Birds do not do well with obedience or subservience (they do not have the genetic make-up for it like dogs or horses do) and the only way to establish a bond with them is to allow them to make their own choice. When you put your hand inside her cage, you are not only invading her 'personal space', you are also telling her that it's your way or the highway and that never works well. Never.

Now, the first thing you need to do is to stop doing anything. Just open her cage and let her come out to fly, clean the cage and put fresh food in it - the right kind of food, do NOT free-feed seeds or pellets, she needs a good diet with whole grains, veggies and a different green every day not only because it's healthy but also because you need to reserve the seeds to give as treats during the day (you will also use them for her dinner). You need to ignore her so she very slowly and very gradually starts losing her fear of you. Mind you, this is going to take a loooong time because you are not starting at zero, like people who get a budgie normally do, you are starting a -10 because you were doing the wrong thing. So arm yourself of patience and just keep on ignoring her until she is no longer afraid of you (when you see that she starts perching near where you are or even on your head and doesn't fly away whenever you approach the place where she is perching). When you see that she is fine with you, you can start offering her treats. Identify what will become her 'high value item' (it will be, most likely, a sunflower seed but do not use the black ones, only the grey striped ones). She won't take the treat from your hand at the beginning so just leave it where she can reach it and walk away. It is very important that she realizes that you are not forcing her to do anything at any point in time. Once you see that she is expecting the treat (you should always use the same word to let her know a treat is coming) and either moves closer to you and/or does not wait until you walk away to grab the treat consistently (you need to wait until she does it every time for a few days in a row), you start offering the treat on your hand. Put the seed on the tip of your longest finger (usually the middle one) and just leave it there, without moving the hand AT ALL, until she takes it. If she doesn't, walk away WITH THE SEED. Come back ten minutes later and offer her the seed again (you will need to have time to do this because you need to leave your hand out with the seed for a number of minutes). Again, if she doesn't take it, walk away. Do not offer the seed on your hand more than three times. If she doesn't take it the third time, she will have to wait until either much later in the day or the next day. When she finally takes the seed, praise, praise, praise and leave it at that - do NOT offer her one seed after the other, it would defeat the purpose of training. Now, this whole treat/praise exercise only works if you do not free-feed seeds because, if you do, it won't. The best time to do this is in the afternoon, when the sun is already going down because the light of dusk makes them hungry and, as she will know by then that her dinner is seeds, it will work in your favor. Once she starts taking treats from your hand, you can start training her to step up to your finger with the seed as a reward for it. If you are super patient and put months into it, you will be able to get her to step up and step down.


Having said all this, I need to tell you something else and I hope you don't take offense at it and understand that I am a bird lover and that, to me, what people what or do not want out of their birds is irrelevant. To me, the most important thing is that the birds are healthy and happy in their home and a single budgie will never be healthy or happy no matter what you do or do not do for it. It simply cannot happen because nature did not evolve them to live all alone with humans. It is a terribly stressful and lonely life for them... So, if you really love your bird and want her to be happy and healthy, I would strongly urge you to get her a companion. Budgies are aviary species (not companion) that need to live in a flock to be well - this is not my opinion, it is a scientific fact. Most people cannot have a small flock (three bonded pairs living in a large aviary cage are the perfect number) so, at least, they should give them a companion so they do not feel so terribly lonely and sad all the time. Please think about it.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 17890
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

Re: Scared Budgie

Postby Shea H » Fri Nov 13, 2020 4:52 pm

Thank you so much for your suggestions and advice. I will be changing my budgie's diet and will start letting her out of her cage. How would you recommend that I get her back into the cage? Regarding the second budgie. I'm am strongly considering getting a new one, and I have been for some time but I have some concerns. I did have two birds but unfortunately one passed away after me owning it for a number of years. Artemis was always very aggressive towards the other bird, she constantly harassed them, and I fear that her hostility might've played a part in their passing. Do you recommend that I try again with a new bird? My presence within their cage could've also been a factor as well.
Shea H
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 3
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Budgie
Flight: No

Re: Scared Budgie

Postby Pajarita » Sat Nov 14, 2020 11:31 am

Yes, the stress of your hand in their cage was, most definitely, one of the causes for her aggression. Another one could have been that she was overly hormonal due to diet and possibly also a human light schedule because budgies absolutely LOVE other budgies and the only time they fight is when two young males choose the same female. But, once the female chooses one of the two males, fights are over forever.

One needs to be VERY careful with budgies because they are super opportunistic breeders - so much so that people used to believe (and you still find references to this online to this day) that they can breed all year round when, in nature, no bird does that. EVER. Give them a human schedule and/or free-feed them protein food (pellets, seeds, nuts, avicakes, nutriberries, etc) and they will start producing sexual hormones and never stop (birds in the wild don't produce sexual hormones all year round, they start, they breed and then they stop until the next year) which makes them overly hormonal and that always means aggression. So the right diet and the right light schedule are both essential to their wellbeing. I had a large budgie flock (over 30) when I had the rescue in Pa and had 7 or 8 of them in this house and they did great together - never a problem, good eaters, good bathers... pretty, healthy and happy little birds that require almost no effort to care for properly. I LOVE budgies and can't wait until I am able to get another little flock of them (my husband misses them - he used to stop everyday by their cage and comment on how beautiful they were and he is not a bird person!).

There are three tricks to keep budgies well: 1) good husbandry (diet, light schedule, housing) - 2) only put together birds that belong to the same age group (meaning not mixing babies with juveniles with adults) and 3) keep an even number of males and females until you have more than three pairs (it's either one male/female pair, two pairs or three pairs but, after that, you can have uneven numbers although I always think it's kind of cruel to leave one without a mate of its own). If you do this and give them a large cage, roomy enough for them to fly a bit in it (with natural tree branches, little swings, etc) and enough feeders and water bowls for all of them (you can put their grain/veggie food on a paper plate at the bottom of the cage -which works better for them because they are partial ground foragers so going to ground to feed is a natural behavior for them) but, if you use bowls, you need to put enough of them so they don't fight for them).

Now, the best way to get them used to going back into their cage on their own is to get them used to a strict meal routine - breakfast of grain/veggie with leafy greens (always put the leafy greens dripping water both hanging from the top of the cage and stuck between the bars -they like to 'bathe' in them, another natural behavior for them because they come from a semi-arid climate and it's dangerous for them to spend too much time on the ground even if there is a source of water nearby so they use the wet tree leaves to 'bathe) at dawn and seeds for dinner at dusk. After you have been doing this for a couple of weeks (a delay that will also help with her fear of you because you are going to leave her be during this time), you start by letting her out one hour before dinner time (take the food out of her cage when you let her out). When it's dinner time (the room will have darkened a bit by then because the sun is setting but she will still be able to see very clearly), you put seeds on the bottom of the cage and give her the command to go inside (I use 'Go Home!" but you can use whatever word or phrase you want as long as you always use the same). I also use a long stick (a dowel from a flight cage) to 'herd' them in (I never touch them with the stick, I simply hold it aloft and behind them kind of 'herding' them in the right direction. Now, I am not going to lie to you, it takes a few weeks and A LOT of patience to teach them to do this because, at the beginning, they do not understand what you want and because they have been kept in a cage for so long, they do NOT want to go back into it so, sometimes, you will have to spend an hour or so waiting them out until hunger and their desire for the seeds (and this is why it's so important that they don't get seeds all day long - aside from their health, of course!) win and they go in. And, sometimes, night will fall and they are still out - in which case what you need to do is make the room completely dark and put a light above the cage shining into it so the only lit place is their cage because birds always fly toward the light when in darkness. And, if this fails (but you do need to wait at least half an hour), then you will have to turn off the light on the cage and throwing something like, say, a kitchen towel on her, gently grab her and put her back in her cage.

As time goes by and the birds get used to going back to their cage for their dinner, you can start allowing them a couple of hours of flight instead of only one and you will even be able to let them out in the morning - which is what I do. I open their cages as soon as there is a little bit of light (this time of the year, 6:15 to 6:30 am) and clean their cages, prepare their food for the day, etc and when their cages are ready, I tell them to go home - and they all go because they are really hungry for their breakfast. I leave them in their cages for about 20 minutes or so and then let them out again until the early pm (this time of the year, I put them back in their cages at 2 pm) when I turn off the overhead lights. And, although there is no seed dinner in their cages, they go back willingly because they are now again quite hungry as I close the doors to their cage so they cannot go in and munch whenever they feel like it. Then, at 3:30 pm, they get their seed dinner and get ready to go to sleep (the days are very short this time of the year).

I have one bird (a female GCC) that I know for a fact is parent-raised and two more (male and female Quaker pair) that I highly suspect they were not handfed either and that means I cannot handle them at all because they will not allow me to even touch them (same as budgies would) but they all go in when I tell them to and use my 'baton' (I need to make a video so people can see how easy it is to do this but neither my husband nor I are very good at technology). Parrots are incredibly smart birds and learn very easily to follow commands as long as the caregiver is patient, consistent and persistent and as long as what we ask them to do is not against their nature - and there is nothing more natural to them than eating at dawn and dusk so by using their natural habits as tools, it's not a hard thing to teach them to go back into their cages when we need them to. BUT, this also means that we do the same thing every day and that we do not try to 'trick' them by making them believe they will get a treat when they are not going to. Parrots think like people do (it's called general intelligence and it means that they use different sources to reach a single conclusion) so they remember what we do and expect us to do 'the right thing' so, if you ever need to get them to go back into their cages early, you need to give them something to make it worth it (just a little bit of seed would do).

Let me know if there is anything else we can help you with and thank you so much for considering getting her a mate!
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 17890
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

Re: Scared Budgie

Postby Shea H » Mon Jan 11, 2021 2:30 pm

Hey, I've run into another problem training my budgie. I've finally been able to get her on a better diet and now she's used to a normal schedule but now she won't come out of her cage. For the past week I've given her an option to leave her cage and she hasn't made any attempt to do so. I'll put food outside of her cage but she still seems uninterested. Any advice?
Shea H
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 3
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Budgie
Flight: No

Re: Scared Budgie

Postby Pajarita » Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:18 am

Well, not being there to observe the bird makes it real hard to figure out why she is doing that but there has to be something because birds were created for complete freedom and when one chooses to stay in a cage there has to be a reason for it... especially budgies which are flighty little things that hardly ever stay put and love to fly here and there all the time. Could it be that you are letting her out at the wrong time of the day? Could it be that every time she comes out, you try to train her? Could it be that she is clipped? Could it be that there are no perches next to the door to the cage and it's hard for her to get back inside when she wants to?

Aside from a specific reason for it, budgies never feel safe and completely comfortable when they are alone so it's possible that this is part of the reason -they are not companion birds, you know.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 17890
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes


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