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Parrot Hates to Be Touched?

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

Parrot Hates to Be Touched?

Postby Cockatiel Lover » Mon Dec 29, 2014 7:53 pm

I have been trying to pet or scratch my parrot for ages now. I've been using the clicker and awarding my cockatiel each time she let me come a bit closer, but it's getting nowhere for the past two weeks. Once however, she was asking my other parrot for a scratch and I started scratching her instead. She let me do it for a good 30 seconds until she realized it was me and nipped at me. Whenever I try this again, it doesn't work because she knows it's me. She's comfortable with coming on my shoulder and stepping up, so why won't she let me pet her? Should I use Michael's method of positive reinforcement and hold her until she stops fighting? Help please. :thumbsup:
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Re: Parrot Hates to Be Touched?

Postby Wolf » Mon Dec 29, 2014 8:11 pm

Please don't hold her like you said, that is not positive reinforcement or positive anything and is most definitely not the way to deal with your bird. I see that you have a second post and your problems as mentioned are closely related and so I will address them together shortly. I must leave for a short time but will return to help you soon. Look for me in your other post.
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Re: Parrot Hates to Be Touched?

Postby Cockatiel Lover » Tue Dec 30, 2014 3:23 pm

Thank you, Wolf. I have posted my reply in the other topic as well. Let me know if you need any additional information. :greycockatiel:
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Re: Parrot Hates to Be Touched?

Postby Seth » Fri Jan 09, 2015 3:24 am

You should use Michael's method, but your suggestion is starting in the advanced class.

The big thing is patience. It might take months and months (it certainly has for me) to be able to do the simplest touching.

My conures hated to be touched at first. They are still a bit apprehensive about it at times and they are certainly nowhere near as touch tamed as Michael's birds are. We at least have them at the point where we can perform emergency treatment, inspections, and safety grabs (e.g. sudden dangerous environment - bird held firmly with no fuss). Depending on their mood I might even be able to scritch them a bit without penalty or having to give them a treat (beak scritches, which is where we started - are almost always cool).

Part of our issue is that they are a bonded pair who preen each other all day so why should we be needed to help with that. Molting time is a great taming training opportunity because the bird learns more easily that your touching it can alleviate the stress of pin feathers that are ready to have the film removed. However, if there are two birds that are bonded and insist of taking care of that for each other - well, you are a third wheel and out of luck.

So where to start? Start just by hovering your hand near the bird from a position it can see the hand (birds cannot see directly behind them). Give the bird a really good treat and let it eat it while you keep your hand there. Make sure the hand is at a distance that the bird is not going to freak out in any way. When you notice that the bird no longer shows signs of stress at your hand being there, bring it a little closer and let the bird eat a treat while your hand is there. Essentially you are using positive association of your hand being near the bird means it gets to eat an awesome treat.

This could take weeks or months depending on how much your bird hates to be touched.

Eventually you are centimeters away from the bird and then you might be able to even just touch the side of its wing ever so gently while it eats a treat (you might also get bit the first bunch of times).

Then after a lot of times doing that (probably hundreds) maybe you can touch the bird somewhere nearby until you can gently touch it just about anywhere. Then maybe you can gently run your finger along the wing or the back or ruffle the neck feathers a bit or ruffle the tummy feathers. You gotta play this by ear but it has to be super slow going getting the bird more and more comfortable. Try not to be nervous. Think of it as an exercise in you staying calm and relaxed so the bird does not sense any apprehension from you and get nervous because you are.

Wing spreading took a lot of extra attention. First just touching the edge of the wing. Then gently sort of but not really gripping it with two fingers. Then the tiniest bit of a tug of pressure until eventually the wing was starting to spread and then properly spread.

We practice the wing spreading both with the bird flipped on its back in the palm of our hand and sitting on our finger. The female is totally cool with this not being flipped on her back - but she hates the helplessness of being on her back - it has to be by permission. The male is the opposite.

Michael's book details this method much better and in more detail than I am - so go read his articles and book.
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Re: Parrot Hates to Be Touched?

Postby liz » Fri Jan 09, 2015 9:22 am

I am now able to scratch Myrtles head. She has to have my finger in her mouth and my thumb goes to scratch. Her whole head is in my hand. She still won't let me scratch with one finger. It really makes me wonder what happened to her in her first year. She has bonded to me as close as a Mom and 2 year old little girl. She just doesn't want anything above her head.
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Re: Parrot Hates to Be Touched?

Postby Wolf » Fri Jan 09, 2015 11:30 am

That is interesting, Liz, because after Kiki switched her loyalties to me from My Lady she would duck or fly and return right away, basically anything to keep me from touching her on the head. It was a little frustrating as well as amusing to me because she was asking me to scratch her head before I tried to touch her. Sometimes, however, she would grab for my hand with her beak after asking for me to scratch her head, of course after having numerous chunks of my flesh removed by that same beak I was having no part of that. Then one day, she asked for a head scratch and reached with that gaping beak which did not work, so no scratch. She stated on my hand and walked to my fingers, my hand was palm up to stop her from picking at the many scabs that were there from her previous biting, and grabbed my finger. She didn't bite it but she would not let go for a while and just played with the end of my finger. She then asked for a head scratch and let me scratch her head. For the next two months she would ask for a head scratch and grab my thumb in her beak and let me scratch her head while she held my thumb. She still likes to hold my fingers in her beak, but it is no longer required for head scratches. It was like she was saying to me ' I will trust you if you will trust me.'
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Re: Parrot Hates to Be Touched?

Postby Pajarita » Fri Jan 09, 2015 1:09 pm

Please note that putting your hand inside the cage of a bird that doesn't trust you is considered flooding and no longer recommended as a training technique.
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Re: Parrot Hates to Be Touched?

Postby liz » Fri Jan 09, 2015 1:54 pm

So she found a way to get her head scratched without letting my whole hand go above her head.

I am really blessed that none of want to take chunks. Rosie (pit bull) was the only one.
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Re: Parrot Hates to Be Touched?

Postby liz » Fri Dec 09, 2016 7:38 am

Scratching Myrtles head was short live. It was only while she was hormonal. Just the opposite of other birds. She sees Rainbow walk up to me and put her head down. Rainbow would let me do it for hours if my hand did not get tired. She watches but does not come to me for scratches. She will leave me if I try. She has so many spikes that I can't wait for her to get hormonal so I can help her crack the wax on her feathers.
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