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Mixed messages & fear...

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

Mixed messages & fear...

Postby Bephlam » Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:39 am

Hi folks,

This is my first real post, so be patient with me...I have been known to go on a bit! :D

We recently purchased an Indian Ringneck Parakeet, who has been with us for 10 days now. He is 18 weeks old, and the breeder assured us he was hand reared, and therefore already hand tame. When he arrived, the breeder used a big thick glove to move him from his travel cage in to a tiny little cage he was sold on to us with (this caused me some concern, and suspicion, as I couldn't quite understand why the person who hand reared him would have to use a glove to touch him). Anyway, once in the house we quickly agreed that his cage was ridiculously small for him and immediately purchased him a new one, which we moved him in to on his 3rd day of being with us. I used a towel to transfer him, and although he made a bit of a noise...actually remained quite relaxed and quickly settled in to his new environment.

We have spent the rest of his time with us simply trying to get him used to us, our environment and routine, etc. My partner and I have both been chatting to him through the bars...and although at first he would shake and move away, he did become more accustomed to us and began tilting his head from side of side and although not approaching us, no longer felt the need to run away. I then moved on to the next step of my own made up 'graded exposure' method...I opened his cage and placed my hand inside, with a treat on it, just leaning it on a perch and staying still (whilst talking to him)...at first he went mad, flapping and climbing away...but in recent days he'd been coming on to the same perch as my hand and just sitting. When he tolerated my hand for a while, I'd leave a treat...and say Bye. I repeated this 2-3 times a day, every day. I don't know if this is progress, but he seemed to be doing ok.

I was then given advice by a few 'parrot people' to go ahead and pick him up (as he wasn't coming to take the treat), using a towel or a glove. Hold him gently in my hands and head tickle whilst talking to him...do this twice a day for a couple of weeks and he'll soon be used to me. Now, although I felt this was not the right thing to do...I had no experience myself, so trusted this method...and went ahead and caught him last night. He went mad, but I got him and held him...the poor guy was so stressed, biting me and screaching...I didn't pull away from the bites, and remained calm but to be honest I felt this method was detrimental to him and me. He recovered quickly once back in his cage...but now I feel it's taken us a good few steps back. He began shaking when I approached the cage (no wonder) and moving away from me when I spoke. By bed time I had managed to convince him again that there really was nothing to fear, and although not as comfortable as before...he was sitting still when I moved about the room. :lol:

So, after that LONG story...what I'm trying to establish is if I'm doing things right or wrong. In my opinion, last nights attempt was WRONG on every level...and as such am now moving back to stage 1 of my method....going to get him used to my hands and voice through the bars again, before moving on to putting my hand inside. I am in no rush to tame him, and believe things will take as long as they need to...but of course I want a happy bird, who can enjoy some time out the cage as well as in it. Plus, I want a bird who wants to come to me and spend time with me, not one who has been forced in to the situation.

Thanks for taking the time to read all of that....I really would appreciate any feedback (good or bad) and advice on how to take things to the next level in a way that won't stress my bird, or me! :shock:

Look forward to learning from you all....
Last edited by Bephlam on Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Bephlam
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Gender: This parrot forum member is female
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Types of Birds Owned: Indian Ringneck, and a selection of chickens (which probably don't really count!)
Flight: Yes

Re: Mixed messages & fear...

Postby Suzzique » Tue Mar 09, 2010 9:24 am

First I would be very mad at the breeder for selling you a parent rased baby and not a hand rased. A hand rased baby would be easy to handle and should already know step up. There would be no reason to handle the bird in the way you described.

Now sense your baby isn't tame what you discribed is truely the best way to go about it. Take it slow and let him come to you at his pace. I wouldn't listen to the people that told you to force yourself on your baby. That isn't good and will distroy trust. Birds are all about trust. You are lucky that you have a baby and building his trust should go faster than if he was an adult.

Oh and when he is coming to you make sure you read Michael's post on teaching step up.

Keep us posted on your progress and don't be afraid to ask questions. :thumbsup:
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Martini - senegal
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Re: Mixed messages & fear...

Postby Bephlam » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:15 pm

Thanks Suzz,

Yeah, I am pretty mad at the breeder for misinforming me. I don't mind that the baby is parent reared...but I would have appreciated honesty from them, that way I know what to expect. I don't have a huge amount of experience with exotic birds, but I hatch and rear my own chickens (and have taken on a few problem birds) so I'm well used to the time and effort required to turn these little things from fearful to a wonderful companion and pet. It's all very rewarding! :D

I must admit, I had a few moments of feeling really low about Paolo...when I established he wasn't 'hand tame'. Began thinking I should take him back and go to a more reputable breeder for a hand reared baby...but then, I've had him 11 days, and I already love him. It's not his fault...he's only reacting naturally. I'm now going to focus my time and energy on getting him used to me...and his environment.

Hopefully within a few months he'll be much improved! :mrgreen:
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Bephlam
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Gender: This parrot forum member is female
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Location: West Lothian, Scotland, UK
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Indian Ringneck, and a selection of chickens (which probably don't really count!)
Flight: Yes

Re: Mixed messages & fear...

Postby Michael » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:25 pm

This does not necessarily mean the baby was parent reared. You simply have to understand that there are different "quality" levels of interaction that could be had during rearing. You could have a parent raised baby that had a lot of interaction, attention, and handling from the breeder and be tamer than a hand reared baby where the breeder merely shoved food down its throat when it was hungry and nothing else. Don't get tricked into thinking hand rearing means everything. It doesn't. The way the breeder interacts with the bird is key. And the fact that he used a glove to grab the bird really makes me suspicious of his techniques/handling. Whether the bird was parent/hand raised is mostly irrelevant. It's the lack of quality handling that is appalling.

But do not worry, the bird is still fairly young and can be taught right. Even wild caught birds have been tamed so all is not lost. It will just be harder and a bigger challenge than a sweet baby. This will be a good test of your patience and ability but if you tame this bird, it will be very rewarding.

Besides the step up article, you may also find my harness training article to be useful. I know that you are not training the bird to wear a harness but the technique to get your hands on the bird is similar to getting a harness on it. Check out both articles to equip yourself with the knowledge and mentality of the basics of taming.

Harness Training and Hand Taming Article

Step up training article
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Re: Mixed messages & fear...

Postby Bephlam » Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:06 pm

Thanks Michael!

I have had a good read of the articles, and feel much more positive about my initial approach. Clearly I was doing things right...I should never have listened to the 'experts'...lol!

I've felt a bit low about the hand tame thing for the past couple of days, but today feel very positive about the whole thing....he's a gorgeous little fella, who really wants to be friends...he's just terrified. Today I've ordered new pelleted complete food (to remove the ready available treats from his cage, so we can use these as food rewards and incentives), and I've began working with him again. He's responding quickly...stopped shaking again, and started coming over to listen to my voice, etc.

I WILL tame this bird...with love and patience...and it'll be worth it! Someone said to me the other day...'nothing in life is free'...so this is my emotional payment for his friendship! :mrgreen:

I'll keep you all posted on our journey...and thanks for the advice....!!

B & Paolo! :thumbsup:
I love to talk about nothing. It's the only thing I know anything about...
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Bephlam
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Gender: This parrot forum member is female
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Location: West Lothian, Scotland, UK
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Indian Ringneck, and a selection of chickens (which probably don't really count!)
Flight: Yes

Re: Mixed messages & fear...

Postby Michael » Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:58 pm

I think flooding (as you were advised by some people you say) can work successfully in some cases to expedite taming. However, I would advise to leave that to experienced parrot owners that can read the bird. For beginners I would recommend sticking to positive reinforcement based training cause you can't go wrong. This way you can grown with the parrot. Personally, I would probably combine a training diet, flooding, negative reinforcement, and positive reinforcement on that bird. That's how Kathleen and I tamed Duke in under a week and in fact I did most of that on Kili as well.

However, you sound less confident and less knowledgeable about the bird body language and how to do it so I would totally recommend not doing that and sticking to the positive reinforcement based training like targeting, etc. However, do not let it take too long. You have to get progress with every session. I would guess it should take 2-4 weeks the way you are doing it. It could be done in under 2 with aggressive/active training but you don't need that. If you are finding that after a month you still can't get parrot out of cage, you will have to reevaluate your approach before it gets too cage bound and never wants to spend time around humans.
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Re: Mixed messages & fear...

Postby Bephlam » Thu Mar 11, 2010 4:08 am

You're right Michael, at present I don't claim to be an expert in parrot body language, but during my final year at uni (vet nursing) I specialised in behaviour....and although this was more focussed on companion pets, I believe it's offered me some insight in to animal body language, etc. I am a fast learner, and simply want to do what's best for the bird! I do not want a cage bound bird :( Perhaps you could offer me some specific advice on whaty I should be doing on a daily basis, and what kind of progress I should hope to see in terms of the 'under a month' time scale. Ta! X
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Bephlam
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Gender: This parrot forum member is female
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Location: West Lothian, Scotland, UK
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Indian Ringneck, and a selection of chickens (which probably don't really count!)
Flight: Yes

Re: Mixed messages & fear...

Postby Michael » Thu Mar 11, 2010 9:42 am

The reason I say it's important to have the parrot tame and stepping up in under a month is because you don't want to establish a habit/routine of not stepping up. Furthermore you don't want territorial aggression to worsen. I think (other than one-person-bird nature of Senegals) the reason Kili was against Kathleen was because for the first few months Kathleen never handled Kili, so Kili decided to keep it that way when Kathleen DID decide to start handling her. With parrots it seems that once they get into a habit, they are are kind of reluctant to change it. So I think being too lax in taming the bird (ie taking your time beyond a few weeks/month), the development of a no-touch habit would outweigh the rate at which taming progress is made.

The first thing to get started is to establish a treat. Start by presenting different foods in a bowl and letting the parrot try them. Do this several times and within 3 days the parrot will demonstrate a clear preference. If it's a seed mix, it will eat certain seeds first. Don't worry about serving your parrot "less healthy" treats like sunflower seeds, nuts, etc because this is just to get it used to you. You can switch to healthier treats once you establish a training set up. Next, start feeding them through the cage bars. First you might just lay the treat on the perch and walk away a little. Soon enough you should be able to hold it just inside the cage with your hand and then just outside the cage so the parrot can stick its beak out and reach.
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Re: Mixed messages & fear...

Postby Bephlam » Mon Mar 15, 2010 12:14 pm

Right, well I've established a treat....a monkey nut. He adores them...however, it appears he doesn't adore anything enough to come and take it from us. We've went right back to basics...chatting to him through the bars, then attempted to give him treats through the bars. He just won't look at you, or show any interest...he climbs away as far as possible from you...and if he does approach, he squawks at you and looks quite aggressive. Of course, we ignore this behaviour...but I don't see any improvement. His cage can't be left open at the moment, because if he does come out, I have absolutely no faith I'll be able to get him in...!

So, where to go from here? are we beginning to see some cage aggression? He's still at the stage where he moves away from you if you just stand up to go to the bathroom...although he'll happily watch us eat, and eat his fruit whilst we eat etc...and listen to us chatter away...even moving in his cage to get a clear view of us if we're watching TV or something. He does allow us to put our hand in the cage, but he does move away every time...and it seems that regardless of the length of time you leave your hand there, he never decides to investigate, even if you have a treat in your hand.

He's been with us 15 days....and remember half way through his second week I flooded him (as per advice) and freaked him out.

Any ideas? :cry:
I love to talk about nothing. It's the only thing I know anything about...
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Bephlam
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Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 11
Location: West Lothian, Scotland, UK
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Indian Ringneck, and a selection of chickens (which probably don't really count!)
Flight: Yes

Re: Mixed messages & fear...

Postby Michael » Mon Mar 15, 2010 1:01 pm

How often and for how long do you feed him? If you are leaving food in all day in unlimited quantity, why should he possibly want to take food from your hand when it is also available in the bowl? If the parrot is still very young, I do not recommend twice a day feedings like I use. Rather, take the food bowl away for a few hours at a time until you find for how long to take it away that hand fed treats become more effective. Try taking away for 2 hours, hand feed, return food, another time try 3, 4, etc but more than 6.

The parrot may not necessarily take food right from your hand. Look into options like having it take food from near you, from something you are holding (like a spoon), etc. BTW, is the parrot comfortable eating its food when you are present? Can you put your hand on the cage bars right next to the food bowl while it is eating without freaking out? If not, you should try to make yourself present and continually closer while it is eating. You see, birds are more vulnerable when they are eating so a first level of trust you can try to earn is to let it get comfortable eating in your presence. Obviously it won't eat from your hand if it won't even eat while near you.

Unless you establish a treat and accustom the parrot to eating from your hand, there is no way you can establish a positive reinforcement based training routine.
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