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How to bond with a previously owned African Grey

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

How to bond with a previously owned African Grey

Postby Ruby2017 » Thu May 24, 2018 5:15 pm

I am blessed to own Ruby. She is an almost 2 year old African Grey. She was with the same owner until I got her 5 days ago. I have been using a sleeve that I made out of 2 hoodie sleeves sewn together when I get her to step up. One time she tried biting me when I told her to step up. It wasn't the type of bite where she was just trying to grab for her step up. It was a lunging bite. She even laughed after I said ouch. I know I shouldn't have said it. I just came out. So now I use the sleeve to get her to step up. Once up I switch her to my bare hand & remove the sleeve. She is very talkative & sweet. I don't want to do the wrong thing by getting her to step up. I also don't want to let her get mean because she isn't being handled. I have previously owned a parrot but it was a cockatoo that I hand raised so it was different. I just want to do the right thing with Ruby. I want her to bond with me but I know it's a process. I just don't want to do the wrong thing so here I am. Once she steps up she seems fine. We are cautious of each other right now.
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 2
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: African Grey
Flight: No

Re: How to bond with a previously owned African Grey

Postby Pajarita » Fri May 25, 2018 10:32 am

Welcome to the forum, Ruby and human! Well, for one thing, you should not be asking her to step up yet. You are a stranger to her and parrots don't like it when strangers take familiarities with them. You need to establish trust before the bird can bond with you but asking her to step up when she doesn't know you from Adam is the same as a stranger walking up to you and putting his arm around your shoulders. You would immediately distrust this stranger and push his arm away from you and that is what she is doing when she bites you. Rehomed parrots need time to get used to their new home, routine and, most importantly, new human - they are not dogs that have been bred for over 30,000 to be people-oriented, they are undomesticated animals that still react like the wild ones. Not giving them the time they need and pushing for a relationship that doesn't exist yet would only delay and maybe even derail the process.

As to her biting, your using 'sleeves' and your 'Ouch!', the thing is that parrots bite when they feel that this is the ONLY way of getting their point across and when you keep on insisting, you are not really getting them used to you, you are actually teaching the bird that it's your way or the highway [a real bad thing with parrots which do not recognize leaders and are not 'programmed' for obedience or subservience] and that biting you is the only choice she has left to let you know that you are doing something wrong [which is a REAL bad thing for you].

All my birds came from somebody else and they have all adapted very well so let me tell you what I do: NOTHING! :lol: In reality, it's not 'nothing' but that's the way it would seem to most people because I never ask for interaction. When I first get them and for the first two days, I keep them in their cages. I follow the same exact schedule that I do for all my birds but, when I open their cages at dawn, I leave the new ones in them. I feed them, clean their cages, talk to them, offer a treat [at the same time that I do the 'old' ones and the same treat] and just let them get used to me, the routine, the food, the new home, etc. On the third day [this actually depends on the bird], I open the door to their cage and walk away. If they want to come out, they can - and if they don't, that's fine, too. Pet parrots need to feel that they have some control over their lives, that they have choices and that not everything is up to the human in order to achieve a certain contenment in their lives and a good relationship with their humans. As a note, if you don't free-feed protein food [which is the healthiest option for them], it's very easy to get them to go back into their cages. Afterward, I simply play it by ear and observe them to figure out when and if they want to establish a closer relationship with me. Birds that have not been severely neglected or abused in their previous life ALWAYS do so it's just a matter of waiting them out, watching them closely and responding to them when they show they do.

Now, as to the 'Ouch!' - I know that there is this theory that if you react when they hurt you, they will continue to do it but, for the life of me, I don't know why they think this! They claim that they 'confuse' the exclamation of pain for 'drama', which they are supposed to like, and will continue to do it just for fun. This theory has two HUGE holes:
1. Parrots are VERY smart and masters of the human body language and tone of voice and know very well the difference between an exclamation of pain and one of joy and anybody who has had parrots for a long time will agree with me 100%. These birds can tell when we are upset, when we are happy, when we are sad so why would anybody believe that they would confuse something as plain as a startled jump with a loud 'OUCH!'? with laughter or delight? They are so attuned to our tone of voice that my parrots can tell the difference in the meaning of exactly the same words said with a different tone of voice - they know the difference between a playful: "Wachudoooing?" and a stern: "What are you DOING?!"
2. Parrots are not masochistic and they are not naturally aggressive. They don't enjoy causing pain - quite the contrary, they are EXTREMELY empathetic and sympathetic! So the 'they cause pain to entertain themselves with the dramatic reaction' is nothing but bullcrap! They are also not naturally aggressive because they are not predators or live in a hierarchical society so the nature did not give them the 'aggression trait'. Parrots aggression is reserved exclusively for protection or defense of themselves, their mates or their nests and babies. Period. So why would a naturally empathetic animal which does not have a natural aggression trait be happy causing pain? It makes no sense!

I have taken in birds that had aggression issues. Birds that went out of their way to attack me without provocation. I am talking about a bird flying out with its claws open and in front of its body, ready to grab my head with them. And, yes, they did bite -HARD!- and they did it on purpose but these were birds that had been severely abused [one of them was actually punched with a closed fist] or neglected to the point of abuse for years so they had no reason to believe that another human [me] was any different. And I taught them by making a big deal of the pain they caused. I would react with a loud 'OWWWWW' and a 'Bad bird! Don't bite!' and I would 'retaliate' by making a beak out of my right hand and making two or three downward movement with it over their heads [as if I was going to 'peck' them] while cawing loud and then moving away from them. I never touch them, I just react the same way a strong, powerful bird would react if a member of their flock would attack them [which only happens when two males want the same female] because the only birds that fly away without complaint from an aggressor are the weak ones and you don't want to be the weak one in the relationship, you want to be an equal. But this is NOT the case with your bird. She is NOT being aggressive, she is simply letting you know that she's not happy with you and what you are asking of her because, in her mind, you did not 'listen' to her when she was telling [showing you with her body language] you this.

So, my advice to you is stop asking her to step up and wait for her to take the first step toward a closer relationship with her -same as you would do with a human. It will happen and, when it does, your relationship will flourish because it will be built on a strong foundation of respect and trust.
Norwegian Blue
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 18319
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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