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Parrot Terrified of Me/Bad Advice?

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

Parrot Terrified of Me/Bad Advice?

Postby Meyers101 » Sat Jul 27, 2019 2:52 pm

Hello,

I have owned a Meyer's Parrot for approximately three weeks. I was assured that she was hand raised. Despite this, she is utterly terrified of me. I cannot really begin basic training with her, because even getting her to accept a treat from my hand is extremely difficult. After several weeks, I have been able to have her hesitantly take a treat from my hand while it is in her cage, but she still isn't happy about it.

Strangely, (or perhaps not) just days after meeting my girlfriend, she happily sits on her arm and allows her to pet her.

I, perhaps foolishly, consulted the breeder about what to do and if this was normal. She told me to catch my bird and hold her close to my chest . I can't help but feel like this is NOT the best way about going about getting her to fear my less as when I put my hands into her cage, she thrashes around violently and it is virtually impossible to catch her. A few times when she has flown out of her cage, I have been able to "corner" her and touch her beak gently, but only if she has nowhere to go. I have done this about 3 or 4 times and it makes me extremely uncomfortable because I feel like it traumatizes her and is not productive whatsoever.

What I'm most worried about now is that these experiences where I have terrified her have done irreparable damage to our "relationship" and that she will never grow to like me.

Any advice or insight that anyone could provide would be much appreciated.
Meyers101
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 4
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Meyer's Parrot
Flight: Yes

Re: Parrot Terrified of Me/Bad Advice?

Postby Pajarita » Sun Jul 28, 2019 8:53 am

Welcome to the forum and don't worry, the bird will forgive you.

Now, as you seem to have realized already, asking breeders for advice is not the right thing to do because, to them, birds are breeding stock or merchandise while, to us, they are beloved members of our family. What the breeder told you to do is called a flooding technique. People -and trainers- used to use them all the time but we have learned (and not that recently, either) that these techniques are, pretty much, the opposite of what should be done and that they might work in the short term but that, when they do, they always end up backfiring. Let me explain: a flooding technique is, basically, anything we do to an animal that forces it to accept our supremacy because it has no other choice. Grabbing a little bird that is confused and scared and holding it close to us, forcing it to accept our touch is a text book example of a flooding technique. And it doesn't do anything to reduce the confusion or fear the poor little thing is feeling. All it does is teach the bird that we don't really care what he/she feels or wants, that it's our way or the highway. And now I will tell you why it doesn't work with parrots: because parrots are not hard-wired to even understand the concept of subservience, obedience or accept a 'boss', a leader or an alpha. Parrots are not predators or live in a hierarchical society, they live in extended families where there are no leaders, bosses or anybody/birdy they need to listen to, obey or follow. They all make their individual decisions.

Now, let's see if we can help you overcome the bad advice. For one thing, forget about training. Babies should never be trained. We don't do it with human babies, dogs or horses but, for some reason, people think they can do it with baby birds... But, even if we did, parrots are not like puppies (young of a hierarchical species that has been domesticated for 40,000 and has been bred to be people-oriented for thousands of generations), they don't like all people. They have been tricked into believing that humans are part of their family but that doesn't mean that they will love or even like all humans. You need to win his affection, you need to earn it the same way you would have to earn the love of an adoptive child or an adult human. How do you do this? You do it by showing it respect, treating it with love and patience and, most of all, allowing him/her to set the pace of your relationship.

I am afraid that you got this bird from a bad breeder because a better breeder (I do not believe there are any good breeders but some are better than others) would not have produced a baby that is so scared of humans (and the terrible advice he/she gave you is still more proof of it). Baby birds are usually sweet tempered little things, calm and loving - they don't try to get away from the person who feeds them (by they way, you never said how old the baby is but, if it's under 5 months of age, you should be hand-feeding it). But babies that were fed by gavage or impatiently and/or weaned too early will have issues for the rest of their lives (not my opinion, there are studies that show us this). This does not mean you cannot achieve a good relationship with it so let's go into that now. First thing you need to do is make sure the baby is getting the right kind of food and plenty of it so, if the bird is under 5 months of age, it needs to be offered handfeeding (how often depends on the age). Breeders always tell you they are weaned when, in reality, they are not. It's like saying that toddlers can eat by themselves - yes, they can and will. But mothers not only give them age-appropriate food (they don't get adult food), they also feed them in their mouth so as to ensure they are getting enough. Parent birds do the same and, even when the babies forage right alongside them, they still supplement their intake by feeding them in the beak. So you need to offer soft food (let me know if you don't know what soft food is) served fresh and warm twice a day, fresh raw produce and, for dinner, you should also offer soft seeds (like millet, safflower, etc) and little pieces of nuts (like cashews or walnuts which are softer than, say, almonds).

You also need to stop putting your hand in its cage or going after it. Never corner a bird unless the bird is in danger, always allow it to go back to its cage or come to you of its own volition. It's going to take time now to get to this point because you scared the poor thing but, thankfully for us, parrots are very forgiving of our mistakes as long as we don't repeat them. So, uncover his cage and open the blinds in the room he is kept when you can see the first light in the sky (no later than 5:30 am this time of the year - this is because all birds need to follow a strict solar schedule with exposure to dawn and dusk and not a human one), open the door to its cage and walk away, allowing the bird to come out on its own. Spend as much time as you can in the same room, talking, whistling, singing and, every now and then, offer him a treat BUT if he doesn't take it from your fingers, just leave it where he can reach it and walk away. This is not a training reward or a meal, it's gift from you to him (I like to call it a token of friendship). Do not ask the bird to step up to your finger or hand. Leave it alone and do not stare at it (only predators stare), check on it regularly and constantly but only out of the corner of your eye so it doesn't feel threatened by you (remember that you scared the crap out of him in the past). Go about our chores, clean its cage, put the fresh food in it (you might need to feed it outside the cage the warm food until he gets over your putting your hand in there and gets the 'taste' for the soft food) and wait for him to go back in on its own. If he doesn't go back in, you are going to have to wait until it's dark when you can gently grab him and put him in its cage or for your girlfriend to do it.

Basically, you need to gain his trust - which we all need to do when we first get a bird but which, in your case, is going to take a bit longer because the idiot breeder gave you the wrong advice and made things worse.

Now, eventually, you are going to notice a change in him. His body will no longer look tense when he sees you (feathers will not be flat against its body, eyes will not look scared, he will look relaxed, will preen, eat, drink, stretch out, even take a nap, etc) and, if you continue giving it its space and treats, he will also start looking forward to your company and the goodies. You will see that he moves closer to you (if he is in the cage, he will come to the side of the cage where you are standing, sometimes even grabbing the bars) and he takes the treats right from your fingers without hesitation. When this happens regularly, start putting the treat in the palm of your hand and offering it to him in such a way that he would have to put one foot on your hand to reach it. Don't move and don't rush him. If he doesn't do it, don't give it to him, just walk away and try again later. Try it only three times leaving, at least, 1/4 hour in between attempts and, if he doesn't do it, wait until the following day (but do put the nuts in his cage for dinner). When he does it, praise, praise, praise profusely using always the same words (don't make it a speech) in a peppy, cheerful voice (they become masters of the human tone of voice the same way that, in the wild, they learn to recognize alarm or 'all is well' calls from other species).

If you are patient, persistent, consistent and loving, he will come around and forget all about his first bad experience (birds are wonderfully noble, loving and forgiving animals) and not only trust you but love you for the rest of his life.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 14908
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: Parrot Terrified of Me/Bad Advice?

Postby Meyers101 » Sun Jul 28, 2019 1:55 pm

Hello,

First and foremost, thank you for providing such a thoughtful and well articulated reply!

I am happy to hear that our relationship isn't irredeemable and she will forgive me eventually.

I feel pretty stupid for listening to the breeder, but am happy that I least had the sense to realize that this was wrong and seek help elsewhere.

I think my main concern right now is that she acts very friendly and interested with my girlfriend, whereas with me she is terrified and doesn't seem to want to interact with me if it can be avoided. Hopefully she comes around one day. I'm wondering if it has to do with the fact that I am the first man she's likely ever encountered. I'm also pretty big and have a deep voice.

I think by my calculation, she is around 5 months old. Fortunately, she eats very well and is happy to accept a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in addition to her pellets. I am able to feed her things through the bars of her cage which she is pretty happy to accept.

In general, she seems happy, eats well, plays with her toys, but just freezes up when I get too close. If I sit by the cage for a while, however, she will resume playing.

I just have one question. You said not to stick my hands into the cage. Is this also true for when I try to feed her from the palm of my hand? If I put my hand in the cage, but still reasonably far from her, she freezes up, but after a few minutes will go back to playing.

I think I will just hang out around the cage and go about my daily tasks with the doors open. If she comes out, I won't really acknowledge it and instead let her come to me, instead of me always trying to be the one to initiate "contact".

Thanks again for taking the time to respond, it is sincerely appreciated.
Meyers101
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 4
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Meyer's Parrot
Flight: Yes

Re: Parrot Terrified of Me/Bad Advice?

Postby Pajarita » Mon Jul 29, 2019 9:23 am

She freezes because that is the instinctual reaction of a prey bird (basically, she is trying to blend into the woodwork) and what you need to do is find the distance where she is comfortable. They way to do this is to approach the cage or her and, without looking directly at her (because this is what predators do and we have both eyes in the front of our face which makes us predators -prey have eyes on each side of their head so as to cover more 'watched territory') but out of the corner of your eye see at what distance she freezes and take one single step back. This is the distance from which you should verbally interact. For now. After a few days, try again and see if the distance has gotten shorter but, when you are at the 'safe' distance, do not stare at her, either. Act nonchalantly and do 'your' thing: watch TV, read, play a video game, whatever and, every now and then, talk, sing, whistle and offer her a treat. As time goes by and she realizes you are not going to force or corner her, she will start feeling more and more comfortable with you and, eventually, she will be completely relaxed with you standing right next to her. One more thing, make sure her cage is high up so her roosting perch is at your eye level when you are standing up because little prey birds feel mighty nervous about big somebodies looming over them - and make sure the back of the cage is either against a wall or has some sort of material draped over the back (this 'wall' makes them feel safe because they know no predator can get them from it).

Basically, you need to make her feel safe again, that nobody, including you, is going to force/scare her. You are now the one who forced her to accept something she didn't want to (and they are forgiving but they also have very good memories) and you have to become the protector and bringer of good things. See what I mean?

Now, all parrots are one-person pets (people talk about the members of the household becoming their flock but it's more wishful thinking for our own benefit than reality) and I cannot promise that your bird is going to switch her allegiance from your girlfriend to you but it does happen. And you are in luck because she is not even a juvenile yet and, right now, she wants to be with mommy and daddy but, when she becomes an adult, she won't want her mommy anymore, she will want a boyfriend - and that might be you!

Final suggestion: do not free-feed pellets. They are not really good for parrots and I can elaborate on the several reasons why if you wish.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 14908
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: Parrot Terrified of Me/Bad Advice?

Postby Meyers101 » Mon Jul 29, 2019 5:25 pm

Hello,

Thanks again for your advice. She has actually warmed up to me quite a bit over the last few days. Yesterday, she even landed on my arm when I was sitting with my girlfriend which was amazing.

I totally understand what you mean. I have become less of a domineering presence. Today I just opened her cage door and she eventually came out and sat on her perch which was just a few feet away from me. I just kept reading and whistled or talked to her every once in a while. I made sure not to reach for her or do anything to make her uncomfortable.

I think slowly, but surely, she is starting to warm up to me. My girlfriend doesn't live with me so I have a few days during the week for some 1 on 1 time.

She is also happy to accept treats and food through the bars of the cage now.

I think that me not taking too much of an interest in her when she was out of the cage, but instead just talking to her or looking at her occasionally is the way to go!

Thanks again!
Meyers101
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 4
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Meyer's Parrot
Flight: Yes

Re: Parrot Terrified of Me/Bad Advice?

Postby Pajarita » Tue Jul 30, 2019 10:14 am

Yes, indeed! Nothing tells a prey animal that another being is non-threatening than showing disinterest in it. And YAAAYYYY that she flew to your arm!!! :danicing: It's working! And, before you know it, she will love you to pieces and will want to be on you all the time - then you will come back to ask how to solve this :lol:
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 14908
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: Parrot Terrified of Me/Bad Advice?

Postby Meyers101 » Tue Jul 30, 2019 6:37 pm

Hard to imagine that such a time will come, but I think there's hope now.

Thanks again for your help, it is sincerely appreciated.
Meyers101
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 4
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Meyer's Parrot
Flight: Yes

Re: Parrot Terrified of Me/Bad Advice?

Postby Pajarita » Wed Jul 31, 2019 8:58 am

Happy to be of service!
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 14908
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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