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Birds are a lot like people in the way that they have different personalities. Some are bold and playful, others are shy and timid, while even some others are aggressive and finicky. Most taming guides are directed at the "average" bird. The taming guides are really good for the most part, but there are certain birds who need to be approached differently.




Positive reinforcement is noted to be one of the best ways to tame birds and many other animals. It uses good and positive rewards to show the animal what you want and like. Birds respond very well to this, and this has made it one of the most popular ways to tame a bird.




However taming is not always one size fits all. There are different ways to deal with a shy or aggressive bird. This guide focuses on those types of birds.
The main message of this guide is "mutual agreement" where you look at your bird's likes and dislikes and know where their limits are and you set a neutral ground with them.




First I will discuss aggressive birds.

First you must look at what your bird is aggressive about. Many are cage aggressive. Working with a cage aggressive bird when trying to tame it can be very difficult, and a lot more work than an average bird. Many owners get frustrated and either give up on taming or they get rid of the bird. Very few stick it out and keep trying.





The main idea with a cage aggressive bird is that their cage is their home, they do not usually want you dealing with anything in their cage. In or near it. They may bite or lunge at you or even chase you if you do not respect their space. This can make feeding and watering and cleaning a hazardous task.





How do you deal with these birds? First, look at the cage, is there something particular in the cage that they are protecting? If so if it possible to remove it, then do so. If not, then it is up to you to avoid this situation. The bird has a good chance of becoming more and more aggressive each time you invade its space, which can create worse future problems.





So, how do you get the bird out of the cage if it will not step up or will not stop attacking your hand? Easy! You let the bird come out of the cage on its own. Just leave the cage door open and do not reach into the cage for the bird. Respect the birds cage as ITS space, not YOURS. If the bird is clipped, you might have to escort the bird to its playgym if the playgym is not within climbing or jump reach of the bird's cage. To do this, simply towel the bird gently and carry it over to the playgym, and then leave it alone for a bit. Let the bird enjoy its time out. After the bird has had time to calm down, you may try step up training. If the bird is not aggressive on the playgym, this is an easier job and regular training can take place on the playgym.





However, if the bird is not willing to come near you with your hand nearby or attacks you still, simply sit where the bird can reach you, but simply read a book or do something that does NOT involve the bird. Place a sprig of spray millet, or another favourite treat where the bird can easily climb to reach, but placed close to you. So if you are sitting on a desk with the bird's playgym on top, sit a few feet away with the treat a few inches from your arm. Let the bird come to you, do not look at the bird right away if the bird comes to you for the spray millet. This will teach the bird that they can trust you and can go to you and you are not a threat. Let them come to you on their terms. Over time, eventually work on holding the treat so that the bird will step up onto your hand.





What is different about this method from regular taming of holding a treat in the hand for the bird? You are not forcing the millet upon the bird, you are letting them set the pace and go to you on their own terms. You have learned to respect the bird's cage space and its own personal boundaries, the bird will feel more comfortable around you and in time will learn to accept you. The cage aggression likely will not stop, but with the mutual respect of space (owner stays out of cage and owner does not get bit, thats the "mutual agreement here") will help with the bird staying more calm when you DO need to go into the cage to feed, water, clean, and service toys. They learn to trust you as they see that you do respect their space and they will relax more around you and not feel as threatened.





Skittish birds are often timid, flighty, nervous, and scared. These birds tend to adapt much slowly compared to other birds and tend to like familiarity, so frequent cage set up changes may spook them. These birds may take months to fully settle in to a new home, or even into a new cage. These differ from untame birds in the way that they tend to be even slower at adapting and are slow to trust and seem to be scared of nearly everything.




For skittish birds, the method is VERY much the same, only some things are done differently for different reasons. Never towel a skittish bird to bring it out of the cage, this will only frighten them more. Toweling should only be used for medical reasons or with an aggressive clipped bird who needs to be transported from point A to B. A bird can be trained to associate the towel with playtime (positive reinforcement) but this can prove too stressful on a skittish bird.




Never invade a skittish bird's cage. This is their safe haven, the place they should feel comfortable and relaxed. Placing your hands in the cage will frighten the bird and feed their insecurity. For these birds, if they seem really nervous at first, you can cover a corner of the cage, blocking your view of them and their view of you. This is somewhere they can retreat to when they feel scared or overwhelmed.




Allow them to come out of their cage on their own. Quietly sit by and read a book or something similar and just leave the cage door open. Never reach for a timid bird unless absolutely necessary (emergencies, medicating, etc) as they may feel threatened by a "predator" and it may cause them to be even more fearful.




Forcing treats on them as well may not work because they are scared of the hands that hold them. These birds need to be left to come to you on their own as well, just like the aggressive birds. The method is the same, only you want the treat placed farther away from you at the start than you would with an aggressive bird. Over a slow period of time as the bird gets more comfortable, you may move the treat an inch closer to you, until you can hold the treat with your hand open flat on the table. The "mutual agreement" here is that you respect the bird's need for security and space and you will gain a more confident bird in time.




Let me state something with this taming guide. These birds can be worked with FLIGHTED. I have actually found these birds tend to benefit more from being flighted and I have had better results with them being flighted than I have had clipped. However, the aggressive bird might be better attitude wise clipped after taming should the bird attack you, but if the bird does not attack you it is fine to leave the bird flighted if you wish.




I highly recommend the skittish birds to be flighted rather than clipped. Clipping may help a bird rely on you to get around, but it can downright scare a timid bird and cause regression in their trust in you rather than progression. Flighted timid birds also tend to have a confidence boost and will be more willing to approach you as they can get away easier if they feel the need to. Never force a skittish bird to do something it does not want to. This damages their trust in their owners. If the bird wants to fly off and get away from you, let it do so freely. It will see you will not stop it if it wants to get away.


The treat does not have to be food. It can be a favourite toy or some other thing that they really like. I have used this method for my lovebirds. My male is super shy and timid and has been the hardest to work with in terms of earning his trust, but our female is aggressive and it has been a long but well-worth-it road to having her trust.




Written by Casey Meanney, Copyright 2012
 

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I have tried the average typical methods that most people have success with in taming. But it did not work. I often wondered why and ended up frustrated with a bloody hand after trying to get my female lovebird to accept millet or sunflower seeds by hand in her cage. She ended up getting more and more aggressive.



I then let them become flighted and had given up on taming them, I had gotten them as babies and thought I could tame them easier, especially since the female was handfed from hatching. However, they were not socialized, and therefore were wild, and the handfeeding only made my female bold and not afraid to bite the hands that feed her.


I had realized that once flighted, they were more confident. I would leave the cage doors open for them and they would come out on their own. I would hold out paper (their "treat") or millet and they would fly to me for it. Eventually the female would fly over to me just to see what I was doing and to preen my hair.



It was then I had realized I had been going the wrong way about taming them, I needed a different tactic. So, I let them come to me. In time, they've had to be clipped again for safety reasons (female being so aggressive she was also attacking the other birds, in or out of the cage, and clipping restricted her reach of them) and the male lovebird was clipped as well to prevent him from getting bit through the cage bars should he land on her cage. Things regressed far with the male lovebird being clipped. I had since moved the other birds out of the room, so the room only has the two lovebirds in their own separate cages.



The female lovebird remains clipped to protect the male, but the male has recently become flighted again and I have noticed his confidence growing and after five months, he is finally exploring his whole new cage, instead of staying up top all the time. The female lovebird I no longer reach in her cage unless to give her food, water, or clean the cage or to add a new toy. To rearrange the cage, I make sure she is not in her cage and I am safe to change things inside for her.




This mutual agreement with her has really brought out her trust in me and now she is fully tame, she steps up, she runs over and interacts with us, shes not super cuddly but she does accept some scritches (headscratches) and she is not as aggressive in the cage. We let her come out of her cage and then we towel her to bring her to her playgym. The towel protects her and me. If she bites my hand untowelled there is always that chance she could be dropped, the towel prevents this from happening.



All it took was not forcing the taming upon them. The male still is not fully tame, he will let us hold him on his own terms, he likes laying in our hands, but he will not step up. Currently as of writing this sticky, it has taken me one year and seven months to build up the trust I have earned with them. So please, if your bird does not give you results even in a few weeks, never give up on them, as they may take years to fully trust you. However, the trust earned was based on respect and space and I find a stronger bond can be forged this way.



I just wished to share my experiences using these methods and maybe give hope and help to others with birds in this situation.




Here are some photos that may be of interest for people wanting to see the results:


For the female lovebird, this was her as a baby when we clipped her wings and worked on her stepping up, you can see by her reactions that this is not a method for her





having her fly to me for the treats rather than me approaching her





even the shy male would fly to me for a cup filled with toys and paper!




this show's their progress using this method







and a video of the female enjoying some scritches!

[nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Y52HgJ7ykk"]Munch Scritches!!! - YouTube[/nomedia]



This method can be used for ANY bird, just my experience with untame skittish and aggressive birds are limited to my lovebirds, but this same method can help all of you with your birds of any species come to trust you more :)





Written by Casey Meanney, Copyright 2012
 

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Casey that post is fantastic and very very true. I have found that clipping skittish birds does not work myself. I have found that letting them keep their wings allows them to understand that they still have a way to get away from you. When you deny them their wings, they panic. Do you have a blog or something? Because if not, then you should! Training and taming blogs are fantastic but you having birds of both kinds can really help others see the birds potential :)
 

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nah the blog i have in a way is my FB page. this is one of my own stickies that i shared with TC and now am sharing here. you can make it a sticky if you want, as it would be good info for members with skittish or aggressive birds. :)


to be honest, training and taming just isnt my expertise, but this is the one method that i found worked for me. however, only 3 birds of mine came to me untame, and tsuka was a people bird and had no issues at all. mango still is not fully tame, nor do i think he ever will be, but he sometimes doesnt mind being handled, he interacts on his own terms and he is happy with that. munch is happy with the interaction though hands on is on her terms. but she is less aggressive than before using this method. they are both more content, but it took over a year and a half to tame munch!
 

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Hi Casey, nice to see you on here too, as from yesterday we got another flock member, her name is Tilly and she's an Indian Ringneck. She was rehomed by a sweet old lady who cannot care for her anymore and she was looking for a loving and understanding home. Your thread is very helpful and so true.
According to Tillys behavoiur it seems to be the case that she shall chose to come to us. I still like to go near her, not toooooo close and talk softly to her. She is a princess, so beautiful and in very good condition. Unfortunately the cage was not and I HAD to clean it and change / replace some things in there as they were YUCK... so you can imagine the poor thing now is confused: new environment, new cage set up, new mommy and daddy, another birdie ( Joe ) arround her, new sounds...
And before reading your post I already done it to your advice, just leaving the cage door open....
 

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Hi I was just wondering if anyone would be able to give me abit of advice I've just bought my first bird a parrotlet I'm not sure wether it's male or female so I just say it's a boy he's called Ozzy and I've had him for about 2 months at first I put my hands inside of his cage to get him out after a while he started standing on my hand when I had millet he finally came out of his cage and he flies around often he's very nervous of me and he doesn't like coming near me especially as I have stopped putting my hands in his cage now he just leaves the cage himself I'm really struggling to bond with him and I can't find any treats he likes he's hard to get back in his cage sometimes as he won't let me go near him he's very bity and I'd love to be able to stroke him and him stand up into my hand without him being scared but I'm really not sure where to start please help I just want my parrotlet to know I won't hurt him and for him to trust me !!
 

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Hi Darcy, I always find taking the bird into a small room like the bathroom and do some hand training for 10-15 mins a couple of times a day (if you have the time try and do this a few times a day) as it always works well.

The bird can't get far when he/she's in the bathroom so they will have to sit on your hand while you quietly talk to them and interact. I wouldn't try stroking the bird when you are working on hand taming.. that comes in time. Right now you need to get the bird to get use to stepping up and you being in control of him.

Give him treats of small size bites of millet if that's his preferred treat and praise him while he eats and stays put on your hand. Don't stare at him when training as birds get nervous of anything/one staring at them, blink your eyes when looking at him and speaking then look away so he gets that you are not a big predator.

This all takes time... he won't be trained over night over a week maybe not over a months time. It all depends on you and you being persistent when training.

If you put in the time he will soon understand and be a hand tame bird but like I said it all depends on you putting in the time daily to make it work.

Good luck. :)
 

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You should be able to sex him/her easily. Do they have a blue rump? Blue under the wings? Blue around the eyes?

Personally I'm a fan of target and clicker training
 

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Hi Everyone, asking for advice again. So my blue and gold macaw, Skittles, is remaining a challenge. In the beginning I was feeling all cocky, as she would let me scritch her head by Day 2 with me and her back by Day 5 (only when she felt like it, of course). But now it's been two weeks, and I still haven't gotten her onto my hand/arm. This makes things difficult, because it means she's stuck in one room and she screams when I leave the room. The screaming really gets to me, and I worry about the neighbors.

Some background: Skittles is probably about 18-19. No one knows how her little life began, but 7 years ago she was brought to the shelter nearly bald from plucking. She'd been living in an auto shop, and it wasn't going well. She got a lovely family, but recently an unexpected death in the family meant they had to send her back to the shelter. Her feathers never came in right after she'd plucked most of them, and now she's barbering badly (I don't know if it started in the shelter or before). The people at the shelter said she's never shown any indication that she even knows flying is a thing, and with her missing and damaged flight feathers I doubt she'd manage it even if she knew to try. I provide loads of toys, and try to redirect her when she does it, but I can't be redirecting every minute of the day.

Right now, her life consists of being in her cage and being on her cage. She prefers being on the top, and I have to bribe her with peanuts to get her back in, but she's also much more agitated when she's out. She paces the cage top, pins her eyes, screams, and barbers much more when she's out. When she's in the cage, it's not so bad. She eats, drinks, plays with toys, and "talks" to me. I try to have her out as much as possible, as it's where she'd rather be, but I can't have her out when I'm working (and sometimes for my own sanity; the screaming has made me cry a few times, I get so overwhelmed). I know, a blue and gold was not a good choice for someone with sound sensitivity. But she's a rescue, and she needs a home, and I have a home, so now she's mine.

Today I tried to train her to go on my arm for the first time. I had a little bowl full of her favorite treats in one hand, with my arm in between. The only way for her to reach the treats was to step on my arm. She absolutely could not figure out what to do. She bit my arm, a lot, and did all kinds of gymnastics trying to reach the treats. She shows interest in climbing my torso sometimes, but as soon as she closes her beak over squishy skin instead of hard metal she quits instead of getting her feet involved. In the end, I saw she wasn't getting it and I knew frustration isn't good for anyone. So I moved the bowl a bit closer so she could get one peanut by doing weird bird gymnastics.

Someone at the shelter said they got her to stop being scared of him by just cuddling her by force one time. I'm not that bold, but later on I did try to transition scritching her into moving her body a little. She panicked and bit me, which was probably predictable. I, feeling very frustrated at that point, started to cry again. Which confused her.

Advice, anyone? I am a very bruised bird owner with hurting ears.
 

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Awwww BOMTICH ... I'm sorry you are having a hard time with your new rescue. But .... you have a rescue. Her life has been trauma and upheaval with a few owners so she's frightened and unsure .... getting this birb to be your besty doesn't always happen right away.


Her cage is her sanctuary and safe zone so it makes sense she will play eat and do what she feels like in there happily because she feels safe. Leave her in there ... let her decide to come out to you. Leave the door open and give her the option to climb out if she wants to.



Do you work at a desk? Where is her cage? Can you put it beside your desk or where you sit all the time so you will be able to talk to her all the time and interact by offering her treats? I would place her cage beside you and play music and chat with her as much as possible. Reach over and offer her a nut and get her to come to you, PRAISE her if she does come and get the nut and allows a scritch. Excited sounds in your voice and praise is a magnet to any birb .... they love to hear you are excited and happy and will act exactly like you want them to because they want to hear that praise and sound from your voice.



Don't touch her back ... this is an invitation to mating behavior which can make her unsure of you and start her regurgitating or get the wrong idea and cause her to come into egg laying condition. You don't want that!


Scritch her head ... scratch her beak ... they do enjoy this, their beaks are like a giant fingernail ... they can feel sensation in and like it scratched or even lightly pulled on.


Talk talk talk and talk some more. Don't try to force her to come out and crawl on you just yet. She's not ready ... especially if she's biting you. She bites because she is afraid and unsure.


You have to be patient here ... take it slow and don't expect to just overwhelm her to respond to you. This is an 18 year old baby that has been through a lot and needs to re-learn love.


Don't be upset ... be patient and calm and try to relax ... play yourself some of your favorite music and work at bonding slowly with sound, offerings of nuts (shelled almonds are a better treat then peanuts) peanuts can contain bacteria which is dangerous.



I think you are doing a great job and I love that you have taken this sad birb into your home and life ... you just have to take the time to get to know her. She is as nervous of you and you are of that massive beak!


Hang in there!!!!!!!!
 

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Thanks for the advice, I can take as much as I can get. I've never had a bird this size before, and my other birds have come to me as happy snuggly babies. Skittles is my first big one, and my first rescue.

My apartment is very small, so I spend 95% of my time within 4 feet of Skittles. In fact, I have gone out of my way a few times to sit on the other side of the door so she doesn't get too tied to the idea of me being in sightlines because that could make things hard for her when the pandemic ends.

I never remove her from her cage (I can't; she won't come on my body willingly and I won't force her), so I just leave the cage door open and she chooses to hang out on top of the cage. To get her back in, I refill her food bowl (if she's out of food during the day, pellets. But at night, she gets new seeds and that's the good stuff). Although she likes it when I open the door and she can come out, I have to leave her in the cage when I need her to be quiet because I'm on conference calls and stuff for work.

I try to keep her from barbering by offering all kinds of toys. She has everything from stuff I bought to stuff I made to junk mail I taped to the wall for her to shred. After our less than successful training attempt, I have backed things up. Now, our goal is just for me to be able to put my arm near her without her biting it. Boundary-wise, I'm trying to show her that when she responds to something by stepping away or making a small distressed noise, I listen and back off. When she screams or bites, I ignore it. Also, I never approach her when she stands in this one particular spot that's farthest from where I usually approach her. Birds are smart, she'll figure it out eventually, right?

I know that touching bird backs isn't the best idea. For now, I'm just trying to get her used to me touching her everywhere so that, worst case, she will tolerate me handling her however I have to. In the beginning, I could only touch her head and the back of her neck. Now, I can touch there, and her back, the upper parts of her sides (sometimes), her beak (sometimes), and her long tail feathers (usually). I'm told that she let her last owner flip her upside down and cradle her like a baby, but they were together for 7 years.

I know every bird has their own timescale. I'm trained in behaviorism in both humans and animals, so I know all the tricks. But doing it is very different from learning it, and it's a lot more upsetting. Any idea when she'll stop tolerating me and start liking me?
 

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Thanks for the advice, I can take as much as I can get. I've never had a bird this size before, and my other birds have come to me as happy snuggly babies. Skittles is my first big one, and my first rescue.

My apartment is very small, so I spend 95% of my time within 4 feet of Skittles. In fact, I have gone out of my way a few times to sit on the other side of the door so she doesn't get too tied to the idea of me being in sightlines because that could make things hard for her when the pandemic ends.

I never remove her from her cage (I can't; she won't come on my body willingly and I won't force her), so I just leave the cage door open and she chooses to hang out on top of the cage. To get her back in, I refill her food bowl (if she's out of food during the day, pellets. But at night, she gets new seeds and that's the good stuff). Although she likes it when I open the door and she can come out, I have to leave her in the cage when I need her to be quiet because I'm on conference calls and stuff for work.

I try to keep her from barbering by offering all kinds of toys. She has everything from stuff I bought to stuff I made to junk mail I taped to the wall for her to shred. After our less than successful training attempt, I have backed things up. Now, our goal is just for me to be able to put my arm near her without her biting it. Boundary-wise, I'm trying to show her that when she responds to something by stepping away or making a small distressed noise, I listen and back off. When she screams or bites, I ignore it. Also, I never approach her when she stands in this one particular spot that's farthest from where I usually approach her. Birds are smart, she'll figure it out eventually, right?

I know that touching bird backs isn't the best idea. For now, I'm just trying to get her used to me touching her everywhere so that, worst case, she will tolerate me handling her however I have to. In the beginning, I could only touch her head and the back of her neck. Now, I can touch there, and her back, the upper parts of her sides (sometimes), her beak (sometimes), and her long tail feathers (usually). I'm told that she let her last owner flip her upside down and cradle her like a baby, but they were together for 7 years.

I know every bird has their own timescale. I'm trained in behaviorism in both humans and animals, so I know all the tricks. But doing it is very different from learning it, and it's a lot more upsetting. Any idea when she'll stop tolerating me and start liking me?
Heya!

Just wanted to say that perhaps you could make almost like a diary style thread of what you're struggling with (and your achievements!) when it comes to dealing with Skittles? That way we can all easily find you and guide you through this difficult time :) I'll give you some more answers over on that if you get around to doing it.
 
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