Bird Training and Hand Rearing

By Dr Eloise Bright 6 Min Read

Taking the time to train your pet bird can be a rewarding experience for you and your feathered companion, from learning to perch to speaking.

Birds are more intelligent than the majority of people believe. The insult “bird brain” is inappropriate for the vast majority of pet birds. Like most intelligent animals (including humans), pet birds become restless and bored when their minds are not occupied. Additionally, there are certain behaviors that will facilitate your pet bird’s integration into your family. Chew toys and ladders are an excellent and necessary starting point, but you should also consider training your bird.

Stepping up and rearing the hand

It helps to start with a healthy, hand-raised bird. Many bird breeders raise their chicks as household pets. This is the ideal circumstance. In addition to the legal and ethical concerns surrounding the capture of wild birds for the pet trade, the captured animal is typically traumatized and ill. Adopting rescues and fostering is admirable, but adopting your first bird may not be the best idea unless the rehomed bird is known to be healthy.

Hand-taming and stepping up are particularly important for birds, such as parrots and doves, that will interact directly with humans. “Stepping up” refers to the ability to walk on demand onto a human’s hand. Hand-taming is simply the process of reassuring the bird that it is safe while being held. Once they feel safe, members of many species enjoy cuddling, while others prefer to simply sit on humans. Obviously, hand-raised birds tend to be tamed. Some of the chicks will have even learned the “step up” command by the time you are ready to take them home.

Culture, arts, and math

It may come as a surprise, but pet birds can acquire the ability to comprehend words and phrases. Some of them are even capable of speaking and composing their own phrases. The parrot and corvid families are renowned for this characteristic. Individuals of species known for vocalization, such as African greys and green-cheeked conures, exhibit a wide range of vocal abilities. Male birds are rumored to be better at communicating than females, but you’ll find that certain hens are particularly skilled. If speaking ability is important to you, keep in mind that, all else being equal, the birds with deeper voices will be easier to understand.

As for mathematics, have you ever seen puzzle games designed for young children in which a colored shape fits into a hole of the same shape? These puzzles are also designed for parrots and are available in various sizes for various species. (A plastic shape that a macaw can easily grasp is simply too heavy for a cockatiel.) Beginning with a couple of shapes or two colors, gradually progress to more complex puzzles and counting.


“Recall training” refers to the process of teaching a bird to return to you when called. It could also entail climbing or running to you.Some birds learn it quickly (I’ve seen a chick learn it before she finished learning to fly), while others take several months. It’s a cool trick to demonstrate to your friends, but it’s also your first line of defense if your bird ever escapes outside or into a hazardous area of your home.

Clicker Instructions and Rewards

Clickers are handheld devices that generate a brief “clicking” noise. These are ideal for indicating to a bird that you approve of his recent behavior. This rapid signal is inexhaustibly useful for basic training and skateboarding tricks. Initially, each click is accompanied by a reward. Later on, the treats are only occasionally used. Treats should be nutritious and appetizing but not too large or calorically dense, as you do not want your bird to gain weight. Small portions of a favorite nut or seed and sugar-free breakfast cereal (such as Cheerios) are excellent options.

Where do we go?

What’s the following step? Talk to your bird. “Who is a beautiful bird?” “Who is a beautiful bird?” “Sunny is a beautiful bird; yes, he is.” Certainly, you and your friends will likely sound like you’re addressing a child, but that’s okay. Additionally, birds learn from your tone and repetition.

In addition, peruse some books and YouTube videos on tricks and training for your bird’s species. This will give you an idea of what is possible and inspire you to think of ways to amuse your feathered friend.

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Dr Eloise is a Clinical Lead at Love That Pet and one of our resident pet care experts. She also curates the select range of vet recommended and approved products which feature on our site.
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