Bird Tricks: A Bird Training Guide for Beginners
Birds learn via observation and imitation, so what your bird learns depends on how much time and effort you are willing to put into their training.
Ever been called ‘bird brain?’ It doesn’t say a whole lot about the species intelligence, does it? However, scientific studies have shown that birds are actually quite intelligent and can be taught to perform a range of basic and advanced tricks.
We share our favourite bird training tips for beginners that will help ensure ‘Polly’ is the center of attention at your next party.
POLLY WANT A CRACKER?
Teaching Polly to talk is one of the more harder things to teach her and will take time, persistence and praise. Make sure to be consistent in your approach and be calm and clear when talking to her.
Step 1 – Be precise and remember to say the same word or phrase each time. Teach Polly one word/phrase at a time to ensure that she doesn’t get confused or flustered. For example, starting with ‘hello’ or using her name until she understands the word is far easier than using a string of words at the one time. Say the words often and try to use the same tone so she gets used to the word and how you say it.
Step 2 – Make sure Polly is in front of you when you are teaching her to speak so she can watch you speak. As mentioned earlier, one of the ways our beloved feathery friends learn how to talk is via imitation and through visual learning. This is a sure way to get her attention!
Step 3 – Make sure to use the same facial expressions and sound excitement when you’re training Polly as it is more likely to get her attention.
Step 4 – Teaching her to speak can take days, weeks or even months! Some birds are even known never to talk, so don’t feel discouraged if it takes a little longer than expected. The key is persistence and patience. Set up a routine and stick to it. For example, having 2 lessons a day at 5-10 minutes at a time is far more effective than having ad-hoc sessions once every few days. She will forget what you are trying to teach her if you are not consistent.
Step 5 – Visual aids, such as You Tube videos or other birds that are able to talk can also help the process. Many birds have been known to watch You Tube videos are start talking!
Step 6 – Make sure to shower Polly with love, affection and most importantly- treats when she demonstrates the correct behavior!
DOES POLLY WANT THE POTTY?
You can toilet train your cats and dogs, so why not your bird? This skill, if taught correctly can be extremely handy. This will take some time and will require routine and getting to know your bird’s habits!
Step 1 – Familiarize yourself with Polly’s habits. When does she tend to use the bathroom? How often? Where? What signs does she demonstrate? The below are classic signs that your bird may be ready to do its thing:
- Ruffling of feathers
- A certain facial expression/head movements
- Circling/ scratching
- Certain posture
- Times (minutes in between their business)
Birds tend to do their business every few minutes. Between 5-15 minutes is generally expected, however your bird may be different, hence why it is important to watch and understand his or her habits!
Step 2 – Frequency- getting a general idea of Polly’s movements will help you to identify when to get prepared. So take a few days to monitor her habits and watch where she tends to do her business.
Step 3 – Choose a spot where you’d like your bird to do its business and stick with it. Like a cat or dog, change and inconsistency can throw him or her, so it’s imperative that you stick with the one spot so your bird can associate the one spot with doing its business.
Step 4 – Take Polly over to your chosen location and wait! If after a few minutes she has not done her business, move her away from the spot and let her carry on. After 5-10 minutes, move her back to that designated spot and try again. This may take days or even weeks to achieve, so don’t be disappointed if she doesn’t understand what you are trying to do straight away!
Step 5 – When it does eventually happen, make sure you praise your feathery companion verbally and with treats!
Step 6 – Keep repeating the training a couple of times a day and remember to speak softly and offer positive reinforcements.
POLLY’S TIME TO STEP UP
‘Stepping up’ or ‘Up’ is a playful trick you can teach Polly after she is familiar and comfortable with you. Like other tricks, this will also take some time!
Step 1 – Ensure Polly is used to you and her surroundings. This is most important to establish before attempting this trick. Make sure her cage is away from loud noises and is in a place where she can hear and see you and others often. Getting Polly familiar with humans and general noises early is a good habit.
Step 2 – Spend time throughout the day next to her cage and talk to her so she knows your voice and becomes used to your tone and pitch.
Step 3 – Slowly start moving in front of the cage and if Polly doesn’t shy away, open her cage and put your hand inside and offer her some Millet Spray. Keep in mind that she may get scared, which is completely normal, especially if she is a new/young bird. If she tries to fly away or doesn’t come to you, keep persisting until she comes to you. This part of the process can take a few days to accomplish.
Step 4 – When she is used to your hand, take a perch and slowly move it towards her and press gently on her tummy and say ‘Up’ or ‘Step Up!’ Practice this over the next few days until she associates the action with word/phrase. Also ensure that you stick with the same word/phrase so she doesn’t get confused.
Step 5 – When Polly does ‘Step up’ make sure to verbally praise her and give her a delicious treat for her efforts!
Step 6 – When she has mastered stepping up on the perch, put your finger on top of the perch and keep practicing ‘Step Up.’
Step 7 – When she is able to do this with your finger on the perch, take away the perch and ask her to ‘Step up’ onto your finger.
Step 8 – When Polly has mastered this, it’s time to take her out of her cage and attempt the trick elsewhere. Before you do this, we recommend that you close all windows and doors and make sure the area is free of loud noises and hazards!
POLLY WANT TO DANCE?
Think your bird has talent? What better way to prove it than teaching her how to dance!
Step 1 – Choose a dance space and stick with it. A bench is ideal or any flat surface will do just fine! Just remember to keep using the same spot so Polly can associate that spot as her dance floor!
Step 2 – Play her some medium to fast upbeat music and see what she responds to. This may take a few attempts, so remember to be patient. Once you see her starting to react to a particular song, use this one to teach her! Birds tend to respond to rhythmic and upbeat tunes.
Step 3 – Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery- so show your bird your moves! As you now know, birds learn visually and through imitation so you bopping your head or swaying will teach her to dance!
Step 4 – Remember to recognize her achievements and reward positive behaviours!
BIRD TRAINING BASICS
So there you have it! Birds are not as unintelligent as they have previously been said to be. Teaching any pet takes time and practice so keep this in mind and don’t expect the world from him or her! Here are a few tips that will make things easier:
- Don’t push her. If she is not in the mood to learn or seems tired or distracted, chances are she will not be the best student. Remove her from her training area and place her back in her cage. Let her do her own thing for 10-15 minutes and try again if she seems focused.
- Make sure your training locations are in a safe place and away from any loud noises, so she can feel safe and unintimidated. She is more likely to learn if she is comfortable and familiar with her surroundings. Also remember to keep the training in the same spot so she associates that place with the behavior being taught.
- Don’t raise your voice or yell at your bird! This can confuse them as birds do not associate you yelling/raising your voice as a corrective thing. They can get confused and believe that you are excited, hence promoting the wrong behaviours. Yelling can also scare your bird which can cause disinterest and fear in learning tricks.
- Don’t reward the wrong behaviours! Reward the right behaviours with patting, verbal reinforcements and through treats.
- And most importantly, shower Polly with love and affection!