Behavior and Socialization
Online Veterinary Education Library
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- Taming and Training
- Indicators of Health Problems
- Birds, Other Pets and Young Children
Birds are highly trainable, but you need to begin the process from the very start of your relationship. No matter how cute and cuddly your new bird may be, it is important that you establish some routines that will be followed throughout your lives together. Make sure the bird understands that there will be times to interact and time to keep busy alone. Place lots of toys in the cage from the beginning (appropriate to your bird's size and age) and change the toys regularly. Make feeding and interaction times regular. The more time you routinely spend with your bird, the more you build up trust and your pet will reward you. Be sure to talk to your bird and cuddle and pet it to help build affection and trust. It's important for your bird to learn to accept touch from other people from the beginning as well.
Birds have an innate understanding of how to fly, but do not have the ability to navigate around objects or avoid walls or windows at the start. You will need to give your young bird help learning to fly. Be sure to close all doors and windows in a room before you let the bird out of its cage. Talk calmly to the bird. Let the bird fly from your hand or a hand-held perch and pick him up when he hits the floor. Don't grasp him too tightly, but cuddle him gently. Then return him to your hand or a perch to try again. Many bird owners recommend teaching your bird to return to you on cue so that your bird never gets lost in or out of your home. You'll need a lot of patience and repetition, but your bird will catch on.
Two other commands are important for your bird to learn: the up command teaches your bird to step onto a perch, your hand or a finger or arm. The down command teaches your bird to move from a higher position (on a perch or hand) to a lower one. These commands make it easier to access your bird from the cage, do any training and keep your bird in safe and visible locations at all times.
Birds need to vocalize and often use screaming as a way of communicating. But some birds take this behavior to a loud and frustrating excess level. To change this behavior, try to understand when the bird tends to screech. Is the bird too lonely? Does it have enough to keep it busy? Can it hear hustle and bustle in another room but not see what's going on? Are there loud noises which are causing it to be frightened? Are you feeding the bird enough food and water? Try moving the cage to another location and be sure you have plenty of toys in the cage. You can also try covering your bird's cage for five minutes to quiet it down. Then be sure to reinforce positive behavior, not respond to negative behaviors. Take the bird out for some quality interaction when it is quiet. Above all, stay calm and be consistent.
There are three reasons why birds bite: 1) out of fear, 2) because they are excited, or 3) because they are acting maliciously. Biting from fear is a natural reaction and can be reduced by keeping your bird safe and calm. Birds go through a stage at puberty where they nip a lot as a way of working out their social order. In this phase, you may need to give your pet a sharp command now and then to let it know you are the head of the flock! Birds may also need to be taught when a bite to a finger hurts and when it doesn't. Give the bird a verbal reaction â€• like saying "Ouch!" â€• so that it learns the limits. With consistent reinforcement, your bird will get the picture.
When your bird is in your hand and bites maliciously, you need to let him know this is not acceptable behavior. Don't yell at your bird. Drop your hand quickly to throw your bird off balance. This forces the bird to release its bite. After a number of times repeating this trick, the bird will learn that biting leads to an uncomfortable imbalance and will discontinue the behavior.
Birds exhibit stress in a number of ways, including screaming, biting and obsessively plucking at feathers. If you think your bird is suffering from stress, take your bird to the vet for a health examination and talk to your vet to try to isolate the problem. Continue talking to your bird in a calm loving voice and give it plenty of comforting touch.
Birds are good at hiding when they aren't feeling well. You need to keep a sharp eye out to catch any changes in behavior that might indicate something is wrong. Look for reductions in appetite and water consumption, as well as less engagement or activity. If your bird sits at the bottom of the cage with its eyes closed and doesn't spread its feathers, this often suggests a health problem. Keeping its head under a wing may also indicate a problem. If you have any concerns about your bird, contact your vet immediately. If you observe blood coming from any part of your bird at any time, take it immediately for emergency care and attention.
Birds can live comfortably with other pets, like dogs and cats. Usually both animals need time to get to know each other. Slowly bring the animals near each other over a period of days and let them smell and explore each other. If there are no signs of animosity, you can let them try interacting on their own. But remember â€” birds are little creatures and natural prey for larger animals. Never leave a bird unsupervised with another animal even if they are familiar with each other. A fright, loud noise or other interference could create a stressful situation and your pets' natural instincts may take over. Similarly, don't leave birds alone with young children who may not understand the power of their gestures, the fragility of your bird or the importance of keeping birds in a safe, controlled environment.