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How to Hand Train a Parakeet

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Whoever said training a parakeet was hard is lying. Period.

I thought it would be sweet of me to buy my fiancé a parakeet for valentines day. She always talked of having one, and we could use a little noise around the house. What I mean by noise is the sweet chirping and singing of a new Budgie. This would have been the hardest animal we owned so far to train, or so we thought. We already have a cat, and cats come pre-programmed to be domestic, friendly, loving pet, that needs little or no training. Then we have two fish tanks, It was pretty tough teaching our guppies to roll over, or fetch, so we just let them swim around of their own free will. So it’s time for a step up, and take on a bigger challenge. This is when we got our bird, or should I say her bird.

Let me introduce you to Marty.

First off, let me start by telling you we bought our budgie at Petsm**t. Now we all know buying from a big box store like that only makes it harder to train. When you use these stores, the birds are handled like freight, like another item to stock on the shelf. Then they stuff the birds in a small cage with about a hundred more birds. So naturally, they start to bond with each other, interact, and react with each other (one bird flies they all fly).

Then you finally pick the one you want, and the bird’s first real encounter with a human is usually some punk high school kid who just reaches in and grabs him. Pulls him away from his friends and family to stuff him in a small dark box with little holes. No that’s not scary at all, that’s not going to have an effect on the bird’s opinion of people, he’ll be fine, no problem right…….Wrong! This must have been pretty scary if not traumatizing. Next time I’ll use a local breeder and get one for a little more money but already hand tame.

So you did the same thing I did. I felt sorry, what am I supposed to do? Little guy, stuck in a strange place, he can’t leave. I’ll save you birdie, we’ll take you home and let you be free, kinda. The first thing you notice is how gitty he is. He wants nothing to do with you and would go to great extremes to not be touched by you, check out this video and you’ll see what I mean.

Does your parakeet do this? We can help.

Rules of buying a bird:
A) Buy as young as possible
B) Buy a cage big enough for him to flap his wings and stretch.
C) Have plenty of food on hand, never run out.
D) Provide a safe environment for him.
E) Buy a cuttlebone and a mirror.
F) They like to rip things apart. I use the manila rope.
G) Ensure you have time to dedicate
H) Get him some treats too, they love millet.

Now you have a bird at home and he’s afraid of everything and anything. We can get started.

(Week 1)
1. Firstly, leave him alone. Put the cage in a corner preferably, this way he doesn’t have to watch 4 sides at all times, this will help him relax. He can sit in one position and see everything that’s going on. If you don’t have a corner put him in, put him up high. If nothing else, put a towel over his cage draping two sides. This will really help him be less jittery. It’s nice if he can have some sun, but not full-blown sun he can’t hide from. Make sure to cover him at night and uncover him each day (this is a good chance to do some talking).

Talk to him regularly, as you pass the cage, from across the room, and don’t go in the cage, except to change the water and food. And for god’s sake do this every day. He will build a small amount of trust, he’ll start to know you won’t hurt him. I would leave him alone for at least two weeks. Just talked to him as much as possible. Let him hear your voice and get accustomed to it. He will watch your every move and learn your daily routines. This makes a more stable home for him at first that he understands better.

(week 2-3)
2. When he’s finally eating regular and chirping around, he is getting comfortable. This is a good thing. He knows you feed him and take care of him. He sees the same people every day and starts to believe this is his “flock”. Now the fun part, You’re going to need a lot of patience. He is still not finger trained and this part takes time and patience. Bring the cage to a room that has little or no hiding places, (he will find them and you will be moving furniture to get him out, I promise).

Once he’s in the room and you got it birdie proof, turn off the lights. I mean a dark room, no lights at all. Go in his cage and put your finger under his chest closer to the leg side and lift up gently. Talk to him as you do this, so he knows it’s you. Always use a soft voice and don’t let him see you are mad or frustrated. This will only scare him more. When he steps up just find a resting place for your hand and leave it there. He has no idea where he is sitting, and you’ll show him soon enough. Do this every other night for a week, and try to do it at the same time, so he knows it’s coming. Once he steps up on his own you can start the next step.

(week 4)
3. Now he’s stepping up on your finger without even trying you say? Now the fun part. Grab a flashlight, turn it on but stand on the floor (blocking the light). Once he’s up on your finger, slowly pick up the flashlight to lighten the room gradually. He still doesn’t know it’s you holding him, but he’ll realize that as soon as his eyes adjust. Once he sees it, he’ll probably jump off and panic. Don’t worry put the light down (to darken again) and give him time to adjust and start over.

Work him like this daily or every other day. And soon you’ll see he’s sitting on your finger out of habit. It becomes something he does all the time, but, at this point, in his cage (safe place) during the day he wouldn’t consider going near you, this is all normal and will change as time passes. If you want to try to turn on the light in the room as I did, try. He might take well to it. Don’t be let down if he’s not completely trusting yet. If he spazzed out turn off the light and do it again. The trick is letting his eyes adjust to the dark.

Tricking him on our finger.

The lights were off for about 3 minutes or so.

(week 5-6)
4. So now he sits on your finger in his cage from the dark and he’s not that jumpy, WOW! Now it’s time to take him out of the cage. Still training in the almost dark, if you have any other pets this is the time to introduce them face to face, with no bars in between. Our cat is a good boy, for the most part, he just wants to smell him. We introduce them and talk to both the cat and the bird.

We remind the cat to be a “good boy” and we pet him as he’s checking out the bird. This way he associated the bird with family and wouldn’t think to hurt him. Once he’s had his fill, he’ll walk away and get bored with the whole bird thing. Now have someone turn on a light in the other room. It’ll be brighter than the flashlight, and it’s like a shock to his eyes, and give you time to work with him.

Always talking to him make the step up over and over on your finger so he doesn’t get distracted. His eyes will adjust and chances are he’ll fly towards the light. Walk over there and pick him up with your finger, don’t grab him roughly and break all the work you already did. He’ll soon realize you’re coming to his rescue. Do this as much as possible and be gentle with him. This is a scary thing for him and you his protector.

(week 7)
5. Once we got him used to be on our finger it was time to start doing it during the day. It feels like lost progress, but he has to put it together on his own and will soon be jumping up on your finger whistling Dixie. You’ll be chasing him around his cage again, but it will all work out. Once you get him up on our finger, don’t push it, let him see what’s happening and adjust. Keep talking and drill the sound of your voice into his little brain. At one point you’ll be able to take him out. Chances are if he sees his cage, he will take off for it. So I got a little trick for this, see the video below.

Getting him out. takes a little practice.

You get him up and turn around quickly so he can’t see his cage

Once he’s out, take him to where he can’t see the cage and won’t be tempted. He will always try to go to the cage at first but with clipped wings, he’ll rarely make it, and you’ll have to “Rescue him” and bring him up so he can reach. This develops a bond because you bring him back home every time. Using the same trick to get him away from the cage, do to get him back. So he doesn’t fly from your finger but, steps from your finger to his house.

(week 8)
6. You’ll soon see, he finds it more interesting to hang out with you, rather than be alone in the cage. What I did was make it more accessible for him. I put some rope in places where I do things, like my computer for example. There’s a rope going from a shelf to my computer monitor. He just sits there and watches me type. He finds that rather enjoyable and doesn’t fly away. He also likes watching us do dishes, he whistles with the sound of the water.

He also likes to sit on top of our laptop while the wife does her internet thing. There are certain places he likes more than others. I found any of the curtain rods in the hose he likes. I think it’s because he’s so high and he can see the whole room. When he does fly down he’ll wander the floor. Remember let the other animals check him out. If he’s not in danger let them interact with each other. My cat is funny, he chases him while the bird comes in for a landing. The bird in turn lands and walks toward the cat and the cat won’t know what to do so he jumps back. The bird wants to check him out this time and the cats are scared…lol it’s hilarious

(the rest of the time)
7. Soon your budgie will be interacting with you, you’ll find him talking and squawking as you talk to people. He feels it’s his contribution to the flock. And if we stop, he stops, it’s so funny. He even tries yelling over us just to be heard, we acknowledge him and he stops. He just wants to talk that’s all. They are social creatures that need interaction. Just don’t ignore him and don’t abuse him. Teach your kids why and how to treat the bird. Remind them that he is little, and he trusts them. They need to make sure he doesn’t get hurt so he lives a long happy life.

Hope this helps I know it sure worked for me and I have video proof of it. Enjoy your bird, and remember he’s a part of your family now, treat him like it. Once he’s adjusted well you can put his cage anywhere. Try not to put him in direct sunlight he can’t escape from. Birds are shade-loving animals.

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