It was great having a chance to present at Parrot Palooza again this year. My headline presentation was 5 Things you can do with your parrot today to improve your parrot's behavior.
Here is a brief summary of the talk followed by a video of the actual presentation.
#1 - Double up on toys
Parrots are extremely intelligent animals that get bored easily. They need a lot to keep them occupied. Otherwise they will find other ways to occupy themselves and these things generally don't mesh well with the household. If a parrot is out of the cage and bored, it may opt to fly around and chew on moldings, furniture, your keyboard or phone, and wreak havoc on a home.
Locked away in the cage, a bored parrot may be more limited in what it can get its beak on. If destroying toys isn't the go-to option, the next one will be destroying perches. However, when both of those are short to come by, their next favorite misbehavior tends to be screaming! Parrots love the sound of their own voice, which can be quite loud, and they can go on all day. Unlike you, parrots aren't prone to hearing damage or loss so there's nothing to stop them. When the screaming runs out, then parrots turn to feather plucking or self-mutilation. Once it starts, it is often difficult or impossible to reverse. Likewise, bad behavior is seldom untaught.
For these, reasons it is far more worthwhile to pile up the bird toys and shovel out hoards of splinters from the bottom of the cage than to leave the parrot to entertain itself. You will want about 8-12 toys in the bird's cage at any given time and 5+ perches to help them get around and get access to those toys. Not only do you need the quantity of toys, but also the quality. Find bird toys that will last your parrot about 2 weeks. That means that after about 2-4 weeks, there is nothing but the chain or rope left behind because the parrot destroyed all of the rest. Toys that last for less time are great too but you will have to keep replacing them frequently so it will get costly. Learning your bird's chewing abilities and habits will help you shop smart and find the toys that will be the right level of challenge to keep your parrot interested and chewing for a reasonable length of time.
Be sure to check out the selection of bird toys and particularly the Woodland Parrot line of artisan bird toys from the Parrot Wizard store.
#2 - 12 hours of sleep
It is very important to give your parrot 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep all year round. This not only ensures that your bird isn't misbehaving from being sleep deprived but also helps tone down the hormones. By reducing the effects of seasons, through variation in daylight cycles, you can largely reduce the highly undesired consequences of a hormonal parrot. A lot of biting, territorial aggression, excessive preference for specific people, and unpredictable mood swings can be curbed by managing the light schedule.
You can cover the cage with a black bed sheet when it is time for the parrot to fall asleep and until it is time to wake up. My preferred way is to have the bird room lights on a timer so that they turn on and off automatically to help control the bird's sleep schedule. Some black out curtains or automatic shutters on a timer are also important in order to keep the sun out when the natural daylight period is longer than 12 hours.
#3 - Provide a tree stand
A fantastic way to improve or maintain your parrot's behavior is to provide a tree stand or activity center for your parrot away from the cage. All too often, people allow their parrot to hang out on top of the cage or playtop. This breeds some pretty strongly undesirable behavior. Parrots tend to be territorial and weird around their cages as it is. And on top of the cage it only gets worse. With a tall cage it is difficult to reach the bird so it runs to the distant ends of the cage while you are chasing and it only makes things worse. Instead, having the daily routine of taking the bird to a remote playstand every day not only provides the parrot with something to do but also strengthens the bond.
It's important to provide an extensive, exciting, climbable tree stand with the ability to hang toys. A simple Training Perch or Tabletop Perch is not suitable for this particular purpose. Simple perches are great for the purpose of training or interacting with the parrot. However, when you wish to put the parrot down and for the bird to keep itself busy, a complete tree stand or activity center is required.
Now having a bare tree stand alone isn't enough either. Just like in point 1, double up on those toys! Don't let your bored get bored and revert to undesirable behavior. Outfit the tree stand with toys, ropes, swings, foraging opportunities, and as many things to do as possible. Don't fill the food bowls with food though! Fill them with foot toys and activities instead.
The Parrot Wizard line of NU Perch Climbing Trees provides tree stands ideally suited for this purpose! These, ready to ship online, purpose built tree stands are designed so that your parrot could actually get around on them and reach the toys and activities you set up. The Parrot Wizard Trees are highly customizable to assist you in creating a captivating out of cage experience for your bird! Explore the Parrot Wizard Lifestyle to further learn how you can use the complete line of Parrot Wizard products as behavioral bird furniture to perfect your parrot keeping experience!
#4 - Enrich with variety of foods
Keep your parrot engaged with a more interesting variety of foods. Mix things up and keep it entertaining. Now this isn't to say to feed your parrot unhealthy. It is very important that you research and determine a healthy staple diet for your parrot's well-being. About 50-80% of the diet will be for nutritional purposes. However, for the remainder of your bird's daily intake, providing alternative, fun, and interesting foods will enhance their behavior as well.
Rather than just giving your bird it's favorite treats all the time, holding them back and getting your parrot to explore an assortment of tastes will actually drive better behavior! The parrot will be kept more busy weaving through the different foods, picking and choosing, deciding what it likes and doesn't like. Getting favorite foods all the time just doesn't do that. And a great benefit of this is that the favorite foods will become even more effective treats for training.
Explore a variety of natural fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for your bird. Not the typical seeds you see in a bird-store seed mix, but completely different stuff. Flax seeds, quinoa, sweet potato, papaya, and other exotic things like that. You can shop for some special mixes or come up with your own. But as you expand your parrot's pallet from just pellets + seeds to a wide variety, your bird will be more engaged and also drive a higher motivation for training. Which leads me to the 5th thing you can start doing to improve your parrot's behavior.
#5 - Clicker Training
Incorporating clicker training into your daily routine with your parrot will greatly improve your parrot's behavior in so many ways! First and most obviously, you can use clicker training to practice essential skills with your parrot such as step-up, handling, and flight recall. However, the benefits go far beyond just the basics. As you continue teaching your parrot more and more things, you will inadvertently be making the more basic things second nature.
In order to perform many of the tricks that you can teach, your parrot will inevitably have to step-up, be touched, or be in close proximity to hands in the process. As the parrot focuses on dunking the basketball or sorting colors, it won't even notice the proximity to hands or step-ups that it is doing while focused on a goal. This builds a much higher and more automatic level of good-behavior for general pet interactions with your bird throughout the day.
Not only does a daily training habit help build a relationship, it also helps the bird burn off energy in a productive way. Rather than screaming, getting overly amped up and biting, or becoming too destructive, by performing daily training you are having the bird spend energy in a beneficial rather than harmful way! It's a win-win. The bird learns good behavior and the bird is less tempted to engage in bad behavior simultaneously because it is more calm and relaxed after training!
Treat training as a necessary part of your daily parrot care routine. Just as it is important to change food, water, and cage papers, treat training as an equally simple, quick, and essential part of parrot care! Just a few minutes of focused training every day will go a long way in improving your parrot's behavior both directly and indirectly for life!
Grab a copy of my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots. It comes with a free bonus clicker and target stick to get you started right away! In addition, you'll want a Parrot Training Perch Kit as a comfortable platform for engaging in the training. Not only are the Training Perches going to make it easy to do the training, they will also help your parrot focus and be in the mood for training every day!
So, there are 5 things you can do to start improving your parrot's behavior! Of course, there is a bit more to it, but these 5 things are a great start. You can start making big progress toward having your perfect magical parrot keeping experience with these 5 things. I hope that this advice can help you improve your parrot's behavior and I hope that the Parrot Wizard supplies I came up with will aid you in making this parrot behavior be as simple to achieve as possible! Wishing you success.
Here is a video of my presentation at the 2019 Bird Paradise Parrot Palooza:
Step 2: Make sure that your parrot is fetch trained. If it isn't, teach it to fetch before you start teaching the darts trick. If it is already fetch trained, just do a quick review to remind it what to do.
Step 3: Desensitize the parrot to the dart board and darts. Most parrots get scared of new stuff. The good news is that the more tricks you teach, the more the bird will get used to accepting new things. The best way to desensitize the bird to the dart board is to target it near the toy. Place the dart board on a table beforehand. Bring your parrot and set it on the table far from the toy. Get the bird into a rhythm targeting. Target it randomly in different directions and not strictly toward the darts or it may get suspicious. Target it around randomly but little by little, more and more toward the dart board. Let the parrot pay more attention to the targeting exercise and forget about the darts until you are able to target it right by the board at ease. It is better to take the time to do the desensitization exercise even if the bird didn't get scared than to scare the bird with the toy first and then try to change its mind.
Step 4: The Birdie Darts trick comes with 3 magnetic darts. You can set two extra ones aside for now and just use one dart. Give the dart to your parrot from one hand and then present your other hand and ask it to fetch the dart to your open palm. Using a clicker, click when the bird drops the dart in your hand and give it a treat. Positive reinforcement goes a long way!
Step 5: Now it's time to teach the parrot to put the dart on the board. Hold your open hand in front of the dart board and ask your parrot to fetch the dart to your hand. Get the bird used to fetching the dart to your hand near the dart board.
Step 6: Continue having the bird fetch the dart to your open hand in front of the dart board, but now pull your hand away just before the bird drops the dart. When the bird is about to drop the dart into your hand, pull your hand back and away. The bird will end up dropping the dart straight down but the magnetic dart will grab onto the dart board. Click the clicker when the dart ends up on the board and give your bird a treat so that it realizes that the purpose is to put the dart on the board.
Step 7: Teach the parrot to make a bullseye by rewarding less frequently when the dart is placed far from the center. When the bird puts the dart closer to center than previously, click and reward. However, if the parrot puts the dart far from center, ignore. As the parrot learns to put the dart closer to the center, become more demanding by rejecting times when the parrot puts the dart further away. Eventually it can learn to make a bullseye with the dart on the dart board.
You can place all 3 darts on the table and have the parrot fetch all of them onto the dart board for a full game of darts!
Here's a short tutorial I made with Kili to illustrate the key steps of the process:
You can even have your parrot fly with the dart from far away like a long distance cruise-dart.
It's not only a thrill having my parrots fly in my yard, it's also great exercise for them!
Rather than a small free standing aviary, my entire yard is enclosed so that I could be there together with my parrots. This allows me full use of the yard space with or without the birds and it gives the birds a lot of space to fly.
Flying is by far the best form of exercise for a parrot. It not only works their wing muscles, but their entire body! They need to tuck their feet in, steer with their tail, adjust their feathers, user their mind, and of course breath and move blood quickly! It is only during flight that the parrots entire body is working up to its capacity.
However, don't expect that just because you put your parrot in a large enclosure that it will just fly. Parrots are generally pretty lazy and won't fly unless they really want to or there is danger. Of course in the wild, necessity is what gets parrots to fly many miles in search of food sources. At home, flight training using positive reinforcement will be the closest simulation to their natural ways while also building a bond with you.
Parrot Wizard Training Perches are the best way to get a parrot trained and accustomed to flying at home. Not only is it necessary to teach the parrot how to fly in a home environment but it is also essential to provide the physical therapy to get their muscles and systems strong enough to be able to fly effortlessly.
Then, the commands and methods used to train the parrot to fly indoors can be extended to large indoor spaces such as a gym or outdoors. However, it is imperative to have a back up safety measure when flying a parrot outdoors. When spooked, even well-trained parrots can fly away. So make sure that you do any outdoor flight in an aviary or with the use of an Aviator Harness as a safety net.
Although it may look effortless in the video, it is actually quite difficult to teach parrots to fly on command (especially outdoors). It takes weeks of consistent, and sometimes frustrating, training to get the parrots not only mentally in shape to fly but also physically. After a long winter restricted to indoor flying, it takes a bit of exercise before they can be good at flying longer distances again.
In this video, you can see how well Kili, Truman, and Rachel fly their daily exercise routines in my enclosed back yard flying area:
Wondering how you can teach a parrot to play basketball? Here's an awesome trick to teach your parrot! This free trick training guide is about how you can train the Birdie Basketball trick to your parrot!
Nothing is as exciting as throwing a ball and having your parrot fly to get it and bring it back to dunk it in the basketball hoop! The height on the Birdie Basketball is adjustable so even smaller parrots like a green cheek conure can learn to do this awesome trick.
So here's a step by step guide on teaching a parrot to play basketball:
Step 2: Make sure that your parrot is fetch trained. If it isn't, teach it to fetch before you start teaching the basketball trick. If it is already fetch trained, just do a quick review to remind it what to do.
Step 3: Desensitize the parrot to the basketball toy. Most parrots get scared of new stuff. The good news is that the more tricks you teach, the more the bird will get used to accepting new things. The best way to desensitize the bird to the basketball toy is to target it near the toy. Place the basketball hoop toy on a table beforehand. Bring your parrot and set it on the table far from the toy. Get the bird into a rhythm targeting. Target it randomly in different directions and not strictly toward the basketball hoop or it may get suspicious. Target it around randomly but little by little, more and more toward the basketball. Let the parrot pay more attention to the targeting exercise and forget about the basketball until you are able to target it right by the hoop at ease. It is better to take the time to do the desensitization exercise even if the bird didn't get scared than to scare the bird with the toy first and then try to change its mind.
Step 4: The Birdie Basketball trick comes with 2 different basketballs. One is a realistic looking basketball and one is a training ball with a lot of holes. For now, put aside the realistic ball and use the easy to grab training ball instead. Give the training ball to your parrot from one hand and then present your other hand and ask it to fetch the ball to your open palm. Using a clicker, click when the bird drops the ball in your hand and give it a treat. Positive reinforcement goes a long way!
Step 5: Now it's time to teach the parrot to put the ball in the basketball hoop. Start by lowering the hoop down low. This will not only make it easier for the parrot to reach but also give you more room to hold your hand. Hold your open hand directly over the basketball hoop and ask the bird to fetch the ball. When the bird drops the ball in your hand, click the clicker and give a treat. This teaches the bird to bring the ball toward the basketball hoop.
Step 6: Continue having the bird fetch the basketball to your open hand above the hoop, but now pull your hand away just before the bird drops the ball. This way it will accidentally drop it into the basketball hoop when it really just intended to drop it into your hand. Click and reward so that your bird realizes that the goal is to drop the ball into the hoop! Keep practicing and progressively raise the hoop higher and higher so the parrot learns to stretch for a slam dunk. Finally, when the parrot has mastered the basketball trick, you can use the realistic basketball instead. Show the bird the single hole through the ball where it can grab it with its beak and you'll have an NBA allstar in no time!
Here's a short tutorial I made with Kili to illustrate the key steps of the process:
Looking for a fun and easy trick to teach your parrot? Wondering how you can teach a parrot to put coins in a piggy bank? This free trick training guide is about how you can train the Birdie Treasure Chest trick to your parrot!
I love the Birdie Treasure Chest trick because it's two tricks in one. First the bird can learn to put the coins or its toys away into the open chest. Later you can close the chest and teach it to deposit coins into it like a piggy bank. The advantage of the Treasure Chest toy over a regular piggy bank is that it allows the bird to learn and expand its ability. By practicing at first with the open chest, the bird can learn to be better at fetching things and will pick up on the piggy bank part even better later on. The Birdie Treasure Chest comes with safe plastic coins so that you don't risk contaminating your bird with real coins.
The Birdie Treasure Chest Trick is suitable for most sized parrots including Senegal Parrot, Caique, Sun Conure, Amazon, African Grey, Eclectus, Cockatoo, and Macaw. However, it is probably too big for most Cockatiels, Parakeets, and Green Cheek Conures.
So here's a step by step guide on teaching a parrot to hide its treasure:
Step 3: Desensitize the parrot to the treasure chest toy. Most parrots get scared of new stuff. The good news is that the more tricks you teach, the more the bird will get used to accepting new things. The best way to desensitize the bird to the treasure chest is to target it near the toy. Place the treasure chest on a table beforehand. Bring your parrot and set it on the table far from the toy. Get the bird into a rhythm targeting. Target it randomly in different directions and not strictly toward the chest or it may get suspicious. Target it around randomly but little by little, more and more toward the treasure chest. Let the parrot pay more attention to the targeting exercise and forget about the chest until you are able to target it right by the toy at ease. It is better to take the time to do the desensitization exercise even if the bird didn't get scared than to scare the bird with the toy first and then try to change its mind.
Step 4: Open the treasure chest and have the parrot fetch the included plastic coins to your hand near the treasure chest. Hold your open hand above the treasure chest and ask the parrot to fetch the coin to your hand. Click and reward the parrot as per usual training whenever it successfully puts coins in your hand. After practicing a few times, withdraw your hand just as the parrot is dropping the coin into your hand. It will fall into the open treasure chest by accident. Click and reward so that the parrot knows this was good. Show your hand above the treasure chest and have the parrot continue fetching the coin to the chest as you withdraw your hand. You can begin to replace the withdrawing hand with a point toward the treasure chest instead. Eventually you won't have to say or do anything. The parrot will just go and pick up a coin and drop it into the open treasure chest on its own. You just need to click and reward. You can further teach your parrot to put other objects into the treasure chest like its toys.
Step 5: Close the lid on the treasure chest and teach the parrot to put the coin into the piggy bank coin slot. The method for teaching this is similar to the prior step but with some modification. Hold your open hand above the coin slot and have the parrot fetch the coin to your hand. After a few times, pull your hand away so that the parrot ends up placing the coin on top of the treasure chest and reward this. Once the parrot is good and eager to put coins on top of the treasure chest, you just need to teach it to direct the coin into the slot better. You can help the parrot out by putting your finger near the slot and as the parrot is placing the coin down on top of the chest, you help aim it into the slot. When the parrot drops the coin into the slot, make a big deal about this with big rewards. Don't reward placing the coin near but not into the slot anymore. After a few more times, the parrot will learn to work the coin into the slot on its own. Now your parrot is a certified pirate and can stash away its plunder in a treasure chest! Argh!