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!
Rachel, my wife's Blue and Gold Macaw, has been going through terrible twos for the last few years. This is the adolescent period where much changes in a parrot's life. It grows up from being a naive baby to an independent adult. Most parrot owners are quite surprised by the changes that happen when the parrot stops being cooperative during this stage.
The age at which adolescence hits will vary by species. Roughly speaking it's around 1-3 years old in the small parrots, 2-4 in the medium, and about 3-6 years old in the large ones. During this period, the parrot's behavior can change unexpectedly. The bird will be more testing, bold, fearful, and all around cranky. Allegiances with other birds and humans can also become reversed. It's an all around jumbled, confusing, unpredictable, and unpleasant experience.
The once sweet baby now bites the hand that feeds. It might prefer someone it didn't like before or seem all around intent to hunker down in the cage and not even come out. When asked to step up, the bird runs away, bites, or just flat out ignores so what to do?
Predicting that Rachel will go through this, I began preemptive training early to help combat the worse of the symptoms of parrot adolescence. I trained Rachel to step-up using clicker and target stick, taming, harness, and some tricks beforehand. But as the age started to come, Rachel's behavior was still in a slow decline. It is difficult to realize an imperceptible downward slippery slope until it jumps out and bites you. Sometimes literally.
My wife Marianna, who raised Rachel since she was a baby, learned about parrot adolescence the hard way. It wasn't until she got bit by the baby she raised that she got a full grasp of what the "terrible" in terrible-twos means. She actually got to a point where she was uneasy around Rachel because the bites seemed to be random and unexpected. So, to help her out, I decided to do some step up re-training with Rachel to get her to be more reliable at stepping up and off again.
Rachel already knew exactly how to step-up from previous training so it was more of a matter of rekindling motivation for stepping up and lots of practice. It seems strange having to go back to such basics with a parrot that knows complex tricks. But, when hormones are causing the bird to be edgy and bite, it's what you gotta do.
If Rachel forgot how to step up entirely or would entirely refuse to, I would start the initial step-up training all over again from scratch. However, since we caught it in time while she was still stepping up but not as reliably, it was a much easier fix. I just literally went to giving Rachel a food treat every single time she would step up. She got back into it quickly once she realized she was getting food for such easy stuff.
Normally we begin to take step-up for granted because the parrot is usually reinforced in other ways for participating. For example, step-up and you get to come out of cage. Step up and I'll give you attention. Step up and get a head scratch. Step up so you could do a trick and earn a treat. There is usually a subtle bit of positive reinforcement on an intermittent reinforcement schedule built into the parrot keeping lifestyle that I share. However, when the biological changes that the parrot is going through cause it to suddenly dislike things it normally likes and people it normally trusts, you have to go back to much more basic operant conditioning to remind it what to do.
This came as no shock to me as I had already gone through the same with Kili, Truman, and countless bird owners I have coached. However, it always pins you harder when you were the one that raised your bird and you second guess yourself. This is why a clear mind, good attitude, right approach, and persistence really matter. It's all an uphill battle while slowly slipping downhill when the bird is going through this. With good training and the time for the bird to grow out of the age, everything will settle in place.
Kili and Rachel have been enjoying the fall weather flying in my backyard flight area. They have been building strong flight muscles, breathing fresh air, and getting natural sunlight all at the same time.
I'll share details about the enclosure at a different time but simply put it's a netting enclosed area that is safe for supervised time but not for leaving the birds unattended.
Truman has been left out of the flight activities lately because of his own issues. He hasn't been too eager to flight recall and on the other hand, he's been randomly flying into stuff. He will need some separate one on one attention to get him on the right track. But since Kili and Rachel are already doing the right stuff, I've been focused on getting them flying.
Kili, the trained Senegal Parrot that used to freefly outdoors, had no trouble adjusting to flying in the enclosed yard at all. She immediately knew what to do and did not try to fly away. Kili recalls with great reliability and is definitely my go-to bird.
The way I got Rachel to start flight training outside was to bring her out every day to watch Kili reliably flight training. On one hand, Rachel got to see Kili earning treats and showing what to do. But on the other, Rachel was getting accustomed to the sights and sounds of being out in the yard. It took some time for this to all sink in because Rachel was cautiously reluctant to leave the safety of her Training Perch.
Eventually Rachel started to make sure flights, then slightly longer ones. With time and practice, reliability started to improve. It was a combination of building confidence, security, practice, and exercise to improve muscle strength. Now, Rachel makes 10-20ft flight recalls with ease. As the autumn temperatures continue to drop, our chances for further training are quickly diminishing. Over the winter we will continue training other skills indoors and pick up where we left off with the outdoor training in the spring.
Here is a 360 degree video of Kili and Rachel flight training in the yard. You can move the image 360 degrees by dragging with your mouse or tilting your phone to get a feeling of what it's like having these parrots flying around you.