I hate getting bit by a parrot! Those beaks are sharp and strong! They can leave painful bloody marks for weeks. In fact, I dislike parrots biting so much that I just avoid getting bit altogether! In this article and video, I want to present to you my guaranteed method to never getting bit by your parrot!
So if you are wondering, how can I stop a parrot from biting? How to teach a parrot not to bite? How to punish a parrot for biting? Or what can I do to avoid bites from a parrot or parakeet, you've come to the right place.
What is a parrot bite? Let's start by defining a parrot bite. Not every contact of the beak to hand is necessarily a bite. For the message conveyed in this article, we will set using the beak to touch, feel, grasp, nip, or hold aside. A parrot bite is when a parrot uses its beak upon your hand or body in a strong enough manner to break skin, possibly cause bleeding, for the purpose of affecting your behavior or action. So, basically if the parrot uses its beak to hurt you because it wants or doesn't want something from you.
The solution to get your parrot to stop biting you? Very simple! Keep your hands to yourself! If you and your hands are never close enough for the parrot to bite you, virtually all biting will be prevented. A parrot almost never comes over to you with the purpose to bite you. Bites occur almost exclusively when you are trying to touch, pick up, put down, or hold your parrot. If you stop doing that, you will stop getting bit!
Don't forget this applies to other body parts besides hands as well. If you stick your nose toward your parrot, try to kiss, or have your parrot on your shoulder, you could get bit on the face. If you keep your hands and body parts away from the parrot, you won't be bit.
In the most extreme case of a parrot that deliberately walks over to bite you or worse yet flies at you to bite you, one further step may be required which is to keep a physical barrier between you and the bird like the bars of the cage. If the bird is in a cage and you don't stick your hands in or near the cage, I guarantee that bird will not bite you either. That's it, simple as that, biting is solved. I bid you adieu.
But, wait a minute, if you can't use any part of your body on the bird, then how can you take it out of the cage? If you can't take the bird out of the cage, how can you change food/water and clean the cage? How can you enjoy this bird as a pet if you aren't allowed to do anything in order to avoid getting bit? Now that is where the real effort begins. As I have pointed out, solving biting is extremely easy. Keep your hands/body away from the parrot and you won't get bit or keep the bird in the cage. The real effort comes in how to take the bird out of the cage without your hands. How can you put the parrot back into the cage? How can you play with the bird without using your hands?
First off, especially if you have a particularly bad biter, starting with hands off interactions is a great place to begin. There are many things you can start doing with your parrot right away that don't involve your hands being close enough that the parrot can bite you. Target training, trick training, and talking can often be done without any close contact or biting. These are a great place to start.
Next, you should learn how to apply training to teach your parrot to target reliably. You can use a Parrot Training Perch to practice step up exercises where your parrot learns to want to come onto your hand by itself rather than you putting your hand up to the parrot and getting bit. The DVD included with the Parrot Training Perch Kit demonstrates how to practice these exercises.
As you build good habits and routines based on positive reinforcement training, you will start being able to do things that you want with the parrot without getting bit. The exercises described in my book and other supplies teach you how to build up training momentum gradually where the parrot is able to feel comfortable and does not feel the desire or need to bite you. Using tools like the clicker, target stick, training perch, and more, you will be able to keep your hands safely away from the bird while teaching cooperation. The entire time that training is going on, you are going to feel safe from biting and the parrot will not feel the need to bite. A win/win for everybody and good habits to follow.
Now when it comes to punishment for biting, that is the trap that most people fall into. When most people think about how to stop a parrot from biting, they are thinking about some kind of punishment or consequence that would convince a parrot not to bite any more. The punishments that people try to inflict can range from a stern look, to shouting, saying no, pushing, hitting, squirting, putting down, returning to cage, or throwing the bird. Unfortunately, not a single one of these or any other responses will actually teach the parrot not to bite next time. The milder punishments don't do anything or possibly even encourage biting because it might be fun for the bird to get you to react and talk. The harsher punishments will make the parrot entirely fearful of you and even more likely to bite in the future to try to keep you away and thus protect itself from you inflicting further punishment or harm to it. This is why the punishment or consequence in response to biting does not help prevent future biting. But, keeping your hands to yourself and using positive reinforcement training to teach the bird to voluntarily do what you want it to do is what really works.
Some people feel that if they don't respond to a parrot biting with some sort of punishment or consequence that the parrot will think it is boss and bite more in the future. The problem is that it will still hurt to get that bite and the parrot still keeps biting in its arsenal of ways to behave. By keeping your hands to yourself and avoiding any bite in the first place, this is the first and correct step in taking biting entirely out of your parrot's toolbox of trying to get you to do or not do something. It is better to use positive reinforcement training to get the parrot to come onto your hand because it wants to rather than to try to hurt the parrot in response for being forced onto your arm when it did not want to step up in the first place. Responses to biting keep biting going. Avoiding opportunities for bites to happen actually teach a parrot how to behave instead of biting for the long run!
Many people will talk about what they do in response to a bite. The thing is, if their response was a smart and effective one, they would not have to have a response to biting anymore because it would be resolved. Punishments and responses don't work and that's why people keep trying them with no solution. On the other hand, using the approach I have outlined here and teach throughout my site, I haven't received a single parrot bite in many years. I don't have a response to biting! Instead, I keep my hands away from a parrot that doesn't want contact or that I am not familiar with until I can develop a friendship where the parrot would welcome it.
This is why the bite photos I used in this article are fake. They were staged. My parrots don't actually bite me so I would not be able to show you a photo of what that looks like. So, I just put my finger in Rachel's beak and just pretended to be in severe pain. Even though her beak was on my finger during the photo, she was not actually squeezing or causing me any actual discomfort. Acting. That's what you gotta do when you have such an effective solution to parrot biting that you can't even show or remember what it looks like!
So, please stop having to endure painful parrot bites going further by following this advice. Do things that keep your hands away and safe for the parrot while working on incorporating training to teach the bird how to cooperate voluntarily. Here is a video with more information and thoughts about stopping parrots from biting.
I received a message from a customer who's rescue Amazon is terrified of the Training Perches she ordered. It's not a flaw with the Training Perches but rather a somewhat common problem that parrots get scared of new stuff. Since I'm sure this isn't the first or last time a bird will be scared of a Training Perch, or some new bird stand for that matter, I decided to make a video and article on the topic to help everyone out. Katie asked:
I am so happy with the quality of your training perches. Unfortunately, my new rescue Amazon is TERRIFIED of the perches (the wood part). She goes into a panic when she sees them clear across the room. It's so bad that it's heart-breaking. This is the only time i've witnessed this behavior. I have not been able to handle her yet, and now that I know of this fear, I feel hopeless. Do you have any tips or videos to point me to? Thanks in advance.
Now once on the Training Perches, training a parrot should be a breeze. The Parrot Wizard Training Perches are height adjustable, simple, and comfortable. This helps get the parrot at a comfortable height with no distractions for maximum attention during learning exercises provided during training.
Most parrots will just step onto the Training Perch off the bat or at most with a gentle nudge onto them. Afterall, why not? The perches are very plain and non invasive looking. Yet, there will always be the one bird that is just petrified for no explainable reason. Abused birds, older or rescue birds, and African Greys are most likely to fall into this category. However, any parrot, even a baby, can be fearful of anything at any time. So, when you introduce your parrot to Parrot Training Perches, or any new bird stand, here are some steps to follow to minimize the fear and even prevent the possibility of becoming fearful preemptively.
1) Use a similar perch in the cage. Give the parrot a chance to become familiar with that style of perch, wood, shape, material at its own pace in the cage before encountering the training perch, tree, or stand for the first time! To make this easier to accomplish, Parrot Wizard NU Perches are offered as a series of perches for cage, training perch, scale, window perch, tree stand, and more. So once the parrot gets used to the NU Perch in its cage, it is much more prepared to accept not only the Training Perch, but an entire series of bird furniture that you can use around your house.
Once the parrot starts perching on the NU Perch, it will fall in love with the comfort and shape. It's just like a comfortable pair of shoes, relaxing on the feet. Many parrots will just go to a Training Perch after because they realize it will be a comfortable place to stand. Or at least, the parrot will be more familiar with the perch on the top of the training stand so it will only be a matter of getting used to the sight of the stand at that point. This will still alleviate fear and make further steps simpler.
When you buy the "kit" version of the Parrot Training Perch Kit direct from Parrot Wizard, it comes with a free bonus cage NU Perch so that your parrot can start getting used to the same style of perches right off the bat.
2) Set the Training Perch up to the cage. Give the parrot the chance to explore the Training Perch at its own pace. You might have the patience to spend 5 or 10 minutes introducing the bird to the Training Perch. But, if you have a really scared bird it could take hours or days. As a person, it's hard to be patient for so long. However, by leaving the Training Perch up to the parrot's cage, it will give the parrot all the time in the world to think it over and explore.
With the cage door open, you can set the Training Perch at a suitable height to just peak inside the cage. At some point the parrot may walk across or onto it. Another way to set it up is with the parrot on the door or on top of the cage, the Training Perch height can be raised so the parrot could get onto it. The ability to manipulate the Training Perch makes it easy to create this hybrid step between the parrot not being on it and getting used to it nearby until it gets comfortable.
3) Target the parrot onto the Training Perch. With the parrot on your hand (if it's already hand tame) or with the parrot inside the cage (just starting training), you can use target training to teach the parrot to get onto the Training Perch entirely on its own!
The method of Target Training is a whole other topic, however, the Training Perch Kit comes with included clicker, target stick, and DVD to help you learn this training method effectively. Generally, the Training Perch is the best place to perform the target training exercises. However, if you have a fearful parrot and need targeting to get the parrot to come onto the Training Perch, that puts you in a bit of a bind. No problem. Teach the parrot how to target inside the cage through the bars. The parrot will feel safer in its enclosure and you will feel protected because you can't get bit. Next, you will be able to use step 2 and 3 to get the parrot onto the Training Perch to let your training experience really begin.
All 3 methods mentioned here are far less intrusive or intimidating than just forcing a highly fearful bird onto a stand. They give the parrot time to adjust so that it can be at ease and in a good learning mindset once on the Training Perch. Just remember that the more fearful the parrot is, the more time it can take to desensitize it. Patience is key. Never push the parrot into a panic by moving too quickly with any of the steps. Give the parrot plenty of time to get used to seeing the new perch in the cage or at a distance for seconds, minutes, even days if necessary before bringing it closer. You have to be the judge based on how your bird responds on a case by case basis. But if you patiently work at it and give the bird a chance to get comfortable, your bird will adjust and be ready to use the Training Perches before long.
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: