The following are simple commands all our feathered friends should be happy to comply with the vast majority of the time...
The First Obedience Skill - To teach the parrot to come onto your hand or arm from a T stand.
The parrot performs the required action each and every time the ‘up’ command is given.
Time required: 10-15 minutes, uninterrupted, twice daily
Technique: place the parrot on the T stand. Place your hand or arm in front of the bird and give the ‘up’ command. When the parrot complies, praise it & return it to the stand, being SURE the bird is a little lower than the perch, thus causing it to step up onto it when you give the ‘up’ command again. Practice continuously for the 10 or 15 minute training period, being lavish with praise every time the bird performs correctly. Do not let the parrot refuse your command. Be gently persistent until it performs properly. At the end of the session, praise & pet the parrot & return it to its cage to rest, sleep, eat, play or do whatever its little birdie heart desires. If you find yourself becoming angry or upset during the session, terminate it.
Second Obedience Skill - To teach the parrot to come onto your hand or arm from the top of the cage on command.
The parrot obeys the ‘up’ command while on top of its cage – automatically & without hesitation (may require use of a stool).
Time required: 10-15 minutes, twice daily
Third Obedience Skill - To teach the parrot to step onto your hand or arm from within the cage.
The parrot responds to the ‘up’ command from any location within its cage, automatically & unhesitatingly.
Time required: 10-15 minutes, twice daily
Then there are some simple commands you might want to train your bird to do, to help develop a bond between you, develop an enjoyable learning experience between you or just attempt as a bit of fun! Don't panic or be disheartened if your bird doesn't respond favourably to them; today might just be a bad day for him/her!
Give the cue ‘shake’ & touch the parrot’s foot. When the foot is lifted, praise and reward. When the parrot is raising its foot consistently when given the cue, grasp its foot & shake it. Praise & reward.
When the last step has been accomplished, praise & reward only after handshake has been properly completed. At this point, do not reward for merely lifting the foot.
Continue drilling the trick daily, until your parrot performs on cue no matter where it is.
With the parrot on the T stand & the reward in your hand, give the cue ‘turn around’. As you do this, slowly circle your hand with the reward around the parrot’s head, beginning in front, proceeding around the back, & ending up with your hand & the food in front of the parrot again.
At first praise & reward if the parrot only turns its head slightly in the direction of your hand. When the parrot follows your hand around further, praise & reward only for this. Eventually the parrot will have to turn completely around on the perch to follow your hand further. When this happens, praise & reward for this & nothing else. At this point the parrot will be facing away from you. With food in hand, continue your hand movement until the parrot is again forced to turn all the way around, once again facing you, in order to get its praise & reward. When the parrot arrives at the point where it is turning a full 360 degrees on cue for praise & reward, continue practicing until the behaviour is performed correctly whenever the cue is given. At this point, begin giving only the cue, without the accompanying hand movement. Praise & reward only when the parrot performs correctly without the hand movement.
Continue practicing the trick at every session until the parrot performs correctly with consistency.
Coins in the Bank
You will need disks/coins (disinfected) & a box or piggy bank on a table.
Place the parrot on the table & demonstrate placement of the coins in the bank, giving yourself the cue “go to the bank”. After each demonstration, praise & reward yourself.
When you feel the trick has been adequately demonstrated, hand the parrot a coin/disk, & give the cue. At first, praise & reward whenever your parrot takes the coin from your hand. The first time the parrot begins to move towards the piggy bank, praise & reward. From now on, bridge only for movement toward the bank with a coin/disk. Work on getting the parrot ever closer to the bank, praising & rewarding for the most recent, improved performance & not for lesser efforts.
When your parrot attempts to place the coin in the slot, praise & reward, & ignore any attempts that do not go this far. Your parrot may need a little help at first to get the coin into the slot successfully. Praise & reward for this behaviour until the bird begins to succeed at actually getting the coin in without help. After this happens, praise & reward only for this. When your parrot has mastered placement of one coin in the bank, work on placement of up to 6 coins.
After the parrot has mastered placing all the coins in the bank, begin to omit handing the coins to it & start instead pointing at each coin while giving the verbal cue. When the trick has been mastered with finger pointing & the verbal cue, begin to eliminate pointing at the coins, giving only the verbal cue. Eventually, the parrot should be able to place all the coins in the bank with only the initial verbal cue.
Choosing the Correct Colour
You will need to have rings (preferrably wooden or acrylic) of very different colours i.e. red, green, blue, yellow, orange.
Give yourself the cue “pick out red”, & pick up the red ring. Praise & reward yourself. Demonstrate this several times, always using the same colour. You may want to spend the whole first session demonstrating.
Place your parrot on the table, with the red ring 8 to 12 inches away from the bird. Give the cue, & when the parrot moves toward the ring, praise & reward. Work with the parrot to get it to move closer & closer to the red ring. Every time it moves closer, praise & reward, & cease praising & rewarding for lesser efforts. When the parrot finally picks up the red ring, praise & reward. From this time, do this only when the parrot moves to & picks up, the red ring.
Work with the parrot until it has mastered picking up the red ring, then place the ring twice the distance from its original position in relation to the bird. Continue practicing this behaviour until the parrot will retrieve the red ring from any place on the table.
When the parrot has mastered ‘long distance’ retrieval, place the red ring & green ring side by side on the table, about 8 to 12 inches from the bird.
Pick up the green ring, giving yourself the cue “pick out green”. Praise & reward yourself. Demonstrate this several times.
Next, give yourself the cue “pick out red” & pick up the red ring. Praise & reward yourself. Follow this with several more demonstrations with the green ring, giving yourself the cue, & praising & rewarding yourself. Repeat this sequence several times, one “red ring” to five “green rings”.
Place the parrot on the table & give the cue “pick out green ring”. If the parrot moves toward the green ring, praise & reward. If, on the other hand, it makes a beeline for the red ring, ignore & repeat the cue “pick up green”.
Repeat this exercise until your parrot picks up the green ring consistently on cue. When the parrot has mastered the green ring, begin to alternate cues – first red, then green – until it can pick up either ring correctly on cue.
As with working on the red ring alone, begin to move the rings further and further away from the parrot, working toward having it pick up whichever ring is requested from any position on the table.
At this point, place the yellow ring next to the red & green rings, 8 to 12 inches away from the parrot. Demonstrate as you did when introducing the green ring.
There are many different ways we can interact with our parrot friends, but here are some simple suggestions to start you off or stir you to try different playtime games.
- Colouring with your parrot using non-toxic crayons - messy fun & watch out for paper shredders!
- Put on favourite music & sashay round the room (a favourite with my Galah who adores rock music & 'headbangs' to the beat).
- Get a set of children’s large building blocks, sit on the floor with your parrot & construct a block tower – then watch the bird knock it down!
- Peek a boo – covering your face with your hands, remove them & say the magic words!!!
- Playing ball - great fun with caiques who enjoy 'kicking' the ball as well as 'beaking' it. Watch this with broody cockatoos who just want to steal the ball & sit on it!
- Parrot throws a toy off a stand, owner retrieves it. More fun for the parrot than the owner.
- Playing tag – “I’m gonna get you!” This can be great fun or very scary for a sensitive parrot. Match your enthusiasm to your little feathered pal to ensure you don't frighten him/her. An absolute favourite with my macaw, who gets very excited at being 'chased' & goes completely loopy!
- Don’t forget to put your parrot on a stand next to you if you’re chopping veggies or doing paperwork – just make sure they have something to keep themselves occupied with too. Shared time whilst doing different things can be very soothing.
- Tents - great for getting birds used to being handled in fabric. To start playing this with a parrot new to fabric play, I would suggest holding a piece of material, cotton or fleece in a 'tent like' position so the bird can look underneath & wander in & out without getting fearful. Then you could try lowering the fabric around the bird to see how they react. Do they find it fun/exciting or does it frighten them? Take it one step at a time. Your bird might enjoy it even more if you're under there with them!!!!
- Rollover - another fabric play game & one I play very successfully with my Galah. I put down a piece of cotton/fleece fabric on the sofa, then my bird runs into the centre of the fabric (sometimes encouragement is required to get her attention). I then flip over part of the fabric to cover her & roll her up in it. She loves been snuggled in it, we then play 'peak a bird' from either end.