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Training Your Older Or Re-Homed Pet Bird

If you have an older or re-homed pet bird, follow these tips to train it to step up on your hand and more.

By Elise Kaplan

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It’s a challenge to work with a pet bird that has learned, through an unhappy history, to distrust people or to keep them at bay with bites and intimidation. When training older or re-homed pet birds, you are establishing a relationship between person and parrot, so that the bird can understand it is involved in a healthy, cooperative relationship.    

Meyer's parrot
Older or rehomed pet birds might distrust people, but setting up a training program that goes at the parrot's pace will help bring it around.

Older or re-homed birds might be more reserved about being handled or even being approached. You might have to begin training with the bird in the cage and only slowly move away from it when the bird becomes comfortable with you. Training sessions should be short but frequent. Two short sessions, about 10 minutes, each day will suffice.

Perch Training
Training your bird to step onto a stick or perch might be your first goal if the bird is fearful of hands or just reluctant to approach you. It will also allow others in the household to safely handle your bird.

Offer the stick to your bird just above its feet at its abdomen. It most likely will naturally step up onto the higher object. Hold your hand steady so the perch does not wobble. If your bird does not step onto the perch, hold a favorite treat just out of reach so it must step up to retrieve it. Each time your bird steps up, reward it. Offer praise, food or a chance to play with its favorite toy.

Some other tips for training a re-homed or older pet bird include:

  • Show the bird that it’s in a safe place: Let the bird observe you sitting quietly, reading silently or out loud (many experienced bird owners swear by Dr. Seuss books). Respect the bird’s boundaries. After any quarantine period, let the bird see how you interact with other birds in your household.
  • Start with a formal training program once your bird is comfortable in the home. Begin with Step Up onto a perch, then graduate to a hand. If your bird is properly rewarded for these sessions, it will begin to look forward to them.
  • When your bird has mastered the basics, you might be able to move on to some trick training that does not involve touching, such as the “turn around.” Successfully completely a trick can help your re-homed bird gain confidence.

Step-By-Step
To be successful in training, keep your bird comfortable and do not overwhelm the bird by taking on too much at a time. Break the tricks into small steps and before moving onto another step, be sure your bird has mastered the previous step. Turning a single trick into tiny steps allows plenty of opportunities for praise and rewards.


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Lisa, RW, FL
Posted: 8/6/2014 8:24:26 PM
Gus is 6 years old, and what I have learned I am his 4th owner- and plan to be his forever home. Gus is very nippy and holds alot of hand hatred. I have had him for about 4 weeks, we have had only a couple intereactions where he would willing step up and not bite me when returning to his perch.

There the other day he has walked off his perch onto my leg- and walked up to my hand (resting on my stomach) and nipped my hand! My hand didn't do anything, didn't move, didn't offer anything- I just sat still to see what he wanted because he's never wanted to walk on me- I was excited for the interaction, until he nipped me!
Jenn, Dearborn Heights, MI
Posted: 11/25/2013 8:03:19 AM
My bird gets on my arm, will get on a stick, and trusts me enough so I don't scare it when I move fast or do something kind of stressful to birds i new homes, but will NOT let me touch her. I would like some help with that. I can't trim her wings, oh and she flies around my room when I even show her a towel and approach her with it just in my hand. I also have a swing in her cage but she doesn't use it she chew on her perches.
Autumn Condit, Huber Heights, OH
Posted: 7/11/2013 7:38:23 PM
very informative.
peggy, wessington
Posted: 3/21/2013 3:03:51 AM
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