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Train Your Parakeet

Follow these 14 bird training steps to train your parakeet to perch on your finger.

Nikki Moustaki
Posted: April 23, 2013, 11:30 a.m. PDT

budgie on finger
By Gina Cioli/I-5 Studios/Courtesy Allsison Strums/Exotic Birds by Fran
Work with your parakeet one-on-one to help tame her.

Taming a budgie (parakeet) isn’t difficult if you employ a little patience and a lot of routine. Consistency is essential to befriending any animal, as is having the time to do it and the proper expectations of results. Read on to discover, step by step, how to turn your biting budgie into a faithful friend.

1) Go into the budgie taming process with the proper expectations.
You are a thousand times bigger than your budgie, and you have eyes on the front of your head, not on the side — you’re a predator. That’s scary for a budgie. Realize that it’s going to take a few training sessions to get your bird used to being with you. Don’t get frustrated. That’s the worst thing you can do. Your bird will feel the negative vibe and become even more nervous. No, this isn’t New Age hooey. Birds, like most animals, are sensitive to our moods. Keep training sessions light and short, about 10 to 15 minutes each.

2) Work slowly with your parakeet.
Actual hands-on taming is what most people want to do, the ability to perch the bird on a finger or shoulder and just "hang out” together. The first step is to instill a sense of trust into the bird, to show it that you’re not a threat.

A terrified bird is difficult to tame. Begin by simply sitting next to the cage doing something other than watching the bird, i.e. watch TV, read, knit, whatever. You’re trying to get the bird used to your presence.

After a few days of this, and when the bird seems more comfortable with your presence, approach the bird cage and talk softly to it (you will, of course, be feeding and watering the bird everyday too, so make this part of your trust-building sessions). Offer millet spray through the cage bars once the bird seems comfortable, this may take a few days. These sessions are about making the bird feel that being close to you is normal and nothing to get upset about.

3) Your budgie will probably bite you.
Unless your bird is very young and just weaned from being hand-fed, you might suffer a bite or two (or three, or four!). This is the reason why most budgies don’t get tamed — owner fear. Expect the bite, and don’t freak out when it happens. It hurts, but it doesn’t hurt that bad. Be calm, and have some Band-aids ready.

Don’t react violently or make a big deal of the bite. Doing so shows your bird that biting gets a big reaction and that you will put him or her down to attend to your wounds — that’s what the bird wants. It will learn that biting is a good thing.

I wish I could offer a fool-proof way to not get bitten during a training session, but I can’t. Wearing gloves is a terrible idea — the bird will be terrified of them, and they defeat the purpose of training, which is to get the bird used to your hand. Training the bird to stand on a stick is a good idea, but I recommend hand-taming it first.

4) Have the budgie’s wing feathers trimmed.
Even if you eventually intend to let the bird fly, you can’t tame a flighted bird. The wing feathers will grow back with the next molt, and hopefully the bird will be tamed by then.

5) Get your budgie out of the cage.
To begin training, you first have to get the bird out of its cage, but you win nothing by fishing it out violently. You have two good options. With a small, thin washcloth, gently and confidently place your hand in the cage with the washcloth over it, and grasp the bird just firm enough to hold it, but not so firm you restrict its breathing — birds can’t breathe when there’s any sort of pressure on the chest. Do not chase the bird around and around the cage (that’s why I emphasized confidence). If this method is too much for you, remove the cage top, or remove the bars of the cage from its bottom — most cages allow this. But don’t use this method until you come to Step 6.

6) Work with your budgie one-on-one. 
Taming is between you and your bird at this point in the process, one-on-one. Take the bird (cage and all if you have to) into a small room — most people use the bathroom — make sure the toilet lid is closed and that dangerous substances and items that can fall if the bird flutters into them are put safely away. Close the door, and lock it to prevent others from coming in.

7) Get your parakeet comfortable being around you. 
Once the bird is out of the cage and you’re in the small room, sit down with your back against the wall and your knees bent into "mountains.” Gently place the bird on to one of your knees and slowly put your hands into your lap. If the bird flutters off, simply retrieve the bird gently and put it back on to one of your knees. It’s best to wear pants so that the bird has a good foothold, but be careful that the fabric isn’t a type that can snag a toe.
At this stage in taming, your only goal is to have the bird stand comfortably on your knee. Sessions should last no more than 10 minutes, two to three times a day. Remember, don’t get frustrated, and if you do, put the bird back gently and go into another room to vent if you need to. Remain calm at all times around your bird.

8) Talk to your budgie.
After a few sessions, the bird should be comfortable with standing on your knee. Now, begin to slide one hand slowly up the leg toward the knee where the bird is standing. Move slowly and talk soothingly to the bird, telling it what a good bird it is and how much you love it (a little corny, but what else are you going to tell it?). Eventually you should be able to get your hand close to the bird, almost touching it. Do only this for a few sessions.

9) Offer treats to your parakeet. 
When the bird seems comfortable with having your hand near it, gently try to touch the bird’s chest with one finger. Move slowly! This is a good time to break out the millet spray and offer small pieces of it so that the bird gets close to your hand and associates it with something pleasant. Do this for a few sessions. Remember, sessions only last ten to 15 minutes each.

budgies on caution signs
By Gina Cioli/I-5 Studios/Courtesy Allsison Strums/Exotic Birds by Fran
Don't push your budgie while training, or you might lose her trust.

10)Handle your budgie with care.
Some budgies will take readily to stepping onto your finger, and others will need a little more encouragement (putting the bird there!). After several sessions with the millet spray, once the bird has become very comfortable with the presence of your hand, place your finger sideways (like a perch) and push it gently and slowly on the bird’s chest. This will cause the bird to lose balance a little and step up onto your finger — in a perfect world, that is. More likely the bird will fly off, or jump over your finger into your lap. No matter. You’ll just try again.

11) Encourage your parakeet to step up on your finger. 
If the last step doesn’t work after a few days, just pick up the bird and place it on your finger, holding your hand just over the knee that the bird has become used to standing on. Again, you should be talking to the bird softly, and offering millet if that has been working for you. Your hand should be steady and a place that the bird is confident standing on - if you’re wobbly and afraid, you’re going to scare the bird.

12) Train your budgie in a new place.
Once your budgie is readily standing on your finger, and has done so for several sessions, you’re ready to have a taming session outside of the small room. Choose a larger area, but not one that’s too busy or where the bird could get hurt or hide if it flutters to the floor. Begin again with placing the bird on your knee and start over — it will not take as long this time.

13) Advanced parakeet taming.
Once the bird does well on the above steps, take it to other rooms, placing it on your shoulder, and trying to scratch it gently on the head. Remember to move slowly and make sure the bird will be safe wherever you take it. Your bird should be tame enough to take it out of the cage and play with it without the flapping and biting. You’re now building a relationship with the bird.

14) Teach your budgie to step up.
Teaching your budgie to "step up” is the final important step in the taming process. With the bird on your finger, place your other finger on its lower chest and push a bit, asking the bird to "Step up.” The bird should step on to your other finger. Repeat this a few times every time you play with your budgie, always asking it to "Step up” verbally. When you take the bird out of the cage now, you will use only your finger and ask the bird to "Step up.” No more fishing around with the washcloth. Your bird is tame!

Budgies "gentle” down pretty easily, even older budgies, especially when you take the time to instill a sense of trust and love into your taming sessions. Using a quicker method, "breaking” the bird, isn’t pleasant, and doesn’t work as well as the method I’ve described here. A relationship is about trust, and that’s the proper philosophy when it comes to taming any animal. So, budgie pals, fear your budgie no more! In a couple of weeks you’ll have a fine feathered friend on your shoulder — who can ask for more than that? 

Want to learn how to tame your cockatiel? Check out our "Taming The 'Tiel" video by clicking here

Is your pet bird afraid of your hand? Find out why and help end pet bird hand fear by clicking here.

Are you sure your pet bird is afraid of your hands? Find out why your bird might not be afraid of your hand here.

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Train Your Parakeet

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Reader Comments
I have seen parakeets talk but Mine never did. Is there
A special way to get them to talk.I have some great birds.would stand on my finger stepping up.Would stand on my shoulder. Would take baths. I work with stained glass and would try to carry what I was,working on away.planning on getting another bird soon.Saw to birds at the humane society.Would they be hard to train.You really don't know how they were treated.
Elaine Roberts, International
Posted: 12/23/2015 12:50:44 AM
I'm really tired of being told I need to clip my birds to teach them anything. I know clipping is controversial in the bird community, but my budgies didn't trust me until they were able to have the choice of flying away from me. Besides that, every person that claims I need to clip my bird just seems like they don't know how to handle a real bird and have to carve off the pieces they don't like in order to break the birds spirits. People who say I need to clip my bird I just tune out. Sorry. :-/
Jake, Columbus, OH
Posted: 8/11/2014 2:03:08 PM
Viewers, please don't push your budgie (or any bird) to the point of you being bitten. This is not positive reinforcement training, it's harassment training. Such bullying will achieve results but create trust issues in the relationship. Whether you are training a macaw or a budgie, let your parrot dictate the speed with which he/she is comfortable with you. This is trust building and crucial for a happy parrot.

If you are being bitten and need bandaids, you're moving too fast. Only use positive reinforcement and let your budgie determine the speed with which he/she wants to be with you. There are ways to achieve this without ever being bitten.
Linda, San Francisco, CA
Posted: 7/8/2014 10:08:32 AM
Thx for telling me that. its my budgies second day and my house and she was a little nervous but now she's quite friendly
Ella, Melbourne
Posted: 2/7/2014 12:17:47 PM
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