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Parrots and Parakeets: Behavior and Training

The behaviors that birds display can be downright confusing. Some, such as biting, screaming, chewing, and feather plucking, can harm either you or the bird. Although no problem behavior can be solved overnight, most can be managed effectively or prevented before they become problems.

Of course, you must determine if your pet's behavior is different than normal because of illness, stress, or boredom. Birds will try to hide illness; this is a holdover from their wild beginnings because those who act sick in the wild are often taken advantage of by predators. Stress can also cause erratic and potentially harmful behaviors. You can combat stress by providing a safe, enriching environment for your bird. The same can be said about boredom—training your pet will keep him active and entertained, as well as make him feel secure and loved. Once you understand and can predict and control your bird's behavior, you will be able to train him.

A Bird's-Eye View of the World

The first thing to keep in mind when trying to understand your bird's behavior is to look at the situation from his point of view. For example, you may not like it when your parrot or parakeet bites at your face, but usually in the wild, when a bird senses danger, he will poke at or even bite his mates to encourage them to flee.

The best way to solve this situation is to prevent it from ever happening. Don't allow your bird to sit on your shoulder, and pay attention to situations that may alarm him. Provide your bird with a wide variety of acceptable chew toys, and if he continues to bite it may be best not to handle him at all.

As another example, birds need to chew, and usually anything that they can get their beaks on is game. As we said in regards to biting, provide your bird with a wide variety of chew toys. You can also restrict your parrot or parakeet's access to items in the home he might be tempted to chew.

By looking at the world through his eyes, you can better understand your bird's behavior patterns and lessen the chances for problem behaviors to begin.

Bond With Your Bird

To train your bird effectively, you must first bond with him. If you bring home a young parrot or parakeet, take him out of his cage and spend time with him every day. Don't move suddenly or speak loudly, and don't do anything that will harm him. The more you handle your bird while he is young, the more readily he will enjoy human hands near and on him when he is older. Eventually he will come to trust you and seek out your attention and affection.

Training Your Bird

Training does not necessarily mean teaching your bird to do tricks or recite nursery rhymes. Training can simply be teaching him to step onto and off of your hand and not to shriek all day long. To learn about the many fun tricks you can train your parrot or parakeet to do, read books, search the Internet, and attend local workshops.

Whatever you decide to do, make training a daily part of your parrot's routine. Not only will this regime help keep his training up to date, it will also provide exercise for his mind as well as his body and reaffirm your bond.

Vary your training routine each day to keep things interesting for you and your bird. Keep the sessions short—your parrot has about a 15-minute attention span, and trying to train him for a longer period will only cause both of you to become frustrated.

Always be upbeat and positive. If you become angry, your parrot will pick up on your emotions and may start to act up, which will defeat the purpose of the training session.

Disciplining Your Bird

When training your parrot, you may find yourself in a situation where you must correct some negative behavior. If so, discipline him, but don't punish him. Discipline requires that you guide and mold proper behavior, while punishment simply means that you correct a problem behavior, usually by force. Your parrot is a very clever, sensitive creature, and any sort of temperamental outburst on your part will damage the trust your pet has in you. For this reason, it's important to never lose your temper with your bird, and never hit him.

Many parrots respond to a stern glare and a firm "No." Others are sensitive to changes in their owners' voices. If neither works, try ignoring your bird for a few minutes. You can place him in his cage and turn your back. Ignore any screams or shrieks. Because many parrots crave their owners' attention, ignoring your pet can be an effective way to modify his behavior. Take the time to discipline your parrot properly in the beginning, and you'll be rewarded with a better-behaved bird in the long run.