Assertive Taming

Sam just bought a bird. The first thing he did was leave it alone and give it several days to adjust. After a while he started trying to win it over. The bird would squawk and fight whenever Sam tried to remove it from the cage so instead of taking it out he tried to finger tame it while in the cage. After weeks of trying to tame the bird like this without success Sam is at a loss. The bird must be too wild or just not like him.

I get plenty of letters from people in Samís situation. There is never anything wrong with the bird, itís just that the owner is not being aggressive enough.

So just what is assertive taming?

Step One: Brief Adjustment Period

The first thing most people do when they buy a new bird is give it time to "adjust." Birds, like humans, are creatures of habit and do not like change. This does not mean that they canít handle it though. An adjustment period is fine but the problem is that most people donít know when to end it. Give the bird one full day to get used to its surroundings, then start your taming. Even handfed birds will be uncomfortable in a new home. A bird needs to know it is safe. It will not learn this locked up in a cage with no interaction. Birds are social and feel safest in a flock. It is your job to welcome the bird into the family "flock." Most shy handfeds perk right up when taken out and played with.

Step Two: Get it Away From the Cage

Birds that are tamed within the cage or left inside it for long adjustment periods will become cage bound. Cage bound birds may eventually learn to enjoy human company but they will never want to leave their cage. This is very unhealthy. After the ONE DAY adjustment take the bird out of the cage. Ignore the protests and nips, just get it out of there and into a completely different room. Do not attempt to tame a bird within view of a cage because it will be obsessed with getting to the cage and not pay any attention to you. Bathrooms and closets work great as taming areas because they are confined and have very little furniture for birds to hide under.

Step Three: Make it Interact With You

Now that youíre away from the cage in a small room the bird has no choice but to be near you. This doesnít mean it canít still keep from interacting with you. How fast you choose to take the next step is up to you and depends on how wild or frightened the bird is. You can work on the stick training method now. You can keep the bird in a corner, talk to it and try to touch it. You can wrap it up in a towel/shirt and hold it in your lap, gently unwrapping it as it calms down. T-stands come in very handy. You can set the bird on one, talk to it and offer treats.

Step Four: Keep all Interactions Pleasant

The object is to show the bird that hanging out with people has its rewards. Try to end all sessions on a positive note and try not to get frustrated. Bites will occur but most birds turn to mock bites once they realize you are not posing any real danger. Give treats the bird likes. Peanuts and sunflowers are high in fat and should not be included in a regular diet. They make good treats though. Also try bribing the bird with juicy fruit. I had a conure who went after grapes and cherries with gusto. Give head scratches. Let the bird play with some neat toys.

Step Five: Do Not Allow Cage Binding

This is the final step. Once the bird is relatively calm around people get it a playstand. At first keep it on or around the cage. A healthy bird will view its cage like we would a bedroom: a place to sleep and hang out but not somewhere youíd want to be all the time. The playstand is a way for the bird to be near its cage but keep it out just the same. Once the bird learns to enjoy being out you should be able to take it anywhere in the house without it getting frightened.

Feisty Feathers
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