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Some things to do with a new bird....

Discussion in 'The Training Court' started by BraveheartDogs, 11/27/10.

  1. BraveheartDogs

    BraveheartDogs Cruising the avenue Mayor of the Avenue

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    So many people come on here with new birds asking what they should and shouldn't do that I thought I would put a short list together of things that owners of new birds could do to build a good relationship with their bird. These things can be done with all new rehomes, rescues or baby birds.

    1. Reward stepping up. Whether you have to teach the bird to step up or the bird already steps up, it is smart to reward each step up with a treat for quite a while. This will build a strong reinforcement history of stepping up for you with your new bird. Not only does it reinforce the actual behavior of stepping up, it also helps the bird to realize that YOU are reinforcing to be with and around. Sometimes people will just say "good bird" and this can be okay, but with a new bird you don't know how much you saying "good bird" actually matters to the bird. In an established relationship with a bird you know well, you may have learned that other things like verbal praise, petting, touching are reinforcing but with a new bird you don't know if the bird actually finds those things reinforcing which is why it is best to use food, a primary reinforcer in the beginning stages.

    2. Reward vocalizations that you like. Many birds end up screaming because it gets them attention. A lot of birds who scream likely offered many other vocalizations such as whistling, talking, chattering, etc that went ignored. They did not get the attention they were seeking until they upped their vocalizations to screaming which caused their owner to scream along with them or engage in some other way. So, be sure to reinforce with food or attention any vocalizing that you like from your bird. You should also reinforce when your bird is quiet so that your bird learns that being quiet is reinforcing will earn him attention and treats. Playing quietly on their own should also be rewarded.

    3. Encourage foraging and playing with toys. I have been able to get most of my birds to forage and play with toys, by continuing to try different toys and foraging ideas. If your bird "doesn't play with toys" keep trying different toys of different types of materials to see what your bird likes. It can take birds (especially ones that have never been given toys) a while to try them out, but even my 35 year old Amazon who wasn't given toys before coming here loves toys now. I just had to experiment with different ones. If you plastic toys don't work, try a shreddy toy, if shreddy doesn't work try wood, if wood doesn't work, try paper. There are so many toys out there and something is bound to click with your bird. I have found that baby birds are very receptive to toys and foraging so if you get a baby bird, definitely introduce these concepts early. Toys and foraging ideas don't have to be expensive, there are many things you can use around your house. I routinely give my Meyers a hunk of 2 x 4 wood or a cardboard box to chew on. He loves these more than any toy and they are just lying around my house. Check out Parrot Enrichment for foraging and homemade toy ideas.

    4. Develop a routine but include some flexibility in the routine so that your bird can cope with slight changes in the routine. For example, all my birds eat fresh breakfast first thing in the morning. Throughout the day different birds are let out to play on play areas, trip around, etc. I switch around who comes out first and where they play, so there is always some flexibility there. Also, while most of them come out daily, there are some days when some birds don't come out at all. This is necessary because there are times (usually only once or twice a month) where my birds are not out of their cages. Most days I play music in the bird room, but some days I don't. I do not change the times of their meals, those always remain the same. It is very important that new birds are introduced to being alone, playing with toys and entertaining themselves early on so that they are able to cope with this on a regular basis. Even if you never have to leave your bird alone, you should still get them used to this because your life could change and it is important that your bird can deal with it.

    5. Start offering a variety of fresh foods right away. You can and should continue to feed your bird what he was eating prior to coming to you but you should also immediately start offering a variety of fresh foods to your bird. Vegetables, fruit, brown rice, pasta, bird breads are all things that you can begin to offer your bird. If you have a bird that is not used to eating fresh foods, don't give up and just keep doing it!! You can get creative and try hanging fresh greens or herbs in the cage. You can make bird bread or muffins and sneak veggies into those. Most birds can learn to enjoy a healthy varied diet it just may take some time for them to get brave enough to try it! If your new bird was not eating a healthy diet in their previous home, begin to offer the new, healthier foods right away so that you can transition the bird to a healthier way to eat.

    6. Find out how your bird likes to bathe and offer bathing opportunities. I find that my new birds flourished when given bathing opportunities. Many of them enjoy simply being sprayed down with a water bottle set on mist. My conure doesn't like misting at all, but prefers to bath in her water dish. My amazon likes to bathe in the shower with me in there too! Figure out how your bird likes to bath and then offer this to them. Giving them something reinforcing to them like the opportunity to bathe only helps to strengthen the relationship you are developing with your bird.

    7. Learn to read your birds body language and respect what your bird is trying to communicate. A bird that bites has likely given much earlier warning signals that went ignored prior to deciding to bite. Take your time learning how to read your birds body language so that you will know when it's time to back off and when it's time to move forward.

    8. When it comes to training the best thing to do is to use positive reinforcement to reward any behaviors that you like. Positive reinforcement means that you do something the bird likes such as offer a treat, give a scritch, give attention to or give access to something right after your bird does a behavior that you like. For instance, if you say "step up" and offer your hand and your bird steps up you immediately hand the bird a treat. Again, it is advised to use food in the beginning since with a new bird you may not know the bird well enough to know what things will be rewarding. Once you learn other rewards the bird likes you can use those as well as food. Using positive reinforcement to build behaviors you like will allow you to not only train your bird but also to help strengthen the relationship you have with your bird. Never use aversives like yelling at a bird, hitting a bird, throwing things at the bird or cage or squirting with water. This will only teach your bird that you are not trustworthy and will cause your bird to be fearful of you. Any and every time you use punishment with your bird you are breaking trust and damaging your relationship with that animal. Don't do it! For more information on training check out The Parrot Problem Solver and Good Bird by Barbara Heidenreich.

    9. Most importantly, don't pressure, push or force your new bird at all. This is by far the biggest mistake people make. They want a relationship with a new bird so badly that they destroy any possibility of that happening by pushing the bird or trying to force the bird to be with them. If your bird is fearful of hands, don't attempt to hold it with your hand instead try training the bird to step onto a stick or cover your hand with a long sleeved shirt. If your bird doesn't want to come out of his cage, simply open the door and leave him alone. Whatever you do, do not set up situations where you feel you have no choice but to force the bird. Good, strong, healthy bird/human relationships are built on trust, communication and mutual respect, they are never built on fear, force or intimidation.
     
    Last edited: 11/27/10
  2. southernbirds

    southernbirds Rollerblading along the road

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    Excellent advice. Thanks for posting it and for all your time.
     
  3. BraveheartDogs

    BraveheartDogs Cruising the avenue Mayor of the Avenue

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    You're welcome. I am glad you think it's helpful:)
     
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  4. Shockie

    Shockie Walking the driveway

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    Thanks for this! I was just voicing my own desire for a newbie section with this type of info for new and future bird owners. http://forums.avianavenue.com/behav...-punishment-just-bad-advice-5.html#post590779

    I know there's surely a ton more threads out there with information, but it's all spread out and hard to find. This thread is a great start for us newbies. :) I, personally, would like to see a newbie section with a conglomerate of information that new bird owners absolutely need to know. Perhaps even a welcome packet with information.

    So here's a question: what is an acceptable form of "punishment" or is there any? Or is just ignoring a behavior the best way to not reinforce it? For example: in praising good sounds that your bird makes, what do you do if it screams? Shut the door to the bird room and ignore it? I'm sure if I dig enough, I'll find an answer -- I just want to make sure I find the "right" answer as there are so many misleading sources out there on the inter-webs (As I said in the link I posted). I'm just hoping for a section that includes "set in stone" good general ways to address behavior as a baseline even though all birds are different, some things might not work, etc. but you can build from there. An extensive tip sheet, if you will.

    Oh, and what are good books that every new parrot owner should have? I was looking at "Parrots for Dummies" but thought I would ask before I bought it because of so much misinformation I seem to keep running across.
     
    Last edited: 11/27/10
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  5. Bokkapooh

    Bokkapooh Ripping up the road Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran

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    Another thread that should be stickied!!! EXCELLENT post Vicki!

    I do have to say one thing though. I personally, right away, change my birds diets when they come to me. Yep I give them loads of fresh foods, as I want to start them on my birds fabulous fresh food diet, but I also do a switch from a walmart brand of seed, to better brand of seed or start converting them over to pellets. Many birds who have been on bad diets for a prolong time start to get health issues, so I always try and switch them to a better diet asap. And I find with new birds, they tend to accept pellets and a new diet pretty easily.:)
     
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  6. Bokkapooh

    Bokkapooh Ripping up the road Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran

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    Read the behavior thread, it explains it very well :)

    And if you have further questions, I'd recommend getting Barbara Heidenreich's Parrot Problem Solver
     
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  7. Holiday

    Holiday Mac Mama Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran

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    SUCH a great post :) I will only add one more thing to the item about vocalization. Don't forget to reward the bird for being quiet or quietly playing by itself. It's so easy to ignore a quiet bird, but a savvy bird owner knows better! (Ignore the screaming, not the quiet!) If the bird is quietly playing by itself, say "good quiet bird" and give it a treat. :)
     
  8. BraveheartDogs

    BraveheartDogs Cruising the avenue Mayor of the Avenue

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    I am glad that it is helpful for you! Yes, the best thing to do is to reinforce behaviors you like, ignore behaviors you don't and whenever possible get rid of antecedents that make undesirable behaviors happen. For screaming, you would reinforce quiet or "quieter" vocalizations, ignore screaming (really ignore because if you aren't really ignore it you are probably reinforcing it) and stop doing any thing or change anything you can that creates screaming:)

    My favorite parrot books are the ones by Barbara Heidenreich, the Parrot Problem Solver and Good Bird! I also really like The Bird School by Ann Castro.
     
  9. BraveheartDogs

    BraveheartDogs Cruising the avenue Mayor of the Avenue

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    Absolutely! I will add that to the original post:)
     
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  10. BraveheartDogs

    BraveheartDogs Cruising the avenue Mayor of the Avenue

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    Thank you!

    Good point about changing their food. I also start changing their diet right away, but not entirely. A lot of birds won't just start eating something new, especially if they are already stressed from being rehomed. I totally agree that you should start the change right away, but I think it can be dangerous to do it entirely. But, I totally get what you are saying and I modified it a bit to encourage switching to a healthier diet if the bird isn't on one;)
     
    Last edited: 11/27/10
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  11. Sharpie

    Sharpie Rollerblading along the road

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    This is a fabulous post for new owners to read first thing!
     
  12. BraveheartDogs

    BraveheartDogs Cruising the avenue Mayor of the Avenue

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    Thanks Sharpie!
     
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  13. JLcribber

    JLcribber Joyriding the Neighborhood Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran Shutterbugs' Best Crash Test Dummy

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    There is no acceptable form of "punishment".

    There are ways to "discipline" them. As far as birds go discipline really means setting "boundaries". Discipline is not a very good description IMO.

    Boundaries are achieved by teaching them "new" behaviors through positive reinforcement that they "want" to do and not trying to unlearn old behaviors through negative reinforcement.

    The easiest way to set boundaries is to adapt/change their environment so that the undesireable behaviors don't start in the first place. They can't chew the window sill if they can't reach it or it's protected with plexiglas.

    If the antecedent can't be changed then it's time to modify the behavior which takes much more time and effort (and skill).
     
  14. BraveheartDogs

    BraveheartDogs Cruising the avenue Mayor of the Avenue

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    Okay, I just added a blurb on positive reinforcement training.
     
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  15. Brigidt36

    Brigidt36 Biking along the boulevard Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Veteran

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    Great post with excellent advice. It will be very helpful. Thank you for not only thinking of this, but for also taking the time to write it out and post it.
     
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  16. BraveheartDogs

    BraveheartDogs Cruising the avenue Mayor of the Avenue

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    Thank you Brigid!
     
  17. Shockie

    Shockie Walking the driveway

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    Just ordered my copy of Parrot Problem Solver from Amazon. Can't wait to get it. :)
     
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  18. Saemma

    Saemma Ripping up the road Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award

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    :dance4: Wow!! Thanks so much for your time and passion!:hug8:
     
  19. BraveheartDogs

    BraveheartDogs Cruising the avenue Mayor of the Avenue

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    You're welcome Saemma:) It is my passion so it's fun to do:)
     
  20. Zoey

    Zoey Walking the driveway

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    I want to thank you as well. I'll be back to read this again! AND... you mentioned bathing, so now I can add a bird bath perch to my list of things to purchase! Fun!
     
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