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1 Week progress report w/young conure & Areas Needing Help

M&M Ninja

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We brought home Cord (~3.5 months old) about a week ago so I wanted to post our progress as well as ask for some guidance on areas needing improvement.

I don’t know if there is a honeymoon period with young birds. If there is, ours ended a few days after coming home. We had regression, then recovery, and then back to full bird mode. Complete with finger nibbling, vocalizing, etc.

Things that are working:
  • Cord eats pellets and fresh greens. She’ll at least touch any food I put in her cage.
  • She has a bedtime and wake-time that works for her. It works for us too.
  • She finally took a bath. We left a shallow bowl in her cage and went shopping. When we returned, we had one wet chicken on our hands.
  • She’s already sort of potty trained. I think because she lived flighted prior to moving in with us, she established normal bird potty habits. As in, don’t poop where you walk, where you sleep, on your favorite perch, etc. When out with us, she will back up several feet to poop; or, she’ll back up to the edge and do a quick u-turn to poop off the edge. She is very poop savvy. If she could understand the meaning of a star chart (for pooping instead of for chores), I’d start one for her.
  • Cord is developing a healthy fear/respect for the 4-legged members of the family. The trio of babies had landed on the breeder’s dog while we were there. Just landed on her back like it was the most natural thing in the world. Cord somehow knows that these dogs are not the same animal as the other dog, and she hasn’t tried it.
  • She doesn’t really cry/scream to come out. At least not often. Mostly, she runs and climbs laps, making small sounds of urgency. We wait until she settles down to play by herself; then we either leave her to play or we take her out.
  • We are working on handling for harness training and future grooming. She got ‘wings’ on day 2. I can pull them up and open them. And I can close her eyes with my fingers. (Both of those things are recommended on the aviator training video.)
  • We can redirect her to playing with toys (versus a laptop or our fingertips) about 50% of the time. An improvement from 5% of the time.
Areas needing guidance:
  • Cord is a good eater, but shows not treat preferences. Motivating her to do things on command (i.e. step up) with a food reward is so far not easy. Based on another thread here, I have tried: tropical nutriberries, sunflower seeds, peanuts, papaya bits, shreds of cheese, eggs. Should I keep offering her these same things, waiting for her to like them? Any other treat suggestions?
  • The lack of favorite treat makes all communication challenging. To put her back in her cage, I have to grab her and put her in there on a perch. I much prefer motivating animals using positive reinforcement. This is more like force (although, it is gentle force). Is this normal for a young bird?
  • When ‘training’ (where I position us in the bathroom and ask for step up and step down), she is all too willing to just fly away from me. She’s a great flyer and I can see why people clip their birds at first. Any tricks for working together with her flighted? Or does it go back to having a treat she'll sit still for?
  • Harness work – Anybody else get a young bird and train them to wear a harness right away? I have the aviator and have watched the training video that comes with it. In the video, he says that while it is easy to just manhandle a young bird into wearing one, he/she should really be trained into it. That way, they don’t reach an age where they suddenly say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to wear that thing anymore!’ I agree with this but I feel like my ‘easy’ window is closing. With each day that she becomes more comfortable in our house, she becomes a little more wily. Without a treat incentive to help us communicate, I’m uncertain what tack to take. My objective is to get her harness trained so she can get outside (for all sorts of reasons – vitamin D, socialization, flying, joining the rest of the flock during outdoor activities, etc.).
  • ‘Morning Calling’ – I’ve heard this said on the forum; that birds like to call in the morning and in the evening. Our TAG never did this, so I didn’t really know what it meant until we brought home Cord. Is this what she is doing when I uncover her? She just hollars – yell, yell, yell….pause……yell, yell, yell…..pause – for 5 minutes and then stops.
  • Anybody have a bird that screams their head off when grinding coffee? Cuz I do. Any suggestions for ways to stop this? I’ve tried grinding for short little spurts at a time but she still ends up screaming. And without a favorite snack to entice her, I’m not sure what to do during the brief moments of quiet.
If you've made it this far and have advice to share, Cord and I would both really appreciate it!
 

expressmailtome

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M&M Ninja

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Edit: Ignore the harness question. We are making some progress there, even without a treat incentive.
 

annoellyn

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Not sure how much help I can be.

1) My conure has never been treat motivated. Is your conure interested in eating in general? Or is she motivated by your presence? Does she have a favorite perch?
There are several ways I get Jupiter back in her cage and they all work every time. If I walk out of the room Jupiter is in, she will fly to me. I hover my hand over her back, walk quickly to her cage, pop her in and there you go.
The other way is she likes eating in general though doesn't really have a food she loves. But if she is around her cage and I put a little handful of seed mix, she will always go in and check it out even if she doesn't dive in and eat it.
Third method is something you can work on if the other two don't work. Try getting a specific stick that's just for this activity. I have a birch stick. Any time I use this stick we go into the kitchen together and we eat something - apples, strawberries, cheerios, etc. Jupiter will back away from whatever I try and offer her, she hates trying new food. BUT she gets really curious when I'm eating something. So if I have an apple I take a bite, making loud exaggerated eating noises, then offer her some. Usually first few times I offer it she eyes it but won't take any. Third or fourth time I take a bite she licks it. Then we can eat it with me taking a bite and then her and soon she is craning her head to get more. So we do this every day and now she loves this perch and will get on no prob so I can take her to her cage after our snack. I do the hand hovering but not touching her back to discourage flying away.

2) it's normal, she doesn't want fun to end. Not all animals are treat motivated.

3) this one I'm no help on, I don't have my bird step up and down though I should. But with the above mentioned, I can reliably get her on her perch.

4) I am no help with a harness either

5) Mine calls when she hears the door opening in the living room because she thinks I've come home. It sounds like she might be just excited that your awake?

6) Mine screams at gunshots on the tv so we had to get her her own room. It's likely she just doesn't like the noise and is alerting. Mine does it with the doorbell too. I just let mine scream, she calms down pretty quick. The more exposure she has to the noise, the more she may get used to it and not scream in the future
 

Ripshod

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Re the coffee grinder.
The sound is strange, loud, and is scaring her. Is there an area in the home well away from her you can do the grinding? Maybe in batches to freeze or refrigerate for later use?

Re the harness.
Ditch the aviator. It's a nightmare to train with. I'll let someone else remember the name of the other one, I haven't had my morning coffee yet.

*edit*
Look at the Avianweb harness.
 
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M&M Ninja

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@annoellyn You were awesome help. Thank you very much!
She loves her pellet food but is not treat motivated. This is totally new to me...Short of allowing touch, our TAG would do anything he understood how to do for a cashew or pistachio.

It is reassuring to hear that you pop yours in with your hands too. Cord isn't biting us when we do it but I was worried that once she is an adult she wouldn't tolerate being manhandled back in. I love all your ideas. Thank you for sharing them. One of our to-do items is to train to step up on a stick. Even though she is super friendly with me, I want to make sure that she will reliably step up in the future if she needs temporary care with family, a boarding facility, etc.

With the morning calling - If it's normal and something that should be tolerated/encouraged/etc, then it is fine by me. I just wanted to make sure we were on track and I wasn't doing anything upsetting. (Oh and several online sources say 'birds call for 30 minutes in the morning'. Cord's version of this is much shorter so I wasn't sure if it was the same thing.)

Now the damn coffee grinder. Oh my god Cord. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

@Ripshod No, there is nowhere else to grind it. Cord and the kitchen are centrally located in the RV. I've taken the grinder to the bedroom (next to my almost-sleeping husband) and to the other end, in the bathroom, behind a closed door. I've tried with all the lights off and with the lights on. Her in her cage or out of the cage. The two times she has not screamed bloody murder were when she was perched next to my head. But I was terrified the whole time that she was going to sound off and deafen me. I'm trying not to be too regular in the morning with whether or not she comes out first thing. So I'd rather not rely on her being on my shoulder in order to not scream.

I'm hoping the exposure theory will prove to work out. The funny thing is, her breeder said she would grind coffee in the next room over (with an open floor plan; no doors) and never heard a peep from the three conures.
 

Ripshod

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@Ripshod Have you tried both harnesses? What are the strengths of Avianweb one? I've never heard of it.
Everybirdy I tried the aviator with despised it. First part of fitting is getting a tight hoop over the head, far from friendly. I never actually tried the avianweb - yet. I'm waiting for one now but from what I've seen they' re a lot quicker to fit once adjusted so less stress. The aviator has to be adjusted every time you fit it.
 

M&M Ninja

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Thank you. Good to know about the fit. It does seem like having it set up already would be less stressful.
 

Monica

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Cord is a good eater, but shows not treat preferences. Motivating her to do things on command (i.e. step up) with a food reward is so far not easy. Based on another thread here, I have tried: tropical nutriberries, sunflower seeds, peanuts, papaya bits, shreds of cheese, eggs. Should I keep offering her these same things, waiting for her to like them? Any other treat suggestions?
What about almonds? Or walnuts? Millet? Pine nuts?


The lack of favorite treat makes all communication challenging. To put her back in her cage, I have to grab her and put her in there on a perch. I much prefer motivating animals using positive reinforcement. This is more like force (although, it is gentle force). Is this normal for a young bird?
Does she have a favorite toy by any chance?


When ‘training’ (where I position us in the bathroom and ask for step up and step down), she is all too willing to just fly away from me. She’s a great flyer and I can see why people clip their birds at first. Any tricks for working together with her flighted? Or does it go back to having a treat she'll sit still for?
If you have to remove her from her cage to train her, then stop it. Training away from the cage is not good advice. I've been there, I've done it... I didn't know any better. I learned new methods and have learned how this is just plain bad advice. Training away from the cage can cause a bird to become stressed out and nervous. It can also result in cage aggression if you have to force away from the cage.

Have you tried training first thing in the morning? Before Cord eats? Have you tried feeding twice a day, rather than free feeding, and training before meals?

Short and simple, if a bird isn't hungry, they'll be less inclined to work for their food. This doesn't mean to starve them, it simply means changing how we approach with food rewards if we want to use these as a method of training.


Harness work – Anybody else get a young bird and train them to wear a harness right away? I have the aviator and have watched the training video that comes with it. In the video, he says that while it is easy to just manhandle a young bird into wearing one, he/she should really be trained into it. That way, they don’t reach an age where they suddenly say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to wear that thing anymore!’ I agree with this but I feel like my ‘easy’ window is closing. With each day that she becomes more comfortable in our house, she becomes a little more wily. Without a treat incentive to help us communicate, I’m uncertain what tack to take. My objective is to get her harness trained so she can get outside (for all sorts of reasons – vitamin D, socialization, flying, joining the rest of the flock during outdoor activities, etc.).
I got lucky with Charlie... lol He didn't wear a harness until he was 12 years old, which was before I adopted him. It's honestly easier to put one on than to take it off. Didn't really train him to wear it, just put on and go. That said, he's not a big fan of wearing it, particularly while we are *inside*. Outside, he has learned to, mostly, leave it alone. Charlie is 25 years old now. I have both the Aviator (which, IMO, is safer - although it may help to get the next size up so you have a little more 'wriggle room') and Feather Tethers.


‘Morning Calling’ – I’ve heard this said on the forum; that birds like to call in the morning and in the evening. Our TAG never did this, so I didn’t really know what it meant until we brought home Cord. Is this what she is doing when I uncover her? She just hollars – yell, yell, yell….pause……yell, yell, yell…..pause – for 5 minutes and then stops.
My birds are certainly active during certain times of the day. I do think greys may be a bit different than other parrots though so may not fall into that category?


Anybody have a bird that screams their head off when grinding coffee? Cuz I do. Any suggestions for ways to stop this? I’ve tried grinding for short little spurts at a time but she still ends up screaming. And without a favorite snack to entice her, I’m not sure what to do during the brief moments of quiet.
The easiest way to desensitize her is to figure out how far away she'll listen to the coffee grinder without reacting. If she's within 10' and hollers, can you move her 30' away? Now, ideally, this would be a two person job.... you have one person on the coffee grinder, the other person rewarding calm behavior. If she doesn't react when the sound is far away, reward, reward, reward. Slowly move her closer to the sound, rewarding calm behavior. If she starts to react even in the slightest bit, stop and take her further away and reward before proceeding further.
 

M&M Ninja

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@Monica Thank you so much for the detailed response! You shared a lot of great ideas.

I have almonds and pine nuts on the grocery list and will grab some walnuts and millet as well. I offered her half a sunflower seed yesterday and she did eventually eat it. She rolls it around in her mouth for a long time (licking the salt?) before ‘eating’ it (i.e. blasting most of it onto the floor). She also ate a papaya bit. Again, a several minute endeavor.

Favorite toy – Hmmmm, I don’t think so. She loves all toys. At the breeder’s house, she was obsessed with this plastic yellow chain. We bought some when we brought her home….she’s now neutral about it.

Cage / Training – I hadn’t heard this before, so thank you for sharing. I WAS using the bathroom so that she couldn’t see her cage; but I never have to coerce her off/away from her cage. I tried the last couple of days with the play stand on the dinette near her cage.

We have tried various training times and I think we’re finally figuring it out. First thing in the morning is NO GOOD. She is not focused and goes back and forth between flying like a wild child and trying to snuggle into the crook of my arm. Her preferred timeline appears to be – wake up, snack a little, get let out, go back in at some point an hour or so later (because we need her safe in her cage, doors are being opened, etc.), then out again before lunch. That window right there – right before the midday meal – is when she is awake, interested in sitting still, and apparently learning a little. We will play around with her meal amounts a little to see if that helps. If currently free feeding, how much should we reduce her meals by?

Harness – I’ll post about this in a different thread. [Edit - New Thread]

Coffee grinder – Here is what we have found: She will be quiet if she is out and on somebody, regardless if we are making coffee first thing in the morning or in the afternoon. She will scream about it if in her cage. I cannot get any further away from her, so it’s something I’m going to have to live with. I use her morning grinder screaming fest to remind myself the importance of breathing, being grounded and remaining present. It’s a meditative moment and I am working to tune her out. She usually carries on for another 30 seconds once the grinder has stopped. I don’t say a word to her (I tried soothing talk and that didn’t work.) until after she has been quiet for a few minutes afterward. She doesn’t get uncovered until 10-20 minutes later. Maybe in time she will realize it has no association with her coming out and it doesn’t get her anything. [During afternoon grinds, she is usually out and, like I mentioned, doesn’t get too upset about it.]
 
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Leih

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I have both the Aviator and the Avian Web for my conure. We tried the Aviator first and he hated it, so then he was afraid of even looking at the Avian Web. I've been working on getting him over the fear but he's gone into a molt in the past month and has had so many pins around his neck and face that harness training is on hold.

My boy is a black capped conure, the smallest conure, he's 70g, so I had trouble with deciding on a size with the Avian Web. I emailed them and they suggested the one they have marked for cockatiels as it actually is three different sizes. I was really surprised about that! Lots of people here have had good luck with the Avian Web, so if you make another post I'm sure they can chime in.
 

Tiel Feathers

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Sounds like you’re getting to know your bird better, which is great! Make sure you get unsalted sunflower seeds, because the salt over time can make your bird extremely sick. Maybe you can just buy your coffee already ground?
 

Monica

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Cage / Training – I hadn’t heard this before, so thank you for sharing. I WAS using the bathroom so that she couldn’t see her cage; but I never have to coerce her off/away from her cage. I tried the last couple of days with the play stand on the dinette near her cage.
That's great! It's actually best to train where they are calm and relaxed. If that's on the play stand as well, then perfect! Glad to hear she comes out of her cage easily! :) Probably a good idea to do some training sessions at and around the cage, too!


If currently free feeding, how much should we reduce her meals by?
I do "free feed"... but in a controlled sense. That is, I don't fill up their food dishes and only replace food when it's empty once or twice a week. I feed enough for the entire day and by the end of the day they shouldn't have much food left. This is for dry food only. This means that every day they are getting fresh [dry] food. Actual fresh food [veggies, sprouts, etc] I actually overfeed on that... lol Still, with this, I am able to train before feeding them in the morning.

Most birds are happy to train in the morning but some birds just might prefer later in the day! Actually, it's better to have several short training sessions throughout the day than it is to have one long one.


[During afternoon grinds, she is usually out and, like I mentioned, doesn’t get too upset about it.]
If Cord is in her cage in the afternoon (by a random chance), does she scream then, too? That is, when the cage is uncovered and she hears the coffee grinder, will she scream? (just to confirm)


Sounds like you've been doing great by figuring out what makes her tick and what works for her. Great job! (agree - get some salt-free treats! ;) )
 

M&M Ninja

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I just realized I had forgotten to answer your grinder question. She screams when the cage is covered or uncovered, during the morning and the afternoon. She will not scream if she is out of the cage and on one of us. Sometimes she flies off us and will scream *over there*. But usually, if she is out of the cage, she just watches with her tall, skinny posture and doesn't say anything about it.
 
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