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Will my bird ever be hand tame?

mikamoo

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I have a sun conure, roughly 6 or 7 years old. The home I got her from treated her terribly: Her cage was covered for most of the day so she wouldn't scream, any time they handled her they used giant gloves and cornered her and grabbed her. her cage was also situated right next to two large Doberman cages. She lived with them for 5 or 6 years before I got her. I've had her for a little over a year now, and have made absolutely zero progress. She doesn't like leaving her cage (she will gladly climb all over it when we open the door but that's it) and I have never gotten her to let me touch her or step up on my hand. Any time I approach her with my hand (or any kind of perch) she will kind of "wave" her head towards it and then violently shake whatever toy in her cage is nearest before lashing out and nipping (not just beaking my hand, its fast, like a strike). I haven't left my hand near her long enough to get bitten really hard, I'm scared to push her any further than she's comfortable. for the first 4 or 5 months I had her, I worked with her for a few hours every day, letting her out of the cage, giving her treats by hand, but she never left the cage and I never made any kind of progress. After that point I gave up on trying to touch her, so now I just talk to her and sit near the cage with the door open when I'm in the room. I've done a ridiculous amount of research on birds but this is my first time having one as a pet and I feel like I'm doing things all wrong. Will I ever get to the point when she trusts me, or is it just a lost cause?
 

scott199

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I’m no expert and I’m sure others will have far better answers but being a new bird owner myself, the one thing I was warned about a lot was producing Unwanted behaviour without knowing.

so looking at your post above, we have a hand shy bird and when he tries to bite or acts aggressive you pull away or move/leave, so in my mind unknowingly he’s learning if he bites/strikes/acts aggressive, you go away, which for him is a win, what he wants (at this point).

not to say getting bitten is a good thing or even a thing you want but wondering if another way or maybe come at it from another angle, thinking outside the box may work ?

what about target training ? Will he/she come to you for treats ?
 

sunnysmom

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I don't believe it's ever a lost cause. Time and patience. It's hard when you so want to do everything to make your bird happy and they're still fearful. I would continue what your doing but perhaps see if you can get her to step up on a perch rather than your hand. Sadly, she's been taught that hands are scary. And keep trying to hand feed her treats.

@Hankmacaw ?
 

mikamoo

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I’m no expert and I’m sure others will have far better answers but being a new bird owner myself, the one thing I was warned about a lot was producing Unwanted behaviour without knowing.

so looking at your post above, we have a hand shy bird and when he tries to bite or acts aggressive you pull away or move/leave, so in my mind unknowingly he’s learning if he bites/strikes/acts aggressive, you go away, which for him is a win, what he wants (at this point).

not to say getting bitten is a good thing or even a thing you want but wondering if another way or maybe come at it from another angle, thinking outside the box may work ?

what about target training ? Will he/she come to you for treats ?
She won't try new treats (so far) but her weakness is peanuts. she will eat peanuts out of anyones hand, albeit with a wary look at the person the whole time, but peanuts arent exactly the best training treat (I've heard they aren't too healthy) I can definitely try to get her to eat something else though.
 

scott199

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She won't try new treats (so far) but her weakness is peanuts. she will eat peanuts out of anyones hand, albeit with a wary look at the person the whole time, but peanuts arent exactly the best training treat (I've heard they aren't too healthy) I can definitely try to get her to eat something else though.
Maybe try to find something else, cashews is mines heavenly treat, ours also really likes deathly made popcorn.

If you hold the treat will he come over to you ? Or do you go to him ?
 

mikamoo

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Maybe try to find something else, cashews is mines heavenly treat, ours also really likes deathly made popcorn.

If you hold the treat will he come over to you ? Or do you go to him ?
she will come over for a peanut but I have to hold it for a good while, and she will stand as far away as possible and crane her neck out to reach for the peanut.
 

mikamoo

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I don't believe it's ever a lost cause. Time and patience. It's hard when you so want to do everything to make your bird happy and they're still fearful. I would continue what your doing but perhaps see if you can get her to step up on a perch rather than your hand. Sadly, she's been taught that hands are scary. And keep trying to hand feed her treats.

@Hankmacaw ?
The perch method results in her biting the absolute life out of the perch, every time. I am terrified of that being my finger, lol. I am going to keep trying to hand feed her treats though.
 

Hankmacaw

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Both @sunnysmom and @scott199 touched on good points.

Bites are self perpetuating. A successful bite brings on more bites. Avoid a bite if at all possible and when she does bite show her your displeasure by saying "no bite" and walking out of the room or merely turning your back on her for a few moments.

A perch for her to step up on is a good thing and she may need it for a long tome. Use one that is long enough - a couple of feet long and with a hand protector (like the hand protector on a sword). With a perch she can bite away to her content and get no, none, nunca reaction from you except sweet mummerings about how good she is from you. After awhile you will be able to take her away from her cage and show her new wondrous things around the house.

Peanuts are one of the very worst things you can feed your bird. There is always the potential for Aspergillosis and for aflotixins that are more deadly than the botox toxin. In addition, peanuts are very high in saturated fats that is one of the main causes of atherosclerois in birds. Try pine nuts or almond slivers as treats they are small so won't fill her too fast and both are good for your bird. Just put some in her treat bowl or on her food for awhile and she will get a taste for them - then you can use them for training treats. Please not one more peanut.
 

Hankmacaw

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Let her bite the perch. It doesn't hurt you and she can bite until she is exhausted with out any response for her work.
 

Teckechick

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I'll just add to what others have said. After the way she was treated it may take quite some time for her to trust. I would completely stop trying to use your hands for now as she sounds terrified of them and start station/target training her in the cage. You can do that while she is in the cage and it will prevent any bites. I would also eat meals next to her cage as well if at all possible. What kind of diet is she on?

These two forums may be of some help with training.

Free Training Resources
Clicker Training Classroom
 

mikamoo

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I've got a perch that's a little over a foot long that she's already used to (I've had it affixed to the outside of her cage for a while to encourage her to explore more than just her cage) and also, yikes! I knew they weren't good, but I didn't know the extent of it. Her previous owners gave her peanuts presumably multiple times a day, so I'm glad it hasn't had any terrible lasting effects. I'm gonna start looking for some alternative treats for her. As far as perch training, where do I set limits? I don't want to terrify her with the perch that she already attacks, but I know I'll never get anywhere just holding it and letting her approach it. How should I go about it?
 

mikamoo

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I'll just add to what others have said. After the way she was treated it may take quite some time for her to trust. I would completely stop trying to use your hands for now as she sounds terrified of them and start station/target training her in the cage. You can do that while she is in the cage and it will prevent any bites. I would also eat meals next to her cage as well if at all possible. What kind of diet is she on?

These two forums may be of some help with training.

Free Training Resources
Clicker Training Classroom
I keep hearing about target training, I'll definitely look into that. and her cage is in our open dining room, we rarely use the table but I'm going to start eating breakfast and dinner (I eat lunch at work typically) Next to her cage, I ate breakfast by her this morning and she was very content to eat her breakfast with me. as far as diet, I know it isn't the best but we have her on a standard parrot food. That's what she ate the past 6 years, any kind of fruit or veggie I have ever put in her cage since has been vehemently ignored and picked around. I feel like a horrible bird mom, I'm just so scared to do something wrong or make her uncomfortable that I'm more or less the pet in this bird-human relationship.
 

Fuzzy

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Stepping up onto a perch is much too big a task to ask of her right now... you need to break the behaviour down into teeny tiny manageable steps. It is called Shaping.

I had the same problem with my Amazon, Ollie. He was terrified of hands when he came to live with me and "cage bound". So I taught him to step up inside his cage onto a multi-stemmed perch that had previously been in his cage for a few weeks so that he was used to it. First I had to find a treat that he would work for. For Ollie it was a huge palm nut. He could only have one a day, so I could only ask for one behaviour a day. Later he decided he loved cashews so training went faster as I could gradually break them into smaller pieces and get more behaviour.

Break the step up into tiny steps or approximations. You might have to start with desensitising her to the perch first. You could reinforce her relaxed body language with a treat as you bring the perch to the open cage door and take it away again. Over time (and time frame depends on her reaction - never push her more than she is comfortable with) you will be able to bring the perch closer and closer to her, each time reinforcing/rewarding her relaxed body language with a treat.

Eventually it will be within her reach. Treat! (There is now no reason for her to try to bite the stick as it has been paired with the treats. The perch now = a good thing!) However if that particular perch has become a problem start again with a different one.

Then each time you offer the perch, give her the treat over the top of it and take the perch away.
Gradually you can get slower at offering the treat so that she has to reach further and further over the perch to get it.
Then she might put one foot on the perch to s-t-r-e-t-c-h for the treat. Treat!
Then two feet. Treat!!
But let her get off the perch immediately each time so that she is in control. Control is a primary reinforcer - if she knows she is in control she'll gain confidence in stepping up - assured that you won't suddenly move the perch.

The next stage would be to reinforce her relaxed body language whilst you gradually move the perch with her on it: move it slowly an inch towards you and back again. Let her get off. Treat!
Then in a later session two inches and back. Treat!
.... and so on ....

With Ollie the hardest thing was to bring him through the cage door and back again. Then we progressed to bringing him out of the cage, turning my back to the cage and putting him back again. This went on for 1.5 years until suddenly he got the confidence to fly out himself. There was no stopping him then... his world just got bigger.

Keep training sessions really short - maybe 20 or 30 seconds or a just a few approximations here and there throughout the day. This way you get repetition and repetition is the way to learn. Don't push her beyond her comfort zone. You are looking to reinforce her relaxed body language all the time. If she is fearful, she cannot learn. Always end on a successful approximation so that she looks forward to the next training session.

Target training is using exactly the same method - shaping. It is teaching a bird to touch an object (often the end of a chopstick) with a body part (often the beak). It's actually much easier to teach than the step up, so a great exercise to start with to get you both thinking differently - it will teach her about cause and effect (oh I just have to touch the end of the chopstick to get a treat!) and will teach you timing (you need to deliver the treat immediately so that she puts two and two together).

Keep trying with the fresh fruit and veggies - just put them in a separate bowl to her seed. Try putting the fresh bowl in first thing and then put the seed bowl in an hour later. Or you could try mixing some chopped veggies and fruits in with her seed. Try sprouting. Put some different pieces of nut in her seed bowl and see if she takes to any of them. Walnuts are a great source of Omega 3. Try almonds, pinenuts, cashews and pistachio too. Watch to see what she picks out first as these are usually the favourites. Then remove them and use them as treats. Tastes can change and do change.
 

Monica

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Ditto @Teckechick and @Fuzzy

If your bird is not comfortable with a stick in her face, don't make her step up on one or allow her to bite it until she gives up! The more stressed out she becomes, the harder it is to work on changing her behavior. The more relaxed she is, the better she'll be!


Please try getting her onto a pelleted diet! This can greatly help with training as this will mean that seed/nut rewards are of higher value!


The most simplest behavior you can start with is setting up a treat cup (preferably metal) in her cage and any time you walk by, drop her favorite treat in the cup! You can use walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, dried fruit, or? This can help her look forward to your presence.


Target training is also a great resource on training new behaviors! Please be sure to view the links that @Teckechick shared! :D
 

Rosie-bird

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Maybe if there was some way to show that your hands are nonthreatening? Like if it started to asociate hands with treats, though I think that someone already said this. Also, if you spend alot of time by her cage and show it you won't try to hurt it, maybe she will eventually try to make her way over to you, I have heard many stories about birds being absolutly untamable but when the owner stopped trying to push the birds to become tamed, they started to warm up. Not sure if this is true, because all the birds I have tried to tame were little birds and handfed, but I have heard that something llike this works.

I hope that I have not completely wasted your time reading this, I have not read all the comments and do not know everything that was said.
 
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