Games to Play With Your New Parrot
Each day, spend time engaging in some of the following sessions.
Step up and Downs Daily
Introducing New Toys Daily
Potty Training Daily
Be Gentle Command Daily
Full Body Handling Daily
Taking Food from You Daily
Pedicure 2-3 times per week
Flight suit training or Harness training 4 times per week
Showering 3 times per week
Dancing Mood dependent
Before we begin listing some training ideas, remember to only train when you are in a good frame of mind. This will require patience on your part. End your training sessions on a positive note, meaning not only are you praising behavior but that your parrot is attempting to learn the command you are teaching. Unwanted behaviors should never be reinforced positively. I try to get our parrot to choose the command I am giving. Throughout the training sessions, use lots of praise and reward with treats.
Step Ups (the most important lesson):
A critical lesson for your baby to learn is the “Step Up” and the “Down” command. This is something you want to practice many times a day. This doesn’t mean practice it just when you get your baby out of the cage, but practice this multiple times per day. It does mean that you should say, “Step Up” when you get your baby out of the cage, praise him, but they return him to the cage and do it again….and again….and again. I would not go over the 10 minute mark during a session or your baby’s delight in pleasing you may be exhausted. While young, the parrots are like awkward toddlers so be supportive of their attempts.
Furthermore, practice this exercise away from the cage and in an area that your bird has not claimed as his. The best choice in the beginning is somewhere that the baby can concentrate on you or an area without a bunch of distractions.
Many bird owners forget the “down” command. This is equally important to remember to say. Always put the bird back down with him/her facing towards you while making eye contact.
As your baby masters this, also teach him to “Step up” on a perch or long dowel. I recommend this for those rare instances that you may not be around and someone else is caring for your bird. What if the bird gets out of the cage, you are not there to put him back in and the caretaker is timid of that big beak? Also, teach your baby to “Step Up” onto a towel on your hand. This is another good exercise for your parrot to master.
Teach your baby to “Step Up” for others too. Anytime a friend visits have them engage in a 5 minute session with your baby!
Teach your baby next to step up repeatedly from hand to hand. Your hands become a birdie treadmill!! This process is called “Laddering.” “Laddering” is a method we have used for a nippy or misbehaving bird. It gets his focus back on me and on my being the flock leader. We will ladder the bird 6-10 times while saying "Up, Up". (Please read more on our Green Cheek biting page on the website for tips about this practice.)
The “Laddering is followed with a “Down" command and the parrot can be placed on a perch or on his cage.
When time comes to clip toenails, clip wings, administer medications or be examined by a vet, your baby is probably going to get wrapped up in a towel or blanket. You will want your baby to be comfortable with the blanketing/toweling process for the rest of the ordeal may be stressful enough.
We always use a regular baby receiving blanket when playing with our babies and even with our adult birds. Those terry cloth loops on regular human towels just get tangled up with bird nails otherwise. The tight weaving on a receiving blanket keeps toenails out. Some birds do not like brightly colored towels or ones with striking patterns, so I stick with the pastels.
The blankets are good for cuddling, engaging in peek-a-boo, and hiding things under to arouse his curiosity. Hide yourself under the blanket, make funny noises and see if your new baby wants to come find you (or if your children show up first). Hide toys or treats underneath to tempt your baby to forage.
I often give our babies and pet birds baths, then wrap them up in a blanket for cuddle time. One or our new Grey owners snuggles her bird every evening until the baby falls asleep.
Introducing New Toys:
Your new baby needs to be exposed to new environments and toys frequently. This is why we rotate cages often. But also during your daily play time, introduce new toys. Bring out the bells, the toy truck, the balls and the baby toys and let them watch you play with them. Babies are much more flexible than older birds, so now is the time to tap into their natural curiosity.
Our first parrot was a Sun Conure that came home to us and began eating our daily breakfast with us on a play stand in the middle of our table. We had watched parrot movies where the bird drags a bucket up to its perch and draws out the Cheerio. Wanting to see how smart our new girl was, we attached a small toy bucket to her perch and in went the Cheerio. Bingo, she figured that out faster than I would have. The bucket trick was no big deal, but what else came out of our mornings together was potty training. Every time, that conure would put herself into “poop posture” (watch for your baby to back up, wiggle her tail and make a deposit), we would all say “go potty” with lots of enthusiasm. After she did the deed, she would get another Cheerio. All of us thought this pretty neat and that Sun Conure was potty trained within 3 days.
Please don’t expect a young parrot to learn this quickly. They are still in awe of the bright world we live in.
Since that time, we have had other parrots potty train very quickly if we are consistent to say the words “go potty” and reward with praise and/or treats each time we observe the process.
Be Gentle Command/Beaking versus Biting:
When young parrots rough and tumble with one another, they clamp down and get a mouthful of feathers. But when they do the rough and tumble with us, they get a mouthful of skin. All we get is pain. Thus, it is your job, just like it is Momma Dog’s, to teach your new parrot when it is not being gentle. Parrots use their beak like a third foot so you do need to allow your bird to beak your hand. But, when the going gets too rough, your bird needs to understand the “Be gentle” command. I accompany this command with a gentle restraint hold by grasping the parrot underneath the eyes around the back of the head on the cheekbones. I hold the bird in this manner until it relaxes and say, “Be gentle.” There is no need for drama or any loud commands.
Another tool is to have some foot toys on hand for them to chew on instead of you. When they get nibbly, hand them a chew toy!
Taking Food From You:
A few times a week, feed your bird some warm (not hot - 102-108F) baby food (cooked sweet potatoes, cooked grits, cooked oatmeal, soaked monkey biscuits). If you use a microwave be sure to stir to avoid hot spots. Keeping your parrot used to taking treats from a spoon or syringe will make it much easier to medicate him if the need should arise.
Full Body Handling:
This little piggie went to market, this little piggie stayed home…..play it with your parrot too. OK, I am not encouraging toe pulling, but I am encouraging you to touch your parrot all over. Try to make sure you touch all parts and that he will allow you to gently open his wings. A well-socialized bird should enjoy being handled. As he gets older, he might resist the full-body handling if this is not part of your daily routine. Touch each toe too and rub them with your fingers; it’s foot massage time! Touch the flight feathers and try saying “wing” as you do so. Many parrots grow to love a good scritch underneath their wings! When our Congo Grey came here, the previous owner taught us the game of “Gonna Getcha.” We would crawl our fingers toward our new pet and say, “Gonna Getcha on your toe.” Liberty would draw back and run, but would always come back for more. This chase game helped Liberty ease up on those areas of her body that she was so protective. We still are playing “Gonna Getchar tail” with her for she is so cute about tucking her bum when we play this with her.
While your baby is young, take the time to teach him how to have his nails filed. If you and your baby play with a file about every week, he will accept it later on in life. Once mature, filing about every 3 weeks keeps the nails down to a comfortable feel for your arm and hand. We also recommend using a cement perch or a sandy perch to keep those nails comfortable.
your baby with a nail file. The best file to use is one made for acrylic
nails. Shower him with praise and kisses while doing so. Always remember
you don’t have to do all of his 8 nails in one night and that you can
come back the next night. Some birds have dark nails and some have light
nails, but look for the quick inside of the nail and have good lighting
available. With the lighter mutations of Green Cheeks, you can see their
quick; whereas, it is difficult to see on an Eclectus. Here's a web site
with clear illustrations showing exactly where to cut the
There are other ways to trim nails. Some use clippers. If we cut the nails, we always do just a tip off, for it can bleed profusely if you go too far. If there is any blood, we have always applied corn starch and pressure to stop the bleeding. I do not use styptic powder for it burns live tissue when it is on skin.
Many bird owners also use a dremel tool to file the nails. I have never used one, but do know that new bird owners should learn from an experienced bird owner of from a vet. They do cauterize the nail as it files it, so bleeding is not a factor.
Flight suit training or Harness training:
Rather than rewriting our website, I am going to refer you to our pages that have already been written on this subject. Do put your bird’s flight suit or harness on at least 4 times per week for the first 6 months to gain acceptance. Please remember to praise, reward with a treat/cuddles and a trip outside to see the flowers!
Bathing is essential for your bird’s health and what better time to get your bird wet? You can take a shower and play with your bird at the same time. Babies are at first scared of the water so I place their shower perch up high and let them merely observe me for a few times. Don’t rush this by scaring them and dousing them with water. As they get comfortable, I begin letting them get wet by dripping water off of my fingers onto the bird. Always be careful of the temperature and don’t burn the bird! Our pets are now so happy in the shower that they often sing and let their voices bounce off the shower walls! My Blue Headed Pionus turns upside down and spreads her wings in delight!
Here is a link with great ideas for games to play with your new baby!
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