Photo by Jamieleigh
Location: Athol, ID
Shown: Alexandrine Parakeet “Rasta” not eye pinning or being aggressive with sun conure “Detka”
If you haven’t followed Rasta’s story, please do so here:
So what has happened with Rasta since the last time I wrote? A whole heck of a lot!
I’ve been doing two things:
- Encouraging Rasta to use flight as a means to get himself where he wants to go.
- Putting happy on cue by clicking and rewarding anytime he does something that makes him happy (ie: scratching his head, shifting his weight to one foot, preening, yawning)
In order to put happy on cue, I’ve had to put Rasta more at ease. He has been anxious to earn clicks ever since beginning and so when he sees me even look at the clicker, he starts pacing and wanting to do something. So I’ve been moving his cage by the couch when I work or watch a TV show so that he knows it’s chill out time – and then he gets content along with me and I randomly click and reward him for being content and happy. It has made a HUGE difference in associating the clicker positively. It has made it so that I can click and reward other behaviors positively now, as well. And so I have…
I’ve been able to click and reward Rasta for ENJOYING bathing! You can see in this video he is really getting into bath time and I’m not only using the clicker, but the word ‘good’ to encourage him to like his baths from a spray bottle more and more.
Here are some keys to getting your bird to like bathing from a spray bottle:
- Don’t force it. If the bird walks away, don’t keep trying otherwise your bird will think it HAS to take a bath and shy away from it everytime.
- Let your bird watch other birds enjoy a bath from a spray bottle so they can see what they’re missing.
- Spray the mist from the bottle UP in the air so it falls down on top of the bird, DO NOT spray the bird in the face with the spray bottle.
- NEVER use water as a form of punishment to get your bird to stop doing something.
- Squirt slow, light mists over your bird high into the air so it barely wets your bird and let him shake and feel it and gradually get into it. Don’t go too fast.
- Try offering a bath at different times of the day – many birds prefer mornings, and some birds prefer to bathe when it’s hotter out. Some birds even prefer luke warm water or ice cold. (I know I like my shower much hotter than my husband does!)
What else has been happening with Rasta? Well I have been able to encourage him to fly away from his cage (he usually only flies to the conure cage when no one is in the room watching) but he has been WALKING back to his cage, and although he gets a treat for flying to the conure cage, he does not get a treat for walking. You can see how confusing that is to him here…
He’s a quick study though and in no time he figured out that FLIGHT = TREAT!
The keys to encouraging his flight behavior have been:
- Using cheese at first because it was his biggest motivator. (Small pieces and not often – eventually changing to pieces of almond – use the healthiest food you can with your own bird)
- LOTS of praise!
- LOTS of encouragement!
- Setting up his environment right. Leaving food on chairs for him, leaving treats on top of the conure cage and rewarding him on his own cage for flights back to it.
Being consistent with this, has led to Rasta’s controlled flights! His flight skills are developing immensely. Check out this super controlled flight back to his cage:
Now, in between encouraging lots of flight from Rasta, I have also been adding variety to his diet. There were foods he already liked from his owners like peppers, oranges, blueberries and carrots… and so I decided that while I was away at shows during the day I needed to be able to say I made some sort of progress with Rasta. So I started making food every morning and encouraging Rasta to try them. He is very trusting so far and loves to try new foods – sometimes I have to get creative with how I get him to taste-test it… but eventually he does and so far he has only disliked cucumbers. (Don’t blame ya there, buddy, I hate the things!)
Rasta shows a deep love for fruit over veggies, so I have been mixing it up just enough that he looks forward to both.
Photo by Jamieleigh
Location: Athol, ID
Shown: Alexandrine Parakeet “Rasta” discovers boysenberries
Rasta has discovered life tastes good. Normally I know that Karen and Liam would chop his food, he has to do that himself unless it’s entirely necessary on my part. Here are some of the foods he has discovered lately…
Watermelon served on a fork because he wouldn’t have it any other way
Banana (no peel, very important to him)
Green beans – whole or chopped, he likes both
Corn, a very big hit if you can’t tell from his face!
Whole mini bell peppers – yummy! You could make these a foraging toy, too.
White rice vaccum-sealed
AND… in addition to working on variety in his diet, encouraging flight, AND putting happy on cue… I’ve been working on getting Rasta to show little to no aggression towards the conures (socializing comes much easier when all birds in the situation can confidently fly) as well as (as of today from an email with Karen…) working on teaching Rasta to go back in his cage willingly using touch training (non-aggressively).
So… to go into that side of things… you have to start with basic touch training around the cage. Here is what that has looked like for me and Rasta:
In 3 training sessions I was able to achieve what I really wanted with Rasta, and that was for him to go to the bottom of his cage, perch there and turn around to me to take the treat. At some points he even went inside the cage and then came back out on his own which was perfect. I explain more in the next two videos, so watch on to learn how to get your bird to go back into his cage willingly and what methods NOT to use to do so, as well:
Karen expressed to me in her latest email that she wanted to be able to get Rasta away in his cage so that when her kids go outside they don’t have to worry about him flying away. So that is the idea of this – to be able to get him to put himself away effortlessly.
If you haven’t noticed, some huge changes with Rasta already have been:
- He no longer talks when he is only aggressive. We hear him talk all the time now and his vocabulary has gotten more broad which tells me he has a happy-chatter he does. His talking when he is aggressive has also become a lot less because he is not feeling as angry as often anymore.
- The eye pinning is less (unless he sinks his beak into an orange and then it’s happy-eye pinning time!)
- He takes treats non-aggressively as well as other foods.
- He ENJOYS bath time from a spray bottle.
- He enjoys flying and uses it to get around.
- When spooked into flying, he has enough skill not to crash land and actually circles back and lands on his cage.
- He is overall more at ease and calmer around us, not feeling as threatened by the hand.
- He is no longer getting cheese as a treat and only works for almonds.
- He has obtained more variety in his diet (with more yet to come!)