Crate training might seem easy… you get the bird and put it in the crate, right? Wrong. At least not with these birds.
These toucans were, again, wild caught so they came to the island very wild and very scared of people. Cathy was their main caretaker on the island who brought them their food and cleaned their cages, they began to become comfortable around her. Until one day they had a hurricane warning and HAD to get the toucans out of their cages and into crates for transport.
Originally, their travel cages they came in stayed in their new aviaries and they ate out of them all the time so it wasn’t a problem. However, it made a huge mess between left over food (as they were over feeding) and poop everywhere so it wasn’t done for long. When emergency time came, they chased the toucans all over the aviary until they were too tired to move from the ground and could no longer perch. This was recommended to them by a vet as a means of getting the birds in the crates… so for 45 minutes they chased the toucans over and over again in the aviary until they were limp in their hands and they could put them in the crates.
After that experience, the toucans never trusted anyone and this included the crates.
Dave and I were darn proud to have gotten them over such a huge hurdle in the beginning and have them eating out of anyone’s hands on the island as a sort of “excursion” people could do. But crate training in two days time? Yikes…
Dave took the project on. He left a large crate in their cage for a couple hours in the morning and placed blue berries inside and on top of it. When we came back in the afternoon, the ones on top had been eaten but the ones inside were still there.
We had to get creative so we cut a hole large enough for an arm to fit through the back and put the crate up near the toucan’s every day use branches. We then began hand feeding them fruit with it up there and every time (based on the bird’s comfort level and body language) we eased our way closer and closer to the crate to feed them. Eventually they were calmly eating from our hands just in front of the crate.
We did about 4-6 training sessions a day – and we did this because a toucan’s metabalism is SUPER FAST, but it is not like a parrot’s so don’t try to do that many sessions with your parrot. We left the crate in at night with berries on top and inside, and everytime more and more berries would be gone.
Our last day we reached our arms through the hole and got one toucan to jump in. As the toucan did so, it got more and more brave and did it more often. The other toucan was way too scared and instead, stole the berries from the brave toucan so the brave one had to do twice the work! By the end of day 2, both toucans were sitting calmly in the crate waiting to be fed their blue berries from the other side.
Note: We took the door off the crate so not to ever have it accidentally slam on them or scare them and make them feel immediately trapped. We explained the rest of the process to Cathy, the island trainer, so she could keep up the steady progressional pace Dave set with the crate training.