Treat Size

I get asked a lot about ideal treat sizes for birds to train with and often times in our masterclasses I will see people trying to use something the size of a nutriberry or a half almond for a single repetition.
An ideal treat is:
  • Something eaten/consumed QUICKLY (so the bird doesn't forget what he/she did to earn it in the first place AND so the bird doesn't fill up before the behavior has a chance to progress)
  • Something the bird WANTS (you have to use something the bird finds desirable; if the bird isn't working for it, it doesn't want it!)

On the left is a treat in its whole form (the nuts have been shelled and in the case of the walnut I only used a portion from an entire walnut), to the right shows how much smaller you can get with each reward. A safflower seed and sunflower seed are ideal sizes of treats. Even a pine nut is an ideal treat size, but I sometimes break those into two pieces for my sun conures or if I want to try to get more repetitions in a single session.

With the cashews and pistachios you can even go a size SMALLER if needed, depending on the size bird you're working with.

So in other words, you can either use 1 almond as 1 repetition or you can get 8 repetitions from a single almond!

I like to use the whole nuts (to the left of the image) as JACKPOT REWARDS. I give these when the bird overcomes fear or discomfort (that's a big deal and should be reinforced! We want to see more of that!) or when a bird exaggerates a behavior to my liking (training my bird to talk he can sometimes be incredibly enthusiastic about it or he can sound bored and as though he isn't trying... when I get ultimate enthusiasm I will jackpot reward to indicate THAT is the standard of behavior I want from now on!) 

Treat size plays a HUGE role in your training session success. I keep a mixture of ALL of these in my treat pouch because I'm rewarding 8 birds who  have different food preferences and ratings and I like to have something for everyone.

Remember these treats in your treat pouch are your TOOLS for getting more good behaviors from your bird so use them as such. You can always give more, but if you find yourself waiting on your bird to hurry up and consume your treat, you may want to jump it to a size to the right...

Jamieleigh Womach has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

13 comments

Lisa M Dunn

Thank you for all of your pointers. I have been giving out rewards that are too big.

Lisa M Dunn
Carole Winchell

I’ve learned soo much from you..trying to apply it is the hard part!!

Carole Winchell
julie prielipp

Do you feed your birds at specific time of day, like breakfast, lunch, supper? If so do you also leave a bowl of food ( nuts, seeds, etc) in the aviary for them to eat if hungry?

julie prielipp
Kelsey

My brother is allergic to nuts so we don’t bring them into the house. One of my birds rarely respond to sunflower seeds. Are there any other things I could use for treating?

Kelsey
Kathy Vercellino

This is great information. I do know about already but it’s good to share with others who don’t. And I’m always recommending u guys to people who contact me. Because I groom and have 7 parrots, 5 different species, they think I know more. I know some but not so much training and behavioral. So I direct them to u. I love how u work. I know other behaviorists but prefer your ways! Thanks for all you do for the birds & the people, XO

Kathy Vercellino
Ruth Ogier

Your info is always right on. I always cut almonds up for my Amazon, but evidently not small enough cause I have to wait too long it seems for her to finish…I usually do 6 pieces but I think maybe we need to go a little smaller : )

Ruth Ogier
Rhyse

I buy a bunch of crushed nuts and seeds that I know my quaker likes and then I put them in a container and she takes the type of treat she wants. She’s so little I almost never use whole nuts unless it’s at the center of a really massive foraging toy😂

Rhyse
Shari Harris

Love all of your helpful hints. My moluccan cockatoo is so fussy about food. One day she likes it the next day wont touch it. Keep looking for that sweet spot.

Shari Harris
Mike Carbe

This is exactly what I needed right now. I’ve been working on what to use for treats and the best size. This is very helpful

Mike Carbe
Sonia

Aww thanks Dave and Jamie very helpful info👍😁

Sonia
Stevan Ahlbeck

What about feasted and salted nuts??

Stevan Ahlbeck
Lisa

Wonderful explanations of treats. The picture very useful. thank you.

Lisa
Tom

I agree with using a small size treat but would never use sunflower seeds because it is my understanding that these seeds are not healthy for birds

Tom

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