How to Get Your Bird to Step Up

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Orlando, Florida Stepping up: Military Macaw "Cash"  

Cash is my military macaw who is between the age of 2.5-3 years old. He was always “Dave’s boy” and I never had much to do with him. Not that I didn’t like him but when we got him we got two other macaws and most of my time was with them. We let the birds choose who they wanted to be with and the other two took to me while Cash took to Dave. More on Cash’s story here.   After a while, I noticed Cash had more of an interest to be with me but he was always sort of a rough-housing bird and I was pretty intimidated by that. I didn’t want to accidentally pull away when he may have just been trying to play with me. I took my relationship with him very slow. I was able to hold him after he knew me as the “peanut girl” as I offered him a single peanut every day when he saw me and eventually he was happy to step up on me one day of his own free will. I did everything this way with him – where nothing was ever forced on him, but it was his own decision. I cleaned his cage, changed his food dishes and rearranged his cage – adding toys and taking used ones out.

One of my “guilty pleasures” is what I call “re-interior decorating” bird cages! I love it. Cash has a huge cage and it’s the most fun to decorate because there is so much room and because he loves so many kinds of toys it’s hard to go wrong! He got used to me opening his cage and letting him fly out to the nearest play stand while I put new toys in. Once he caught on that I was adding new toys, he was eager to get back in his cage so badly that he’d fly right back in making my job pretty darn simple! I became such a positive association that I was able to get Cash into a leash and take him on short walks with me (just to grab the mail) while Dave was away on business. It was a huge step for him and me – and it did wonders for our relationship. Now Cash seems to prefer me over Dave sometimes which never used to happen! And I truly believe it’s from letting him CHOOSE to befriend me or not. He has always made the choice to step up or not step up and it made a huge difference in his attitude towards me. I simply offer my hand and ask him to step up if he wants to and normally I will always give him a good reason whether it’s for pets, a nice juicy nut or a new toy he can explore before it goes into his cage or just to go on a walk – he normally regrets not taking the chance to step up if he opts out and begs me to reconsider giving him another chance to do so! So if you’re wondering why your bird isn’t stepping up - think about how you’re coming across to your bird. Are you asking your bird to step up or demanding your bird to? Take into consideration if someone asked you if you would be willing to bring them a glass of water nicely - you would be more likely to do so for them than if they demanded it of you every time they saw you. Remember – your bird isn’t like a dog, it doesn’t view you as its “pack leader” it views you as its equal.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She 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.

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