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Bringing Baby Home: borrowed from


Bringing your new baby parrot home is not much different than bringing home a brand new baby.

As a new owner you need to be aware of several important things right from the beginning. If the baby parrot has been properly raised by a knowledgeable hand-feeder then the baby only knows two things - it trusts humans and has no fear of them. This baby parrot, if just weaned, has few or no social skills at this age. A just weaned baby parrot doesn't have any conditioned responses and most baby parrots don't really know how to amuse themselves, such as play with toys.

There isn't too much difference between the inexperienced new parents and a novice bird owner. A human baby hasn't developed any motor skills and needs constant parental care. A baby parrot, however, does know how to perch, climb, and eat on its own.
As the owner you are now responsible for the future life style of this baby parrot. In the wild the parents would teach the survival skills to their chicks, but the surrogate parents or family flock have to provide that training in a domestic setting. The baby parrot is very capable of learning necessary domestic skills from his human flock. Many new bird owners are under the assumption that weaned birds are "ready made" and know just how to behave in a family setting. WRONG! Many times the new owner hasn't taken the time to become completely aware of what they are getting into and then quickly become disappointed, disillusioned and are much too quick to want to dump the baby parrot off on someone else. These problems can be avoided if the new parrot owner understands what to do and how to socialize their new baby parrot properly.

The first couple of days are very important to getting off on the right foot. You should take the time to plan your arrival home carefully. You should also make arrangements to pick up your new baby as early in the day as possible. NEVER take home a new baby parrot at the end of the day. The new addition needs as much time as possible to adjust to its new surroundings, cage, toys, sounds and possibly other pets such as dogs and or cats, before turning out the lights. Always provide a night light for at least the first week. Make sure you have the cage all set with the proper food and water in place. Provide 2-3 well chosen toys. You don't want to scare the baby parrot. Remember everything is new and the baby parrot is already confused. You don't want to make it worse. Make sure you have placed the cage where the bird can see its new family members but still be off a little to one side such as against a wall or in a corner for a greater feeling of security. Make sure you have provided the same foods that the bird was eating before coming home. The last thing you should do is change its diet along with all the other new experiences it has to get used to. If you have purchased a bird that is on a very poor diet, continue for the first few weeks home with the same food, then you can gradually start to make improvements. Once the bird is in its new cage give the baby plenty of time to learn its way around and to become comfortable. Its new family can spend time talking softly but don't try and hold the baby parrot for the first day. You should observe its overall condition; monitor its droppings and food intake. If you have just purchased a baby parrot that has not had a complete avian exam and cultures etc. then you should make an immediate appointment with an avian vet and get your new addition completely checked out. If you are told it has been checked, then ask to see proof before leaving the store. If there is no proof then there is a very good chance nothing was done.

On the second or third day it is time to take the new baby parrot or parrot out of its cage. You need to establish your control of the situation. Most new babies will step up on your hand or arm but if they refuse then you can gently towel the bird and remove it from the cage. It is very important that the bird learn to respond to its owner's command from the very beginning. A scared bird may attempt to nip. If so, a firm NO will usually help. Don't, however, yank your hand back away from the bird if it shows a tendency to nip. I know it's a reflex but you have to be prepared for this and it's best not to move.
When you yank your hand back then the bird has taken command and will quickly learn, boy look at that response, let me try that again. If you give the command UP and move your hand right up to the front of the bird right above its feet it will usually step because you haven't given it a choice.

The UP command or STEP UP is probably the most important thing you can teach your bird. It will quickly learn this conditioned response but you should continue to always use the verbal command and always make sure the bird follows through with your command. By always using the verbal command you establish who is giving the orders. You need to practice this for 10-15 each day for the first couple of weeks. You next need to work on the UP command for taking the bird off a perch that is on top of the cage. If the bird is higher than your eye level the bird then feels it is in command. If you get a nip response don't stop there. If necessary get a chair that puts you on eye level and give the command again and be sure the bird responds.

Now it is time to work on the UP command from inside the cage. The bird should step up onto your hand or arm and come out of the cage when you want it to. No bird should be allowed to come out when and if it feels like it. You are also establishing who is in command. If you spend the time to establish good response to your UP command when taking the bird out of the cage, you will go a long way towards preventing cage aggression. Once a bird is out of the cage it doesn't want to return. Don't fall into the habit of putting food into the cage and then letting the bird go in when it feels good and ready. Place the bird into the cage and use the command DOWN when you want it to step onto its perch.
Another important lesson that needs to be learned is to stay where you have put the bird. As a new baby parrot they want to be with us and if on a play stand etc. will often jump down and follows us through the house. NOT GOOD. Oh yes we are flattered because the bird wants to be with us but you will quickly tire of this when the bird constantly gets down from where ever you have left them and the next thing that happens, the bird starts wreaking havoc with the furniture and woodwork. This is now not funny. It can also be very dangerous if the bird is to chew on electric cords, fall into an open toilet or encounter any number of dangerous problems that can occur while roaming around.

To be able to teach a bird to stay put it must have its wings clipped properly. This should be done by a qualified person. It is not necessary for a domestic bird to fly and the personality will be much nicer. A bird that flies is in control of the situation not the human. Once the wings are clipped and the bird jumps down, you must be consistent and pick up the bird and place it back on the stand or where ever it came from. Your bird can enjoy a lot more freedom if well behaved.

Nipping and biting - this will happen at some point. When the baby parrot is young they will try and chew on our fingers as a way of exploring. At this point they don't know the difference between objects and human flesh. Also young birds will often grab for a finger to balance while they step onto your hand. You have to learn the difference. Don't encourage the bird to chew on your finger because then they will think it is acceptable. It may not hurt now but as the bird grows in strength the bite will hurt.

The best way to handle this is not to let the habit start in the first place. There are several things that you can do when a bird starts to bite. Give a sharp verbal command of NO or NO BITE. If that doesn't work then give the parrot a sharp downward shake while sitting on your hand and at the same time voice the verbal command NO or NO BITE. This motion is called the earthquake. It you are consistent with your training it works and usually very well. A sharp puff of air in the face can also work. Never strike the bird! If the verbal command, earth quake, or puff of air doesn't work then into the cage for 5-10 minutes for some needed time out. Cover if necessary. Or you can use a smaller cage in another room for a "time out". It doesn't take long for the bird to learn that unacceptable behavior will be followed by a social deprivation. You should not isolate for longer than 15 minutes.
And last but not least - screaming! Screaming can arise from one or more sources - but often the parrot has not been taught to amuse itself. Parrots think that screaming for attention when boredom sets in is a good alternative. When you first bring home your new baby parrot you should determine realistically what you time frames are for playing with the bird. At first the novelty of giving loads and loads of attention is fun but you are setting up a bad situation. The bird quickly gets used to all this attention and not having to play on its own.

You should establish a schedule of times that you can work with and stick with this schedule right from the beginning. The bird then learns that it plays on its own in the cage or out on a play stand. Appropriate toys, music, television programs such as Sesame Street will amuse the bird and occupy its time. You can stop by its cage now and again and praise it for being good. You can never over do praise for a "job well done". You, as the owner, need to realize also that there is a certain amount of noise that all birds will make during certain times of the day. They do have to be allowed to vocalize for certain periods of time but this shouldn't last more than 10-15 minutes.

If the new owner will consistently follow through on the suggestions we have offered, you will greatly increase the chances of owning a well-behaved bird and it will be the foundation of a mutually happy relationship. And isn't that what you wanted from the beginning? I'm sure all the early work will be well worth it.


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Well, I will say I completely disagree with the above advice on forcing a new bird to be handled. I think this method does not develop trust and a good bond with the bird, but does develop fear that can lead to biting and other problems. The whole method above is about controlling the bird, rather than positively reinforcing the behaviors we seek. Much better advice can be found from positive reinforcement trainers such as Barbara Heidenreich. She has training dvds, books, a forum (Yahoo), and a magazine (Good Bird!).
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