Hand-Tame Your Small Bird

Edited by Yuliya, Doug Collins, Anonymous, Eng and 3 others

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Can small birds be tamed?

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With some patience, and the right kind of personality, even the smallest bird can be tamed! Imagine finches - happily perched on their owners' shoulders, and canaries who flying around outside their cages all day.

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Of course sometimes a bird's personality and past get in the way of taming. Some birds are naturally flighty. Consider your bird's past. Perhaps he spent all his life stuck in a tiny cage, or was in a household with kids who handled him roughly. The temperament of a bird is due in part to where they've come from, and also has a great deal to do with the individual species.

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Generally, small birds like parakeets, canaries, and finches can be as tame as their bigger parrot siblings.

Where To Start

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If you want a bird to really bond with you, the earlier you start the better. If possible, get a hand-fed bird - or better yet, if you have the experience and resources, hand-feed one yourself. Hand-fed baby birds get used to human interaction very early, and, if done correctly, the feeding will foster a trusting relationship between bird and human.

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If you can't get a hand-fed or a baby bird, a young bird is the next best thing. When you're choosing a bird, look at their eyes - young birds' pupils are large and black, without the outer white ring of an older bird, specifically with parakeets. A budgie with black stripes on their forehead (just above the beak) hasn't gone through their first molt, and is less than 3-4 months. Taming an older bird is not impossible, but it takes a lot more time, patience, and effort.

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It's also easier to tame one bird at a time. Birds living in the same cage for a while will bond with each other, and will be less likely to seek outside attention and bonding. When you have two birds together, you are competing to be your bird's mate! Again, it's not impossible to tame a bird with a cage mate, but it is more difficult.

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What You'll Need

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  1. 1
    A large cage.
    Your bird needs a safe, comfortable place to come back to. A stressed, uncomfortable bird is not easy to tame. Check out this VisiHow article for tips on how to choose the best cage for your bird: [[1]] {
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  2. 2
    Perches and toys outside the cage.
    If you plan on keeping your bird outside the cage for a while, he'll need something to do! Make it fun to be outside the cage, and your bird will look forward to his outings.
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  3. 3
    A safe room.
    Small birds can easily get stuck in small spaces, get their claws caught on curtains, or fly into mirrors and Windows, especially if their wings are not clipped. Bird-proof the room before you let your bird out.
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  4. 4
    Your bird's favorite treat.
    Budgies and finches love millet. The canary's favorite treat is dandelion leaves. Other treats that work well are honey treats and veggies like broccoli. Most parakeets will do anything for a spray of millet. Experiment with different things to discover your bird's favorite treat.
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  5. 5
    Patience.
    Lots and lots of it!
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How To Hand-Tame Your Small Bird

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There are several different methods to hand-tame your small bird. Some are commonly used, while others are more controversial. Use your best judgment in deciding what technique will work best for your bird, while always keeping your bird's health and well being in mind!

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What NOT To Do

  1. 1
    DO NOT grab your bird.
    You will ruin all the trust you built up.
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  2. 2
    DO NOT punish your bird.
    Small birds won't associate the punishment with the act. They'll just think you're being cruel.
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  3. 3
    DO NOT use negative reinforcement.
    Again, they will only view it as cruelty. Positive reinforcement is much more effective.
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  4. 4
    DO NOT end on a negative note.
    Try to end each training/taming session on a positive note, especially if it's been a frustrating session. Ask your bird to do something you know he'll get right, reward the bird, then end the session.
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Hand-Taming Using Food And Treats

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The easiest way to tame a bird is to get to his heart… through his stomach! Birds often respond well to treats.

  1. 1
    Be your bird's sole provider of food.
    Ideally, this will be put into place when you first bring your bird home. Remove the food bowl from the cage. Wait a while until you notice the bird starting to forage, then put some birdseed in the palm of your hand and reach into the cage calmly. Some birds will fly right over and land on your hand to eat, while others may take a few more attempts. If your bird does not warm up to your hand after a little while, this approach may not be right for this particular bird. Please remember: the goal is NOT to make your bird so hungry that he's desperate. The goal is for him to learn to associate you and your hands with positive things like food. This step can be skipped if you feel uncomfortable with it.
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  2. 2
    If you choose to skip the previous step, give your bird time to become adjusted to his new environment.
    Leave him in a calm, quiet spot, and spend some quiet time near the cage. Let him get used to having you around.
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  3. 3
    Move the cage to a busier area.
    You want to get your bird used to being around people. Exposing him to many people and sounds will help him to eventually become comfortable with the more active areas in your home.
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  4. 4
    Start the actual taming process by putting your hand into the cage.
    You may want to be sitting for this, as it might take a little while: keep your hand in the cage, steady and moving as little as possible, until your bird stops fidgeting. The moment your bird seems comfortable, remove your hand calmly and end the training session. Repeat this step consistently several times a day until your bird no longer seems scared when your hand is in the cage. This may take a long time - months, even. Be patient. This step is crucial for establishing trust!
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  5. 5
    Present your bird with his favorite treat.
    When your bird is comfortable with your hand, you can start trying to actually interact with him. At first, hold the treat out to him so he can reach it. Repeat this until he's comfortable enough to eat the treat from the safety of his perch.
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  6. 6
    Hold the treat further away from your bird.
    Hold it with your finger and thumb, and present it to your bird so that your hand is between the bird and the food. This way, to get to the treat your bird will need to step over your hand. Repeat this step until your bird seems comfortable stepping over you to get to his delicious snack.
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  7. 7
    Hold a treat in one hand, while asking your bird to "step up" with the other.
    To do this, hold your fingers straight out next to your bird like a perch, and gently press up on the underside of his chest. The slight pressure will cause your bird to instinctively step forward onto your fingers for balance. As you do this, I recommend saying a command like "step up" so that your bird associates the words with the action.
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  8. 8
    Try to remove your bird from the cage while he is perched on your finger.
    Don't be surprised if your bird hops off as soon as you try to remove him from the cage. Keep trying. DO NOT remove your bird by force. Why undo all the hard work that has gotten you this far?
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  9. 9
    Be patient.
    It's rare to have a bird tamed overnight. Some days will be better than others. If you are consistent, persistent, and patient - you'll get a new friend!
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Additional Information

  • If your bird is outside of the cage, and gets away from you, do not grab or chase him. Throw a towel over him, then pick him up using the towel and carefully set him back into the cage. If you chase your bird, he may see you as a predator, and lose trust.
  • Move slowly around your birds. Sudden movements will spook them.
  • Smaller birds are harder to tame than larger birds. Budgies are ideal hand-tamed pets - you can even teach them to talk! Smaller birds like canaries and finches can be tamed as well, but it will take more patience and persistence.
  • Watch your bird for signs of stress. Panting, breathing hard, or panicked fluttering means your bird is not in a calm place. Take a step back, give him some time, and try again in a little bit when he's calmed down.
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Resources

Images:

  • Amyramoon - Punky [2]
  • Dave Ginsberg - Parakeet Point [3]
  • Miki Yoshihito - Parakeet [4]
  • Matt Elsberry - Yellow bird [5]
  • Kat - New Baby Budgies [6]
  • Yosser - Colin gets up close [7]

Information:

  • Pet Budgie - Taming your Budgie [8]
  • Harrison's bird foods - Taming Canaries [9]
  • Tailfeathers Network - Life with a tame finch [10]
  • Budgie Place - Age [11]

Other:

Questions and Answers

How to tame a new budgie without it flying out of the cage?

I want to tame my budgie and it should trust me, but how?

You must train the budgie to perch on your finger from within the cage first. This process starts by offering your finger as a perch for several days and then once the budgie stays perched on your finger for more than a few minutes you can try bringing your hand out of the cage.

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  1. 1
    Approach the cage with your hand out and palm displayed.
    Stay within the eyesight of the budgie and move slowly while speaking calmly.
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  2. 2
    After one week, repeat the previous step, but this time, put your hand slowly into the cage.
    Continue this for one week.
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  3. 3
    The third week, put a treat on your hand and introduce your hand into the cage as you've done before.
    Encourage the budgie to rest on your hand to eat the treat. You may have to attempt this a few times before the budgie trusts your hand enough to eat the treat. Once the budgie does perch on your hand to eat the treat you can begin moving on to the next phase.
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  4. 4
    Practice the hand taming methods described in this VisiHow article to continue training.
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I would like to tame a British Greenfinch?

The bird is easily scared, and food withdrawal worked a bit, but the bird doesn't feel comfortable enough to take a safflower from my hand. What else can I try? I have tried: Staying next to the cage. Food or treat rewards from hand. Holding cage close by. I think it was caused by: Past bad experience with previous owner.

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VisiHow QnA. This section is not written yet. Want to join in? Click EDIT to write this answer.

I'm having trouble with my bird trusting me and I can't handle it.

It a small parrot and I want to learn how to handle it. I have tried: Yes a lot. I think it was caused by: I'm not sure

VisiHow QnA. This section is not written yet. Want to join in? Click EDIT to write this answer.

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Categories : Birds

Recent edits by: Maria, Dougie, Eng

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