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How to get your bird to step-up…

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Ah the infamous “Step-up!” is among one of the most useful and one of the most important basic training for any parrot species. It not only inspires confidence in the owner to tame his or her bird, but it also is one of the first building blocks to establish and create a working and functional relationship between you and your bird.

Although other species of birds can be tamed and trained (such as canaries, pigeons and quail) most people use methods of training birds strictly for parrots, these techniques that will be described herein can easily be adapted to any bird really but for the sake of this article we are focusing on parrots.

We will be describing two popular methods to train your bird, and also explain some of the importances of both techniques and why you should train your bird in both these techniques.

Although it is possible to train a bird that is flighted, it is harder to tame a bird that is. For this sake, we highly recommend that you get your bird’s wings clipped–now don’t panic! We know the debates about letting birds fly, and maybe in the future you will let your bird fly, but there are just as many pros and cons to allowing your bird fly then letting your bird not fly. One of the reasons we don’t necessarily want our birds to fly is because it is harder to tame a bird that can simply fly away, it is harder to make that connection, but also because allowing a bird to fly in your home can be potentially hazardous; birds can easily fly into walls and kill themselves or seriously injure themselves.

Getting wings clipped is not as bad as it sounds, it liking to us getting a hair cut. The feathers will grow back.

THE FINGER METHOD

It is everyone’s dream who own a bird to have their bird step-up onto their hands or fingers. It is one of the most amazing feelings in the world when finally that small budgie, or even African Grey, steps-up unto your hand or finger. To see it standing there so majestic.

Finger training or hand training a bird to step-up is beneficial because it will inspire great confidence in the owner, it is the essential building block of developing a good working relationship. By knowing the basic step-up you will be able to set boundaries for your bird, and in turn the bird will learn to trust you, and you will begin to trust it. Trust is a big thing between a working partnership with a bird and a its owner.

Many bird owners use what is known as positive reinforcement, this is because birds have a different way of thinking. Although you should never hit or yell at your bird, a bird is able to read your body language you can say “no!” but in general and reinforcement (negative like yelling, or positive like praising) is still a form of reinforcement and a bird will feed off of this reinforcement.

The easiest way to use positive reinforcement is to use treats, depending on the bird you want to use different things, and many people do this. However, not every owner of a bird agrees to this form of positive reinforcement, others use what is known as praising and enthusiasm to encourage their birds to succeed, when the bird does something right you may get all happy, and in a squeaky baby voice say “GOOD BIRDIE!” birds LOVE drama and energy, if you are a boring person you will have a little difficulties keeping the attention of your bird.

Here is a simple method to training your bird to step-up unto your finger:

1. Most likely when you take a bird home it won’t want to leave its cage. There are exceptions, but in general not all pet stores hand train their birds. In this case, the first stage, and probably the most important, is to get to know your bird. Understand what it likes and doesn’t like. This might sound easy, but the truth is it isn’t, let the bird get adjusted to a schedule, and allow the bird to adjust to the fact it will have hands in its cage. Slowly offer food to the bird, and eventually it will eat from it, once it started to get use to your hands it is time to teach your bird!

2. Sometimes when you go to a pet store the birds are already adjusted to people using their hands, and most often these stores already taught the birds to step-up. This makes it much easier for you as the new owner to work with the bird. Chances are you will simply need to say step-up, but sometimes when a bird is new to their surroundings they get spooked and avoid you. Most new birds will turn their back (if they are larger birds for example), or if they are smaller they tend to run along the bars. This is normal, you should never trap your bird in a corner, but you should gently prod the belly of the bird to get it to step-up on your hand, this may take a while. You want to establish a key word here, a key word is a word (or sometimes a gesture) a bird will be able to recognize with an action, in this case as you are trying to get the bird to step-up unto your hand or finger you are simply saying STEP-UP or UP-UP!

3. Once the bird is on your hand, you want to wait. This allows the bird to adjust to your hand, often times it will jump off within a matter of seconds, however, if you keep this up eventually the bird will simply sit on your hand. It is at this time you want to offer positive reinforcement.

4. Eventually the bird will be very comfortable on your hand, the next stage, is obviously to slowly take the bird out of the cage. You should never, under any circumstances unless it is an emergency and you know your bird, force your bird to anything it isn’t willing to do. This will damage your relationship and birds can hold grudges. Most likely, the bird will want to go back to a perch or go within the cage, this is fine, let bird do so. Just keep trying until eventually you are able to get the bird out of the cage without to much difficulty. Don’t forget to praise the bird when it does exactly what you ask it to!

5. Turn your back to the cage, you don’t want the bird to see its cage, it will want to go back to it. It is ideal for you to leave the room completely and go to another one. Here is where the real training begins.

6a. Do some “ladder training,” ladder training is simply getting the bird to step unto your finger over and over again, from one hand to the next. Make sure you repeat the key word here, in this case it could be UP-UP or STEP-UP! Eventually it will seem like you are making a ladder, praise the bird. This is not only fun for you, but birds of all sizes seem to enjoy it. However, larger birds tend to get bored with this exercise very quickly.

6b. Another method that is gaining speed is placing the bird on a perch, a birdie gym, a counter, the back of a chair or even the floor. Essentially what you will be doing is getting the bird to step-up unto your hand from that spot, and than returning the bird to that location (this is known as step-down, which is another useful skill to teach your bird).

6c. To get your whole family involved, do hot potato! From one person to the next, you get the bird to step-up unto each family member until you make a full circle, and you keep doing this. This is among one of the most beneficial of the step-up training, because you are establishing good bonds between the whole family and not just one member and this can reduce aggression found in birds who only bond to one person.

There you go, this is the basics of step-up training unto your finger or hand!

THE DOWEL METHOD

Not all birds come tamed and ready to go, as you can imagine from the above statements. These birds can sometimes be potential bitters, and bites hurt! With some of the larger species of parrots these can be potentially scarring, the problem here is that all birds will bite. It is just like saying your child will never throw a tantrum, it will happen, and no matter how well behaved your child is when she/he pulls a tantrum you are stunned, it is the same when a bird bites. Sometimes you will be able to tell and other times it just happens. Thankfully, birds once properly trained are not big bitters towards their owners and if properly socialized towards any other living being.

This is where the dowel method comes in, a dowel is essentially a long wooden rod that resembles a perch (and often is).

Dowel training is perfect for those who are afraid of their medium to large parrots, it is a slow steady process to eventually getting the bird unto your hand or finger. However, we recommend that all parrots be trained with dowel as well as hand tamed, this is because in obvious cases you won’t always be able to reach your bird, and if a bird isn’t dowel trained or trained to step unto a perch they are less likely to do so, and will most likely be scared of the dowel and try their best to get away from it.

Dowel training is just like the finger step-up training, but this time you want them to get use to the dowel been pressed up to them, to get them to simply come up unto the dowel you may use a treat to lure them unto such dowel by revealing the treat just out of reach of the dowel, forcing them to step up.

This is a great method to get territorial birds out of their cages, such as quakers and Indian Ringneck parakeets, and some larger species much prefer this method than the hand. As an owner of the bird we like to think that the bird needs to conform to our ways, but the truth is we do more sacrifice of ourselves for the bird than the bird does for us, compromises need to be made; on both sides.

WHAT IF MY BIRD BITES ME!?

Birds, especially large ones, can be scary when they bite. Especially when they are well behaved and you aren’t expecting it. Even small birds like budgies and lovebirds have a wicked bite, sometimes they draw blood. It happens. The truth is, you won’t always be able to avoid been bit, you need to understand that the beak of a bird is its hands, it is the way it explores its world and it is how it rewards and punishes.

The trick, and it isn’t always easy, is to not be afraid of been bit and not to be afraid of the beak. You don’t necessarily need to be on edge every moment you own a bird, when or how you will be bit, just understand that it will happen. It isn’t a matter of could, it is a matter of when and what circumstances provoked the bite.

As you grow as a bird owner you will be able to better predict when, why and how your bird bites. You will be able to read the body language of your bird, but even this experience can’t guarantee that you won’t be bit, anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

When dealing with a bird that bites, it is best not to react.

You can push into the bite, to make it uncomfortable for the bird, but you should never pry the mouth open. You shouldn’t hit your bird, another method to make a bird understand that biting is wrong is simply pinching the beck and in a firm voice say NO! or NO BITE!

By reacting to the bite you are encouraging the bite. Don’t react, act normal, and return the bird to its cage and ignore it for about 15 minutes, think of it as a time out, and by the time you come back to see your bird he should be in a better mood.

If you stick to these simple rules, the risk of a bite is minimum and both you and the bird will be happy.

Lovebirds

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We are getting into that season again, and Christmas is a time where the hearts of people tend to warm towards the lovebird. Lovebirds have quite a bit of myths surrounding them, anywhere between “they don’t make good pets because they are aggressive”, to the most played “they can only be bought in pairs.”

In this blog post we will be discussing lovebirds, what they are like pets, what they are like in the wild, animal husbandry for these animals and dispelling some of the more common myths that surround these little birds.

First thing’s first, what is a lovebird?

A lovebird (“Agapornis”) is a small African bird, with the traditional African built (stocky body, small tail feathers and larger beaks). Eight out of nine of these species of lovebirds are on the market, but only three of these eights will be the easiest to find; the peach faced, masked and the fischer’s lovebird.

In this article, however, we will only be exploring the peach faced lovebird, this is because they are the most commonly kept species of lovebird, and this is generally because they are much easier to tame, handle and they come in a variety of different mutations that appeal to the wider audience. However, this information provided can easily be adapted to the other species of lovebird because they all share a similar diet and have similar needs.

Lovebirds are small birds, just a little bigger than a budgie, but unlike some of the other small birds you find on the market, they are a species of parrot, as such they are highly intelligent and sociable creatures. They are a lot of personality jammed pack into such a small body. Many parrot owners recommend a lovebird for first time parrot owner, because these birds are very similar to some of the larger parrot species, just in a smaller body. Therefore, the new time owner will be able to have some experience as to what it is like to own a larger bird specie without the fear of those large beaks.

Lovebirds are loud, or at least they can be, and although calling shouldn’t be completely eliminated, very few owners aren’t prepared for the high pitched call that a lovebird can make. The first week is always the worse, but by proper training you will be able to minimize this annoying sound, and those annoying sounds will turn into pleasant little chirps.

Lovebirds are not known to talk, although a few have been known to learn a few words, but they more than make up for it in their clownish personalities and their abilities to learn a variety of tricks.

Like any parrot, you need a good size cage, that way you are able to put in a lot of toys (birds need something to keep their minds occupied and they are chewers!), but not only that, lovebirds are unique for a parrot species in that they much prefer to sleep in a wheel, a nesting box or a plush triangle, and that requires room to set one up. Your cage should be big enough to be able to fit the bed comfortable, and have at least three toys.

Despite the common belief, lovebirds do NOT need to be paired off, especially if you will become its flock mate of sorts. The common myth that they need to be paired off was probably from some pet store long ago wanting to make some extra cash, and was easily able to sell it because you will be able to understand why they are called lovebirds when you look at them. In groups, they tend to pair off and snuggle close together.

This behaviour, of snuggling close, means in general lovebirds are wonderful cuddly birds, who enjoy nothing more than receiving scritches (petted), or snuggling up to your neck. They are little cuddle monsters they can be.

However, because of this behaviour, most people who own a lovebird have found that they can develop aggressive tendencies towards other members of the family. This happens because the bird was not properly socialized with other members of the family, this includes your dogs, cats and yes even sometimes your fish. Lovebirds by nature bond with one thing (and I say thing because sometimes they bond with their favourite toy) rather strongly, however, just because they bond strongly towards one member, does not mean they won’t make a good pet in a large family household.

On contrary, lovebirds make excellent pets in larger households because even in the wild they are found in small flocks, they just have that “favourite” person and that generally means more responsibility on that person’s part. A lovebird that has bonded to one person but is in a large household is less likely to be aggressive because of the socialization, this often means less biting–however, the person it has bonded to is often the receiver of these bites because lovebirds can get jealous easily when their mated pair is interacting with everything else but itself, they are more likely to bite their partner then the other person!

A proper socialized lovebird, means a well behaved and loveable lovebird.

Diet is another factor, lovebirds get fat very fast on seed base diets. They require a good balanced diet (who doesn’t?) of pellets and seeds (seeds are important because of the fats), but you also need to be feeding your lovebird a good chunk of fruits and veggies. Make sure you do your research on which foods are appropriate for birds, there are many that is poisonous to birds (did you know avocado is poisonous to birds?). Lovebirds can be considered messy birds, not that they throw food around (although they can; they can be a little dramatic) they enjoy making soup by adding their food to their water, hence soup. This perfectly natural and should be encouraged, the water changed after you wake up and before you go bed, to prevent any dangerous bacteria growth that may occur.

These birds, because of their large brains and their sociable natures, should be played with outside of their cages at LEAST an hour a day, where they will have time to interact with the family and reaffirm their connections with their one-and-only.

When choosing a lovebird the best case scenerio is to get a young (the beak should have some black on it, but not all mutations have this!), hand reared and hand tamed bird. You should look for signs of illness, and lastly it should be a bird that takes an interest in you–this will make it much easier for the bird to adapt to their new surroundings. You should already have a cage set up in your home, with the toys and feed ready.

The best part about these birds is that because they are highly energetic birds, they are able to put in quarters where there may be a lot of movement and loud noises, some of the smaller and larger species can easily be spooked and are rather sensitive to these movements and sounds. Not lovebirds, after all they’ve been known to take on dogs. Make sure the cage is at a good elevation, and not placed on the floor, this will promote a sense of confidence in the bird and will also reduce some of the screaming that a lovebird may create.

Lovebirds make amazing pets, for the right people. If you are looking into getting into larger parrot species, but are afraid of them, the lovebird will give you a run for your money. If you are looking for a loving, cuddly bird but can also take care of themselves independent, than this bird is for you! If you are looking for an overall intelligent, loyal, and affectionate bird the lovebird is right for you.

Betta Fish

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Betta fish are among one of the most desirable and favourite of fish pets, and why shouldn’t they be? They are considered low maintenance, can live in a bowl without an oxygen pump, a filter or a heater, and they don’t require a complex diet.

In this post we’ll explore the care for this rather hardy fish.

Betta fish are beautiful, and hardy fish, because of this they make wonderful starter fish for not only children but also for those who’ve never taken care of a fish. They don’t require much space or expensive equipment, but don’t let this rather simple fish fool you–they are an absolute joy to watch.

Unlike some other species of fish, the betta are unique in that they have a specially evolved organ which enables them to breathe air at the surface of the water, another reason why they can be placed in small bowls. In nature they are often found in small bodies of water, with poor oxygen in the water. Betta fish should not be kept in anything lower than a gallon of water.

They are highly personable, and can even be trained to eat from what is known as a “feeding wand.” As such, some people have taken the time to train their betta fish to go through hoops.

Betta’s live approximately 2-5 years, a good age for those who are looking for a pet for their children or perhaps to get them started in the hobby.

Just like any fish though, before you take one home, you should have the water properly conditioned. There are a variety of wonderful product companies that sell these bottles of conditioner. By conditioning the water you are removing from it any harmful substances and hard minerals that often pollute our tap water, this can kill your fish.

Although betta’s are simple fish and are easy to maintain (cleaning their bowls once a week, and changing the water once a week, feeding them once a day etc.) there are a variety of excellent choices in decoration, substrate (from gravel to sand) and foliages. These, unlike for larger aquariums, are relatively inexpensive, and can help brighten up the bowl. Along with excellent choices of decorations (from balls to mirrors) there is a wide assortment of betta fish aquariums suited to house one fish that may appeal to you. <a

Unwanted Pets

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     It has been an interesting week around here my daughter and I were on our way to ship a bird to Winnipeg when I get a call can we take a puppy in at the store. After a few minutes of talking it turns out someone just dumped the puppy in an alleyway in a manner that should not be talked about. I have been thinking about what kind of person would decide that they want a pet, go to the trouble to find one and then dump it on the street. With all the love that a pet has to offer, they are there when you are feeling sick and they just seem to know what to do to pick you up. When you come home late they don’t get mad even if you go out with friends and come home late. So all I am saying is that when getting a pet be it a dog bird or reptile think first. do you have the time that it takes to give this pet a forever home do you know what the cost are do you know its needs how long it will live what kind o cage it needs how much space then think it over some more. If after all of the thinking you find that you have still made a mistake, person up and do the right thing find a rescue group that will find a new home for the pet not the streets or alleyways of your city

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