Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman
Rochelle R writes
I purchased a 3-month-old Quaker parrot, suspecting it was a female. I was told she was hand-fed. I’ve had her for over a month now. But she is petrified of hands.
I’ve been placing my hand (palm down) to hold a treat near her cage door, she usually takes it.
She screams and tries to fly away when I try to have her step up.
The breeder told me to hold her in a towel 15 minutes a day while petting her head.
I don’t want to scare her or traumatize her in any way.
Looking for any suggestions. I love your Sunday articles.
We must gain our bird’s trust in order for them to allow us to handle them.
The concept of toweling a bird and making them be held in order to learn to trust us is a misconceived idea that has no basis on reality.
NO bird that goes through this practice learns to trust and love its keeper but instead will be even more unhappy and in fear of its owner. It may end up obeying you, but not due to trust.
The bird you purchased at 3 months old should have been handled enough to take to you right away.
I suspect it did not get the attention it should have had when being weaned and thus you have your work cut out for you.
The longer you go without contact, the harder it will be to get past this.
Are the bird’s wings clipped?
Although we advocate for not clipping a bird’s wings, in your situation, it may be helpful.
Currently, if you reach out to the bird it runs away?
Does it fly away?
If it flies away then if clipped it cannot.
Thus you should be able to hold your hand flat, palm down, and go toward the bird and press against its legs until it steps up onto your hand.
Say “Step Up” as you do this.
Is the bird perch trained?
To step up on a perch if presented?
This is a must especially if you cannot pick up the bird with your hands.
If you can do this then start doing “laddering”.
Making sure your bird is finger or perch trained will help a lot in getting past the trust issues and make it easier to handle.
Once this is mastered, your bird may ease up in its fear.
Please let me know how it goes.
Catherine goes on to say
Sorry, it sounds like a lazy breeder and now you have a young bird that does not know what is expected of it or what it can do.
I think you need to have your bird’s wings clipped, even just this one time. Sassafras won’t be able to fly away when you go to work with her. By the time her wings grow back in you should have this resolved.
Clicker Training also sounds like a good option for you.
You can work with the bird without holding her and the treats may help with the bond.
Also, try to do everything on a schedule.
Let her out at the same time, feed her at the same time, give her a treat at the same time, playtime out of the cage at the same time, etc.
Birds can tell time and can be more receptive to things when they know they are set for regular times.
A trained dog is a happy dog, they are happy to be able to know what they can and can’t do with you and it is the same with birds.
For example, a bird that is let out of its cage at all hours, 8, 10, noon and back again will likely sit and yell from its cage hoping to be let out, versus a bird who always is let out at say 9 am. the bird who is always let out at 9, may sit and wait instead of always wondering when…
Also, consider getting her under lighting with a timer that goes on and off every 12 hours. It will also help with the schedule.
Please let us know how it goes.
Thank you very much for the information.
Sassafras is not perch trained either.
She had her wings clipped when I purchased her.
She goes in the other direction and screams when my hand is introduced palm down. When I try to hold her or have her perched on my finger, she flies off.
I will stop the towel “training”. And I will follow through with the laddering article.
I’ve never had a bird that wasn’t step-up trained before.
This is new to me.