Jamieleigh | BirdTricks | Parrot Training Blog - Part 4

Final Steps in Regaining Trust with Alexandrine Parakeet

 August 5th, 2012
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Me and Rasta the alexandrine parakeet

As most of you have followed, I had been working on crate training Rasta so that when it came time to ship him home to his owners in Florida, I would be able to do so! Also, so that they can continue to use the crate as a means of transporting him from his indoor cage to his outdoor aviary.

Rasta wasn’t intended to head back to his owners until just before September arrived, but due to conflicting travel schedules I had to schedule him earlier than planned so he is sadly leaving me on this coming Thursday.

In the time that he has been with me he’s learned:

  1. Touch training and targeting on cue
  2. Flight training to a place I point to on cue
  3. Flight training to my arm on cue
  4. Crate trained to go inside his crate and eat his meals on cue
  5. Station into his cage and sit on a designated perch on cue
  6. Knows how to ‘wave’ on cue
  7. Knows how to ‘spin’ on cue
  8. Steps up on cue (with the presence of an arm, no verbal cue) 
  9. Be ‘gentle’ when touching or taking something on cue 
  10. Learn to love bathing via spray bottle
  11. Added variety to his picky diet
  12. Build self confidence and have less fear 

Let’s talk about how I accomplished the finalizing of the crate training

I had to eventually make it so that the door could close on its own which I did by unattaching it from the chair so it was free to swing. This taught Rasta how to control it and get in and out himself, which you can see he learned quite fast:


The door of the cage free to swing open or closed

The crate not just being used for the inside, but all around as well

Rasta exploring the cage door in its new way

More exploring with the swinging door

Learning to let himself in and out of the cage with his own weight shutting the door

Learning to be OK eating his meals with the door shut

Comfortable enough to eat on the perch with the door shut

Only rewarding with treats now through the cage when he is eating on the perch of the carrier

Teaching Rasta to be OK with people around his carrier while he goes in

Then there was re-earning his trust with the step up training. I had to go back to where it was working, which was at the table. It only took one session, one day and he was back to good with it. This kind of training takes so much emotional energy on Rasta’s part to overcome his fear and really trust me, that it’s not something I want to be working on every day. Otherwise I would make it so that he would burn out and stop wanting to train. This hand/step up training could be worked on probably once a week for Rasta to be good about it and make slow, but STEADY progress and still enjoy training.

Here’s how happy we both are after regaining our trusting relationship back!

Video Progress:

Crate Training (notice how hesitant he is to go in with me watching)


Notice in this video how he doesn’t LEAVE the crate to eat anymore, but eats on the edge.

He’s now exploring and way more at ease on and around his crate, letting himself in and out of it on his own with the door shutting.

Skip to 4:06 in this video to see just the crate training in its final stage!

Onto my bond building and flight training with Rasta, which happened on accident. I pointed one day and he over shot his flight, and landed on my arm. Then we just stuck with it;

And then my step up training…

I left notes on YouTube for Rasta’s owners on these videos if you want a sneak peek at those. Maybe you’ll learn something you didn’t see before!

More step up training.

In this video Rasta learns that stepping up is a trick and not a command where he is going to be forced to do it. This way he looks at performing the behavior totally differently and is more excited to do it.

What the end of my session with Rasta looked like this time. Always ending when he is still excited about training, wanting more and on a high note and SUCCESS. Flight is fun for him so I give him a fun way out 😉

I’m very pleased and proud with all the progress Rasta and I made together during his stay with me and I hope that I’ve done a good enough job of arming his owners with the same tools to continue on with him. Hopefully I can come visit him to catch up on his progress and update you all as well. I know he is in good hands! Happy training, Karen and Liam! Will miss you keeping me on my toes, Rasta!

Foraging For Parrots – 8 Ideas to Get You Started

 July 23rd, 2012
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Alexandrine parakeet with 4 food dishes on his cage (2 inside, 2 outside)

Idea #1 – Multiple food dishes to encourage movement from your perch potato. 

This is a technique I used with Rasta the alexandrine parakeet to encourage him to wander, explore and adventure outside of his cage by using his playstand on top of his cage to hold small pieces of food, as well as mix and matching where food was at all times. This way he was still in the comfort zone of his cage, but venturing outside of it a bit too and getting climbing exercise. When he would go up top I would drop a little piece inside and vise versa.

Photo provided by Sharon Burhart of her parrotlet cage

Troubleshooting: If your bird’s cage doesn’t have a play top, use perches that have coconut shells to hold food and put those on the outside of his cage to hold food, or try pushing foraging trees up against the cage so your bird can climb onto it and find food.

Coconut perches are available at your local petstore

You could also push up t-stands to your bird’s cage and hang baskets with food from it!

Idea #2 – Make your own foraging or food finding toys.

If you can’t afford to buy parrot foraging toys then make your own!



Get some paper cups and use a piece of rope or veggie tanned leather to tie them together so that your bird has to lift one to get inside the other and eventually destroy them to get to the goodies inside!

Troubleshooting: Don’t have paper cups? Find them for cheap at your nearby dollar store or party store, or use plain muffin cups too! For longer lasting toys, use coconut shells or wooden bowls.

Idea #3 – Baskets and Buckets! 


These are especially great for not just parrots, but toucans too. My toco toucan LOVES unwinding woven baskets and toys! Plus, it takes forever!

Get some woven baskets and buckets and use them to hide food in and hang from your bird’s cage, or just set them on shelves in your bird’s cage, on top, around or on the bottom. You can even set them inside your bird’s food dish!

Troubleshooting: The craft store is your best friend during this time. Find the best non-treated wooden and woven accessories that you can use for your bird and make the most of out of it! If you have a creative friend, ask their advice for how to get even more creative with these fun home made bird toys!

Idea #4 – Recycle! 

Many of the reusable foraging toys on the market today are just cardboard boxes – so get your own and fill them with goodies for your bird to open, it could be Christmas for your bird every day!

Troubleshooting: If your bird is too timid to approach these new toys, try poking large holes so your bird can see what’s worth getting at inside. Eventually you can start to make the holes smaller and smaller until your bird is the only one making the holes at all!

Idea #5 – Be safe, use manila rope! 



Many rope toys are dangerous because they fray, allowing your bird to catch a toe or worse, a whole leg within it and get tangled. Use manila rope for your toys so that the rope literally breaks and does not fray. Then use the rope to suspend treats in by knotting the rope and hiding bits of food within the knots!

Idea #6 – Wrap it up! 



Plain printer paper does the trick! Simply wrap up treats for your bird in paper and twist the ends. Poke holes to get a timid bird interested and stuff the paper wrapped goodies in other toys to add more difficulty, or simply put them in your bird’s food dish.

Make it a bit harder by tying the ends with leather pieces or manila rope, or suspending it in the middle of your bird’s cage.

Idea #7 – Parrot party! 


Get together with friends and head over to the craft store, party store and dollar store or local bird fair to grab up a bunch of supplies and get to work together, keeping each other creative and sharing ideas will help the process along!

Idea #8 – Get 100% naturally made foraging toys for your parrot.


Foraging toy from www.birdtricks.com/parrot-toys

Don’t have the time for all this? Get 100% naturally made foraging toys shipped right to your door as often as you need them… made from things like coconut hulls, oyster shell (for added calcium), wood, rope and woven naturally dyed goodies, learn more about this line of foraging toys here.

Training Alexandrine Parrot to Go Into a Travel Carrier Willingly

 July 21st, 2012
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Alexandrine parakeet touch training around travel carrier

It’s my belief that if you have a pet bird, you should also have an outdoor aviary for it. There’s nothing better than being outdoors sometimes, especially for wildlife and creatures designed to be outdoors like parrots. However, a lot of people can barely handle their birds let alone get it to and from an outdoor aviary and such is the case with my clients Karen and Liam who own Rasta the alexandrine parakeet.

So, in order for them to use the brand new aviary they just bought for him, I am crate training their alexandrine to willingly go into his carrier so that they can put it inside, have him go in, close it and transport him into the house to sleep indoors at night. Day 1 of crate training Rasta went extremely better than I even imagined!

We talk about how to crate train your bird in minutes using the same techniques I show, only with troubleshooting and lessons on body language, training sessions and  all the potential problems you’re going to run into (like wanting to shut that door on your bird once he’s in and having to completely back track afterwards, and how to go about it so that that doesn’t happen!) in our seminar course.

Here’s what day 1 of crate training this alexandrine parrot looked like:

Right now Rasta grabs the treat and then leaves the carrier to eat it. Eventually I hope to get him to the point where he’s comfortable enough to eat the treats in the carrier as well as not become nervous or anxious when the door is shut behind him. Because Rasta is an extreme case, he won’t be doing this in just one day, but we do show real live training of doing this training in just a few minutes with a bird in our Total Transformation Series.

That course teaches you everything from getting your bird to be OK with its travel carrier to going inside and letting the door shut behind it without showing any signs of anxiety.

To obtain this goal, I set up his cage so that his travel carrier was part of it, somehow connected, you could say. This way the whole thing could be seen moreso as a toy to play in and on than a place of discomfort.

I then began putting Rasta’s meals inside the carrier instead of in or on his regular cage so that he would have to spend more time there and now he eats INSIDE the carrier. Next step: rewarding him for being in there for longer amounts of time and eventually letting the door close without getting spooked.

Here’s more photos of my progress up until this point:

Rasta’s cage adjoining with his travel carrier

Finding more than one reason to hang out on his carrier

Changing over from almond pieces to real food he can see (the best stuff he likes at the very back)

Serving Rasta his main food at the front of the cage at first

Slowly moving it further back in the carrier

Rasta eating while on his perch from his bowl inside the carrier 

It’s important to realize I have this set up with his carrier up 24/7 so it never moves and while I am gone he is free to explore it as he wants. This way he knows the door won’t close behind him and he has no worries. That can be conquered later. When doing this with your own bird, make sure it can’t accidentally close the door on itself or it may spook it from going back in again thinking it will get trapped.

See more photos of Rasta’s process here.

3 Ways to Lose Your Bird’s Trust INSTANTLY

 July 16th, 2012
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Alexandrine parrot Rasta waving while on my hand


I’ve been training alexandrine parrot Rasta for 2+ months now…


But recently I lost his trust and I need to share why so that you don’t make the same mistake with your bird, or maybe you already have and didn’t realize why your sweet bird turned on you.


Way #1 – You pushed the fear threshold too far. 


Alexandrine parakeet Rasta showing his threshold has been violated


We talk about the phases of fear and mistrust, actually Chet talks about it and what to look for, what the phases are and how to overcome them without blowing out your bird’s trust.


Here’s where I went wrong…


Alexandrine parakeet Rasta training


I had a training plan and I asked my husband, Dave, to photograph my training session with Rasta. Last you knew, he was stepping up on my hand with great ease (talked about this and showed photos and video in my last post) so I decided to move the location of this training to see if he would do it on other surfaces as well. I chose the parakeet cage as he loves it there. He was doing great and stepped onto my hand with one foot no problem. I had a feeling he would do it with both feet and asked Dave to take pictures, which he was doing until our puppy distracted him and Dave left the room with the camera and of course, Rasta stepped onto my hand with both feet. I was THRILLED! And then disappointed because Dave wasn’t there to capture the moment.


Well, this whole thing for Rasta was a big under-taking and I was pushing his fear threshold pretty far.


Way #2 – “One More Time” Syndrome. 


Alexandrine stepping up on my hand with one foot before threshold was broken


So I told Dave to get it this time, and that I would do it ONE MORE TIME…


I had not planned on doing it again, and I knew it was pushing Rasta and that’s why I had planned on the one session and ending it on the fact that he did it. But because a picture wasn’t taken, I told myself I would do it one more time.


One more time syndrome is the death of a good training session. If you ever catch yourself saying, “That was great! Now, just ONE MORE TIME…” stop!!!!! STOP THE TRAINING SESSION! End where you just did something great. Don’t push it.


Because this is what my one more time ended up looking like…



Rasta was pushed too far for too long and bit me.


Way #3 – Focusing on something other than the animal in training. 


Instead of knowing better and saying, well, Dave missed it but next session we will put the puppy out and then do the same thing so he gets it… I was too focused on getting the photo and thinking about writing about the journey than I was on just focusing on what was in Rasta’s best interest.


If I hadn’t cared so much about showing it all, I would have never pushed for that one more time and in turn, would not have gotten bit because I would have ended the session positively.


It’s not the puppy’s fault, it’s not Dave’s fault and it’s not Rasta’s fault… it’s mine.


Can trust ever be regained again?


Alexandrine happily stepping up before on table before moving to new training location


Now, where to go from here? Well, that’s easy for me to know and we talk about how to regain lost trust when we walk you through the phases of fear and mistrust.


Yes, the trust can be regained. In fact while pouting about my mistake I was feeling so down in the dumps about being bitten that I wasn’t doing anything with Rasta the whole day but feeling bad and I was on my laptop and he climbed down and was inches away from my face looking at me like, ‘Why did we stop hanging out? We can work through this, you know…’


It can be worked through. And that’s what I plan on doing by using the techniques taught to totally transform any parrot.

Overcoming Hand Hatred with Alexandrine Parrot

 July 8th, 2012
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Alexandrine parakeet Rasta stepping onto my hand for the first time ever after having him 2 months


It took 2 months but I finally earned Rasta the alexandrine parrot’s trust enough to get him to overcome his hand hatred and step up onto my hand for the first time.


This consisted of working with him at least once every day, sometimes twice and never ever forcing him to do anything at all. Not even to come in or out of his cage. His cage was left open all the time and in the beginning of being with me, he chose to be inside it most of the time. Now, he chooses to be out of it more often than in.


I had planned on teaching him to stick his wing out (stick ’em up) but he showed signs of being ready for step up training so I decided to go towards that instead, knowing I can train him tricks at any point in time. But the opportunity for earning trust and getting him to step up willingly on his own would only be a short window so I took advantage of spotting it.


I began by touch training Rasta around my arm while wearing long sleeves and never letting my fingers show. View that post here.


And every day I made little bits of progress on this, you can see the transition from covered arm completely to showing my skin of my arm, to flattening my hand to show my fingers, to getting Rasta to step onto my hand instead of my arm, to positioning my hand how it needs to be to be stable for Rasta… let’s see if you can tell how it all happened based on the pictured and video I got of the process…


Alexandrine parakeet Rasta stepping onto my covered arm

Touch training onto my bare arm (no fingers showing)

Receiving a treat  for stepping onto my bare arm (more hand raised)

Stepping onto my bare arm while on the table with my fingers out

Rasta hanging out on my wrist

Above is a video session of him and you can see how hesitant he is still at trusting that my hand is not going to move or force him to do anything.


Next, I turned my arm the way it should be in order for Rasta to be on my hand in a stable and secure way. (See ‘the stable step up’ in our One Day Miracles series) and it took some time but he got it! He’s now stepping up onto my HAND.


Check out the progress below:


Rasta leaning across my hand in a new position

Rasta stepping onto my hand with one foot in new position

Rasta successfully stepping onto my hand

And now the video…

Just getting over putting one foot on my hand… and then…

If you want to learn how to overcome fear with YOUR BIRD, no matter what the species, click here.

Alexandrine Parakeet Trick Training “The Wave”

 July 3rd, 2012
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Rasta the alexandrine parakeet waving on cue


Using capturing, I was able to teach this alexandrine parakeet trick training, tricks like the wave (shown above) on cue. I wave, he waves back.


I did this by waiting for a natural behavior to capture, and then shaping that captured behavior into exactly what I wanted with a clicker.


So, I would wait for the alexandrine parakeet to scratch his head, click and walk over and offer him a treat. If your bird is too mean to take a treat from your hand, use a dish to offer the treat in.


Once the alexandrine parakeet understood to scratch his head, he offered it often to get a treat. So I then began treating a bunch to get him to continue to offer it. In order to shape the behavior from a scratching of the head to a mere lifting of the foot up (like a wave), I clicked right before he could scratch his head so he realized he didn’t have to exaggerate the behavior so much.


Eventually he understood that lifting his foot and twitching it a bit, but NOT making contact with his head got him a treat. And I was able to put that on cue.


A cue is probably the most important part, along with the timing of the training clicker. If you mess those up, you could lose the behavior entirely.