To be honest, I had NO idea how to start training fosters. I tried with every one of them, but never made any progress whatsoever at first. Training fosters was a bit different than training my own birds. I know I already wrote about the importance of time when working with new birds. That’s one of the reasons I tend to foster birds I know personally, that way I have an idea of how long I should wait before taking the first step (or second step, I believe that first step should be giving them space). Something that everyone should remember, myself included, is that every bird is different and what works for one might not work for another. Certain situations might give cause for some extra creativity.
Take my latest two foster Cockatiels for example, Poppet and Cutie-Pie. The male, Cutie-Pie, is, well…a cutie pie! He is incredibly sweet and like all male Cockatiels, terribly charming and charismatic. From a behavioral aspect, he didn’t require that much training. The female, Poppet on the other hand was fearful, a little skittish and not a big fan of hands. So I decided to give training another go but this time started training them at the same time I started target training my two new male budgies.
Reason being is that I tend to get carried away sometimes and over do it. So instead of just focusing on them, I had two others I had to train as well. Definitely worked for me. Of course the easy-going male responded much better to the clicker conditioning and the target stick. He was a bit reluctant to come near the chop stick so I pushed most of the chop stick into my sleeve and just exposed a little more every time he seemed comfortable with the current length. Same can’t be said for the female. She was okay with the sound of the clicker but the target “stick” definitely wasn’t working for her. I couldn’t push it into my sleeve because she wouldn’t come so close to my hand. What to do….?
So I started looking around the room and in her cage, something relatively “stick like”, something she knows but not something she necessarily came in contact with or needed. At the bottom door of her cage I found a wooden peg! It was there to keep that little door closed since she has a habit of sneaking out. She wouldn’t come close enough at first so I took it and used it to grasp a sunflower seed, showed her the seed and clicked as she reached over to take it. Normally you would keep the target and the treat apart from each other when you are target training – that way there is no confusion that they have to touch the stick to get the treat. She had to touch the wooden peg while reaching for the treat and as long as I clicked right then, she understood.
Eventually I took the seed out and offered it just like that, every time she ran over to touch it, I clicked and then gave her the treat by hand. Few more sessions and she was perfect, running to me anticipating her reward after the click. In the end, her target training skills were far more advanced than little Cutie-Pie’s!