Teaching a Bird NOT to Scream: Reality

Screaming is one way birds get attention (positive, negative, it doesn’t matter!) Now, I can’t definitively say whether or not this was the case for Miss Viola Waddlesworth at her former home, however, her friend Sam, the African Grey who went to a neighbor’s house, frequently shouts, “Shut up, Waddles!”

…So yeah, we likely have a few years’ worth of bad habits to break with her.

One major purpose of this blog is to go beyond text and describe/show what bird training *really* looks like. Thus, a five minute vlog post was born.

May I present: What Teaching a Bird Not to Scream Really Looks Like: A Work in Progress

TL;DW/Oh my Gawd, I can’t take the screaming anymore – Skip to 4:05

Teaching a bird not to scream = massive, massive amounts of patience. It looks like a lot of:

  • Standing around out of sight of your bird and waiting for silence/a sound you don’t hate before you make your presence known again.
  • Making no movements that might indicate you might be coming within sight of your bird while he or she is screaming.
  • Responding to a sound you like with a happy call back/movement towards the birds–birds who are alone in a different room will “contact call“, which is natural and can’t really be turned off, so pick a sound you like/don’t hate and reinforce that.
  • Turning around/leaving the bird’s sight if they start screaming when you try to enter the room. They’re screaming for attention. Don’t give it to them!
  • Your spouse’s unwilling participation in the lack of movement/shouting at bird (shouting just reinforces the bad behavior and makes it continue longer. Spouses: Ignore it with every fiber of your being. Don’t even look at the bird.)

 

An Aside/Soap Box:

I feel like this video demonstrates why cockatoos (not Vi’s species–Vi is an Amazon) are only for the bravest, most tolerant of people. According to MyToos.com, Moluccan Cockatoos (and Umbrellas get close to this, too!) “Moluccans hold the record as the loudest bird on earth at 135 [decibels of sound]…A 747 Jumbo Jet produces as much as 140 decibels of noise.

My first-hand experience? Yes, they really are that loud. It is un.be.lievable.

Oh, and P.S.–A lot of the stuff you read at MyToos.com is NOT hyperbole regarding many, many, many Moluccan (and some Umbrella) cockatoos. We lived it. Not true of all cockatoos, but oh man… It was bad.

Eclectus Mojo Moult: A Picture of Pinfeathers

Is he sick? Does he have scabies? Is he dying?!!

No, no, and no.

Mr. Lou is going through the most intense mojo moult of his life right now, coupled also with a hard moult. He has to be beyond uncomfortable, but he’s still our cheerful little Lou! Our handsome boy is not so handsome.

Warning: Graphics of intense Mojo Moult beyond this point!

Continue reading Eclectus Mojo Moult: A Picture of Pinfeathers

Eat like a bird!

…Birds eat a ton, actually; the old idea that people who “eat like a bird” eat next to nothing is odd. And they fling it everywhere, but I will be omitting that portion.

Today, I resolve to eat more like my birds–when I give them healthy snacks (carrots, raspberries, strawberries), I need to eat some, too. Seriously… time to start making healthy snacks for BOTH fids and myself, rather than just my flock.

Project “Take Care of Myself” is a-go!

And thus, Vi begins her singing career…

Twenty-four years young. XD

Somehow, Vi’s former owners taught her to say ‘Goodbye!’ or ‘Buh-bye!’ and shake her head whenever you wave at her.

suspect the way they did this was, whenever she said ‘Buh-Bye!’ they would wave at her, then rewarded her with LOTS of verbal praise, maybe some head-scritches, and possibly some treats. In this way, they trained her to associate them waving with the phrase ‘Buh-Bye!’

Here is the result:

Go Slow to Go Fast in Step Up Training: No Negative Experiences

In the “a stitch in time saves nine” quotes category, there’s a popular saying in education:

“Go slow to go fast.”

Essentially, if you don’t want to re-teach a skill multiple times over, it’s worth teaching it well  and thoroughly the first time. Which takes patience.

So, so much patience.

Shockingly, this is also true for bird training! Vi and I have been going agonizingly slowly in our developing relationship… But here we are–new successes!

Every day that I hang out in the basement, Vi now climbs down to come visit with me.

One week later, I’d guess this behavior is 60% food motivated rather than 95%. =) She’s starting to enjoy our company. Progress!

She still won’t step up from her cage (although she frequently says the phrase “Step up!” as if she wants to–contrary snot!) but we made another positive step forward today:

I brought her upstairs when she went after my flavored-bad-for-birdy popcorn, set her on our “big bird” stand as I made her some bird-safe popcorn, and she enjoyed herself in her new-found play area–so much so that she didn’t want to step up.

We were either going to break new ground in our training, or she was going to break skin (she postured to bite!)

I gently insisted she stepped up, promising her popcorn, which she didn’t actually want, anyway…

My hand remains intact. Up she went!

This is the longest I’ve gone without getting maimed by any parrot we’ve owned. =) Fingers crossed that I continue to have fingers to cross rather than losing a digit or two to her big, bad Amazon beak!

Just keep swimming, what do we do, we swim, swim, swim…

Teacher In-Service Days = The Best

One of the hardest parts about teaching for me is that I have to leave my fids at home.

Sure, my admin *might* be open to my bringing of my feathered friends to school occasionally since they don’t leave potential allergy-inducing dander behind, but let’s be real–I teach middle school, and kids do stupid things to each other. Who knows what stupid things might accidentally happen with a bird?

Thus, the rare glory of the teacher in-service day allows me to work with one of my dinosaur companions by my side. Sure, he has to sit idly by in a small cage for the four hours of meetings in the mornings, but he gets to spend the afternoon with me, right? =)

Louie isn’t particularly helpful on these days (especially since he has determined the best place for him is smack-dab in the center of my keyboard, and he absolutely HATES with torrid passion my computer mouse and pens), but he sure is cute.

He gets to play on a desk pod away from my desk, make a GIANT mess, and receive frequent kisses while I grade and plan.

I wish this could be my life every day. ❤

Grooming Helps Parrot Training: If at first you don’t succeed, redefine “success”!

…And then keep going until you match your initial definition!

Hit a bit of a road block with Vi (extremely limited progress…) until today. I was headed to my local bird shop (Busy Beaks Bird Shop if you’re interested–I volunteer for them by maintaining their website) and decided to see if I could coax her into her travel cage for a trim, as her nails and beak were getting quite long. Toast didn’t work to entice her, but she stepped up for me onto her pink towel after a bit! Woo! So… success? Sort of?

One way to strengthen a bond with a parrot (and get her to step up willingly without bribery!) is to “rescue” her after getting groomed… Oh grooming, you necessary evil you–still, there can be some good that comes from it if you do it correctly!

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At Busy Beaks Bird Store

Make sure you’re out of sight during the grooming–from capture with a towel to release, you don’t want your parrot to associate anything negative with you.

Be ready to “save” her as soon as she is released–she’ll look for the safest thing possible, and that’ll be you! Vi stepped right up for me; not only that, but she was comfortable stepping from hand to hand, and while I worked on the aforementioned website, she hung out on top of her travel cage… and she stepped up again!

It was a lovely bonding experience for the two of us; I hate the actual grooming process, but hey, progress is progress. She continued to step up like a good girl from her travel cage at home–now that she’s safely back in her cage, she is refusing (she bows down when I try, begging for scritches, the brat!), but I have my next game plan: give her a few preliminary scritches so she knows I still like her, then ask her to step up. If she bows down, I’ll back away, then try again later–if she steps up, she’ll get scritches.

Good luck to me. Watch me finally get bit. =) I’m sure I’ll deserve it!

sarahandwaddles
Vi and Mom in the living room for the first time. Mark it!