How to Tame and Training a Parakeet
Hand training is a critical part of owning and raising a happy parakeet.
If you have already gotten a budgie used to your home, it's time to now start hand-training it. You can't let a parakeet out to fly around the room until it understands that your hand is safe, and that your finger is a perch it should hop onto when you say "up" (or another command you choose).
If your parakeet was hand-raised, this is probably easy. Your parakeet most likely already knows the command "up". Simply SLOWLY put your hand into the cage, talking nicely to it. Then gently press your finger against its lower chest and say "up" in a gentle but firm voice. Your bird should step up onto your finger. Keep it still and say encouraging things like "good bird" in a soft, soothing voice. If your parakeet does all this easily, then you're already ready for it to come out and enjoy a bit of flying around.
However, let's say you had to buy your parakeet from a local pet store and is very skittish. You have to train it to realize that you are a friend and to be trusted. Follow the step by step instructions below, and in a few weeks or less (depending on your bird) you will have a parakeet that will be your loving companion. TRY NOT TO SKIP A STEP. Be sure to fully complete with a step before moving on to the next. This is very important in having this training work properly!
STEP ONE - TRUSTING THE HAND
In step one, you simply get your parakeet used to your hand being in the cage.
The most important thing for any parakeet to do is to TRUST you, that you will not hurt it. Nothing else can happen if the parakeet does not trust you; if he or she flies around like a maniac when you get near its cage.
So start your training simply with your hand. Your hand goes into the cage every single day to change the food and water. Do this very slowly and calmly, talking to your parakeet in a soft voice. Maybe put on soothing music when it is time for you to put your hand in the cage.
You need to train your parakeet to think of your hand as a nice thing that brings fresh food, not a scary thing. Sometimes, put millet into the cage with your "friendly hand". Parakeets love millet!
Yes, your parakeet will probably fly away the first few days! But if you keep this up with gentle words and quiet movements, after a week or so the parakeet should be stationary while you change the food, even if stationary means hiding at the far corner of the cage. Your aim here is for your parakeet to be watching your hand, and at least not to be flapping around like an insane creature.
STEP TWO - WOODEN PERCH TRAINING (This step MAY not apply to your bird (that is, if you are concentrating only on finger-training) - all parakeets are different and learn at a different rate. I still highly recommend you not to complete this step.Training your budgie to step on a hand-held perch is especially helpful when the parakeet is expected to interact with young children. Children's skin is more sensitive than that of adults and can easily be scratched.)
In step two, you train your parakeet to step up onto a perch on command.
So your parakeet watches your hand when you change the food and water now. On the day you choose to start this step, play some soft music in the background, and have the room the parakeet is in quiet, dim, and restful. Change its food and water as you normally would, with it watching you. Now, after you do the food/water, pause for a moment. Quietly use your hand to take a short perch from its cage, preferably one on the opposite side of the cage from your bird. Now your hand is in the cage and you are holding the perch loose. The perch you choose should be small enough that you can move it around the cage without hitting things, especially the parakeet!
Your budgie already knows that perches are for sitting on. It is probably not afraid of a perch! So hold the perch at "perch level" - that is, around the same level as the perch your parakeet is currently sitting on. This seems non-threatening to the bird.
Now move the perch SLOWLY towards your parakeet, talking quietly to her. Your bird will be nervous to see a perch moving, but so far he or she should trust you, your hand, and hopefully the perch.
When the perch nears its feet, raise it up a little bit so it is at the level of its legs. If your budgie flies away at this point, stay still for a little while, and then start quietly moving the perch again, coaxing softly to her. If she flies away four times in a row, tell it that he or she is a good bird for trying and come back to tomorrow. It should only take a day or two before your parakeet is used to the 'moving perch' and does not mind that it gets close to it.
When he or she is at this point, press the perch gently against its legs/lower chest. Say "up" in a firm voice (not loud and harsh, just encouraging and firm) as you gently press. Your bird will start to lose its balance backwards and naturally put its foot forward, onto the new perch, for balance.
Note again that this probably won't happen on the first time! Your parakeet may sit there afraid, not willing to step on the perch, or scoot away. Your parakeet may even put one foot onto it but not be willing to "commit" both feet. Again, this is a training process. Keep trying each day until your bird learns this is not scary and is willing to put both feet onto the perch.
When your parakeet does step fully onto the new perch you are holding, hold it very steady! Your parakeet is trusting you with her life. Praise the bird enthusiastically and tell her what a good bird he or she is. After a short while, move the perch towards another perch in the cage so she gets off the one you're holding.
After it gets used to the perch, you'll find that it hops onto the perch pretty easily when it sees it coming towards it. Then it's time to move to the next step.
STEP THREE - FINGER/PERCH TRAINING (Once again, this is also one of those steps that aren't always required, especially if you "foolishly" skipped step two.)
In step three, you show your parakeet that it's OK to step on a perch that also has a finger attached to it.
Before you can finger-perch train your parakeet, your parakeet MUST be comfortable getting "up" onto a moving perch that you push against it.
So now your parakeet knows that a perch in your hand is a trustworthy thing to sit on. It should readily get onto a perch that you move against it. Your parakeet is learning to trust you as a "thing to sit on".
When you are ready to begin this step, prepare the room as usual - have the quiet, soft music playing in the background. Change the food and water as usual. Remove one of the smaller perches from the cage. This time, however, put your finger on top of the perch. That is, hold the perch in your hand and stretch your second finger out (the one you point with) so it lays on top of the perch. Now the "perch" is a thick perch made up of the wood below and your finger above.
Once again, move this perch slowly towards your parakeet. Your parakeet is by now used to this and doesn't really think much of the fact that the perch has an extra bit of thickness to it. When you say "up" to your parakeet, he or she should step onto the "perch", which is now your finger and the wood. Maybe the parakeet is on the perch part, maybe it's on the finger part, maybe it's half and half. Either way is OK.
Stay very still and praise your budgie! It has gotten onto the offered perch without a problem. If it balks, go back to just the perch until it is comfortable with that, and then try again.
Do this exercise a few times a day for a few days until your budgie learns that the finger-perch is a quite reasonable place to sit. If the parakeet keeps sitting on the perch part and not your finger part, try finding a shorter perch so that the perch length IS your finger length and the bird doesn't really have a choice. You could also try pushing the side of its legs to get it to step onto the finger part.
STEP FOUR - FINGER TRAINING
In step four, still staying just in the cage, your parakeet learns that your finger is a safe perch to sit on.
Go through your normal routine. This time do NOT take the perch from the side of the cage. Just leisurely stick out your index finger. Press your finger softly against its leg / lower chest area of your parakeet, saying "up" quietly but firmly. Your parakeet should step up onto your finger!If not, keep trying.
Note that parakeets LIKE sitting on fingers, from a sensory point of view. They have soft little feet! Wood or plastic is hard on them, and it's not like they can wear socks or lie down. The have to be sitting on their feet ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT. Your nice, soft finger is like a heavenly bed to them! Your finger's warm, gentle on the tender feet, and soft- just what every parakeet would dream about sitting on!
Praise your parakeet for sitting on your finger. Don't move your hand around! Let your parakeet get used to sitting on the finger, just relaxing there. Some parakeets will even fall asleep on the finger because it's so comfortable. When you are done, move your finger slowly to another perch so it can hop off.
This is a CRITICAL step in finger training, so spend a lot of time on it. Your parakeet needs to learn that your finger is a safe spot, a DESIRED spot to sit on. Any time your parakeet gets out of the cage, you need to be able to get her back IN her cage in case of emergency. So it needs to promptly get onto your finger if you ask it to, for you to move it to safety.
STEP FIVE - OUT OF CAGE FINGER TRAINING
In step five, the parakeet learns that her trusted finger is safe to sit on, even if it's outside the cage.
You MUST have your parakeet hand trained before you can bring it out of the cage. There are SO many emergency situations that can arise that require you getting your parakeet into its cage quickly for safety. Someone could open the doors so there is a clear path to the outside world. You will need to get your parakeet on your hand and into the cage.
Seal ALL doors to this room though and put signs on them so people know not to come in. When you're ready, move your hand towards your parakeet. Say "up" and get your parakeet on your hand. Now SLOWLY bring the hand towards the opening in the cage. Your parakeet may be nervous! Up until now, your parakeet has thought of its cage as the location of safety and comfort. You're trying to bring it out of this safe area! It can really help to hold a stick of millet in your other hand, just by the cage door. Bring the parakeet just to the cage door area, not out into the scary world. Let it sit there and eat millet. When it's done, put it back onto a perch.
The next day, bring it a bit further out, so it's at the entry-way to its cage. If you have a drawbridge-style entrance this is IDEAL; it can sit open and they can sit there or land there. If you don't have a drawbridge, it might be wise to make one by putting a rope perch or something else at the entry area (on the outside of the cage) so your parakeet has somewhere to sit.
If your parakeet starts flying or hopping around, don't panic. Let them settle down and explore. When they are quiet, you can always get them back onto your hand with "up" and bring them back to the cage. If they can fly, they will fly back to their cage on their own when they are ready to take a nap. Their cage is their home.
Do NOT let your parakeet just roam around without you being there. Parakeets are very curious and can easily get themselves into trouble. They can wedge themselves behind bookcases or under couches. You need to be there and aware, so you can rescue them. You don't have to watch them every second.
The more you interact with your parakeet, the friendlier he will get! Soon you'll find he loves hanging out on your shoulder while you do things, nibbling on earrings or necklaces. When I work at my computer, my parakeets hang out on the curtain rod right next to me, chirping down at me.
Remember, none of this will happen instantly. If you bought a hand raised parakeet it might all happen on the first day - but people who buy budgies out of large bins are in essence buying wild birds. It can easily take several weeks to get your budgie used to you as a trusted person. You have to be patient and work on this every day, to let your parakeet learn about you and learn to trust you. It can't be rushed. Parakeets are extremely intelligent and need to learn to trust you on their own time.
Parakeets do NOT BITE unless they are very aggressive and feel they are being threatened. So as long as you are quiet and gentle and friendly with your parakeet, you will have a quite loving companion!
Teaching Your Parakeet to Talk
Parakeets are known as one of the best talkers of the parrot family. The key to teaching a parakeet to talk is to have the parakeet think that it is part of a "human flock", so that it needs to communicate with its human friend. The younger the better, as in all things that involve learning. Get a hand-fed parakeet if you can, at a very young age. That is when it's still learning how to communicate. While male parakeets tend to talk better than female parakeets do, both can certainly talk!
Keep in mind that not all parakeets may ever learn to talk. Note that older parakeets who have stayed with other birds for its whole life (like in a pet store) may be nearly impossible to teach. Some parakeets learn human speech easily, and others have difficulty learning.
If you want your parakeet to be able to say it's own name, choose a simple one with one or two syllables. Parakeets do best with hard, sharp letters like K/C, T, P, and B. Repeat the same words over and over again consistently. Most birds respond better to a female's higher-pitched voice, but they can still imitate lower voices!
Parakeets tend to mumble and talk quickly, so the more slowly and clearly you talk, the more normal it will sound when the bird starts to repeat it.
Have patience, and eventually your parakeet will start to answer back to you! Once they get the hang of it, they'll learn more and more quickly as you go.
While you can try taping yourself and playing the tape, the parakeet really needs to learn that this is a way for you and it to talk to each other. So it works best if you physically talk to your parakeet, and that you do it often.
One tip: if you don't have a hand-fed parakeet and you have a mirror in your cage, take it out. Your bird may talk with its reflection (instead of paying attention to you) in the mirror in only "parakeet language."
To gain your bird’s full attention, darken the room where you’re training your bird to talk. Fifteen minute lessons at three times a day are recommended. Don’t expect your bird to pick up a new word or phrase immediately. It can take many weeks before he repeats a word or phrase. Usually, a parakeet's desire to communicate properly with its bond (you) will stimulate him or her to learn human speech.
Don't be disappointed if your parakeet never learns to talk. Some will just never pick it up. Perhaps one day, a word might just pop out!
Don't forget to reward your hard-working parakeet when it learns a human phrase!
How to Stop Parakeet From Biting
Parakeets can bite for many reasons and your need to try to investigate the situation before you try to fix the problem. These birds are complex creatures and biting is the result of many things. The parakeet might be bored, jealous, fearful or territorial. Biting is a learned behavior. Birds cannot communicate as people do so some parakeets bite to get attention or to get their message across.
Parakeets are smart and will mold their behavior to your likings and dislikes. All behavior modification needs to be done through positive reinforcement. You should never punish your bird by using abusive techniques such as hitting or scaring your bird. These techniques do not work and will only create fear in your pet. Fear tactics will also make your bird more prone to biting.
When you try to change the biting behavior, remember to be consitent and patient. A parakeet will quickly learn what is right and wrong if you immediately reward your pet for proper behavior. Ignoring your pet for negative behavior is the most effective method to deter your pet from continuing in this manner. One more tip, if you're bitten, try not to make a big deal out of it. If you shout, "Ow!" and draw away with a growl, your parakeet will realize that biting is the way to get you away. So pretend that it doesn't hurt (I know it does, sorry) and don't reward your parakeet for the bad behavior.
Keep a journal and record when your parakeet bites. You will be amazed at what you find and what you believe is causing your bird to behave in this way.