Taming Parrots: Cooperation Between Animals and Humans

Whether macaw or budgie – which parrot keeper doesn’t dream of getting their bird so tame that the animal will seek contact with humans on its own initiative? The big goal is surely to carry a possibly speaking parrot on your shoulder and to play with it, as dog and cat owners do with their housemates. There are many advantages to being tame in birds – and ideally, both sides enjoy it. But remember that you can never replace someone of your own species. A high degree of affection resulting from incorrect coinage should not be desirable!

What is the Benefit of Taming Parrots by Hand?

When talking about parrot taming, we have to define more precisely what is meant by it. The term cannot always be clearly delineated.

Advantages of taming a parrot by hand

  • Upbringing: A dog is trained by its owner to adhere to the basic rules that make living together in a human household possible in the first place. This includes house training, obedience, and the distinction between desired and forbidden things. Applied to the parrots, this means: You will usually not be able to train a bird to be clean. However, especially with large parrots with strong bills, it is important that they learn not to beak people: the risk of injury is simply too great. The bird is also not allowed to damage the furnishings of the apartment. He should learn the difference between forbidden and permitted things, for example, that he is not allowed to gnaw the living room cupboard, but that the nibbling twigs in the aviary are intended for exactly that. Education has nothing to do with taming at this point.
  • Taming: It is more difficult to tame parrots in comparison to other animals because birds are flight animals with an instinctive fear of humans. If the bird is uncomfortable with something, it will try to evade the situation by simply flying to a safe place – a dog cannot do that. Many attempts at taming have been thwarted by subsequent trapping or impatience of humans. The term “hand-tame” means that the bird, if requested, carries out simple actions which, on the one hand, make it easier for the animal to handle and, on the other hand, serve as the basis for a relationship of trust. This includes, for example, that the animal listens to its name, reacts to being spoken to, mounts the owner’s hand at the request of the owner, and allows himself to be carried around. If the animal can be touched, petted, and inspected with confidence without resistance – for example to examine it for an injury – it is a particular success.
  • Dressage: Under dressage, one understands everything that the tame, well-behaved bird can learn without it being absolutely necessary for the coexistence – learning tricks, speaking, and the like. The good news: once the parrots are hand-tamed, further training is easy. The curious, intelligent animals show interest in the actions of their keepers and try to join in on their own initiative. Parrot and parakeet keepers report time and again that their protégés obviously enjoy being spoken to and admired. A parrot bird in a playful mood gladly cooperates for exuberant praise. This can be compared with the well-known “will to please” in dogs.

Why are Birds Afraid of People?

Parrots and other feathered animals are naturally not trusting. If one observes birds in nature, it is noticeable that they flee in the presence of some animals, while they simply ignore other, sometimes much larger animals. People generally appear threatening to birds at first, not just because of their size: our eyes are in the front of the face and are arranged close together – this is the same with many predators. Our hands look like the paws or claws of birds of prey. From the perspective of birds, we have enough visual similarities with the instinctively feared predators.

Reason enough to be suspicious, to begin with. But as soon as birds understand that certain people do not pose a threat, they become more trusting after a while. Once you have recognized the connection between people and something pleasant, such as giving food, the distance to flee is reduced, for example. If there is enough curiosity – as with the parrot – the first step towards trust is taken.

The First Step – Gain Trust

The basis of all domestication: the parrot must first be convinced that you are not dangerous.

This is How You Will Gain Your Parrot’s Trust

  • If the bird is new to the household, place the birdhouse in a quiet room at chest/eye level: For birds, it means stress when things happen over their heads that they cannot avoid.
  • As difficult as it is, leaves the bird completely undisturbed for the first few days so that it can get used to its new surroundings.
  • Then become part of its environment yourself: move quietly around the room, talk to the animal casually, spend time passively near it and limit manipulation of the birdhouse (cleaning, feeding) to a minimum. Keep doing this until the bird no longer reacts restlessly to your presence.

Treats as a Gift of Friendship

You will quickly find out which food your parrot particularly likes, perhaps a certain fruit. Offer the bird little bits by sticking them through the grille. In the next step, you hold the treat so that the bird can get through the grille but has to take it out of your hand. If that works, give it a try: Open the door and offer the food in your hand.

Important: use the back of your hand! The palm of the hand is threatening to birds. Most likely, the bird will first fish from a distance afterward or take it courageously by hand. Don’t lose your patience now. As soon as the bird sits on your hand to eat, you have won and you can finally dare to take it out of the shelter in your hand and give it the first free flight. So the hand loses its horror for the bird because it means treats and freedom. Of course, all windows and doors should always remain closed and sources of danger such as flycatchers and fans should be removed.

A Word About Hand-rearing

Parrots are often offered as “tame” hand-rearing. Be suspicious. Obviously, it is tempting to acquire an animal that can be tamed and there are rare instances where hand-rearing the chick is inevitable. However, some dealers rely on the “hand-tame” sales advantage and separate the chick from the parents. Such birds are miscarried and not socialized with conspecifics. Inquire carefully about the circumstances of hand-rearing before buying. Get away from miscarried hand-raised birds and invest a little more time taming your parrots.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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