Parakeets are the most common pet parrots out there since they are so easily obtainable from your local pet shop. They are most people’s first impression of parrots in general, and almost always leave a positive lasting impression! I know mine did, and I had my first parakeet when I was in kindergarten.
Because of their small size, they make great first pets for kids giving them a great animal to form a bond with and train as their companion. Parakeets are trainable, just like any larger species of parrot. In fact, it’s actually a parakeet that holds the world record for having the largest verbal vocabulary!
Although a bit harder to understand, parakeets do have the ability to learn how to mimic human speech. Not only that, they can easily learn how to do fun and socially interactive tricks like wave, spin in a circle, fetch something small enough and light enough for them to carry and much, much more including things like flighted recall to your finger.
Don’t let their size fool you – they’re smart and they learn extremely fast! Parakeets have been known to “sleep on it”, or in other words, learn things over night as they have time to process the training session.
One day you’re struggling through a training session, the next day suddenly your parakeet is Einstein and understands the behavior you’re asking from start to finish!
Because they are so intelligent and learn so quickly, they can be quite challenging to train because your timing really matters. For example, I was trying to train my parakeet to touch the end of a chopstick (what we call “touch training”) with the end of its beak, but right as I thought my bird was going to touch it with its beak, it did so and had time to put his foot on the stick and I clicked my clicker at that exact time. Because of this wrong timing of clicking, I ended up teaching my parakeet to lift his leg on a stick instead of touch it with his beak!
They are incredibly fast movers, so you have to be on your toes with your clicker when it comes to training and capturing exactly what you want!
All you need to successfully train a parakeet is a clicker and a stick of spray millet which will act as your parakeet’s favorite treat!
Every parakeet I know loves spray millet and this is why it’s important that it is not included in your bird’s every day diet or allowed in the cage as part of a meal. Seeds in general are very fatty and although essential in most smaller species of parrots’ diets, it’s important that you as the trainer are the only source of something so delicious! This way your bird isn’t overeating and you remain a constantly positive force in your bird’s day.
Keeping parrots of any species on an all-seed diet will literally cut their lifespan in half, not to mention cause you a lot of behavioral problems. Birds that don’t eat healthy don’t feel healthy – and they will take all that “feeling bad” out on you and your family members. For a complete look at what you should be feeding your parakeet check out our natural feeding system here: www.birdtricks.com/naturalfeeding.
Training Your Parakeet
The first steps in training your parakeet are simple and can start with your bird inside its cage. Most parakeets come from pet shops clipped, and so they will be very fearful of people as clipping has meant in the past that they were forced to interact with humans rather than choosing to. Because parrots resort to “fight or flight”, and clipped birds don’t have the option of flight, clipped birds tend to fight (ie: BITE!)
The best thing you can do in the time frame it takes to let your bird’s wing feathers molt out and regrow is start training your bird while it is still inside its cage so it knows you mean no threat. You can do this by taking your clicker (which can be purchased at your local pet store for around $2) and “clicker conditioning” your parakeet. As demonstrated in the video below.
Simply click your clicker and offer your parakeet a bite or two of the spray millet through the cage bars. You will know he understands what the clicker means when he is anticipating the reward of the millet. Make sure he really understands by keeping the millet out of sight as you progress in the training.
Teaching Your Parakeet To Respond To The Clicker
Once your parakeet understands what a clicker is, he will be looking forward to interacting with you because clicks = treats! This is the first step in emotionally conditioning your bird that you = positive interaction! And will be the first in many steps you take to bond with your bird, as well as learn techniques to allow others to bond with your bird, too!
The next step we teach is “touch training” which is another behavior that can be trained while your bird still spends time in the comfort zone of his cage.
Simply get an unused chopstick and your clicker, along with your spray millet. Encourage your bird to touch the end of the stick with its beak, and click and reward when it does. Most birds are naturally curious enough to touch the stick no problem while others might shy away from it. If your bird is showing signs of being scared of the chopstick try these tips:
- Never come at your bird in a threatening way with the stick, keep things slow and non-threatening. No sudden movements.
- Make sure there are no distractions during your training that will deter your bird’s attention.
- Try holding the spray millet close to the end of the chopstick to entice your bird to get closer.
- Reward your bird for just looking at the stick or even getting close to it, slowly working its way closer.
- If you have another bird in your household that is touch trained, use observational learning by letting the untrained bird watch the trained bird earn treats.
Parakeets have more potential than most people give them credit for, and have the ability to learn as much as we’re willing to teach them. They often make such a great impression on people that they end up wanting larger parrots as they get more and more interested in parrots in general. If you go the extra mile with your parakeet by training it properly and feeding it a great diet, adding more birds to your flock won’t be as drastic of a change for you when you’ve learned how to do it right with the first one from day one.
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