I had the exciting opportunity late last year to apply the principles of positive reinforcement to two young budgies that joined our family in November. Otter and Weasel were selected from a local pet shop by myself based only on the fact that they were young, male, and appeared outgoing in the aviary. They were not hand raised, and they had not had their wings clipped.
Otter and Weasel were very quick to strike up a “bromance” and they fast became inseparable. Tradition tells us that training two budgies at once is difficult, but it actually worked to my advantage. Weasel is the more confident of the two, and as he progressed so too did Otter in an effort to stay near to his buddy.
I began by allowing the boys to eat spray millet from my fingers. I then started pairing the word “good” with the opportunity to have a bite of millet – “good” became a bridge to let them know they had earned a reward. From there it was only a matter of time as i shaped their behaviour closer and closer to stepping on my hands and interacting with me.
Otter and Weasel have been in our home for a few short months, but they happily step up and recall to my hand on cue. Their association with me and getting the good stuff is strong, and i have never given them reason to fear me by pushing them faster than they were comfortable going. It has been a joy to watch their confidence develop in the birdroom with their 8 other birdy friends. They have integrated into the flock perfectly.
I want to encourage people to explore the option of training their birds with positive-reinforcement. It is the most rewarding experience to see your parrot choose to be with you and interact with you, even though it has the choice to fly away and play with its buddies instead.