Ask Lafeber

Question:

June 26, 2020

How to make my parakeet trust me?


Hi there,

A few weeks ago, I rescued a parakeet; as in, he flew into my yard, I managed to capture him with a bin and a lot of bird seed and, after lots of posting online, talking with the local vet, and asking the local shelter, no owner has come forward and I’ve decided to keep him. And I love him to bits – my friend, an avid bird lover and owner, has helped me in getting the basics down (a big enough cage, a varied healthy diet, and safe toys) but there’s one thing we have yet to make progress on: Dill (my lovely bird) does not trust me.

I expected this to an extent, considering the whole situation, but I just feel horrible that he might be scared or uncomfortable. He does not like when my hand is in or near the cage; he becomes very agitated when I change his water, food, or need to clean the cage. He will not take treats from me (the two times that he has, it had to be through the bars of the cage) and he certainly won’t let me touch him (the week I acquired him I was able to make him step up – though certainly doesn’t actually know the command – but since then, if I even touch the door of the cage, he freaks out)

I’ve accepted the chance that he might never be a very ‘social’ bird towards me – wherever he was before, I don’t think they ever really interacted with him.

My main focus is just making sure that, whenever I do have to interact with him (feeding, cleaning the cage, or if I need to take him to the vet) it’s as stress free as possible for him.

(I should say: he does like to be talked to – I often sit with him while reading or having a snack and talk to him, during which he’s usually very calm and content. He’s even preened with me there!)


Answer:

Hi Olivia,

I’m glad you were able to catch this little escapee, and sorry his owner couldn’t be located. Not knowing his background can make things more difficult, but you can still try to work with him. He quite possibly may have escaped from a breeder and was not ever handled. He could be used to being in a large aviary with other parakeets and had a mate since a lot of American parakeet breeders do colony breeding. It really sounds like Dill may not be used to being indoors or in a smaller cage as a pet. When you caught him, he was probably hungry, tired and weak and a bird in that condition can behave as if it were tame. Then once they get back to good health, they also go back to how they were before they got loose. Before we get into taming, I do want to recommend a Vet check because an escaped bird can pick up internal and external parasites from wild birds as well as some diseases. Unless you have other birds, the most important thing to have him checked for is parasites. These are not routine tests, so you would need to tell the Vet you found the bird and want to make sure he didn’t pick up anything from the wild birds.

As far as gaining his trust. this will be a slow process and you will need to be patient with him. Continue to talk to him and spend time near him. Don’t offer your hand. Wait until he is responding to you and not reacting badly when you have to reach in the cage. When you do have to reach in for cleaning, food, etc., keep your movements slow and careful. That is pretty much it unless you get to the point where you want to try to handle him. I’ll give you our link on bird care which has articles on taming and training, behavior, emotional health as well as understanding bird body language.

Caring For Your Bird

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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