I had Banty Chickens as a kid. A Buff colored Banty Chicken was the first animal I ever trained to do tricks. Through the years I have taught many many animals and am still training animal. One of my favorite things to do is to teach animals to do tricks. I usually teach an animal to do tricks before teaching much else. Teaching an animal to do tricks teaches an animal to learn. Animal like to be with their people (if raised right that is) and they like to please their people. When animals learn little easy tasks and tricks they will preform them for the praise and the treats and the attention it will bring....yes, even birds.
Most birds and animals can learn much if the trainer can communicate to them correctly.
Start slow and break the trick apart into very small steps. If someone came to you and spoke a foreign tongue and was trying to teach you something what would it take for you to understand? Work your bird with that same perspective. Use simple cue word, talk slowly, smile, and encourage your bird with a gentle hand. I have honestly seen humans talk louder and slower to an animal, thinking I guess, that the animal would understand better if the words were just a bit louder. That will not work.
Birds and animals can and do learn words we teach them. Words, not paragraphs. Keep commands as one word and use the same word consistently. Something I have noticed with the average person when they train a dog....when they tell the dog "down" it might mean, "get off me" and another time it might mean to "lay down" and another time it might mean to "get off the couch". That same person thinks the dog is stupid if it does not understand what the person means each time the same thing is said. If you use the same word "down" for all three commands here's what might happen....you come in and the dog is sitting on the couch. You say "down" and the dog lays down on the couch and you get mad at the dog...who is in the wrong here? Keep the same word for the same action you want and use it each and every time. Give each action it's own simple cue word. This applies to dogs and cats and birds and young children. Chose your cues and be consistent.
TRICK IDEAS AND HOW YOU MIGHT TRAIN THEM TO YOUR BIRD(S)
Below are ideas and instructions on how you might teach your bird to do tricks.
We are still working on our bird tricks page, more Bird Trick ideas will be added as we go. There will be pictures added soon.
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Always remember when training any animals, that each trainer and animal is different. Each person trains a little different even when training the same thing in the same way as another trainer. Each animal you train is an individual. You may be trying to train two birds at the same time, which by the way is a very good idea, not the exact time, they each need one on one training, but training two birds so that they can watch each other learn.
I can only tell you what has worked for my husband Deron and I training our own animals. I CAN NOT be held responsible for the type of training you do with birds or other animals that may or may not be ready for this type of training.
When training be sure to... Be patient. Be fair. Be nice. Stop before the bird gets tired or before you get frustrated. Be sure you are showing the bird what you want in small steps so that it can understand what you want it to do. Do more with your birds then just train, in other words, hold your birds, scratch/pet your birds, spend time with your birds. Use small treats while training. Most of all, Have Fun and Be Safe.
COMING WHEN CALLED BY NAME
This is easy, oh so easy. When you first get your pet say it's name often. When you first call your pet to you, give it a treat and petting. Each and every time you call your pet make it a good experience for your pet. Call you pet's name when you feed it. Call your duck or goose's name when you lead it to water or put it into the bathtub with water. Each time you call, make it fun or pleasurable for the animal. Soon, and most times very soon, the animal will come running when they hear you call them by name.
JUMP THROUGH A HOOP
As a young child, early grade school, I taught my pet chicken to jump through a hoop and over a stick I held out. It is not rocket science, but you do need to know how to make the bird understand what you are asking it to do. Many birds, most in fact, will take a treat from your hand. That will help in training.
You will need a hoop that is the right size for your bird. If you are working with a parakeet you will need a smaller hoop than if you are working with a goose. Chickens can jump through a hoop that is further off the floor then a goose, and parrots can have a higher hoop then a chicken. But keep the hoop low to the ground for your birds.
This is an easy trick to teach and one of those "big deal" tricks for onlookers. At first do not decorate the hoop. Place the hoop in your left hand (bird on your left side) hold a treat in your right hand. The hoop should be sitting on the ground, floor or table. Show the bird your treat and tell the bird to "Jump Thru the Hoop". Move your right hand so that the bird has to follow the treat coming all the way thru the hoop before reaching the treat. NOW: You may have to move the hoop, keeping the hoop directly in front of the bird, if the bird tries to go around the hoop, distract it with the treat and encourage the bird to come forward thru the hoop. The bird will probably only walk rather then to jump thru hoop the first few times. Practice makes perfect. When the bird is all the way thru the hoop, give the treat and make a huge fuss with verbal praise!!
Keep working with the bird with the hoop almost touching the ground, when the bird is jumping thru the hoop, raise it a bit, just a bit. Soon your bird will be jumping the hoop.
To Add Glamor to This Trick: After your bird is Jumping Thru the Hoop well, you can add streamers with ribbon.
Or cover the Hoop for that TA'DA' ending to a trick show.
To teach your bird to come through a covered hoop.... first teach it to come through the hoop for a treat. Then have plenty of newspaper and tape on hand. Add just a strip of newspaper to each side of the hoop. Tape paper to paper, not to your hoop. After your bird comes through the hoop with the newspaper strips on each side add a strip of newspaper to the top and bottom of the hoop, again, tape paper to paper, not to your hoop. After your bird comes through that add a little more paper. Make a big fuss each time the bird comes through the covered hoop. Keep closing the hoop off with more and more newspaper, however leave a hole in the middle about 3" so the bird can target that space. Now when you do this as a show off trick, you tissue or wrapping paper or paper you have written on that says, THE END or TA'DA or the like.
Later, after much hoop work, you can teach a parrot to fly through a hoop. Have fun and keep it safe.
FETCHING A LIGHT WEIGHT ITEM
Milk jug lid rings make a great first fetching toys of birds. It is light weight, has color and being round, easy for them to pick up and carry.
more to come on how to teach your bird to fetch
DANCING IN A CIRCLE
This is soooo easy to teach any animal that will take a treat from your hand. If you bird does not take a treat from your hand, teach it to enjoy that pleasure first. Use one piece of something, not a handful. Most, if not all birds will ravish sunflower seeds.
Once the bird takes the treat from your hand hold your hand above the birds head and cue the bird by saying "Dance In A Circle" or "Dance" or "Turn Around" or the like. Move your hand in a circle around the birds head so that the bird follows you hand moving in a full circle, give verbal praise and let the bird have it's treat. After you do this a few times you will probably only have to cue the bird and move your hand into position and the bird will "Dance".
RINGING A BELL
Pavlov's Dog. If you ring a bell and then give your animal a treat, the animal will come when it hears the bell ring. Take that a step further. Have your animal ring the bell for the treat.
You will need a small bell. The bell should have some sort of handle so that you can hold it for the bird. Later you might want to hang a bell for the bird and teach the bird to go to the bell and ring it on the command "ring the bell".
First you have to get the bird used to the sound of the bell. Then you need to get the bird used to the bell up close/louder sounding. To do this, ring the bell softly at first. Ring the bell when you feed your bird or just before giving a treat. And or ring the bell, or have someone else ring the bell while you remain calm (in the birds eye) and petting the bird. As the bird gets more used to the bell, move the bell closer to the bird and ring it softly. Beware. Some birds will be afraid of the bell ringing.
Once you bird is unafraid of the bell. Hold the bell for at face height for the bird and give the cue, like this one "ring the bell". Most birds will touch the bell or even peck the bell, if your bird does this, even just a bit, treat and praise the bird. Repeat.
It will not be long before your bird is pecking the bell. If it rings at all, give the bird a treat, praise the bird verbally. As the bird learns to peck the bell, wait for the bell to ring a bit louder before giving your bell treats and verbal praise.
Remember that you are training the bird. Do not let the bird train you. Only give the bird a treat when you give the bird the cue words, not when the bird decides to ring the bell.
TELL ME A SECRET
This is a fun little easy to teach trick. First of all your bird should be tame and calm. Now, put just hold a sunflower seed on the side of your face by your ear, show the bird and let the bird have the treat when it reaches for it. Do this at your own digression, your bird might bite or become pushy and want to check your face too often. A well trained bird that is taught this trick on command will be a real crowd pleaser. When you hold the treat by your face near your ear, give the cue or command to "Tell Me A secret".
Just about any little piano or keyboard will work for your bird. Getting the size that looks right for that bird will be the harder part. These are sold all day long at garage sales, thrift stores and the like. You might even find one in your own home.
The first thing you have to do, and this is usually easy, teach the bird that the noise is good....do this by holding the bird and giving it treats while you softly hit a key or tow on the keyboard. The best way to do this is hit a key, give a treat.
Next what you will do is set the bird on the far side of the keyboard. Another words, set the keyboard down on the floor or table and set the bird on the other side of it. From here you can do this two ways. The best way will take a little longer to teach. That is to teach the bird to peck or step on the keyboard then take a treat from your hand. The other way is to set the treat on your keyboard and hope the bird peck the keys when they pick up the treats.
When the bird touches the keyboard, even if it does not make a sound give verbal praise right away, then make the sound with your own hand and give a treat. And like a person first learning, it takes practice, practice, practice to learn to play a piano.
This is a very advanced trick. Your bird will have to know how to do other, more simple, tricks.
There are several ways this can be taught to a bird. You can also use several different items for your bowling pins and balls.
Your bird, or any species, will need to get used to the noise of the pins falling. It needs to get used to the ball and the ball rolling. So you start your training with desensitization.
Once the bird is not afraid of the pins or the ball. Have your bird walk among the pins and around the ball. You know how there are different "bowling stances" among humans? Well in birds there is even more of a difference. Some birds will push the ball with their faces. Some will walk up and push the ball with their body's. Then others, they might just take a run at the pins leaving the ball behind. Now? If you could teach your bird to do each way. Or have three birds that each bowled a different way...you have a whole show right there!
GOOSE: You might want to use a beach ball for your goose to bowl over the pins you have either bought at a toy store that are 8" to 12" (all matching in size or course), or empty water bottles.
DUCK: You could use a child's light weight play ball or a light weight plastic ball with the pins you either buy from a toy store or use empty water bottles.
CHICKEN: For your Chicken you will need a light weight plastic ball about 4" - 6" in diameter. Most toy stores have such a thing and also look at garages sales. For pins. Look at kid's bowling pins in toy depts. I got several different sizes from our Dollar Store, with a ball. The one's I will be using for our chicken are approx 4" tall.
PIGEON: You will need a small light weight ball. Your bowling pins will need to be about 4" tall and very light weight.
[more on bowling to come]
WEAVE IN AND OUT OF YOUR WALKING LEGS
It is a fun and easy trick to teach that will go very well when you carry treats. Your bird needs to know it's name and come to it. If you have a big goose, you will need to have long legs.
Take a treat in your left hand and call the bird toward you as you show it the treat, now hold the treat between your legs as you take a large step and stop with your feet as far apart as needed for the bird to be able to walk under you.
Call the bird's name and give much verbal praise and encouragement as is needed to keep the bird moving forward and under your body.
As the bird comes through your legs, give it a treat, grab another treat, have several in your pocket or treat holder, and take a large, exaggerated step repeating the same only using the other hand to bring the bird through your legs in the other side.
Continue, but go as slow as it takes for the bird to catch on. As the bird catches on, have it come through one, two or three steps before giving it the treat. When the bird fully understands, take about 5 steps and end the game there giving the bird a treat for it's efforts.
TEACHING ANY PET TO OPEN A GIFT
You can teach your pet, any pet, Yes, even a bird, to open a gift in a few easy steps....
Start with a small box. A mouse will need a smaller box then a GP and a GP will need a smaller box then a dog. Use a box that does not have a lid about the same size as your pets food bowl.
Set a treat in the box next to their food dish when feeding. When they take the treat out of the box, say "gooooood" and remove the box. Repeat twice a day for a few days.
In a few days, after the animal has caught on to retrieving the treat from the box, wrap the box, but not the top, with colorful paper. Repeat the idea of leaving this with a treat in it for your pet....most will not even notice the box has changed, or if it did notice it did not care.
Now. Take a piece of newspaper, or tissue paper and wrap it around just the edges of the top of the box. Give a treat in this box, same as before, to the pet. Then next day make the opening a bit smaller, ie, rewrap the top of the box but extend the edges closer to the middle of the box. Give this to your pet as before. Then next day, make the middle smaller and so on. Finally, close the top with paper and watch the animal "open their gift.".
THE "GO TO" TRICK
The "go to trick" is the trick your animal will go back to when it does not understand what you are trying to teach it at the moment. Your bird wants it's treat, so it will try to continue to please you. If it does not understand what you are trying to teach it at the moment, the new behavior, your animal will go back to a trick it does well and see if you will treat if for doing the "go to trick".
When your bird does this tell it, "good", with a quick and quiet voice, but do not give the animal a treat or a smile on your face, replace the animal to where it was and continue teaching the new behavior. When it "gets" the new behavior make a big deal in voice and face (big smile) and give the treat.
WHERE TO GET YOUR TRICK PROPS
Finding Bird Trick Props is not as hard as you first may think. Look at Garage Sales, Thrift Shops and your own children's toy boxes. Some items you may want to pick up are... a hula hoop, a toy piano, hats, clothes, big sunglasses, bean bag chairs, a magic wand, a wagon for your bird to pull or ride in, large hard cover books, and the list just goes on and on. THINK while you see that stuff, can you use it for Bird Tricks? You will not have to pay much for the items. Another thought is photo props. If you like to take cute photos of your animals pick up seasonal items for next to nothing for photo props. An Eater Basket, a small artificial Christmas tree, a Happy Birthday sign, you get the idea, have fun!!
The contents of this page for Doing Tricks is still under construction. Please check back later!
-- The Working Wings Team