Follow the tips set up in the Parakeet Cages section of this guide. You should start by setting up the cage in a place where the birds will feel comfortable and will settle in quickly. Make sure it’s near a wall, so that the birds don’t feel surrounded by potential danger and have a safe corner to retreat to. Placing the cage at eye level is also your best bet, as this prevents any arms, heads, etc, from passing over the top of the cage all the time - parakeets will freak out if there is something constantly moving over their heads.
Settling your parakeets into the cage and letting them get used to you are the first steps
To begin with, sit or stand with your head close to the cage, talking gently to the birds. AFter the first few days, try raising your hand so that it is clearly visible to the occupants of the cage. After a short time -- anything from two to seven days -- the hand will become associated with the soft, safe voice.
When changing food or water, always talk to the birds. If you want to get your feathery-friend talking, incorporate your chosen words or phrases into this chatter.
Finger-Training a Parakeet
To make your bird believe that your hand is the best perch available, bribe them with millet. Parakeets can’t resist the stuff. It should, however, only be used for treats, as it’s rather fatty, but in small amounts it’s the budgerigar equivalent of chocolate.
Place a sprig of millet between your thumb and the bse of your index finger. Place your hand in the cage, making sure that your finger is close to where the bird is perched, but also make sure that the millet is only reachable from your finger. Any sneaky nibbling from the side of the cage or a perch will slow down the process. When you first place your hand into the cage, your parakeets will most likely retreat to the corner of their cage and watch. After all, a large hand suddenly coming into the cage is a big intrusion. But with a bit of patience, you’ll get there.
Keep your hand inside the cage for five minutes at a time, with your finger a short hop away from where the bird is perched. Try to repeat this several times a day, with at least half an hour in between attempts. Eventually your parakeet won’t be able to resist the lure of the millet, and will edge closer. Make sure that they can’t reach the food without going onto your finger. Chasing a parakeet around the cage with your hand in an attempt to get him on your finger will only be counterproductive and is more likely to make your bird fear your hand.
Train your parakeet to perch on your finger
Once your bird has become somewhat used to having your hand in the cage, you can speed up the whole process by gently rubbing your finger at the top of the bird's leg, he will hop on without a second thought. After you have done this for about a week you can try this same leg-rubbing technique, just without the millet. At some point -- it varies from bird to bird-- he’ll be unable to resist anymore, and hop onto your finger.
This is pretty much what you have been aiming for, your parakeet now thinks of your finger as his favourite perch and will happily return to it, even when outside the cage.
Letting a Parakeet Out
After following all the steps above, and forming a bond with your bird, you will be able to take them out of the cage on a regular basis. There are a few things to do when preparing a room for a flight
- Close the drapes, to prevent him crashing into the window and possibly injuring himself
- Cover all fires and chimneys
- Close all doors and windows
- Put fragile ornaments out of reach – these are likely to be on ledges: just the sort of place your bird will want to perch on
- Make sure there are no dogs, cats or unruly children in the room – an early trauma could set your taming efforts back by days
- Make sure there are some out-of-reach places for the parakeet to perch – drape tops and book shelves for example: your bird will be nervous on the first few flights, and will favour somewhere high and secure
- In time he will start to perch on chairs, furniture, the floor, and you: make sure you’re happy for him to land pretty much anywhere, as flapping your arms around to wave him away will scare him
- Put some toys in the room – anything from a ping pong ball on the floor to a parakeet-sized climbing frame on the sideboard
- Remove any houseplants you don’t want nibbled
- Switch off any fans
- Cover or remove mirrors – it doesn’t always happen, but some birds have been known to fly headlong into them
There's always room on the sofa for a parakeet
Getting a Parakeet Out the Cage
Adventuring outside the cage is a big step up from what your bird will be used to, and on your first few attempts they might hop off your finger and head back into the safety of their cage. If you notice that on the first few attempts your bird seems flustered when you put your hand back in for round two, leave them be. You can always pick up where you left off next session.
Many parakeets can be overwhelmed by the change from the cage to outside the cage, and some may head straight to the top of their cage where they feel safer. If this happens, let them sit and take in their surroundings, and perhaps put some treats there to make them feel safe and rewarded. Talk to them gently and eventually offer your finger again. Try to take them away from the cage and let them flutter wherever they please.
The top of the cage will probably be your parakeet's first external perching space
If your bird flies right back into their cage after their first adventure outside, try to get them back onto your finger, or close the cage door. It’s best not to let your parakeet go to and from the cage unaided, as it might cause them to view your hand as an unnecessary intruder, rather than a means of getting to and from the cage.
Getting a Parakeet Back into the Cage
Once fully finger trained, a parakeet will be manageable outside the cage. Once it’s time to head back in, present your finger. In the early days you may have to resort to the leg rubbing technique or even using a spray of millet as a lure. As mentioned before, it’s best not to let them enter the cage again without the aid of your finger.
If you have an untrained parakeet that happens to escape the cage, things can be a bit trickier. Your best bet is to put some of his favourite food in the cage and leave the door open, after a while they should return. Things get even more complicated if you have two or more birds in a single cage, as leaving the door open can lead to other parakeets escaping as well. In cases like these you may have to resort to netting the bird.
Taming a New Parakeet
A new parakeet will take a few days before he gets settled into his surroundings. During this time try to keep cage interference to a minimum. Some birds are more adaptable than others so you’ll have to be the judge of when it’s ok to start training, but as a general rule, leave the birds be for around the first week.
The bird's response to your presence depends on where they’ve come from. A young bird purchased directly from the breeder most likely hasn’t had much human contact other than the rather unceremonious shove into a small box to transport him to your home. A bird who has spent a few weeks in a pet shop may be more used to the general hustle and bustle of humans. Either way, it’s always best to just assume you’re starting from scratch and to take it easy for the first week or so.
Taming a Young Parakeet
A parakeet can't be tamed until they have been fully weaned, this is usually at around six weeks old. Before this the bird will rely entirely on its parents and will not be at all impressed by your interference. Once a bird is feeding themselves, they can be trained.
The younger you catch them, the easier they are to tame
For all their initial nervousness, young parakeets are the ideal bird to tame. They are not set in their ways yet, and have little expectation of what is and isn’t normal. Unlike older birds, they will have little to no memory of the times before the big hand first appeared in the cage.
Taming an Older Parakeet
Training an older bird can pose more of a challenge. A bird that has spent six months in the back of a pet store cage will have a worldview that you’ll find harder to change. To be suddenly taken away from the flock and transported to a smaller, quieter cage with a large creature who insists on chattering at a close range each day, can be rather traumatic.
There is no way to rush the training process, yet at the same time there is no need. Good things come to those who wait. Simply persist with your soft words and unthreatening hand in the cage routine, and let the parakeet accept you at their own pace.
Taming a Female Parakeet
Female birds may be slightly harder to train than cock birds, but if you start at a young age you shouldn’t have any more trouble with it. It is certainly true that older parakeets tend to get set in their ways -- but again this applies to male birds too. Hens often bite more than cocks too, so this can be a problem if you’re a little nervous. They also tend to bite a bit harder than their male counterparts too, where a nibble from a cock bird isn’t usually a problem, a bite from a hen can be slightly more painful, nothing extreme though. (See Taming Parakeets Not to Bite, below).
A hen parakeet may become harder to handle during the mating season, and even the tamest of birds can switch into a seemingly untamed state during this period. She can become territorial and broody, and your hand, in these situations, is nothing but an unwanted invader. Don’t worry too much though, with time this hormonal state will pass and your bird will return to being her normal self. If your bird does happen to be rather nervous or belligerent, you can try training with a millet loaded stick rather than your hand. Also, check her diet, too much protein can stimulate the mating urge.
Males can also get hormonal surges, however, there are fewer incidents of them becoming supposedly “untamed” in the process.
Taming a Wild Parakeet
In Australia, the natural homeland of the budgerigar, these birds are sometimes taken from the wild. These so-called “shell parakeets” are no different genetically from their domestic counterparts, but they will be harder to tame using the aforementioned processes. Outside of Australia, you are very unlikely to meet a wild-derived parakeet.
Any bird that has spent more than six-months without any substantial human contact will behave in a similar way to a wild bird. Gaining the trust of these birds will take more time and patience than with a young bird, but if you’re willing to give it a few months, or even a year, you will make friends in the end.
Taming a Pair of Parakeets
Taming two birds at once is, surprisingly, no harder than training just the one. Infact, the mutual moral support they give each other may even help speed up the process. Once the braver of you two birds hops onto your finger, the second is likely to follow. If you’re unlucky enough to have a really panicky bird in your pair, progress may be slow. But again, like with anything, good results take time. There is now way of speeding up the process, sop just persis, remain calm and gentle, and you’ll get there in the end.
Taming a pair of parakeets is trickier than taming just one
Teaching Parakeets Not to Bite
A biting bird can become a problem -- you will not be too keen to handle them, which makes your chances of taming him very slim. Parakeets are usually,however, very good-natured, but you do occasionally seem to find a rather aggressive type.
All is not lost, however. Addressing the following questions will help you over the tricky period.
- Is your parakeet finger trained yet? If not he will still be feeling anxious when your hand entres his cage.
- Has your bird recently been moved to a new cage, new room, or maybe even new a house? This can make your bird anxious for a short period of time, so let them settle in for a few days before resuming normal hand contact.
- Does your bird seem to bite at certain times? Try to keep a note of when your bird becomes more aggressive, and look for a pattern. It may be because your bird is scared of something (another pet, noisy children, sounds from outside, etc); he may be tired or hungry; or you may spot some other regular trigger.
- Do you make a fuss when they bite? Maybe try ignoring it - remove the hand, or put them back in the cage. Too much noise and fuss will make them think that the biting is winning and encourage them to carry on. Shouting can also stress your bird, making them anxious or even scared, leading them back to biting in self-defense.
- Have you been told that you should punish your bird for biting? This is terrible advice and should definitely not be followed. All it will do is make your bird see you as a threat and this will lead them back into biting.
- Have you been distracting your bird with treats to distract them from biting? This approach will backfire, as your bird will think that it’s being rewarded for biting and will carry on in this behaviour.
Punishments recommended back in the day included squirting with water, putting into solitary confinement, or even hitting your birds beak with your finger. Just don’t go there, simple as.
Don't encourage the biting habit
- Is your bird’s diet varied, and is he fed regularly? A bird who is bored with their diet may become rather grouchy.
- Is your bird getting a good night’s sleep, without midnight lights, barking dogs or other disturbances? Just like any other animal, a sleep-deprived parakeet will not be in a very good mood. A cage cover can help here.
- Are you handling them properly? A parakeet should choose to hop knot your finger-- never grab at them or lift them up against their will.
- Do you provide your bird with enough room to fly about? A cramped space full of people ducking their heads to have a gaze into the cage is always going to be very stressful for your bird.
- Does your bird have an adequate amount of toys? Parakeets are smart little birds and require constant stimulation to stop them from getting bored.
- Does your bird have a companion, or do they have all the attention they need? A bored and lonely parakeet may resort to biting as a means to get attention.