I decided bird has had enough settling-in time, and it was time to begin teachings and learnings. In these photos, bird is demonstrating the lesson I learned, which is that you remove the food cup from the cage before trying to teach it anything. Bird cannot talk, but is clearly conveying a message, and that message is: “Bitch, I don’t need your shit, I have all the crunchies right here.”
I looked at my clock and was surprised to realize that I’d actually spent 30-35 minutes working with the bird, which is probably enough for a first lesson anyway. Coming from a breeder where it was hand-raised for the past month, bird is extremely tame and used to being handled. The trouble, if there is any, is that the baby doesn’t know how to step up yet, which means if you want it out of the cage, you have to grab. So the past few times I’ve handled the bird have involved me grabbing as it tried to flutter away from me, and then it getting stuffed in boxes and having frightening adventures. Naturally it is now a bit shy of my hands. I want it to learn that hands are nice and bring good things.
I’ve learned that baby doesn’t try to escape, even when I open the big cage door, so I opened it and sat in front of the cage and spent a while talking to the bird, showing it my hands, and then offering a millet spray. It was happy to go after the millet, so I used that as an excuse to get my hand within a couple inches. I discovered that baby is fine with my hands as long as I don’t move too quickly or come from above like I’m going to grab. It also tolerates being touched on the feet, belly, and cheeks to some extent, although I did get bit once and it seemed wary of these touches. But baby was alert, happy, responding eagerly to the millet, so I decided what the hell and decided to start clicker training.
The first step is just teaching association of the clicker and the treat anyway, so I started clicking whenever it went for a fresh bite of millet. Guides warn you that birds are sometimes alarmed by the clicker, but this bird does not seem to care. I held the clicker hidden and far away at first, but then I started holding the clicker in the treat hand. Then again, saying “what the hell,” I decided to see if I could start touch training. (It was really too early for this I think, because I probably haven’t given the bird enough chances to understand that the click means a treat is coming, but I got over-excited.) So I started providing a stick (the butt end of a wooden paintbrush) and rewarding when the bird touched it. After about 5 or 6 repetitions, bird was like, “Peace out” and jumped in the food bowl. So, lesson over I guess.
I know it’s important in training for the animal to perceive the lesson as a game, but I didn’t realize how inherently fun I would find this. :D Yay bird friend!
Also I should officially announce: bird now has a name, and that name is Raz. Tiny name for tiny bird. (But with attitude, as prettyarbitrary pointed out.) Is it short for something? No. Is just Raz.
(Future birb posts, of which there may well be a lot, will be tagged budgie and raz, if anyone gets sick of this and wants to block the posts.)