Taming Your Budgie
Want to train your budgie or even teach him to talk? Several methods and lots of advice can be found below.
Some tips on teaching your budgie to talk have been added! Scroll down to find the talking section. More training and talking tips may be added in the future, so check back! Posted 08.04.10
Tip: Click on any underlined word to see a definition and/or picture example.
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Beginning Training Sessions
To start taming your pet budgie, the first and most important thing is that he/she trusts you. Always move slowly and talk softly when you are around your budgie, even when you are not having a training session. Never do anything to scare or harm your budgie. This includes abrupt movements, especially over your budgie's head, and banging on the cage. When you start your taming sessions, your budgie will probably not trust you at first, especially if he/she hasn't been handled very much by people. So your first steps are to build a trusting relationship.
- Phase 1: Trust Building
Our goal in this phase is simply to build trust between you and your pet budgie. These sessions should last about 10-15 minutes and I recommend doing 2-3 sessions per day.
- Step 1 - You may have noticed that your budgie is afraid of your hands. The first thing you should try is to put your hand near the cage in your budgie's view. Stay relatively still and speak in a gentle soothing voice to your budgie. Let him know that it's okay and he doesn't have to be afraid. You should notice your budgie calming down and becoming more comfortable as time passes and he realizes that your hand will not hurt him. After about 4-7 days of these sessions you should be able to move on to the next step. Be sure that your budgie is now comfortable with your hand near the cage.
- Step 2 - Slowly open the cage door and put your hand into the cage. Leave your hand in the cage in a non-threatening position. Your budgie may be wary at first, but should start calming down as time progresses. I recommend doing about 4-7 days of these sessions, until your budgie is comfortable when your hand is in the cage.
- Step 3 - Now when you put your hand in your budgie's cage, start holding a treat for him. Spray millet is a favorite. Dark leafy greens that are wet are also good to try. It is best to use a treat that your budgie is already familiar with and that you know he/she likes. Hold the treat in your hand in a non-threatening manner. Place your hand near a perch or other area where your budgie will have access to the treat in your hand. It may take a while for your budgie to come over to get the treat, so be patient. At first it may help to hold the treat so that its farthest end reaches far away from your hand. Gradually with each session hold it closer and closer in your hand. It may take 3-5 sessions until your budgie will eat a treat from your hand, but don't move on to the next phase until you are successful with this step.
- Phase 2: Basic Hand Taming
The goal of this session is to get your budgie to get onto your hand and out of the cage. This may take some work, as the budgie's cage is its safe and secure place. These sessions should last about 10-15 minutes. I recommend doing about 2 sessions each day.
- Step 1 - Now that your budgie trusts your hand, you want to work on getting him/her to get onto your hand. Approach your budgie slowly with your hand in a non-threatening position. Hold your hand so that your index finger is like a perch. Gently press against the lower abdomen just above the feet and attempt to get him to step up onto your hand. Your budgie may not understand at first and jump away. Just be patient and try again. Don't chase your budgie around the cage. Take it slowly. If you are having trouble getting your budgie onto your hand, try enticing him with a treat. For example, you can hold a spray millet just out of reach so that he will have to jump onto your offered hand to reach it. Once your budgie gets onto your hand, just hold it still. He will probably jump right off. If so, try again. Each time he gets on your hand, if you are not already holding one, reward him with a small treat. This can be a spray millet berry or a small piece of fruit or veggie. Once your budgie is getting onto your hand with out much of a problem, it's time to move onto the next step.
- Step 2 - With your budgie on your hand, try slowly taking him out of the cage. More than likely he will jump off before you get your hand out. Slowly retrieve him and try again. This is a difficult step because a budgie's cage is a safe and secure place. It may be useful to rearrange the cage so that you can easily and swiftly pull your hand out without trying to avoid perches or toys. If your attempts are unsuccessful, try taking him out while you are holding a treat in your hand with him. Hopefully, munching down on the treat will distract him enough to get him out of the cage. If you are still having difficulty getting him out of the cage, you may have to try moving fast once you get near the door so that you can get your hand out before he can jump off. If the cage door is big enough, you may also try cupping your other hand behind your budgie as you pull him out. Don't touch or grab him from the back, just use your hand as a shield to deter him from jumping off. Once you are able to take your budgie out of the cage, it is time to move onto the next step.
- Step 3 - Once you have your budgie out of the cage, his first action will probably be to jump back onto the cage. Leave him on the cage to romp around and get used to being out. Give him a treat on top of the cage. Stay near and talk to him. Pick him up a couple of times the same way you did in the last step when he was inside the cage. At the end of the session pick him up and put him back into the cage. Do this for about a week and then move onto the next phase.
- Phase 3: Full Hand Taming and the Step-Up
The goal of this phase is to finish fully hand taming your budgie. These sessions will take place away from the cage in a neutral, bird-safe room. Prepare the room you will be taming your budgie in beforehand. Draw the blinds so your budgie doesn't get distracted by a window. The less mirrors, the better. I recommend covering any mirrors with a sheet if possible. Make sure there are no dangers in the room such as other pets, blowing fans, candles, etc. Keep the room lit, but slightly dimmed if possible. Make sure the room is tidy and clean. Each session should last 15-20 minutes. I recommend 1-2 sessions a day.
- Step 1 - With your budgie out of the cage and on your hand, take him to the neutral, bird-safe room. As you walk away from the cage, more than likely your budgie will try to fly back to the cage. If so, retrieve him and try to walk away again. Keep your back to the cage and your budgie in front of you so that he can't see the cage. If you are having difficulty, try cupping your other hand in back of your budgie as you walk away without touching or grabbing him. In the new room, sit on the floor or a bed with your budgie on your hand. Give him a small treat, such as a spray millet berry or a piece of fruit or veggie. If he flies away from you, retrieve him. Talk to him gently and reassuringly. Just hold him, give him treats, and talk to him. After the session is over, take him back to his cage and put him inside. Maybe talk to him a little bit more and tell him he did a good job. Do about 3-5 days of these sessions.
- Step 2 - Take your budgie into the neutral taming room. This time, hold off on giving him a treat. Sit with him on the floor or a bed. With him on your hand offer him the index finger of your other hand to step up onto. You may have to press against the lower abdomen just above the legs in order to get him to respond. This is called the "step-up." If he is successful, give him a small treat. Then present the index finger of your other hand again, and then the other, and then the other. Each time he is successful give him a small treat. After a few times take a break, then start again. This is an easy step, as the step-up comes almost naturally to budgies. After a few times he should be stepping-up automatically when you present your finger, without you having to push up on his belly. Once he seems to be getting the hang of it, have him step up a couple times before giving him a treat. In no time, your budgie will have the step-up down pat. Once your budgie learns the step-up, you can move onto the next step.
- Step 3 - Now that your budgie knows how to step-up, it is time to finish off the hand taming process. Take your budgie to the neutral room for a few more taming sessions. Use these sessions as time for you and your budgie to get to know each other. Practice stepping-up. Try and see if he will sit on your shoulder. A budgie's natural instinct is to want to be higher if possible, so putting him on your hand just below your shoulder will make him want to step-up onto it. If he gets on your shoulder, practice having him get off your shoulder by stepping-up onto your finger. Each time you make any kind of progress with your budgie give him a treat and tell him how good he's doing. After about a week of these sessions your budgie should be pretty well tamed.
Now that your budgie is well tamed, slowly introduce him to the rest of the areas of the house that he will be allowed into. If you want to watch TV with your budgie, take him to the living room and introduce him to the couch. If you want to study on your bed with your budgie show him your room. Introduce him to all the members of the household and have them practice the step-up with your budgie a few times. Whenever you take your budgie out of the cage make sure that the house is safe for him. Turn off any fans. Make sure all doors and windows are closed. Provide your budgie with a safe, clean, and loving environment and he will become a great companion as you learn more about each other.
Teaching Your Budgie to Talk
Budgies certainly are capable of learning to mimic sounds and words. However, not all budgies will learn to "talk". A budgie is more likely, but not guaranteed, to learn to mimic sounds and words if:
- Your budgie is a male
- Your budgie is tame
- Your budgie is the only budgie in the house
The key to teaching your budgie to say words or even phrases is to repeat often. The best learning opportunity is when your budgie is out of the cage with you and in the mood to hang out on your finger or shoulder. You will want to get up close to his face and repeat the word or phrase you want to teach him. You will know your lessons are being especially effective if your budgie looks like he's focusing on your mouth and/or his pupils are dilating. Some budgies will even like to put their face right up to your mouth when you talk. One your budgie picks up a word or two, it is likely that teaching him words and phrases will get easier.
Some budgies may only learn to mumble, some will learn a few words or sounds, some can have an amazing repertoire, but most will not learn to talk. This is not a reflection of a budgie's intelligence (budgies are surprisingly intelligent), but rather is a reflection of each budgies individual talents and propensities. Don't be disappointed if your budgie doesn't learn to talk, for he has many more valuable qualities to offer, such as his companionship, cheeriness, and funny antics, to name just a few!
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