Thursday 3 March 2016

7. Budgie bonding and taming - The first flight!

So you have now got your budgie to happily step up on to your finger. What’s next?

DO NOT STOP TRAINING! Training a budgie is a continuous process that you need to work on every day, I'm still working with Reggie and I regularly go back to basic budgie flight recall to reinforce that he's doing a good job. In time it will not feel like you are training at all because you and your budgie will just be hanging out and having fun. But for the next few weeks you will be working on building his trust whilst training him to step up, fly to you or even spin in circles [see clicker training].

It is advised that you only let your bird out of the cage once you feel confident that he knows how to step up. I do agree with this, you will be more relaxed knowing that you can get your bird back to his cage safely, and the bird by that point should have learnt to trust you and your hand and so will also be more relaxed. With Reggie I felt he had started to go backwards in his cage and he was getting irritated and clearly itching to get I let him out when I wasn't 100% confident he would get back on my finger. He was actually easier to train once outside his cage, he enjoyed being on his play gym and he could fly away when he wasn't interested.

Your birds first flight:

I would recommend that you let him out on his maiden flight in the room that he has been living in. Whilst you have been going about your daily business he has been watching you, and also assessing his surroundings. This is why it is beneficial to wait at least a couple of days before you let a new bird free as it can help to stop birds freaking out and falling down the side of a cupboard (as Buster demonstrated perfectly!).

Before I let Reggie out I closed all the curtains and I covered the large mirror over the fire place with a scarf. Reflective surfaces are like katnip to birds and this will help to prevent them from flying head first into them and possibly causing serious harm to themselves. It can be scary letting a bird out for the first time as they can go on a sort of mad panic around the room and crash into things, land up high, fall behind things, so it’s important to bird proof the room (but not to the extreme) and for you to be calm.

Reggie shot out of his cage, flew around a bit and then landed on my light 

When birds feel threatened they will go high – curtain rail, top of the door, on top of a fancy dress pizza box on top of a suitcase on top of a wardrobe - everything is an option, It's OK
! In the wild you would rarely see a budgie on the ground, they would be up in the tree’s looking down on the world feeling smug because no one can get to them. So don’t be surprised if you let your bird out and he shoots to the highest point and sits there for hours. Doing nothing. Not even singing. BORING! Haha. It’s ok, you will have fun trying to get him back to his cage.  

Reggie was a menace, he would perch on the curtain rail at the very end on the twisted metal ornament making sure he was sat at the very back where no amount of stretching could get to him, and if I did reach him I would be greeted with a bite. Such a sweet baby.
For the second flight you could let him out using the same precautions as before (scarf over the mirror, closed curtains) and then whilst he is out you could open the curtains. The initial bolt from the cage is when they would most likely see the window and think FREEDOM!! To this day we still have the scarf over the mirror, Reggie really enjoys flying in front of it looking at himself. It's annoying for us as I like that mirror, but its a small sacrifice to stop him going crazy. I have only seen either of them fly into the window a few times, it is not usual for them as they know their living room (notice I said their!) and they know the layout. 

My birds on top of the fridge, how do I get him back to his cage?
At the time I read lots of advice that said you should not grab your bird, and if you cannot get him on your finger or a perch you should throw a towel over him and scoop him up, or just wait for him to get hungry. This didn't sit well with me because I had also read that throwing a towel over them, or grabbing them could severely affect the bond you had started to get with your bird. Try getting him to step up and reward him as soon as he does, and on the way back to the cage. 

But what if he won’t get on your finger? 
Remember that perch you might have used for step up training? Now is the perfect time to get that out again. For Reggie I used a spare perch, it took a few trips half way to the cage and back to the curtain rail before we made it all the way back to his cage, but we got there! You might even find that with a little bit of very gently shooing, your bird will return to his cage on his own. Again, this is another example of what your bird has been learning whilst being locked up in the first few weeks. His cage has become his home and his safe place.
Perch and finger doesn't work? 
He hasn't gone back to his cage on his own? Hmmmm tricky. I was so worried about upsetting Reggie I tried to avoid doing anything that would annoy him. When I collected Reggie from the breeder he told me that in the first few days I should practice holding him and releasing him inside his cage. I ignored this advice but with Buster I followed this and I made sure that I held him, released him and rewarded him afterwards. Reggie does not enjoy being touched or held, my neighbour had to hold him so I could do his nails a few months ago, but Buster is a little more forgiving than Reggie and if I do grab him we are OK. Anyway, my point is, if you can confidently get a good safe hold on your bird in the first few months of your relationship, or even when you first let him out, don’t be afraid to do this as a last resort. I dread when I need to do Reggie’s nails again or if he ever has to go to the vet as he will be more panicky because he hasn't been held. 

I feel like I need to write this at the end of each post......I am not an expert! This is all information I have learnt and it might not always work out accurately for your birds. I have confidence in what I write but read with caution!

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