While parakeets are clever, affectionate birds, their instincts tell them to be wary of humans. Your size is intimidating to a parakeet, so you can't just pick one up like a puppy. By slowly building trust with your bird, you ensure a long, close, hands-on relationship.
Hang out with your bird. Leaving your parakeet in his cage, stay close and engage yourself in unrelated activities, like watching TV. After a few days of this, the bird will be acclimated to your presence, and will start learning that you do not represent an immediate threat.
Place a few seeds or food pellets in the palm of your hand, then slowly insert your open hand into the cage. Sit there for about 10 or 15 minutes, speaking softly and calmly to your bird. He may not respond for the first few sessions of this activity, but keep it up. It could take weeks before your bird actually eats out of the palm of your hand, but until then, you are teaching him not to be afraid of you.
Hold your index finger out in front of your parakeet for him to step onto. If he hesitates, gently press your finger against the belly or breast of the bird. This typically encourages him to step up and perch on your finger.
Remove your bird from the cage and take him into another room. Ideally, you and the bird should be alone in the room, and it should be an unfamiliar environment away from the cage. Once in this new room, practice talking to your bird in a calm, soothing voice. Give him freedom to move about. For example, sit on the floor with your feet flat on the floor and your knees up, and allow your parakeet to sit on your knees. Offer your bird plenty of positive reinforcement, both verbally and with small treats like seeds and pieces of dried fruit.
Return your parakeet to his cage on a positive note, when he is calm. If you do so in response to him acting out, he learns that misbehaving or acting scared earns him a ticket back to the security of his cage. Keep this up every day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time until your parakeet learns to be responsive and calm when you approach him for time outside the cage.
- Having the bird's feathers professionally trimmed before you begin holding training makes him easier to manage, and prevents him from flying away as a response to fear.
- Do not attempt to discipline your bird like you would a dog or cat. They do no understand punishment or verbal reprimands the same way that other domesticated animals do, and all it will do is make your bird afraid of you.
- Do not wear gloves while holding your parakeet. Parakeets are intimidated by gloved hands.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.