Catching a parakeet in his cage isn't like picking up a kitten. Instead of just snatching him, you have to take a few days to train him to trust you. Once you accomplish that, bringing him out in your hand is quick and stress-free for both you and your bird.
Show your parakeet your hands every day. Before invading his personal space with your hands, which can be big and scary to a little bird, show them off from outside the cage. Simply display them, showing that they aren't something to be feared, all the while speaking calmly and gently to your bird. Your hands should be still throughout this process, which should take place for about 10 or 15 minutes every day for four to seven days.
Place your hand inside the cage after a few days. While your parakeet is probably still vaguely threatened by your hand, he is at least familiar with it. Place it in slowly and hold it in place for about 10 minutes, never forcing your bird to go near it. As always, speak to your bird in a soothing voice while this is happening. Continue for a few days, until your bird shows less trepidation around your hand.
Return your hand to the cage, but this time with a small treat, like spray millet or a leafy green. This shows your bird that going near the hand yields reward, and that she shouldn't be afraid to go near it. When your hand is near the bird, extend your index finger and place it in front of your bird's breast, in front of the legs. Slowly and gently press your finger against the breast sideways, not in a poking motion, and give the "Up" command. Since your bird has learned not to fear your hand, his instinct is to step onto your finger to use it as a perch. When he does, let him take the treat.
Withdraw your hand slowly from the cage with your bird perched on your finger.
- Only hand-train for about 10 to 20 minutes per day.
- If you don't have time to hand-train your parakeet before you have to catch him, you can retrieve him with a washcloth. Hold the washcloth in the palm of your hand and reach in, and gently grab your bird by wrapping the washcloth around his body from behind. This restricts his movement and prevents him from using his wings to escape.
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.