How to Stop a Screaming Parakeet

"What screaming? I was just exercising my lungs!"
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Parakeets are natural noisemakers, so it's normal for yours to turn up the volume now and then. It's hard to handle, though, when his chatter turns to blood-curdling screams. It may be a behavior issue or there really could be something wrong. Stopping the screams involves determining what's causing them.

Why's He Screaming?

Your parakeet might scream at certain times of the day, when he sees the neighbor's dog in your yard or when something is really amiss. When Buddy starts screaming, listen to see if it's his typical, irritating shriek, if it seems to be a warning or if it's like nothing you've heard before. His usual noises, even those he makes to "scare off" intruding animals, are no big deal. But by paying attention and making the distinction, you'll know when an issue arises that calls for your attention. It may be something as innocent as having forgotten to change the water in his dish, or it could be more serious -- but at least you'll understand when your parakeet really needs your attention.

Time Out

When screaming is a behavior issue for your budgie, it's often reinforced by your reaction to it. If you respond by yelling back or by running into the room when Buddy screams, he's getting attention from you, even if it's negative. The answer, as difficult as it can be to carry out, is to ignore instead of react to your parakeet's screams -- at least don't react in the way you're used to doing. Calmly place Buddy back in his cage or if he is already there, cover the cage. When you don't respond in the way he's "trained" you to, and you put him in time out to calm down, he'll see that he isn't getting what he wants. This won't stop him from screaming altogether -- he is, after all, a parakeet -- but it will cut his screaming short, especially when his cage is covered.

Modifying Screaming Behavior

Modifying your parakeet's screaming behavior involves stepping out of the role of the trainee and becoming the trainer. Reward Buddy when he talks and makes other acceptable noises. You can even encourage noises alternative to screaming by making the acceptable sound over and over when your parakeet starts screaming, then praising him when he substitutes the good sound for the screams. It takes consistency, though, and it may be months before Buddy's screaming has decreased noticeably. It all depends on how long his screaming behavior has gone on and how skilled you and your family are at ignoring the screams and encouraging and rewarding the alternative sounds.

Nip It in the Bud

Figure out the times of day and the circumstances that bring on Buddy's screaming fits so you can avoid them. If your parakeet starts screaming when you leave the room, take him with you. For times when that isn't practical, start using the same phrase to teach him you aren't leaving for good. Say something like "back in a jiffy" or "just a sec." It won't take long for him to learn that your cue means you'll be right back. Talk to Buddy throughout the day, whether you're in the same room or not, to keep him from becoming lonely and bored. Make sure he has enough to do, too. Parakeets are busy little guys, and keeping Buddy distracted with toys and things to climb on and explore is an effective way to keep him from screaming.

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