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How To Condition A Bird To Happily Wear Clothing

Table of Contents

Bird Collar

 

When introducing your bird to a FlightSuit, a bird collar or even a bird harness, it is important that you do it slowly so as to not add undue stress to your pet.  We suggest that bird owners follow these simple steps:

 

Step 1: Discover your bird's favorite treats -

Grab a bag of mixed treats, whether its Zupreem's Tropical Mix or a Goldenfeast mix. You can also try assorted raw, unsalted nuts, chopped in 1/4" size pieces or freeze dried veggies. Learn how to discover what your bird's favorite treats are in this video.

Grab five flavors and see which one your bird goes for first time after time.  

That's its favorite!

Now, remove the favorite and serve up the other 4. Follow the same procedure. That's it's second favorite. 

Remember, the treat needs to be highly desired and motivating for your bird to stick with training. 

Step 2: Load the clicker  - 

Study up on positive reinforcement in the book, Clicker Training For Birds, shown above.

Also, "load" the Clicker / Target Stick combo. To load the clicker, click and immediately treat about 30 times. When you notice that your bird is anticipating the treat after the click sound, you know it's learned what the click means.

Now, pull the target stick out a little and click and treat. Keep pulling it out a little further, as your bird tolerates it.  Then, once your bird tolerates the full length of the target stick, start bringing the yellow target ball closer to your bird while clicking and treating.

Once your bird understands clicker training, it will look forward to short lessons every day on what ever you want to teach it!

Imagine the possibilities now that you know how to teach your bird detailed manners and tricks and have it beg for more!

Step 3: Seeing the apparel -

Over a period of a few days, show your bird the new apparel. Start off a distance and then bring the item closer and closer to the bird.  Act as though you are enjoying this new item a lot as your bird watches.

Your goal is to increase your birds trust and curiosity about the unfamiliar article of clothing.

Use the target and clicker to get your bird to allow the item to come closer to its body. Next, work on the bird actually touching the clothing item. And, finally, actually wearing the item. 

Step 4: Super trainer tips -

Think of your bird as having the attention span of a young toddler, about 3-5 minutes.  As it gets more used to training, its attention span can probably double. 

The important way to double the time your bird tolerates training is to totally ignore all behaviors EXCEPTthose that simulate the desired behavior. BUT, break the desired behavior down into simple, sequential parts.

For instance, if you're trying to teach your bird to step up, you'd initially reward it for picking one of it's feet up. Then, you'd proceed to rewarding putting that foot on your finger. Then work on the next foot. And, so on.

Behavior attempts that don't match the desired sequence, no worries.  Just ignore.

You're only generously rewarding the desired behavior.  There is nothing negative about it.  When you choose the preferred treat and focus on the positivity of the desired behaviors, waalah! Magic happens.

We've found that Clicker Training is a great way to engage your bird in accepting a new object, like clothing.

Create a series of short training steps where you click and treat as your bird increases its tolerance of touching up to wearing the apparel, i.e. 

  1. Pet your bird with the apparel.
  2. Lift a wing while holding the apparel.
  3. Alternately lift each wing while you are holding the apparel.
  4. Allow your bird to touch the apparel.
  5. Allow the apparel over it's head.

Step 5: Wearing the Apparel -

Once your bird is comfortable seeing and touching the apparel, it is time to attempt to put it on the bird.

  1.  Slip the apparel over your birds head, wing or body. Treat as your bird allows you to manipulate it's body parts as needed.
  2. Completely put the item on and remove after 30 seconds.
  3. Increase the length of time the bird wears the apparel in short increments, treating and offering soothing conversation all along the way.
  4. Never leave the bird unattended while it is getting accustomed to wearing something new.
  5. Treat when your bird is NOT nibbling or chewing the apparel.
  6. Consider offering comfort and distractions as your bird learns to accept an article of clothing on it's body.

Some birds nibble at the apparel until they've become used to wearing it. Remember that birds are sensitive about their feathers so anything covering the feathers is very foreign to them.  To minimize the nibbling, you can use Bitter Apple on the FlightSuit.


Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians.

With over 30 years experience, in a range of settings, she’s created thousands of successful behavior plans to help turn around challenging behavior.

Diane got parrot fever in the ‘90’s and founded BirdSupplies.com in 1998. Nowadays, BirdSupplies.com focuses solely on Science-backed Parrot Wellness with bird collars for feather plucking birds, nutritional supplements to support avian wellness, and a range of educational materials to support challenging bird behavior. Diane’s authored a number of books on supporting challenging behavior in birds.

Please take a moment to share this blog post with your friends and on your social media. If you want to learn more about science-back parrot wellness, check out my social media channels like Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.

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