Clicker training cockatiels, the start

We were on our vacation (cruise to Bermuda) and aboard our ship was the parrot-training magician Dave Womach. To say that Lily and I were smitten with the shows is an understatement. It was so fun to see them perform and hear how much they were cared for. Lily raised her hand high at a Q&A session and asked the magician, “have you ever trained cockatiels?”

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And so it began…

We arrived home and promptly picked up some spray millet and a clicker. Clickers are typically used for training dogs, but they can be used for training any animal with ears and a drive for positive rewards.

Our birds are Squeak, a 1.5 year old hand raised female who is sweet as pie, and Brutus, a 12+ year old grumpy scaredy cat who was found flying around outside 11 years ago. In my past I also had Spike, a wonderful normal grey cockatiel, who lived with me for 20 years, from my ages of 6 through 26. He was the best pet I’ve ever had.

So, clicker training our cockatiels…

Day 1: Offer millet to Squeak. She is leery and barely gives a nibble. Offer millet to Brutus. He is terrified and nearly falls off his perch.

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Day 2: Offer millet to Squeak. She eats it happily! We begin associating a nibble of millet to a click from the clicker. We spent no more than 5 minutes doing this on and off; our goal is to keep these sessions short and positive. We also offered the millet to Brutus and he didn’t fall over, and he actually almost took a bite, but chickened out at the last minute. Baby steps 🙂

Future plans: train to track their attention to the end of a chopstick or knitting needle so we can start to direct the behavior into tricks (spin? fly? pick up toys and put them into a cup? so many ideas!).

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