- Spend a lot of quality time with the Timneh. African Grey parrots need more attention than most other companion birds. Before a Timneh tries to please its owner by learning to talk and do tricks, it must first bond with the owner.
- Pick a specific trick. Don’t try to teach the bird too many things at once. Potty training is a good starting point.
- Use positive reinforcement. Reward the Grey every time it goes to the bathroom in the right area, like the cage or perch, instead of on furniture or people. In the case of potty training, put the bird away when he goes on something that he shouldn’t. This “time out” should last no longer than five minutes.
- Move on to more difficult tricks using the same type of technique, minus the time out. Timneh African Greys are capable of cause-and-effect thinking and will quickly learn that completing a trick correctly will earn a reward. When the bird completes the trick or says the word you want her to, reward her with her favorite treat.
- Be repetitive. Keep saying the word over and over or walking the bird through the trick over and over.
- Keep the training fun. Pay attention to the bird’s attitude. Flapping, nipping or avoidance are signs that the bird is getting frustrated. Pushing a bird to keep going when she doesn’t want to is counter-productive.
Teaching Tricks To Your African Grey Parrot
The first step in teaching your African Grey new tricks is to determine what the bird‚Äôs favorite treat is. It could be a favorite food item, or a favorite toy. If you know what your bird‚Äôs favorite food is, then have a handful handy. If you‚Äôre not sure, then watch when you feed your bird to see what the first item is it picks from its food. This is a good indicator of what it likes best. Positive reinforcement is vital with your African Grey, and giving your bird a treat when it properly performs a command is the best way to encourage the bird to do it again.
Move onto simple tricks first. When your bird is eating well and old enough to be handled, one of the most vital things to teach it is to accept handling and petting. Keep your treats handy, and gently touch your bird. As long as the bird stays comfortable and relaxed, stop petting it and offer it a treat. Repeat this, handling the bird for longer and longer periods, giving a treat each time it stays calm. If the bird gets angry or irritated, stop and do not fuss over the bird. Fussing or punishment reinforces the bird for it‚Äôs bad behavior, and it will not be able to tell the difference. Only treat the bird when it does well.
When the bird is comfortable being handled, it‚Äôs time to move onto more complex tricks. ‚ÄúStep Up‚Äù is an invaluable command with your bird. It teaches them to step onto your hand, or a perch if necessary. Allow the bird to come out of the cage on its own. Place your hand or finger close to the bird, and repeat the command ‚ÄúStep Up‚Äù every few seconds, until the bird moves toward you. As soon as the bird makes a move in the right direction, reward it and say ‚ÄúGood Bird‚Äù or whatever word you choose to show the bird it was right. Now you can repeat the command, only rewarding your bird if it comes in contact with your hand. Continue with the treats and ‚ÄúGood Bird‚Äù until the bird learns that ‚ÄúStep Up‚Äù means every time it steps into your hand, perch or other location comfortably and calmly.
Talking is something that most African Greys will do during their lifetime. Words that are said repeatedly are most often the ones learned quickest, and you can use this to your advantage in training your bird. For example, if you say the word ‚Äúfood‚Äù every time you put new food in the bird‚Äôs cage, it will associate you feeding them with the word ‚Äúfood.‚Äù You might also notice that your bird associates certain sounds with words. Your bird might say ‚ÄúHello!‚Äù every time that the phone rings, since you say ‚ÄúHello‚Äù when you answer it. You can also teach your bird other words with that same repetition idea. Keep your treats handy, and say the word of your choice to your bird. It will take time, but eventually repeating a certain word again and again to your African Grey will result in the bird speaking it. Once the bird makes the effort to say the correct word, reward it and praise the bird.
You can teach your bird any number of tricks with the same request and praise idea. If you want your bird to Wave, start by touching the bird‚Äôs foot with a small dowel or blunt pencil. When the bird picks up it‚Äôs foot, give the command ‚ÄúWave‚Äù and praise the bird. Eventually your bird will start waving in response to the command. African Greys are extremely smart birds, and can be taught hundreds of commands, with simple praise and a good deal of patience.