Help taming 2 parrotlets

Tonifrax

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Registered
Hi there,

My name is Toni, Im new to the forum and I currently own 2 Parrotlets, green male (Pan) and blue female (Leche). I think they are about 3 years old. In the past I have also owned an Indian Ringneck so have a good idea of what I am doing.

I bought my parrotlets a year ago. I got them from a guy who advertised them online. His teenage son wanted to breed birds but got bored and so decided to sell all of their birds. I wasn't 100% sure on them but when I saw them I caved. They were in terrible condition. The green one was bald on his head and they were in a tiny cage. The guy also told me they had bought several parrotlets and tried to breed them but they ended up killing each other and these were they only ones that survived. They housed some of their parrotlets in an aviary with other species and the parrotlets killed some of their other birds. They were fed a seed diet only, never had fruit or vegetables. Never had toys to play with either. I took them on because I knew I could provide them with a better home.

I immediately housed them in a larger cage. Improved their diet and provided them with plenty of toys to keep them entertained. They had never been handled before and they were terrified. I also noticed the blue one picking on the green one and figured that was why he was bald on his head. I separated them a couple of months ago and have been working with them every day to try to gain their trust. Due to the recent lockdown I've had much more time to spend with them.

The green male has been much more receptive. After managing to get him to take sunflower seeds - the only treat they seem to like - from my hand I started target training. He however wasn't very interested in touching the stick. I decided to try get him to step up onto a perch. I started training him to step up about a month ago and have worked on it every day. He now steps up onto my hand inside his cage. He takes the treat and immediately steps off again onto a perch. I have tried to do it outside of the cage and he just flies away. The female will sometimes take seeds from my hand but usually sneaks out of the cage door and flies away and out of reach.

They are housed in separate rooms now. I let them out separately but bring the other one into the room and leave it in the cage so they still see each other. They are more interested in getting to each other than in doing anything with me. It makes training them difficult because if I let one out it just calls to the other one in the other room and is not focussed on me. They also like to sit high up and usually fall asleep on top of my curtains where I cannot get to them.

I want to tame them but it has taken a month to get to where we are at now and I'm just not sure how to proceed. Should I just continue doing what I am doing? How do I get him from stepping up inside the cage to stepping up outside the cage instead of flying away? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Thanks in advance,

Toni
 

Michael Reynolds

Regular Member
Hello and welcome, I will concentrate on the one bird that is more receptive, it sounds like it is still early days in training, I will tag @Roz whom will advice re training methods
 
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Wendy Cooper-Wolfe

Regular Member
Wow, welcome and well done for taking them. I know nothing about parrotlets but there are many people on this site with much experience and I think that time is your friend.
 

dianaT

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
:welcome: well done for rescuing these little birds and giving them a goo dhome.
I am sure others will be along with advice re Parrotlets. Can we have photo of them please :thumbsup:
 

Tonifrax

Regular Member
Registered
:)Hi, thank you for welcoming me

I have attached a picture of them when they were both still in the same cage. Was a difficult decision to separate them as they were so close but sometimes they would fight and as you can see in the picture the green one is a little bald on his head due to the blue one pulling at his feathers. They are called Pan (green one) and Leche (blue one) which is Spanish for bread and milk. I couldn't decide what to call them and I jokingly decided to call them that and its just kind of stuck. :lol:
 

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dianaT

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Are they the same sex or one male one female?
I can understand why you separated them but also feel sad if they had been used to being together.
@Lauraj you have a parrotlet.
 

Roz

Regular Member
Gosh - a lot happening here. How lovely you took them out of their nightmare previous home. Sounds like you did the right thing to separate them to stop the male being over preened. They are beautiful!

That's great they are now taking sunflower seeds from your hands. You have made a huge amount of progress. What other foods do they eat? Notice what they pick out of their food bowls first - these will be their favourite items which might give you more in the way to use as treats. You can make favourite foods (like the sunflowers) more valuable by removing them from their everyday food and using them as treats only. Do they like any tree nuts like broken walnut pieces etc?

When teaching any new behaviour it is best to break it down into tiny achievable steps towards the goal behaviour. So for example if you want Pan to target, reinforce the steps towards touching the target. So you might hold the target up for him and reinforce his looking at it, then reinforce his turning his head towards it, then reinforce his leaning towards it, then reinforce his taking a step towards it, etc. But you can teach a bird to target anything... is there a favourite toy he likes and will come up to touch? Or even a toothpick or small twig?

Likewise with the stepping up, break it down into small manageable steps. What CAN he already do? He can step up on your hand inside the cage, take the treat and immediately step off again. Great! So if you are not already hiding the treat in your fingers so he can't see it, start doing that gradually. You want him to think about the behaviour (cause and effect) and not just follow the treat.

When you are getting him to step up, THEN producing the treat, then it's time to move onto the next step which is to teach duration (the amount of time he's on your hand). As soon as he steps on your hand, withhold the treat for 1 second. Then he gets it and steps off. Next time withhold the treat for 2 seconds and let him get off again. It is important that he is able to immediately get off your hand when he wants to - having control is a hugely important reinforcer.

As soon as you have taught him to perch on your hand for maybe 5 seconds and he's used to this, then you can teach him to sit on your hand whilst you move it an inch towards the door and back again. Treat! Let him get off. Next time 2 inches and back again, treat! Gradually you will be able to bring him through the cage door calmly and back again. Treat!

When training, just do short snatches of work now and again through the day and always end on a successful note for the bird. A few seconds here, half a minute there. Make it light and fun. And because you leave on a successful note (ie. bird succeeds and gets a treat. Yay!), the bird will be eager for the next session. Likewise, any failure of a step, you know you have gone too far, too fast. Go back a step or two and come forward again in even smaller steps. Again make sure to end sooner than later after a successful step.

It sounds like they like to hang out with each other outside the cage and that's fine if nobirdie is getting hurt. How about getting them a play stand or maybe hang a large spring swing from the ceiling nearish to the curtain pole. Add their favourite toys to the spring swing or play stand. A hanging play area might be more appealing to them if they like to go up high for now. I have spring swings and other hanging gyms all over the house. I like them because they take up less room than a playstand on the floor - although we have those too.
 
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Tonifrax

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Registered
I'm not 100% sure but I think the green one is a male and blue is female. They got on well most of the time so I just kept them together but then I caught the blue one biting at greens beak and there was a lot of squawking over it so I decided to split them up. I read that they are better off kept apart unless I intend to breed them because they can be territorial and one tends to become dominant.
 

Tonifrax

Regular Member
Registered
Thank you for the advice. That's kind of how I've been going about it so glad I seem to be on the right track with things. He does it when he sees the treat so I will start working towards getting him to do it with the treat out of sight.

Leche doesn't like my hand being in her cage at all but when she is out I sit on the floor and she comes over and waits for me to throw a treat towards her, I try to get her moving closer to me each time. She wanders around on the floor quite a lot now if Pan is in his cage and the cage is on the floor.

They are a bit funny with toys. Pan likes his shredding toy and occasionally sits on his swing in his cage and I've rarely seen Leche play with any toys. They have a play stand but Pan has only recently started to explore it. They go on it together sometimes if theres food in one of the toys but the top of the curtain definitely is a favourite place. Maybe I should try something off the ground and see if they prefer that.

They get their chop in the morning and then seeds. I have picked the sunflower seeds out because its the only thing ive gotten them to take as a treat. I've tried walnuts, cashews and pine nuts as well but they just drop them. Also tried pieces of grape and apple but again, they drop it.
 

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Kendra

Regular Member
I would definitely higher the stand, maybe onto a table or similar. Food, if they have never had fresh food before it can take quite a time for them to adapt, I found the best way was if they could see other birds, does not have to be the same species, eating. As you do not have other birds I wonder if a video would work?
 

Tonifrax

Regular Member
Registered
I would definitely higher the stand, maybe onto a table or similar. Food, if they have never had fresh food before it can take quite a time for them to adapt, I found the best way was if they could see other birds, does not have to be the same species, eating. As you do not have other birds I wonder if a video would work?
Okay, thank you :) I will try putting it up on a table and see how they feel about it after that. They do wander around on the floor sometimes if I put the other one in its cage down on the floor. The one that is out tends to just wander around the outside of the other ones cage but they do come further away from it if they know I have sunflower seeds. usually I sit beside them on the floor.

I've been trying them for the past year with fresh food. They are generally quite good at eating their chop. It's just treat type foods like nuts that when I give them they take it from me in their beak and just drop it without trying it or will pick pieces of it off and drop them. The chop is good because it tends to hide a lot of things they have to pick around at and try to get to the stuff that they do like.

They do watch videos of birds on youtube. I tried it yesterday and one of them flew over to my laptop when I left the room to take a closer look. I will try that. I do plan on getting another parrot at some point in the future but want these guys to be tame, happy and comfortable before then :flying:
 

Tonifrax

Regular Member
Registered
Gosh - a lot happening here. How lovely you took them out of their nightmare previous home. Sounds like you did the right thing to separate them to stop the male being over preened. They are beautiful!

That's great they are now taking sunflower seeds from your hands. You have made a huge amount of progress. What other foods do they eat? Notice what they pick out of their food bowls first - these will be their favourite items which might give you more in the way to use as treats. You can make favourite foods (like the sunflowers) more valuable by removing them from their everyday food and using them as treats only. Do they like any tree nuts like broken walnut pieces etc?

When teaching any new behaviour it is best to break it down into tiny achievable steps towards the goal behaviour. So for example if you want Pan to target, reinforce the steps towards touching the target. So you might hold the target up for him and reinforce his looking at it, then reinforce his turning his head towards it, then reinforce his leaning towards it, then reinforce his taking a step towards it, etc. But you can teach a bird to target anything... is there a favourite toy he likes and will come up to touch? Or even a toothpick or small twig?

Likewise with the stepping up, break it down into small manageable steps. What CAN he already do? He can step up on your hand inside the cage, take the treat and immediately step off again. Great! So if you are not already hiding the treat in your fingers so he can't see it, start doing that gradually. You want him to think about the behaviour (cause and effect) and not just follow the treat.

When you are getting him to step up, THEN producing the treat, then it's time to move onto the next step which is to teach duration (the amount of time he's on your hand). As soon as he steps on your hand, withhold the treat for 1 second. Then he gets it and steps off. Next time withhold the treat for 2 seconds and let him get off again. It is important that he is able to immediately get off your hand when he wants to - having control is a hugely important reinforcer.

As soon as you have taught him to perch on your hand for maybe 5 seconds and he's used to this, then you can teach him to sit on your hand whilst you move it an inch towards the door and back again. Treat! Let him get off. Next time 2 inches and back again, treat! Gradually you will be able to bring him through the cage door calmly and back again. Treat!

When training, just do short snatches of work now and again through the day and always end on a successful note for the bird. A few seconds here, half a minute there. Make it light and fun. And because you leave on a successful note (ie. bird succeeds and gets a treat. Yay!), the bird will be eager for the next session. Likewise, any failure of a step, you know you have gone too far, too fast. Go back a step or two and come forward again in even smaller steps. Again make sure to end sooner than later after a successful step.

It sounds like they like to hang out with each other outside the cage and that's fine if nobirdie is getting hurt. How about getting them a play stand or maybe hang a large spring swing from the ceiling nearish to the curtain pole. Add their favourite toys to the spring swing or play stand. A hanging play area might be more appealing to them if they like to go up high for now. I have spring swings and other hanging gyms all over the house. I like them because they take up less room than a playstand on the floor - although we have those too.
Hi, so I took your advice and I managed to get him to step up onto my hand whilst keeping my other hand outside the cage with the treat inside it instead of right in front of him. He could still see my other hand but the treat itself was out of view. He is in a bit of an odd mood today, more motivated but also quite nippy. A few times he bit my hand instead of stepping up onto it. He doesn't generally bite that much unless I do something he's not keen on and then he will bite, not too hard just to warn me off and if I continue he will bite harder. It didn't really hurt much it was more like he was preening my finger although saying that, there's a little spot of blood. He was also staying on my hand until he got given the treat and then jumped back off onto his perch. I clicker train them so if i am getting him to stay on my hand should i click and then hold off on the treat for a few seconds longer and then give it to him?
 

Lauraj

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Registered
Hello and welcome!
I have a female parrotlet named Fifi, who we thought was a male until she laid an egg at the start of this year 😂
First of all can i say that i think it's great you have taken these two little birds and given them a better home!

My girl is the same that sunflower seeds from the day we brought her and even now have remained her firm favourite and she would train to do anything for a sunflower seed, even now she is nesting and in order for her to get some calcium powder i finely chop the sunflower hearts and mix some powder in and they are gone haha!
She was not hand tame when i got her but she was a baby, i think Roz has explained brilliant what to do with the birds and you seem to have had some success.

I took it slow and spoke to her through the cage and built up to feeding her from my hand then allowing her to stand on my hand to eat some goodies then trained her to step up and down then recall etc..
It took a while but she is a great little bird now! I also do not envy you with the bites, these tiny little birds have a large bite. I have been bitten many of times by her (my own fault) and have to give myself time out of the room to recover from the pain 😂

I have never clicker trained, i attempted with my african grey but he just copied the noise of the clicker and expected a treat so i can't advise much on that front (was not a success for me!)
Funnily enough when my parrotlet is motivated to learn she is also nippy, i just must be taking things too slow and getting her impatient lol!

I wish you all the best with both of your parrotlet's, i adore these little birds with the biggest of personalities!
 

Tonifrax

Regular Member
Registered
Hello and welcome!
I have a female parrotlet named Fifi, who we thought was a male until she laid an egg at the start of this year 😂
First of all can i say that i think it's great you have taken these two little birds and given them a better home!

My girl is the same that sunflower seeds from the day we brought her and even now have remained her firm favourite and she would train to do anything for a sunflower seed, even now she is nesting and in order for her to get some calcium powder i finely chop the sunflower hearts and mix some powder in and they are gone haha!
She was not hand tame when i got her but she was a baby, i think Roz has explained brilliant what to do with the birds and you seem to have had some success.

I took it slow and spoke to her through the cage and built up to feeding her from my hand then allowing her to stand on my hand to eat some goodies then trained her to step up and down then recall etc..
It took a while but she is a great little bird now! I also do not envy you with the bites, these tiny little birds have a large bite. I have been bitten many of times by her (my own fault) and have to give myself time out of the room to recover from the pain 😂

I have never clicker trained, i attempted with my african grey but he just copied the noise of the clicker and expected a treat so i can't advise much on that front (was not a success for me!)
Funnily enough when my parrotlet is motivated to learn she is also nippy, i just must be taking things too slow and getting her impatient lol!

I wish you all the best with both of your parrotlet's, i adore these little birds with the biggest of personalities!
That must have been a surprise! :lol: I think they are male and female... when they were caged together I caught them in the act several times :oops: After owning an Indian Ringneck that used to bite incredibly hard and hold on for dear life I was a bit fearful of being bitten. It's not as bad but yeah can still be painful especially when they get hold of the skin on the back of your knuckles! After the Indian Ringneck I was planning on getting a larger bird but I agree that parrotlets are full of character for something so small. Still hoping to get a larger bird at some point in the future although having a hard time deciding. Your african grey must have a pretty powerful bite?
 

Lauraj

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Registered
That must have been a surprise! :lol: I think they are male and female... when they were caged together I caught them in the act several times :oops: After owning an Indian Ringneck that used to bite incredibly hard and hold on for dear life I was a bit fearful of being bitten. It's not as bad but yeah can still be painful especially when they get hold of the skin on the back of your knuckles! After the Indian Ringneck I was planning on getting a larger bird but I agree that parrotlets are full of character for something so small. Still hoping to get a larger bird at some point in the future although having a hard time deciding. Your african grey must have a pretty powerful bite?
Yeah my parrotlet seems to get the tiny bits of skin anywhere she can and swings off these! She's a little monster!
I have luckily never been bitten by my grey, he once bit my boyfriend because he had his leg stuck next to his perch and i think fear and a bit of pain took over and he bit my boyfriend which left a very large bruise. He has nipped me when playing because he gets very excited but nothing too bad..

But haha yes was a surprise, she has laid three times since then 🤦🏼‍♀️
Pretty safe to say that you have one of each if they have been caught in the act haha, hope that you do well with your parrotlet's and your search for a bigger bird!
 

Roz

Regular Member
Hi, so I took your advice and I managed to get him to step up onto my hand whilst keeping my other hand outside the cage with the treat inside it instead of right in front of him. He could still see my other hand but the treat itself was out of view. He is in a bit of an odd mood today, more motivated but also quite nippy. A few times he bit my hand instead of stepping up onto it. He doesn't generally bite that much unless I do something he's not keen on and then he will bite, not too hard just to warn me off and if I continue he will bite harder. It didn't really hurt much it was more like he was preening my finger although saying that, there's a little spot of blood.
Seeing the hand with the treat is fine. Try not to push him too far too fast so that he feels the need to bite, because actually you are just teaching him to bite in that situation. Watch his body language and if he's not interested in stepping up/training, that's fine, withdraw and take the treats with you. Try again a few minutes later. See if you can choose a time when he is more likely to be interested. You want every interaction with him to be positively reinforcing... that is also the way to gain trust.

He was also staying on my hand until he got given the treat and then jumped back off onto his perch. I clicker train them so if i am getting him to stay on my hand should i click and then hold off on the treat for a few seconds longer and then give it to him?
Great!!
No, click after the allotted time he is on your hand because that is now the new behaviour you are teaching. He already knows how to step up, now you are shaping/teaching duration. If you click and no treat appears immediately, the meaning of the clicker will be lost... especially when you begin to shape longer periods of duration.
 

Tonifrax

Regular Member
Registered
Seeing the hand with the treat is fine. Try not to push him too far too fast so that he feels the need to bite, because actually you are just teaching him to bite in that situation. Watch his body language and if he's not interested in stepping up/training, that's fine, withdraw and take the treats with you. Try again a few minutes later. See if you can choose a time when he is more likely to be interested. You want every interaction with him to be positively reinforcing... that is also the way to gain trust.


Great!!
No, click after the allotted time he is on your hand because that is now the new behaviour you are teaching. He already knows how to step up, now you are shaping/teaching duration. If you click and no treat appears immediately, the meaning of the clicker will be lost... especially when you begin to shape longer periods of duration.
He doesn't usually bite but I take it as a sign he is not in the mood and back off for a while. Thanks for clearing that up because I know with clicker training the click should be immediately followed by the treat. I will start clicking when he has been on my hand for longer. Another issue I have is that they are very sensitive to changes in surroundings. For example today I worked with him in the room his cage is usually in and he was keen. Then I decided to take his cage into the living room... a room that he is usually out in every day but I removed the other birds and put her in a different room so as he would not be distracted and might want to come and hang out with me for a bit. However, he was not at all interested in coming out or stepping up and just sat still on his perch. After a couple hours with the cage door open I decided to bring my other parrotlet back through in her cage and he was immediately out of the cage and on the outside of her cage and the play stand which is right next to it. Its difficult having a bonded pair because they prefer to hang out with each other than do anything else
 

Roz

Regular Member
Yep - different room, he will be unlikely to do the same training wise. You will have to later work on generalizing the behaviours. For example when I was teaching my untame Amazon Ollie to step up onto a hand held perch, it was fine taking him out of the cage (where I had taught him), but to get him to step up from anywhere else it was a no-no! You have to start right from scratch in other places, but the training will go much faster.

At least with a bonded pair they are happy together. They know and trust each other. You are new, they have to get to know and trust you too. It is all possible with loads of patience. You are making awesome progress! Why don't you keep a behaviour and training journal? That way when you look back you can see in black and white the amazing progress you and they have made.
 

Tonifrax

Regular Member
Registered
Yep - different room, he will be unlikely to do the same training wise. You will have to later work on generalizing the behaviours. For example when I was teaching my untame Amazon Ollie to step up onto a hand held perch, it was fine taking him out of the cage (where I had taught him), but to get him to step up from anywhere else it was a no-no! You have to start right from scratch in other places, but the training will go much faster.

At least with a bonded pair they are happy together. They know and trust each other. You are new, they have to get to know and trust you too. It is all possible with loads of patience. You are making awesome progress! Why don't you keep a behaviour and training journal? That way when you look back you can see in black and white the amazing progress you and they have made.
Yeah I started writing down a month ago different milestones we reach. I think in the past the only handling they had was forced upon them based on how long it has taken to reach this point. When I had an IRN I got her at about 14 weeks old, she wasn't hand reared but training was a lot easier because she didn't have any bad past experiences with being handled.
 

Tonifrax

Regular Member
Registered
Gosh - a lot happening here. How lovely you took them out of their nightmare previous home. Sounds like you did the right thing to separate them to stop the male being over preened. They are beautiful!

That's great they are now taking sunflower seeds from your hands. You have made a huge amount of progress. What other foods do they eat? Notice what they pick out of their food bowls first - these will be their favourite items which might give you more in the way to use as treats. You can make favourite foods (like the sunflowers) more valuable by removing them from their everyday food and using them as treats only. Do they like any tree nuts like broken walnut pieces etc?

When teaching any new behaviour it is best to break it down into tiny achievable steps towards the goal behaviour. So for example if you want Pan to target, reinforce the steps towards touching the target. So you might hold the target up for him and reinforce his looking at it, then reinforce his turning his head towards it, then reinforce his leaning towards it, then reinforce his taking a step towards it, etc. But you can teach a bird to target anything... is there a favourite toy he likes and will come up to touch? Or even a toothpick or small twig?

Likewise with the stepping up, break it down into small manageable steps. What CAN he already do? He can step up on your hand inside the cage, take the treat and immediately step off again. Great! So if you are not already hiding the treat in your fingers so he can't see it, start doing that gradually. You want him to think about the behaviour (cause and effect) and not just follow the treat.

When you are getting him to step up, THEN producing the treat, then it's time to move onto the next step which is to teach duration (the amount of time he's on your hand). As soon as he steps on your hand, withhold the treat for 1 second. Then he gets it and steps off. Next time withhold the treat for 2 seconds and let him get off again. It is important that he is able to immediately get off your hand when he wants to - having control is a hugely important reinforcer.

As soon as you have taught him to perch on your hand for maybe 5 seconds and he's used to this, then you can teach him to sit on your hand whilst you move it an inch towards the door and back again. Treat! Let him get off. Next time 2 inches and back again, treat! Gradually you will be able to bring him through the cage door calmly and back again. Treat!

When training, just do short snatches of work now and again through the day and always end on a successful note for the bird. A few seconds here, half a minute there. Make it light and fun. And because you leave on a successful note (ie. bird succeeds and gets a treat. Yay!), the bird will be eager for the next session. Likewise, any failure of a step, you know you have gone too far, too fast. Go back a step or two and come forward again in even smaller steps. Again make sure to end sooner than later after a successful step.

It sounds like they like to hang out with each other outside the cage and that's fine if nobirdie is getting hurt. How about getting them a play stand or maybe hang a large spring swing from the ceiling nearish to the curtain pole. Add their favourite toys to the spring swing or play stand. A hanging play area might be more appealing to them if they like to go up high for now. I have spring swings and other hanging gyms all over the house. I like them because they take up less room than a playstand on the floor - although we have those too.
Hi again, I've followed your advice with Pan and he's staying on my hand longer now and just started working on moving my hand. I was wondering if you might have any advice as to my other Parrotlet, Leche. I try holding my hand in her cage with treats in it and if she does come it usually takes an hour or so and she takes a treat whilst planning an escape from her cage. She quickly sneaks past my hand and out so I cannot really interact with her much. She does however get quite close to me when she is out. She walks around on the floor and gets quite near to me... I usually sit down on the floor too and throw seeds to her to encourage her to come closer and today whilst I was on the sofa she flew and landed on it next to me then away again. Is there a different approach I can take to get the same result... If I continue to interact with her, offer treats when she is out will I be able to eventually get her to step up as I have with my other bird? Also wondering if I tame one will it be easier to tame the other?
 
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