Cockatiel Advice and First Aid 101

Parrot Taming

All about taming your parrot



The position of the cage is very important, please never house a parrot in a kitchen, it is a dangerous place to house a parrot! Parrots can be housed against a wall for a feeling of security. Please never house them next to a TV the constant flashing of the set can be very stressful and of course very noisy.

A new bird should be housed somewhere where he will be with the family but allowed to get some peace and quiet too, especially at bed time. A parrot needs 10-12 hours undisturbed sleep a night to remain physically and psychologically healthy. So if your parrot is going to live in the family room, then purchase a travel cage as their sleep cage and place the bird in a quiet room at night.

If you have brought home a hand reared bird it may step up on your hand and go straight into the new cage , but if your bird is not used to being handled then place the carrier against the cage door so the bird can come out on its own or place the carrier inside the cage . Don’t stick your hand in a grab the bird this will cause a lot of fear not to mention you likely to get a nasty bite especially from a larger parrot!

The best thing you can do now is allow your new bird to get used to its environment, don’t stand over the cage make loud noises or sudden movements around the cage (children especially should be supervised around the new bird) Many people make the mistake of handling the bird the very first day without giving it time to settle, parrots shouldn’t be handled for at least a week giving them lots of time to get used to all the new sights, sounds and smells! Yes this is recommended with hand reared bird’s as well, they may have stepped up on your finger nicely in their known environment at breeders but you and the environment is now completely new so they are feeling as vulnerable as any other bird. Movements in cleaning and feeding should be slow and deliberate, the whole time speaking softly to the bird reassuring it.

After the first week one can begin taming the bird, unfortunately this is when some new parrot owners may decide to clip their wings “to control the bird” unfortunately many owners have no idea how to tame or Handle the bird so render it flightless in order to get the bird on their hand .

Birds naturally fly away when they sense danger not being able to fly away or fly in general has an enormous physical and psychological impact on the bird!




Many people ask the question why are bird terrified of hands. There are a number of reasons, but one specific reason is that to a bird your hands are a million miles away from your face and body which they recognise! Your hands to them are a completely foreign scary object that branches off far from what is familiar to them! This is why it is extremely important to associate your hands with good things when taming, such as yummy treats!


Often new owners make the mistake when asking a parrot to step up by offering their hand cupped with fingers pointing upwards or offering a single finger. Most parrots hate fingers and are afraid of them, especially when first being tamed, the only thing the parrot can see are these things wiggling coming towards them, no wonder the parrot won’t step up or go near hands.

Whenever you asking any breed of parrot to step up, your palm has to ALWAYS be FLAT with fingers pointing facing downwards and thumb tucked in. This is less scary for them and you won’t get the tips of your fingers bitten.

Offering one finger will often result in a bite and parrots especially newly tamed may not feel secure on a single finger.Because fingers don’t have the thickness of a perch for them to stand steady they can lose balance, especially baby parrots that are still developing the muscles in their feet.


Many new parrot owners will wear gloves while taming their birds because they are afraid of receiving a bite. This is a very bad idea, not only will the parrot never get used to hands, but it will create an enormous amount of fear in the bird and is actually considered a punishment tactic for this reason.

The owner may find confidence in having protection on their hands but what they are not realising is that a parrot always bites for a reason. There are a number of reasons why a parrot may bite such as fear, being hormonal, territorial aggression, illness etc. Learning to read a parrot’s body language is the key to avoiding a bite.

If one is afraid of a parrot’s beak, perhaps having a parrot as a pet is not for you, as a parrot will play on this fear and the owner will struggle to tame and form a bond with their bird. For larger parrots training a bird to step onto a stick instead of a hand to begin with , will not only give the owner the same confidence as using a pair of gloves , but will not be stressful on the bird.


There are many people that harness their birds but it’s not as easy or simple as it seems. Firstly it’s not advisable to harness small bird’s, the reason for this is because they can get caught up in the harness being so small , many injuries can occur such as broken wings and broken legs. It’s always owner’s choice but please take this word of warning, that harnessing a bird smaller than a cockatiel is a disaster waiting to happen!

Harnessing a bird is very different to putting a harness on a dog or even a rabbit and off you go, birds take off with great speed and then when quickly pulled backwards with a lot of force it can cause all kinds of internal injuries and broken limbs. One has to spend many hours training the bird to fly in a harness and this should ALWAYS be done in a safe room with a padded floor.

Your bird has to be completely harness trained before it’s allowed to go outside as incorrect harness training will result in horrific falls and injuries not to mention they can get loose and fly away!

You have to measure your bird correctly to fit the harness, a badly fitted harness will result in injury, and often even death and having your bird fly away.

It is also advisable to have your bird vet checked before harness training, the added pressure on internal organs can be fatal if the bird has a underlying illness or issues with an internal organ. Harnesses shouldn’t be too tight, remember any pressure on a bird’s chest results in it stopping breathing.

AUTHORS NOTE: Firstly buy as many DVD’S and books on harness training as you can in order to harness train correctly so that your birds are kept safe in one outdoors.



If you are fearful of your parrot or not confident in handling them, your bird will sense this and you will not be able to gain their trust or tame them.

Parrots are not for everyone unfortunately, they are highly intelligent animals and need an owner with a great deal of time and patience. Larger parrots such as Macaws, Cockatoos and African Greys among other larger species require an owner with a great deal of experience to care and handle them.

Owners are advised to do extensive research before they buy any parrot species, parrots are very expensive pets to keep and need a lot of space in the home for cages, play guys etc.



Some people find it difficult to catch their bird to put it back in the cage, whether tame or untamed sometimes they just won't go back in. Often the owner will chase the bird around the room until the owner and bird are extremely exhausted. This is very dangerous and birds have been known to die of heart attacks this way. They become so tired and stressed they just collapse or get trapped behind objects or fly into walls and windows.

One of the simplest and easiest ways to catch a bird is to make the room as dark as possible. This temporarily stuns the bird, where it freezes for a moment and the owner can catch it. I’ve personally used this method to catch untamed birds, in and out of cages and I've caught them within seconds. This helps prevent any unnecessary stress and injury.

Another option is saving your bird’s most favourite treat for bed time or for when it’s time to go back into the cage. If you make this a habit the bird will know that when they go back in they get a tasty reward!

This is also a reason why cages should NEVER be used as a punishment, time out or whatever one wants to call it. The parrot then associates the cage not as a place of security but a place where he gets punished! Cages from the start should be made fun and exciting where the bird doesn't mind going back home!

AUTHOURS NOTE : One of the most important thing an owner can teach a bird is the step up command, this helps the owner to take the bird back to his cage peacefully. The above methods do work and are much safer and easier than chasing your bird to exhaustion!


Holding a bird must be done very gently birds have very fragile bones and delicate respiratory systems. Applying any pressure to bird’s chest will cause it to stop breathing. Squeezing them too tightly can cause broken bones, organ damage/ failure and a number of problems that can lead to severe injury or sudden death.

Children in particular must be taught how to hold birds gently, many budgies in particular often die with children not knowing their own strength. It’s a better idea for a child to use the step up command with a parrot for it to sit on their hand rather than cupping the bird!



The very first thing an owner should teach their bird is the step up command, it's the easiest command to teach a parrot because that's essentially what they do all day , Step up from one perch to another !

Many people have asked me why it's so important, well there are several reasons:

1. It establishes trust between the owner and the bird.

2. It reinforces a bond between owner and bird.

3. It decreases any fear the bird has of you.

4. It establishes your authority.

5. You have better control of your bird especially in an emergency!

6. Decrease the chances of your bird becoming territorial.

7. It teaches the bird the foundation of discipline!

AUTHORS NOTE: So it is extremely important that if you going to teach your bird anything teach them to step-up. I personally find teaching this command in their cage is the easiest way of teaching because there is no distractions around them. You can use treats as a yummy reward.



Parrots are extremely colour sensitive they see colours in much greater depth than humans , so it’s very important to bear that in mind especially when taming a new bird. They particularly don’t like bright colours such as red , so when taming ensure that your wardrobe choices and ladies nail polish choices are neutral colours or your bird may be very frightened of you and not want to come near you or your hands.

AUTHOURS NOTE: As parrots are very sensitive to ANY changes, having a hair colour change/ hair cut or if you start wearing glasses etc. Your bird may take quite a while to get used to your appearance.So just give your parrot space and time to get used to your new look.


Do you know that cockatiels are able to release all their tail feathers simultaneously. They do this because as ground foragers if a predator attacks them from behind they can release their tails to get away. They do this out of adrenaline when they are terrified.

So when you have an untamed cockatiel don’t grab from behind on their tail feathers. Instead use a small tea towel that has a solid colour, light grey or white is best (not a glove this causes more fear) turn off the light so it’s dark, this temporarily stuns the bird and you can catch him quickly.

Make sure you don’t apply any pressure on its chest as this stops them breathing.



Start by spending as much time as you can next to your parrots cage, read a book, watch a movie, eat your meals etc. This allows your parrot to get used to your presence (do this in the first week while you not handling your bird) by the second week your bird will be used to your presence and you can start offering it treats through the cage bars. Millet is a hit with most parrots or plain unsalted / unbuttered popcorn.

Once your bird is eating the treat through the cage bars and happily taking it, you can then place the treat in the palm of your hand, hold it still within the cage. Don’t chase your bird around the cage to get it to eat. Whatever you do DON’T starve your bird to get it to eat the treat out your hand (yes sadly people have been known to do this). Simply have your hand still but reachable so your parrot can eat from your palm. This may take time to gain trust for them to do this but be patient. When the bird is eating out your hand quite happily you can then move onto the next step, which is teaching the step-up command within the cage.

Teaching the step-up command within the cage allows your parrot to only concentrate on you. With slow and deliberate movements use a FLAT palm facing down, have your thumb tucked under and place it with one flowing movement, just above the legs and give the command “step up.“ As soon as the bird steps onto your hand give it a treat and praise it (positive reinforcement). Don’t chase your parrot around the cage to step up. If he’s not wanting to or hisses , backs away or lunges at your hand slowly close the cage door and try again once he’s calmed down! The last thing you want is to cause the parrot to bite you by not respecting its warnings.Doing this can then start biting behaviour!

Make your sessions 5-10 mins only at a time this allows the parrot to calm down and refresh itself between taming sessions.You can only have your bird’s full concentration for this length of time. Once your bird has mastered the step up command, you can then take your fully flighted parrot out the cage to give it the freedom it has been longing for.

AUTHORS NOTE: Trust me there is no better feeling on earth than having bonded with your bird and it comes to you willingly! Not because it had no choice because it was clipped and couldnt get away from you.

A cockatiel

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