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Starting Your Bird Off Right: The Behavior Basics
Like human children, bird behavior begins when the parrot is young. Rules and impressions that you establish in the first year or two can set the bird up for behaviors (good or bad) later in life. Like children, it is important to set rules early because habits become harder to break later in life. Young parrots are impressionable and open to suggestion - it is important to use this youthfulness wisely.

Too Much Love: We cannot feel too much love but perhaps we can give too much love to a bird. Often, when this happens to a human child, they end up being what is called "spoiled rotten." Usually, the parents don't mean for this to happen, but they have failed to understand the importance of setting boundaries for the child. The same is true for a baby bird. A baby bird who is coddled for hours and hours everyday, fed only the most tasty food (seeds) and basically allowed to do whatever his little heart desires may have problems later on. When the owner no longer has time to hold him for 5 hours at a time, or wants to feed him healthier food or wants him to go into his cage at a given time, the parrot may react with anger or even violence! If you know that you will only have one hour a day for one on one time with your bird - don't make hours of extra time early on if you cannot keep it up. Establish good eating habits and proper cage habits when the bird is young so you do not have a struggle later on.
Many owners are of the mistaken impression that baby birds need to be coddled to help them "adjust." The truth is, in the wild baby birds have rules set by their parents, and these rules help the birds learn how to be "good parrots." In a home, the parrot has some instincts on how to be a good bird, but no instincts on how to be a good human companion. It is important for an owner to (gently and lovingly) teach a parrot trust, love and rules when they are young. If not, serious behavior problems could result. It is also important to remember that in a parrot-parrot relationship, dominance plays an important role. Of 2 parrots, one will always be "top bird," and that bird will set the rules. If a pet parrot is allowed to set the rules when young, he will see himself as the dominant bird in the human-pet dynamic. If this happens, the parrot may choose to reassert his dominance (ie, bite) if asked to do something he doesn't want to do. It is very important to remember, however, that dominance must never be asserted by violent methods. Parrots don't understand punishment; it only creates fear. Here are a few tools to guide the bird early on (actually, they are good for any age bird):

"Step Up": This is a very simple command to teach a bird. The idea behind commands is to give an owner easy control and "dominance" over their bird. Basically, you ask the bird to do something, and she does it! You give the command, she follows the command. For lack of a better word, this is dominance! Training for this should begin when the bird is learning to step up onto your hand or a stick. If the bird is already finger trained (or a clumsy baby who is just learning to balance) simply say "up" as you present your finger and press up against the chest, if necessary. Say this every time the bird steps onto your hand. If the bird is not finger trained and you are using a stick or dowel, use the command when she gets on the stick. Eventually, you can replace the dowel with your finger. You can also teach your bird "off" when she gets off the hand. Feel free to use whatever word or phrase you'd like such as "step up," "hand" etc. When your bird follows the command, be sure to praise her by saying "good bird" or the like in a sweet, excited voice.

"No": Like other pets and children, the word "no" is key to owning a parrot. Early on, teach your bird a no-type word to associate with stopping an action. The necessity of this will probably first rear its head when your bird is in the "teething" stage. Of course birds do not have teeth, but they do go through a stage where they mouth play (usually with their owners) and they test how far you will let them go with biting, and how far it can get them. If they bite too hard say "no" in a stern, abrupt, firm voice and glare at them straight in the eye (some people choose to use the word "ouch" for this specific training exercise). Because you stop the playing and use a shocking voice, the bird will learn to associate "no" with the play session being taken away. In addition, the stern, loud voice is often shocking enough to get the bird to stop its activities. Teaching your parrot "no" will be important if he ever gets ahold of a dangerous object in play, or attempts to get himself into a dangerous situation when out of the cage.

Noise: We value parrots for their ability to talk, but we don't like too much noise. Early on birds will try to practice with their voice. and see what responses they get from their "flock." If the noise they try is loud and undesirable, try not to react. If the noise is happy and enjoyable (ie talking) then talk back in a cheerful, excited tone. Remember, all birds will make "bad" noises sometime - they just like to let everyone know they're alive!

The Shoulder Perch: The old image of a pirate with a bird riding on his shoulder inspires many a bird owner to tote their bird around that way. However it is little wonder that this same pirate often only has one eye! Birds on a shoulder perch are riding above the owner's eye-level. That is a very dominant position for parrots. They feel superior and may not respond when you ask them to do something. For instance a shouldered parrot may choose not to get of the shoulder when requested. If the issue is pursued, the bird may try to bite! Also, if the bird sees something he doesn't like, he may bite the owner as well to say "hey, get me out of here!" It is a better choice to let the bird ride on your arm and to teach him not to climb automatically onto the shoulder. This, by the way, is also considered a "safe place" for many birds, who seek the highest perch in uncertain situations. This height rule also applies to perches and cages tops - so beware! Only a bird who has a long history of following an owners requests, consistently "steps up" and rarely challenges the owner may be allowed on the shoulder.