Parakeets, or budgies as they are also known, are often the choice as a first bird for new pet bird owners. These small, brightly colored, and active birds are easily bred in captivity and are readily available in many pet stores. They are relatively inexpensive to keep and are not as demanding of your time as the larger parrots are.
That being said, they are not simply birds meant to view like canaries or finches. You can interact with your parakeet and train it to a degree. They certainly may never rival an African Grey’s conversational ability or the complex tricks that can be taught to cockatoos and macaws. But you may be surprised as to what these birds can be taught to do with enough time and patience.
What Kind of Feats Can I Teach My Parakeet?
Parakeets can be trained to:
- Talk and mimic human speech
- Stop bad behaviors such as biting
- Become hand tamed
- Step up on your finger
- Perform some simple tricks
What Do I Need To Train My Parakeet?
In order to train a parakeet, you need to be willing to spend some quality alone time with the bird. You need to be patient and calm when near your parakeet. You will, of course, need a parakeet. According to Lisa Shea, you will have more success if your bird was hand-fed and weaned as it will be more trusting of humans in general.
Parakeets are very social birds, and in their native environment live in large flocks. When you are trying to tame and train your parakeet, your best chance of success is if you have a single bird. In this manner, they will bond with you and be inclined to mimic and seek your companionship. Your and your family become their flock.
Some initial adjustment to its new surroundings is necessary before you should attempt to begin training your new parakeet. Though you may want to let your bird fly freely at a later date, having your bird’s flight feathers clipped before you bring it home will make it easier to hand and finger train.
According to coopsandcages.com, you should put your bird in its cage in a quiet room so it can de-stress after its wing-clipping and introduction to your home. Visit the bird at least several times a day so it begins to recognize you, but leave it in its cage for a day or two before commencing training. Parakeets love millet, so have some ready for positive reinforcement and treats when you start to train.
How Do I Hand and Finger Train My Parakeet?
Now that you have your bird home and situated in its new environment, you need to build trust by simply sitting next to the cage and talking to your bird. Continue this practice for several days, always using a gentle and friendly voice when feeding and changing water dishes.
After a few days, your bird will begin to trust you and you can take the next step. Place your hand in the cage but do not attempt to touch the bird. Let your parakeet fully understand that your hand is not a threat.
The next step is to use a small wooden perch or dowel. Hold it inside the cage directly in front of the bird. Confidently say “Step Up”, and be sure to repeat this every time you try to get your parakeet to respond. The repetition will translate to your bird understanding the words as a command. Offer some millet to coax the budgie onto the perch. Below is a video that demonstrates the technique:
When they step-up, be sure to always offer a treat and praise them. You can move them to another perch in their cage and over time take them out of their cage while they are perched. Over time, hold an extended finger next to the perch and eventually your bird will step-up on your finger as well as the dowel.
How Do I Train My Parakeet to Talk?
This process also takes time and patience. The proper place and time for speaking lessons are important. You don’t want your bird to be tired or distracted by other activities in the home.
Once your parakeet is comfortable with you, you should start by using one word repeatedly. It can be used in a phrase but there should be a consistent word for your budgie to learn. You need to be listening at this point because your parakeet is likely to say its first words in a quick and low voice. As they learn, they may start to use these words on their own.
Progress to simple phrases and sentences. When you are not actually training your bird, engage it in normal conversation. As you move around just talk to it as if it could understand what you are saying, getting it more used to hearing human speech as part of its everyday life.
Parakeets like high-pitched sounds and music and it seems to be easier for women and children to teach them to talk for this reason. Not all parakeets will talk, though some can wind up with extensive vocabularies. Males are also more likely to be talkers than their female counterparts. Below is a video with some tips:
Training Your Parakeet To Stop Biting
The key here is understanding why your bird is biting. It may be out of fear, jealousy, tiredness or be a territorial reaction. Try to understand what is making your bird bite and eliminate those issues. Refrain from quickly pulling your hand away or yelling as your bird may decide this is fun and develop a bad biting habit. Speak quietly to your parakeet and gently tell it “no biting”. As mutual understanding develops, biting should dramatically decrease.
Considerations Regarding Training Parakeets
Parakeets consider silence to indicate the potential that predators are nearby. It is best to always speak softly to your birds and warn them that you will be reaching into their cage. Never yell at your birds, nor strike them. They will respond much more readily to affection and positive reinforcement. Parakeetplace.org also cautions against maintaining excessive eye contact as this can also be seen as a threatening behavior by your bird.
Parakeets that have been taught to mimic human speech when in a small group often revert to strictly speaking parakeet language when in a flock. If you have spent substantial time teaching your bird, you may be disappointed at this turn of events. A better way to look at it is that your bird is still part of your world while regaining some of it wild and instinctive behavior.