What are the "step up" and "step down" commands? What
are they good for?
"Step up" is for when the bird steps up onto someone's
finger, and "step down" for when the birds steps off someones finger.
These are simple, easy commands that serve first and foremost as a means
of communication between you and your bird. If you ask him to step
up, he knows what you're talking about and he knows what you expect of
him. This seems like a simple thing, but it can mean a lot.
For aggressive birds, a step up command properly carried through can let
the bird know that you're still in control of things. For shy or
nervous birds, the step up command can be something that they are familiar
with, something they are comfortable with, and something they know they
can do. Even for the most well-adjusted bird, the step up command
is just a good thing for both you and your bird. Dog owners will
appreciate this: you don't teach a dog to sit or stay just because you
want the dog to sit or stay. You teach them so you always have a
little control over the situation, and you teach them so that the dog has
a task he can perform successfully and happily.
Step up is taught simply by saying "step up" when
the bird steps up onto your finger. Always follow through with the
command - and don't say it unless you're sure the bird is going to step
up. You want step up to mean, "step up now," not, "step up if you
feel like it, now or later."
For what it's worth, the words "step up" and "step
down" are not set in stone. I use "up" and "down," and it could be
"banana" and "ice cream" for all the bird cares!
I've heard you shouldn't let your bird on your shoulder.
Most birds can safely be allowed to set on your
shoulder all you like. But aggressive or nippy birds should not be
allowed on shoulders. First, being higher up is a position of authority
for birds - they feel like they're equal to you if they're eye-level to
you. Second, you have very little control over a bird on your shoulder.
If he doesn't want to get off your shoulder, he can climb to your back
where you can't reach him. If he wants to bite your ear, he can and
you can't stop him. If your bird happily steps up from your shoulder
and is not aggressive or nippy, feel free to allow him to sit there.
But if you have consistent problems getting your bird off your shoulder
or if he has an aggression problem, it's best to keep him off your shoulders.
Why do green cheeks bite? How do I deal with
Let's start with a closer look at why and when green cheeks usually
First, it should be realized that all parrots like
to use their beaks. They touch and explore with them. They
also interact with other parrots with them. Conures can even be considered
especially "beaky" birds. It is normal for a parrot to want to grab
your finger with his beak - it's his way of greeting you. Particularly
with young conures, the problem comes when they just don't know how much
pressure is too much! Baby conures go through a phase around weaning
when they want to have their beaks all over everything, and this gets a
little painful sometimes! But it is quite normal, is not any indication
of possible future aggressive behavior, and will eventually pass.
I simply physically remove their beaks from my skin when they start to
apply too much pressure. There are people that don't allow their
babies to "beak" them at all, and this does effectively teach a young parrot
never to put his beak on a human, but it also teaches him not to preen
you gently or interact with you with his beak. This is normal parrot
interaction and can add a great deal to the parrot/human relationship.
Second, most green cheeks go through a nippy phase
when they hit their "terrible two's". This is typical of parrots,
but I will honestly say that green cheeks are a bit more prone to being
nippy during this phase than some other parrots. As the bird reaches
sexual maturity, he may start to nip, especially under certain circumstances.
What these are will depend on the bird: he may nip only when you reach
into his cage, or if he doesn't want to be picked up, or he may nip only
certain people. This phase is a little tricky because naturally it
should pass, but if the owners don't handle things correctly then you can
make it worse. The first thing to remember is to continue the rules
and guidelines you should have set down in the beginning. Use the
"step up" and "step down" commands, and when you say it, mean it - pick
him up even if he bites. This is a time when you may not want to
allow your parrot on your shoulder or above eye-level. If possible,
avoid situations in which your bird might bite. And when you do get
nipped, try to avoid retreating or yelling in pain - these are reactions
that the bird might be looking for! It is very important for you
to remain confident and upbeat while handling your bird. Owners that
become nervous or shy of their birds because they're afraid of being bit
are a lot more likely to be bitten!
It sometimes helps if you punish the bird for nipping,
but finding an effective punishment can be a tricky thing. Physical
punishment (hitting, banging on the cage etc.) should never be used.
It probably will not help the biting, and may result in bird which is terrified
of you. If a bird bites while on your hand, you can drop your hand
quickly, unsettling and startling the bird. This often works for
birds that are confident enough not to be frightened by this - just startled!
Another possibility is to quickly set the bird on the floor and walk away.
The floor is not a comfortable place for most birds, and this combined
with the sudden loss of companionship makes for a punishment that is sometimes
quite effective. Locking the bird in the cage can work with some
birds, but not with others who don't mind being alone - and for birds that
are nipping to try to get you to go away, this may be a reward! Yelling
is not usually an effective punishmen because, unlike dogs, they don't
necessarily recognize anger in your voice - and those excited noises may
just be another form of reward!
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