Handle, Pet, and Hold Your Bird the Safe and Proper Way

It's essential to handle your pet bird appropriately to keep them safe, prevent injuries, and make them feel comfortable.

Published May 12, 2023
Girl sitting on floor with bird.

Your pet bird is very lovable, but they can also be delicate. Learning how to hold your bird properly will reduce their risk of getting hurt and help facilitate the bond you share. Whether you're holding your bird to provide some out-of-cage time or you just want to see them, holding them correctly will make them feel safer. And it will make the experience better for both of you.

Steps to Handle a Bird Properly

Handling your bird properly is crucial to ensuring their safety and comfort, as well as building trust and facilitating a positive relationship. Follow these steps to handle your bird correctly:

  • Build trust: Spend time bonding with your bird before attempting to handle them. Talk to them softly, offer treats, and allow them to become familiar with your presence.
  • Create a calm environment: Make sure the room is quiet and free of distractions. This will help your bird focus and remain at ease during handling.
  • Support their feet: When handling your bird, ensure their feet are properly supported to help them feel secure.
  • Practice regularly: Consistent handling will help your bird become more comfortable with the process and strengthen the bond between you both.
  • Be patient: Remember that every bird is different, and some may take longer to become comfortable handling than others. Practice patience and understanding and always prioritize your bird's comfort and well-being.

Training Your Bird for Handling

Training your bird for handling can be a long process, but it's worthwhile to build a good bond with your feathered friends.

Teaching How to Step Up

Teaching your bird how to step up is an important skill that builds the bond you share. The step up command encourages your bird to step onto your finger willingly. To teach your bird this command, follow these steps:

  • Hold a treat in one hand and place your other hand in front of the treat.
  • Move slowly until the treat is in front of your bird.
  • Lure the bird onto your finger with the treat.
  • Once your bird follows the command, say "step up" and be consistent with this statement.
  • Provide the treat.Make sure not to tease your bird!

Keeping Your Bird Calm

It's essential to make sure your bird isn't startled while you're handling them. Especially if you're just starting out, building your bond together. To create a calm, soothing, environment for them:

  • Minimize distractions
  • Speak to your bird in a calm tone
  • Move slowly
  • Offer treats

When you're holding your bird, watch their body language to make sure they're comfortable. Go slowly, and avoid any rough handling. Birds are delicate creatures, and your pet will appreciate your consideration.

Quick Tip

Handling your bird should only happen inside, in a safe environment, especially if you aren't familiar. That means you should close all windows and pull the shades, turn off fans, and limit where your bird can go.

Petting Your Bird

Boy having fun with his agapornis pet

You want to be able to pet your bird when possible. But you shouldn't pet your bird until you know how to properly. You don't want to force your bird to allow you to pet them. Instead, it should flow naturally. How you approach your bird, and how you make them feel, is important to consider.

  • Comfort: Your bird should feel comfortable being around you before you reach the petting stage.
  • Monitor: Observe your bird's body language to see if they're ready.
  • Placement: Always pet the top of your bird's head; never pet beneath their neck.
  • Light Touch: Begin petting by lightly touching their beak.
  • Movement: Move to the side of their head and move toward the top.

What Not to Do

Even though it's a common sight, you shouldn't let your bird perch on your shoulder. Not only are you not able to monitor how your bird is feeling, you could lose your bird or get bit if they become irritated. The only time a bird should be on your shoulder is when you are very closely bonded.

Restraining Birds Properly

Restraining a bird properly is important for both your safety and your bird's. Whether you're taking them out for a veterinary examination or grooming, follow these steps to minimize stress and avoid injuring your bird, or yourself.

  • Approach calmly: Approach your bird calmly to prevent startling them. Speak softly and reassuringly to help your bird feel more comfortable.
  • Use appropriate restraint tools: Depending on the size and species of the bird, you may need to use a towel or cloth to safely restrain them. For smaller birds, a lightweight towel or cloth is often sufficient, while larger birds may require a heavier towel or a specialized bird net.
  • Towel method: If you're using a towel, gently drape it over the bird, covering their head and body. This can help them remain calm and prevent them from using their wings to escape. Carefully tuck the towel around their body, starting at their neck, being careful not to wrap the towel tightly or put pressure on their body.
  • Grasp the bird gently: Once the bird is covered, carefully and gently hold them by their neck and head if you're are restraining them. Do not put pressure on their body (it's OK if the towel is draped and gently wrapped around them). Swaddling your bird this way, by supporting their head and neck, is the safest towel restraint method.
  • Upright position: Always hold your bird in an upright position (unless you are swaddling them and supporting their neck correctly), making sure they can breathe well. Avoid holding them too firmly.
  • Minimize restraint: Regardless of what you're doing, it's important to minimize the amount of time your bird is restrained so they don't become overwhelmed.
  • Monitor your bird: Closely monitor the bird's condition, checking for signs of stress, injury, or difficulty breathing. If the bird appears distressed or in pain, release them immediately and request an expert to help.

Birds have air sacs in their body, in addition to their lungs, and putting any pressure on their bodies (above their hips), can cause problems with breathing. Do not put pressure on your bird's body if you are trying to restrain them. Consult with your exotic pet veterinarian for a demonstration and training on how to hold a bird properly.

Need to Know

You can suffocate your bird if you squeeze or hold them tightly. Birds do not breathe like we do, and any pressure on their bodies can prevent them from breathing normally.

Get Started

Now that you know what to do and what not to, it's time to get started. Begin the process of earning your bird's trust, teaching the Step Up command, and petting your bird. If you have any questions, reach out to an avian specialist and go from there.

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Handle, Pet, and Hold Your Bird the Safe and Proper Way