Training a parakeet, or "keet," can be a fun and rewarding pastime, but you should understand from the beginning that success depends a lot on an individual keet's personality and how well the bird was socialized as a youngster. These birds generally respond better to training if they have been hand fed, or at least handled regularly, so they are not afraid of people.
Gaining Trust Before Training a Parakeet
Pet parakeets can be a bit flighty, especially when they arrive at a new home. You'll need to give your pet a week or so to settle in, and then you can begin trying to hand tame them. Hand taming is a slow process that involves helping your pet feel comfortable being touched.
This is generally accomplished in several stages. There are numerous ways to go about taming, but experts recommend having your pet's wings professionally trimmed before you begin. This will limit his flying ability without completely eliminating it, and it makes the training process a little safer.
How to Tame a Parakeet
To begin hand taming:
- Spend time every day sitting near your bird's cage to help them get used to your presence. Do this for at least a week.
- After about a week, place your hand on their cage for about 10 minutes at a time, several times throughout the day, and talk to them softly in a soothing voice. This shows them that you're not going to harm them. Eventually, he'll stop flying to the opposite side of the cage and begin accepting your presence near them.
- Once your pet doesn't seem so nervous when you're near, you can begin putting your hand in their cage. Lay a piece of millet in your palm and simply remain still and give them time to get used to you being in his space. They'll eventually want the millet enough to approach. When they do, stay very still and let them relax and eat for a minute or two, and then gently return them to their perch.
- Once your parakeet is willing to come eat out of your hand, you can begin training them.
Teaching a Parakeet to Step Up and Off
Teaching your pet to step up is the first behavior you'll want to train them to do after you've worked on hand taming. If they are reasonably hand tamed, you can teach them to step up onto your finger, but you can substitute a wooden perch if he's not willing to be handled. To carry out this training, take your pet's cage into a small room where you can close the door and manage them more easily. Be sure to have a millet spray on hand to use as a reward.
How to Train a Bird to Step Up
- Let your pet have a few nibbles on the millet to remind them it's a tasty treat.
- Slowly and gently reach into their cage with your index finger extended.
- Press it gently against the lowest part of their abdomen as you simultaneously say "step up." Most birds step up as a reflex because they naturally want to perch on the highest point available.
- When your parakeet steps onto your finger, calmly offer them a nibble of millet and softly tell them how good they are.
- You can work in some quick repetitions by placing your other index finger in front of and slightly higher than the finger your pet is already perched on, and then ask them to step up again.
- Repeat this process a couple more times as long as your pet doesn't seem overly stressed. If he does, give them time to rest before you hold another training session. With practice, stepping up will become second nature to them.
Training Your Parakeet to Step Off
Teaching your keet to step off of your finger is a lot easier than teaching them to step up.
- Slowly return your parakeet to their perch.
- Place your hand close to the perch, but slightly lower than it, so your keet is inclined to step up onto it.
- As you do this, ask your bird to "step off," and reward them with a little more millet when they do.
Watch a Video Demonstration
This video on taming and teaching a parakeet to perch on your finger provides a good demonstration of basic training techniques. These techniques may vary slightly from one trainer to the next, but they all have a common basis, and you can use the ones that seem to work best for you.
Parakeet Training Tips
Plan to work with your parakeet once a day for about 10 minutes at a time. Your pet may not stay on your finger for more than a few seconds at first, but repeated training sessions will make them more comfortable being in contact with you, especially if he gets a millet reward. If he does fly off your finger, tempt them to step back on by using the millet to reinforce the fact that it's always a good thing to be close to you.
Training Your Parakeet to Come to You
Training your parakeet to come to you when called, also known as recall training, is one of the most important trainings of all, especially if you give your pet time out of his cage in a safe environment. This training builds on the step-up training.
- Using millet as a motivational treat, press your finger gently against your keet's lower body and ask them to "step up." Immediately reward them with a few nibbles on the millet spray, and return them to their perch with the "step off" command.
- Next, add a little distance between your finger and the perch; about four inches should be enough. Hold the millet spray close to your finger with your other hand, and this time ask your pet to "come" or "fly to me," as used in the video demonstration below. Gently repeat the word or phrase every few seconds until your pet hops the short distance to your hand, and then reward them with soft praise and a little more millet. Repeat the training at this short distance until your keet responds immediately when you tell them to come.
- Slowly increase the distance with each successful training session until your bird will come to you from anywhere within the room.
Watch a Video Demonstration
Once your parakeet learns the recall, you'll never have to chase them down again. Just be aware that no pet bird should ever be taken outside without being harnessed and monitored closely. This video offers a further look at recall training.
Parakeet Recall Training Tip
If you find this training stalls at some point along the way, go back to the farthest distance your pet will reliably come to you from, and reinforce his successes with praise and millet. You can then begin slowly increasing the distance using smaller increments than you did before to get the training back on track.
How to Train a Parakeet to Talk
This is one training that doesn't particularly rely on a parakeet being hand tamed since you don't have to handle your pet to teach it to talk. This type of training relies on frequent repetition.
- Move your parakeet's cage to a quiet room where he'll be able to hear you clearly.
- Choose a single word to begin with, such as hi or hello.
- Get close to your pet and repeat your chosen word for a few minutes, which will give them time to settle down and really focus on the sounds you make. You can tell they are concentrating if they cock one side of their head toward you and their pupils dilate a bit.
- Repeat the word slowly for a few minutes, and then return your bird to his cage and put the cage back in its usual spot.
- Tell your bird hi or hello every time you pass by his cage, interact with them, and change his food and water. If you're lucky, they'll eventually return your greeting.
- Once they master their first word, you can move on to the next word you'd like them to learn. Many parakeets will learn quicker with each new word or phrase.
Listen to a Talking Parakeet
Disco the parakeet is an incredible talker with far greater skills than most parakeets, but the following video will give you a better idea of this species' talking potential, as well as a bit of training inspiration.
Training Tips to Teach Your Parakeet to Talk
Parakeets have very small voices, so you may find it difficult to understand your pet at first. However, your ear will become trained to listen for them, and you'll eventually understand what he says as their speech becomes clearer. It's also best to stick with simple words of only one or two syllables in the beginning. If you always use these words in the proper context, chances are good that your bird will use them in context, too.
Patience Is the Key to a Trained Parakeet
It's important to understand that training a parakeet takes time, and there is no set amount of time it takes an individual bird to learn a particular behavior. Some keets learn to step up or come when called within a few sessions, while others may take weeks or months, and speaking is a highly individual talent that many parakeets never master. Whatever happens, remain patient with your pet, and accept them for who he is. Remember that he has no control over his living circumstances, and he relies on you for his health and happiness.