Training Birds to Get Along

Did you know that you can train your birds to get along? Training birds to get along is not magic. It is a shaping process that reinforces calm, relaxed behavior when the birds are together. A mistake that people make is assuming the birds must be out of a cage for training to take place. A cage can be used as a training tool when birds have a history of biting a person or each other. Teaching birds to develop  a trusting relationship with each other is possible by doing the training when they are inside cages.

GETTING STARTED

Before you begin your main task of teaching the two birds to get along, your birds will need to know some tricks or trained behaviors that you can rely on them to do.  I recommend working with each bird alone.  Start in an area that is relatively free of distractions. Teach the birds to respond to you by doing two or three very simple tricks.  This works best with previously  trained behaviors, but if you are not able to get them to perform a behavior, getting them to focus on you can also work.

THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS – PART 1

Once you feel they are prepared to start the socialization training, place each bird in a cage. Move the two cages as close together as you can get them. You should not see any body language that indicates either bird is uncomfortable. If either bird looks excited or uncomfortable, move the cages further apart until both birds look totally calm.

When the birds are ready, ask one of the birds to do a trick, praise him and give him a treat. Then walk over to the other bird and hand the other bird a treat, too. Now, ask the second bird to do a trick, praise him, offer him a treat and walk back to the first bird and offer him another treat. Keep bouncing between the two birds, giving both birds treats when either bird does a trick.

If they don't want to do any tricks or are not responding well, just go from one bird to the other, offering treats to each bird.  Dispense tiny easy to eat treats between the two birds for about three minutes.

Then, pull the cages further apart. The birds should still be able to see and hear each other.

Work with just one bird and only offer him treats, the other bird gets nothing. Then walk over to the other bird and work with him while the first bird watches and receives no treats. The purpose of this training is for them to learn that good things happen to them when they are close together—they get treats.

Repeat the entire process at least three times, and try to train the birds at least once a day. Remember...when the cages are close together they both get treats; when cages are far apart then only the bird being trained gets treats.

As you work with them, watch very carefully, and when you see them moving towards the side of the cage closest to the other bird, you can then move the cages even closer together. Over time you should be able to have the cages almost touching. Then you can begin working with them outside the cages.

THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS – PART 2

If your birds are flighted they must be trained to target a spot away from the training area. It is important that this behavior is fluent and that you can depend on both birds to target the area every time they are asked. Maintain the target training and reinforce going to the target 100% of the time. Strengthen the training further by displaying temptations that they are not permitted to have at all. Strongly reinforce them for ignoring any kind of temptation. Note: They should never be handed the tempting items during training.

When you feel that they will respond appropriately each time they are asked to go to the target location and stay there, you can begin working with both birds outside of the cage. If they begin fighting, target to the spot they have been trained to go to, similar to boxers going to their own corners during a fight.
 
Work with both birds on separate gyms or perches, the same way you did when they were inside the cage. Once you have the perches close enough together so that the birds can step onto each other's perch, they will decide on their own to share the space.

Continue to monitor them carefully. If at any time you see signs of discomfort, pick up one of the birds or target them to their target location and take a break from training.

When they are relaxed enough in each other's company, they will begin touching each other and will slowly become friends.

Congratulations! You now have two birds that get along.