I purchased my first two budgies a little over two months ago. About two weeks ago, I began training them to "step-up," based on the ridiculous amount of reading/video watching I had done.
Tom and Jerry are in a fairly large cage (read: plenty of room to get away from me), and it has made it very difficult to train them. No matter how slowly I go, they always fly away from my hand.
After almost 2 weeks without success, I decided to try something different. Three days ago, I removed Tom from his cage and put him in a much smaller cage. After letting him acclimate for just a few minutes, I began "step up" training again. He took to it like a boss! After just a few hours, spread out over the last three days, he's nearly 100% consistent. I applied the same method with Jerry (smaller cage) and it worked as well.
Here's the problem: Outside of the little training cage, it's like my finger doesn't exist. They have no interest in stepping up. They typically fly away from my hand and act very afraid. The strange thing is, they aren't at all afraid of my hand when training in the smaller cage. They step up and sit there without any problems.
I'm new to budgies and budgie training (my horses and dogs were much easier), so I don't know what I don't know. Any advice would be appreciated!
One of the problems is that they're together most of the time
and when they're separated in a smaller cage, it's more unfamiliar
and much more scarey, no other bird, and this results in something more like the person who gets a new bird and discovers it steps up the first day...but it's not really trained/or bonded, it's terrified and requires more one on one time. Depending on their ages, two together may take much longer time to step up than one single.
Once individual birds develop a bond with you, they can then be together and at the very least step up. Two together can be trained together but it requires initial incentives with treats such as spray millet, and a lot more patience.
I think step up training is one of the final steps, only to be engaged in after a long and careful bonding process. It is much easier to train step-up (or any command!) when they know you are safe and are comfortable with you. So I would step back a bit-- start by just sitting close to the cage and talking. Continue doing this for long periods each day, until they stop fluttering away and seem comfortable. From there, slowly introduce talking with your hand in the cage-- and, as they get more comfortable with this, you can begin enticing them to come onto your hands with millet or another treat.
Your bonding process will be slowed down a bit since there are two-- their primary bond will likely always be with one another, and they don't need your company as much as a single bird would, but it is doable. I wouldn't begin step-up training until probably months down the line, when both birds have spent significant time on your hand on their own terms.
Also, as a general note, I don't think it is kind to the budgies to subject them to a small cage for training purposes. Even if they are easier to handle in cramped conditions, they deserve room to move and fly!
Last edited by FaeryBee; 09-28-2015 at 08:45 PM.
Reason: MERGED POSTS
Think about it as a balancing act. Your birds weigh up the relative values of two actions:
1) Stay here with my bestest best buddy.
2) Step onto the interesting, but still inferior, human hand and risk being taken away from my bestest buddy.
So while they are together, option 1 is always going to be the most attractive option. You're going to seriously have to make it worth their while in order for option 2 to be the choice.
Scenario 2, where you have them one on one in a smaller cage (size of the cage in this case is probably irrelevant to the behaviour, btw). The choices are different:
1) Stay here on the perch by myself
2) Step up for the more interesting human who is not as good as my bestest buddy, but in a pinch will do - and may even lead to my going back to my friend!
So you can see why option two is more attractive in a bird that is comfortable with a human. For a new bird, this looks different again:
1) Stay here on the perch where I am safe.
2) Step onto the paw of the BIG SCARY ANIMAL.
You have to really take baby steps to make option 2 less intimidating. Hand feeding is just the best process to get there.
Structured training, where familiar repeated patterns of behaviour play out (clicker training, luring etc.) is a great way to break down fear barriers at the bird's pace. I know many people who have "untamed" birds that will respond to known, familiar behaviour in their humans (particular excitement when fetching grasses from the yard, landing on hands or heads in excitement to get to treat foods etc.). Training a pair is harder, and generally you do have to work solo at first so that the bird focuses on you and what you're doing, but once you have the structures in place the familiarity of learned behaviour (eg. step up brings a reward) will kick in and help with getting the balance of the equation more in your favour.
Wiki has explained reason you are experiencing the reaction you are getting from your budgies very well!
To familiarize yourself with the forums, please take the time to read through all of the How To Guides, the FAQs and the stickies located at the top of each section of the forum.
You'll find most of your basic questions are answered after you've read through all of them.
I'm looking forward to hearing all about your budgies and hopefully seeing some pictures soon!!
Thanks everyone for all the helpful information. I feel like I have a better understanding of what's going on.
Since posting my original question, I've stopped using the smaller cage. Tom & Jerry love hanging out on top of their cage, so I use that as an incentive to get Tom to "step up" inside the big cage (Jerry is less receptive and I need to spend more time with him first).
Normally, Tom steps right up and then rides my finger to the top of the cage.
Welcome to talk budgies James. Handsome little fellows you have there, and it sound's like you will surely be able to make patient progress with them. Lots of good info in the training and bonding section, and don't hesitate to ask questions...
He came down from Heaven unto this earth below
He came down from glory and praises untold
He came down to man fashioned in their way
He came down to rescue, He came down to save