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Taming a flock-bonded baby?

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Hi, first post here! I've been lurking for a few months now though, loving all the great advice on here. As a newbie budgie owner you've all been a great help to me!

I've had my budgie (Zelda) for about 4 months now. It's been an interesting 4 months to say the least! A bit of "one step forward, two steps back" going on. I'd like to hear your thoughts on my situation just to gauge how I'm doing and what my next steps in bonding should be.

Prepare yourself for a wall of text! I've summarized my questions at the bottom.

First of all, I'm not sure how old she is exactly. The person I bought her from said 4 months, which would make her 8 months old now. But everything I'm reading says that they should look like adult birds at 6 months, and she's still got black eyes, a blueish white cere, and some barring on the head. She also went through a moult in September, which I think was a baby moult because the barring on her head has faded a bit.

Here she is! This picture was taken just after bringing her home.
I'm fairly sure she's female, but if not please correct me!

Secondly, I'm not sure where she falls on the tameness spectrum, on a scale of "pet store skittish" to "hand-fed and happy". I got her from a private individual that raises budgies, and from our online correspondence I thought she sounded like a great bird mom with hand-fed babies. Upon meeting her, not so much. She had a large flock (10+ birds) free-flying in a small apartment, and direct human interaction with the birds seemed to consist mainly of grabbing them and forcefully cuddling with them. So I'm guessing that taming a flock-bonded bird will take longer than a hand-fed baby would?

Finally, there was a rather large step back after the first month and a half. At first I thought she was settling in great, and she seemed to have no problems getting comfortable with me and bonding. Well it turns out the original owner was wrong when she said Zelda ate pellets just fine, and the poor thing was practically starving without me knowing it! So she was only friendly and comfortable out of desperation. Once I got her food figured out, her behaviour did a 180 back to shy and skittish. Getting her food figured out consisted of a trip to the vet, and I also had buy a new cage because the original one had too large bar spacing. These two events were followed closely by a (possibly stress-induced) moult that left her moody and quiet for over a month.

BUT over the last few weeks I've seen some positive progress in her behaviour!
  • She seems to be less skittish when I'm doing things in and around her cage, like changing out food and water or just walking by.
  • When I'm hanging out in the evening she'll move around her cage, play with her toys a bit, and look at me/the TV, whereas before she always stuck to her one "safe" corner.
  • When I let her outside the cage she usually sticks to one perch, but lately it seems like she might be doing quick flybys to check me out as I sit on the couch.
  • I've been doing some "place hand in the cage" sessions, and I can sometimes get her to eat millet held in my hand. She will sometimes step up onto a perch, but is pretty hesitant about it so I'm not trying to push it too much at this point.

To summarize:
  1. I think she might be younger than I first thought. How old would you say she might be, and what sort of behavioural changes should I look out for as she grows and matures?
  2. Has anyone else had an experience with "wild" flock-bonded babies? How do they compare to hand-fed or pet store babies?
  3. After all the ups and downs of the last few months, should I treat the end of the moult as a new square one? Or is this back-and-forthing pretty normal with a young bird? How does her progress over the last few weeks look in terms of bonding?

That's it for now. Thanks in advance!
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Welcome to talk budgies...:)

I cant see the picture right now so I can't comment on gender except to say your description sounds female. If she just molted in September and still has some baby bars then she is probably around 6 month's old.

The problem you have with your bird being flock bonded is very common, and most people who haven't bought from a hand reared breeding operation go through it. Check out our taming/training/bonding sticky's and start from square one with her. There is no reason to think you can't develop a great bond with her, and we have all the info here you need to help you do just that...:)

And to add...yes, you will have up's and downs during the taming/bonding period, that can even happen with hand reared bird's at times...:)
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Kaeleira, you seem to be doing a great job with little Zelda.
The picture isn't ideal for making an accurate guess at her gender. It does look like a female but a forward facing picture in natural light might help a little more. :)
She seems like a curious little lady bird and I'm sure she'll develop a great bond with you over time. :)
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Thank you Jonah and Therm! I'm very glad to hear that my experience with Zelda is not an unusual one, and that we're on the right track.

I'm not too concerned about what Zelda's gender is, but if I happen to get a good face-on picture in the future I'll be sure to post it!
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Kaeleira, firstly welcome to TB.
You do have a pretty budgie there, for sexing and age a full frontal picture without flash is the best.
Sadly many budgies come from less than ideal situations.
Your sweet budgie is very lucky to have found such a caring an inspiring owner. The training and bonding process is different with each and every bird, hens can be more stand offish sometimes, but many here have excellent hens as companions.
The main key is patience, it sounds like you have been doing wonderfully, here are some links that might offer some information .
Hi Kaeleira and welcome to Talk Budgies! :wave:

Zelda is without a doubt a precious little girl :)

She is a beautiful budgie and it sounds like you have made some good progress. All the signs you're observing is proof she's getting to trust you better. To me, she appears to be 5-6 months old, and over the next year, as she goes through her "teenage" phase, she may be more moody, but just be patient and she will come around soon.

I hope to see you around the forums and if you need any other questions answered, please be sure to ask as we're always here to help! :welcome:
I think as time goes on, your relationship with this bird will get better. It really is not bad right now. Yes, some birds are real friendly, but many are not that chummy. She relies on you for food and care, just gently go about your duties with the bird, will trust you more and more if calm with her.
Persistence and Patience - with yourself and the bird - are the keys. Well done for getting all the things sorted that you have so far! That's excellent, and your progress seems normal to me. You're focused on bird-driven training experiences, rather than force and reconcile, and this does take a bit longer to get it to work.

I can't post without encouraging you towards clicker training ;-) Structured training gives you a framework for progression, and smart birds like budgies really can thrive on being shown the rules of the game and how to play.
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