I've decided to document training my budgie Magnus, he's definitely a unique case!
Background: He came to us as a stray. Yes, a stray bird. (More likely an escapee). He landed on my mother's head when she was outside! I went outside to see and little Magnus immediately hopped over onto my head as well. We brought him some oats, fruits, veggies, and water. After asking around and nobody knew who he belonged to, my mother went to buy a cage while I watched the little guy. He ate for two hours straight, the poor bird was starving! He ended up falling asleep perched on my finger until we got his cage set up.
(It's been a month, so I'll only mark things as they changed, don't want to be monotonous).
Jul 19: First two days he perched on mine and my family member's heads, he stepped up willingly on any offered finger. Looking back, maybe he just saw us as the safest things since he hadn't settled in his cage?
Jul 20: Didn't want to come out, very quiet.
July 22: Jumped on my hand, out of the blue he bit me quite hard. He'd nibbled before, but this broke skin. I have since become scared of being bitten (I need to get over it, I know.)
July 24: Readily jumps into palm for millet, goes as far as letting me walk around with him while he munches on it. But if no treat, not interested in me.
July 25: Tried to get him to step up, accidentally jerked away from him when he was actually going to because I was anticipating getting bitten. I gave him some more millet and ended the session because I started crying, I was very sad that I had betrayed his trust.
July 26: Doesn't come out of cage much, only for millet. Isn't scared of me or my hand in the slightest, but is still uninterested if I don't have a treat.
Aug 17: Moving into my new apartment for sophmore year of college . Magnus was fine with traveling, but a few speed bumps near the end left him traumatized. Very stressed.
Aug 18: Settled down, only offer millet in cage so I don't scare him.
After he settled in, I've begun training him. He's taking to touch training quite quickly, flying all around his cage to bite the little stick I have. He steps up on perches, and steps up on my middle finger when I hold millet between thumb and index. I want him to enjoy being out of his cage, and I finally have coaxed him to play with the makeshift gym that's on the table his cage is on. When I move it a bit further, he won't.
Still he is uninterested in my if I don't have treats, and I'm becoming discouraged. I still haven't got him to step up on my finger. For some reason, he does on perches willingly without having to push on his belly, but when I offer finger in similar fashion he won't budge. I have yet to push on him with my finger, however. I really need to get over being bitten.
Any tips for me guys? Will he ever enjoy playing outside of his cage and being with me? He's not scared of me, but I feel like he thinks I'm only good for food. I want to be his companion, not just his treat lady. Also I want him to perch on my hand willingly. I'll keep trying, though.
It takes a lot of time and patience when working to tame and bond with a budgie. The process is all about helping the budgie learn to trust you.
Some budgies enjoy being "companion" birds to their owner while other budgies prefer to simply play on their own.
Over time, you will learn to read Magnus' body language which will help in your interactions with him. It is important to go at his pace and have fun with the process. Trying to rush it or expecting him to conform to how you want him to act only leads to frustration and discouragement. Accept him and love him just as he is and the enjoyment he will bring you will be more than you ever expect even if he chooses not to be the type of companion you are hoping for.
8/23 HE'S STEPPING UP! I'm so overjoyed. I think something that helped him become more responsive to me was reading to him. He was very interested and came onto his cage door to sit and listen. I talk to him of course, but just reading softly and constantly got him really interested and he chirped along! I started off with difficulty, he is clicker-trained, and I started off with having him touch the chopstick around the cage. Then I started him stepping up on a perch. He kept biting the end of it first, which was cute because he thought we were still playing touch training, I just had to get him to understand that under feet and saying step-up = getting onto perch. We did that a couple times, and I switched two a different type of perch. He took to it so quickly he started hopping on before I gave the command! At first, he only stepped onto my hand when offering millet. I was getting frustrated, so I decided to stop.
Later on in the day, I went through the process again. Touch-training, perch #1, perch #2, hand + millet. All good. I think at this point I had gotten across the fact that "step-up" = get on something. As soon as he connected the action with the word, he stepped up on my hand eagerly! Which was of course met with loads of millet and praise after. It really was just about learning to communicate with him what I wanted. By the end of the day, he was eagerly hopping up.
Next step is to get him to like being on my hand for the sake of being near me, not just for food. I want him to be comfortable with being on my hand while not directly beside his cage, and also try to get him to be happy playing outside of his cage so he can get the exercise he needs. (The cage isn't as big as I'd like.) I also want to work on recall training. It's also worth noting that his cage is open most of the day, so he can come out if he wants. Still, this step has given me, and Magnus, a much needed trust and confidence boost!
8/25 I decided to get him out of his cage today. He was stepping up reliably, so I took him out of his cage and shut the door. I had set up a play area for him, including lots of treats by it. However, once he jumped off my hand (because for him step-up means, step-up, get treat, jump back to perch) he panicked when he couldn't get back into his cage. So he flew around the room, and ended up hitting my mirror. He was able to fly back to me safely, and perched on my hand. I held him against my chest and talked calmly to him (while apologizing profusely) and giving him plenty of millet as way of apology. I opened his cage and he hopped back in. He seems fine, he wasn't stunned but his little feet were very warm. I googled it, and it was because his heart rate increased because he was so panicked . Lesson learned. BUDGIE PROOF ROOM. I didn't think the mirror would be an issue, but I was very wrong. Any advice? Should I try taking him into another room? (after I let him recuperate for a few days, of course). I've had mixed advice on the subject.
Hi. I just read this. I wouldn't force him out of his cage. I like to put a perch right inside the door and a rope perch (just because it's easy to use) right outside the door. That makes it easier for Budgie to get in and out. It will take time. You can put some fun and yummy things outside the door to help him decide to come out. You could also use target training to get him at least as far as the perch inside the door. I definitely would not close the cage door--as you saw, it scared him at this point.
9/5 Finally a new development! He will hang out outside his cage, but only in the immediate area around it. He won't fly to his play area, but if I bring him there and give him millet he may stay and look around before flying back. The real development, however, is that he came onto his cage door (it was opened, so it was horizontal to ground) and he looked around as if he wanted me to come over. (For millet, I assume, but then again--I may not be giving him enough credit.) I put my hand up and he immediately came closer to investigate, which actually caused me to pull back. I thought that maybe he thought I had millet, and I didn't want him to get mad if I didn't. So I got some and he immediately stepped up. I sat down in the chair next to his cage as he ate, and I started playing an app on my phone while talking to him affectionately. I then took away the millet and continued playing and talking. He stayed on my hand listening and watching for about two minutes! I know that doesn't sound like much of an achievement, but to me it was! This is a bird that hasn't stayed willingly on my hand unless he's actively eating, or I take him to his favorite toy that I relocated outside his cage. (He was getting a little too bonded too it, since it was a swing with a bell and he could see his reflection and began regurgitating to it). It was nice that for once he liked being with me, if only for two minutes.
9/14 Not really any new changes, but I do need to work on stepping-up some more. He needs proof-of-millet still, he's a smart and stubborn little one. I don't press on his stomach, I just offer my hand and let him hop on if he wants. Should I gently press in the future? I'm unsure if that'll make it more consistent, or he'll just despise me for forcing his wing (sorry I had to : ). My new bonding method is to clip a small bit of millet to my shirt while I'm reading or something so that he'll fly to my shoulder to snack. It's messy, but at least he comes to me! I want him to get used to flying to me and I hope to get to a point where he'll fly to my shoulder whenever he wants my company! When stepping up he doesn't fly off immediately, but when he realizes he's not getting more millet he leaves. I think I need to be more consistent with his schedule overall.
9/20 Yay!!!!!!!!! Today not only did Magnus step-up, but he stayed on my hand. Of course, I did give him millet as a reward, but once I took it away he stayed on my hand. I brought him up close to my face and talked to him really excitedly, making different noises. He sat really intently until I whistled, and he apparently didn't like that so he left. But he stepped right back up with some coaxing and stayed on my hand for another three minutes or so. Altogether he stayed for like six minutes, and he seemed really interested in my face and the noises I was making. Doesn't sound like a big accomplishment, but the only other time he'd stayed was for about a minute while I was playing an app on my phone and he liked the colors. This is the first time he'd been genuinely interested in ME and not the millet or toy I was holding. This gives me hope that we'll move from hand-tame to us having an actual bond. <3