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I've lived with Peachfront Conures Aratinga aurea for 30 years. I've bred 'em, trained 'em, even visited Bolivia to observe them in the wild. For more about me, click right here.

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1:08 a.m. 2012-07-09

step up lesson basics

All of my birds have been either imports or I have allowed them to be parent-raised, so I have no experience at taming baby Peachfronts that have been hand-fed by humans. I would have to assume that it's a lot easier; for example, you might be able to skip the step on trimming the wings because the baby will already come to you instead of trying to fly away. But, for me, I followed these rules:

  • Bird-proof a really small room so that it is completely safe for a frightened bird, in case it skitters away somehow. It can be a shower stall, a well-lighted closet, or a laundry room. It just has to be clean, safe, and relatively bare so that there is no place a bird could hide or hurt itself.

  • Trim the bird's wings. Yes, even if you plan to teach it to free-fly to you later, as I did with Arthur. To start with, you want to make it easier to have some success, to encourage both you and your pet. You don't want your bird to be able to fly away and frustrate both of you.

  • Teach the bird to accept sunflower seeds from your hand. Say "Good bird" each time your pet accepts and eats a seed. This might be all you should do for the first lesson.

  • Once the bird is reliably taking and cracking the seed, so that it associates the seed with the phrase "Good bird," it's time to bring in the hand-held perch.

  • Bring the perch to a certain level on the bird's chest. Not too high, not too low. You'll find out from experiment. At first, you may have to bribe the bird with sunflower seeds and "Good bird" praise to convince it to even tolerate having the perch.

  • Birds are by nature compelled to express social dominance by stepping up. At some point, when you place the perch in position, the bird will realize that you have given it the golden opportunity to step a little higher. It won't be able to resist. It will step up. As the bird steps, say, "Step up." When the bird completes the action, give a sunflower seed and say, "Good bird." It's a little clunky to describe it in words, but you start practicing this action, until the bird can and will step up on the perch every time you place it at the right height.

  • You can also teach a Peachfronted Conure to "step up" onto your hand or arm, and if the bird is going to be a solo pet, I strongly recommend that you do so.

  • What happens when your bird learns to step up on command, every single time? Well...With a pet bird, you're pretty much all set, because you'll be practicing "step up" without even thinking about it every single day that you take the bird out to play. But if the bird is an aviary bird, it's easy to let time get away from you. Unfortunately, if you forget to reinforce the "step up" lesson, the bird forgets after awhile too. You will have to practice again, if several months or --erp! -- years have passed of the bird playing with its buddy in the aviary without you remembering to rehearse the step up command. It does come back to them though.

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