Taming and talking
Many people always associate taming and teaching birds to talk with parrots, but the same principle applies to other species. The best way to start is to buy the most suitable bird in the first place. If you are contemplating buying a parrot, for example, make sure that it has been hand-reared. The reasons for this become more obvious once you consider the problems that arise with a wild bird. When you buy a bird that has been collected from the wild, the chances are that it was snatched as a youngster or trapped as an adult bird. Either way, the bird would have suffered considerable stress and shock, and by the time it reaches its destination, the bird will naturally be frightened of humans and associate them with distress. Therefore, when you buy the bird, you will find that it dislikes humans, and this is certainly not the best way to start out. In fact, this bird will be very difficult, if not impossible, to tame. Dealing with a hand-reared parrot is a completely different situation, becausc as far as this bird is concerned, its parents are human beings. On average, it takes 14 weeks to hand-rear a parrot, and it is essential to start this process from a very young age. A parrot that has been hand-reared for 14 weeks until it is weaned should become very tame. If you can buy a parrot as young as this, you should find that it is tame from the moment you take it home. If you go to buy a bird and the owner or shop assistant tells you that the bird is hand-reared and tame, do not take their word for it. The best way of testing this is to put your hand in the cage. If the bird bites you, there is no way that it is tame. And remember, a bite from a parrot hurts a lot less than paying for one that cannot be tamed..
As with many aspects of successful birdkeeping, taming your bird requires a great deal of patience, do not expect results within a few days. Try starting off by offering the bird little titbits of its favourite food through the cage, but do not be alarmed if it initially backs away from your hand, because this behaviour is very common in wild birds. After a week or so, you should find that the bird will take the food from your fingers. After a few weeks, it should be safe for you to put your hand inside the cage without being bitten. Once you reach this stage, put both hands in the cage with the hand furthest away from the bird containing some of its favourite food. This situation coaxes the bird into stepping onto one hand to reach the food in the other. If you continue with this technique, slowly but surely your bird will become tame. To ensure that a parrot remains tame, handle it as often as possible. As your bird grows older, it may start to nip occasionally. Every time it does this, gently tap it on the beak and tell it off.
It is possible to train many species of bird to talk. The most obvious are members of the parrot family, but other talking birds include mynahs, jays and crows. If you are looking for a talking bird, it would be best to buy a parrot. If it is kept indoors, the best method of teaching your bird to talk is to put the cage near the telephone. The first words that your parrot will speak will be the words that it has heard most often. Therefore, it will soon learn how to say 'hello'. If you wish to progress onto longer, more complicated words, repeat them over and over again and, as before, be prepared to be extremely patient. Remember that a large parrot, such as a macaw, has the equivalent intelligence of a four-year old child, and you should treat it as such. At some time or other, you may hear a sudden screech from your bird's cage. Do not be alarmed, for there is nothing physically wrong with it, it is simply seeking attention. Once it has your attention, it will stop screaming. In fact, you can use the bird's urge to seek attention to help you teach it how to talk. After your bird has just learned to say 'hello', ignore it for a while, then as soon as you hear it say 'hello', go to it and talk to it and reward it with a piece of its favourite food. If you stay with the bird, it will stop talking because it has your attention. Then disappear around the corner, start repeating 'hello' and as soon as your bird says it, come back and reward it again. If you continue this routine, your bird will soon grasp the idea of it all. Every parrot species is capable of talking, but there is no guarantee of success - it all depends on the character of the individual bird and the dedication of the trainer.