After bringing your new pet home, let it settle for around 3 days before handling it (unless the bird you acquired is a tame one to begin with). If you’re too excited, let it settle for a few hours before handling; at the very least, introduce the bird to its room first before starting any session.
Place the bird in a room where it will be alone without any bird companion. This also serves another purpose: Quarantine. If there is another bird, the other bird preferably should be of a different breed and placed far apart from the bird to be tamed. You and you alone should feed and handle the bird. You want the bird to bond with you, not with another bird or person.
Choose a small room where the bird cannot fly around too much and hide. I use the comfort room (CR) for the initial taming sessions. Close the toilet bowl because the bird may land on and swim in the microbe-enriched water. It’s not fun to disinfect and live through the foul smell. Close all doors and windows.
Retrieve the bird from the cage and let it fly. I do not let the bird come out voluntarily. The bird may never come out.
When the bird gets tired of flying, try to pick it up with your finger by sliding a finger from its chest down the legs. This will encourage the bird to perch on the finger.
The bird should be facing you, so it will learn to recognize you. Talk to it in a soothing voice. Sing to it. Facial and voice recognition helps in the long run.
The session preferably should not last for more than 30 minutes. I usually start with 10-minute sessions for the first week. (I did try taming a colasisi by having a 1-hour session, more or less, for its first interaction with me. It became very, very tame the next day such that it would not mind others handling him. It was very wild on purchase. Very unusual and endearing bird.)
Once the bird begins to perch on its own upon presentation of your finger, begin having sessions outside the CR. The bird should now have sessions where you’re staying whatever you’re doing, e.g. watching TV, eating, reading, etc. I occasionally let them fly around the CR while I’m taking a bath.
Daily sessions are preferred, but non-daily sessions with regular intervals of a day or two are acceptable.
Those are the basic steps I use for any bird species of small to medium size (finch, flowerpecker to conure size). I learned the basics from Helen White, a long-time diamond dove breeder and fancier. Check out her taming page here: [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
The first bird I ever tamed is a very wild diamond dove.
Clipping a bird also helps because it will be easier to let it perch on a finger, but I prefer to tame first before clipping. I was against clipping until the Holy Week of 2010. Check the Net for clipping instructions.
Food treats also help, although I haven’t used treats in taming so far. I plan to… soon.
While taming may be considered a form of training, I consider myself as nothing more than a tamer; that is, I’m a tamer, not a trainer. Once the bird becomes tame, I don’t train it to do other things. I do discourage play-biting by saying “No!” and/or putting the bird back to its cage when it gets nippy.
Taming usually takes weeks and months. I had the privilege of acquiring a colasisi that became tame in just one session, and I hope to encounter such a phenomenal bird again someday.
Notable things which are true in my experience but may not be true consistently:
The wilder the bird, the easier to tame.
A bird without any sign of feather plucking, especially head plucking, is easier to tame. Birds with plucked head feathers are more psychologically traumatized, and this ordeal renders the birds more resistant to taming.
If possible, place a hand inside the cage to choose a pet bird. The easier-to-tame ones will not readily bite if held. A bird that sits still on the wood perch without minding your hand may bite viciously if held, while a bird that flies frantically at the sight of your hand may not attack at all once firmly held (but may still try its best to get away). I’ll go for the frantic flyer anytime.
Again, these may not be true all the time.
Thank you so much.
Trev Baytan, M.D.
Philippine Exotic Pets