Birds have favourites.
Birds have likes and dislikes.
Make a list of the top 10 things your bird would jump over the moon to get. Here’s a list of Quentin the African Grey’s top ten foods (not all of them are acceptable. We will talk about that after)
- Chicken bones
- Sweet Potato
- Corn chips
- Mashed Potato
These are things that Quentin will wake up, run over and BEG to have a piece. With things that are not acceptable, like coffee, we give him a bird approved substitute. Quin gets his own mug with warm water (plain). Sometimes I’ll flavour the water with pear or pumpkin. It’s not quite coffee, but it’s an accepted healthy alternative. And chicken bones are altogether bad, so a chew toy will have to suffice. Sorry Quin!
Now that you have your list of top 10 foods, can you think of 5 more things that ARENT food? Toys? Places? People? Activities? Here’s Quin’s:
- Being in the bathroom
- Getting a shower
- looking out the bay window
- sitting on your knee while you’re on the computer
- Headrubs at bedtime
Each one of these items can be used to reinforce behaviour. It doesn’t always have to be food!
Once you have your list of things that your bird finds awesome, go over the list to see if there’s anything you can use in a training session. What can be broken into small pieces? What can be given again and again? From my lists something useful for a training session could be:
- small pieces of cashew
- licks of peanutbutter off a spoon
- sips of ‘bird coffee’ from a small mug
Things that would be difficult to give repeatedly, or give in small portions, could be “being in the bathroom”. So we will reserve that reinforcer for another time. Still very useful, and it will be handy later.
Now that you have a few things that could be easy to give your bird for training, test them out. Set up the spoon with peanutbutter. Will that work as a reinforcer? Would having a small mug of water be too easy to spill? Will your bird gulp down too big of a ‘portion’ in one offering? Test them all out to see if one works better than another. I like to use small pieces of cashew, they are easy to give, easy to hold, and Quin goes CRAZY for a cashew!
Let me know what your birds favourite reinforcers are!