You said my bird needs to take treats in the class. My bird isn’t food motivated! How can I still come and participate?
Great question. When we are in class, yes you will need something that your bird is willing to work for. This is known as a “reinforcer”. Food is generally the best to start with as it is easy to give in tiny little pieces, and all birds eat something. There are other things that your bird may work for, opportunity to chew a desired toy, or access to a desired person, or even head rubs can be an effective reinforcer instead of treats. All are available options to use during your class time.
If you are looking at a bird who doesn’t like much of anything, then now’s the time to look a bit deeper. Sit with a note pad and write down everything your bird does when he is most active. What is he doing? Playing? With what? Preening? Singing? Eating? What’s that cute little bird up to. Write it all down for 10 minutes.
Next take out his food bowl and scatter a bit of the food on a piece of paper. What’s being eaten? Only the yellow pellets? Only the safflower seeds? Only the millet or oats? Only the grapes? Take a close look at the top 5 things in your birds food bowl, and which one disappears first. Add this to your notes.
Once you have a list of 5 things your bird does and 5 things your bird eats, you can start testing. When testing reinforcers, you become the scientist. Place the treats or toys on a neutral surface or in a common bowl (that isn’t already a food bowl). Let your bird explore on its own, what is the first item to disappear? WRITE IT DOWN.
Also keep your note book handy for the rest of the week. If you notice your bird leeeeeeeaning over to steal your spaghetti at dinner time, maybe spaghetti could be used as a reinforcer. Write it in the book. Anything your bird is willing to work for is fair game. Even things that are “NO-NOs” can be modified for bird training. Bird wants to dive in your coffee? Try warm water in a mug. Bird wants your gummy bears? Try an organic fruit leather cut into teeny pieces. Bird loves peanuts? Try organic almond butter licked off a spoon. There’s always SOMETHING your bird likes.
And lastly, what about their regular food? Isn’t that something they like? Would it work as a “training treat”? Sometimes seeds are really the best reinforcers. If your bird loves the sunflowers or safflowers in his regular seed mix, try removing them and saving them for training time. He still gets all his food, just works for a portion of it. (Never starve your bird to make him work!)
If you are still struggling to find something reinforcing to your bird, drop me a line. I love brain storming. I’m sure we can find something that is motivating to your bird so you can join in on all this TRAINING FUN!!