Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Another Steve Update

Something has been in the works for a few weeks that I now feel comfortable to announce: Steve has a home! (And it's not mine!) Due to logistical concerns, he'll stay at our house for a few more months; it's looking like he'll head to his permanent home in November. I am just so excited for Steve, as I could not have wished for a better home for him. I'll post more details in the future.
Yesterday, I finally started clicker training Steve. He is such a fast learner!

With clicker training, the first thing you have to do is "charge the clicker" -- click and then give the bird a treat as soon as possible so that the bird makes the association that click = treat. Steve had caught on by the third charge; I could see his eyes pin and he made a slight forward movement at the sound of the click.

Since I had 15 tiny pieces of cashew ready as treats (Steve's favorite food, or possibly just a close second to pistachios), the fact that he picked up on the main idea behind training (i.e. click = treat) so quickly meant that we could move on to the next step: targeting.

I use a straw as the target, and when I first put the straw in front of him, he seemed slightly scared and moved back. I moved the straw back a few inches until he was comfortable again. Click/treat! On the second attempt, he was no longer afraid of the straw and beaked the target. Click/treat! This continued until I ran out of nuts.

This morning, we picked up where we left off, with Steve stretching to the left, right, up, and down to beak the target. I am amazed at his fast progress. This guy is just so smart and his new family is going to have so much fun uncovering his personality!

Right now, I'm planning on two sessions a day -- in the morning before I hide his pellets and in the afternoon when I get home from work. At these times, Steve should be hungry and ready to work for food. Of course I will watch him and not train so frequently if he's not into it, but based on his reactions, and those of my other parrots, he'll love it!

I'm hoping that, with clicker training, I can have him nicely stepping up for his new owner by November. In any case, his new family is very excited to continue training him, and understands that he may take a long time to completely come out of his shell and want to come out of his cage.


Anonymous said...

I would love to do this with my parrot, Stormy, but if I were to give her a cashew or almond every time she followed directions, I wouldn't get to far because it takes her forever to eat just one (about 10 minutes of nibbling). Do you brake up the nuts into pieces or give him a whole one? If you give him a whole one, don't you find sitting there waiting for him to eat it a bit time consuming?

Mary said...

Hi Breanne,

I will take pictures tonight and post tomorrow.

I break them up into tiny pieces. I had a medium-sized cashew, and each half of the cashew I cut into at least 6-8 pieces so he ate them quickly! The 15 pieces I used were from less than one cashew.

With my other greys, they are willing to work for safflower seeds (which are tiny) so I use those.

You definitely want to use something small because, as you say, it takes them a long time to eat something big, plus they end up getting full so you don't get much training in!

I will post more tomorrow after I take pictures!

Tony Wildish said...

I'm so happy you've found a good home for Steve. I was sure he was going to adopt you to start with, I can't imagine how difficult it will be to part with him!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Steve and his new family!

As for the training, do you click and wait for him to beak the straw and then give him the treat?

Also, do you hold the straw or put it on the table?

Maybe your pictures will fill in the blanks for me.

OK, one more questions, does clicker training work with lovebirds? Although for me I guess it doesn't really matter because I'm still working on not being chewed on by those rascals :) Still, I'm curious.

Thanks for sharing!


Ben and Carrie Tracks said...

We are so excited for Steve and his future new home! Can't believe the amount of progress he has already made and Steve couldn't have asked for better foster parents. His new family will be very lucky and maybe they will start a blog? (hopeful wishing) so we can continue to follow his antiques and learning!

belovedparrot said...

I am sooo proud of both of you! And I haven't had a thing to do with it.

Yea Steve! Yea Mary!

Michelle said...

Since my adopted grey is cage bound, I am going to give this a try! I am excited for Steve and his new life that he will begin in November. You have been such a blessing in Steve's life. I know that if I were the new owners of Steve, I wouldn't be able to thank you enough for the care you have given him.

Please do post more pictures of your clicker training, as I am looking forward to future posts on the subject.


Mary said...

Tony -- it will be difficult to let him go, but knowing that he's going to a GREAT home will help things. There may be tears on my end, though!

E.R. -- I will write more on this in a few minutes in a new post today! But you can definitely clicker train your lovebirds, even if they are currently munching you!

Ben & Carrie -- thanks for the comment :) The great news is that we will be able to follow Steve in his new home on a blog! I'll give the address when he makes the trip over!

BP -- we are also so excited! I keep telling Steve every day about his new home, but I'm not sure how much he understands!

Michelle -- you may get sick of hearing about clicker training when I'm done :) Steve is also currently cage bound, so I'll definitely post more and hopefully it can be of help to your cagebound grey as well!