Old World Aviaries

Introducing an Eclectus into a new home

by Laurella Desborough
WildWood Aviaries

An Eclectus going to a new home is going into a totally new world and will spend several days studying everything and everybody in that world. The bird will be stressed by this change and therefore needs to be allowed to nap and rest several times a day for the first week. Young birds that are being handled are paying very close attention to what is going on, and this is naturally tiring and stressful. These first interactions with new owners and new families are times of important learning for the bird. Every action taken by the owners is noted. This is when the bird learns who you are and how to behave with you. So, you want to make sure that each interaction is very positive: 1) move slowly, 2) talk constantly in a positive tone, 3) reward the bird with good words and a little treat, such as half a grape, after each handling period, 4) be sure to give the bird plenty of time to eat before expecting to work with it. Young birds take a long time to consume their meals and should be given adequate time as they are still developing their physical health and building organs and muscles. It is best to work with a young bird for a few brief minutes before breakfast. Let the bird have at least thirty minutes to eat, and then spend some time with the bird. Young birds will eat several times a day; generally at least three major feeding periods.

When the bird has been in the home only a couple days, handling the bird should be limited to four or five times a day and, each time, for no longer than five minutes. After each handling period, return the bird to the cage and give the bird a treat as well as some positive words, such as good bird and what a pretty bird. After several days,  when the bird is showing signs of being comfortable and unafraid, handling can be extended to 15 minutes for 3 or 4 days, and after 2 weeks to 30 minute sessions. Signs of being comfortable include coming toward you when you approach the cage and preening the feathers after returning to the cage. Signs of fear would be retreating to the back of the cage when you approach and perhaps even quivering.

After each handling session, birds need to go back to their cage and rest a while, at least an hour after each encounter. The idea is to work slowly towards longer sessions. If the bird displays fear or resistance, indicated by not wanting to step up and not wanting to come out of the cage, do not force it. Leave the bird alone, go do something else, and come back later. You want to work with the bird in a way that persuades the bird to do what you want. Using any force is a sure way to cause the bird to lose trust in you. Persuasion works best.

Developing trust depends on showing respect for the bird's fears and reluctance. Patience is needed, but the results will be remarkable. In time you will have a bird that is anxious to step up and come out of the cage to be with you. Individuals who use force with birds end up with birds that are wary, fearful, bitey, and who prefer to stay in their cages. They don't trust you.

In this new world, the bird is going to be learning how to behave and what to do based on how you behave with the bird. Every interaction will be a learning session as far as the bird is concerned. The main point is that in the first days and week the task of the owner is to make friends with the bird so that the bird can trust the owner. That means several things.

Always be gentle. Realize that the bird's tools for testing the world are its beak and tongue The beak is the bird's hands and fingers,and young birds will eventually test everything using beak and tongue. Don't pull away if the bird pinches down. Say no in a quiet voice and distract the bird from pinching on a finger by putting a small toy or a green bean or something right next to its beak. The idea is to redirect its attention. Eventually, young birds learn not to pinch down on fingers. Adults rarely pinch and the main exception is 1) when they are ill and don't feel well and you insist they step up,  or 2) when you are trying to get them to do something and they are afraid of and thus are refusing to do it. The pinch means NO I don't want to do xxx. Often they will take your finger and simply push it away. That is their way of saying no. If you keep pushing, then they pinch down.

Expect a young bird to use its beak in stepping onto your hand, especially if the bird is clipped, because young birds use their beaks as part of their balancing as they move from point A to point B, whether from a perch to your hand, or back. An easy way to return a bird to its cage is to reach behind the perch with the bird on your hand facing you, so that when you reach behind the perch, the bird is facing the perch and can step up onto the perch while facing you.

One thing to keep in mind with a young, recently weaned bird is that young Eclectus have a lot of instinctive fear about strange or unknown individuals, objects, and actions. In the wild, research indicates that half the young Eclectus that fledge from the nest are dead before they reach their first year of age. Nature has built into them a powerful wariness so that they survive. So, if your bird pinches you, it is likely a signal that the bird is afraid, or that you are pushing the bird to do something that it does not feel comfortable about, or you are moving too fast, so it pinches to let you know it doesn't want to do that. Eclectus are not Amazons, who might pinch for the fun of it. Eclectus are not generally considered to be biters, unless they are afraid or they are being pushed. Persuasion works much better than forcing.

If you can be patient with the young bird, you will find that the bird eventually feels more secure and relaxed in its new world and along with the reduction in fear and wariness is an acceptance of you and a reduction in fear and eventually complete trust. You have to work for that trust, because Eclectus are smart and do not forget. They will forgive a few slips, but not a constant pushing or forcefulness from you. Being forceful doesn't work with Eclectus, patience and persasion works.

If a bird is up on a high perch or on top of the cage, use a stool to step up so your head is level with the bird, and then ask the bird to step up onto your hand. If you have to reach up to pick up a young bird, that is too much like a predator reaching for the bird. So, young birds are likely to instinctively bite. In removing a bird from a high perch or cage top, do not take this action and then put the bird in the cage immediately. What the bird will learn is that when it is removed from the cage top, it immediately goes into the cage. That action causes the bird to be reluctant to step onto your hand from the cage top. So, when you need to put the bird in the cage and it is on the cage top, allow sufficient time to remove the bird from the cage top, spend a few minutes interacting with the bird, then place a treat in the bird's bowl and return it to the cage. The idea is to make sure the bird does not consider removal from the cage top as a negative.

Talking is very important. It is critical that the a new owners always talk to the Eclectus before trying to pick them it or remove it from the cage and during the entire time the owner is interacting with the bird.  Talking lets the bird know that everything is good. If owners are quiet, that is threatening to these birds. So, use a positive tone of voice and positive words and lots of talking. Eclectus do love to listen to your voice.

Moving slowly around a new bird is important. Fast movement reminds birds of predators and makes them uneasy. So, when you have a new bird in the house, make a point of moving slowly and talking to the bird. This will reassure the bird that all is well and that you are a safe person. If you have children or visitors, ensure they also move slowly around the bird. It is a good idea to monitor children when you have a new Eclectus in the house so that the children learn how to interact with the bird in a positive way. Eclectus generally like children when they have been positively introduced to children in their new home.

It is a good idea to go over these various suggestions with every member of the family. Each person should understand how to interact with the bird so that everyone feels comfortable with the bird and everyone understands what is best for the bird.

Remember, the best approach to working with an Eclectus is to persuade, entice, interest it into doing what you want, rather than pushing the bird. Pushing an Eclectus can cause the bird be stubborn and even aggressive towards you because it is afraid. The best approach is to get the bird interested and excited in participating with you in some activity. Eclectus are very curious and interested in people, so you can take advantage of that interest by involving an Eclectus in some way. Small hand toys are a great way to interact with a new young bird that has been in your home at least a week. You can place the toys or some simple foods, such as whole green beans or baby carrots, on a table with the bird on the table. Then sit there and observe and move slowly and talk to the bird.

You cannot expect young birds to be gentle sweethearts until they are over a year of age. As they become accustomed to their new home and their new people, they become calmer and more relaxed within the family. And, as they get older, they are even more gentle and sweet. When they are older, they are comfortable with all sorts of handling and petting.

Your most important tool in working with your new bird is observation. Study the bird's actions. Is the bird looking at your face (seeing you) or your hands (worried about handling)? Is the bird quivering (afraid) or calm (not afraid)? Is the bird coming towards you in the cage (interested in coming out) or retreating (doesn't want to come out)? Is the bird raising the feathers on its shoulders (a sign of fear and responding with threat), or is the bird relaxed and coming towards you (comfortable with you)? It helps to try to think like a bird. These birds are intelligent, but they are not humans. They think as Eclectus think, not as you and I think. But, with that thinking, they learn how to live in our world. They are flexible. They learn from every experience. Your task is to make their experiences positive, and then you will be rewarded with a charming, playful, friendly, loving and beautiful bird.


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