A natural urge for any pet owner is the desire to hold their pet. Whether it’s for some snuggles or good petting, it helps forge a bond. As a parakeet owner, you may wonder if they like to be held. After careful research, this is what I discovered.
Do Parakeets Like to be Held?
Parakeets are not used to being held, and so some may not enjoy it. However, it is possible to train your bird to grow more comfortable with being held.
If you want your parakeet to be relaxed and accepting of your holding and scratches, then read on to find out a few tips that can help.
Can You Grab a Parakeet?
You should never grab a parakeet outright. Unless you need to grab the parakeet to remove it from a dangerous situation, you should instead focus on cues from the bird. Forcing the parakeet into your hand can terrify it. This may cause an injury. It can also damage your relationship with the bird.
A better solution is to learn its cues and determine whether or not it’s open to being touched.
Parakeets, parrots, and budgies are more open to being touched than other birds. However, it all comes down to the bird’s specific personality. If a bird had an unpleasant experience in its youth, then it may be shy about touching. Others that had positive experiences may enjoy it more.
Even blank slates with no touching in their history may shy away from it or love it. Their personality plays a major role. Some birds may just be grouchier than others.
Understand Your Parakeet’s Cues
One of the first steps towards training your parakeet to accept your touch is to understand their cues. Just like a human, if they don’t want to be touched, then you should respect their wishes. A parakeet will tell you if it wants to be touched or not.
A sign that your parakeet doesn’t want to be touched is if it becomes extremely stiff and stares at you. Its stiffening posture is a defensive mechanism. It’s trying to fool you into thinking it’s not there. You shouldn’t be surprised if it tries to bite you if you continue to move your hand towards it.
Another sign that your parakeet doesn’t want to be touched is if it actively flies or climbs away from your hand. It’s trying to get to a place of safety. The parakeet perceives your hand as a danger.
These signs can also occur when you’re trying to pet its head. Petting the back of your parakeet’s head may seem threatening to them if they aren’t trained or used to it. Continuing with your efforts may result in a bite.
A cue that your parakeet is open to being touched is if they remain relaxed. Their posture isn’t stiffening up. They may still be staring at you, but it’s more with interest than preparing for a bite.
Once you make contact with your parakeet, they will also give other cues that indicate they’re enjoying your touch. One is that they turn their head to the side. It’s saying that it wants you to scratch it there, too.
Another sign is if it bows its head down. It’s allowing you to access the back of its head where you can scratch further.
The ultimate sign that the parakeet is open to your touch is if it closes its eyes. This is a sign of trust. The bird trusts you enough with its life that it feels it can close its eyes and stop its search for a predator.
Start Training During a Quiet Period
To start your training, you’ll want to choose a time that’s quiet. It should be when your bird is at its most relaxed. If your bird is already wound up and anxious, then attempting to touch and hold it can only make matters worse.
The times your parakeet is usually relaxed the most is after they eat or just before bedtime. Their stomachs are full and their energy is low.
Once you’re sure that your bird is relaxed, you should first start by speaking to your bird and keeping your hand in their view. When speaking to your parakeet, use a soft and soothing voice. Keep your hand still and open. Moving it may seem threatening to them.
While speaking to your bird, slowly move your hand closer to them. Keep an eye out for cues that indicate whether it’s uncomfortable or comfortable. At the first sign that they’re uncomfortable, you should remove your hand slowly and continue to speak to them. Then take a break.
You can come back a few minutes later and try again.
Start with the Beak
The best place to start getting your parakeet used to being touched is with their beak. It also means you’re likely going to get nipped a few times. Because some parakeets can make you bleed, you’ll want to have tissues and disinfectants readily available.
As before, you’ll want to speak soothingly to your bird as you reach for its beak. Your movements should be slow. Your hand should always be within view of your bird. If they remain comfortable with your approach, then you can lightly stroke your finger up and down along their beak.
Due to its close proximity to its eyes, you’ll want to avoid poking them while you stroke your bird’s beak. If their head is moving, then this might be difficult. Light strokes are the best solution here.
Simply stroke their beak for a time, then see if they’re comfortable with you moving your finger to just behind their beak at their face. Your goal is to stroke the skin of their face in this area.
Throughout this transition, you should still speak soothingly to them.
If they’re receptive to your touch, then you can transition to the next area. Your goal here is to be able to caress, or scratch, the sides of its head. This is the best place to pet your parakeet.
If, at any time, your parakeet grows uncomfortable, then you should slowly remove your hand and keep it in front of them. You may need to repeat this process several times if your parakeet is skittish or nervous about being touched.
Focus on the Body Next
Once the parakeet is comfortable with you touching the sides of its head, you can move onto the body. It may attempt to nip at you again, especially because it won’t always be able to see your hand. You can help it become comfortable by slowly moving your hand to the side of its body. This may also take several attempts for them to become comfortable with your touch.
After you’re able to initiate contact, the method with which you pet your parakeet is important. You should never stroke their feathers against the grain. This can irritate them and make them feel uncomfortable.
Instead, you should pet them in the direction of their feathers. Follow the orientation of the feathers.
You can also scratch the feathers side-to-side.
Continue to stroke your bird in this manner until they relax. Once they do, you can start to stroke towards the back of their head and neck.
Where Do Parakeet Like to be Touched?
Parakeets enjoy being pet around their ears the most. The sides of their head are where they feel the most comfortable and derive some pleasure. The ultimate goal of getting your parakeet to enjoy your touch is to be able to touch the sides of their head.
Having them become comfortable with your touch is a vital part of joining their flock. Parakeets groom themselves and sometimes groom others in their flock. If you start to pet along their feathers, then they may recognize you as a member of the flock that’s helping to groom them.
However, there are certain places that you shouldn’t stroke too much. The back of their heads and the back of their feathers can be sensitive areas for them. Stimulating them too much can actually sexually arouse the parakeet. That might make them frustrated sexually since they don’t have an outlet.
That frustration can boil over to other behavior problems. Your bird may start to associate your hand with those bad behaviors which can make handling them difficult.
The best place to pet your parakeet is to pet them on the sides of their head.
Transition Your Parakeet to Holding
Once your parakeet is comfortable being pet by you, then you can start trying to hold them. It’s vital that you remember just how delicate parakeets are. Their wings are extremely delicate. The first stage is to get them comfortable with perching on your finger.
Since they should be more comfortable with your hand since you’ve been petting them, they may have no problem with perching on your finger. To help them perch, you’ll want to raise your finger slightly above them. Parakeets can climb up a lot easier than they can climb down.
Once they’re on your finger, you can bring them to your body and gently hold them. You should never squeeze them. Instead, let them enjoy your body heat and lightly run your fingers along the sides of their feathers.
Not all parakeets will want to be held or pet. No matter how hard you try, they may just be shy of you or find you threatening. The best thing you can do as a parakeet owner is to respect their boundaries.
There are plenty of other ways that you can interact with your parakeet. They love to socialize and play games. You can buy puzzles, swings, and mirrors that can make them extremely happy.
Just because your parakeet doesn’t want to be held by you doesn’t mean that it doesn’t love you.
Being able to hold or pet a parakeet relies on its own particular personality. Through careful and patient training, you may be able to make your parakeet comfortable with your touch. Understanding how to care for your bird and what their expressions mean can go a long way in the success of your training.