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Hi guys and gals. Need some advice.

We've had Pip since August (he's about 5 months) and I've done a lot of work with him. A lot. But I've never had a bird before so I'm still learning. But I'm getting close to being a little frustrated with him and don't want to get to that point.

Biggest issue is this: Pip does not "step up" in the way that I understand that he should. He can be lured onto my finger while chewing on a piece of millet, but he does it only as a last result. (He will stretch himself to every possible inch, even falling off balance before he steps onto my finger.) If I draw my finger towards him with no millet spray, he chirps and pecks and sometimes even bites down hard. It's getting disheartening. He clearly does not like fingers, and I've been very patient and gentle with him. He takes treats and millets and seed from my fingers no problem, but if an empty finger comes his way, he'll have none of it. He gets a lot of out-of-cage time, either on top of his cage or on my shoulder while I go about my business.

This poses a lot of problems, other than just biting. It is nearly impossible to get him off my shoulder (takes me contorting myself by reaching half my body into his cage ...) He chirps and bites at my finger or hides on the back of my neck if I try to use the finger. He loves the shoulder, in fact he's sitting here happily now grinding his beak... but it is going to take an act of pure will to get him off.

This also means that he is a hands-off bird. No scritches, no petting, no handling to examine him for health reasons. It's hard to feel a connection with him. God forbid something should happen to him, because I'm not sure how I'd give him first aid other than traumatizing him with a towel or breaking trust and grabbing him.

My wife and kids would love to get to know him, but right now, he'll have none of it.

How can I solve this problem? Because right now, life with Pip is life on his terms, period. He has a stable routine (two sessions of out-of-cage time including lots of shoulder time) a regular bedtime and wake time and feeding schedule. He's also in the family room so even if we are not there all of the time, it is a busy room. I've been very patient with him and have calmly accepted a lot of painful bites (both on my finger and my neck/ear) and I can't seem to make progress with "step up" or handling in general.

He is a very sweet bird otherwise; climbs the cage bars to greet me, sings "La Vie en Rose" and "The Empire Strikes Back," wolf-whistles at my wife, doesn't screech much at all, eats his veggies... when he flutters to the floor from his cage, he'll step right up on my hand or finger and scutter right to my shoulder.

So I'm feeling a bit stuck, and am increasingly wary of life totally on the birds terms.

Help?
 

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First thing to remember, its ALWAYS going to be life in his terms. You can only do what he will let you. Most birds, while afraid of fingers, are not actually afraid of the hand itself. Have you tried offering a fist? Or your hand laying flat, just the palm? While fingers are scary, hands are not. Start there and see if that helps.

And to be honest, if he ever gets hurt, he's going to be so distracted by that, that you having to towel or grab him wont matter. Also remember, not all tiels like scritches, so that may never be something that you can do with him.
 

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Well what I did with Bluebell to get her on my finger, I held a perch out to her and put millet on my hand so she'd get on the perch but because she adores millet so much she went on my fingers "the lumpy perch" and ate it hehe

Made her think my fingers were just more perch.

Sam well I think the breeder co-parented him, so he really doesn't care about fingers...unless they're not mine

He prefers to eat from my hand tooooo
 

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Hi Mareeder, your dilemma is not uncommon with many new tiel owners. I'm assuming Pip was not a hand-fed bird. My only advice for you is patience, patience, and more patience. :)

Please check out my post 'The joys of Hand-fed tiels' where you'll find a discussion on taming tiels, as well as my thoughts and preference on hand-fed birds.

Never lose faith in your tiel and good luck! ;)
 

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I agree with Roxy - try offering the palm, not the fingers, when you want him to step up. It helped me when Tony was new. It creates "a platform" instead of a "scary" finger.
Also, it's only been two months. He seems like a good boy-doesn't screech and scream. So, try to understand his point of view and give him more time. Relationships take time.
 

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With our Smokey my husband would open his hand and Smokey would walk up on to it. He seemed to like that. He didn't have a problem getting onto your finger, but he just liked the open hand and walking onto that very happily.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Hi Mareeder, your dilemma is not uncommon with many new tiel owners. I'm assuming Pip was not a hand-fed bird.
Actually, he was a hand-fed bird. I did the best I could to locate a reputable bird breeder in the Chicago area, and we even visited Pip before bringing him home. He was much more tolerant in the store than he is here. :(

And he does respond better to the fist or palm than the fingers, but he still doesn't want to step-up with out being bribed by the millet. Maybe I'll focus on the pam more in the coming weeks.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Also, it's only been two months.
See, I have no idea how long things like this take with a young bird. I guess I assumed that, since we are "plateau-ing" with our progress, that he has decided this is as good as it gets. :)

Like I said, I can bribe him onto my finger with the millet, but it takes too long, and I now I worry that he has no incentive to step onto my hand on command: he knows that he will eventually be bribed with yummies.

The biggest issue is not knowing how to get him off my shoulder without a 5 minute ordeal. I'm stumped.
 

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I see, and Gosh, I'm sorry to hear he's not exactly a model tiel. Well, he does seem to have other desirable virtues like at least acknowledging you and being able to sing 'The Imperial March'! Lord Vader will be proud! ;)

He has potential so don't give up! :)
 

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try food bribery. teach him that every time he steps up he gets some millet spray. it sometimes takes a lot of patience, but i've never heard of someone's tiel never learning to step up :) hang in there! it's worth it.
 

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Well if he's happy on your shoulder and the big meanie finger comes to pick him up of course he won't want to step up :D

Have you looked into clicker training?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
To be clear, I don't think that Pip is a "bad" bird, he's a good little dude outside of this one hurdle. We adore him. I :love: having him on my shoulder. He just can't be there all day.

I just don't know how to solve this, and it seems that our hand-training progress has hit a plateau. And I can't help that I'm tired of being bitten, or that getting him back into his cage is such a struggle. It does take a bit of the joy out of interacting with him. He bit me pretty hard again this morning a few times and we did an unbelievable dance just tying to get him back into his cage. When I finally do get him on my hand, he scrambles up my shoulder and stays there. Won't go back without me essentially using part of the cage to cut him off from my upper arm and shoulder, where he will finally climb onto the cage bars, but by the time I get m arm out of the cage, he's scrambled to the outside and climbed back onto the top of his cage where we have to start all over again. >.<

So it seems like he's less afraid of fingers (he doesn't run away or raise his crest or hiss) it's more like he just doesn't want to deal with what they represent. When he bites, he does it with confidence. :cry:

I know it's hard to hand tame a bird, especially as a newb. And I have been as gentle and as patient as I possibly can. It just gets harder when it feels like that patience is no longer paying off.

:confused:
 

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Have you tried maybe using a small perch in your hand? Stewie was afraid of my hand, but I used a small perch and he seemed to like that much better - I would just move my hand closer to him, making the perch smaller. Also, I used the perch to get him off my shoulder as well - he likes to run around the back of my neck too. It would definitely save you from some of those bites, if you can get him to step onto it.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks, all, for hearing me out and for the advice.

He isn't crazy about the perch either. Basically, because he knows it means "offa da shoulder, birdie!" He's one determined little fellow.

Positive news today, though. We patiently worked with fingers today and he allowed me to pet his head, repeatedly! Did both our hearts well, I think. :love:
 

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Thanks, all, for hearing me out and for the advice.

He isn't crazy about the perch either. Basically, because he knows it means "offa da shoulder, birdie!" He's one determined little fellow.

Positive news today, though. We patiently worked with fingers today and he allowed me to pet his head, repeatedly! Did both our hearts well, I think. :love:
Sounds like you've tried a lot of different ways already. Great news on the head pets - they sure do know when they should give you a little something to make you happy, don't they?!
 

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It took my Candy probably almost a year to realize that my fingers are useful for head scratches. She can't get enough of it now lol.
I think you are making good progress.
 

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Mareeder -- I feel your pain! I also got my tiel, Willow, the end of August. He doesn't even do the things your guy does! Willow doesn't want to come out of his cage most of the time, he doesn't even walk around his cage often. He just sits. So every time he does a little something I'm so pleased. I have to say tho--Willow has never bit me. Maybe you could back off a little. Let him do what he does. I understand getting him back in his cage is a challenge, but keep at it. Let him sit on your shoulder without expecting anything else from him for right now. Take one thing at a time. Work on the step-up with the suggestions here, let him sit on your shoulder for as long as he wants (or until it's time to go back in the cage) and put him in the cage the same way you have been. Once you got the step-up worked out, then the getting him off your shoulder will be easy. One thing at a time. Right now I'm working on getting Willow out of the cage. Nothing else. Just get out of the cage and sit someplace else! LOL! Best of luck and keep us up on your/his progress!
 
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