I have a newly adopted U2. He's 6 years old,
and reasonably social, allows petting, but his former parents don't appear to have trained him in the basics, including even the basic "step up" command.
I suspect the former owners let him walk out of the cage on his own, and transported him largely by shoulder.
This is a big transition for the bird, leaving his only home, in the rescue for a couple of days with lots of screaming birds, and now I'm in discovery mode about what he knows and doesn't know, and what he likes and what he's scared of.
So here's my dilemma:
- I don't want to scare him since he has plenty to be scared of already.

- He's deathly afraid of any large perch-type objects held in my hand.

If I so much as pick up a perch to move it, he's on the bottom of the cage, very scared. I suspect a bitten-and-fearful former parent tried to use perches to manage the bird once they reached the vicious circle of fear state in their relationship. So no hand perch training right now.
- He WILL NOT willingly step up except when he's fallen to the floor. (And then, he's pretty good at climing anything he can find to get up).
I really think it's foreign to him. I'm a big person, but he does NOT seem to know how to perch on a hand or wrist, he's completely precarious on my hand every time. That's what makes me think it's a foreign act to him.
He will bite if I persist in making him step up. Prodding his belly isn't sufficient either. I practically have to squeeze my hands under his feet and/or belly and he STILL hangs onto his perch.
So here's my dilemma. To push, or not to push.
There are two schools of training thought:
1) Do or die:

Never leave the "step up" training attempt in failure. Make sure you complete the act successfully and end on a praiseworthy note, even if it means a bit of a tussle.
2) Try again later:

Offer your hand, prod a bit if necessary, instructing to step up. If he doesn't do it after the second command, withdraw and try again later.
If I do (1), I'm pushing, and might further scare the bird and lose his strust.
If I do (2), I may letting a 6 yr old 'too know he's boss, and he'll be in the cage all the time and not getting to join the rest of the flock in our communal activities (his cage can't be everywhere, after all).
When I first got him, he would come to the door for me, now he doesn't. So at this point, progress is negative.
I'm trying to err on the side of preserving trust, but I also want to get him to the social family activities (in the same room), which means he misses it if i don't make him step up.
No cage tops and such for now, he's way too stubborn and will not be pried off bars.
I've had good luck training an adopted mature amazon (so I have some experience training willful mature medium-size birds), but he at least knew the basic step-up command, so this situation with the 'too is new to me (mature, BIG bird, doesn't know step-up and doesn't like hand/wrist perching AND is afraid of stick perches).
Big beak, pretty well adjusted bird, just needs training, time, and love.

So, push and potentially lose trust? Or not push and potentially lose dominance? I don't particularly want to reinforce his biting tendencies by losing dominance. He's not a quick malicious biter. Usually you can sort of see the mercury rise before he reaches the biting point and mercilessly grabs my fingers.
Thoughts?
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I have a newly adopted U2. He's 6 years old, and reasonably social, allows petting, but his former parents don't ... you can sort of see the mercury rise before he reaches the biting point and mercilessly grabs my fingers. Thoughts?

I'd say don't do either 1 or 2. The last thing you want is to frighten your bird. "Training" a large pet bird (as opposed to a circus performer) is mostly a matter of you behaving so that the bird will accept you as it's companion and flock mate. A "master/slave" relation (either way) with a bird isn't pleasant. Think of a bird as a house guest from a foreign country. You need to learn each other's ways and make some accommodations.Become the bird's friend first before you try to get him to do things he finds scary. Spend plenty of time near him. Speak softly. Time spent with the bird on a perch near you at night is "quality time" as it's when sleeping that birds most want the security of their flockmates. Let him take food from your hand. Most parrots interact with their friends with their beaks, not their feet or bodies. Beaks are also a parrots main weapon.

Watch for subtle signs of body language to show the birds intentions. Once he accepts you're a friend he'll want to be with you and accept your wrist or shoulder as a safe perch to be near you (your head). You'll know he's your friend when he comes to you to perch next to you, trys to groom your feathers (hair or skin). If he tries to feed you, your relation may be a bit too close.
Don't be surprised if this bird never likes to be handled a lot. It's not natural for them to enjoy handling. Even mated birds don't "handle" each other beyond feather grooming and briefly when actually mating. Allowing humans to handle them generally comes with birds which are handled a lot as babies. You really don't want a U2 perched on you which hasn't decided that you're it's friend. They're quite capable of giving nasty bites and will do so if they're frightened. Even friendly birds nip each other gently. A bite is cut skin and blood. A bird knows perfectly well how much damage it's doing.
Just my opinion from living with several birds in my house for the last
20 years, at present 2 B&G, scarlet, WFA, BCC, CAG, and a U2. Otherapproaches no doubt work. My flock is pretty well adjusted. None of my "houseguests" are caged.
As far as training goes I am not a fan of the 'do or die' method. I believe that the best way to get along with your bird is to build a relationship of mutual respect and trust. While I don't actively train my birds to do tricks, our social interactions are always positive. If they are not willing to participate in an activity, I don't push them. These critters are highly intelligent and emotional; I strive to always be a positive part of their day.One thing that I would try is to use a favorite treat. Hold the treat out for him so that he has to stretch a little to get it (while having your other hand near his feet) and make a big deal when he takes the treat. Once he gets the idea that your doing this always results in a treat, he will look forward to the interaction. Keep increasing the distance he has to stretch, and before long he will willingly step up on to your hand because he is focused on the treat.

When you get him there, praise him greatly and let him step off when he has had enough. Never push him and always end positively. I would be hesitant to allow a U2 on my shoulder. I am always conscious of my Mitred Conure's beak while she is on my shoulder. A U2 can do a lot of damage with a single bite.
If he is really nervous, you may want to gradually work your free hand in closer while giving him the treat. It could take a while, but before long, you will have a bird who is more comfortable with your hands and will see stepping up as a positive thing.
Andrew.
I have a newly adopted U2. He's 6 years old, and reasonably social, allows petting, but his former parents don't ... you can sort of see the mercury rise before he reaches the biting point and mercilessly grabs my fingers. Thoughts?[/nq]You just got the bird. Leave him alone and try to let him get adjusted, Dominance theory went by the wayside a long time ago. Trust is what you need. I did not try to do anything with my third hand U2 for the first couple of weeks. I just left her cage door open and let her come and go as she wished. She was 10 yrs old when we got her. She knew nothing about step up or don't or anything else.

Now she does and she is sitting on my lap as I type. She is a very sweet and loving bird and has learned to step up and even asks to go back to her cage when she needs to poop. (She could fly, but prefers a human taxi) Birds have long memories and if you frighten or push too hard now, you will have a much more difficult time ahead.
Debbie, Dusty(CAG) and Casperella (U2)
Thanks for the replies. The consistent reply message I see is: Dump Dominance Theory.
So I have. The bird still doesn't know a step-up from a hole in the wall, but willingly climbs in my lap for a cuddle. Then tests the limits by eventually biting my fingers, presumably because I'm not cuddling juust right ;-) (Sort of a "if you're not gonna use those fingers, then I will" type thing)
We'll get there, but I'm gonna need a new box of bandages first. Meanwhile the bird's adjusting nicely.
Here's a tidbit you don't see posted in this conference. 'too dust makes your fingers slippery when you type at the computer.
Thanks for the replies. The consistent reply message I see is: Dump Dominance Theory. So I have. The bird still ... tidbit you don't see posted in this conference. 'too dust makes your fingers slippery when you type at the computer.

Stepping onto your hand isn't everything. Your bird has probably had some bad experiences with hands and doesn't trust them. I'm convinced that birds don't perceive a human as a single creature. They think of a human body as being like a tree with the head being akin to another bird and the arms and hands as two separate critters not unlike snakes. They can be friendly with hands to if the hands behave nicely and don't grab them. Humans (heads) don't bite or grab them so they're usually accepted by a bird more easily. That may explain why birds like to sit on shoulders next to their friendly companions much more than they want to be held by hands.
Your hands don't have to tolerate being bitten. Just keep them under control. Move them in a slow and non treatening manner and the bird will adjust in time to their presence. Food treats given by hand help. Nost birds will accept touching their beak more readily than other body parts. Once your bird will accept that he'll probably enjoy gentle scratching of the feathers on the top and back of his head, the part he can't reach with his own beak.
It sounds to me that your too is ajusting just fine and will soon become a very pleasant companion. Your job is to earn his trust. He'll return affection and loyalty for many years to come.
Stepping onto your hand isn't everything. Your bird has probably had some bad experiences with hands and doesn't trust them. I'm convinced that birds don't perceive a human as a single creature. They think of a

Absolutely agree. My adopted amazon has been afraid of my hands from day one. He's happy as a clam with the rest of me, but my hands are still scary for him. He was 10 when I adopted him from the rescue and it's pretty clear his primary care giver was probably not a man.

He's good about all things including stepping up, but always views my hands with suspicion and won't tolerate me touching him. (My son can do no wrong though, and can pet him even when he's in full display... some birdie love there).
human body as being like a tree with the head being akin to another bird and the arms and hands ... tolerate being bitten. Just keep them under control. Move them in a slow and non treatening manner and the bird

This is more subtle that that. He /may/ be biting to get me to pet him, perhaps a control thing of one type or another. Or it may just be testing limits. If I leave my hands on my lap, he slowly eyes them, slowly approaches them, slowly beaks, tastes, then grabs a finger, and slowly, but not so slowly I can easily escape at that point, crushes my finger and/or draws blood.
So now I just don't let my hands get in that position. I either hide them, or put them in his feathers. But I don't let them lay idly by 4 inches away!
will adjust in time to their presence. Food treats given by hand help. Nost birds will accept touching their beak ... of the feathers on the top and back of his head, the part he can't reach with his own beak.

This is a 'too that definitely appreciates a cuddle, even with me, a relative stranger. Naturally that's a double edge sword with all 'toos and it is one of the reasons he ended up in the rescue (screaming for attention, parents not giving it to him, expectations exceed reality for the 'too based on initial upbringing).
It sounds to me that your too is ajusting just fine and will soon become a very pleasant companion. Your job is to earn his trust. He'll return affection and loyalty for many years to come.

I'll just keep those bandaids handy anyway ;-)
He's also making an excellent transition from seed to pellets, I think he's going to do just fine.
Thanks for sharing.
My husband adopted a conure parrot while I was in the hospital for a week. All he knew of the history of this bird was, that it was never in contact of human hands, was used as a breeder until he was useless for that, was kept in a cage at all times. My husband could not get him to get him to get on his finger while in the cage, except one time, well, when he finally got him out of the cage, and it was painful to do, the bird jumped down and hid under the chair for 2 hours before he could catch him and return him to the cage.

He didn't try again. When I got home, I walked up to the cage and and talked softly to him ( I named him Sammy) for about 15 min. and then reached in to see if he would step up, he wouldn't from the perch, but went to the bottom of the cage and but did step up, but I couldn't get him out of the cage. I didn't force it, I would just put my hand in and get him to the bottom of the cage and let him sit on my finger. Then about a week later, I again tried to get him out of the cage, and he came out, he finally trusted me.

My husband about crapped when he saw me do that, he couldn't believe it. I would hold him, and talk softly to him, and call him momma's baby. Now I go to his cage and say " wanna come see mamma", he walks to the end of the perch and and gets on my finger. I have him saying mamma, it is just too cute. I love to take him to the other end of the room and put him on the floor and watch him waddle to me. He will let my husband hold him now, but when he does, Sammy looks for me and flys to me.
My husband has a cockatiel and is very tamed and talks and whistles show tunes. It tickles my husband when I walk by Powders cage, and he hisses at me. So I guess, we each have our own birds. But what is so funny, is that I'm the one that has taught Powder to talk and whistle, then he turned on me. That's a male for ya, huh? LOL
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