She loves us but she can't stand our hands - Talk Cockatiels Forums

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Training and Bonding Give and recieve tips on training and bonding with your cockatiel here.

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Old 12-31-2016, 06:09 AM
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Default She loves us but she can't stand our hands

A fine-feathered imp is our gal Maggie, aka Magoo, McGee, the Magster and Miss Pretty Lady. She's cinnamon pearled, seven months old (give or take) and full of beans -- often literally! She's in fine fettle and hale health, after a sort of a rough start (more on that in a moment)and we dote on her.

She's a very friendly affectionate wee creature, on her own terms. She likes to have her door opened for her so she can "make an entrance" into the room and then climb all over the outside of her house. She likes to perch just above us and watch our doings and occasionally put her two cents in on whatever we're talking about. And she just loves "nose pets" which is when we use our snozz to pet her and ruffle her face feathers and smooth her neck feathers and then kiss her several times on top of her pointy little head. When our buddy Nate comes over to visit, she turns into a cockatiel coquette, because he always comes up to her cage to yakk and whistle and jabber and sing to her, so Maggie thinks Nate is the best thing since parsley

About human hands, though, and human fingers -- well it seems that Maggie has her own ideas about those. She hasn't any use for them, to be honest -- she'll hop on a finger if she's got to, with some hisses and ill grace, and then leap off the first chance she gets (she's clipped, so the leap generally lands her on the floor). When either of us tries to reach out with a friendly digit and offer scratchies, she expresses her disapproval by hissing, squeaking and fake-biting.

The thing is, I'm afraid she comes by her dislike and distrust of our hands honestly, so to speak. Right after we got Maggie, back in August we found out that she was real sick. The avian vet prescribed a six week schedule of daily Doxycyclone dosages, given orally -- so for her first six weeks with us, we had to catch her and dose her at around noon every day. From her point of view, it was a matter of one big loutish pair of hands seizing her most rudely and then holding her so another ten-finger-having oaf could compel her to drink a squirtload of icky pink medicine. Of course, we were a lot more gentle and patient and respectful and easygoing about it than it sounds, but I'm trying to see it from her perspective.

I'm worried that she's formed a really negative opinion about hands in general, and that it will remain a source of strain in our relationship with her. Could her early bad experience with our hands have prejudiced our Maggie forever against our fingers? How can we help her get over her digital disdain? We are taking it slow and patient and on her terms, but it'd be nice to have her reliably hand tame after five months....
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Old 12-31-2016, 07:16 AM
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Food bribery. At first, your hands were forcing her to do things she didn't want to. Now, she has to see that they also provide yummy stuff too. Millet is a great training tool. You can start by just dropping the millet into her cup. You can also use it to tempt her near your hands and sitting with millet in your flat palm in her cage will help as well, just remember that when she test nibbles the hand that you can't move, she's testing to make sure the surface is stable. It's going to take time to get her over her fear and it's quite common for birds to be afraid of hands.
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Old 12-31-2016, 01:43 PM
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I agree, food bribery is your best bet and best friend when it comes to coaxing a tiel to do what you'd like it to do. Patience is the other half of the equation.
Old 12-31-2016, 03:50 PM
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Really Happy can't stand hands

Enjoyed reading your post! I can understand how Maggie might distrust hands after all she has been through. It is no fun having to give our birds meds! And for 6 weeks! UGH! But as the others have said, patience and treats (like millet) will win her over. Help her to see hands don't have to mean bad things happening. She sounds like a really fun bird!
Old 12-31-2016, 04:03 PM
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I have a Tiel with a dis-like for hands. She likes my face and nose as you describe but backs away from hands.

It has taken 3 or 4 years to get her to the point she will step up on my hand.
I agree food given by hand is your best way to re-introduce her to the idea that hands = good things.
Just take it slow, don't rush.
Old 01-09-2017, 08:39 PM
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I don't know if this would work with Maggie, and I'm not necessarily suggesting it -- but this is how Autumn came to like my fingers. For the first five months, she was just like Maggie; she would step up off the floor, but not stay on fingers. She would press her head into my neck when she wanted scritches, but hiss and back away when my fingers came close. She didn't have any previous hand-related trauma, she just didn't like them. One day I noticed she had really bad pin feathers, and decided to towel her and preen them so she would be more comfortable. I knew she would be mad, but figured it was for her own good, like nail clipping. Well, she realized that she liked what my fingers were doing, even though she was clearly confused. A few days later, as I was reading comics on my ipad on the couch, she came over and started tentatively nibbling my fingers. Then she lowered her head for scritches. That was basically it -- she just hadn't made the connection before.
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