To Train Your Kakariki
You Must Understand
It is easy to forget that Kakariki’s are wild spirits, not domesticated companions like dogs and cats that fit comfortably into the average human family. The Kakariki’s ability to mimic human speech and its beauty and entertaining clown like attributes, are its most endearing and its most deceptive trait. It leads us to make the false assumption that a creature that can speak like us will be content and happy.
Many people think that a Kakariki would be less demanding than a dog or cat - no need to walk and groom them, no need to change their litter boxes, no hair strands on the carpet or in your food. Or sometimes worst of all, they bought it as a companion for their child. Some purchase, a bird on impulse after seeing some cute and beautiful pictures on Facebook of this crazy beautiful bird. Some buy from the local pet shop who don't have the first clue how to care or house it., or a Kakariki breeder who minimized how demanding they can be. In fact, Kakariki probably demand and require considerably more time and attention than dogs and cats.
It really doesn’t matter now how the Kakariki came into your home. It’s yours now. It now depends on you to do what is best for it and you can’t do that unless you understand what makes it tick.
Flying time, cages, toys, and (sometimes in male’s aggression) and hens egg laying, are all considerations that should have been well thought through before purchase. Any pet you consider having should be well researched and you should have a good knowledge of their needs their traits and the downfalls.
At this point I need to tell you a little about your Kakariki, it’s not a budgie, or a cockatiel, that are happy to sit still on your shoulders, hands and head for long periods, it’s not a large parrot, like a Grey or an Amazon, that some people are happy to clip its wings so it can’t fly away. It’s a Kakariki independent, strong willed, small sized parrot that love to fly their aerobatic displays can be quite amazing to watch.
Whilst wing clipping is a painless procedure that is argued makes the confinement in the home a safer place for the larger parrots. It is also argued that it should be used with new birds as part of the taming and training process. For this the main flight feathers are clipped, and when performed properly there should be no bleeding or discomfort experienced. Both wings are clipped so that the bird has more control when landing.
There are two reasonably valid reasons for clipping the wings of birds or are they?
Parrots that can do no more than flutter to the ground do not fly into windows or mirrors, land on hot stoves or fly out open doors never to be seen again.
Aggressive birds that have had their wings clipped do not dive bomb other family members and are less likely to chase them around the house.
However, people do not take birds to veterinarians because they didn't have these accidents, they take the ones that did. So veterinarians will probably tell you to clip your Kakariki's wings because they see the failures not the successes.
We strongly disagree it should not be used to force train a bird, but rather with care and a bit of thought you can be pretty certain that none of the above mentioned will happen. When you have a child you make your house safe. How I hear you ask? You buy a stair gate, you may lock windows to prevent them from falling, What I am saying is you suit the environment to safe guard the child, as that child matures you allow a certain amount of risk or how else do they learn. So why is it any different for your pet bird? you can cover mirrors or remove them, put nets or blinds up at windows, close the doors and windows and remove any unsafe items and plants. Common sense says you adapt your life and surroundings. You brought the bird in to your environment, your committed to a lifetime of care for the bird, not to disable it, so life is easier for yourself, or so you don’t have to spend more to ensure it's a safe environment. For me it is a no brainer, for me there is no need to cut the birds wings you can train it like you would a child or a dog, we don’t remove limbs from them to prevent them from hurting themselves. Accidents happen windows get left open, doors too. we've heard people say I lost my last bird so I am having its wings clipped I would refer those back to the child example, you open that locked window because it was hot he/she fell out accidents do happen even with our children, if we are lucky enough to get them back, do we then chop off their legs so they can’t fall from that window again? No of course not, we become extra vigilant. You should be content to live with a degree of uncertainties in the interest of your bird.
There are valid reasons not to clip your Kakariki's wings! Allowing flight is certainly one way to add variety, also help them to escape from young boisterous children, cats, dogs. Flight will also help leave unwanted stereotypic behaviours behind or prevent them from forming them in the first place. Another reason and probably the most valid, is the long term health effects both physically and mentally clipping has on any bird but specifically a Kakariki. By clipping the wings, you can shorten the bird’s life, the damage done to surrounding muscles because it is unable to fly affects the bird for life. This is scientifically proven, that being unable to fly can affect every major organ in a bird’s body.
Mentally: birds can become depressed and pluck feathers. But whatever side of the fence you sit on this topic, the Kakariki’s love of flying tells ME! that it’s a big No.
So If Wing Clipping is not the answer! What is? The problem you have is a Kakariki like all birds are not domesticated animals, so I am not at all surprised at what can happen when you take a wild creature, designed to fly free with its own kind, and confine it in your home. Normal domesticated animal’s genes have been manipulated by us to make them fit comfortably into our human family. This is not the case with most birds, their genetics are still wild and they have social demands that can be quite hard for you to satisfy.
Kakariki brains are structured quite differently from human brains. While we make our decisions using our prefrontal cortex, Birds do not have a well-developed prefrontal cortex for thought. They get around this by processing data needed to make their decision further back, in an area called the NCL. Although bird brains are quite dissimilar to ours, they have developed in a way that gives bird’s limited abilities to deal with the problems they are likely to encounter in life.
Kakariki are not very good at judging cause and effect or controlling their emotions. They also have very short attention spans. That is what makes training more difficult, training based on rewards of food is great method and due to their love of food this is the most effective way to train your Kakariki.
A Kakariki behaviour is controlled by hormones and Initial imprinting: How your Kakariki behaves socially is largely due to three things, who raised it from birth, environment, and what its hormones are telling it at the moment in time.
Kakariki like all animals, decide who their relatives are depending on who cares for them, not what they look like. The younger a human is able to imprint on them the better the result later on. If its environment has always been with other Kakariki in aviary situation the more difficult it is to adapt to a cage and human interaction, but with patience and time it can be done.
Just as important are the hormones secreted by your Kakariki’s ovary, testes, pituitary and adrenal glands. Kakariki have little ability to control the behaviours and emotions these hormones dictate. Just as importantly, these hormone levels ebb and flow periodically leading to a fixed set of behaviours beyond your Kakariki's ability to control. In the wild changing light conditions control this ebb and flow. In home lighting situations their circadian clock is often free running, leading to unpredictable hormone surges and personality changes.
You are much more likely to succeed changing behaviours of Kakariki when they are due to things like improper diet, stressful environment, and boredom, than you are to change the effects of hormones and imprinting. You are much more likely to train behaviours that fit comfortably into a Kakariki's natural repertoire of hormone and imprinting-bonding than to attempt to make the bird behave in a way contrary to them.
Many abnormal behaviours expressed in a home setting are normal Kakariki behaviours in the wild. Changing them is near impossible, and to coin a phrase if you do succeed in pounding a square peg into a round hole, you will probably cause an equal amount of damage elsewhere.
When you are attempting to change natural Kakariki behaviours, you are often battling very deep seated, ingrained behaviours, that were not learnt but are natural for Kakariki. So approaching the problems from a human behavioural perspective, using human behaviour modification techniques is likely to give disappointing results.
Kakariki do establish pecking orders and you might be lower on the totem pole than they are: Anyone who has observed flocks of wild birds notice that they squabble. Like any flock animal they establish a dynamic hierarchy through nipping, displays, threatening gestures and vocalizations. So it is no surprise that Kakariki treat their none cage mates as rivals. To contend that there are no alpha Kakariki in the wild and that contention between Kakariki is uncommon denies reality. Kakariki are also more likely to behave aggressively to other human family members than to complete strangers.
Territorial, domineering behaviour and aggression are heavily hormonal behaviours: so they can change with the season in Kakariki’s when the birds enter courtship and reproduction time, these behaviours often increase. In captivity, without natural lighting cues, these behaviours often occur sporadically or all year long. We have on occasions, miss-paired Kakariki, and tried colony breeding, I can assure you that feathers can fly and birds have the potential to inflect severe injury when that mistake/attempt is made. What prevents it in the wild is that more submissive parrots have the ability to back off and retreat from a fight, something all animals do when given the opportunity.
If I disapprove of my Kakariki's behaviour will it understand and can I change it? Probably not! The best way to change a behaviour in a Kakariki is to offer it another behaviour that it prefers. But the most important thing you can give most misbehaving Kakariki, is more not less of your attention.
Why does my Kakariki bite? Kakariki bite for one of two reasons. They are either fearful or frightened or they are brave, possessive and aggressive.
Fear-biting: Kakariki rear back on their perch at an approaching person. They stand high on their perch with their eyes dilated and their feathers slick. In their terror to escape they may actually fall off of their perch or hang upside down.
The term (fear biting birds) is normally referred to as a bird caught from the wild with no human contact. But aviary-bred birds that have not had enough human companionship early in life can behave similarly. So can breeder discards, adult birds that did not lay satisfactorily and were unscrupulously disposed of through the pet trade.
Aggressive/ hormonal biters: on the other hand, bite without or with little warning while their eyes dilate and constrict. They may raise their feathers and walk in a deliberate, strutting manner. Brave and aggressive Kakariki are very common today especially the males. They can bond to one member of the family, and act aggressively towards other family members whom they perceive as intruders. It has to be said this is more uncommon with Kakariki than the larger parrots. It’s never been discovered how or why they decide on who is friend and who is foe. But it occurs almost instantaneously and that the decision is rarely, if ever, revoked.
Kakariki are often bred and sold with little or no personal human contact during the critical period when they imprint on humans or determine that they are not a threat. Basically, the bird’s market value determines the amount of individual care it receives. So does the method that the bird is sold. Breeders of under-socialised birds may market them through auctions and pet stores or to other breeders as aviary birds. Some unscrupulous breeders find it more convenient that you cannot find your way back to them when problems arise. Pet store outlets find all sorts of excuses for the bird’s behaviour because they do not want to refund your money and usually have little to no clue themselves on the species there selling.
Raising Kakariki with love and affection is very labour intensive. One can only do it with a limited number of breeding pairs generally too few to be profitable when dealing with a relatively common species, with little to no profit, that leaves the unscrupulous breeder with two options, sell the babies when they are too young or give them less individual attention than they require. Neither option produces well-socialised birds.
Curing a behaviour problem: Behaviours in Kakariki once established, are not easily corrected. They never surrender them unless they are offered another preferable one to replace it. Attempting to modify any bird’s behaviour can be a stressful process for your bird, as well as for you. Give new pets time to adjust to their new home before any training begins. They need to feel secure and familiar in their surroundings. Begin by placing your pet on a proper diet, presented in a complicated way, for a number of weeks. That will be stress enough for most birds and you may also find that problem behaviours decrease or vanish due to that step alone.
If you suspect health issues, take the bird to an experienced avian veterinarian. Kakariki are quite uniform in weight. a Kakariki whose tail bobs up and down as it breaths, a Kakariki with
any form of crustiness surrounding its nostrils, a Kakariki that breaths with its mouth open, a Kakariki with stress bars on its feathers or washed out colours, could all be signs of problem.
Since these birds are so hormonal you may find your pet more receptive to change in one season of the year than another. Kakariki have a different relationship with every family member, and each person in the family needs to eventually take part in the training. In the beginning, assign training the bird to a single assertive individual, especially with the males you need to be strong willed and determined and specifically fearless to cope with the hormonal stage, you need to stay top dog or it will quickly escalate out of control. Nature of talent varies between humans, some of us are good at one thing, and some at another, that is why some people are more successful in modifying a bird’s behaviour than others. Not everyone is blessed to be able to read a Kakariki’s behaviour correctly or recognise the subtle clues they give. What successful people often possess is calm and tranquil personalities, competency in repetitive tasks, and patience combined with empathy and love for the bird.
Body language: All Kakariki scope you out to an extent, you may not be aware of it. The colour of your clothes, the fluidity and speed of your movements, the eye contact you give, even the way you speak to them all affect the way a Kakariki will react to you. They are also quite slow in giving back or changing their initial impressions. It is always safer to let a strange or distrustful Kakariki come to you, rather than the other way around. I generally let all birds accept my disinterested presence for a while before I attempt to interact with them. If they make the first move, so much the better. Kakariki being the fun loving, flying, mischievous, adventurous bird they are this method probably works best to tame them.
The right housing: Many owners keep their Kakariki in cages that are too small. Kakariki are active birds by nature and confinement to a small space can be sufficient stress in itself to cause psychological disturbances. Where your Kakariki resides needs to be more of a habitat than a cage, with multiple nooks, and perches of varying size and shape. Most perches are smaller in diameter than they should be. A Kakariki's toes or toenails should never cover more than 50% of the primary perch’s diameter. An added benefit to large-diameter perches is that your Kakariki's toenails will not have to be trimmed as often. If you place natural branches in your pet’s habitat there will be plenty of smaller side shoots for the bird to play on should he wish to.
Lighting: The personality of Kakariki, and birds in general, are greatly affected by sunlight. There are three things about light that are important: its intensity, the number of hours it is supplied and the wavelengths of the light source. Birds have daily rhythms and yearly rhythms and both rely on light to stay in synchrony. The birds housed in well-constructed outdoor aviaries tend to have less psychological problems than birds housed indoors. I believe that socialisation with other birds and a richer environment account for a lot of that; but exposure to natural sunlight in its yearly rhythms is probably an important factor as well.
A Kakariki’s mood, moult and breeding is highly dependent on the nature of the light they receive. Owners of outdoor aviaries often notice that their birds moult, breed, congregate and disperse in tune to yearly changes in sunlight. The world that your bird sees is not the world that you see it is considerably richer because their eyes sense light in the UV spectrum as well. A well-lit screen porch/conservatory can be an excellent location for your bird, if that area still allows it to interact with the people it is attached to.
Window glass, in itself, blocks much of the UV rays of the sun. When natural sunlight is not an option, you could add full-spectrum light sources to your Kakariki's environment. These are the
same light sources used for reptiles, Aggression problems often occur when the hormones of Kakariki are surging When I have been bitten it was usually by birds defending their nests.
Sexual maturity is when many aggression problems first begin. The “free running” clocks of birds kept under normal house light can make these surges unpredictable and unnatural. Lighting can be used to your advantage in different ways when you are training a bird. During initial training, many birds are calmer in dim lighting - the lighting of dusk when birds are winding down for the night. In dim light, they may be calmer and less likely to attack. You could try putting a dimmer switch on the lighting to your training room and see how light level affects your bird. So dim light, bright light, light rhythms and light spectrum can all affect your bird's personality. The effect is unpredictable, but affect it, it will and it gives you an added tool in dealing with particular problems. For aggressive birds, experiment with cage perches about four inches below your eye level.
Regular training times: Birds are creatures of habit. They are most comfortable when events occur in a predictable manner at the same time every day. So set a routine with your Kakariki that does not differ from day to day. Many birds are most alert in the early morning and in the late afternoon. Try setting your training sessions at those times. If they seem more receptive at a different hour, move to that time. Try training sessions of 15-30 minutes. Stop earlier if you Kakariki's interest level drops and keep initial learning lessons quite brief for fearful birds.
If your pet was raised and imprinted on a human and you obtain the Kakariki during its formative period, those behaviours may come naturally to it. If it was not allowed to imprint on humans, those behaviours will take longer to develop and may never fully express themselves. Some would call those birds less loving - others would call them more balanced. larger parrots will cock and elevate its head to the side, slightly close its eyes and wait for you to scratch it under the chin. However, Kakariki in general are not like this even those that have been hand raised are not a cuddly bird.
Cage confinement: There is considerable individual variation as to how much cage confinement a Kakariki can tolerate. Placement and activity surrounding the cages is quite important too. But no well-adjusted bird prefers being caged. If your Kakariki is constantly hanging on the walls of its cage, it is telling you it wants to be let out.
Can you deprogram a Kakariki from its instinctive behaviour? You will never make your Kakariki into something he is not. I did fear this, when we first starting hand rearing Kakariki’s, it was not by choice the first rearing we did. We loved their independent character and did not wish to remove that, we were pleasantly surprised that with these birds it’s not possible to take the Kakariki spirit from the Kakariki by hand rearing.
Covering its cage when it is annoying, or trying to make it behave in an opposite manner than the chemicals being releasing from its gonads dictate, will all be unsuccessful. If you do succeed in modifying instinctive behaviours that you perceive as negative, you will likely be confronted by new behaviours detrimental to your bird’s psychological and physical wellbeing. “Bad” Kakariki behaviour is often “Good” behaviour in a bad setting. A Kakariki will always be a Kakariki. You have more ability to modify your behaviour than your Kakariki does to modify his. Be prepared to make the majority of compromises.
Conclusion: Never purchase a Kakariki from a third party. Purchase your Kakariki from a breeder with references, one who keeps breeding pairs and is proud to take you through their facility. That is the best way to avoid psychologically deprived birds, and diseases that often lurk in large commercial breeding aviaries, pet shops and the like.
Birds were designed to produce chicks between 1 clutch and maximum of 3 a year. Avoid the offspring of birds that have been over-bred.
Do not get talked into accepting a very immature bird because of its lower price, or any other reason. It’s wrong and will most likely end in disaster.