When a Parrot Refuses to Step Up

Your Parrot Happily Perches on Almost Any Object, But How Do You Get it to Perch Willingly on You?

Image: Parrot Perching in Cage
Image: Parrot Perching in Cage | Source

How to Deal With Avian Step-Up Difficulties

Under normal circumstances, teaching a parrot to step up is relatively easy--but what happens when a reluctant parrot refuses to step up or displays other troubling behaviors? How does an owner deal with avian step up difficulties?

This article details four scenarios where an owner has trouble teaching a parrot to step up or stay to hand and discusses techniques to counter challenging avian behavior.

When a Parrot Refuses to Step Up

In the first scenario, a truculent parrot refuses to step up. This might occur during initial training sessions.

  • Parrots, like humans, have good days and bad. If a parrot fails to respond to initial attempts to get it to step up, it may be best to try again when the bird is in a better mood and more receptive.
  • If the parrot resists climbing onto a hand, step-up training should be tried in a room where the cage is out of view. At times, a parrot will try to return to its play stand or cage, over learning to trust a human and stepping onto a hand.
  • It may be best to start off when family members are absent, avoiding auditory and visual distractions.
  • If a parrot hesitates, an owner should gently nudge its abdomen, to encourage it to step up.
  • An owner should try not to react if the parrot bends over and puts its beak around a finger. This may not be a show of aggression, the parrot may be testing the perceived perch for stability before stepping up.
  • If a parrot still refuses to step up, an effective trick is to use the double-handed swoop. This technique works because a parrot sees in more than one direction at a time. An owner brings both hands in simultaneously under the bird's abdomen. The parrot tries to track the movement on either side of its head and obediently steps up.

I'll Inch Down This Rope to Avoid Stepping Onto Your Hand

Image: Parrot Uses Avoidance Behavior
Image: Parrot Uses Avoidance Behavior | Source

Avoidance Behavior

In a second scenario, a parrot has been trained to climb onto a finger but later refuses to step up and tries avoidance behavior.

Parrot Runs Away to Avoid Stepping Up

A parrot may try to inch away, fly away, or run away to avoid stepping up. An owner should remain calm and use the double-handed swoop to assist the bird in stepping up.

Parrot Bites to Avoid Stepping Up

In a third scenario, the parrot uses aggression to avoid stepping up.

A parrot may try biting to resist stepping up and should never be allowed to use aggression. The double-handed swoop effectively curbs biting.

You Made Me Step Up, So It's Time To Bite You

Image: Parrot Biting Hand
Image: Parrot Biting Hand | Source

After Stepping Up, A Disgruntled Parrot Bites

In a fourth scenario, a naughty parrot retaliates

What happens, if after climbing onto a hand, a parrot bends over and bites the nearest patch of skin? An owner should utilize the wobble correction, which sends a message to the parrot that the "perch" becomes unstable when bitten.

A Parrot Inches Up an Arm Instead of Staying On a Hand

In a final scenario, the parrot's instinctive wish to climb up results in its failing to stay to hand.

Once a parrot has stepped onto a hand, it is important to teach it to stay there. A parrot may try to inch up the nearest arm to gain a footing on a shoulder. This is a dominant avian position that should not be permitted. A good strategy is to make sure that the hand is the highest point and the elbow is pointed downwards.

A parrot is an assertive creature, a pet that can be incredibly inventive in trying to gain control of its environment and in testing behavioral limits.

Trained to Hand Means You Keep the Upper Hand

When a parrot refuses to step up or stay to hand, it is important to correct these step-up issues as they arise, so that a contest of wills does not become an established pattern, therefore curbing undesirable behavior in a companion parrot.

© 2013 Athlyn Green

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    Athlyn Green profile image

    Athlyn Green885 Followers
    176 Articles

    Athlyn has shared her life with four parrots, written articles for avian publications, and has helped others with parrot behavioral issues.



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