Starting a Journey in Falconry: The Manning Process
A Few Key Terms....
These are a few terms that you will want to know or you will find helpful while reading this article.
Manning: Acclimating the bird to humans and the human world.
Manning is an essential part of falconry training that refers to the acclimation of a falconry bird to living and working with humans and things typically associated with humans, such as other pets, houses, or automobiles. The better manned a falconry bird is, the more calm and less likely it will be to engage in a fight or flight response around people.
Bate or Bating: The action of the bird attempting to fly from a perch or the fist while attached by a leash.
The bird may be startled and wanting to leave, may have seen something attractive and curious to fly to it, or may be impatient to be flying or hunting.
The Manning Process
This is the stage of frustration and where all the fun begins. The manning process is a crucial step the art of falconry. This is where you can make or break your relationship and trust with your bird. While every bird and every sponsor is different you will find and use what works for you.
The Manning process, oh the joys..... The manning process is acclimating your bird to it's new environment and you. It is building a trust in you from the bird that you aren't going to kill it or eat it. (The Modern Apprentice)
Building this trust will help your bird bond with you and allow you to do more with the bird. This process can be time consuming and tedious, it can also be done quickly depending on you and your bird.
Once you have your bird home, weighed and dressed you will remove the hood and this is where it all starts. Yes you really have a Bird of Prey on your fist, yes, he's scared and looking at you like who are you and when you are going to eat me. This is where you are going to assure your bird your are not going to eat him. You will probably get footed if you haven't already during the trapping process. Don't worry it will happen, you will get the foot.
This is Where the Fun Begins.
You have now taken the hood off your feisty passage bird. He's probably sitting on the glove mantling looking at like you are going to kill to him. Don't worry this too will pass, remember that humans are new to him and he's very unsure. You have to get through this to start training.
So now you will introduce your bird to things that it will encounter in your house (if you choose to keep your bird in your house) other wise you will introduce it to surroundings of where it will be housed. Make sure that you have your bird clipped to your glove (which I recommend) or a tight hold on his jess's, he will bate. You will probably spend 95% of the next 24 hours with your bird on your fist. Yes your arm will get tired, you will get uncomfortable I call this "hawk problems".
You have had the bird on the fist for about 2 hours, he's finally calming down and not bating every time you blink your eye, you are uncomfortable and need to change position. Will the bird bate? Of course it will you are moving, or so you are sure the bird is going to bate. You don't want to move, you don't want the bird to bate, guess what you have to chance it.
You have argued with yourself for the last half hour about changing position because you really don't want the bird to bate. You have finally broke down and stood up to stretch your legs, and move a little bit before rigamortice sets in. Oh lordy, your bird didn't bate!!! You have reached a goal, you have made progress. It's amazing, but it's not over because your bird will start bating again. Just wait and see, you will need to set him on the perch to use the bathroom or something...
Bate, Bate, Bate: Does it Ever End?
I promise you it does end, don't worry. So you made it through the first day of manning. Of course your bird bated like crazy on the glove, on the perch when you approached it on the perch just because it wanted to. Remember that this is all new to the bird. I promise the bating gets better.
You will spend time during the manning process wondering if the bating will end, if the bird will ever trust you and if the bird will ever step to the glove. The answer to all of this is yes, it takes time, patience, manning, training and most importantly work. Remember you took something out of the wild, out of it's element and are teaching to cohabitate with human life.
As you move through the manning process which really should only take a day or so with the right work and time you will notice that your bird will bate less, calm down and start to want to work with you and be with you. Once you hit that point it's time to start offering food, and trying to get the bird to step to the glove, after all you don't want to have to pick it up every time you want to work with him or hunt with him.
You now have your bird on the right track with manning. Remember that the manning process will continue through out your journey, it doesn't end in a day or two. You need to be able to weigh your bird daily, which requires the bird stepping to your glove and stepping to the perch. So now with out going into too much detail about training you are ready to move on and start with food offering and stepping to the glove.
You think you got this, you think it'll be easy and he's just gonna do it because he has to eat. How wrong you can be, this process may present a challenge. You can put tid bits of food on the glove, and get the birds interest. Oh and you have his interest, just look how flexible that sucker can be.
He is going to bend and twist and look like a bobble head contortionist. You would have never thought a bird could be that flexible, he will do what ever he has to do to get that food with out leaving that perch. He trusts you, but that not much yet. It's comical and patient trying and again don't worry you will get there. I laugh about it now, heck I laughed about when my husband was going through it, but he succeeded and so will you.
The Journey Continues
You are on the right track to manning your bird. You have him sitting pretty on the fist, you can weigh him, and he's starting to respond for food. Ah yes, food it's all about food with these guys. Some people say that you are seen as nothing more than a provider of food for them. Other people say that they bond with you and rely on you. It's mixed opinion I suppose and who knows what it really is.
You are ready to move on to training and weight management.. Yes, the trying science of weight management and finding your target flying weight. Just when you thought it couldn't get any more frustrating than the manning process.
Watch for the next article in the series of Starting a Journey in Falconry.
Some information collected from the modern apprentice: http://www.themodernapprentice.com/training.htm