Do Conures Like to Play? 5 Ways to Play with Your Pet Bird

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Conures are small birds with such big personalities. They are interactive, smart, and enjoy chewing as well as exploring. Not only that.

Conures love to play! It’s their favourite thing to do. If anything, Conure birds will play with whatever’s around them. This may include toys, humans, and even other birds/ animals.

And now comes the best part. Conures are quite smart. You can teach them simple as well as complicated tricks with just a little training. And talking about teaching your pet Conure tricks.

How to Play with Your Pet Conure?

In as much as both you and your pet will derive much pleasure from it, it’s important to note that playing with Conures isn’t just about entertainment.

In any case, encouraging the physical abilities of these birds helps them to build trust and develop social interaction capabilities. Not only that. Teaching your pet Conure different tricks helps with both its well-being and tameness.

Here are several crucial things you can teach your Conure:

– Have it Fly to You

Recall flying is arguably one of the easiest tricks to teach Conure birds. In fact, enthusiasts consider recall and target flying as beginner exercises for young, busy baby Conure birds.

With recall training, the whole idea is to “capture” the behaviour “fly to me,” then reinforce it. As in, the first time your pet Conure hops on your arm, offer praise and follow that up with a reward. Ensure to reward your bird with a food treat it normally doesn’t eat. This way, it will associate flying to you with something positive.

Once your bird has ‘captured’ the simple behaviour of ‘flying to you’, introduce a cue. A cue can be anything that signals your bird that it’s now time to fly to you. For example the word ‘go’ or a clicker.

Thus, the sequence of ‘flying to you’ should be: cue (signal) – bridge (praise) – reward (treat). Take note that the bridge can be any word that alerts your bird that it has performed as expected and a reward is forthcoming.

– Cuddle and Caress

Most birds aren’t suckers for cuddles. Even species known for their affection like conures seem not to like getting touched too much. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t teach your conure to caress and cuddle. You’ll just have to be extra patient and persistent for your bird to get used to your hands.

The thing is, young conures living in the wild normally have companions within their flocks. Partner conures can preen each other, but they limit this act of affection to almost entirely the neck and head area. Now, when a conure matures and finds a mate, the preening can extend to ‘private areas’ like the chest and base of the tail.

So when you pet your conure anywhere else other than its head, you’re signalling it that it has a mate. This can trigger aggression in males or unwanted egg-laying in females.

To teach your conure how to cuddle/ caress the proper way, move your hand slowly but surely towards its head. If your pet doesn’t seem to resist, start scratching its head, albeit slowly and gently.

It’s best to pick the time of day (and place) when your bird is most calm and relaxed to start cuddling it. And remember to praise and reward your conure every time it accepts a scratch or rub to reinforce the behaviour.

– Laying on its Back

Getting your conure to lay on its back will come in handy when you want to trim its nails as well as playing the dead trick. With that said, you can teach your conure to lay on its back with the following simple process:

  • Allow your bird to get comfortable with you touching it.
  • Place your hand on the bird’s back and try to roll it back. Slowly.
  • Stop as soon as the bird gets uncomfortable (even if it’s yet to fully recline).
  • Hold that position briefly.
  • Upright your conure and reward it.
  • Repeat this process with an incremental increase of duration and angle.

Eventually, your pet will learn that it’s beneficial to lay on its back whenever it’s signalled to do so.

– Play a Ball Game

Interestingly, some conures play fetch the same way dogs do. And just like with all other tricks, positive reinforcement is the most effective way of teaching your bird how to fetch as well as other ball games.

As Dr Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice) of the Veterinary Centre for Birds & Exotics notes, “positive reinforcement for birds is best for applied behaviour analysis training”.

Still, you’ll need to be patient with your bird for it to learn ball games. How fast your bird learns to play depends on the game’s complexity, the bird’s comfort level, and the trainer’s skill level. As Barbara Heidenreich, an animal training and behaviour consultant notes, “your bird can learn some tricks in as little as 20 minutes and take a day or several weeks to learn others.”

Which is why you ought to start with a basic ball game like “fetch.” To teach your conure to retrieve a ball or small toy, consider the following process:

  • Set your bird on a perch and offer it a small toy in your hand. The bird should pick up the toy with its beak out of curiosity. If it doesn’t, try offering it the ball together with a piece of food, but make sure it first touches the ball before the food. Not only that. Make sure to say “good” whenever the bird picks up the ball. You can reinforce the “retrieving” behaviour by repeating the “pick and treat” process.
  • Once your pet knows how to retrieve the ball, place a bowl underneath for the bird to drop the ball whenever it gets tired. And when it drops, catch the ball in the bowl and say “good,” followed by offering a treat. Repeat this process several times to reinforce the behaviour.
  • Once your bird gets used to picking up the ball from your hand and dropping it in the bowl, you can allow it to miss a few times by moving the bowl to the side. Don’t offer any treats in these cases.
  • Place the bowl in the right position and repeat step 2, all the while offering treats.
  • Move the bowl to the side again and let your bird pick up the ball. If it attempts to drop the ball in the bowl, reinforce this behaviour by offering lots of praise as well as treats. Eventually, your conure will start associating picking up the ball and dropping it in the bowl with positivity.
  • Proceed to place the bowl further away to see if the bird will fly to place the ball there.

You may have to repeat the process several times for your bird to grasp the concept of placing the ball in the bowl no matter how far the distance. But once that is out of the way, you can play fetch (and other ball games) all you want.

– Playing in the Sink with Running Water

Playing in the water or bathing is crucial for maintaining birds’ overall health as well as keeping their feathers in excellent condition. As such, you should condition your bird to accept taking a dip no matter how much it resists water.

The best place to teach your bird how to play with water is in the sink. As you may know, many bird species in the wild naturally take dips in still water.

So start by pool warm water in your sink, then place your conure close by so he can step down into the water. Once he’s in, it’s likely his natural bathing instincts will kick in and he’ll start splashing about happily in no time.

Just be careful to use clean, warm water and let your bird play during the warmest period of the day.

While playing with your bird, it might happen that your conure bites you. This is normal, if the intention is to play and not to hurt you. You can read more about this in the linked article.

How Often Should You Play with your Conure?

As much as possible. Yes, pet conures need all the attention and love they can get to thrive. If you don’t have time on your hands, consider keeping a different kind of pet. Because conures can even become depressed if they stay for long periods without play and affection.

With that said, most enthusiasts report 1-3 hours a day as sufficient enough playtime for conures. Though the whole period doesn’t have to involve active playing. Conures will be happy to be merely close to you and get involved in the on-goings around the house.

Do Pet Conures need Toys?

Yes, they do! As mentioned earlier, pet conures love to play with toys as much as they do with humans. What’s more, toys come in handy in ensuring the physical and mental well-being of conures.

Inactive conures are at risk of developing disorders like arthritis as well as losing muscle mass. You should, thus, ensure to get your conure all type of toys including climbing toys, noise-making toys, enrichment toys, etc.

Wrapping Up

To prevent your Conure from developing destructive behaviours, offer it as much playtime as you possibly can. These birds relish to play and are quite clever acrobats and escape artists.

What’s more, playing is one of the most ideal as well as fun to train your pet bird. As Heidenrich notes, “playing is a systematic approach to animal training, which is basically a form of communication”.

Remember, creating a comfortable, relaxing environment and being sensitive to your bird’s body language are integral parts of pet play.

Updated: September 25, 2020

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