Taking Teeny Tiny Bites

You may give your birds treats, like whole almonds, whole walnuts or whole cashews! It’s great to see our birds open the shells and extract the nut, just like they would in the wild. Using their natural abilities is amazing to see!

When we are training, we want our treats to be broken into smaller pieces so we can repeat the game ten times, not just once. But what happens when you hand your bird a sliver of almond, and they look at you like “where’s the rest of it?”. And we need to be conscious of how many nuts we give our birds in a day to keep their diet balanced.

So what can we do? I want to give my bird a reward for being a GOOD BIRD… but if I can only give him one or two rewards then that’s not going to get me very far. How can I make this one Cashew into ten repetition treats without my bird turning up his beak?

I want you to take your food, in this case a raw organic CASHEW and start with as big a piece as your bird needs to say “sure, gimme some of that please”. Let’s start with an ENTIRE cashew. Give your bird the whole nut. We will begin to cut the nut in half each time we give it as a treat, until we can have many tiny pieces.

There are 7 cashew pieces in this picture. Let’s number them 1-7, left to right. Each one is cut in half, then in half, then in half again, and so on.

So Cashew #1 is an entire cashew. But, #2 size is half of that. Would your bird take it? Is it good enough? Try only giving him #2 size cashews for a day. The next day, try a #3 size. And so on and so forth getting smaller and smaller.

You can give your bird the same amount of cashew, just cut into smaller pieces. This allows you to have more repetitions, and your bird still receives the same total amount of calories. In size #7, you get 64 pieces out of one cashew! That’s 64 repetitions of a behaviour for the price of one!

It is surprising how many of our birds will readily accept a slightly smaller size of nut if they know there’s another one coming around the corner. Try getting your bird to do a small trick or known behaviour (like a target). Give him a #3 size. Ask again. #3 size reward. Ask again. #3 size reward. Repeat. This gets the ball rolling. “Sure, I’ll eat your tiny cashew (you cheapskate) because I know you’ll be right back here giving me another one!” Win win!

Slowly work your way down to giving your bird #6 or #7 size. Chances are, if you ask for a few cute bird tricks in a row, he will be happy to take it knowing there’s the opportunity to earn another one right around the corner. Your bird’s health will thank you, your vet will thank you, and your pocketbook will thank you (cashews are expensive!!)

  • Robin Horemans
  • CBS owner
  • Parrot division chair IAABC