I first knew I was afraid of birds in 2008 when I was feeding ducks at the park with my 3 year old sister. More & more ducks kept showing up & were flying around us and I started to panic! I haven’t been around bird since, this is until recently!
& Yep – the fear is still there
In 2018 I started to work at a facility that has an outside aviary for birds. One day in 2019 there where a lots of beautiful birds hanging out in the aviary. I called my boyfriend (who loves birds) and asked him to come and go in to the aviary with me. He held my hand and didn’t leave my side. I was a bit scared the whole time but did not panic.
One bird was checking me out and the owner helped him to go from his arm to my arm. He sat there for 3 minutes and then I had to go out of the aviary. I was proud but overwhelmed.
Habituation in a large outdoor space
In the end of 2019 a crow started to hang out outside the dog daycare I was working on at that time. We started to fed him and his mate. He became very tame and this crow helped me start to get used to birds flying around me.
One day he started to take food from our hands. I had to try! Really scary but cool! I think the large outdoor space and being able to go away from the situation made me brave.
Want access to the whole kit & caboodle of Animal Training Academy resources… CLICK HERE to see what’s on offer via your very own Animal Training Academy membership.
In June 2020 I started to work in a ‘animal hotel/dog daycare, at the same facility that has the aviary that I mentioned above. The aviaries that the birds live in are designed to enable us to feed the birds from the outside, without going in with them.
This allowed me to get more and more comfortable around birds and hang out with them with a barrier between us. The more brave I became the more I started to hand feed them through the grid.
Slowly eliminate the protective contact
At this stage I dared to take the next approximation & open the cage to hand feed the birds without the physical barrier (of course only wanted & were also not scared).
Not according to plan!
In August 2020 we were caring for a new bird! The individual came from a bad place but luckily now he has a great new home! He is very use to humans now and cuddles so I got to hang out with him and pet him through the aviary grid/barrier.
The day that the owner picked him up, he was sitting on her shoulder. We were talking about him and suddenly he jumps from the owners shoulder, landed on my shorts by my knees (I’m a small person) and started to climb up to my shoulder.
I froze, held my breath. I really didn’t want to panic because I was worried it might injure or scare him. When he reached my shoulder he stoped. Just sat there. I started breathing again. I was totally Okey with him sitting on my shoulder for a minute.
This could turn out to be a setback in my training. But once again I had control. I could ask the owner to take him off me but in the end I’m glad I didn’t – because I was able to relax with him.
Set goals, stay on one step until you are 110% brave enough to take the next step.
A goal I set a few weeks later was a bird walking from a stick to my arm, and hanging out with me. It went really well and I therefore decided to stay on this approximation for a while!
The end goal being to get a bird flying to my arm from a distance. And also to learn more about birds language and signals. Something that will help me to get over my fear. If I can communicate better with birds, both of us are going to feel more safe and brave!
Three other considerations in my journey…
- Have fun
- Surround your self with friends (for me the ATA membership community) that support you.
- Track and celebrate your approximations
Like what you see here? And want more amazing resources from Animal Training Academy. CLICK HERE to see what’s on offer for you within the ATA Membership.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: – ATA member Amanda Sjöland
Amanda Sjöland, lives in Sweden, is a dog masseur and dog trainer. Working in her company helping dogs to better physical health, guiding dogowners to get a happy life with their dogs and is an author to a Swedish book about fitness training with balance equipment.
She is also a coordinator/manager at a dog daycare and animal hotel. At the hotel she works with bunnies, cats, rodent and birds. Additionally she has two dogs of her own and lives with her boyfriend – who also works as a dog instructor as well as with mental health.