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How Do You Teach A Parrot To Talk?

There is something about a pet parrot that chats with his owner.  We as humans are just as social as the parrot we adopt.  Think about it, if you have a dog or cat there is some limited communication.  They can learn some tricks but learning to actually talk is impossible.  That’s why the parrot holds so much fascination for us.  You can teach a parrot to talk and that makes them quite unique.

The question I get all the time is, “Can you teach a parrot to talk”?  My response is, that depends.  Some species are more prone to chatting than others but the species does not guarantee you will get a talker.  There are a few things that will stack the odds in your favor though.

The first is the parrot’s temperament.  You should not pick a bird that appears nervous or shy.  These birds are hard to teach to talk.  The more relaxed your bird is the better your chance it will talk, which is why I always recommend you try to adopt a younger bird that has been hand fed.  Those birds are more social and usually less fearful.

The second factor is the environment you keep them in.  You can teach a parrot to talk much easier if it is a lone parrot rather than a pair of parrots.  The reason is because you become the focus of their social world and there is no distraction of another bird in the cage.

Does Sex Matter-It sure does when you want to teach a parrot to talk!

The third element that will favor talking, is the sex of your bird.  Male parrots tend to talk more than female parrots. As I stated above, the species will also make a difference.  Not all species will talk but there are exceptions to that rule.  The African Grey’s are known as prolific talkers but you have to start the processes with them while they are very young, usually during the first year.  Parakeets are prone to learning a few words but some have a very large vocabulary.  It all comes down to the individual bird and its personality.

Ok, so how do you begin?  Think about how you teach a toddler to talk and use that to teach a parrot to talk.  You usually exhibit a good amount of patients.  You demonstrate an association between the word and the object you are trying to train.  A bird is no different.  You should strive to show the bird how the word relates to what you are trying to get it to say. The best place to train a parrot is on a T stand.  It is a place where you will have the parrot’s undivided attention.  This is important because distractions will reduce the effectiveness of any training you are trying to accomplish.  If you want to teach a parrot to talk be assured it is a one-on-one activity.

I find the best time to teach a parrot to talk is in the morning.  Your bird will be more alert and more prone to react to you because of the social nature of parrots. I use repetition and association as the pillars of any effort to teach a parrot to talk.  Every morning when I remove the cover on my parrot’s cage I say “Getup Lazy bird”.  By doing this my parrot learned that phrase within a few months.  Additionally, I use food when I train as a reward for positive actions. This positive reinforcement is the keystone of any program used to teach a parrot to talk.  I recommend you start with single words and after you have accomplished a few single words try to string a few together into phrases.  “Polly wants a cracker” is more difficult that “Hello”. Once a bird is on the way to learning a few words it will probably get the association of a new phrase and that you are trying to get it to repeat that phrase. I recommend you reward any sound the parrot attempts in the beginning.  If you are trying to train the word “Hello” and your bird utters anything after you slowly repeat the word, reward the bird immediately.  Most birds will eventually get the association of food with its effort to repeat that word.

If you want to teach a parrot to talk-Take your time

Don’t overdo your training sessions.  A young parrot is like a young child and they have short attention spans.  Any effort to teach a parrot to talk will take patients.  Don’t spend more than 15 minutes for each session when you begin and as the parrot learns a few words you could extend it to 20 minutes.  I always repeat the words my parrot knows to start the session.  I use the appropriate reward to create a positive environment.  It reinforces what he has learned and then a new word becomes easier to train.

The one element that is critical in this whole process is patients.   the effort to teach a parrot to talk can be frustrating but also rewarding over time.  Do not be discouraged if your bird does not pick up on the words you are trying to teach at first.  It might take weeks to get the bird to begin the process of attempting a word and finally putting it all together.  If you stick to a consistent schedule and use repetition with a reward you should be able teach a parrot to talk.  Keep in mind that some birds just don’t get it and there seems to be no rhyme or reason behind the process with some birds.  With some consistent effort you should see results over time.


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