Caged birds – handling

Information about handling, training and showing caged birds.

Schools that keep birds must have the use of suitably constructed cages that secure the animals. These pens may be portable but must be solid in construction and erected in a way to be safe for both humans and birds. It is recommended to design cages in a way that allows easy observation.

Approved activities Category
Observation of normal animal behaviour of birds 1
Capture, restraint and handling 2

Observation of animal’s behaviour

Care should be taken to limit the noise and activity of students during observations, especially for birds which are not tame. Allow as much distance as possible between the students and birds. Students should be encouraged to use binoculars or a camera with a telephoto lens.


Birds should be conditioned to accept handling. They need to be handled calmly and with care. Training birds to accept transfer between cages on a daily basis is recommended as it ensures that they can be handled easily, provides a level of environmental enrichment and may ameliorate territorial behaviour. Birds will readily develop behavioural problems from boredom and so transferring birds to new environments may aid in reducing the risk of this.

Handling needs to start with birds from a young age and should be carried out slowly and patiently. To begin with, short periods of handling should occur and the birds should be replaced to their cage as a reward. If birds become stressed or irritated during handling, return the bird to its cage immediately. As with all animals, it is important that birds associate handling with a pleasant experience. Continuing handling with a stressed bird or for extended periods of time is likely to result in birds disliking handling.

Image: Handling needs to start with birds from a young age.

Capture, restraint and handling of birds

Only birds that have been conditioned to accept handling should be used for this activity. To avoid stress, birds must be held for the least time possible. Captures should not be repeated.

Before a bird is released, it must be given a clear view of the release environment to avoid blind collision. Prolonged activity in one aviary should be avoided as all birds, not just the target one, will become stressed. When handling birds in large outdoor aviaries, always remain within the cage with the captured bird. If birds need to be transferred to different cages, they should be placed in a suitable portable cage. When capturing birds that are housed in small indoor cages where the bird has to be removed from its cage, always ensure that all windows and doors are closed. This reduces the risk of a bird escaping if it gets away from its handler. After handling, return the bird immediately to the cage with food and water and leave the birds in privacy. This ensures that birds not associate handling with an unpleasant experience.

Behaviour activities

Approved activities Category
Taming / Gentling 3

Taming birds

Taming birds involves familiarizing birds with being handled and making them comfortable with people. Taming should ideally be done from a young age and should be a slow, patient procedure. It is important not to rush birds when taming and consider that every individual bird will take a different length of time to become tame. Birds should never be handled for excessive periods of time and taming should begin with very short intervals of training, always followed by returning the bird to its cage to reward it. Taming may involve standing in the cage with birds, feeding birds by hand and eventually holding birds and allowing them to stand on an arm, hand or shoulder.


Birds can be trained to perform a vast variety of actions and behaviours including tricks, speech, standing on the handler and coming to the handler when signaled. Parrots are commonly trained to talk and perform tricks however many species of birds can be trained to perform simple tricks. Training takes time and patience and should be carried out by an experienced bird handler who has had experience training birds. Students can observe training and begin training procedures for simple actions like getting the bird to stand on an outstretched hand. Students should always be supervised while training animals.

Because of the time involved in training parrots, it is unlikely that this activity would be carried out in schools. A teacher, using an already trained bird, may choose to demonstrate the principles involved. Parrots can be tamed and trained to perform a vast range of tricks and activities including speech. The birds should be rewarded for desirable behaviours, generally with food, but normal feeding must not be withheld or overlooked. Punishment, especially physical forms, should not be used as a deterrent for undesirable actions. Reward the bird’s spontaneous actions that approximate desired behaviour. Repetition is the key to success and it may take years to perfect the performance of a single desired action on command.


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