Polly Want a Cracker?
Training a parakeet to speak is a great novelty for humans. Many spend futile hours speaking to their parakeets, without knowing that a few tip can help them train their parakeets more efficiently.
Selecting a Parakeet
Although it isn't strictly a point connected with training, it can help to select the right parakeet. The physical characteristics of the bird, such as colour and size, are largely irrelevant - though they are often related to the breed, which is important. There are three factors to look out for that influence your parakeet's ability to learn to talk:
Male parakeets are generally more likely to speak successfully. They also learn more quickly.
As when training any animal, it's worth remembering that a very young one will generally learn more quickly, as a young bird will still be developing its communication skills.
More expensive birds from your local pet shop are usually easier to train. Cheaper birds are less likely to succeed. So if you are intent on your bird speaking, don't skimp on it. When birds are expensive, it's usually for good reason.
Several breeds of parakeet are more likely to learn to speak. The Australian parakeet - or indeed any parakeet in the Psittacidae family - is generally a relatively good talker. English, Ringnecked, Alexandrine, and Plumheaded Parakeets are good examples of a breed that is able to learn to talk proficiently.
The area around the parakeet can also help motivate it to get talking. Cages should be large and the bird should be well-fed and have ample water - in short, take good care of your pet. This might seem pretty obvious, but these basic factors really do make a difference in the process of teaching parakeets to speak.
If possible, keep two or three parakeets, as the birds will then develop skills in communication with each other. If you can't keep more than one bird, a mirror will also help, as your pet will communicate with the 'mirror parakeet'. Another parakeet or mirror is fine while the bird is still being cage-trained and being encouraged to communicate, but you should remove it from the cage when you attempt to train it to talk, otherwise the bird will chirp to the other bird instead of paying attention to you. Keeping a towel or something over the cage to cover it is also helpful, so that the bird can concentrate on the voice and not be distracted.
Communication is important to parakeets, and they are very smart birds. They have the capacity to imitate humans fairly easily, so teaching a parakeet to speak is really just an issue of motivation. They need to have a reason to learn to repeat humans, to make them feel that they need to communicate with us.
To do this, you must convince your bird that he is your friend. You should be nice to your bird and spend time with him. And don't yell; it will discourage your pet.
Parakeets are, by nature, friendly animals. Teaching them that you are their friend is really quite easy. Once they have got used to you, especially if they are trained to sit on your hand or finger, you can help them learn to speak 'human'.
When you are ready to train your bird, speak clearly and slowly, repeating words. Slowness is important, as parakeets tend to speed up words when they repeat them. Speaking slowly will help make the words sound normal when you hear them. Be patient though, because training can take some time, even if you do it regularly and well.
Try to speak with them early in the day while they are alert and their mind is fresh. While it is important to speak regularly, it is more important to speak for more than a few minutes; around half an hour a day if possible.
The words you use can affect how quickly they will repeat them. Parakeets are best with words with hard syllables, such as k, w or t. Words that begin with p or b are also good to use in teaching the parakeet. A traditional phrase such as Hello isn't very good to train your parakeet with, since it is hard for them to say. Only when he repeats the first phrase should you move on to a second one.
You can also tape-record your voice to play while you're away. However, this can lead to the parakeet only speaking when you're not there. Some CDs are even available to play to birds. This is not as recommended as actually speaking to the bird, as your bird should be aware that this is a human speaking. Some people prefer to use their own voices so that the parakeet can mimic the owner's unique tone of voice.
Some parakeets can learn words after two months. Others can take up to six months. After a bird learns a few words, it will take much less time to teach them each word.
Once a parakeet learns to repeat words well, it's relatively easy to get them to recognise objects and say their names. Simply hold objects up to them and repeat the word. Do this until they recognise the word. You can hold up food to them and say 'yum-yums'. You can train them to recognise you as your name as well as many other things.
Once your parakeet is proficient in repeating words and tones, you can even teach it to do impressions. It's good to leave a tape of the person you want your parakeet to impersonate, unless you're good at impressions yourself.