Weigh scales are so useful, it might even save your birds life! In this photo you can see Monster the Cockatiel standing on his scale. He has recently been unwell, and part of my indication he was unwell is that he dropped a LOT of weight! He’s usually around 90 grams. At his lowest weight, he was 80g. That’s a 10 percent drop in weight! Time for the Veterinarian ASAP!
Thankfully, we have amazing veterinarians who have him on some medication and he is already feeling better. So far, he’s back up to 85 grams and continuing to improve. The weigh scale will also be useful in the days to come, as we monitor his progress. I am thankful we did the training before we needed it. The behaviour of ‘standing on a scale’ was heavily reinforced and practiced weekly. We also knew what his normal weight was!
How do you start training your bird to stand on a scale? There are many options: you can create a positive association by feeding a preferred item on the scale, you can use a perch on-top of the scale, you can train a stationing behaviour, or even use target training! In all cases, the bird will be reinforced with something the like for interacting with the scale. Monster got some yummy millet after this picture was taken!
I suggest starting with the scale on a stable surface, like a table or the top of the cage. Use your birds favourite treat as a lure and feed your bird right beside the scale. If that goes well, put the treat on-top of the scale so they can eat off of it. Good work! That is a positive association to the scale!
Next, allow your bird to interact voluntarily with the scale. If they put a beak or a foot on the scale, more treats. If they step onto the scale themselves, lots of treats! Be sure to start slowly and go at your birds’ pace. The slower you go, the strong a foundation you will build.
Making a positive association with the weigh scale could save your birds life!!
– Robin Horemans KPA CTP, IAABC ADT
Weigh scales can be purchased from a kitchen store, parrot supply store, or ordered online. Look for any digital scale that measures to 1 gram. If you have a very small bird, consider a scale that measures 0.1 grams.