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Trick Training & Potty Training

Expert Question

Hi Jim can you help me please with my African Grey Parrot. His name is Jack. I need to potty train him and to do tricks. He is hand tame. Can you help?
Thankyou, Keith.

Expert Answer

G'day Keith, It's great to hear that you are motivated to interact with your African Grey and hopefully achieve some training goals! To set you up on the right pathway to developing some `trick' training skills I would suggest checking out the following resources already available to you via the WPT website…

Link 1:

At the link above make sure you download the following two articles…

  • New Parrot Owner Behaviour Guidelines by Barbara Heidenreich
  • Training a Bird to Turn Around on Cue by Barbara Heidenreich

Link 2:

At this link try checking out…

  • Empowering Parrots by Susan Friedman
  • Does Your Parrot Have a Trust Account? by Steve Martin
  • Shaping New Behaviours by Susan Friedman

The above articles will offer a huge insight into how you can apply positive reinforcement to achieve any training goal you might set with Jack. I would also highly recommend purchasing two excellent DVD's from Barbara Heidenreich. These will be a great visual reference for you for developing your trick training skills and have many examples of both novel `tricks' and practical behaviours that you can start working on with Jack. Check out…

  • Parrot Behaviour & Training DVD
  • Training Your Bird for the Veterinary Exam DVD

Both of these videos are available from the WPT store so click on the links to get there and get the credit card ready...

Lastly, you have asked about `potty training'. There are a number of articles already available on the Internet that do a reasonable job of explaining this training goal. I would suggest simply doing a quick Google search for `Potty Training a Parrot' and access the information that is readily available. I do have a caution with Potty Training though. In my experience it can result in a parrot that holds out on defecating for excessive periods of time if the behaviour has been placed on a cue and there hasn't been variable reinforcement also offered for defecating within the cage or on a stand without a cue. You will find in the articles available that there is general advice on how to capture the defecating behaviour and reinforce this, but make sure that you also set up a reinforcement schedule for defecating at other times either in his cage and on any suitable stand away from his cage. This will hopefully ensure that he doesn't sit around waiting for your cue to relieve himself! Everything that you will learn from the above article links and DVD suggestions will certainly help you out as a "master potty trainer".

Kind Regards from `Down Under'
Jim McKendry
Parrot Behaviour & Enrichment Consultations

Jim McKendry
About Jim McKendry

Jim McKendry BTeach BAppSc (Wildlife Biology)

Jim provides consultancy services on parrot behaviour through Parrot Behaviour & Enrichment Consultations ( He holds Bachelor’s degrees in Teaching (ACU) and Applied Science (UQ) and is a Senior Biology and Environmental Sciences teacher. Jim’s approach to education on parrot behaviour aims to connect the behaviours we see amongst psittacines in the wild with those we observe in captivity to best inform environmental arrangement for behavioural success. An Applied Behaviour Analysis approach to assessing behaviour is the foundation of his consultancy assessments on individual parrot clients.

He has worked professionally as an Avian Trainer and Presentations Keeper at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and since 2005 has delivered a series of annual workshops at the Sanctuary on progressive approaches to companion parrot behaviour and enrichment. From 2009 to 2011 Jim worked as the resident consultant on parrot behaviour and enrichment at Brisbane Bird and Exotics Veterinary Services. He is a professional member of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators ( and a member of the World Parrot Trust’s Expert Panel of educators.  Jim writes a regular column, Pet Parrot Pointers, for Australian Birdkeeper Magazine and is an editorial consultant on parrot behaviour for this publication.

Visit Jim’s site on the web at