One of the greatest pleasures in keeping a pet bird lies in making it really know one, so that it becomes tame enough to fly about the sitting-room at will. It will soon display countless pretty and engaging ways, which one would never have suspected so long as it remained in the narrow confines of a cage. Though all birds will display far more intelligence and individuality out of a cage than in it, some are naturally endowed with greater aptitude for learning tricks than others.
Walking the tight-rope. This is one of the simplest tricks to teach a bird photo, F. Avery
The siskin and the redpoll, two minute birds, half the size of an ordinary sparrow, easily head the list of small cage birds for quickness and intelligence, so much so that a brisk trade is carried on at many of the large bird fanciers in trained redpolls. The Redpoll's Accomplishments
These birds are sold in a special cage, in which they draw up their own drinking water, by means of a wee bucket on a string, from a little well fixed on outside the cage. They also pull up, by a string, a tiny train-load of seed, which runs on wheels up a steep incline fitted with rails.
These trick cages are very high and narrow, and the bucket has quite a long way to travel up to the level of the higher perch. The bird draws his water up in a very clever way. Seizing the string in his beak, he pulls in a good length of it, puts his claw on that; then he draws in another length, and then another, until finally the bucket reaches a convenient drinking level.
The train, too, is constantly in motion, for a redpoll is a hungry bird, and will be incessantly pulling it up to take a seed or two, with evident enjoyment.
A more amusing pet than one of these little trick birds for an invalid or convalescent child it would be hard to imagine. The cost, too, is comparatively trifling, ranging from 7s. 6d. upwards, for both the bird and its cage.
The great secret of training birds is to buy them directly after the first moult is over, at about six months old, and hang their cages in the living-room, and feed them entirely oneself, making a point of talking and whistling to them the while. Thus they will become thoroughly accustomed to the son of one's voice, and will come forward, flutter-ing their wings, to answer back cheerily when addressed.
Allowing the Bird Freedom
Next, put an encircling guard over the fire - if it is winter time - and then open the door of the cage before the bird has had his breakfast. Let him fly about and preen himself on the window-ledge while you attend to his little home comforts.
The sight of a freshly sanded floor, clean water, well-filled seed vessel, and last, but not least, a little sprig of groundsel or scrap of lettuce leaf, will quickly lure him into his cage again, and then the door can be shut on him until next morning.
After a few days the bird's bath can be taken from a saucer placed in a patch of sunshine, and he can finish his toilet in leisurely fashion on the top of his cage before going in to breakfast.
Soon he can be let out again during the morning for several hours, learning to return almost at once if he is whistled for, and his cage held out to him invitingly. It is, as a rule, best to put his food inside the cage, so that he must enter to get it, as otherwise it is often a difficult matter to persuade him to return at any special moment.
Posing in a decorated ring. The ring can also be suspended and the bird taught to swirg in it
Hemp seed is one's greatest ally in teaching a bird tricks. Never ex Bud allowance of three or four seeds a day, even when teaching a new trick, for if eaten in greater quantities, it is apt to be harmful.
First of all, tempt the bird to take a hemp seed from between your fingers, then from between your lips - if a siskin, he will probably have the impertinence to perch upon your chin in order to do so more conveniently - and then go on to teach him to walk the tight-rope.
Walking the Tight-rope
For this trick, a couple of yards of stout rope must be provided, bound with rough red braid to look gay, and make a rough footing for the bird.
Tie the rope quite taut between two chairs placed, at first, not more than two feet apart. The distance can be gradually increased.
Now place three hemp seeds, one at either end of the rope, and one in the middle, and chirrup to the bird to attract his attention to what you are doing. He will fly down almost at once to eat one or other of the two end hemp seeds, and will soon learn to hop down the rope to reach the cubes placed along it, rather than take the trouble of flying so short a way.
Next, provide a small doll's kitchen table and chair made of deal, also a doll's cup and saucer, and train the little performer to perch on the chair and eat and drink from the utensils on the table. If a little chopped egg and crushed biscuit is placed in the cup, he will learn this trick very readily, and may even after a time, if very tame, be lured into wearing a wee muslin bib.
Swinging in a decorated ring makes a very pretty trick. Get an ordinary bird ring, such as is often sold to hang from the roof of a cage, and wind red, white, and blue ribbons round two-thirds of the circle. Fix a tiny screw with a ring to the top in the middle of the bare space, to pass a cord through by which to hang it up. Where the ribbons end on either side, bore a small hole right through and insert two tiny painted flags - a red and a blue look prettiest - made from stiff silk, mounted on wee sticks cut from a bit of firewood and gilded with metallic paint. Paint also the bare part of the wooden ring, and pass a length of gold cord through it, and you have as pretty a decoration as you could wish.
This decorated ring must now be hung to swing between two chairs, or, better still, from a bracket sticking out from the wall, and the little performer may be persuaded to swing in it by means, at hrst, of a bribe of hemp seed, or of a bit of groundsel fixed just inside the ring, and once he is accustomed to it. he will fly to it and swing with the greatest delight.
Racing up a double ladder for the possession of a flag at the top. The platform should afford standing-room for two birds
Doves are the tamest of all cage birds, and, being bigger, may be handled with impunity. With patience and care, it is possible to teach them many excellent tricks.
There is a little troupe of trick birds who have had the honour of performing before the Queen and the Royal children, and also at the Mansion House Fancy Dress Ball, and which are often shown at children's parties. Their accomplishments are most surprising, and many of their simpler tricks could be taught to a pet ring-dove if the lessons were begun at a very early age.
The Apparatus for Tricks
Most of the tricks are carried on with the help of some very simple apparatus, such as any "handy man" would make for a few shillings, while the painting and decorating of them would be a task which one could best perform oneself.
A wee see-saw, fastened on a small tripod stand, with a flat platform, adorned with flags, is easily made. Over its centre of gravity a third bird is taught to perch, in order to give stability to the see-saw with its weight. The doves quickly learn what is required of them if a little of their favourite food is placed at either end of the see-saw just before feeding-time. They should be placed gently in the correct position, and when engaged in feeding, the swing of the see-saw will do no more than cause them to flutter their wings in order to maintain their balance.
If the see-saw and stand are gilded or enamelled in some pretty colour, or a brightly coloured ribbon is caught up from the stand where the central bird sits, and looped up halfway along cither end of the seesaw, it in no way interferes with the birds, and the effect is very pretty and gay.
Racing up a double ladder is another simple and easily taught trick, for which nothing is needed but a double ladder, with rings of a suitable size and distance apart for the birds to be able to scramble up them easily.
At the top of the ladder it will be necessary to provide a platform big enough to enable two birds to stand on it easily.
These few examples and suggestions, perhaps, are enough to show the capabilities of the pet bird; how many tricks he can be taught and how easily, and, incidentally, what a very great amount of pleasure can be derived from his performances.
One of Mr. Percy Anderson's beautiful and original designs. The dress is of darkest brown gauze over a divided skirt of cafe-au-lait crepe de Chine. The gauze scarf is draped to form the bodice. A green silk cloak, from which flows a blue scarf, hangs from the shoulders. The elaborate head-dress is characteristically Egyptian.