Although I’m Canadian, and therefore had my Thanksgiving over a month ago, today was festive — on my way home from training today, I turned onto the long, snow-covered laneway that leads up the hill to my crooked old farmhouse only to find a large and rather sedate flock of wild turkeys congregating in the middle of the road. I drove very slowly, and they parted on either side to let me pass. I love living in the country.
The birds were very good today. Progress on all fronts! Everyone got chicken today.
We picked up where we left off– targeting between perch and glove, perch and perch, and glove and perch. He was great. He wasn’t fazed at the height differential I added. Quick and responsive, but not quite as over-reactive as yesterday. About midway through the session, though, I realized there wasn’t much point in continuing until he learned to only come when given the cue, and not just on presentation of the glove. Thus began part two of our session, which did not go as well as the first. I would present the glove, he would come to it. He’d get no bridge and no reward, and I’d send him back. I’d raise the glove again, and he’d come again– no bridge, no reward. Third try, he ignored the raised glove. I gave him the cue, and he came. Perfect! Well, no. The reward that time seemed to erase the reason he’d got the reward from his mind, and he came on the next presentation of the glove without cue. And again. Third try, he ignored the glove again, then came when cued. …And thus started our cycle of it working out every third time. Frustrating for both of us, so we ended the session with some short hops, always with the cue.
I don’t think either of us are going to like the next session, which is going to be entirely focused on getting him to respond only when cued and at no other time.
Much better today. I continued yesterday’s trend of doing a session with Big Girl between sessions with the other birds. Her first session went perfectly. She was keen and interested, and ate each piece immediately on presentation. I walked away when she’d finished her allotment and when she was still interested, and went to train Twitch. I also corrected my previous error of putting One-eye back in the weathering yard before I was done training Big Girl, so he stayed inside for the duration of everyone’s sessions. Her second session had slight hesitation on beginning, then she did very well for about 10-15 repetitions. As soon as I saw her nibbling and starting to drop pieces, I gave her a particularly nice piece and ended the session. I tried for a third session after training Wee One, but there was no interest at all– I offered three times, got no response, and ended the session. Still, that’s a much longer attention span than she’s shown before, and she was far more engaged than I’ve seen her. Maybe next time we’ll try rat instead of chicken and see what it does to her appetite.
Twitch bailed on me in her mew (she’s freelofted) when I went to get her, and I had to wait for her to return to the perch– on second presentation of the glove, she stepped up nicely and we moved inside to start the session. She was only marginally more relaxed today, but she definitely was more interested in the food. Lots of repetitions at foot level, and I only had to lift it closer to her face a few times when distraction elsewhere in the room got her fixated and ‘stuck’, staring at something. By the end of the session (which was messy– she likes to pop chick heads, so there was brain on her chest, on the perch, on the table, on the floor, and down my leg) she was reaching for the food and putting a foot on the glove. Session ended with two lovely step-ups from the perch to the glove on presentation, which was very nice. She also began to take ‘hidden’ food, but the movement of the glove to reveal the tidbit frightened her, so we’ll go slower with that next session.
Her sessions will eventually have to involve reinforcement for calm behaviour when moving through hallways, doorways, etc. She’s such a stark contrast to One-eye– I hope she learns to trust more readily.
Cut the food much smaller this time, and soaked it– that definitely solved the sticky crop situation, but even the smaller pieces of food were too big. Next time I’m going to really mince them. She cropped up a lot more quickly than I wanted her to. Still, this was a much more useful session than last time. Lots of bridging, some step-ups for visible food, and then some nice step-ups for hidden food that would have gone on longer had she not already been full.
Due to other pressing responsibilities, I think there will be a struggle to find the time to do multiple sessions through the day with most of these birds (which is much better for progress and retention than one longer session, as I’m having to do now). That said, Wee One and her tiny crop will be my first priority if I can find the time to do multiple sessions!
A great day all around. Tomorrow is a big training day for folks from another facility I used to volunteer with, so there will be many extra bodies around– it will be interesting to see if tomorrow’s training sessions are affected by it.