So you just got your gliders, now what do you do to make them like you?
You give them chill time in a prepped cage, then introduce yourself to them before inviting them to a tent time session where they can explore you at their leisure. Once they know you are safe and boring, let them sleep in a bonding pouch under your shirt during the daytime to develop a strong scent bond and become a member of their colony.
I recommend a cage cover over the back, tops, and sides of their cage, leaving the front open. This holds their comfortable and familiar scent around them while they acclimate to your home.
Its helpful to have their dinner in the cage before they go in. Fill the treat cups and water bottles.
Put a clean sleeping pouch in your bed and sleep on it while still stinky so it absorbs your aroma, once it stinks add it to their cage for them to sleep in your scent. You can put a freshly stinkified pouch in each day by swapping a pouch from the cage for a pouch in your bed each morning.
Once your new gliders are in their cage, for the next 24 hours (72 hours if stressed) just let them chill and try not to put your hands into the cage while they are awake and watching. This gives them some time to acclimate and take ownership of their cage. Let them keep the pouch they came to you in and don’t wash it for a week so they have their familiar scent around them.
Skip a shower and avoid deodorant/perfume/scented soaps or candles. Maybe hit the gym, get frisky, whatever works up a sweat and a stink. Stay near the cage chatting, singing, or making weird noises, anything to get them familiar with your sound and scent.
Stand with your clothed back against the cage bars to let them interact with you without being a challenge to them. They may sniff you, nibble your shirt, pee on you, pull your hair or just ignore and avoid you.
Feed them treats through the bars, some well-loved treat choices are mealworms, yogurt drops, those weird fish stick treats, watermelon, avocado, grapes, cooked chicken or turkey (NO garlic/onion), yogurt, honey, jelly, mini marshmallows, fresh green beans or peas in a pod, pecans.
Run a bird feather across the bars in front of them to see if they play chase and tug of war. Long and firm feathers work better than short or wispy ones.
After the chill time is over its time to introduce yourself to them, regardless of their level of nervousness. Its best to wear a long-sleeved shirt with tight fitting sleeves that won’t roll when a glider climbs on from the side. If you have other gliders, you can let them pee on the sleeves first, but there are some instances where that trick would backfire.
Open the cage door a put your arm in up to the shoulder and pretend to be a tree branch. Either press your palm flat against the back cage wall or curl it into a loose fist (hiding fingertips and palms) with the back of your hand facing up. Let them do their thing with you just existing in their area. Its helpful to position your arm by a wheel or treat cup. Be very patient and try not to react strongly when they nibble or nip. Do not chase, challenge, grab, hold, touch, pet, put fingertips near their face, touch their tail, etc. Let them come to you if they choose to, and let them leave you without impeding them.
They will often test you, jump on for a second and then run off to see if the trap springs or if you chase them. A nervous glider can do this a dozen times before finally accepting that you are safe and boring, or deciding you aren’t worth the risk anymore.
If they try to escape the cage, you can sometimes turn them by holding a palm up flat in front of their face, like “talk to the hand.” If they do escape, try to get them to chase a feather back into the cage or offer them their familiar pouch to climb into.
If things go very well and they climb on your arm, sniff you up and down, chest rub and pee on you, I’d suggest just seamlessly moving into a “tent time” session right away.
“Tent time” is any out of the cage playtime where they have the freedom to explore in a secure location, such as a pop-up tent, bathroom, walk in closet, glider proof bedroom, etc. I find tent time to be the most effective bonding strategy for early bonding, especially with skittery, crabby, or pouchy type gliders.
Wear the same hoodie without washing it between sessions, it will protect your clothes and absorb their scent so they re-mark you less.
Tight quarters encourage interactions, so if you have options start with the smallest space.
During the first 30 minutes of your first couple tent time session, just sit in the tent with them and ignore them. Try to avoid eye contact or constantly facing them. Keep your motions smooth, and feel free to talk, sing, or make sounds. If they jump on you, keep your reactions minimal. You don’t have to freeze, just stay relaxed and move naturally.
If after 30 minutes they have not come to visit you, start looking for opportunities to be useful to them. If you can see they are trying to get to somewhere, offer your arm as a bridge. Offer treats but not in their faces, just hold the treat visibly near something they can climb to. Try to encourage a feather chase along the floor then up your leg. Wear their pouch around your neck so they have to come to you to return to it.
They may bite, it’s like a hard pinch but no damage. If you can manage not to recoil or react then they will bite less frequently in the future. Sometimes they will lightly nip to test for stability, and if you can avoid recoiling they will be more likely to walk onto you. And they very often bite down when booty dancing to scent mark; you can guide them to the shoulder seams of your hoodie if their scenting nips are finding skin.
When a glider is sitting on the back of my hand and searching for a place to jump off, I play “magic carpet” with them. I slowly float my hand in the direction they are looking, when they look somewhere new I change direction with them. It’s a rather fun game, it disrupts their jumping, and it lets them explore the area while learning to ride on you. If they can stay focused on a thing long enough for the magic carpet to reach that thing, let them go and explore it, keep your hand up where they departed at until they look over an edge or look up at something, then move to their side and offer a lift again. If they leap off you onto something unstable (like a round shower curtain rod), unobtrusively park your magic carpet hand under and to one side of them so they can choose to step on and you’ll be nearby to catch them.
This works best in a bathroom because of the mirror. Gliders will stand up on my hand and scrabble at the mirror with their front feet, desperately sure they can walk right through it if they can just find the right spot to leap through.
Gliders are scent based creatures and they form colony associations to new members by sleeping in the scent of the new member for three consecutive nights (or longer). This is the theory underlying pouch swapping for introducing two gliders to each other, but its also informative for bonding them to you.
Letting their sleeping pouch absorb your scent while you sleep before putting it in the cage is a scent trick. You can also cut small fleece squares and tuck them in your clothing for a day before tucking them into the gliders sleeping pouch.
Avoid putting your normal clothing into their cage, the weaved threads and non-glider safe stitching can be a hazard, and gliders very often come to their new owners with long nails in need of trimming.
Letting the gliders sleep on you in bonding pouches is the ultimate scent trick. The gliders are sleeping in your freshest scent, hearing your heartbeat, breath, and voice, and feeling your moods. You are providing them a welcome service by keeping them warm, dark, and protected while they sleep. They do not need quietness for sleeping.
If they will be pouched for more than 20 minutes put a grape in the pouch for them to get a drink when needed. (yes gliders can have grapes and love them, they are not like dogs in this)
If they are fighting to get out immediately after being zipped in I give them 10 minutes to settle. Otherwise, I don’t recommend forcing them to stay in a bonding pouch if they want out. When a glider bites at the mesh or zipper, I let them out and see whether they just have to potty and get a drink.
If you want to open the pouch not let them escape, try making a bunch of fast kissy face noises in their faces, it usually gets the gliders to go to the bottom of the pouch for a few seconds.