Random Rant #24 – Feather Chase Training

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In the wild our cute cuddly fuzzbutts are also vicious predators that are such efficient hunters of birds that they are extincting the swift parrot in their native habitat. Captive gliders manifest those bird hunting instincts when chasing feathers.

Encouraging feather chasing is a great way to give yourself a tool to lure an escaping glider, or to distract a glider into a corner when opening their cage door.

Feather Chase Training

Some gliders need to be cajoled into a chase, others leap out of a pouch screaming fighting words with their teeth bared at the mere hint of a feather ringing the bars. Guard your hands if you feather chase outside of a cage.

As frequently as you can, run the feather across the cage bars in front of your glider’s face so they can see and hear it. Use variable speeds in your movements, and rapidly flip the feather around to flash the underside at them. If the glider doesn’t take an immediate interest, try a gentle tickle of his front paws with the tip of the feather.

Fast, flippy and flighty motions are good for attracting a hyper glider, while slow ringing drags will often lure a glider from their sleeping pouch.

Lead the glider around the cage, try to stay a couple inches ahead of them and keep moving. Be mindful of the pathing the glider has to do to follow along.

Lead them to treat cups and then quickly hide the feather so they notice the treasure inside.

When they are running in a mesh tracked wheel, poke the feather into the cage and let the tip lightly run across the track around the 2 o’clock position.

When they win, give them a treat and they may release the feather, maybe. The treats are powerful reinforcements for chasing even if they don’t buy you an auto-win in the tug of war.

Tug of War

When the gliders win the chase and catch the feather, play some tug of war with them. It’s important to let them feel the struggle and to have moments of triumph and defeat, really let them get emotionally invested.

There should be stand offs, with them holding the feather nearly still while you rotate it so its flipping around in their face. There should be see-saws where you pull them through the cage bars a little, then push the feather into the cage a little, then pull again, all in dramatic fashion. Let them lose grip with one hand, almost lose the feather entirely, but manage to save it at the end by holding onto just the tip. Sneak in a gentle tail tug to distract them into loosening their grip on a sure victory. Stuff like that.

Encourage teamwork if another glider comes over to play. Give each a section to tug on against you, or bend the feather over a couple of bars and let them each have an end to play against each other. My colony will tackle each other and fight for the right to be forward chaser, and they take up positions in each quadrant of the cage to guard.

Really try to push the treat bribery to end the tug of war whenever possible.

Most gliders will quickly lose interest in a feather once you release it and it goes slack. Beware of ending feather chases with releasing too often, as it seems to be the most powerful discouragement for interest in the game. It’s better to pull the feather from their grasp, wait them out, or trick them into releasing it. This makes the difference between disappointment and disillusionment, a disappointed glider will try again harder next chase while disillusionment demotivates their desire to play again.

Which Feathers to Use

Natural feathers from an indoor bird are the best if you can find them. I’ve gotten them from bird rescues and pet owners before.

Get a long feather with a firm rib bone that can make an audible sound when run over the cage bars. I am partial to Macaw tail feathers, peacock feathers were way too flimsy. Pheasant feathers were good enough.

If you use fake feathers, try to avoid dyed ones, I’ve used white fake ones quite a few times without issues but use your own judgement. Id suggest floating any dyed feathers in hot water to see if they leak dye when wet, because a lot of them do and the gliders put the feathers in their mouths.

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