With kind permission from Dawn Eischen.
Before you begin, please seek the advice of your avian veterinarian. Some behavior problems are the result of an injury, disease, or illness. If this is the case, your avian vet can prescribe the proper treatment for your bird. The TTouch can be performed on birds undergoing veterinary treatment to help them relax and recover from the illness or injury more quickly.
What you will need
- T-stand or the back of a chair:
Your bird's head should be no higher than your chest when perched. Make sure the stand does not wobble either. The idea here is to make your bird as comfortable as possible. Please remove any feeding cups or toys that may be attached to the T-stand.
If possible, use two feathers from the bird you will be working with. If no long feathers are available, use a feather from one of your other (healthy) birds--preferably of a color similar to the bird you will be working with.
Try to save the long feathers your bird sheds throughout the year. The longer the feathers the better.
Caution: Diseases could be transmitted to your bird by using feathers from other birds.
The long cotton swabs are better than the short ones because it allows your hand more distance from the bird. Hands too close could frighten a shy bird.
Attach the stick end to the base of the feather with clear tape. I call this my "feather wand".
Put the T-stand or chair in the quietest room, away from cages, tables, and your other birds or pets. Check the room out to make sure there isn't a perfect escape route close by (like curtains or a convenient table, for example).
If your bird refuses to come out of his cage or cannot sit on the T-stand, work with him wherever he feels most comfortable (as long as he is still no higher than chest level).
The last thing you want to do is to frighten your bird by chasing him all over the house in order to get him on the T-stand. It is important you show your bird that he/she can trust you.
...the most important tool you'll need! Do not expect overnight miracles.
Relax by taking a deep breath and letting it out before you begin your session. If you feel nervous, hyperactive, or stressed, please realize that your bird may mirror your behavior, resulting in a frustrating session for you and your bird.
The TTouch PROCEDURE
PHASE ONE - USING THE FEATHERS
With your bird perched in front of you, hold a "feather wand" in each hand. Begin by stroking one of the feathers on your arm where your bird can see you. Tone softly with your voice (draw out your words-"goood birrrd").
Then stroke the feathers together. Once your bird seems comfortable, stroke the perch on either side of him with the feathers. If he reaches out to bite, don't jerk away. Slowly go back to stroking the feathers together and ease into touching the perch with the feathers.
When perch stroking is successful, stroke both feet at the same time. Again, if he gets restless, go back to where he was comfortable. Then ease back to the feet later. There is no need to rush or force anything.
After successfully stroking the feet, stroke either side of the wings, making sure you are still toning with your voice and breathing. Move on to other areas of your bird's body, stroking smoothly and evenly.
TTouch sessions should be very short in the beginning.
Never end a session the moment the bird bites or tries to escape.
Instead, you want to end each session on a positive note. Say, for example, a few seconds into the session, you are stroking your bird's feet, and he strikes at the feathers. Go back to stroking the perch until he calms down, and then end the session. That way he knows you won't go away if he bites. When you come back, after giving him a break, you can pick up where you left off (stroking the perch).
Remember, with TTouch "less is more". The less you push your bird, the more results you'll have with the TTouch. Don't be disappointed if your sessions only last a couple of minutes when you first start. If you continue to end on a positive note each time, the sessions will soon get longer. Also, don't lose your cool. Anger only makes matters worse.
Try to visualize your bird enjoying the feather strokes while you are doing the TTouch. If you are thinking this is never going to work or my bird is a hopeless case, you won't get anywhere. Negative attitudes only produce negative results.
PHASE TWO - USING THE COTTON SWAB
While your bird is relaxed during the feather strokes, turn one wand to the cotton swab side. Do tiny circles under the feathers while your other hand supports your bird with the other feather.
The TTouch circle starts at 6 o'clock and goes clockwise passing six again to end on 9 o'clock. Remember to only press down enough to move the skin. Do not slide over the feathers.
Sometimes it is easier to do the circles on the back of the head or on the legs and feet. Feather pluckers benefit from doing these circles on the plucked areas. However, be careful around delicate pin feathers.
You can also do the circles with the feather end of the wand. The feather circles are great for use around the ears, beak, and eyes. However, do not attempt to press hard enough to move the skin when using the feathers to do circles (you will end up with a frayed feather). The feather circles are used as a warm-up to cotton swab and finger circles.
PHASE THREE - USING YOUR HANDS
Please do not make the assumption that phase one and two are useless and phase three is where you should begin. You would be making a big mistake!
Use the tip of your finger to do the clockwise circles on your bird's body. You may want to use your pinky finger since that is the finger least likely to exert much pressure. This is very effective to do when your bird is feeling frightened during wing trims or while visiting the vet. Concentrate these circles around the head to help release some of the stress your bird may be feeling. Remember to use very light pressure.
To feel how light the pressure should be, do the clockwise circles on your closed eyelid. Using the lightest possible contact, press down on your eyelid just enough to move the skin. Transfer that touch to your arm. The result is a #1 pressure (on a scale of 1-9). This is the level of pressure most comfortable for birds. Anything harder would possibly be too painful, since they have such thin skin.
Most people who see this therapy for the first time automatically think it is massage. Actually, the TTouch stimulates the nervous system, whereas massage is generally used for the muscles. This happens because you are only pressing hard enough to move the skin. The nerves that need stimulation are only in the top few layers of skin. If you were to press any harder, you would be moving muscle tissue.