The remarkable ability of a parrot to mimic voices has to be the main reasons why parrots are so popular as pets.
Whenever a friend visits our home, one of the first questions asked about our African Grey is if he can speak. I have to tell them that, sometimes, I wish he would stop. Needless to say he is often silent when a stranger is close.
So how can you teach a parrot to speak? Firstly, it really does depend on the type of parrot. Some types, or individual birds, will learn far more readily. Many African Greys have a vocabulary of 1,200, words or more. Others, including parakeets and cockatiels, will hardly make a meaningful peep, however long you spend trying to teach them.
The younger your parrot when you commence training him, the easier it will be. You can start once your bird has been tamed. Training a parrot to speak will be frustrating and not easy if your feathered friend is not settled and comfortable in your presence.
Often, your bird will start to mimic common phrases heard inside your home without specific training. They are much more likely to imitate words or phrases when shouted or said with strong emotion. If this is the case, you may want to be very careful what you say around your pet since he will be just as happy to repeat cuss words as anything else.
Start teaching your parrot to speak with two 10 or 15 minutes sessions a day. Any longer than this and he (and you) will become bored and uncooperative. Begin with something basic like Helllo or maybe your. You will have to repeat the phrase many times at first. Try and add emotion to your voice if you can, since he will be more interested in the sound and hence more likely to try and copy it. Once you get some sort of response, even if it’s only a peep, praise your pet and give him a treat of his favorite food. It will only be a little peep at first, but be sure to offer him a small treat every time he tries. After a number of attempts it will become closer to the sound of your voice. It may take two or more weeks even for a natural mimic, so don’t give up hope if it takes a long time for the first words. Less talented birds may take several weeks or even months. The first phrase always takes the most time but subsequent words will come more quickly. Once he has the first few words, he will often pick up new words with only 2 or 3 easy training sessions.
It’s a good idea to have a certain phrase at each session of the day. For example, mine will happily call out Hello! when I come downstairs in the morning since this is the phrase I used during the morning training session .
Good luck with teaching your parrot to talk!
For more advice on choosing, taming and training parrots visit Taming and Training Parrots at http://training-parrots.blogspot.com