Ravens are very intelligent birds and can learn a lot. They are so intelligent that they will know if you are really interested in them and if you really care about them. The first step in training is to have a true interest and love for your bird.
The second step is developing patience. If you have a pet raven, chances are that just getting the pet required a lot of patience either in waiting for the right situation to come along or in saving up the amount of money required to purchase a non-native bird. You will need more patience as you train. You will need to persevere even when you don’t see immediate results. Ravens can live for a long time. Think about how many years you spent in school. Spending a few years training your raven isn’t that much in its lifespan or yours.
The third step is getting your bird use to you. It is best if you start with a chick. Keep the chick close by whenever you can. Obviously you probably won’t be able to take it everywhere with you, but you should be able to keep it near while at home. Talk to the bird so that it becomes use to your voice and presence. Observe the bird. See how he or she reacts to things, what it likes or doesn’t like, and what it is most curious about. By the time a chick is about a month old, he or she should be use to you and ready to start more formal training.
The first thing to teach the bird is the hand signals for come and go. Just like with any pet, you want to make sure that your raven will come to you when you call. Place your pet a few feet away from you. Set your hand in front of you and hit it with your other hand saying, “Come.” When the bird comes, reward it with food. For “go”, wave your hand in a swoosh away from you and say, “Go.” After the raven goes, try “come” again, and once again reward with food. It can take up to a month before the raven follows the hand signal every time without a food reward. Have patience and practice everyday. You are not only learning to communicate with your bird, you are building bonds that will make it easier to teach more difficult stunts.
Your raven now is about two months old and is very comfortable with you. He or she is able to understand the hand signals for come and go and is consistent in his behavior. It is time to start teaching him to talk! Select the phrase you want to teach and repeat it frequently throughout the day. Emphasize it during feeding time. The most concentrated training time is when the bird is awake and alert but has no distractions. In the early morning, repeat the phrase over and over. Ravens are natural mimics, and if the bird is calm and comfortable around you, he will eventually start mimicking you.
On occasion, you might hear your bird trying to vocalize sounds similar to human speech. This is a good time to unobtrusively repeat the phrase. If it seems the bird is trying to say something else, start emphasizing and repeating that also. It is best not to directly disturb the bird when he or she is practicing, but just to talk quietly and calmly from where you are, reinforcing the sounds without directly disrupting the bird’s attention.
If the bird isn’t imitating speech in about a month, you might want to try having a recording made with the phrase you are trying to teach so that you can play it even when you aren’t there. It may be that your voice isn’t attracting the attention that you’d like, so have someone with a clearer voice or a different type of voice (child if you are an adult, woman if you are a man, etc.) do the recording. Limit the recording to just the chosen phrase. You don’t want the bird to become confused. You can make a new recording for a different phrase after your bird is imitating the first one.
Following the above methods, soon your pet raven will be trained to come and go, and to repeat a few simple phrases. You can expand on the techniques to teach more stunts and phrases. Most importantly though, have fun and enjoy your time together! Your pet raven can be a wonderful companion for many years to come!