Taming Java Sparrows The Java Sparrow, or Java Rice Bird, is one of the few finch-like birds that can be successfully hand-tamed. This fact is not well known in North America but Java Sparrows are very popular in Japan and other parts of the Far East as finger-tamed pets. For such a little bird, they have very interesting personalities and can become surprisingly tame and attached to you. I have 3 Java Sparrows that will fly to me when I call them or spend an hour sitting on my arm while I move my computer's mouse around. They will also snuggle on my shoulders for hours and fall asleep while I watch TV. It does take a little more effort and dedication to tame them than a budgie or cockatiel, however.
There are 4 basic requirements for hand-taming a Java Sparrow. First, the bird must be very young. The period immediately after the bird has fledged is ideal. As the bird gets older, the chances of taming it become increasingly remote. Adult Java Sparrows are more or less untameable. Second, the bird must be isolated during the taming period. You must place the cage away from all other Java Sparrows and other finches, for 2 to 4 months until the bird is tame. Third, you must trim the birds' wings so it cannot fly. The feathers will grow back in several months and hopefully your bird will be tame by then. Trim the wing feathers on one or both wings so the bird can break its fall but not fly away. Fourth, you must be persistent and work with your young Java Sparrow every day, until it is tame. Java Sparrows are not as easy to tame as birds in the parrot family but, with patience and persistence, they can eventually become surprisingly tame and trusting.
During the taming period, house your Java Sparrow in a small cage such as one used for canaries or budgies. A cage with a removable top or one where the entire front side can open like a big door is ideal. The reason being is that you want to be able to remove your young Java Sparrow easily without having to grab it or chase it around the cage.
Begin taming by bringing your young wing-clipped Java Sparrow to a small room, where you can close the door and have quiet. The bathroom is ideal and the bathtub is a good place to place the cage. Open the cage and gently corner the bird until he has no choice but to hop on your hand. Assuming you have a cage with a top or side that opens, you can easily remove the bird from the cage. In any case, attempt to get the bird out of the cage without grabbing it. You want to avoid chasing the bird around at all costs - that's why the bathtub can be very useful. Every time it jumps off your hand, gently corner it so it has to hop on again. At all times be slow and gentle. It may take a while but eventually your Java Sparrow will get the idea and hop on your finger when you put it in front of its breast.
Once your Java Sparrow will perch on your finger and stay there for a while, see if you can get it to hop from finger to finger or stay on your shoulder. Keep working with it like this every day. As it gets more steady, you can read, watch TV, or work on the computer with the bird on your shoulder or forearm. It will get used to these trips outside of it's cage and will start bonding with you. If you are taming a second young Java (at the under end of the house), this is the point when you can begin to let them see each other. In other words, make your taming sessions the time when they can "visit" and then return them to their separate cages afterwards.
The next stage is when your young Java will actually want to come out of its cage when it sees you. When you see this happening, you have won the battle. Now the only thing to do is to continue your daily taming sessions. Your Java Sparrow will get tamer and tamer and grow to like your company. If you have a favourite spot you would like your Java (or Java's) to perch on while out of the cage, like a parakeet playpen, now is the time to introduce that. Put them on the playpen when they are not sitting on your finger and they will associate it as a "safe spot" to land once they can fly.
Your Java Sparrow will take anywhere from 6 to 12 months to regain all it's flight feathers. By this time, your Java Sparrow should be thoroughly tame and will probably seek your company. However, once he's free flying, he will want to explore a little too. For this reason, only let your bird fly free in a safe, bird-proof room. This way he can spend some time with you and spend some time wandering around safely. If you manage to tame 2 or more Java Sparrows, you will find it interesting to see how they function as a little flock, alternating between hopping around the floor and flying back to sit on your shoulder. I do not recommend keeping them permanently wing-clipped. They are very small and vulnerable when they cannot fly and their full personality does not appear until they are free flying.
One last word about taming. Regardless of how tame and friendly your Java Sparrow becomes, remember that they are still small, delicate birds that retain some of their wild nature. They may never be comfortable with you putting your hands in their cage and they will never want to be held in your hand or petted. Once they are tame, it's best to just be patient and let them come to you when they want to. Never chase them around or scare them in any way. They are actually very smart little birds and will remember any negative experiences.
Following the above steps, anyone can tame a young Java Sparrow. As long as you don't expect too much, you will be rewarded with a small pet bird that will amuse you with it's personality and might fly over to you and spend an hour snuggling on your shoulder.