Topic 14 – Parrot Behavioral Problems

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This is a very IMPORTANT subject to me since I perform small time rescues of these beautiful parrots and for my fellow colleagues/friends who do rescue as well

Birds are so intelligent. They  become bored easily and this commonly leads to behavioural disorders such as feather picking and skin mutilation Their intelligence can also get them into trouble as an example, it is not uncommon for a bird to learn that when they scream-the owner comes to the cage and they quickly became attention yellers.

These are few very important questions we should look into and try to help our feather friends:

What are the problems that a parrot has in captivity?

Why do out companion birds develop “issues?

Addressing Specific Behaviour Concerns: Screaming, biting, chewing on furniture, feather plucking, aggressive, jealousy with your Pet Birds, anxiety attacks, cage bound Birds, and sexual behaviour in companion Birds.

They often live for decades on very poor diet, we regularly see diseases associated with severe malnutrition. They also are very long lived

Common Behavioural Problems:

Screaming:

Realize that some screaming is normal for birds and cannot be totally eliminated birds will scream at dusk and drawn and an occasional scream should be accepted as a part of a healthy well-adjusted birds normal behaviour. We should keep in mind the bigger the birds the louder the scream. Teach your bird to talk screamers has all but entirely been replaced with pleasant chattering reward the bird for good behavior, pick a word that your bird already makes and encourage it EVERY time the bird repeats this word in your presence reward the bird.

Rewards can very depending on the individual but common ones include food rewards, toy rewards, my personnel reward is take the bird out of the cage for a cuddle that’s so cute.

These beautiful parrots are like children I was told by my sensei (tutor) that medium size parrot has the intelligence of a 2 year old human baby and large size parrot has the intelligent of a 5 years old human

Biting:

No birds is mean They don’t like to bite, but well do so in order to protect themselves or to stop behavior they are not comfortable with. The worst thing you can do when your parrot bites (or is trying to bite) is to , yell and or pull away and gain their trust Do not try launching 

A bird that is not bonded with you Even when birds are bonded, they may have their moments when they don’t “feel’ like cuddling so what could the purpose of a bite be? In human terms it could be an attempts to say no to request.

Chewing:

It is a natural behavior of any parrot in the wild “customize” their environment by working on their nest, chewing on branches to keep their beaks in good shape this is what they do – and that is natural and good for them Problems are when they chew on their owner’s precious furniture or- as we all know they do if not supervised properly- damage electric cords etc. Parrots just like kids need to be supervised. We need to provide our parrots with “stuff” they can safe chew on example tree branches toys etc and lots of them. Rotating toys will keep the parrots interested.

Feather Plucking:

Personally, I think feather plucking is the major issue with the caged parrots. The majority of feather plucking is caused by:

-Malnutrition – may cause birds to pluck their own feathers for their entertainment (or the cage is too small) one sided, unbalanced nutrition

-Boredom. Insufficient activities example doesn’t have toys within the cage, cage is small the bigger the cage is better for the parrot.

-Light birds enjoy the sun and like lots of lights in their environment. Light gives Vitamin D or the sunshine vitamin If they are kept in dark corners they become depressed and may turn to feather plucking or even self-mutilation.

-Loneliness: Parrots are social beings in their natural habitat. Spend more time with your bird or provide a bird companion that does not mean breeding.

-Cage Location: this is very important where you place your parrot’s cage It is important that the cage is situated in the area where the family normally spends their time. Parrots are social animals and need to be part of family my parrot love to be with us we place dour parrot

Cages right in the family room where we mostly spend our time and they are very happy with us we take them out at the set time but still they are very happy to be with us. I think with the lot of care and lot of thought these parrot issues can be managed and prevented.

Physical/Medical/Environmental/Dietary Reasons 

Pain:

Birds don’t understand pain. When birds are in pain they may bite / chew on the area where the pain is concentrated or they may remove (pluck) feathers over the area. If you find your pel concentrates on one specific area this may be good indication that your pet is expenencing localized pain.

The most common diseases / health problems are:

-Psittacosis (human transferable disease with persistent flu-like symptoms. Easily treat with 3 parts of water and one part of aloe get, Shake it up and it’s ready for use this is very good for the parrot.

-Dry itchy skin may also be a sign of liver problems, a vet has to check and once have been resolved; it takes a while for itching to stop.

-Food Sensitivity: Some birds are sensitive to wheat , corn , rice, and grains. The itching may stop once you figure out what your parrot is sensitive to. Low levels of essential fats will also contribute to dry skin. Limiting or eliminating pellets and increasing foods/seeds high essentials tatty acids is recommended this is only with the advice of your vet, very important.

-Hormonal Many parrots pluck their chest area as they mature and get into breeding condition. Other typical plucking patterns for hormonal birds may be plucking between their legs.

-Infections: When a birds destroy their feathers in an irregular pattern, some experts believe that they might be picking feathers  over the locations of pinfected air sacs because of respiratory problems.

-Dietary Deficiencies: A diet deficient in calcium, salt, and or protein could also be cause for plucking / chewing. I put cuttle bone for calcium for my parrots also I crush the cuttle bone and sprinkle on the food also I break the cuttle bone into bite size my parrots love that. You can also buy liquid or powder calcium at your pet store and also you will have to talk to your vet about this, very important.

-Toxins Zinc poisontoxin – Zinc is a known toxin that will cause feather plucking in birds. Most affected birds were feather picking or showed signs of depressions and loses poop. Your vet will be able to measure your bird’s zinc levels. You get zinc poison galvanized or powder-coated cages, quick-links or hardware, galvanized dishes, metallic toys – indeed any metallic, shiny object could be suspect.

-Parasites. The common parasites known as giardia, picking patterns usually includes the chest, underside of he wings, insides of the thighs, shoulders and sometimes the lower back region.

Aggressive/Attack Bird:

In the wild, parrots can fly away from threatening situations. In captivity other types of aggressive biting, territotial, aggression and protective lunging attacking, some parrots have learned to entertain themselves by lunging/attacking at people: the reward being the dramatic reactions as entertainment and therefore, encourages lunging/attacking behavior. 

Reasons for Lunging/attacking:

-Territotial Defense= Some parrots may encourage such individual to come over, appearing to be friendly and attention-seeking, but as the person responds and comes over the parrot lunges at him or her, often biting 

-Jealousy A bird attack what him or her sense to be his or her rival.

-Rough Play Some encourage and train their birds to display this behavior by playing rough with their pets. Rough play encourages biting and established very bad habits that will be difficult to break.

-Protection Sometimes lunging/attacking can be a mate protection issues. A parrot may feel their mate or human favorite to be in danger and  may attack to protect them 

-Aggressive Biting in beginning a bird instinct to defend itself, the reward they get is the extra entertainment in form of the dramatic response by the person they are lunging attacking at this is how the instinctive aggressive lunge/attack to protect  itself may turn into a habit that is challenging to break.

My Pet Parrot Is Jealous:

Pet Parrot often became jealous of other newly introduced birds or family members, which may cause 

him or her to show aggression towards you, the other person and/or bird Personally there are things you can do to help your parrot When you feel the parrot is jealous give the parrot more attention, gentle herd scratch, hug and kisses make him feel he is very special and very important to you. Long before you know it your parrot will get along with the other bird or person. Be patient this will take time, you cannot force love and trust on anyone.

What is a Phobia/fear?

Phobia behavior is a ‘Continual abnormal’ fear or something. The main symptoms of this disorder is the extreme difficult desire to avoid the teared subject when the fear is beyond one’s control. Or if the fear is interfering with daily life, a fear that has no logical basis. Some birds are not socialized or familiar with humans, they are actually very terrified of humans, some birds terrified of brooms, bird nets or even any type of cloth etc. For example one of my rescued bird I had was terrified of broom, she was fine till one day when I was cleaning up near her cage and she saw the broom and she got anxiety it took her at least 15 minutes to calm down poor creature some birds who are terrified they behave in different way, some will be very aggressive, some might just want to hide their face, some might start to scream, you have to be very patient with them. There are professional counsels for parrots with pho in a talk to your vet they will help you and your parrot. In the mean time you should be very patient and lots of love  for your parrot, it will take time but the parrot will be ok.

Cage Bound – fear of going out:

Some birds are too scared to leave the cage. The reason this because they were neglected and was always kept in a cage the entire time. With my rescues I still leave the cage door open once the parrot think that this place is safe he will come out slowly when he think it is safe to do so, please do not force them that will make matter more worse be patient, with lots of love and patience your parrot will be ok, mine did.

Playing the radio or leaving the television is no replacement of a contact and a bounded relationship either with a person or another bird.

Note: When you open the cage door for the first time just open it and walk away and just wait, it takes long time for the parrot to come out, it took 6 months for my parrot, they have to realize that they can trust humans and he is safe here, please do not leave the cage door open 24/7 only under your suspension.

Parrot is Sick:

Parrots can’t tell they are in pain, there are lots of sign that shows your Parrot is not feeling well. If he started plucking that means he has some kind of pain, watch for the signs stops hopping around his cage and just sits on the same perch, bird showers when it isn’t cold, stops eating and drinking, and suddenly starts being aggressive or fussy. When your parrot is perched and hangs his head low, seems to “deep” or falls of the perch this can be a sign of illness. An increase in the bobbing motion of his tail could mean he’s having trouble breathing. Please take your parrot to the vet,

STRESS:

I think personally stress is the main cause for feather plucking in a parrot. Some causes are poor nutrition leading to malnutrition. Sudden changes in diet or new foods, the cage is too small, separation from a bird or owner, too much noise, molting, digestive problems, infection; dirty cages (some birds can’t bear to step on their own feces)   allergies or poisoning (zinc and lead poisoning is surprisingly common); lack of freedom, lack of exercise, not enough to do; change of routine, too little sleep sudden change in position of cage, loneliness, poor wing clips.

Clipping is not permanent and if done correctly it only restricts the bird’s ability to fly. When flight feathers are cut too short blood feathers may break and need to be pulled. This is a painful process, poor wing clips affect a bird’s balance and the ability to fall resulting in an injury. Repeated falls causes the bird to suffer pain and decreased self-confidence and increased frustration. Feather plucking can get started by a bird wanting to remove any broken or damaged feather and turn into a habit which is extremely difficult to correct, you should always take your parrot to a vet or a pet store for wing clip. Some people prefer for this new parrot to have wing clipped to train the bird in his new home, remember this is not a permanent and as the clipped feathers molt and the new ones grow back it may no longer be necessary to clip.

Hormonal Behavior in Company Birds:

This is an issue which exits and people do not talk about it. However I think that this is the main issue for pluck feathers in our beautiful parrots All Parrots will get hormonal at times especially in summer and between the ages of 5 to 12 years, during this time there will be 1 to 2 years this is a normal natural process in which they will be very aggressive. Once they go through this, they generally settle down with little or no aggression shown when they are not hormonal and some aggression when they are.

Hormonal feather picking is often occurring on the chest or between the legs. Birds acting overly sexual in response to being petted (especially on the backs or wings). Frequent regurgitating of food, panting, crouching down with wings dropped, increased shredding of paper toys and increased chewing. Nest-building or nesting , hiding in dark areas or holes and/or actively searching for them (potential nest sides) are results of aggression/protectiveness of chosen nest sides; possessiveness of favorite human (or bird companion); mind increased screaming Females especially may show an increased interest in cuttlebone , as well as protein rich foods  like egg or meat.

Masturbating:

-is a trigger of breeding behavior caused by extended hours of light. Lengthening days and increased amounts of artificial lights will cause a bird’s reproductive organs to increase in size which in turns trigger a significant increase in hormonal activity. The availability of a suitable nest site and nesting material. A suitable nest site may, in your pet’s eyes, include ordinary household items like cardboard boxes, areas behind cautions on the couch, even shoes it is best to discourage them from claiming those as nests. Nesting material can be paper or a favorite blanket. Availability of a male (can be you, another bird or an object, such as a favorite toy), a level of fat and/or protein, as well as starches in the diet also encourages breeding behavior. Please do not stroke the bird’s backside.

There are ways to reduce hormonal/sexual behavior in birds.

-Make sure that your pet is getting 11-12 hours of darkness per night. Limiting the amount of daylight the bird receives. If you cannot close the light of the room please put a dark cover over the cage.

-Increase level of exercise.

-Avoid feeding food’s that are high fat and high protein, also pellet with high protein content. When your companion bird is hormonal, provide them with fresh vegetables, fruits.

-Moving the cage to different locations, change will be good for the parrot. Place lots of other stuff in the cage example stick, hungs, branches, with leaves from safe plants, paper, phone books , I usually put lots of treats in the phone books like healthy nuts example walnuts between the pages this will really keep him busy in different things chewing and nipping. This will be messy to clean up but it is ok as long as your parrot is happy.

-When your parrot try to make mate with your hand or arm, offer him one of the toys example is to keep card box or a basket full of safe toys or items that he takes to play with. Petting the bird on the back, neck should be avoided if your parrot is a female and started laying eggs please give her extra calcium.

Suggestions: very important

Far all above problems or issues you will have to talk to your vet, they can give you the best advice after they examine your parrot and find the reason either it is a medical or hormonal or habit they will let you know, this is my personal advice and I do it for my parrots, some people think that it is very expensive to go to vet and try homemade or other solutions that makes it more worse for the parrot, if you have a unhappy parrot is also affect you and your  family, just think a small child what will do when your child is not well or having issues you will for sure take the child to a doctor.