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Help desperately needed with conure pair

Discuss the methods and techniques of clicker training, target training and bonding. These are usually the first steps in training a young parrot.

Help desperately needed with conure pair

Postby fuzzled » Wed Feb 20, 2019 3:00 pm

I have two crimson-belly conures, a bonded brother and sister pair about 10 months old. I'd only had experience with budgies when I got them about six months ago and I realise now that I'm hopelessly out of my depth with these two and desperate for advice. They are handreared birds, not at all affectionate or cuddly (though weirdly possessive?) but happy to step up and have learned to come to my hand when called, but they are otherwise totally impervious to all my efforts to train them.

I've had a lot of issues with them since I got them (biting and screaming especially) but chief is that I cannot train them to redirect their chewing to safe areas. They will chew everything, doors, furniture, electrical cables, you name it. Obviously it's an important natural behaviour for them, but for example I have tried picking one single area they are not allowed to chew (the doorframe) and have abysmally failed at even training them to leave that alone. They have 3 hours out of cage time every evening, and for the past 4 weeks we have focused on training them as consistently as possibly to leave that one area alone. I first tried redirecting them every time with a firm no and transferring them onto their hanging playgym, and rewarding them when they chewed or played on their own toys (they have multiple play areas around the room). That had no effect whatsoever, so I then tried telling them off and putting them back in their cage every time they chewed on the doorframe. We go through this process 3-4 times every evening. They clearly know they are not allowed on the doorframe, and dislike going back in their cage for timeout, but just will not stop. They have several places they love to chew, so it isn't something particularly special about the doorframe they just can't resist. The level of destruction is just not sustainable longterm, aside from potential eating paint and varnish issues.

What am I doing wrong? What training methods would you use? I am pretty desperate for just one win with these birds at this point, I have to admit.
fuzzled
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 2
Number of Birds Owned: 2
Types of Birds Owned: Crimson-bellied conures
Flight: Yes

Re: Help desperately needed with conure pair

Postby Pajarita » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:10 pm

Welcome to the forum! I am afraid that although all birds are trainable, natural behaviors can NOT be eradicated. It's as simple as that. You can train them to step up, to come when called, even to do tricks but you cannot train an animal not to do what nature ordained the animal is supposed to do. Parrots chew. They chew wood, they chew plastic, they chew paper, they chew cardboard, they chew material and pretty much anything they can get their beaks to go through. The only thing they don't chew is metal. I have large species (amazon, gray, cockatoo) living cage free in a room of their own and what I do is put untreated pine boards around the windows, the door moldlings, the base molding and any other place where they can chew - when the boards get chewed up, I replace them. But I also have smaller species living in cages in my living room and dining room and they chew everything! Paintings frames, books, curtains, etc so what I do is cover my furniture with quilts, the tables with thick plastic and leave stuff for them to chew -like piles of magazines, knotted thick sisal ropes, baskets, branches, pieces of balsa wood, etc. The redirection trick doesn't mean you 'tell' them not to chew, it means you provide things that are safe for them to chew instead - things that are more attractive to them. Try putting a piece of untreated wood on top of the door frame (kind of like a shallow shelf), if that doesn't work, try rope, branches, etc until you find the material they prefer and, when you do, simply replace it when it gets chewed up. If they chew the very edge of the door, cover the angle with a metal corner bead -the kind it's used for corners when you are putting up sheetrock. It can be painted with a non-toxic paint so it doesn't stand out and will be neat enough (this is what I use on the doors in the parrot room doors).

One more thing, 3 hours a day of out of cage is not anywhere near enough for small conures, they need, at least, 4 of out of cage and 3 of one-on-one (crimson bellies are very needy, all the pyrrhuras are) and they also need to be kept at a strict solar schedule with full exposure (minimum of 2 hours both for dawn and dusk) so I am afraid that evening interaction doesn't work because if you keep them up with artificial light, they will become overly hormonal.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 15227
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

Re: Help desperately needed with conure pair

Postby fuzzled » Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:35 pm

Thank you very much for your reply, and taking so much trouble with a long response! I am happy/resigned to them chewing as a natural behaviour; they have a large room where everything in it has been pretty much sacrificed to appease their beaks now, so they have a choice of delicious wooden furniture, curtain rails, wood trim, a range of perches and hanging gyms and toys of every description - many, many chewing alternatives! They unfortunately seem to have an unerring preference for things that were not designed as parrot toys even when there are toys that are identical materials. So they would much rather chew on the pine bookcase than the pine board put over the bookcase. Unfortunately the doorframe cannot be easily either protected or sacrificed as I am a renter, and though my landlord is the most easygoing man on earth he draws the line there. They are also chewing away at the top edge of the (pine, unfortunately!) door at a ferocious rate. Just replacing the door isn't an option (the metal edging is a great idea but sadly not doable due to the design of the architrave and door). The birds do clearly understand that it is off limits; they will wait til I look away, sidle up to it, pretend to be grooming their toenails but sneaking that beak closer, closer....chomp. So it seems more like a training issue than me cruelly repressing their need to chew.

It does seem to me that it should be possible to guide selective chewing - they both love chewing vigoroujsly on my ears, glasses and eyelashes, which I am flat out not prepared to tolerate and I can't imagine that that's too unusual a view. They have mostly learned that especially eyes are off limits for beaks, though it was a bit of a challenge at times. I just need them to add doors to the very short list of forbidden areas!

For the out of cage time, I would love for them to have longer, but I work full time. I uncover them early in the morning, feed and water them and then let them wake up in their own time after I leave. Then as soon as I come home they come out and have as long as possible before they have to go to bed. They don't tend to want much direct attention, just for me to be in the room while they occasionally come over to say hello. At weekends they get a morning session as well, but are often happy to stay in their cage so long as I am in the room as well.

If you mean 4 hours out of cage exploring plus 3 additional hours of direct contact, do you believe that it isn't possible to ethically have parrots and work a normal schedule? I went with a pair because I don't really agree with keeping a single bird alone for hours, but I have to admit that I have been surprised that they are not more content with just each other's company considering they are bonded with each other and not that strongly with me. I have considered rehoming them since I clearly don't have enough experience but finding a decent home with someone home all the time seems a bit of an ask.

They have a bird full spectrum lamp, designed to be on all day, which is on for six hours during the winter rising to 8 in the summer. They seem like evening birds by preference, possibly because their breeder kept very late hours. Left to their own choice they seem to want to get up about two hours after sunrise, and stay up til 10pm at least! Early bedtimes are a bit of a struggle sometimes.
fuzzled
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 2
Number of Birds Owned: 2
Types of Birds Owned: Crimson-bellied conures
Flight: Yes

Re: Help desperately needed with conure pair

Postby Pajarita » Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:52 pm

No, there is only one species of parrot that is active at night and it's not a pyrrhura. they are strictly diurnal and keeping them up with artificial light is not healthy for them. You are getting away with it because they are very young and not yet sexually mature but, as they do become sexually active and the years go by, they will become overly hormonal which means chronic discomfort and later on, pain. Yours might not become sexually frustrated because, most likely, they will mate with one another, something that you will have to be very careful about because incest, same as in humans, produces genetically defective babies.

As to your question if it's possible to keep parrots well and work full time... well, to be completely honest, I don't think that anybody should keep parrots as pets because even when your entire life revolves around them, you are still not able to give them a good life. My birds live under a super strict solar schedule wih a full two hours of twilight (which means that I have to get up at 4:30 am in the summer and cannot receive company in the evening in the winter), they are out for hours and hours (this time of the year, 8 hours a day and even more in the summer), they are all fully flighted and I strive to give them mates and for them to establish relationships with other birds, they eat an organic fresh food diet with different levels of protein for the warm and the cold months, etc. but it's still only half a life compared to the life their wild counterparts have. And, if you work full time, you end up with parrots that are unhealthy because the endocrine system -which is photoperiodic- does not only govern sexual hormone production, it has to do with much more than that. Appetite, sleep patterns, mood, cell regeneration and even the immune system is governed by the endocrine system. This is not my personal opinion, it's a scientific fact. Think of the wild birds and the chickens... up with sunrise and to bed with sunset, their home is the open sky, they are born into an extended family, live their entire lives surrounded by them and die the same way. They fly miles and miles every day and every day they socialize with a large number of birds, they choose a mate and procreate... It's the way Nature evolved them to live but they get none of that in captivity.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 15227
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes


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