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Biting to avoid being put BACK in the cage?

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Biting to avoid being put BACK in the cage?

Postby entrancedbymyGCC » Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:05 pm

Our new green-cheek (a 10-month old who was at the pet store a long time) is basically pretty well behaved, cheerful and very cuddly. However, he does do some biting, and has bitten me hard enough to break the skin. He mainly seems to do it when he is out but not getting enough direct attention (minor, may be more like beaking gone too far?) and when I want to put him back in the cage and he's not ready to go! Should I expect this behavior to reduce as he gets more secure in our household? He's only been home a couple of days. I try to not let his biting get a reaction, I try to get on with what I'm doing, but he actually has tried to run away from me when I'm trying to re-cage him! I've had to wait until he's climbed up on top of the door and then the playtop where I could pick him up from behind and put him back inside. He can and will step up on my finger quite happily, and when he's ready to go home, he will step down nicely, too. But only if HE is ready. Is he just a smart and opinionated bird who has learned he can manipulate humans this way? Or am I doing something wrong? He does seem to bite me more than my more experienced husband.
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Re: Biting to avoid being put BACK in the cage?

Postby Michael » Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:06 pm

Would you want to be put in a cage?
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Re: Biting to avoid being put BACK in the cage?

Postby entrancedbymyGCC » Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:29 pm

Well, maybe not, but it is part of his life! We're trying to make it cozy and entertaining, but we aren't home all day every day, so he's going to have to cope, will I just need bandaids?
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Re: Biting to avoid being put BACK in the cage?

Postby Michael » Tue Jan 26, 2010 7:39 pm

Instead of punishing your parrot by ending play time and forcing it into the cage, why not conceive a method involving positive reinforcement. Give your parrot a reason to run into that cage willingly. Then you won't get bitten. Heck you'll get credit for putting it in the cage.
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Re: Biting to avoid being put BACK in the cage?

Postby entrancedbymyGCC » Tue Jan 26, 2010 10:25 pm

Well, put it that way it makes sense. I rather thought I was being chastised for putting him back home at all! Can some of you suggest ideas for such a game?

We are also realizing that he just doesn't seem to have any idea how much use of his beak is OK and we're trying to teach him what is good contact and what isn't. We are doing this by liberally praising good behavior and either ignoring or gently discouraging a real bite. He's bold and seems very confident and cheerful and eager to interact, at least based on all I've read about avian body language, so I think it's just something he was never taught, not that he's being fearful.
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Re: Biting to avoid being put BACK in the cage?

Postby Michael » Tue Jan 26, 2010 11:04 pm

entrancedbymyGCC wrote:Well, put it that way it makes sense. I rather thought I was being chastised for putting him back home at all! Can some of you suggest ideas for such a game?


Perhaps comparing to "go to your room" would have been a closer analogy but I wanted to make a point that it's not the bird's fault it doesn't want to go there. "Go to your room" is a far better example. You may like your room and spend much time there but "go to your room" is so often used as a punishment by parents by revoking the opportunity to experience superlative experiences outside of it as well as social attention.

We are also realizing that he just doesn't seem to have any idea how much use of his beak is OK and we're trying to teach him what is good contact and what isn't. We are doing this by liberally praising good behavior and either ignoring or gently discouraging a real bite. He's bold and seems very confident and cheerful and eager to interact, at least based on all I've read about avian body language, so I think it's just something he was never taught, not that he's being fearful.


This probably just takes some time. They don't learn off the bat what is ok to bite or nibble and what is not. See, you're not using any punishment for biting and it's impossible to reward "not biting" because that would be all the time that the parrot is not biting. You are essentially counting on behavior extinction to occur and it takes a very long time for previously reinforced behaviors to wear off.

The best thing to do to expedite extinction is to avoid stimuli that trigger biting and also to avoid any reaction to biting if it does happen. However, just ignoring biting is not going to immediately make it go away. Another important thing to do is to examine new routes for the parrot to get what it wants without biting. So if the parrot is biting because it doesn't want to go in its cage either don't put it in the cage (solves biting but not putting away) or teach it to go into the cage on its own and put it on cue. A much simpler solution is to only take the parrot out (at least initially until problem solved) prior to feeding time, keep it out a while, and then put it away to a nice big meal. Then the parrot will be thrilled to go back to its cage because it is hungry.
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Re: Biting to avoid being put BACK in the cage?

Postby entrancedbymyGCC » Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:43 pm

Probably shouldn't turn this into a generic biting thread because I'm sure there are a million of those already, but I'm noticing he has at least 3 distinct biting behaviors. One is over-zealous preening and that has improved dramatically already. One is "I want something -- pay more attention to me!" this is improving by trying to respond to other, more positive requests for attention. The third is "I don't want to do that!" I'm trying to work on cues and making these things more positive, but we are also trying not to let him control our schedule by doing this. He seems like a VERY bold and robust creature so hopefully this will all work out well. Can't fix it all at once.

I'm curious about how his history might have shaped his behavior. All we really know is that he was hatched in March. My husband thinks his breeder did a really good job with him because he is very confident and accepting of contact and seems happy, if needy and bossy. He appeared in the pet store sometime this summer and he caught my eye. I used to play birdie see, birdie do with him when I went in to pick up cat food and supplies. After a month or two he disappeared and I was told he was sold, but he reappeared almost immediately and they said the people decided they couldn't afford the cage and stuff. He was in with another conure briefly, but they clearly were bonding (do I spend too much time at the pet store or what?) and then he disappeared again. Then he reappeared right around the time my husband decided we were going to rescue the (other) bird rather than hold out for connecting with a breeder. How might all of this have affected him? He seems reasonably well socialized and there are a couple of girls at the store who have birds at home that had spent some time with him, but we don't really know how much. They do keep asking after him when I go in to buy (more) toys.
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Re: Biting to avoid being put BACK in the cage?

Postby Michael » Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:51 pm

I would say that unless it was a really traumatic situation in those previous homes, he probably has not been rehomed long enough for it to really mess with his head. You can probably undo any damage done and he can be as good as a firsthand bird (lol). It's the birds that were rehomed after many years that get really messed up.
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Re: Biting to avoid being put BACK in the cage?

Postby entrancedbymyGCC » Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:52 pm

So being "homed" in a pet store for several months is unlikely to have affected him adversely? I guess the concerns there would be relatively small cage at least some of the time, limited human interaction and lights on all night. It wasn't a bird-specialty store, it was a big-box pet store.
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Re: Biting to avoid being put BACK in the cage?

Postby Michael » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:39 pm

In the short term there could be psychological damage but I think in the long run, if you do everything right, I don't think the bird should turn out any different than if you bought it up right away. It's still young enough. Think adopting a 5 year old child... it might have some picture of the world, but still has a lot of time to learn differently.
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