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Green Cheek Conure gone sour, need help!

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Green Cheek Conure gone sour, need help!

Postby astep30 » Fri May 08, 2015 2:19 am

Hi all,

I am hoping that somebody with more experience than me can give me some advice as to how to go about fixing my relationship with my green cheek conure.

The short story:

When I got my bird he was great, but after a few years he went nuts and he won't let me handle him (however he will sit on my shoulder).

My goal is for him to not attack my hands any more. I'd love it if he would just start stepping up on my finger! I'm too scared to risk him biting me without gloves on, because when he bites he bites hard.

Can anybody help me?

----------------------------------------

The long story (for those who might think the devil is in the details):

I've had a Green Cheek Conure for 5 years now, and when I got him he was the most lovely bird and we had a great relationship; I had no fear of him biting, he would let me pat him and he was even smart enough to hold off doing his business until I held him over a sink! I posted a video to YouTube of me playing with him just as a reference as to how cool he was:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8QwBpj9hgA


After about 2 years he started biting hard and frequently, and our relationship disintegrated; it has now reached the point where I can't pat him at all because he bites my fingers. He will sit on my shoulder, but if he's in a crazy mood he puffs up and starts banging his head on my shoulder, and I have to wear a hooded jumper so that he doesn't go for my ears. (He's also lost his toilet-training for whatever reason, but that's not the main concern). He used to be great with the whole family, but now he is only good with mum, and whenever I hold him I can't help but be a bit tense, although I make an effort to be as relaxed as possible because I know they sense/react to stress.

I'm on a mission to return things to the way they used to be.

My main goal is to not be scared of him, and to handle him again. Even stepping on my finger without biting would be a huge achievement.

Things I've tried to do:
- Every time I see him I offer him a pistachio if he rolls over on command (a trick I taught him from when we were friends).
- As he is left in his cage during the daytime, I get him out when I come over 3-5 times a week (as I no longer live with the bird, he's at my parents place). After a few minutes I have to put him back because he starts getting worked up and I don't want to risk getting bitten.
- sometimes he and I will whistle to each other back and forth when he is in the mood (I figure reacting to him & showing him as much attention as possible is a good thing).


If you know anything about these types of birds, am I fighting a losing battle? Especially seeing as this problem has been continuing for 3 years now, is it too late?
What do I need to do differently to help him lose his obsessive distrust of my fingers?

I am extremely appreciative for any hints or tips anybody can give me :) thanks so much.
astep30
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 2
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Green Cheeked Conure
Flight: No

Re: Green Cheek Conure gone sour, need help!

Postby Wolf » Fri May 08, 2015 4:17 am

The answers are always in the details, but only in the right details. What you wrote gives a good overall picture of what has happened but while very helpful do not give the whole picture. That is alright as we will get to them in due course. Most people don't really understand the nature of their birds or all of the workings of what affects what or how and/ or why it works that way. It is all ok and I believe that we can help you understand what is going on with your bird and how to repair it. Although I do have a few questions.
First off, what is your birds name? Although from a legal standpoint he is owned by you and is a pet, I am not concerned with his legal status and I look at him as your friend and a friend is usually referred to by their name. By the way was his sex determined by DNA testing or what?
You said that when he was about 2 years of age that everything changed and your relationship deteriorated. I did watch your video of you and him and have a few comments concerning that and this, I think is the best place for them due to how they relate to the overall picture of what has occurred.
The first bond that a parrot forms in its lifetime is that of parent and child, and this is clearly the bond and relationship that you had with him. This bond is needed in their life as they are born not knowing even how to eat or drink and are totally dependent on their parents to teach them everything about survival and flock dyanamics or how to get along with others and how the flock works. They need to be taught what foods to eat, how to eat them and how to find these foods. They learn all that they need to survive in their natural environment from their parents. This lasts about two years of their life. At about 2 years of age the juvenile parrot goes through puberty and ceases to be the child and becomes an adult bird and releases its bond with its parents and seeks out a mate of its own to bond with.
Now, this is what their normal life cycle is like in their natural environment and although we raise the bird as a captive bird and alter some of these processes through imprinting them on humans and removing them from their parents causing them to bond to us, they are still wild birds and the normal drives and processes are still intact. The only real change so far is that we become the surrogate parents and the young bird becomes totally dependent on us instead of its natural parents. At about age 2 years the bird goes through puberty and releases its parent child bond with us and looks for a suitable mate to bond with. If there is enough of a choice available this mate will not be the person with whom the bird had the parent/ child bond with, it will choose a new person to bond with. If there is no other viable human available then the bird will establish a mate bond with the human that it was previously bonded with.
It appears that in your case that your bird mate bonded with your mother and the biting that you experienced was esculated due to the way that you handled and petted him. The bird was trying to defend itself from unwarranted and unwanted sexual touching. A bird should never be petted any place on its body other than its head, beak and neck as the rest of its body is a big errogeneous zone and any touching there is inappropriate sexual contact.
Alright, now you know what happened as well as why it happened. Now the question is what to do about it and how to proceed. This is going to require you to think about things so that you can make the right choice for both of you. You need to decide who gets the bird, you or your mom. If she doesn't want him them you need to take possession of him and take him and his things home with you. If you can't or don't want to do this then you will be unable to establish the bond with him and are fighting a losing battle. This bird can live about 10 years or perhaps longer in the right circumstances. Taking him home with you is going to be stressful to him for several reasons including grieving over the loss of your mother as his chosen human as well as being moved to a new environment that he is not familiar with. Personally, if your mother is happy with being his special person and wants him I would let her keep this bird and go no from there. I I felt that I was ready to commit to a bird then I would check out any bird rescues for another bird that needs a good home and see if one of them would choose me for their special human to love them and care for them. If your mom does not want him, I would take him home at my earliest possible opportunity and start building a new relationship with him right away.
Let me know what you want to do, and I will do all that I can to help you and him.
Wolf
Macaw
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 8679
Location: Lansing, NC
Number of Birds Owned: 6
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Re: Green Cheek Conure gone sour, need help!

Postby Pajarita » Fri May 08, 2015 10:58 am

It is true that they tend to live around 10 in captivity but this is mainly due to the fact that people free-feed them seeds or pellets, in reality, their lifespan is closer to 30 if well taken care of.

Wolf is correct in that you need to decide whose bird it is because you can't establish a close bond or change the bird's living conditions if you are only going to see it 3 times a week for a little while in the evening.

The reason why your bird 'turned' was sexual hormones. They become sexually mature when they are between 1 and 2 years old and the way you were handling him (and, most likely, an incorrect diet and light schedule, too) made things much, much worse. I realize you did not mean to do this but the way you were touching him (rubbing your hand all over his body, petting his abdomen and even his vent, etc) are 100% taboo in the bird world. You were sexually arousing him and, given the way their reproductive system works, he is, most likely, in constant pain right now. Your mother is, most likely, able to handle him without getting bit because she is now his putative mate but I doubt he will allow anybody else to do it. For his own sake, he should be kept at a strict solar schedule and fed low protein so, can you please tell us what he eats and what kind of light schedule is he kept under? Because, even if he doesn't quite bond with you closely, we can tell you how to make him comfortable (without pain and with a normally working endocrine system) so he does not feel he has to bite everybody else.
Pajarita
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Re: Green Cheek Conure gone sour, need help!

Postby Cage Cleaner » Sat May 09, 2015 1:47 am

1) GCC are more nippy and opinionated than other parrots. So to some degree, nippiness is normal.

2) Where you are patting him matters; birds really should only be pet on the tops of their heads. Anything else is a sexual come-on, and could contribute to why he is not open to it.

3) There are some situation where they are more prone to bite. Such as if you try to make him step up from your mother's shoulder, or if he feels that you are impinging his territory. It's best to work with him in a neutral environment. Use a stick or something other to move him there from his cage.

4) Birds can also become one person birds. In fact, most birds do have a favorite, and will treat everyone else differently. You are going to have to "reintroduce" yourself to him, and spend a lot of time with the bird.

5) Move with confidence. Birds really do not respond well to hesitance or anxiety, and will bite as a reflexive response. If you offer your finger, do not pull away, even if he reaches with his beak. He could just be using his beak as a first step to stepping up. But, if you do pull away, he will interpret this as being unreliable, and will learn to bite instead of obliging you.
Cage Cleaner
Amazon
 
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Re: Green Cheek Conure gone sour, need help!

Postby Pajarita » Sat May 09, 2015 9:44 am

I don't know where you read that GCCs are more nippy and opinionated than other parrots but it's not true, when treated right, they are the sweetest, most agreeable and affectionate little birds - much more so than other species.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
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Location: NE New Jersey
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Flight: Yes

Re: Green Cheek Conure gone sour, need help!

Postby Wolf » Sat May 09, 2015 11:15 am

As far as I am aware of GCC only get nippy when they are hormonal or if they don't get enough attention.
Wolf
Macaw
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 8679
Location: Lansing, NC
Number of Birds Owned: 6
Types of Birds Owned: Senegal
African Grey (CAG)
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Flight: Yes

Re: Green Cheek Conure gone sour, need help!

Postby Cage Cleaner » Sat May 09, 2015 6:43 pm

Pajarita wrote:I don't know where you read that GCCs are more nippy and opinionated than other parrots but it's not true, when treated right, they are the sweetest, most agreeable and affectionate little birds - much more so than other species.


Nippy isn't mutually exclusive from sweet, agreeable, nor affectionate. GCC are more nippy and opinionated.
Cage Cleaner
Amazon
 
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Re: Green Cheek Conure gone sour, need help!

Postby Pajarita » Sun May 10, 2015 11:52 am

Cage Cleaner wrote:
Pajarita wrote:I don't know where you read that GCCs are more nippy and opinionated than other parrots but it's not true, when treated right, they are the sweetest, most agreeable and affectionate little birds - much more so than other species.


Nippy isn't mutually exclusive from sweet, agreeable, nor affectionate. GCC are more nippy and opinionated.


:lol: Of course it is! A nippy bird is not sweet or agreeable. It might want to be affectionate but if you can't trust the bird not to nip you for no good reason, I doubt you will allow it to be affectionate. I've had 4 GCCs, three I rehomed after rehabilitating them (two were nippy, one was downright aggressive when they came to me) and one I kept because she mate-bonded with an old, severly handicapped wild-caught orange front conure used for breeding so I would not rehome him (actually, I did, they went to my second daughter's mother in law but I repossessed them when I saw her care was not up to my standards); and the only one that was not nice to everybody was the one that had been abused and turned aggressive (he was nice to me). Codee, the one I kept, is one of the sweetest birds I have or ever had had. She never, ever, ever, ever nips no matter the circumstances or what I might need to do with her. And the people who have the other two tell me they are also the sweetest things ever. Boca, the one that was abused, is doing just fine also because he lives with his mate, Pichu (one of the sweet ones I rehomed), and a single lady whom he doesn't bite at all as it seems he is able to bond with his caregiver but doesn't quite trust anybody else.

I repeat, in my personal experience and for what I have read from other owners, if the GCC is happy with her human and well-taken care of, it's not nippy or 'opinionated' (I assume you either mean stubborn or overly assertive by this).
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 13198
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: Green Cheek Conure gone sour, need help!

Postby astep30 » Mon May 11, 2015 5:51 am

Wolf wrote:The answers are always in the details, but only in the right details. What you wrote gives a good overall picture of what has happened but while very helpful do not give the whole picture. That is alright as we will get to them in due course. Most people don't really understand the nature of their birds or all of the workings of what affects what or how and/ or why it works that way. It is all ok and I believe that we can help you understand what is going on with your bird and how to repair it. Although I do have a few questions.
...
If your mom does not want him, I would take him home at my earliest possible opportunity and start building a new relationship with him right away.
Let me know what you want to do, and I will do all that I can to help you and him.


Thanks everyone. This has been quite the lesson.

Firstly, Wolf, his name is Pesto (because he looks like the food, and because he's my little pest haha). And yes, he was DNA tested by the breeder. Again, thank you for enlightening me as to how the bird brain works - I knew that he would go through puberty at some stage, but I certainly had no idea I was touching him inappropriately. It won't happen again. Does that also include scratching him underneath his wings?

To be honest, my mum (and family) doesn't like Pesto very much anymore, I'm the only person who tries to spend much time with him (**I will come back to this in a second). She will get him out sometimes because he's been in his cage all day, but he bites her too sometimes. The difference is that Pesto has a vendetta against my fingers; he will literally puff himself up, start doing this slow, weird, threatening dance, and then run down my shoulder and try to attack my fingers.
I had a moment yesterday where I had him out on my shoulder and he decided he wanted to go down my shirt and sit in the v-neck like he used to, which I thought was really sweet...until about 10 minutes later, when he retreated inside and started attacking me inside my shirt (two bites on my stomach and one on my nipple, I was not happy to say the least). How are you supposed to discipline him in these situations?
It's these moments where I'm not exactly sure how I'm supposed to react. I used to yell in pain, but after some recent research I now know that is the worst thing to do, so I try not to make any noise but obviously I can't help but flinch. And in order to get him out, I had to completely restrain him through my shirt so he would stop biting me, which can't be good but I don't see any other option.
As a side note, I can you tell me if this is normal: when he was young, he used to chew and destroy things like all parrots, but these days he doesn't just nibble on them - he gets really worked up, aggressive, and actually ATTACKS them. I've been giving him toys to play with while I study, but I can't tell if its the right thing to do when it works him up so much. I'm sure you know what I mean when I say that the birds "body language" is not that of a bird trying to nibble on a toy, he's actually trying to rip it to shreds and lunging at it.

Pajarita wrote:It is true that they tend to live around 10 in captivity but this is mainly due to the fact that people free-feed them seeds or pellets, in reality, their lifespan is closer to 30 if well taken care of.

Wolf is correct in that you need to decide whose bird it is because you can't establish a close bond or change the bird's living conditions if you are only going to see it 3 times a week for a little while in the evening.

The reason why your bird 'turned' was sexual hormones. They become sexually mature when they are between 1 and 2 years old and the way you were handling him (and, most likely, an incorrect diet and light schedule, too) made things much, much worse. I realize you did not mean to do this but the way you were touching him (rubbing your hand all over his body, petting his abdomen and even his vent, etc) are 100% taboo in the bird world. You were sexually arousing him and, given the way their reproductive system works, he is, most likely, in constant pain right now. Your mother is, most likely, able to handle him without getting bit because she is now his putative mate but I doubt he will allow anybody else to do it. For his own sake, he should be kept at a strict solar schedule and fed low protein so, can you please tell us what he eats and what kind of light schedule is he kept under? Because, even if he doesn't quite bond with you closely, we can tell you how to make him comfortable (without pain and with a normally working endocrine system) so he does not feel he has to bite everybody else.


Before I go on, to answer Pajarita's question on his diet: he has birdseed in his cage and I believe it is mixed with fine grit and charcoal? I'm not entirely sure what seed it is as my mum buys it and the packet doesn't have a label. When he is out of the cage he will be given a share of whatever we happen to be eating (except chocolate, coffee and avocado). I don't think he gets to eat our food that much these days though, so I think it would be mainly birdseed and the odd piece of apple. What do you mean by him being in constant pain? His light schedule would be from natural sunrise (about 7am) to on average about 9pm, depending on when my family go to bed.

** I wanted to return to the topic of spending time with Pesto. I don't believe I should take him to a new environment, so he will stay at mums (not that I could take him with me if I wanted to, my landlord does not allow pets), however I currently come around nearly every day as I've been using my old room as an office to study, and while I study I try to have Pesto with me as much as possible so that he gets used to me. I should mention that it is a recent development for me to actively spend as much time as possible with Pesto. His old routine was to wait until mum came home. I believe she gets him out most nights for a bit before she goes to bed, but since he's started biting everyone nobody wants to get him out anymore.


This is the new routine: I'll arrive at mums sometime in the morning, and it is pretty easy to get him out of the cage - I lower my shoulder near the entrance and he will eventually jump across, but if he's super puffed up and aggressive then I leave the entrance open and walk away until he calms down a bit. If I leave, he will climb out of his cage and start whistling and start looking like he wants to fly to me. When I come back again a little later, will jump on to my shoulder. I never offer my hand for him to jump on because he would just bite it.

Now usually as soon as he's on me he will puff up and start making noises which is his crazy sign, so from the cage it's straight to my room and onto his perch. I've recently set up his play area on the bed, which includes his perch, water, food and some chew toys (including a big cardboard box) - this is a picture of the set up (http://1drv.ms/1Ff5Ch6). The cardboard box is both for him to chew on/play inside, and to act as a barrier to prevent him from jumping across to me when I'm sitting down.

Once he is off me, I offer him food and command him to roll over, then while he's eating I turn around and start my study. Eventually he's finished and wants to come to me, so I let him walk up my arm (wearing a jumper) onto my shoulder and I'll talk and whistle to him a little. From this point he either stays calm and starts grooming himself and I return to studying, or he puffs up again and 1) starts doing his dance / bashing his beak on me, or 2) starts walking down my arm to go for my fingers, in which case I have to lean over to get him on his perch again. This process repeats itself throughout the day. After grooming himself for a while, he will eventually do 1) or 2).
After a while if he is being too distracting, I sometimes need to return him to his cage.

I would be happy to upload videos of his behaviour if you think it would help.
astep30
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 2
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Green Cheeked Conure
Flight: No

Re: Green Cheek Conure gone sour, need help!

Postby Wolf » Mon May 11, 2015 7:10 am

I count myself lucky in that I am not female, especially when there is an irritated bird in my shirt, and can only imagine the pain that is involved. Maybe a stainless steel bra would help! Sorry about that, my sic humor, bad Wolf. How do you discipline a bird that does this? You don't !! It doesn't work with a bird. Also I would not try to act as if it didn't hurt, to me that is ludicrous. I yell if my birds bite hard enough to hurt me and tell them no and put them off of me and don't let them back on me for a few minutes.
I like seeds for my birds, I think that they provide more than just food for them. They are equipped with this large beat that is designed for the task of removing the hard outer shell from the food portion inside and because of this adding grit to their seed is not good. The birds that need grit eat the entire seed husk and all and need the grit to grind the seeds so that they can digest them. Parrots don't need this and you run the risk of creating an impaction somewhere in their digestive tract by feeding them grit and charcoal. As much as I like seeds for my parrots, they only get a limited portion of seeds for their dinner and it is removed at night after the bird goes to bed. Twenty years or so ago, everyone fed their birds a diet of mainly seeds, it was what we thought was the right thing to do. We were not paying attention to what was happening in nature, which only had seeds available at certain times and not all of the time. This free feeding of mostly seeds resulted in our birds dying much younger than they should have from heart, liver and kidney disease. It also resulted in increase aggressiveness in our birds. This is because the abundance of high protein and high fat food ( seeds ) is one of the main triggers for starting the breeding cycle and its increase in hormone levels.
I feed my birds a cooked mixture of whole grains, cooked mixed vegetables and cooked white beans and lentils for breakfast along with a couple of fresh raw vegetables, a fruit and a leafy green. These are given in a large enough quantity to last them all day long until dinnertime when they get their seed ration. This is the diet that I feed my birds and is what I recommend to anyone that has parrots, except for the ones that require a more specialized diet.
I would take a picture of your bird in its cage and show this picture to the landlord and ask if I could bring the bird home and even offer to pay a small additional deposit if needed. Most landlords that say no pets are talking about dogs and cats and not usually a small bird in a cage. I would not go into a lot of detail about letting the bird out or anything else, let the landlord draw their own conclusions about the bird from the picture. This pushes my sense of honesty and fair play to its maximum limits, but for the benefit to the bird I would chance this. You will never know if this landlord will make the exception unless you ask.
Any videos of Pesto's behaviors would be helpful in understanding what may be behind his aggression and thus how to deal with it effectively. At present I am of the opinion that Pesto is both angry with you and hormonal. The video will help to see if this is right or not. In any case I recommend that you stop the grit and charcoal right away and start changing his diet to a more healthy one. It takes a little bit of time to change their diet but it is well worth it. A healthy diet should help to reduce some of the aggressiveness.
Wolf
Macaw
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 8679
Location: Lansing, NC
Number of Birds Owned: 6
Types of Birds Owned: Senegal
African Grey (CAG)
Yellow Naped Amazon
2Celestial Parrotlet
Budgie
Flight: Yes

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