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Biting Senegal Parrot!

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

Biting Senegal Parrot!

Postby lac575 » Sat Nov 24, 2018 3:49 pm

Our 2-year-old Senegal Parrot recently started biting and biting hard!

My husband and I adopted him in July. He was a very even-keel and sweet bird even though he was fearful at first. He came out of his shell in a very short amount of time and clearly wanted to be near us and with us. He would step-up, ride around on our shoulders and accept touches on his head and feet. He bit each of us twice in the first week we had him but he did not bite hard. He warned first and we knew the bites were out of fear and were avoidable.

In the last 2 weeks, he has bitten both my husband and me multiple times without warning- hard enough to break the skin and draw blood. My hands are still healing. Apparently, this is the intensity with which he bit my husband before he bit me and I just didn't believe it. I thought my husband was overreacting. About a week later, he bit me the same way and now I understand.

The first time he bit me this hard was when I was putting him back in his cage. I had just moisturized my hands so they were a tad slippery, he slipped off my finger a little and then bit be right before he was about to step on to his perch. I am not sure if its because I caused him to lose his balance which he did not like or if he did not want to go back in his cage.

The second time was when we took him to my in-law's house. He had been there many times before and is comfortable there. So much so that he now explores the kitchen countertops (where he is not allowed to be). He was on his normal play-stand on the kitchen counter (nothing was cooking!), everyone was in the kitchen as usual and he started his exploring. I usually just ask him to step up and place him back on his appropriate perch which goes just fine. Well, I did that but he didn't want to step up. I asked him again and he did step up. He bit me on the way to the perch and didn't let go! Finally, he let go but then bit me again and again! It hurt so bad. I did not shout out at all but he wouldn't let go so I dusted him off my hand and onto the counter (a very very small distance). I know this is reinforcing but I did not know what to do- I couldn't push into him as he was perched on my hand.

I have been researching how we should address this negative behavior. The biggest problem now is that I am afraid of him! I have been telling my husband that he cannot be afraid of an animal that is going to be with us our whole lives. We have to keep on with business as usual. Now that I have been bitten with the same intensity, I understand!

He is on organic Harrisons High Potency pellets and eats raw veggies mixed in with Sweet and Sassy bird food that we cook. It contains lentils and beans so I am wondering if it is too high in nutrition for him? Especially in the fall? Fall is not normally considered breeding season for parrots however breeding season for Senegal parrots in Africa is from September to November so.......is he hormonal so we need to cut down high energy foods and put him to bed early? is he just going through the terrible twos? Is he suddenly finding us threatening?

We are still working with him everyday but we are very hesitant to offer him our hands. I did not use my bare hands for many days and I have only finally gotten over it enough to offer him my bare hands again. I try not to show fear but its certainly there inside.

Pls, give me your opinions. We are so committed to this bird and want to do what's best for him. He is going to remain with us for the rest of his life regardless, no matter what. We do want to address his biting ASAP to improve the situation for us all.

Is he biting out of fear? Is he biting because he is hormonal? Is he biting because of the terrible twos? or for any other reasons we arent seeing?

*We trick train and harness train with him usually. We have gone back to the basics and are now working on step-up nicely again*

~Darwin's Parents~ :senegal:
lac575
Parrotlet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 13
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Senegal parrot (Poichephalus senegalus)
Flight: Yes

Re: Biting Senegal Parrot!

Postby lac575 » Sat Nov 24, 2018 5:19 pm

Okay, so, these may seem like weird questions, but they all matter:
1. What are you feeding him
2. How much SOLID/QUIET sleep is he getting nightly (and do you cover the cage)?
3. How much sun daily --and what type (through window, outdoors, artificial lighting etc etc)?
4. How much out-of-cage time daily?
5. Who does the main feeding/cleaning tasks daily?
6. Does anyone touch him in places other than his head?
7. Does he have access to dark spaces or nesting material?
8. What do people do immediately after he bites?
9. Are you aware of the risks posed by scented products, such as candles, aerosols, carpet cleaners, perfumes etc?
10. Do you know about bird-safe cleaners and their respiratory systems? Especially with regard to PFOA/PTFE/Teflon? (Just because you are new-ish parronts).
11. How long have you had him and what is his backstory?
12. Have you had bloodwork etc done by a CAV (Certified Avian Vet)?
13. How much hands-on interaction time daily (and with whom)
14. What is the cage-size and how is the toy situation?

Answers:
1. We feed him organic Harrisons High Potency pellets and raw veggies mixed in with Sweet and Sassy bird food that we cook. The Sleek & Sassy cooking diet contains: Cracked Corn, Brown Rice, Oat Groats, Wheat, Lentils, Yellow Split Peas, Flax, Dehydrated Carrot, Buckwheat Groats, Adzuki Beans, Mung Beans, Pinto Beans, Baby Lima Beans, Black Eyed Peas, Small White Beans, Small Red Beans, Dehydrated Green Bell Pepper, Dehydrated Sweet Potato.

2. We cover his cage at night. He goes to bed around 8pm usually but by 9pm at the latest. He is let out between 8am and 9am in the morning. So between 10-13 hours a night. His cage is somewhat close to our tv so even though we turn down the volume, it is not a 100% quiet until about 10:30pm.

3. He has sunlight for as long as the sun is up. It goes down around 4:30pm now that it is becoming winter. He gets natural sunlight through the many windows we have. His cage and perches are placed by windows so he can get natural sunlight. We have very good temperature control in our house so he is not exposed to drafts or anything. We also take him outside in his travel cage to get him used to being outside, especially once we can put his harness on him.

4. He is outside his cage most of the day. One of us is home with him so he is out and about a lot. He has multiple play gyms/perches that he uses during the day. His wings are clipped so we move him from perch to perch as needed.

5. I do the cleaning and most of the feeding but my husband also helps with feeding.

6. We do not touch him anywhere other than his head and feet. I do kiss him (dry) on the beak.

7. He does not have access to dark places or obvious nesting material. He does have paper at the bottom on his cage and under his play gyms which he sometimes shreads.

8. We put him down after he bites and we do not touch him.

9. Yes we are aware of the risks. We do not have candles, scents, aerosols, nonstick cookware etc. in our house anymore.

10. We only use vinegar and water to clean his things. No other cleaners are used anywhere near him.

11. We have had him since July 27th..so for about 4 months now. We found a Craigslist post and went to meet him. We adopted him from a couple who lived in a tiny and very dirty (sorry to say) apartment. We don't think he had been exposed to sunshine in a long time. The apartment was on the ground floor so the blinds were always drawn (a thick coat of dust on the blinds told us that they had not been opened in a long time). He lived with 2 cats and a dog. One of the cats was trying to attack him which is why they parted with him. His cage was in a corner of the apartment, slowly being buried in poop. He only had a desk lamp as lighting, shining straight into his cage. He did not seem aggressive and was kind of interested in us (from a distance) when we met him.

12. We took him to the vet for a checkup when we got him. He was given a clean bill of health, nail trimming, beak trimming, and wing clipping. He has another appointment on December 17th for blood work.

13. He is out of his cage and around us most of the day. One on one interaction is about 2-3 hours a day throughout the day. The actual training interaction is about 10 minutes a day because that is all he can handle. he did not know how to step up or how to do anything else when we got him. He now knows step-up, turn around, wave, target and nod yes. We are also harness training him. I can get him to put his head through the harness but I am scared to even attempt to put it on him completely now with the biting. I (mom) is the one that trains him but my husband and I both interact with him throughout the day.

14. His cage is 36' Length (height) X 26' W X 20' Deep. Much bigger than what is considered the normal requirement for a bird his size. He has lots of toys that we change around. He also has a large table-top play gym, a cage-top play gym and a training perch that we use only for training.
lac575
Parrotlet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 13
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Senegal parrot (Poichephalus senegalus)
Flight: Yes

Re: Biting Senegal Parrot!

Postby Michael » Sat Nov 24, 2018 10:56 pm

lac575 wrote:8. What do people do immediately after he bites?

8. We put him down after he bites and we do not touch him.


Most birds bite because they don’t want you to do something to them, in other words to get you to leave he, alone. You are reinforcing that by suggesting that every time you do something wrong, he should give you feedback by biting you so that you would leave him alone. Biting is increasing because it is being recommended as a useful strategy to the bird. You may want to rethink that.
User avatar
Michael
Macaw
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 6200
Location: New York
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Senegal Parrot, Cape Parrot, Green-Winged Macaw
Flight: Yes

Re: Biting Senegal Parrot!

Postby Pajarita » Sun Nov 25, 2018 11:31 am

Well, I see a number of things on your post... For one thing, this is breeding season for senegals and males are particularly aggressive during this time. People think that because senegals are small, they are easier to handle than a large bird but I've cared for many parrots of many different species and a lot of them came to me because of aggression issues, including my male senegal [the couple that had him before called him 'the senegal from hell'] and I can tell you that I don't blame you one single bit for being afraid of him because my male senegal is the ONLY bird that I was afraid of and which made me dread going into the birdroom.

Now, he is at a difficult age because, at two years of age, he is like a teenager. He just became sexually mature and has all the confusion and pep that this means. To make matters worse, you are keeping him at a human light schedule and feeding him a HUGE amount of protein [I would never feed High Potency to any bird, it's a ticking bomb: super high protein, super high vitamin/mineral content and SOY!]. Then we have the fact that the behavior you are seeing now is actually not caused by anything you've done in particular but him showing his true colors after the honeymoon period -you've only had him for four months and it takes about two years for a bird to 'find his place' in his new home. AND to put the icing on the cake, he is clipped and that's pretty much the worst thing you can do to a bird. So, let's recap: all the things I've mentioned, his age [puberty], the light schedule [human instead of bird], the diet [WAY too high in protein, etc], the short period of time you've had him [only four months] and the fact that you have handicapped him by depriving him of his only mode of transportation [and, make no mistake, he blames your for it] are all determining factors and causes of the behavior you are seeing. You also mention taking him often to somebody else's home and trick and harness training and, although I don't know when you started training, how you do it and for how long, I can tell you that, in my personal opinion and experience, you need to give a rehomed bird many months to learn to trust you and start loving you BEFORE you even attempt any training or it backfires. I also do not agree with taking birds out for a walk or a visit. I think it has no benefit to the bird because it's terribly stressful. You also mention his biting you when you tried to put him back on his stand while you were visiting... well, I don't know of any senegal that would prefer to stay on a stand instead of on his human shoulder - especially in a place that is not his home.

My recommendations to you are as follows:
1. Stop free-feeding protein and get rid of the High Potency. My birds eat gloop and raw produce for breakfast [at dawn] and all day picking and a measured amount of a seed/nut mix for dinner [at dusk].
2. Keep him at a strict solar schedule with full exposure to dawn and dusk.
3. Allow his wings to grow back.
4. Stop taking him to unfamiliar places.
5. Don't insist on him perching quietly on a stand, allow him to go where he wants.
6. Stop training him until he no longer bites you.
7. Establish a strict schedule of daily routines [there is nothing that makes a parrot more comfortable than a super strict schedule where they do the same thing every single day at exactly the same time].

And, on another note, I would also look for another vet, if I were you. Because any avian vet that trims a 2 year old bird's beak that is not deformed, is not a good one. Healthy birds never need their beak trimmed -NEVER EVER- and he should have known that.

As to what to do when he bites.... well, as stupid as this is going to sound to you, the best thing to do is to avoid getting bit. Let me explain. Parrots are not naturally aggressive animals, nature did not give them the gene for it because they don't belong to a hierarchical society and they are not predators so although they would defend and protect their nests, mates, babies, it's not really in them to just bite to hurt you [quite the contrary, they are extremely empathetic animals that would comfort you when you are in pain]. They do it mainly because we teach them to by creating an abnormal level of sexual hormones [diet and light schedule] and by not 'listening' to them and doing things they don't like over and over until we give them no choice but to bite us to make us pay attention. He most likely never liked being put back on the stand but he did it without retaliation because he was on his honeymoon period and hoped you would stop - when he saw that you did not, he took matters into his own hands -or beak, in this case :lol: In the meantime, use a stick instead of your hand because you don't want the bird getting used to biting and thinking that it's the only way he is going to get what he needs.

Now, if you keep him at a solar schedule, change his diet, etc. it will still take some time for him to become a sweet little bird because you need to wait until the breeding season is over BUT, if you do everything right, you should see a difference in his behavior by mid-January [because that's about three weeks after the winter solstice and that means that the days are longer by 20-30 minutes which we know is the minimum period of time that birds endocrine systems react to].

I would also give him thick cardboard boxes to chew. My male is chewing like crazy and going through two boxes a day. I know that people say don't give them things to chew when they are hormonal but it's the wrong thing to do because all it does is frustrate the animal and make things worse. Chewing is a natural behavior that is hard-wired into their genes [like rodents] and the urge [need?] to do it during breeding season is very, very strong. I don't believe in trying to change them into feathered dogs, I believe in giving them a life as close to what nature evolved them to live and it has worked for me for many years and with many different birds -including 'the senegal from hell' [his name is Sweetpea and he is a genius of a bird which actually uses cognitive speech to communicate -and he is no longer aggressive, either].
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 14872
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: Biting Senegal Parrot!

Postby lac575 » Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:06 pm

Michael wrote:
lac575 wrote:8. What do people do immediately after he bites?

8. We put him down after he bites and we do not touch him.


Most birds bite because they don’t want you to do something to them, in other words to get you to leave he, alone. You are reinforcing that by suggesting that every time you do something wrong, he should give you feedback by biting you so that you would leave him alone. Biting is increasing because it is being recommended as a useful strategy for the bird. You may want to rethink that.



What do you suggest we try with him? Encourage him to start practicing step up nicely?
Last edited by lac575 on Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
lac575
Parrotlet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 13
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Senegal parrot (Poichephalus senegalus)
Flight: Yes

Re: Biting Senegal Parrot!

Postby lac575 » Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:12 pm

Pajarita wrote:Well, I see a number of things on your post... For one thing, this is breeding season for senegals and males are particularly aggressive during this time. People think that because senegals are small, they are easier to handle than a large bird but I've cared for many parrots of many different species and a lot of them came to me because of aggression issues, including my male senegal [the couple that had him before called him 'the senegal from hell'] and I can tell you that I don't blame you one single bit for being afraid of him because my male senegal is the ONLY bird that I was afraid of and which made me dread going into the birdroom.

Now, he is at a difficult age because, at two years of age, he is like a teenager. He just became sexually mature and has all the confusion and pep that this means. To make matters worse, you are keeping him at a human light schedule and feeding him a HUGE amount of protein [I would never feed High Potency to any bird, it's a ticking bomb: super high protein, super high vitamin/mineral content and SOY!]. Then we have the fact that the behavior you are seeing now is actually not caused by anything you've done in particular but him showing his true colors after the honeymoon period -you've only had him for four months and it takes about two years for a bird to 'find his place' in his new home. AND to put the icing on the cake, he is clipped and that's pretty much the worst thing you can do to a bird. So, let's recap: all the things I've mentioned, his age [puberty], the light schedule [human instead of bird], the diet [WAY too high in protein, etc], the short period of time you've had him [only four months] and the fact that you have handicapped him by depriving him of his only mode of transportation [and, make no mistake, he blames your for it] are all determining factors and causes of the behavior you are seeing. You also mention taking him often to somebody else's home and trick and harness training and, although I don't know when you started training, how you do it and for how long, I can tell you that, in my personal opinion and experience, you need to give a rehomed bird many months to learn to trust you and start loving you BEFORE you even attempt any training or it backfires. I also do not agree with taking birds out for a walk or a visit. I think it has no benefit to the bird because it's terribly stressful. You also mention his biting you when you tried to put him back on his stand while you were visiting... well, I don't know of any senegal that would prefer to stay on a stand instead of on his human shoulder - especially in a place that is not his home.

My recommendations to you are as follows:
1. Stop free-feeding protein and get rid of the High Potency. My birds eat gloop and raw produce for breakfast [at dawn] and all day picking and a measured amount of a seed/nut mix for dinner [at dusk].
2. Keep him at a strict solar schedule with full exposure to dawn and dusk.
3. Allow his wings to grow back.
4. Stop taking him to unfamiliar places.
5. Don't insist on him perching quietly on a stand, allow him to go where he wants.
6. Stop training him until he no longer bites you.
7. Establish a strict schedule of daily routines [there is nothing that makes a parrot more comfortable than a super strict schedule where they do the same thing every single day at exactly the same time].

And, on another note, I would also look for another vet, if I were you. Because any avian vet that trims a 2 year old bird's beak that is not deformed, is not a good one. Healthy birds never need their beak trimmed -NEVER EVER- and he should have known that.

As to what to do when he bites.... well, as stupid as this is going to sound to you, the best thing to do is to avoid getting bit. Let me explain. Parrots are not naturally aggressive animals, nature did not give them the gene for it because they don't belong to a hierarchical society and they are not predators so although they would defend and protect their nests, mates, babies, it's not really in them to just bite to hurt you [quite the contrary, they are extremely empathetic animals that would comfort you when you are in pain]. They do it mainly because we teach them to by creating an abnormal level of sexual hormones [diet and light schedule] and by not 'listening' to them and doing things they don't like over and over until we give them no choice but to bite us to make us pay attention. He most likely never liked being put back on the stand but he did it without retaliation because he was on his honeymoon period and hoped you would stop - when he saw that you did not, he took matters into his own hands -or beak, in this case :lol: In the meantime, use a stick instead of your hand because you don't want the bird getting used to biting and thinking that it's the only way he is going to get what he needs.

Now, if you keep him at a solar schedule, change his diet, etc. it will still take some time for him to become a sweet little bird because you need to wait until the breeding season is over BUT, if you do everything right, you should see a difference in his behavior by mid-January [because that's about three weeks after the winter solstice and that means that the days are longer by 20-30 minutes which we know is the minimum period of time that birds endocrine systems react to].

I would also give him thick cardboard boxes to chew. My male is chewing like crazy and going through two boxes a day. I know that people say don't give them things to chew when they are hormonal but it's the wrong thing to do because all it does is frustrate the animal and make things worse. Chewing is a natural behavior that is hard-wired into their genes [like rodents] and the urge [need?] to do it during breeding season is very, very strong. I don't believe in trying to change them into feathered dogs, I believe in giving them a life as close to what nature evolved them to live and it has worked for me for many years and with many different birds -including 'the senegal from hell' [his name is Sweetpea and he is a genius of a bird which actually uses cognitive speech to communicate -and he is no longer aggressive, either].


Thank you for the helpful information. We will talk to his doctor about switching his high potency pellets as it was the doctor that told us to put him on it (because he is young) until its time to switch him to the maintenance diet. We will also look into finding a different doctor to get a second opinion.
lac575
Parrotlet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 13
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Senegal parrot (Poichephalus senegalus)
Flight: Yes

Re: Biting Senegal Parrot!

Postby Michael » Sun Nov 25, 2018 2:35 pm

lac575 wrote:
Michael wrote:
lac575 wrote:8. What do people do immediately after he bites?

8. We put him down after he bites and we do not touch him.


Most birds bite because they don’t want you to do something to them, in other words to get you to leave he, alone. You are reinforcing that by suggesting that every time you do something wrong, he should give you feedback by biting you so that you would leave him alone. Biting is increasing because it is being recommended as a useful strategy for the bird. You may want to rethink that.



What do you suggest we try with him? Encourage him to start practicing step up nicely?


Bingo! :thumbsup:
User avatar
Michael
Macaw
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 6200
Location: New York
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Senegal Parrot, Cape Parrot, Green-Winged Macaw
Flight: Yes

Re: Biting Senegal Parrot!

Postby Pajarita » Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:52 am

lac575 wrote:
Thank you for the helpful information. We will talk to his doctor about switching his high potency pellets as it was the doctor that told us to put him on it (because he is young) until its time to switch him to the maintenance diet. We will also look into finding a different doctor to get a second opinion.


Please take into consideration that avian vets do not study parrot nutrition so, unless the vet has done research on its own on this particular species because he/she has had multiple parrots [better if he/she has personal experience with senegals] for years, his/her opinion is completely uninformed [avian medicine texts do not have a chapter on parrot nutrition =nothing, nada, zilch!]. Also, at two years of age, he is a full-fledged adult, not a baby or a juvenile so he doesn't need any special diet and the super high protein in the High Potency is contributing to his aggression [it's a known fact that high protein makes them aggressive] and will, eventually, destroy his liver and kidneys [I would be curious to see what his uric acid levels are on the High Potency... I bet they are too high which is not good for his kidneys]. I recommend everybody do research on their own - but the right kind, not asking a vet or another bird owner who might or might not give you the right answer. Go to scientific studies, field biologists and ornithologists reports/writings.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 14872
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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