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constant attacks

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

constant attacks

Postby JoJoIowa » Thu May 02, 2019 9:15 am

The family adopted a DNA sexed BFA in February of this year. Initially things were good. She was quieter, interacted peacefully with us all, at well... the typical honeymoon stage.

She has since bonded to the male in the house and the bond is FIERCE. Its so fierce she sees me as a daily threat. If she hears me she gets tense, if she sees me watch out she will instantly fly to me to attack. She recently sought me out in another room and dive bombed me 3 times. During the attack she got my hand and ripped it open. Since then we are cautious. I'm not around if she is out, if she sees me she flies at me. Her human has also taken steps to not encourage behavior. If she acts out she gets a time out in her cage, shoulder time is no more, and we have taken steps to ensure better sleep, and a healthier diet to help with hormones.

We are also at the point of clipping her wings until she relaxes. I know most of this extreme behavior is likely do to hormones. I'm giving it time to settle. Wing clipping is a safety option for the family and for her until this can be resolved. We also have a time arranged to meet with parrot behaviorist at our vets. Until then I need advice, experience, moral support whatever!
JoJoIowa
Parrotlet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 10
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Parakeet, Cockatiel, and Blue Front Amazon
Flight: Yes

Re: constant attacks

Postby Pajarita » Thu May 02, 2019 10:24 am

Welcome to the forum and I am very sorry you are going through such a terrible situation! I well know how bad it is when a parrot hates your guts because he/she perceives you as the competition for her chosen one but there is hope!

For one thing I would like to know if the bird was, indeed, DNAd female or if the calling it a 'her' is just an opinion. Because, although female zons are not really known for their aggression, it doesn't mean it doesn't happen, only that males are, usually, the ones that attack while females merely kind of 'carpe diem' the opportunity and bite you when you are near enough.

The other missing info is her age, diet and light schedule because all these are essential points when it comes to hormones. Without knowing anything at all and going just by the little you have posted, I would say that this is a female most likely older than 8 which has been fed too much protein and kept at a human light schedule and, again most likely, without enough flight hours. Let me explain. Amazons become sexually mature at around 3 or 4 years of age but for a bird to become overly hormonal (which is your bird's problem), it needs to have been under bad husbandry for years and that's why I think she might be 8 or older. Amazons are what we call hormonal birds (with Blue Fronts being one of the 'hot three' species of zons) so extreme care needs to be given to their diet (NEVER free-feed any type of protein food -pellets, seeds, nuts, nutriberries, avicakes, etc) and their lights schedule (needs to be a strict solar with full exposure to dawn and dusk). An amazon that has been producing sexual hormones all year round for years is a bird that is in constant pain and extremely sexually frustrated. And this translates into aggression - it's as simple as that.

Now, I am not discouraging you from going to the behaviorist but this is not a behavioral problem, it's a physical problem caused by bad husbandry and no training is going to make it better because training will not stop the pain or eliminate the frustration. What the bird needs is good husbandry and time for its endocrine system to go back on track with the seasons. Unfortunately for you and the poor bird, we are now smack in the middle of the breeding season (I have my zon hens sitting on eggs right now -mind you, I do NOT breed! I just allow them to go through the normal stages of breeding because this is what nature ordained for them and what's healthiest) so no relief is forthcoming any time soon BUT, if you do everything right and wait it out, things will start getting better around September.

Now, people usually think that putting the bird to sleep earlier is what does it but it's nothing but a common misconception because birds need to be exposed to the different light that happens at dawn and dusk to turn on or off their 'internal clock' so turning off artificial lights or covering their cage is not really going to help it. Birds are photoperiodic, a long word that means that their endocrine system is governed by light (photo meaning light in Greek and period as in what we call 'seasons' like breeding season or molting season or migrating season, etc) and the way it works is that their photoreceptors (cells that react to light) are turned on by the light of dawn and turned off by the light of dusk so in order for their bodies to have 'seasons' when they should and for as long as they should. The exposure to light is so very important to a bird's health that nature gave them photoreceptors even inside their brain (mammals have them only in the eyes) and cranial bones so thin that allow the light to go through them and reach the deep brain photoreceptors activating or deactivating them so as to ensure the correct hormonal production at the right time and the right time only. Why is it so important? Because birds do NOT produce sexual hormones all year round! Mammals do but not birds. They ONLY produce them when Nature provides the exact combination of environmental cues to indicate that it's the best time to procreate. For amazons, it's a certain number of daylight hours (this varies by species but they are all long day breeders), rich and abundant food and good weather conditions. Now, the thing is that, in captivity and inside a human's home, it's spring all year round so there is nothing we can do about this. We can control diet but, unfortunately for parrots, most people (including avian vets who do NOT study parrot nutrition) think that free-feeding protein food is the right way to go when, for parrots like amazons, it's actually a death sentence because they require very low protein or they develop fatty liver and high uric acid.
And then, there is the terrible practice of clipping birds (which does nothing to change behavior) when flight is the ONLIEST mechanism that nature gave them to dissipate hormones (both sexual and stress) from their bloodstream and to keep their respiratory system healthy (birds need to fly in order to inflate and deflate all their air sacs).

So, to recap: In my personal opinion (and going just by your description of its behavior without having any details as to light schedule, diet, etc) your bird is overly hormonal. He/She will continue overly hormonal until the days start becoming shorter (this will happen after the summer solstice on June 21, 2019) but, in order for this to happen, you need to start keeping her at a strict solar schedule with 1.5 to 2 hours of twilight exposure both at dawn and dusk (this means without any artificial light on, not even in the next room!). It needs to get a low protein good, fresh food diet (meaning gloop, chop or mash for breakfast accompanied by raw produce) and a measured, small portion of protein food that is not higher than 15%. Now, the protein level depends on the diet it has had in the past and for how long because, if it has had a real bad diet for a long time, I suggest you reduce the protein intake even more. We don't really have good studies on parrots nutritional needs but we do have a good one (a single one!) for amazons that tells us that amazons in the wild, during breeding season, eat a max of 17% protein - but, mind you, this is for birds that fly miles and miles every day and which are in process of breeding - our parrots are not exposed to the elements, do not fly miles every day and do not breed so the protein level needs to be much lower than that.

I've had and still have zon that were like you describe either when they first came to me or with their previous owners but they are now the sweetest things (in amazons, males are the dominant gender BY FAR and the hens are super sweet when they are healthy, comfortable and happy). And all I did was what I told you to do so, even if I did not know how their bodies work, I would still know from my own personal experience that it works.

Now I will tell you what I do with my birds so you can have a better idea of what I am saying. I open the windows blinds and their cages at 5:30 am (this time of the year, the actual time changes with the seasons because you need to follow the sun), they get raw produce (one fruit, one veggie, one leafy green - a different one each day of the week or longer, depending on the item itself) at around 6:15 to 6:30 am, then I turn on the full spectrum lights and give them their gloop at around 7:30 to 7:45 am when they are put back in their cages for about half an hour so they can eat their breakfast. Cages are open again and they are allowed to fly or whatever until 2:30 to 3 pm (it's a bit later during the summer) when they are put back into their cages. I turn off the overhead lights at 5:30 pm, give them their dinner (I do not feed pellets as I do not believe they are the best dietary option for parrots -I can elaborate on the reasons why, if you wish), a mixture of a cockatiel seed mix doctored with nuts, at 6:30 pm, close the blinds at 8 pm and call it a day (again, the actual time these things are done depend on the season and the natural daylight period). I have wild-caughts and abused amazons that were extremely aggressive when they first came but I do not have a single issue or problem with them now.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 15050
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: constant attacks

Postby JoJoIowa » Thu May 02, 2019 3:38 pm

Huge thanks for your knowledge.

Georgia was originally thought to be a male. (She came from a shelter after her owner died). We had her at an avian vet this past month. There she had a full blood work up and DNA sexing done. She is confirmed female. At that time some of her levels were low. However the vet said that might be her "normal" with that said routine exams will help further establish her base. The vet said at this time she is just slightly over weight. Her eyes, ears, and chest all looked, sounded, and felt normal. We were told by the rescue she came from she was thought to be 17-19 years of age.(Again this is unknown) The vet however is assuming she was a wild caught amazon by her leg band. The vet also suggested keeping her fully flighted to help her maintain as natural of a life as possible. I am all for this really. I hate the idea of clipping a bird. However, at this point I'm fighting with whats best? When she flies for me she means business. She comes at me over and over again until she gets her bite in then comes at me again. Like I stated before these attacks are unprovoked(well generally speaking). My voice or the simple sight of me sets her off. I know in her mind she is showing her human how strong of a defender she can be.

Here is our routine...

we recently changed this in hopes of calming the hormones.

Right now she has a sleep cage and a day time cage. Her sleep cage is in a spare bedroom that is completely dark with black out curtains. She has water in there and a few perches to pick from. She goes to her sleep cage at about 6:30-7pm at night. She gets a light turned on at 6am and taken down to her day cage at 6:30. Typically she goes to a perch until just before 7. At that time she is put into her day cage with breakfast. Breakfast consists of snap peas, blue berries, carrots, chickpeas, cilantro, beans, raspberries, corn, grapes... (She gets a small variety of the following it varies by day). She always has a small portion of pellets available usually 10 pellets. I will say though these pellets typically get tossed after 2 days. She doesn't much care for them and rarely touches them. I've tried making her chop and bird bread before but it always goes untouched. She just wants whole raw foods to rip into.

In her cage she has multiple perches to choose from, foraging toys both food (nuts/dried fruit) and grass/coconut like toys. She also has the good old block toys. I decided recently though the food foraging toys should be done with. She shouldn't be eating all day long.

She is here during the day while we are at work. When her human gets home she comes out and has a play stands to get on, fly's freely, and to help her exercise her human practices flight commands with her. When I get home she has to be put away though. I unfortunately really provoke her. I have tried to talking mellow to her, keep my distance and talk to her, feed her her favorite nut when I enter the room, but nothing works. At this time I am a threat to her. I know her behavior is hormone based and years of bad habits being allowed or encouraged.
JoJoIowa
Parrotlet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 10
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Parakeet, Cockatiel, and Blue Front Amazon
Flight: Yes

Re: constant attacks

Postby Pajarita » Fri May 03, 2019 10:35 am

Well, if she has a USDA open band on her leg, she is definitely a wild-caught - which I know that people usually think it's bad but, in reality, it's quite the opposite as wild-caughts are 1,000 healthier and hardier than any captive-bred bird! And, they are also much healthier from a psychological point of view because these are birds that KNOW they are birds and how to act as a bird so there is no identity crisis, no gender confusion, no nothing. They are as nature meant for them to be - and that's a GREAT thing!

Now, at her age, it's no mystery why she is so aggressive! I mean, the poor thing must have been living in pain for years and years... no wonder she is the way she is. But, like I said, there is hope - and a real light at the end of the tunnel!

Now, the first thing you need to do is eliminate the light on at 6 am, she should not be exposed to artificial light until, say, 7:30 am - but you should open her black-out curtains (and, if you could make it a bit earlier, even better). You should also put her in her night room a bit earlier, say, 6 pm but leave the black-out curtains open until 8 pm. See, the thing is that after so many years of an endocrine system being out of whack, you need strong and clear stimuli to put it back on track with the seasons so the longer the twilight exposure, the easier it will be for her body to 'pick it up'.

Her diet seems great! I would not feed her chickpeas or just beans though (way too much oxalic acid!) and never, ever cilantro or parsley (HUGE amounts of oxalic acid!) but the raw produce is very healthy for her so just keep on offering it as you have been doing (go for berries, mostly - they are extremely nutritious). My birds do not eat chop, either. They hate everything made into one homogeneous wet anything, they like texture and being able to pick and choose what they like best first. I feed gloop and you should try it for her because it's very nutritious, easy to make and I've never known a single bird that doesn't like it (and I've had literally hundreds of birds under my care).

As to her behavior... the 'it's nothing I do, she just hates my guts' is 100% correct in cases like this. I have a male senegal that hated all humankind (kept 11 years in a small cage) but hated my personal guts with a passion because his chosen one adored me. It took years for him to stop BUT male senegals are naturally aggressive while amazon females are not so it's not the same thing. I also have a female senegal that hated my husband's guts but she loves him now.

I suggest you find something that scares her and wear it when she is out of cage. I know this sounds cruel but it's not. I am not talking about you actually scaring her on purpose like waving a stick in front of her face or threatening to hit her or something like that, I am talking about something that she would normally stay away from and you staying away with that thing on you. I had a male amazon that was also a holy terror but I discovered that he was afraid of those foam tubes that kids use as floaters so I used to hang one on my back and he left me alone. And there was the time when I walked around with a corn broom tied to my back with the 'broomy' part sticking up from my head or the time when I walked around with a bath towel tied around my waist and hanging all the way down to the floor in the back so a super mean male eclectus (his name, ironically, was Romeo) would not run after me and bite my feet and legs. I knew somebody who would just need to wear a bright yellow hat... The wearing or carrying something they fear works like a charm because, at the beginning, they are simply afraid of the thing so they would not attempt to get near it (thereby foiling her attacks on you) but, as time goes by, they get used to both the thing they fear and you being in the same room with them without there being any aggression on their part and they get into their habit of leaving you alone. Parrots don't belong in hierarchical societies so they don't recognize leaders, alphas or a position of authority but that doesn't mean that they don't recognize another bird -or a human, in this case- being stronger than they are, and this is what you want! You want her to see you as somebody who is not afraid of her, who is strong and big but, at the same time, by leaving her alone, you are also teaching her that you are not to fear, that you could pose a threat but are choosing not to. They are VERY smart and put two and two together and come up with four. They analyze situations and reach conclusions on their own and THIS is what you want with her. You want her to realize that even though she has chosen a human that is not you, you still don't pose a real threat to her relationship with this human... that you can co-habit without strife... that you can be a member of the flock and will not put yourself between her and her human.

Personally, I don't think that putting her in her cage when you come in is a good idea because she will blame you for her lack of freedom (like I said, they are smart). Maybe her human can put her in when you first come in or, better still, take her into her sleep room so you can put your 'shield' on.

As to toys... well, this time of the year, all my zons want is a nice, stiff box of hard cardboard big enough so they can get inside (with the box upside down so it makes like a little 'cave') and scratch/chew the 'floor' of it. I just change them every day or add another layer of cardboard to the 'floor' and they are happy. I know that a lot of people think that you should not give anything that would remind hormonal parrots of breeding ("No nesting material!") but, in my personal experience and opinion, when you have a super sexually frustrated bird, the best thing you can do is satisfy as much as possible its needs/desires instead of trying to thwart them because, let's face it, the bird is not going to stop producing sexual hormones because it doesn't have a box to chew into a nest but the box will keep it entertained and anything that distracts them is good. I got a male GCC for my female GCC (she had lost her mate) and I was told he was parent-raised, about 18 months old and that other birds were plucking him but it was a lie (people lie A LOT when it comes to animals), he is older than that and was plucking himself out of frustration so I've given him lots and lots of chewing material and it seems to be working because he is beginning to get feathers on his bald spots and I get mounds and mounds of confetti from the bottom of their cage (I had never seen a GCC chew so much!). And both my amazon pairs are now on eggs (clear in one pair -they are both females- and plastic on the other) and spend hours and hours inside the boxes. Doing what their body is asking them to do calms them...
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 15050
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: constant attacks

Postby JoJoIowa » Fri May 03, 2019 11:48 am

Thank you-I'm going to give your suggestions a try!

And yes she is very sexually frustrated! When we adopted her she was always doing this move- hunched down, wings out, panting face and quivering. At the vets we asked what this was. The vet said shes sexually frustrated and its her masturbating. She continues to do this move and we have yet to find what encourages it. She does it on her play stands, in her cage, on her humans shoulders, she even does it if I approach her cage. When we see her do it we give her our back until she stops.

(no we don't pet her or touch outside of her head) Fingers crossed we can get this figured out!
JoJoIowa
Parrotlet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 10
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Parakeet, Cockatiel, and Blue Front Amazon
Flight: Yes

Re: constant attacks

Postby Pajarita » Sat May 04, 2019 9:37 am

Ah, geez, poor, poor thing! When they masturbate like that, they are in deep, deep discomfort if not chronic pain! You see, birds sexual organs are not like ours. Mammals have cycles, too (estrus, menstrual, etc) but we are different from aves in that, when they are not 'in breeding condition', their sexual organs do not produce any sexual hormone at all and are completely dormant and shrunken. Then, once the conditions are good (number of daylight hours, food availability, weather), their sexual organs start to produce hormones and they grow to accomodate reproduction BUT when this cycle does not end because the 'good' conditions continue week after week, month after month and year after year (something that NEVER happens in the wild), these organs continue to grow to the poing that they sometimes displace other internal organs (there are birds that have self-mutilated right above the spot where their gonads are and birds that have peed blood).

Birds that are 'normally' hormonal (meaning they start producing sexual hormones during the breeding season and after a normal 'resting' -aka winter- season) don't masturbate and are not in pain or any discomfort so they never masturbate.

Personally, I would not begrudge or even discourage a suffering bird from masturbating... if it brings the poor thing any type of relief, I am all for it!
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 15050
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: constant attacks

Postby JoJoIowa » Tue May 21, 2019 12:04 pm

We met with the behaviorist and received some much needed knowledge. We did end up clipping her wings for the time being. The trainer said I'm to much of a "threat" to her right now. To keep everyone safe and help the process move forward she recommended it. This will at least allow us to safely be in the same area together. (she was being mostly caged since she got so aggressive) and it will help both of us learn to trust again.

Our current plan of training is to decrease her attachment to her human and build trust with me. I now give her a walnut bite every time I pass her cage. If I'm across the room and she sees me I say "hello" in this voice shes always liked. Goal is to always have a positive interaction before she gets flared up by me. We've been doing it a few days now and her attacked the cage bars as I pass is becoming less frequent. She now looks for a treat when I come near.

Next plan is when she is out and attempts to attack me her punishment is her human leaving. I am then left to deal with her. Which is intimidating but baby steps. She did attempt to fly and attack me once. When that happened her human left. Since I'm not trusted enough to have her step up I got a play stand and took it to her. She climbed onto her stand and watched me. After a few moments and she calmed her human reentered. The goal is to eventually have her perch a stick for me. Hopefully down the road it will be my hand.

I now also feed her all high reward foods and her human only feeds her boring pellets. We are also planning to create her some wood foraging toys to put her breakfast into . The hope is that she will spend her mornings working for food much like she would in the wild. We have some tips to try and take her back to nature a bit so she doesn't feel so pent up.

In my mind these steps will be taken slowly to prevent an outburst. The ultimate goal is to not have her flared, pinned, or angry towards me. If I see her getting tense take a step back and go at her speed. (I just wish her human understood the need to move at that speed)
JoJoIowa
Parrotlet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 10
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Parakeet, Cockatiel, and Blue Front Amazon
Flight: Yes

Re: constant attacks

Postby Pajarita » Wed May 22, 2019 9:03 am

Well, I don't agree with everything the behaviorist has told you but if you are satisfied, I guess it will have to do. For one thing, I NEVER EVER EVER recommend handicapping an animal in order to t it to accept me -it strikes me as incongruent to do something bad to the animal in order to get the animal to trust and like me- but that's me. I only clipped a bird once in my life. It was also because the bird was VERY aggressive (living cage-free and fully flighted, the bird attacked me every time it had a chance) and out of desperation (this is the ONLY bird that has made me dread going into the birdroom) so ,after more than two years of this, I decided to clip him. I regretted it immediately and lived with guilt for two years until he grew the feathers back - and it did nothing to curb aggression, either.

Be careful with the protein food. If she is getting high value items every time you pass in front of her cage and have her working for more, she must be getting way too much -and that will make her aggression continue because high protein = aggression... especially in amazons and especially in the hot three species (of which the BF are one). Just to give you an idea, my amazons get the grand total of half a walnut a day during the winter and a little bit more in the summer and that's it. And they are not overly hormonal at all because they have been fed right and followed a super strict solar schedule for years and years.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 15050
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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