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Reasons Why Punishment Should Be Avoided With Parrots

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Re: Reasons Why Punishment Should Be Avoided With Parrots

Postby weko » Fri May 22, 2020 8:42 pm


first, i would like to thank you for the educational blog but i have few questions that need ur support and answering them since u are the expert.

1. How to react to a macaw bite and please don't tell me to ignore him cuz it hurts!
2. how to act with hormonal birds? at what age it starts, when it will end and ill have a piecful life with the parrot?
3. how long does the mating season aggression lasts?

thanks in advance.
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Re: Reasons Why Punishment Should Be Avoided With Parrots

Postby Michael » Fri May 22, 2020 9:05 pm

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Re: Reasons Why Punishment Should Be Avoided With Parrots

Postby Pajarita » Sat May 23, 2020 10:29 am

As Michael's video shows, birds can be taught not to bite BUT, in my personal opinion, training is just one side of it, the most important and effective way is good husbandry. Let me explain. Parrots are not naturally aggressive - they have no gene for it because they did not evolve to live in a hierarchical society (meaning, fighting another bird to be the boss is not part of their life) and they are not predators (so they do not need aggression to get food). What parrots do is defend/protect themselves, their mates, nest, eggs, babies, etc. Now, this is the way it should be but it is not necessarily the way it is in captivity. Why? Because the conditions they are kept under are so unnatural that they end up skewing everything - add to this caregivers that have no experience/knowledge/understanding of a parrot's psyche and you end up with a bird that bites because it has found that the ONLY way to get his point across is to give pain (please, do not take this as a criticism of you, it's a general comment which, unfortunately, ends up being true more often than not because we simply are not mentally prepared to deal with anything but hierarchical mammal species like dogs, cats, horses, etc because that is what we are and what we know).

The majority of the times (and as you have already figured out), the aggression is caused by sexual hormones but, in reality, although sexual hormones do cause it, it is the amount of hormones and the length of time the bird has been producing them that creates the degree of aggression that is difficult to handle. Again, let me explain. Birds are photoperiodic. This means that they regulate their endocrine system (the one that decides when to start producing hormones and when to stop) by light (photo meaning light and period as in the seasons). Birds have an 'internal clock' that tells their glands when to start and when to stop and this internal clock is turned on by the light of dawn and turned off by the light of dusk so, when you do not keep a parrot at a strict solar schedule with full exposure to dawn and dusk (meaning, two hours of twilight) but at a human light schedule (meaning lights on before the sun is up and streaming into the room in the morning and/or after the sun reaches halfway down to the horizon in the evening with complete darkness after that and until the next morning dawn), you end up with a bird that produces sexual hormones all year round, year after year - something that NEVER happens in nature. Now, this does not only created a terrible sexual frustration for the bird, a frustration that is never relieved, but also chronic pain because birds sexual organs activity is seasonal, they are tiny and dormant during the 'resting season' (which we call winter) and become active and enlarged during the breeding season (spring or fall, depending on whether the species is a long day or a short day breeder -macaws are long day) but, with a human light schedule, this breeding season never ends, so the organs keep on growing and growing until the poor animal is in acute discomfort and even constant pain (I've known birds that have peed blood because of their internal organs being pushed out of the way by the super large gonads).

Diet has a strong effect, too, because birds evolved to breed when the environmental conditions are the most propitious for it (meaning, there is good weather, plenty of food and days long enough so they can feed the babies enough times during them for them to grow well). In captivity, the weather is always perfect for breeding, the food is always rich and plentiful and we already covered the length of the days under a human light schedule. Now, there is nothing we can do about the 'good weather' indoors and we can keep them at a strict solar schedule (which is hard for everybody and I know because I've been doing it for years and years and years) so the only other issue is the diet - and this one is where we all -more or less- fail because we all tend to feed too much protein so special care should be given to this issue. The solution is not to free-feed protein -meaning, filling up a bowl with seeds, nuts, pellets, or whatever protein food we use and leaving it there all day long- and never, ever feed animal protein (eggs, cheese, meat, etc). Macaws need an inordinate amount of wet plant material (fruits, greens, veggies) and should get cooked whole grains for during the day but the protein food should be reserved for dinner and the portion needs to be just large enough for it to fill its crop and a teeny tiny more. I feed gloop and raw produce for breakfast at dawn and all day picking and a measured portion of a mixture of seeds/nuts for dinner with a multivitamin/mineral twice a week.

If the bird is kept at a strict solar schedule, fed the right diet and handled correctly (treated with respect, entertained, allow flight to dissipate the hormones in their bloodstream, not touched improperly, etc), the bird will not be aggressive UNLESS we are talking about a male that is bonded to a female which is nesting - but even in cases like this, they can be handled without getting bit (and I know because I have a nesting pair of Yellow Nape Amazons right now and neither is people-friendly). And here is the reply to your question if you will ever be able to live in peace with the bird: Yes, if the bird is kept to a solar schedule, fed correctly and handled the right way, you can have a wonderful companion that will not bite you.

But the right husbandry is not going to help you right now because we are smack in the middle of the breeding season so although you should start the strict solar schedule, the right diet, etc. because you need to get his endocrine system working in tune with the seasons as soon as possible, things are not going to get better until the fall when the days start getting shorter and the bird stops producing sexual hormones (and there is the reply to your question of how long is this going to last).

What to do when the bird bites you? Well, I tell you, I've never believed for one second that the solution is not to show pain. That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard and only repeated by people who did not take the time to learn about parrots. Parrots are highly social animals... animals that need affection as much as they need food, forgiving, empathetic, compassionate and VERY intelligent. They do not find pleasure in giving pain and are masters of the body language and the human tone of voice so the theory that if you show pain, you are creating a 'drama' that they bird will enjoy and will try to reproduce by biting you often is horsepucky, plain and simple. Parrots don't want to give you pain, they want you to love them, and they are too smart not to realize the difference between an exclamation of pain and one of joy! They only bite because they have no other way of getting their point across, because they are in pain, afraid or completely distrustful of people. Once we eliminate the physical discomfort/pain, learn to read them and show them they can trust us, they do not bite.

So I will tell you what I do when I get bit and you decide if it works for you. First of all, I try as much as possible NOT to get bit so I observe them very carefully and learn to read their body language (displays) and, if I see or hear (you can tell by the vocalization if the bird is upset, mad or afraid) that the bird seems tense, upset or does not want to do something, I do not insist. I always wait for them to take the first step and never ask a bird to do anything UNLESS it's absolutely necessary. I never put my hand in their cages when they are there - I open the cage door in the morning (saying "Good morning - good morning" in a cheery tone of voice) and allow them to come out whenever they want. I wait until they are out to clean the cage and put fresh food and water in it and, if it's a 'new' bird (all my birds came to me as adults) and it still hasn't bonded to me, is still hormonal, has an 'aggression history' or whatever, I use a stick to move it from point A to point B -- but I only do this if it's necessary because 99% of the time, I just let them do their thing -meaning, I do not ask them for anything (I don't consider my parrots 'pets', they are my companions, my friends, my room-mates and I respect their wishes the same as I would another human). But, of course, with birds that have learned aggression, there are always bites at the beginning and what I do is make a big deal and 'talk' their language to let them know how I feel: I 'vocalize' loud (OWWWWWW!) and making my right hand into a beak (flat hand out with my palm facing down, I 'tuck' my thumb under my middle finger and kind of cup the other three, joining all four tips) and putting it above the bird's head, make a sharp up and down motion as if the 'beak' was going to 'peck' the bird's head while I say in a very loud voice my CAW CAW CAW CAW because I am a larger, stronger bird that is telling the offending bird that there will be retaliation to his aggression. I NEVER EVER touch them but I make my feelings clear to them - and they understand very well... After that, I walk away telling it he is a BAD BIRD! and ignore it for a little while. Because, to a parrot that loves you, there is nothing worse than your taking away your love BUT you cannot do this for long, five minutes tops unless the bird is excited in which case I wait until it calms down to approach it again by talking in a calm, neutral tone of voice. Not making a peep when they hurt you is not something they would understand because, in the wild, no animal just sits there not doing or saying anything when another one attacks it and only the weak ones run away - so, what are we teaching them when we do nothing? That their bite doesn't hurt? That we are complete pushovers? It makes no sense!

This has worked for me over the years and I've had real bad ones (I ran my own bird rescue for 6 years when I lived in Pa). As a matter of fact, of the birds I have now, most of them were given up because of aggression and none of them bites me... the nesting bonded pair of Amazons I mentioned before is an example. Precie, the female, is a 40 year old wild-caught that was neglected for years and Zeus, the male, was severely abused by his previous owner (the man admitted to me that he would 'take his fist' to the bird each time it bit him) and he was a real piece of work when he first came to me! I am talking a bird that would fly out to attack you every time you walked into the birdroom - he hated all humanity and wanted nothing to do with anybody, the poor thing! He is fine now, I can put food and water in front of him, he flies over to his feeding station when I call him or goes into their cage when told to "Go home" when my husband needs to do repairs in the birdroom (with Precie, which talks up a storm, saying: "Oooooh, too bad, too bad, too bad" which cracks up my husband every time :lol:) and he even takes treats from my hand without biting but he has bit my hands and arms and even made holes in my head that sent me to the emergency room in the past so I well know what you mean when you say 'it hurts' - yes, it does! But you can turn the situation around.

So, don't give up hope and don't stress out over this. Your bird is at a bad age because between 4 and 5 years of age is when they go out looking for a mate in the wild and they have all the pep and angst of a human teenager but, if you keep him at a strict solar schedule, allow him flight (this is important for many reasons), feed him right (do NOT free-feed protein food or feed any animal protein and give him lots and lots of produce) and handle him the right way (respect his wishes, do not ask for anything, avoid all instances when the bird might bite, etc), he will start turning around about two weeks after the solstice (June/22 - so look for signs of 'calming down' around mid July). I promise you.
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