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Middle-aged Green-cheeked Conure behavioural problems

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Middle-aged Green-cheeked Conure behavioural problems

Postby jaidenjb » Mon Jun 29, 2020 2:18 am

Hello Bird lovers!
I have a beautiful Green-cheeked Conure, he is about eight years old. Unfortunately I am having some real trouble with his behaviour. The main problem I'm having is that he just bites so much- to the point where he regularly draws blood on my fingers every time I try to pick him up/get him to step up on my finger. Once he is out of the cage and sitting on my body or shoulder he is pretty ok- just a little bit nippy. It's even worse for the other members. They won't even handle him anymore.

I know that his behavioural problems probably stem from the way that I have nurtured him. I am concerned that my lack of interaction with him has caused irreversible issues in his behaviour. I spent a significant amount of time overseas and left him in the care of my family- and considering his hostility towards me when I came home I have assumed that he wasn't interacted with enough. Then, because of this hostility its been hard for me to interact with him since being back. As bad as it sounds I know I haven't been the best owner in terms of getting him out of his cage regularly. During a couple of periods of significant stress/personal problems he has spent periods where he wasn't out of the cage. One thing I'm sure of is that he has always had enough food and water. I provide him with what I think is a pretty good diet- primarily seeds and usually a piece of fruit or vegetable each day. He also gets fresh water every morning.

The main thing I want to do is give him a great quality of life. I think that if I can solve this biting problem we would get along much better. I'd love to be able to teach him some basic tricks- and generally be a bit less hostile to everyone. Nevertheless I am always calm with him and have been getting him out of his cage a couple of times a day to hang out with me for the past few weeks (my fingers are cut up). I have also recently bought a large cage for him because I thought this might improve his quality of life.

Essentially, I love my bird and I just want to give him the best life possible- but his behavioural issues are making it pretty hard for me to spend time with him. I am also concerned that when I am not home he is so intense that no one else will want to interact with him outside of his cage. I am really trying but I am hoping that someone in this group has had experience with a middle aged conure who needs re-training or has existing behavioural problems.

Thanks in advance.
Jaiden.
jaidenjb
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 2
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Green-cheeked Conure
Flight: Yes

Re: Middle-aged Green-cheeked Conure behavioural problems

Postby Pajarita » Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:29 am

Hi, Jaiden and GCC (you did not tell us its name or even the gender), welcome to the forum.

First, let me clarify something, at 8 years of age, a GCC is NOT middle-aged. GCCs live to be 30 years old without a problem if given the right care and, most likely, even longer so, at 8, it is still VERY young. Secondly, you do not say how many hours it is out of cage, whether it is flighted or clipped (it makes a big difference in its behavior) and what its routine is. So, because I do not have all the information needed to pinpoint the reason for his aggression, I will cover all the bases and you can compare what you do to what they need and make the necessary adjustments.

OK, first, diet. It has a bad diet - let me explain. GCCs, in the wild, are mainly fruit eaters so they do not consume a lot of protein and, when you free-feed protein food (seeds, nuts, pellets, nutriberries, avicakes), you are not only slowly destroying its liver and kidneys but also making it hormonal - and hormones means aggression.

Second, out-of-cage time and one-on-one time. GCCs are INTENSELY needy birds that require an inordinate amount of personal attention - I often compare them to cockatoos in this respect because, like them, if you do not give them what they need, they WILL have abnormal behaviors (aggression in parrots is an abnormal behavior because they are not naturally aggressive animals - they are not predators that need violence to feed or belong in a hierarchical society where they need to use aggression/violence to climb a step higher in the society ladder). Parrots are only aggressive when unhealthy, unhappy, when not treated right, when they are threatened or when they have been taught, by humans, that aggression is the only way to get their point across. What I am trying to say is that aggression is ALWAYS the humans' fault - ALWAYS and without exception. They need a minimum of 6 hours of out-of-cage time (for flight) and 4 to 5 hours of one-on-one with their human. You must have noticed that I said that the out-of-cage time is for flight and this is where the clipped or fully flighted choice comes. Flight to a bird is necessary for several reasons: 1) for health - their respiratory system was designed in such a way that, if they don't fly, part of it atrophies 2) for emotional wellbeing -flight is the ONLY predator-avoidance mechanism that nature gave them, if you take it away and keep a bird on its own -meaning without the security of a flock- the inability to fly will create constant anxiety/stress (because it cannot get away from danger or a situation that makes it uncomfortable) 3) for exercise - birds have no other form of exercise than flight. That's it. Period. Walking, skipping, climbing, etc do not work. And without exercise, the bad hormones (sexual and stress) don't dissipate from their bloodstream - they accumulate, instead. So, if your bird is clipped, you need to allow its feathers to grow and stimulate it to fly as much as possible.

Light schedule: This is super important for sexual hormone production or non-production. GCCs are long day breeders so, if you keep the bird at a human light schedule with long days all the time instead of a strict solar one, it will produce sexual hormones day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, something that is NEVER found in nature (all birds have seasons, there isn't a single species that breeds all year round). This is not only completely unnatural, it also ends up causing them chronic pain because their sexual organs keep on growing until they start displacing other internal organs. It also creates a heightened aggression (the bird is not only terribly sexually frustrated, it is also in pain).

Now, last but not least, handling... there is a right way and a wrong way of doing things and putting your hand in its cage for it to come out is not the right way. Mind you, I am not saying that it cannot be done with certain birds! I have birds that I can put my hand in their cage, do whatever I want with them, put them upside down, open their wings, etc and they would not bite me. But these are birds that have been with me for many years, that are never overly-hormonal, that spend almost all day long outside their cages, who eat right, who fly and who love me and trust me implicitly. And even I could do it, I still don't put my hands in their cages out of respect for them. But, with birds that have issues (and I do have birds with issues even though they no longer bite me), I do not do it out of precaution. So, if your bird bites you when you ask it to step up to your hand from inside its cage, stop doing it. Allow it to come out on its own and let it tell you when and how he wants to come to you. The key to get a bird not to bite you is to give it what it needs AND to avoid any and all situations when it is possible for the bird to bite you so, if it bites every time you put your hand to it for a step up, don't do it. Because insisting on an action that always results in bites is completely counterproductive as you are the one teaching the bird to bite. Use a stick or put your arm out. I have birds that do not step up to my hand at all and they never bite me because I use a stick to move them from point A to point B if I need to (I usually don't because they all come out of their cages and go back into them without my having to touch them at all).

With parrots, the right timing is essential for EVERYTHING because that is the way their brains are programmed to live in the wild. The way it works is like this: at dawn (4:45 or 5 am this time of the year - it changes with the seasons because you go by the sun and the daily number of daylight hours), you open the drapes or uncover its cage and open the door to its cage (without turning on any artificial light because it needs to be exposed for, at least, 2 hours to the light of dawn to set up their internal clock correctly - I turn on the overhead lights at 7:30 am +/-) and let it come out on its own. If the bird climbs up your arm to your shoulder, let it but, if it stays on top of its cage or flies anywhere else, let it. The point is to allow it to choose (very important with parrots). Clean its cage and put out its breakfast (I feed gloop and raw produce with emphasis in fruit of which they get large portions). Once it eats its breakfast, you interact with it. Now, GCCs usually only want to be on your shoulder and cuddle up to your neck but, if it wants to fly, let it - if it wants to climb up and down your arm, let it - if it wants to preen your hair, let it. Again, the point is to allow him to do what feels best for him. At around noon, put it back in its cage to rest (parrots always rest at noon, especially during the summer that has very long days). Open the door to the cage at around 2 pm again (this time of the year) and, again, allow it to come out on its own and, if it wants to climb on you (which, most likely, it will), let it. Spend another 2 hours or more if you can with it and, at 6:30 pm, turn off the overhead lights. At 7 pm, serve it dinner (mine get less than a tablespoon of budgie mix with two little pieces of nuts -their favorite is walnut but they also get pecan, cashews, almonds, etc - they also get a multivitamin/mineral supplement).

I have two GCCs right now (but had more under my care in the past and all of them, except for Annie, were given up because of aggression) - both are females, Codee is hand-raised and Annie is parent-raised - Codee came to me because she was biting and Annie was acquired as an adult from CL (as company for Codee) from a man who thought it would be easy to make money breeding them and ended up messing up the whole thing by not handfeeding the babies and keeping them in a super crowded situation that made Annie pluck and become VERY flighty, high-strung and distrustful of humans. They are good eaters, good bathers and, although Annie still plucks (she has gotten better but not completely), neither bite or scream and, although Annie cannot be handled (she does not even step up to a stick), she goes back into her cage when told to, perches on my shoulder, chews my clothes, preens my hair, etc. She is not a true companion to me but as long as she is healthy, happy and spends time with Codee, I am happy. My Codee, on the other hand, was given up because of aggression but she is the sweetest, sweetest thing ever - it's only that she wasn't cared for correctly so she was unhappy and showed it by biting. Her owners loved her (they are friends of ours) but they did not do a whole lot of research before they got her and, by the time she was almost 2 years old, she was already aggressive (wrong diet, wrong light schedule, wrong handling, clipped) and, when they consulted with me and I told her how to do it right, they realized they simply could not give her what she needed - so she came to me and turned into the sweet thing she is now. She is so mild-mannered that I even allow her to perch on my grandkids shoulders (the only one of all my parrots that is allowed to do that). I call her 'my kissing fool' because all she does is kiss my cheek (presses the tip of her beak into my cheek and makes a loud SMACK sound :lol: ). She climbs to my shoulder, she kisses me - I say her name or just talk to her, she kisses me - I kiss her, she kisses me - I tell her I love her, she kisses me - and, sometimes, she just kisses me because she feels like it :D These are NOT aggressive birds - they are actually almost as sweet-tempered as the cockatiels and MUCH MUCH more affectionate than them. But they are also smart and they know that, if they are not getting what they need in terms of company, it's their human's fault. And they know that, if you are not there, it is also your fault. And leaving them with somebody else does not work for them because, in the wild, absence means death. Parrots did not only evolve to have one single mate (in captivity, the mate is their human) but also to spend all their lives, from birth to death, with its mate and surrounded by their family (flock). They do not understand the concept of 'temporary absence', there are no deployments, vacations, stay at the hospital, college, training or anything for them - as far as they are concerned, if you bond with them, you have to spend all the time with them until death do you part. Parrots are not easy pets and GCCs for all their small size and cuteness are one of the hardest parrots to keep happy. People think that parrots are low maintenance but, in reality, they are the most high maintenance of all the animals we could possibly choose as companions. It's easier to keep 30 cats and 20 dogs than one single parrot because parrots make demands on your personal time and require changes to your lifestyle like no other animal does...
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 17784
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: Middle-aged Green-cheeked Conure behavioural problems

Postby jaidenjb » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:58 am

Hey Pajarita,
Thankyou so much for such an extensive reply. His name is Scrappa! I will certainly take everything you have said on board. I really love him and just want to give him the best life that I can. Retrospectively I had no idea everything that was involved in having a parrot when I got him at age 14. For example the daily schedule you outlined- I am currently writing my thesis and do not spend my days at home, so I can't let him out during the day, it is mostly in the evenings when I return from work. But there must be many owners who work 9-5 jobs and have happy parrots?
Just a couple of things...
Due to the nature of my work it is quite likely that at some point I will need to move overseas for something like 1-3 years. Is it possible for me to bond Scrappa to someone else in my house so he will be ok when I leave? What would you recommend? I am really conflicted as to how I should proceed... all I want for him is to have a great life.
As for diet, I will change it up immediately, are there any fruits you would recommend?

Regards,
Jaiden.
jaidenjb
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 2
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Green-cheeked Conure
Flight: Yes

Re: Middle-aged Green-cheeked Conure behavioural problems

Postby Pajarita » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:11 pm

Yes, neither the stores nor the breeders tell you how very difficult it is to keep parrots well - if they did, they would not sell them and they are merchants moving a merchandise so.... Well, the only way that anybody who works 9-5 can have a happy, healthy parrot is for them to live on the equator or very close to it (so the sun is already out when they leave for work AND when they come back) and has a bonded pair because no parrot can be happy if it is alone for hours and hours every day of its life or healthy if it's kept at a human light schedule (research avian photoperiodism, avian endocrine system and avian reproductive system and you will see why). So, if what you are talking is about parrot owners in the States, no, nobody who works full time can have a healthy and happy parrot. It's too unnatural and these are not domesticated animals, they are undomesticated and have the same exact needs as their wild counterparts.

Yes, the bird can bond to somebody else. All my birds came from somebody else and they have all bonded to me, most of them even deeper than they did to their original owners (and I know because I have had previous owners come over to visit and the birds did not want to have anything to do with them - one of them kept on flying away to the farthest corner of the room every time the ex-owner tried to approach it). Unfortunately for parrots, losing their human and going to live with somebody else (rehoming) is part of their life in captivity because there are VERY few people who can keep a parrot all its life - they live too long for that and, even if they didn't, keeping them happy is so hard that people just give up on them and pass them along.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 17784
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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