5 Tips To Help You Survive Your Bird’s Hormonal Madness

Parrots can be very unpredictable under the influence of hormones!

I feel very fortunate. So far the breeding season has been kind to my birds and, in turn, to me. There hasn’t been nearly as much drama as is customary during this time of year. Each season is different, and there is no way to be certain how intensely our birds will be affected by the dreaded hormones. I hope I am not jinxing myself by mentioning my relief.

I know that this is not the case with a lot of people right now, and their frustration is clear. I thought it would be helpful to offer some tips to help you get through the crazies.

  1. Your bird is not being “bad”.
    The delivery of hormones brings a lot of physiological reactions that cause changes in mood. You should expect your bird to be very persistent in finding nesting spots and manufacturing bedding materials, and you should expect that they might resort to violence when you interfere. Your bird will be in an agitated state off and on throughout the season. This is a difficult time for them physically and emotionally. You will better survive the season yourself if you don’t take their “off” behavior personally.

  2. Hormones beget hormones.
    The worst aspect to hormones is that they are self-perpetuating. The production of reproductive hormones causes behaviors that keep your bird’s body producing more reproductive hormones. It is up to us to step in and break the cycle by eliminating those things in the environment that trigger the production of hormones to begin with.

  3. Be smart.
    Unpredictability is a big part of hormonal behavior. This is a good time to keep your bird away from your face. Limit your children’s access to the bird and watch body language carefully. If your bird is being aggressive, keep him in his cage more. During this season, my birds come out of their cages frequently for very short visits throughout the day. A short visit means only 10 or 15 minutes. A shorter visit is called for if I see any signs of aggression or if they head immediately for their favorite perceived nesting spot. This may not seem fair to the bird. However, if your bird takes to biting you and you have to resort to force to get him back into the cage, then damage to your relationship is likely to occur. I assure you, shorter visits are better than the repairs you will have to make to your damaged relationship They will survive this temporary out of cage schedule.

  4. Use diversion.
    This is the kindest way to handle your bird’s temporary insanity. If you see that your bird is struggling and feeling stressed, break out something that takes their mind off their troubles. During a different time of year, I would normally use paper products as a diversion. However, right now, paper would only be shredded and considered nest lining which would cause more hormonal behavior. So, in the spring, I gather spoons and my stainless steel measuring cups from the kitchen and put them at the bottom of the cage. This is quite literally the “seeing something shiny” method of distraction. It works every time. Another excellent diversion is offering a bath. The water will help them forget all about their gripes, and they will be very busy with preening thereafter. Typically, this is followed by a nap.

  5. Don’t let hormonal behaviors become bad habits.
    Whatever you do, DON’T over-react to their behaviors. They can be very vocal and demonstrative in expressing their unhappiness with life during this season, and it can be difficult for us to cope. However, just like throughout the rest of the year, they are watching how we respond to their behaviors. They will continue to use those behaviors if they have proved beneficial, even after the season has ended.

The seasonal crazies are part of life with parrots. It comes with the territory. If you are compassionate about your bird’s discomfort, watchful of their body language and go with the flow of the season with a sense of humor, you will survive.

Stainless steel items are shiny and attractive ways to divert attention when needed.

Another related article:

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

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19 comments

kim

Showers and naps help mine :)

kim
Paula Cano

My problem is that is do not know what is causing my Greenwing to be hormonal so your advice to “eliminating those things in the environment that trigger the production of hormones to begin with”. is hard to follow. How do you know what is the cause?

Paula Cano
Mary Ann

Thanks for the reminder. I’ve had Greenjeans for 25 years (his whole life) and he’s a big strong Macaw. He’s been in such a horrible mood for a week or two that I have to keep him in his room more than usual. He’s out of his cage, has a large manzanita tree and lots of toys and seems better NOT being around me. Springtime is definitely his cranky time of year :-(

Mary Ann
Carol

every time i approach my green wings cage he wants to attack me, so tired of this new behavior it has been going on for a few months though, not sure if this is hormonal or not.

Carol
Robyn

Thank you so much for this article! I am bird mom to a very strong willed 10 year old Blue and Gold male, a very strong willed 8 year old Yellow Naped Amazon male, a very loving, easy going 4 year old Panama female and a stubborn 10 year old Cockatiel female. I am not a new bird mom. I’ve had my babies probably 8-9 years. All of my babies are going through this season with different behaviors. Most of which are barely noticeable or very easily ignored. Most, not all. My B&G is trying every ounce of patience I have this year. It has been so frustrating because his screaming, constantly trying to eat my face off and general state of irritation has just about broke my heart! He’s normally such a love bug even though he’s so strong willed. So to protect myself from his desire to eat my face off and to control some of the screaming, I’ve been keeping him in his cage more and partially covering or completely much earlier than usual. I’ve been feeling so guilty!! There aren’t other bird parents near to commiserate with so I totally felt alone and guilty! Your article reminded me this will pass, again! It was such a relief to be reminded I’m not a terrible bird mom and my baby isn’t the only one who has turned into a demon bird and most importantly.. This will pass! Thanks again!

Robyn
Kayla

Oh my goodness, you mean that my blue and Gold macaw isn’t the horrible little girl my husband says she is…lol Ok he says she is a spoiled brat and I think she has a crush on him because she is always pulling his hair and running over to get to him. I hope its just hormones because she is screaming now also and the only thing she wants is to be out and on us all the time. We cant do anything without her complaining and I feel so bad for her. I feel even worse for my husband who she is driving crazy, she is my bird and I love her to death but she needs to settle down soon or I think its her or my husband in the loony house. Oh did I mention to top it off we live in our motorhome so very small space and her cage is is huge so that’s not a problem. Ever buy a motorhome and in the conversation its all about if you can fit a huge cage in it? That’s what I did, I bought a motorhome based on the fact her large house cage would fit nicely..lol See she is spoiled with loads of fresh veggies and fruit, and healthy pellets. I just don’t know what to do, any suggestions would be so greatly welcomed. Thanks

Kayla
Denise L Valentini

Well today my Tiel sneaked out of his cage as I was putting a treat in. He bit me on the lip when he saw mail in my hand, which sets him off terribly. There is no way lately that he allows me to interact with him in play. He knows that when he bites I place him back in cage immediately and he attacks my hand and bites down hard. He refused to perch, so I allow him to leave his cage at will. But getting him back into cage after hours (when he should be starving to eat) of playing becomes a bloody show down for me. I love my little guy, but don’t know how to win him over again. Please help. I don’t want to cry every time this tift between Vinny and me happens. I get so depressed I just don’t know which way to turn. Thank you in advance for your much needed and kind advice. Sincerely, Denise L Valentini

Denise L Valentini
Shed

I have a few bent fork tines now!

Shed
Jennifer Yen

Thanks Patty….. I really needed to read this now. My girl Alexandrine Taki, is driving me nuts with her screaming, destructive behaviour and bad temper. When I find my patience running low, I just calmly put her back in her cage. She yells for a few minutes and quietens down…. has her food and chews up a toy! Bless you for these encouraging points….<3

Jennifer Yen
Grady Roy

Jennifer Yen, its funny you mention your Alexandrine, because mine seems to be losing her mind lately too. Im really hoping its a seasonal thing and will subside shortly, some days she is borderline CRAZY!

Grady Roy
Angelika Lynch

Thanks for the reassurance. I guess I can stay home now instead of going to the looney bin ;)

Angelika Lynch
Kati

Our Too’ s are new to us. Just under two months. One Coffin about 2 yrs old and one Umbrella about 11 yrs old. I thought things were going pretty well unroll this week. Spring has really hit my U2 now! But we will get through it. I already adore them. But…… how long does this usually last!?!

Kati
Susan

We have just inherited my mother’s muloccan cockatoo. I am an experienced parrot owner but have never encountered this hormonal behavior before. Its a bit daunting to be sure. Our biggest problem is that we live in a mobile home park. Luckily we only have a neighbor on one side and another across the street. However we can’t let the screaming continue,but need to stop it immediately. I have been squirting him with water, or at times, just holding up the bottle and he stop. Your article is very informative and I will start to make some changes. Removing the paper from his cage will be the first and easiest step! Thank you for your valuable lessons!!

Susan
Elsie Hullyer

Hi all, does this go for African Grey females as well, as I am the slave (willingly of course ) of two female African Greys aged two (almost three) years and they are driving me nuts… The moodswings I cannot always keep up with and the worst of all is that they are making turns on behaving like lunatics, they are normally very well behaved, well spoken and very good girls, but boy, oh boy! When the mood strikes, it strikes well! Any advice on this… Anyone please? Greetings from desparate mummy.

Elsie Hullyer
Aishah

Thank you for your post…I really needed this…my cockatiel has attacked me three times now and drawn blood from my ear…this happens every time his wings have grown bk and I find getting him clipped stops this. I do agree with u that it is hormonal but it’s left me feeling frightened of him.so for now he’s in his cage until the vets appointment.

Aishah
bettina

Hi Jamie, we have a beautiful gallah named spencer, he is 7 months old and seems to learn pretty quick, however he has recently taken to sitting on the shoulder or upper arm and flipping himself over, as he does this he then goes nuts and bites and hangs on biting for dear life. he seems to do this mainly with 1 of us, how do we stop this biting, initially it doesnt seem intentional but my partner has loads of nip bruisings on her arms from spencer abuse lol. Another small trait he has is if he knows he’s going back to his cage, he will hide himself behind my head and if you put your hand up he will make a hissing sound and will lunge nip, he doesnt do this all the time, but we dont want it to become something he does regularly. Thanks in advance bettina.

bettina
James Tull

Thanks for all your good articles and snippets guys!!

James Tull
Alex Miota

I have a U2 and he is a hand full when he gets like this. This helped me to understand what they are going through and how I can handle this a little better. I had figured some of this out on my own but you did give me some more helpfull ideas also and understanding Thank You

Alex Miota
lynda

My DYH Amazon male has terrible hormone issues. He is 12 yrs now. I was hoping he would retire the yearly hormone problem. He will out of nowhere bite the forearm by quickly ducking his head low between his legs and nails you. Bam no reason. Deep deep punctures . He got me at the skin between the thumb and index finger his beaks went right through. He was not showing any bad behavior that day. All it took was for him to be perched on my left hand and suddenly did not like what I reached for with my right hand and he reached down and took a chunk out of me. He was always so good in the past. I had him in an educational mobile pet show I ran. He performed tricks and talked a comedy routine as I presented educational information about parrots. As I would be talking to the audience he be saying things cracker, what are you doing, truck ride. He was funny. Maybe he misses the shows. We had to stop after I had a car wreck and could no longer run the pet shows.

lynda

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