In the spring and fall, hormones are often at their worst for our pet parrots. They turn into apparently crazy terrors who would sooner eat you than look at you. These are ten quick safety tips to keep YOU safe this season (the Spring Horrormones course will help you stay sane in the meantime):
- Know how to towel or restrain your bird – if he or she charges you, you need to know how to gently, calmly, and efficiently restrain them.
- Master touch training before the hormonal season starts – directing a bird from place to place via touch training is a great strategy for staying safe. If you haven’t taught this yet, however, start now! I often target my birds right into their cages. They’re so focused on treats that they don’t care. If I need to reach in, I can have someone else target them around to the other side and keep them there with the chopstick.
- Don’t cuddle – cuddling your parrot is not a good idea, especially at this time of year. Even if you’re doing everything else to reduce seasonal hormones, once you start touching your bird outside of his head, neck, and feet, you’re inviting him to mate with you. This triggers hormones big time.
- Put food in the cage when you want your bird to go in – mealtimes work great, or slipping in a jackpot reward of seeds and nuts that are otherwise removed from the diet. Maverick the Senegal will climb right into his cage with no issue when I make a big deal of putting his supper inside.
- Try not to handle an aggressive bird directly – use a T-perch, pillow, towel, glove, extra layers of clothing, or whatever it takes to make sure you stay safe. Just remember not to scare your bird in doing so, or you will lose his trust. You need to feel calm and confident so that your bird does not pick up on your negative emotions and react.
- If you have issues with biting, offer treats via spoon, cup, tongue dispenser, or by dropping it nearby – don’t try to offer treats to a bird who is just going to bite you anyway.
- Have at least one hands-off trick to that can distract from biting – I like stand tall, myself. Spin, wave, roll-over, or speaking on cue all work too. If you notice the signs of a parrot about to bite, simply cue this, reward, and move on to a different activity. Teaching tricks at this time of year is the best! It’s a hands-off enrichment process that’s safe for everyone.
- More foraging and new toys – owning parrots is all about knowing how to distract them and re-direct their energy. Toys and foraging do both. At this time of year, it’s also important to swap cage contents around. I do so weekly, adding in fresh toys each time.
- The power of treats – your parrot’s most treasured reward can be anything, and you should use this to your advantage. During the spring, I choose one particular treat and use it as my last resort only. For Maverick the Senegal, this is hemp seed. For Ptak the parrotlet, this is his jingling ball toy.
- Don’t put yourself in a situation you know will trigger your bird – there are certain things I know will set my birds off: For instance, my Senegal will charge me if I make prolonged eye contact. I avoid these things like the plague at this time of year. It can be hard to know what’ll trigger a hormonal response, but if you can recognize the main things, that’s a great start.
::Bonus:: The magical travel-carrier – this is my big secret. I train all my birds to go into their carriers (via touch-training, again) at a time of year when everyone is much more relaxed. My flock all associate the carrier with good things. Come spring and autumn, if I’m having issues with biting, I target them inside and off we go. It’s a hands-off activity that tuckers them out, entertains them, and lets me stay safe.
What an timely article. I had unintentionally triggered mt Umbrella Cockatoo’s hormonal behavior by feeding her from a spoon—soft foods, and dancing and playing with her. I had given her a cardboard box in her cage. All the wrong things to do. I have since removed the box and am beginning to train her to wait on her perch while I change food bowls. Thanks for the excellent article.
My eight-year-old rescue Quaker has just this year (year three in our home) fully trusted me and it has been pure joy to have her WANT love and cuddles and to return them. She had been so abused her first five years of her life, it took a long time to earn her trust. Then, this spring hit! Two days ago when I asked for a kiss, instead I got a hole in my bottom lip! I just have to hope her hormones don’t totally undo three years of kindness, love and patience! Now I understand what my poor husband went through all the years I had PMS, snort!
Games NOT to play with your U2 during hormonal periods: Female – do NOT play “Cave”. Normally she enjoys playing cave (playing under a blanket draped over the couch and me. Now she bites my feet even if they’re not under the blanket. She has to be on me 24/7 and just bonks my hand with her beak forever. The male isn’t such a problem. He just wants attention. But she won’t leave me alone so I take some cage time for myself (they’ll just eat and play with toys anyway). I wish she would stop hating him. Once the aviary is done, they’ll have much more room to fly around and make each other crazy.
Does anyone know how to get a young quaker out of their mean lil attitude. He is only 7 weeks old and he is very aggressive.. Lunging at ur hand trying to bite.
OMG Just got my Blue Fronted Rio two weeks ago. Not looking forward to this. Good thing is touach trained but still not steppiong on my hand yet.
Can anyone tell me how long does the hormonal season last approximately?
Great reminders! For me, I have 2 flight cages the same size, I just swap the birds in the other cage for a few days then back again. Then I even will group the birds differently. Keep ’em guessing! Not to mention outside-of-the-cage play time. This is for my 9 cockatiels.
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