This season seems to be handing out more than the average share of hormones to our companion birds. Oddly, I am hearing reports of rotten behavior from bird owners all over the world – even in places where it is autumn and not spring. I wish someone would do some research to explain why this sometimes happens.
Why are there some seasons so much worse than others on such a universal scale? Is there an unusual atmospheric condition that is triggering hormones that we don’t recognize? And while researchers are out there scouting for answers, can someone please explain to me why a bird species that, by nature, breeds in the spring might become hormonal again in the fall? (I have already heard “because they can” as an answer.)
Will someone please fund this research? Please?
In the meantime, we have another day to get through, so I thought it would be a good time to make some handling suggestions to people who are dealing with aggressive behaviors at this time.
I find that hormonal aggression is a slowly mounting phenomenon. My birds generally start heading towards the deep end in January and finally get to diving off sometime in early March. I have always assumed that it takes this long to reach their limit of tolerance where they are no longer willing to be agreeable. If breakfast is 15 minutes late – it’s war!
I hope that those of you reading this have at least some knowledge about your bird’s body language. Different species have different ways of indicating that a bite is coming and being able to read the warning signs is your best chance of avoiding it. During certain times of the year, you need to be more alert than usual. Welcome to THAT time of year!
The best plan for people who are dealing with aggression is to do what you have to do to avoid unpleasant altercations. The most important thing is to come out of a very hormonal season with as few bad experiences as possible – believe me when I tell that birds keep score.
Even when the hormones subside, there can be lingering feelings of anger and mistrust if there were too many instances when your bird felt the need to bite – no matter whose fault it actually was at the time. You don’t want there to be a mess to clean up come summer.
During all the madness, we still have to see that our birds are getting some out of cage time. My recommendation, however, is to keep visits with your bird VERY short.
When Linus (U2) is at his hormonal worst, like he is right now, I take him out the cage for periods between 2-5 minutes in duration, but several times a day – if all goes well. Visits are very low key and calm, and the second I see a sign of tension, let alone aggression, he goes back in. I might continue the visit from outside the cage or I might choose to back off altogether depending on his behavior.
Keep in mind that during hormonal times, birds like to pick fights, or so it seems. Hormonal birds are very tense and something that your bird would normally overlook might set off an aggressive reaction now. You want to have your bird back in the cage BEFORE you get to this place so you can avoid an unfavorable outcome and very short visits will see to that.
I understand that we are always talking about giving your bird as much out of cage time as possible, but if lots of “free” time right now increases the likelihood of being bitten, then you should opt for NOT being bitten. As long as you give your bird lots to do inside the cage, it will have a minimal negative impact after the hormones have died down. The same cannot be said for a bite.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.