When Your Birds Hate Certain Family Members…

 

The tip of the week is normally a post only for our Facebook page, but someone suggested I also post this one here for reference purposes….

Behavior Tip of the Week

Without a doubt, this is the most common question we get here: “my bird loves me, hates everyone else” or “my bird loves everyone but me” or “I used to be the favorite, now my bird likes someone else better”.

If you have not yet figured this out, brace yourself, this is going to sting: your bird is self-serving. He thinks HE is the most important cog in the wheel and will do whatever is necessary to promote what is in HIS best interest. He will favor whoever proves to be the most beneficial to him.

From our point of view, it appears that the affection we get from our bird is love or a show of gratitude for the great toys and yummy snacks. However, the reality is that their relationship with us is all about their survival and safety. It always comes back to their needs and we either fit into their plan or we don’t.

Before you go running for the tissues with hurt feelings, consider this: you are just as self-serving. Your bird is in your house today because it was in some way beneficial to you. Either you wanted a bird because you thought it would be a fun addition to the family, or were looking for something to nurture and love, or caring for needy birds fills your cup.

Whatever. In there somewhere is a benefit to you.

Magically, somewhere in the midst of all this selfishness, humans and birds build bonds with the strength of super glue. Just never forget we all have our bottom line – this will help you understand your bird’s behavior.

In almost all cases, a bird will have a favorite person and there is nothing wrong with that. It is NOT acceptable, though, when your bird rejects, or worse, attacks everyone else. Birds select long term mates in the wild and we have seen footage of small birds attacking a predatory bird in defense of its mate or nest. This instinct is what causes our birds to sometimes “defend their territory” when someone comes too close their chosen person, especially during breeding season.

Yet birds are also social flock animals. A flock has an unwritten agreement to protect each other. They often all play a role in teaching the young members about foraging and safety matters. Everything about a flock speaks to a bird’s feelings of safety and security.

This problem isn’t just about our feelings of rejection when we are denied a relationship by a bird. Without a flock a bird feels vulnerable. Having a bird that will not tolerate the entire family, or will not be handled by everyone, affects the emotional well-being of the bird.

Part of our job as a bird owner is to make sure that our birds have a permanent home with us and to prepare them for any unthinkable future events. What will happen to your bird if you die and your bird hates everyone else in the house? How long will you be able to keep your bird if it repeatedly attacks family members?

How to solve the problem

Remember your bird’s bottom line, that self-serving nature. If you want to earn a place in your bird’s world, you have to show him that you, too, have value from his point of view – not just the chosen person. Training is the fastest and most effective way to demonstrate what you can bring to the table.

While you are establishing your worth, ask yourself why your bird has chosen another person? What do they have or do that you don’t? Was there an event which caused the bird to back away? What is the favorite person doing right that you can utilize? And, this a hard one, is the favorite person working against you without realizing it? Sometimes the chosen person doesn’t want to risk their status as favorite and will find reasons to keep things as they are. Almost always the person doesn’t realize they are doing this.

If you are the favorite, try to back off a bit to allow a new relationship to blossom with another family member (it’s probably best if that happens one person at a time). Sometimes your presence will hold the bird back rather than make him feel more at ease.

If your bird has switched their allegiance away from you to another person, there is a reason for it and you will have to respect this decision. This happens a lot with people who travel often or are away from home for long stretches. Try to understand and sympathize with your bird’s reasons for moving on to someone who feels more reliable. The bird’s well-being has to be the main consideration and you will be doing your bird a huge service by being magnanimous in this matter.

As always, proceed slowly and let a new relationship grow naturally and comfortably – especially since you are trying to show your bird that you have value and can be trusted as a companion.

You may never be the favorite person, but your bird should respect you enough to interact politely with you at all times.

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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9 comments

Veronica T Narvaez

I have a week with an Amazon Parrot Yellow Nap, he is been doing great, except that in the beginning he was getting along with my husband and now he is bitting everytime my husband wants to hold him.. I am not sure what can we do, we tried everything.. Oh yes he does not care much about treats we already went that route too

Veronica T Narvaez
Steven

We got a quaker parrot a year ago and he would interact with me,my wife and my son. Never my daughter even thiugh my daughter would always talk to her and try to interact. Rosie the bird would always try to bite my daughter. About 3 months ago she bit me for no reasom that i could think of so i gave her a littel nudge with the back side of my hand. After i did that my wife said she remembers that and thats why it will not let me interact with her at all anymore. She goes to bite me almost every time now. She actually runs over whenever my hand is near to bite it. Same with my daughter. How can i get her to love me and my daughter as much as she loves my son and wife?

Steven
Mikki

Eve, I know it’s been a long time, but did you ever get an answer. My green cheek had almost the same experience. But in my case he got nasty and never stopped bitting to draw blood after I took him to the vet the first time and they cut his toe to get a blood sample. Stick training went ok for a day or two then my husband (who he bonded with) came home from a work trip and the bird started attacking and ripping apart the stick and jumping past it to bite my hand. Did you get any reply? Hope you got your feather baby worked out and didn’t have to rehome him

Mikki
Isabella

I know I’m like3 years late to this article, but I have a 5 month old Rose breasted cockatoo. I’ve had him for a few months and he’s been such a great bird. Recently my dad shaved his beard, and the bird has been scared of him ever sense. Rocket used to always want to be with him, and he always wanted to be pet, and play, but now he just runs away from my dad. He has started to do the same to my mom, and my sister as well. We are not sure why he acts like this or what caused it except for the fact that my dad’s beard was shaved. Rocket is only friendly towards me.

Isabella
Connie Ferguson

I was my birds person until I got a new couch. He used to fly over to me and sit with me and play but he did not like the new couch…after 3 months he started to fly over again but was not letting me preen him as much. Then I got very ill. I found out later I have Lupus but during the year I was sick I worked all day and then came home and laid in bed. I would bring him in my room but I would sleep or not really inter act much. This happened when he was 7. He is now 10. I am the only person who really takes care of him but I wouldn’t say i am his favorite. He wont step up on my finger any more but he will step up on a perch. I am not allowed to touch him but he will interact with me as long as I follow the no touch rule. I have recently moved in with my parents and he is living his best life now because my mom is home and she lets him out all day. he is only caged to sleep and if we have to leave the house. It used to hurt my feelings that he no longer “loved” me. Instead he has a toy that he loves and looks at it as his “friend”. He puts his head down to it and asks for preening. My heart feels sad because that used to be me and also that toy is not going to preen him. Lol! I still love him so much and would never get rid of him even though he keeps me at a distance. He will step up on a perch for me or flock call if i leave the room so i know he considers me part of the flock…i am just not as loved as i once was but i am still loved. Animals are a commitment and i don’t believe you should just get rid of one just because they aren’t what you expected. You should try your best to adjust to their needs.

Connie Ferguson
Karin

Nikki – please write your suggestions! I’d like to know, too.

Karin
Nikki

Eve, we have a Senegal and I’ve had the same problem. Do you still have him? I have some advice if you do!

Nikki
Eve

Just now after I wrote that message to you. I let the dogs out and he jumped from hi cage ( a quite large one, but not an aviary) at 1st he was good when he stepped-up from the floor. no bites which was a miracle. THEN, I let him on the table for a few minutes. Then step-up again to put him back on the cage front door which is a perch too and BITE!! HARD!! BITING to draw blood!! I shook my hand over the perch and that caused him to let go and I walked away. he seems to have chosen my husband as his “person.” which can’t be because I’m the caretaker. If I can’t change things, we just can’t keep him.

Eve
Eve

I’m a certified Dog trainer and have unexpectedly rescued a Senegal parrot. I started doing that clever stick with the clicker tip because this guy bites me, hard but guess what? It was working for a few times and then he decided the stick was a fun item for him to grab and hold onto! He was dropping the treats just to have fun biting onto my stick. :\ PLEASE HELP! I don’t want to have to give him up to the rescue people

Eve

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