Sunday, May 27, 2012

One-line Problems? So Passe

I am sure everyone has heard about the dreaded hormones with parrots. Most of you will even have researched about the dreaded hormone issue. Many of you have likely personally experienced the dreaded hormone issue. The question is, should any "angry", "antsy", "annoying" or "not-my-sweet-little-cuddle-bunches-darling-prince-sparkles-love-of-my-life" behavior automatically be considered hormones?

Firstly, branding behavior as hormones can be just as much a problem as branding behavior, as, oh say, just a broken parrot. Why? Because once a behavior is branded (i.e, one-lined), it is often considered consciously or not to be solved, when there may actually be both a reason for the behavior and something that can be done about it.- although that will usually involve changing your own behavior, so consider yourself forewarned.

Take this as an example:
Let's say you got an adorable male amazon, perhaps even an adorable double yellow headed male amazon as a baby. You have had him for a of couple years, and little Joe is now becoming a mature parrot, about the age hormones can start to be a problem. One day he bites you, totally out of the blue, and is no longer very cooperative about getting out of his cage. He starts yelling a lot soon after, and tearing around his cage like a madman (or bird) so you know at this point that the problem is hormones, so famously a problem in the "hot three" amazon males, and you will have to give him lots of toys and wait it out, being patient with him, moderating his daylight hours, etc., right?

Well how about another look at this story:
Since you brought Joe home as an adorable little baby, he has let you do anything with him. You never really trained him to step-up, and always just reached in and stuck you hand under his feet whenever you wanted to get him out; you used the same method to move him from any area to another. Joe is a sweet guy, and seems to love doing just about anything. Occasionally he is not quite as willing as other times, but you know he loves being with you as much as you love being with him, so you get him to do whatever you want anyway- like get out of his cage when he is busy playing, because you want to take him in the shower with you.

Everything is going so well, and you so adore little Joe, that as the years go by, you do not notice the subtle signals Joe is giving you that he would rather not be [essentially] forced to mold his schedule to yours, or that he might rather finish playing before coming out, or perhaps is tired of having most or all of his choices made for him- which is something most humans dislike, as well. First he just leans back when you go to pick him up, or grips his perch more, then he tries moving away from your hand, looking away from your hand, trying everything he can to tell you politely that he is not interested, perhaps even "play attacking" your hand. You mean well, that is quite true, and Joe I am sure knows this, but he cannot seem to get through to you that he would like a two-way relationship!

Joe finally reaches the point that he is so irritated with you that he bites your hand as he sees it coming in to get him again. And this time, you respond! You take your hand out, and go away! Yay! Joe is so happy to have a communication method now, and knows that biting will work although nothing else does. So he starts biting to communicate his messages, and you needless to say are not able to get him out of the cage very often. Being in the cage more, however, is no fun, so Joe gets "cage fever" and starts screaming more, and seems so antsy inside his cage, tired of the same little box.

The Point?
This example is made up, but actually fairly common. Yes, it is full of behavior branding, but that is to get the point across- very difficult to tell a story from the parrot's hypothetical point of view without it! Not all parrots will become raging balls of hormones when they mature. But pretty much, they will all change. Joe may or may not become a raging ball of hormones at some point, but in this story, he is not so much hormonal as he is simply an adult trying to state his rights and decide on his place in the world.

From a behavior standpoint, even with what you are sure are hormones (like a female laying eggs and building nests, or a male feeding everything) you need to resist the urge to brand the behavior. Look at the behavior as you would any other, as there are often still things you can do to make life easier and more pleasant for all. Formal training of some kind will always help. It redirects their attention to something else, something rewarding, and allows you to interact with them in a safe way- you can even train parrots that are not safe to let out of the cage. Things like target training, or taking an object and dropping it in a bucket, etc, are all trainable with bars in between you and your parrot.

Most importantly, while every one needs to be aware of how hormones can affect your parrot, and therefore your life, and aware of the fact that all parrots will change in some way as they become an adult, you should not let that knowledge prevent you from finding solutions to the problem currently at hand.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sunny day, chasing the clouds away...........

 Give them a bath if it is hot, even on humid days it is quite cooling.
Trust me, I am from the humid south. It is. However, if you 
see any signs of discomfort, get them inside immediately!! 

Getting outside is important for parrots- they really need the Vit. D. In fact, for some species like African Greys, getting outside regularly can be the difference between seizures and all the trouble with calcium deficiencies, and a happy, healthy parrot. Vit D plays an integral role in healthy body functioning; you need vit D. to properly absorb calcium (so not enough vit. D means not enough calcium), which affects magnesium, and phosphorous, etc. etc. Vit. D is also is an important hormone, which helps boost your mood and do all the wonderful things those happy hormones do. Further, as it naturally is not good for bacteria and other nasties, it can help external skin issues. If you do not have enough vit. D, you cannot expect a healthy, happy, stable parrot. In basic layman's terms, sunshine is even better than it feels!

Clementine, your thoughts?

Wait......... ugh....
 just a minute........
 getting .... umm......this..... feather......

You can get vit. D from pellets and other fortified foods, but there is some debate over how well the body can use those synthetic sources; personally, I think you need some form of Vit. D, but the best form, if you can get it, is naturally from the sun. As someone that does not feed pellets, I make sure to get my parrots outside year round. In the winter, this is not overly often, but since I am in the south, there are usually a few days a month when the weather is in the upper 40s/50s, sunny and not really windy so they can go out. They rest of the year I try to get them out all the time, several times a week if possible. Vit. D can be stored in the liver for 20-30 days, so there is some leeway on this.

Claudia says:

What do you think? Should I peroxide???

Yes, I do hope to have an aviary soon, but up until now, I have done this just like most folks have to: with carriers and harnesses. If your parrot is not harness trained, no worries, a carrier is fine. If your parrot will not go in a carrier, you have a huge problem, one that would need a post of its own, and you need to address that problem. What if there was an emergency, not to mention vet visits; all parrots should accept carriers with little fuss, and it is not that hard to train should you have a phobic one; Barbara Heidenrich has a lot of advice on this.

Chester says:

Ummmm..., nah, I like the red.

Lastly, a warning- NEVER take a parrot outside unless in a safe and secure carrier or in a proper harness; falconers use jesses, those are not safe with parrots!!! Even well clipped birds, can, will, and have gotten away; all it takes is one good bit of wind, and they can be surprised in to taking off, and once off, as they are unable to fly, they will be unable to come back to you.


I don't know why I like this picture.......
must be all the shades of green!

So make some time, get a carrier, and get out in the sun! Good for you as well, and with some good reading material and a nice drink (I like lemonade and ice tea, what 'bout you?) what could be better? Just watch for hawks!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why are you doing that??

Ohhh, of course darling, we know all about behavior.......
like I was just telling Peter, simply fascinating!

Something to think about:

1.  Why are you doing whatever you are doing right now? At least one of those things is reading this post, I know (smart, aren't I?) so I will use that. I know you are not reading this post instinctively.... even if you are not absorbing anything at this moment (this would be the point in the conversation my Mom would throw in "and then the dog drove to the store" to catch my Dad) at some point you starting reading my blog for a reason. I doubt it was because it was here, otherwise my readership would be over 7 billion, very impressive if I do say so myself, but not true. So perhaps it is because you have a parrot, reasonable enough, or would like one. That does not mean you inherently will read everything on parrots, plenty of people with parrots do not. So I can without too huge a leap assume it is because you are interested in parrots, or that you wanted to change something about your parrot, or about yourself in reference to your parrot, like care, etc. Going deeper, why are you interested in parrots, or why do you care to spend time changing something? Could it be you get pleasure out of learning more, or pleasure from the parrot, and therefore wish to improve their life? Or could it be that your parrot is driving you crazy, and you wish to change that- but then, why change it rather than re-home the parrot? Could it be for some reason you enjoy being around/having them?

This is the gold nugget in the bottom of that pan- you are doing the behavior, in this case reading my blog, for a reward!

Got it? Reading my blog is a behavior, and there is a reason for this behavior.

"bathing" in the food dish:

I have my reasons.........

2.  Look at any other area in your life. Can you really think of something that you do for no reason? If you can do it, it is a behavior. Period. There are various reasons for behaviors, and your reason may be quite unusual, or even non-discernible to yourself, but there is one. If you hate your job, why do you work? For money, or if an internship, to get money later (complex thinking, that, looking to the future!) It is easy to point out gold stars or ice cream cones as rewards for children, or bribes for adults (and yes, sometimes those two examples mix) but those are hardly the only time rewards are handed out, far from it. And likewise, there are many more punishments than being spanked for doing x as a child, or getting a speeding ticket for going too fast.

-Your reason for eating breakfast could be to stop being hungry (negative punishment, the removal of something unpleasant because of the behavior)
-or because you feel so much more awake after eating (positive reinforcement, adding something desired because of the behavior) 
- but if you take too long eating your continental breakfast you will be late for whatever it is you do (positive punishment, adding something undesired because of the behavior) 
- while if you eat all your dinner leftovers for breakfast, you will have none for lunch (negative reinforcement, the removal of something pleasant because of the behavior)

Got that? Looking at this, I can tell that I have learned to eat breakfast for two reasons, and what to eat for another two. Throw away what you think these four behavior terms should mean. You just need to know four meanings: negative is subtraction (the removal of x) positive is addition (adding X); punishment is something you dislike (even if someone else likes it) and reinforcement is something you like (even if others hate it.) So mix those four terms, and you have the four reasons for a behavior to continue, or to die out.

Floofing my feathers:

I feel more comfortable with them all in place!

Complex stuff, behavior. But not unreachable! There is a reason for your parrot's behavior just as there is for yours, just as there is for every living creature. Anything you can do is a behavior, and there is always a reason for any behavior that continues. Very important to remember, though, it might NOT be what you think is logical- if the behavior continues, there is still a reason. Period.

I miss you, budgies. Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Ava passed away yesterday evening. Odd that she passed so close to Peter. I do not know quite how I feel about that; despite their divorce..... it somehow seems fitting. My two little budgie loves. The house seems strange without their cheerfulness.

I was with Ava after dinner, but when I came in later last night she was dead. She died on her perch. She had been as usual, happy, seemingly healthy, playing with her toys, chattering away, singing, talking, being her usual sweet demure diva self. Her dinner was one of my buffet style meals composed of her favorites- hard boiled egg, sunflower seeds, grain mix, and apple chunks, so I am happy for that. It was so shocking to find her, but thinking about it later, I am glad it was sudden, that is a better way to go than suffering like Peter.

I have no idea of her age. I know she is at least 8, quite likely several years older. She has been though a lot in her life. Left outside the animal control at night, I adopted her the next day. With me she has laid one clutch of eggs, which she diligently cared for, and was obviously extremely upset when none hatched, as they were not fertile; it took her a very long time to get over that. She has had a fast growing lymphoma removed form her wing, a bad concussion and beak injury, badly injured from being caught in a toy, and multiple attacks from other birds despite my attempts to prevent them. She has survived it all, and maintained her disposition and dignity throughout. She was truly an incredible bird, and I, all of us, will greatly miss her.