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.

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