How to Minimize Hormonal Aggression in a Moody Parrot
I have always been a fan of the more "moody" parrots. Over the years, I have lived with and cared for: a green-cheek conure, Moluccan cockatoo, African grey, blue-fronted Amazon, and several cockatiels and lovebirds. Some of these belonged to flat-mates, while others were my own. Of these species, I have come to appreciate those who have required more subtle forms of non-verbal communication and interaction. As challenging as they can be, I will always have a soft spot for Amazons and lovebirds, who I consider to be as testy as they are friendly.
With drastic mood swings during breeding seasons, it seems that interacting with your bird is impossibly difficult. I was once convinced that there was nothing I could do to help my lovebird Bonnie through these swings. I had resigned to owning an untouchable pet during these periods of intense aggression and territorial behavior. Little did I know, there was much I could do to minimize how much her hormones affected her mood and how often her body kicked into breeding mode.
A high protein diet of nuts, seeds, and protein-fortified pellets are what you'd feed your bird if you wanted to encourage breeding behavior.
Warm, soft foods can trigger hormone spikes. Re-evaluate what you usually feed your bird and how often she seems to go through mood swings.
- Introduce a staple pellet diet with a lower protein value. Roudybush, Zupreem, or Harrison's Organic pellets are good choices.
- Provide them with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, and steer clear of commercial "conditioning" foods as these trigger breeding.
- Soft foods, such as cooked whole-wheat pasta, rice, and other lean dishes can be shared with parrots without worry so long as they are allowed to cool. Remember, warm foods signal conditions are right for breeding.
Varying daylight hours can trigger seasonal changes in many plants and animals alike. It is consistent that a change in bedtime routine, or lack of routine for that matter, contributes to irregular hormonal spikes in your parrot. Just as poor sleep patterns causes irritability in humans, they are also the cause of general moodiness.
Because parrots are tropical, and reside in regions near to the equator, they are most biologically accustomed to a 12 hour day, with 12 hours of darkness. Increasing the amount of daylight hours your bird gets, natural or artificial, will stimulate an increase in hormones. Parrots cannot operate on human hours.
- With my busy life, it's sometimes difficult to remember to cover Bonnie's cage at night. It helps immensely to have her in a separate room so she can be closed off with lights out at a consistent hour every day. If you are sometimes forgetful like I am, you can put some lamps in the room on a timer so that bedtime becomes worry free.
- If a separate room is not an option, get a dark blanket to cover the cage for her 12 hour night period. Bonnie likes to shred hers through the cage, so I make a few trips to the thrift store for replacements every now and then.
Too much "snuggle" time with your bird during these hormonal periods will increase courting behavior.
- Try to avoid too much physical interaction. This can not only save you from being bitten, but keep their romantic mood at a quieter level.
- This does not mean you should isolate your parrot. By all means, bring her out to enjoy her flock, but keep her in a safe place where she won't be "tempted" into snuggling or nesting behaviors. A parrot stand is ideal for moody times such as these.
- My Bonnie will dive towards any tight space nearby and fiercely defend it. When I have her out for social time, she must be kept on a table-top play stand on an empty surface. Much of keeping parrots out of trouble is in preventing the opportunity, as you are well aware, I'm sure. While she is perfectly sweet during non-breeding times, if I let her take to my shoulder with her hormones on the run, she is suddenly possessive of the area under my hair and will attack my cheek, ear, and neck to claim her new nest site. As much of a fuss she throws over it, I am convinced she is happier not having to defend these kinds of cozy spaces, so she stays on the table.
Learning a New Language
Like people, parrot species communicate through both vocalizations and body language. Even without words, they can ask for things and tell you their state of mind if you are willing to listen. You'll be surprised how much you already know about your bird's way of speaking to you.
Watch for signs of aversion in your parrot:
- Flared feathers and the avian equivalent of putting your hands on your hips and sternly discouraging the impending actions of a disobedient child (that's you). When this gesture is grouped with "wild" eyes with irises flaring, you can bet your bird will not appreciate your advances. You know your parrot best, and she knows you. This warning means you'd better slow down if not back off completely.
- Your parrot will use what works to keep you away, so if her body language doesn't work she'll use her beak. Some birds learn to resort to biting first after other warnings have been consistently ignored over time.
Remain considerate of your parrot's moods and you'll gain a new kind of trust between the two of you. With these tips, you should see a noticeable improvement in your bird's temperament during breeding seasons and less injuries to your fingers and hands.