Is your bird cooing, shaking, and begging you for attention like Sweet Pea in this video? What's all this quivering about?
Have you found your bird hiding out in small, dark places? Maybe even shredding the carpet?
Adult birds Develop some unusual and awkward behaviors during the bird hormonal season. As a rule of thumb, most adult birds come into season once or twice a year. Unfortunately, normal household conditions can easily induce an unhealthy, chronic hormonal state in our pet birds.
Smaller species of pet birds like cockatiels, parakeets, lovebirds,and parrotlets become hormonal more frequently. Same thing with eclectus parrots. Eclectus parrots might display hormonal behavior for several months at a time.
Your bird might start hiding under furniture during its hormonal season. It is actually looking for a dark, cozy nesting spot as its body prepares two rear young. Paper and carpet shredding are your birds' way of making the nest warm and cozy to incubate the eggs.
If you find that your bird is frequently trying to get under furniture or in another dark, cozy area, it's time to take a look at the environmental conditions that induce hormonal behavior in birds.
Your bird's body operates on a circadian rhythm. This is like an internal clock that regulates certain body functions. When environmental conditions are just right your bird's body will naturally want to mate.
If you want your bird to stop hiding under furniture, eliminate the environmental conditions that make it want to find a nesting cavity. these conditions include the following:
When you allow your bird to spend time in a perceived nesting spot it significantly intensifies hormonal behavior. But, a hormonal bird can be very persistent and destructive in its search. And often, nest seeking and aggression go hand in hand.
In terms of our small flock, Smokey, our CongoAfrican Grey had been a persistent nest seeker in the past! Whenever he was out of his cage time he'd climb down on the floor and walk to the Master Bedroom, where of course I “nest” at night. (You guessed it. I was his perceived mate.) He’d hide under my dresser and pull out the carpet fibers!
Smokey is relentless. And, getting him out from under there is a real chore. If I block that off, then he goes under the bed. It became quite the challenge to keep Smokey occupied enough during his out of cage time so that he doesn’t seek out a nest.
When I first started noticing this behavior I didn't realize it was due to him being in a chronic hormonal state. I had to use a “Finger Saver” to avoid getting my fingers bitten off. It wasn't until I suffered a really nasty bite that required medical attention that I decided to do something about it.
Two of the biggest contributing factors to Smokey’s unbearable aggression were unregulated photoperiods and frequent access to a perceived nesting site. When I turned those two things around Smokey's usual sweet disposition re-emerged.
We hear a lot about parrots seeking out any dark, confined area they can find. From crouching in couch cushions, to huddling under furniture, and squatting in closets and bathrooms.
We’ve seen birds use stuffed toys to masturbate on. Smaller birds that climb inside of your shirt sleeve or down your shirt are seeking out a nest cavity with a double whammy because their preferred mate comes complete with a nest!
Any area that is confined, dark and offers a bit of privacy will do. Seeking out a nest cavity is common with adult birds and it is one of the main hallmarks of parrot hormonal behavior, a domesticated parrot problem that wreaks havoc on parrot health and behavior.
You should try your best to stop nesting behavior in your parrot for both its physical and emotional health. Whether it is seeking out a nesting cavity or shredding items to line the perceived nest, these two behaviors result in a lot of parrot behavior and health problems.
Do a “home walk through” from a hormonal parrots’ point of view and try to “nest-proof” problem areas as much as possible. Even if your bird shows no interest in a potential “nest spot,” proactively eliminate areas because any opportunity to nest will trigger your bird’s body to produce courting and reproductive hormones.
For smaller parrots, you have to essentially “nest proof” your interactions. A lot of us mistakenly think that it is cute to let our small parrot nest in our clothing or even our hair.
Avoid allowing your bird to ride about on your shoulder for long periods of time. Never let your bird hide inside your shirt sleeves or other private areas that simulate a nest.
On top of a physical nest site, access to nesting materials or cage lining materials can be a problem. Peachy, our Moluccan will occasionally take the chewed and chipped wood from toys and hide them under his neck feathers when he’s hormonal.
I guess he’s storing them away until he finds an appropriate nest cavity. While it’s cute, I discourage it. Watch for your bird searching and storing nest bedding material. This might include, wood parts chewed to a fine texture, cotton scraps from toys and bird beds, shredded paper and cardboard boxes and even vines, twigs and leafy toy parts.
That’s not to say that your bird doesn’t need toys! Your bird needs chewing, shredding, and foraging toys now more than ever. It is important to keep your bird busy and keep its mind off of making babies! But, when your bird begins using it's toys in a sexual manner, change the toys out.
Simply remove the toy parts as they become used up so that your bird doesn’t construe them as nesting material. Eliminating access to nesting spots and nesting material will go a long way toward keeping your birds hormones at a minimum.
Another way to support hormonal birds is to feed supplements that help to balance out hormones. For instance, our Parrot Hormone Rescue Pack contains nutritious plant-based products that help to balance out hormones and aid in improved mood and behavior.
Since conditions have to be just right to promote nest seeking behavior, step back and ask yourself what else might be going on to induce hormonal behavior in your parrot.
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Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.
Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.
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