Friday, November 16, 2007
Between my two parrots, my husband and I have two very opposite personalities to cater to.
Conrad is happy-go-lucky most of the time, but does get angry if things don't go his way. He has never bitten me out of aggression or fear. He is very well-trained and 'steps up' well, poops in his area (most of the time! they don't have bladders - can you blame them?) and has a healthy appetite, usually trying everything I give him.
Andrea on the other hand is quite moody and territorial, but is very calm. She is content to sit and watch you make dinner or do homework (in my case!). She doesn't care for new foods, and will only pig out on her 'favorites' - kiwi, banana, peas, beans, carrots and pasta. She appears to also has a thing against other females.
She has become quite aggressive towards me lately, while behaving well with my husband. The 'attacks' have happened three times and have been unrelated to territory - she was in an open space with no 'caves' to protect. I can only think that she is 'defending' a territory that I didn't realize she owned - like my laptop (the site of 'attack' # 1) - and the living room rug (# 2).
I've had a lot of experience with training aggressive parrots - my most successful case being a pet store cage-aggressive green wing macaw named Oscar. I have the scars to prove how difficult the process was, but, by the time I was done with him, he had turned into a big baby, allowing head scratches and cuddling. He was completely trained on positive reinforcement alone, but was prone to 'realizing' he was sitting on a human hand and biting it...
Perhaps I'm just tired of new scars, but I have been looking for ways to train a parrot that will take me out of the line of fire. Andrea seems to be a common case where she has chosen a favorite human and is wreaking havoc on the unchosen.
Some techniques I have chosen to deal with the Madame's (our pet name...for our resident red bird) focused aggression:
- Leaving the room when she goes into 'aggressive mode.' She will jump into her food dish to defend it, if she is in her cage.
- Overly-praising her for stepping up out of her cage.
- No more shoulder time. No bird should be allowed on shoulders due to dominance issues. (If held higher or level with your head, birds tend to get a 'big head' on their shoulders.) We had grown lax with that rule since it's so easy to just put them there when you're doing something.
- Tempting her with treats when she seems reluctant to be with me.
The last probably isn't the best, but we are making progress. I have not tried picking her up from any of the crime scenes - I don't think we're quite there yet. When she does get to one of those places, I do tend to call my husband to retrieve her, rather than suffering the imminent bite.
I am still looking for more literature on parrot aggression and why they tend to favor one human over the other. From what I've seen online, Eclectus hen owners tend to describe their birds as moody - I'd love to see an article on how an Eclectus owner has overcome this!