|IT'S SPRING! LOVE IS IN THE AIR...OR, IS IT JUST BIRDIE HORMONES?|
Spring is upon us and our
thoughts turn to such activities as putting away the snow shovels, spring
cleaning, gardening, and taking walks now that the daylight hours are
longer. On the other hand, our feathered companions may be going a little
bonkers. Have you noticed your parrot is: more vocal? More aggressive
towards you or other birds? Taking chewing toys to a whole new level?
Loving even more than usual their tents or other dark spaces? Unusually
protective of their cage, food, or favorite person? Beginning to pluck
feathers on their chest, belly and/or legs? Showing more interest in
cuddling? Is regurgitating to their favorite toy or person? Is crouching
low on their perch and making strange clucking sounds?
If so, don’t panic and above all, don’t try to punish birds for totally natural, hormonal behavior.
However, there ARE things you can do to prevent magnification of this behavior.
1. Limit daylight hours to mimic winter sunshine. This includes reducing full spectrum light hours. Ensure that your pet is getting 11-12 hours of darkness per night.
2. Limit the amount of cuddle time and particularly avoid petting the back, wings, and vent area, as this can encourage sexual behavior and will only lead to confusion and frustration for the parrot.
3. Increase level of exercise by way of foraging opportunities *. Another terrific form of exercise is flying in place, especially for non-flighted birds. This is accomplished by having your parrot step on your hand, place your thumb on their feet and move your hands up and down. Encourage them to fly in place until they are tired.
4. Remove any “nest site” , like a sleeping tent or toy that could be used in which to lay eggs.
5. Avoid feeding high calorie or high fat foods during this time. These types of foods “turn on the abundance switch” that says it’s a good time to provide for babies.
6. If you feed a high potency, pelleted diet with a high protein content (Harrisons High Potency), cut back a bit.
7. Feeding lots of fresh vegetables and some fruits IS acceptable.
8. Discourage sexual advances towards you by keeping a toy box of fun items nearby and when he or she tries to mate with your hand or arm, offer one of the toys.
9. If your bird’s hormones are in high gear because of masturbation,
Remove the love object (toy, mirror, etc) until spring has passed.
REMEMBER THAT EGG-LAYING FEMALES MAY NEED ADDITIONAL CALCIUM. ONE OF THE BEST SOURCES IS A PRODUCT CALLED CALCIUM PLUS*, WHICH IS ADDED TO THE DRINKING WATER. THIS LIQUID CALCIUM IS QUICKLY AND EFFECTIVELY ABSORBED. FOLLOW THE BOTTLE’S DIRECTIONS VERY CAREFULLY, AS MORE IS NOT BETTER AND TOO MUCH CAN BE HARMFUL.
Let’s focus our attention on cockatiels. These gentle, sweet birds can become moody during hormonal times. Despite the inability to lay eggs, mature male cockatiels often become obsessed with a person or object, particularly a toy. They will flirt with it, sing to it, and can even become aggressive towards it. This might be a good time to put the toy or other object away until the hormones quiet down.
If YOU are the object of their affection, they may be whispering sweet nothings in your ear one moment and attacking you the next. Your cockatiel sees you as their mate and if your behavior is not perceived as appropriate for a mate, your tiel may reciprocate in a negative manner - a bite! Normally, we say that cockatiels, as opposed to most other parrots, make suitable shoulder companions. However, during times of hormonal stress, it is best to keep cockatiels, or any other birds for that matter, off the shoulder and rather, kept on the hand or below the elbow.
On the other hand, female cockatiels can be prone to egg-laying. No, they do not require a mate to lay eggs. Of course, a female without a mate will obviously lay infertile eggs. However, it is very important to take all steps necessary to discourage egg-laying. Chronic egg laying leaches calcium from the bird’s body and can lead to additional health risks. Follow the suggestions earlier in this article for steps to take to minimize hormonal behavior.
However, IF your female cockatiel that has no mate begins to lay eggs (infertile), DO NOT remove them until 22-28 days have passed. The rule is to leave the eggs for about a week past the incubation period. The incubation period varies from 17 to 23 days. Doing so before this will encourage her to continue to lay eggs, until she determines that an appropriate clutch has been laid. A normal clutch size if five, but it can vary from four to nine eggs. IF your female is having difficulty passing the egg, this can very serious. The egg is blocking the only outlet in her body for waste. A blocked egg will cause toxins to build up. An emergency measure you can take at home is to provide her with warmth. This is easily accomplished by using a heating pad and placing it 3/4 under the bird. This prevents her from becoming overheated. Another measure is to immerse her up to her neck in warm water to try and expel the egg. NEVER try to remove the egg from her vent. This can result in breaking the egg inside of the bird and death can result.
PLEASE NOTE: The staff at Bird Paradise is highly knowledgeable; however, we are not vets and so, any medical related questions (ie. egg binding, etc.) should be addressed with an avian veterinarian. Our relationships with our parrots are certainly for better or for worse. Be patient during these hormonal times. Our parrots are simply experiencing normal behaviors. And, despite the fact that it may hurt our feelings to have our beloved feathered companions display aggression or annoy us with out of the ordinary loud vocalizations, remember this too will pass. In a month or so, all will be back to normal and the pleasure of their company, an everyday delight!
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