By Diane Burroughs
Peachy’s feeling pretty d-a-r-n frisky these days. He’s prancing and strutting inside of his cage and on top of it as though he’s protecting a throne. Same with his huge Java Bird Stand! He’s hunting around for any dark, shadowy place thinking some cute Moluccan “Chick” will magically appear to make his day! He’s a seasonal parrot!
Of course, as expected from any seasonal parrot, Peachy is “chomping at the bit” with restless, fervent chewing. He’d rather be excavating a nest for his lady friend with visions of a bunch of babies. Peachy is chewing through large wood bird toys at a feverish pace. I supplement expensive bird toys with empty food boxes, washed out plastic jugs and even clean egg cartons filled with nuts and dried fruit hidden among foraging materials like crinkled paper, extra bird toy parts that I’ve been saving over the year. But Peachy still manages to figure out how to chew up stuff that is supposed to be off limits like the door molding in his bird room and, um, the dry wall on corners in the bird room. I’m glad that I’m handy!
I haven’t seen the lunging or nippy behavior yet, like I do most years, but the flashy, brassy, piercing screaming has definitely started! SQUAWK!! SCREECH!!! ERRRRRR!
My neighbors and friends are asking “What the heck is going on with that bird?” “Is he always like that?” “Man, how do you handle THAT?!” I tell them, “No, this is not Peachy’s normal behavior. ” Peachy is just feeling hormonal. I imagine this hormonal mania will last between 8 – 12 weeks and then he’ll start settling down to his usual predictable self. This behavior is just Peachy’s annual biological call to mate and procreate. Parrot lovers are well familiar with these spirited behaviors. Well, let me tell you how I handle this time, as it will happen every year as long as I’m blessed with Peachy in my life.
SLEEP: I make sure that that my birds get at least 12 hours of sleep at night, Peachy included. A large pet bird can be difficult enough but a hormonal, tired bird is much worse! Insure that your bird has a dark, quiet place, away from the TV noise or any LED lights for your peace of mind. Cover the bird cage if necessary. Peachy sleeps in a sleep cage away from LED lights.
ANYTHING THAT CAN BE CONSTRUED AS A NESTING BOX WILL BECOME A NESTING BOX: Cutting to the chase, Peachy is desperately horny! He is yearning for a girlfriend and searching any dark, shadowy place that would make a suitable nest. He is pinning for materials to shred up so his babies will be warm and safe. Like paper, fibers from bird toys, strings and leaves from some of the natural bird toys. We minimize hormonal beahavior by removing anything that could be construed as a nest.
MIX LOCATION UP: Birds love to nest in a familiar, comfortable places. And, with limited territory, their cage is their throne. Peachy is no different. Simply by frequently moving his bird cage and rearranging his bird cage accessories, Peachy is thrown off kilter. His lessened comfort level signals him get his ducks in a row and throws nesting behavior off. This simple act encourages normal, everyday, healthy exploration as opposed to the fury of making a nest and caring for babies.
BIRD TOYS. BIRD TOYS. BIRD TOYS! Bird toys serve a number of needs from foraging to diverting feather picking to exercise to just keeping your bird busy. All those hormones make a bird sexually frustrated. I divert Peachy’s sexual frustration by giving him an array of big chunky wood bird toys that offer minimal sexual stimulation. He is all about chewing and destroying, as though he were trying to excavate a nesting cavity. He is going through much harder wood bird toy parts than usual. As described above, I supplement purchased bird toys with home-made enriching bird toys like those described in Enriching Your Parrots Life. And, I’m certainly not above recycling bird toy parts.
SHOWER A LOT: Similar to a cold shower your hormonal bird needs frequent, drenching showers. Skin drenching bird baths on a shower perch settle our frustrated Peachy down. They refocus his energy from breeding to preening. Even though I use warm water, Peachy is feeling pretty autonomous right now, so getting him in the shower is requiring a lot of positive reinforcement. Thankfully, I’m aware of how to train him as well as possible during the “off season” so that he is more cooperative when he least feels like it! Showering promotes healthy preening and uses up all of that energy. Plus, many pet birds are experiencing a frustrating molt at exactly the same time.
EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE: When Peachy is drained from a shower, fervent playing and chewing and exercise, he is less prone to nipping, yelling, territorialism and tearing up my walls. I try to allow Peachy as much out of cage time as possible as a rule of thumb, but during his hormonal season, I’m even more diligent to offer as much exercise as possible. Peachy can release his pent up sexually charged energy and decrease cage territorialism when I allow him out of cage time on his bird stand and encourage movement. Please take some time to learn parrot body language to avoid parrot bites more than ever, at this difficult time. We use AviCalm and Herbal Relaxation Calming Formula to lessen the effects of Peachy’s sexual tension and maintain our established relationship.
How do you manage hormonal symptoms in your parrot?