What To Do When Your Hormonal Bird Gets Mean

What To Do When Your Hormonal Bird Gets Mean

 April 22nd, 2013
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Bluethroated macaw

This season seems to be handing out more than the average share of hormones to our companion birds. Oddly, I am hearing reports of rotten behavior from bird owners all over the world – even in places where it is autumn and not spring. I wish someone would do some research to explain why this sometimes happens.

Why are there some seasons so much worse than others on such a universal scale? Is there an unusual atmospheric condition that is triggering hormones that we don’t recognize? And while researchers are out there scouting for answers, can someone please explain to me why a bird species that, by nature, breeds in the spring might become hormonal again in the fall? (I have already heard “because they can” as an answer.)

Will someone please fund this research? Please?

In the meantime, we have another day to get through, so I thought it would be a good time to make some handling suggestions to people who are dealing with aggressive behaviors at this time.

I find that hormonal aggression is a slowly mounting phenomenon. My birds generally start heading towards the deep end in January and finally get to diving off sometime in early March. I have always assumed that it takes this long to reach their limit of tolerance where they are no longer willing to be agreeable. If breakfast is 15 minutes late – it’s war!

I hope that those of you reading this have at least some knowledge about your bird’s body language. Different species have different ways of indicating that a bite is coming and being able to read the warning signs is your best chance of avoiding it. During certain times of the year, you need to be more alert than usual. Welcome to THAT time of year!

Umbrella cockatoo

The best plan for people who are dealing with aggression is to do what you have to do to avoid unpleasant altercations. The most important thing is to come out of a very hormonal season with as few bad experiences as possible – believe me when I tell that birds keep score.

Even when the hormones subside, there can be lingering feelings of anger and mistrust if there were too many instances when your bird felt the need to bite – no matter whose fault it actually was at the time. You don’t want there to be a mess to clean up come summer.

During all the madness, we still have to see that our birds are getting some out of cage time. My recommendation, however, is to keep visits with your bird VERY short.

When Linus (U2) is at his hormonal worst, like he is right now, I take him out the cage for periods between 2-5 minutes in duration, but several times a day – if all goes well. Visits are very low key and calm, and the second I see a sign of tension, let alone aggression, he goes back in. I might continue the visit from outside the cage or I might choose to back off altogether depending on his behavior.

Keep in mind that during hormonal times, birds like to pick fights, or so it seems. Hormonal birds are very tense and something that your bird would normally overlook might set off an aggressive reaction now. You want to have your bird back in the cage BEFORE you get to this place so you can avoid an unfavorable outcome and very short visits will see to that.

I understand that we are always talking about giving your bird as much out of cage time as possible, but if lots of “free” time right now increases the likelihood of being bitten, then you should opt for NOT being bitten. As long as you give your bird lots to do inside the cage, it will have a minimal negative impact after the hormones have died down. The same cannot be said for a bite.

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7 Comments on “What To Do When Your Hormonal Bird Gets Mean”

Kelly Jo Leonard  04/25/2013 9:16 am

I have a 17 year old scarlet macaw that was willed to me by a dying patient. I just love her all the world and more. The first year and a half were filled with biting episodes that left my fingers bloody and in need of stitches though I didn’t go to the Emergency Department to get them. Since then, I have learned to read her body language and watch her eyes. She has free will 24/7 to leave her cage and explore. I am now working on getting her to step up. This has been a HUGE learning curve for the both of us but I wouldn’t give her up for all the money in the world!!

jan peterson  04/25/2013 4:18 pm

My Quaker, Pepina, just took a chunk out of my cheek last evening! She went from total mellow bird to ATTACK PARROT overnight. It really hurt my feelings! Glad this article appeared today to remind me that sometimes she cannot help herself. Love the blog!

Sylvie manso  06/03/2013 8:36 am

Did any of you try to give your moody and hormone overburdened parrot… something to fight ? In nature that period is the time where they fight for place. Mate, respect etc… And it is not a “will”, it s a surge of energy they have to use. Did anyone put a fake and harmless parrot somewhere, maybe sonorize it with angry parrot sounds, and let their hormonal bird free their angry spirit and have a good (fake) fight ?
We cannot prevent parrot from their natural surge of hormones. But we punish them or get them in their cage, to protect ourself from their “rage”
But this rage probably needs to be exterior used, then the body can relax and the hormones sooth

I used to have a hand feed lovebird who got through his horomnal crisis by “boxing” a simple hanged mirror, that he treated as enemy when he was getting mean. Lovebirds are not as clever as big parrots, and a cockatoo or a macaw probably won t be mistaken by a mirror

But I am pretty sure you can forge a “fake enemy” that you put in front of him one or two times a day… so your bird can use his energy and let himself behave AS HE NEEDS TO ( he s not “bad”. He is just full of hormones. Ever heard of PMS ?!?)

I would love to hear from those of you who try to let the bird give way (securely) to its agressivity and strength with any “enemy ” (many dogs use the vacuum cleaner for that ! ” yes, an enemy, jump on it. Bite it. Ohh yeah that was a good fight. And I won, you see, it is back in its closet with shame and I am the proud defender of this home!”

I am an animal communicator, and I am always concerned when we put pets in unbearable position through our expectations. They suffer from that because they have no way to explain, and change the gae, and they are then “blamed” for… being what they are

Parrots DO fight in nature, and though they live with human for several generations with human now (but not that much !) they still have their natural instinct and CHEMICAL changes : we cannot change that (in 200 years maybe this will have disapperared through evolution, but right now it is a reality in most birds) but we can give ways for the parrot to let this energy out

Ever heard this psychological advice when you are mad at something : take a pillow, shout every thing you feel and hit it till you feel better ?

Well give your parrot the freedom to do this for himself, and don t think he bites “you” when in fact, his personality “clever and sweet” is just overwhelmed by nature

Let your parrot be angry (with a special thing made for that) sometimes ! He needs it

Edye Regions  12/01/2013 3:03 pm

My sun conure (I raised him since he was 3 q1/2 weeks old) used to be sweet and cuddly until hormones kicked in (he is 3 yrs) he would play in my lap on his back and never bite. However he is now a brat and bites every one for no reason. He acts like he hates me.
I feel so bad as I love him and only want him to be happy, playful & cuddly like I know he can be. I am at a loss. What do I do?

Barbara Taden  02/14/2014 4:35 pm

My lesser sulphur crested cockatoo is very hormonal almost always. She is not aggressive but spends her time with me outside her cage wanting to ‘mate’ …. it’s very annoying. I know not to touch or pet certain places, but she is like velcro and constantly is putting her tail up in the air and doing her little ‘dance’ thing. I’m discouraging it as much as possible but it’s no fun taking her out when she is like this. She has laid some eggs in the past and I also know how bad that can be as I’ve lost female cockatiels to peritenitis (spelling??) from too much egg laying. Any advice would be appreciated. I do control her light during the day only giving her about 9 hours of light right now, and she also has a special cage in another room just for sleep so I know she’s getting enough rest. Just feel very bad that this is happening and don’t know what else I can do. I also try to distract her with toys when she’s out but it’s impossible.

Patrick  02/25/2014 12:25 pm

Hi everyone…need your kind help & advise !!! I have a 2 years old African Grey named Coco, who just get freaked out by my presence now ! We were very close & loving each other’s company, & Coco does not behave that way until an unfortunate incident…

It happened like this : 5 nights ago, I was doing the laundry in the service balcony area where Coco’s cage is. As usual, Coco was in the cage playing with himself trying to get my attention, by climbing all around the cage, hanging onto the metal chain loops that I hang inside the cage for Coco to play with. All of a sudden, Coco just creamed hysterically, & when I realized that this scream was not the usual playful scream, I turned around & saw that Coco’s neck was somehow being curled in the loop of the metal chain, hanging by himself, thus choking himself. I immediately opened the cage’s door, & try to unhook the metal chain’s end, but when my hands were near to Coco, he bit me (out of natural instinct I guess), but I managed to endure the pain, & finally unhooked one end of the metal chain within seconds, & Coco managed to release himself from the metal loop. From then onwards, Coco does not allow me to hold him, or even climb onto my hands when I approach him…whenever I open the cage’s door, he just moves quickly to one end of the cage trying to avoid me….It is real sad for me, as I was the one who saved him from choking, but I do understand that Coco has misunderstood me due to the incident….

Can any kind souls give me some tips on how to win Coco’s confidence back…? Really appreciate….thanks a lot !!!


sarosh  04/28/2014 9:41 am

I have congo african grey 12 years old..now a days she is very aggrasive d bitting to everyone.if i locked her in the cage she gets more aggrasive d screaming a lot .some times puling her feathers aswell..most of the time she is out of the cage all day … give some more suggetions how to stop this behavior.