When Your Birds Hates Certain Family Members…

When Your Birds Hates Certain Family Members…

 January 30th, 2016
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The tip of the week is normally a post only for our Facebook page, but someone suggested I also post this one here for reference purposes….


Without a doubt, this is the most common question we get here: “my bird loves me, hates everyone else” or “my bird loves everyone but me” or “I used to be the favorite, now my bird likes someone else better”.

If you have not yet figured this out, brace yourself, this is going to sting: your bird is self-serving. He thinks HE is the most important cog in the wheel and will do whatever is necessary promote what is in HIS best interest. He will favor whoever proves to be the most beneficial to him.

From our point of view, it appears that the affection we get from our bird is love or a show of gratitude for the great toys and yummy snacks. But the reality is that their relationship with us is all about their survival and safety. It always comes back to their needs and we either fit into their plan or we don’t.

Before you go running for the tissues with hurt feelings, consider this: you are just as self-serving. Your bird is in your house today because it was in some way beneficial to you. Either you wanted a bird because you thought it would be a fun addition to the family, or were looking for something to nurture and love, or caring for needy birds fills your cup. Whatever. In there somewhere is a benefit to you.
Magically, somewhere in the midst of all this selfishness, humans and birds build bonds with the strength of super glue. Just never forget we all have our bottom line – this will help you understand your bird’s behavior.

In almost all cases, a bird will have a favorite person and there is nothing wrong with that. It is NOT acceptable, though, when your bird rejects, or worse, attacks everyone else. Birds select long term mates in the wild and we have seen footage of small birds attacking a predatory bird in defense of its mate or nest. This instinct is what causes our birds to sometimes “defend their territory” when someone comes too close their chosen person, especially during breeding season.
But birds are also social flock animals. A flock has an unwritten agreement to protect each other. They often all play a role in teaching the young members about foraging and safety matters. Everything about a flock speaks to a bird’s feelings of safety and security.

This problem isn’t just about our feelings of rejection when we are denied a relationship by a bird. Without a flock a bird feels vulnerable. Having a bird that will not tolerate the entire family, or will not be handled by everyone, affects the emotional well-being of the bird.
Part of our job as bird owner is to make sure that our birds have a permanent home with us and to prepare them for any unthinkable future events. What will happen to your bird if you die and your bird hates everyone else in the house? How long will you be able to keep your bird if it repeatedly attacks family members?

So how to solve the problem?

Remember your bird’s bottom line, that self-serving nature. If you want to earn a place in your bird’s world, you have to show him that you, too, have value from his point of view – not just the chosen person. Training is the fastest and most effective way to demonstrate what you can bring to the table.

While you are establishing your worth, ask yourself why your bird has chosen another person? What do they have or do that you don’t? Was there an event which caused the bird to back away? What is the favorite person doing right that you can utilize? And, this a hard one, is the favorite person working against you without realizing it? Sometimes the chosen person doesn’t want to risk their status as favorite and will find reasons to keep things as they are. Almost always the person doesn’t realize they are doing this.

If you are the favorite, try to back off a bit to allow a new relationship to blossom with another family member (it’s probably best if that happens one person at a time). Sometimes your presence will hold the bird back rather than make him feel more at ease.

If your bird has switched their allegiance away from you to another person, there is a reason for it and you will have to respect this decision. This happens a lot with people who travel often or are away from home for long stretches. Try to understand and sympathize with your bird’s reasons for moving on to someone who feels more reliable. The bird’s well-being has to be the main consideration and you will be doing your bird a huge service by being magnanimous in this matter.

As always, proceed slowly and let a new relationship grow naturally and comfortably – especially since you are trying to show your bird that you have value and can be trusted as a companion.

You may never be the favorite person, but your bird should respect you enough to interact politely with you at all times.

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4 Comments on “When Your Birds Hates Certain Family Members…”

Eve  07/06/2016 6:44 pm

I’m a certified Dog trainer and have unexpectedly rescued a Senegal parrot. I started doing that clever stick with the clicker tip because this guy bites me, hard but guess what? It was working for a few times and then he decided the stick was a fun item for him to grab and hold onto! He was dropping the treats just to have fun biting onto my stick. :\
PLEASE HELP! I don’t want to have to give him up to the rescue people

Eve  07/06/2016 6:50 pm

Just now after I wrote that message to you. I let the dogs out and he jumped from hi cage ( a quite large one, but not an aviary) at 1st he was good when he stepped-up from the floor. no bites which was a miracle. THEN, I let him on the table for a few minutes. Then step-up again to put him back on the cage front door which is a perch too and BITE!! HARD!! BITING to draw blood!! I shook my hand over the perch and that caused him to let go and I walked away. he seems to have chosen my husband as his “person.” which can’t be because I’m the caretaker. If I can’t change things, we just can’t keep him.

Nikki  09/01/2016 10:16 pm

Eve, we have a Senegal and I’ve had the same problem. Do you still have him? I have some advice if you do!

Cynthia  11/07/2016 2:53 pm

My friend the Senegal has been with me 23 years so far. He used to bite – yes enough to draw blood. I would say now the problem was a few things. He has a need to be out of the cage independently, as well as a need for cuddles. If he gets enough of both, he doesn’t bite and is as sweet as pie. I also had to understand he responds better to invitation than force – give him a choice, ask rather than demand – if you go alpha on him the war is on and he will never back
down. In my experience you can’t treat a bird like a dog. (I’ve had both.) I also had to be
aware of what he considered a reward. In his case, it is affection. If he is happy he will almost
always do what I ask. If he hasn’t been getting enough attention, for example, he will express
his indignation by ignoring me. I have never found food, and the idea that he will get it
if he does what I ask, effective. I don’t know how that got set up.

When I potty trained him I would say my chosen word and then watch him til he started to squiggle, and say it again – when he went I would say “good boy” and invite him to come with me. If he hadn’t been in a while, I wouldn’t pick him up til he went. He will go on command if he needs to. He will
also catch my eye, and then go, which means ‘pick me up’.

He was hand fed, and still tends to see fingers as things to grab on to. I tap my shoulder and say ‘come’ to invite him up. I never ask him to step up on my finger because odds are he will bite. Yes, he knows up, down, perch, eat your dinner, come, and a few other things.
Yes, when in flight if I call he will come. I don’t take him outside – he is excitable and that’s just
him, plus there are too many hawks out there.
He is also frightened by being in my living room,which has large windows and a forest outside.
I never understood why until one day when a large hawk grabbed a robin from a flock taking a drink from the gutter of the house.
My other mistake was not having him out of the cage in areas large enough to explore often enough when he was little. He really needed to build his confidence level so he wasn’t so afraid of
things. (I used to leave him out to play in his house or on top of it, but it wasn’t enough. Now I let him run around on the bed or the back of the couch. One always has to be mindful where they are.

He is potty trained, and pretty good about it. I also put paper down on the floor outside his cage so when he was on the top, if he went over the side it was easier to clean up (anywhere in the cage is a yes place). Now, if he is elsewhere, he will drop a piece of paper on the floor and go on it. (I give him pieces of paper to chew up, but yes he will use anything left laying around.)

I found, when I really paid attention, the bird was trying to communicate with me, and when he realized I was trying and paying attention he became more patient with me.

I say “he” because I had a female budgie in the house when he was small and it is less confusing. I really don’t know if my little pal is male or female, and it really doesn’t matter.

I check the morning droppings every day to make sure they look healthy, and contain all 3 componenets. This has saved my little friend more than once, as he stopped eating a couple of times and the signs were in the droppings. I now make his food from scratch every 2 weeks, freezing it and taking out only what he needs for the day. (He was biting his feathers off and I have discovered it is because of allergies to corn/wheat/peanuts.)

He’s a dear, sweet little friend with a strong personality.

Getting the aids from the folks here at Birdtricks have helped me a lot. Their advice on screaming particularly was very helpful to the peace of the house – now he only pages me if he needs something or is warning. (If a dog in the neighbourhood barks when someone is coming there, my parrot also raises the alarm. Shows me just how social and aware he is. I also know when there is a hawk in the hood and he is afraid I am in a vulnerable position. Again, he is paying attention to the birds outside as well.)

I hope you haven’t given up on your buddy. Birds are not like dogs, you need to earn their trust and
invite rather than demand – in my experience. I am so happy the folks at BirdTricks are here to help.
They have a lot of helpful insights that can really change things for the better.