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Experiences with Parrot Hormones

Discussion in 'Bird Boulevard' started by Saemma, 5/16/12.

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  1. Saemma

    Saemma Ripping up the road Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award

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    I think there's alot to learn from everyone's experiences. Please share your stories.. :)


    February 2012 to the End of april 2012 was one of the most challenging times for me and my flock. There were moments when I wondered whether this way of living was to be the *new normal* for all of us.:huh:
    Thankfully, May rolled around and all of sudden things feel calmer, more peaceful, respectful and *almost* back to the norm.:eek: In fact it almost feels too good to be true.:D

    Who ever told me that *this too shall pass*, I'd like to say Thank YOU because there were times when I wasn't too certain.:o:

    Prior to this year, I don't think it was ever obvious to me as to whether I was actually dealing with a parrot who was going through a hormonal time.
    The beginning of this year proved to be a very different one than past years. There was alot of new damage control that had to be dealt with daily.

    This year instead of having only ONE parrot who may be experiencing hormones I was dealing with TWO. My pionus parrot turns 5 at the end of this May and my african grey turned 4 in March.
    This year I also had 3 flying parrots to contend with instead of only two in past years. One weighs 434 grams, one weighs 380 grams and the smallest one only weighs 215 grams.

    Here's a list of stuff I had to manage.

    • regular hostility, aggression, confrontation from my pionus parrot towards my severe macaw. One of the times resulted in an injury where she got her toe bitten and was bleeding for quite some time. Her toe is fine now, however it was a very stressful experience for both her and me.
    • unpredictable physical aggression towards me by my pionus parrot. One of the bites resulted in me having to go to the ER to get stitches on my finger. I was not very happy.:(
    • I had to use my step up sticks MORE than ever before. My stick was used To protect them from each other and to protect myself from them. I LOVE my step up stick:heart:
    • I also wore my hearing protection every single day. NOT necessarily to protect my ears from parrot noise but to protect my ears and face from being disfigured. There was alot of misdirected aggression. If I happened to have one parrot on me and another one decided to fly towards me I often ran a risk of getting bitten by one of them. I had to protect myself.:cool:
    • My grey has never demonstrated any hostility/aggression toward anyone however I've discovered that she can be be a bit of a tyrant when it comes to chasing my pionus parrot around. She seemed to get a sort of adrenaline rush out of it and often behaved like a predator chasing after her prey. This was very scary for my pionus and I often had to stop her immediately and bring her into another room for a time out. During these times I would only handle my grey with the Step up stick because she was clearly on a rampage.
    • There were MANY times when I would refuse to handle Sachi and Emma without my step up stick. I found both of them to be unpredictable, more territorial towards their toys and cages and also more likely to lunge to bite.

    What have I learned? That Hormones are very powerful chemicals and I am thankful for Separate bird rooms and my stepup stick.
    I'm also not looking forward to next January because by that time my severe macaw will be 4.5 years old :eek: but most of all that ... *this too wil pass*:D

    I think it's very fitting to include Merlie's thread here too..

    http://forums.avianavenue.com/caique-cul-de-sac/78984-new-beginning-hopeful-bit-longish.html
     
    Last edited: 5/16/12
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  2. Merlie

    Merlie Biking along the boulevard Avenue Spotlight Award

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    Challenging times huh!!??

    I don't know if my Cake issues were all hormones, if it was, it was one heck of a long hormonal season :rolleyes:, however .. I do attribute their behavior to maturing.

    Your story, and mine .. and the many others people have shared on AA are good reminders .. those really lovey dovey, doe eyed, too cute to resist baby birds GROW UP!! Not unlike human children going thru their terrible twos, or torturous teens. Some people are lucky, and breeze right thru it, other's feel as if their birds have turned into something from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds".

    There is a way thru everything, there is a solution, even if it's just a matter of "waiting it out".

    I know my past year with the Cakes has made me a more patient, tolerant, realistic and practical bird owner. It's also made me much more quick and flexible .. lol .. dodging dive bombing feathered terrorists. :lol:

    "This too shall pass, this too shall pass, this too shall pass" .. wash, rinse, repeat .. ;)
     
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  3. Saemma

    Saemma Ripping up the road Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award

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    The last year has been quite the eye opener for me. Things became more Complex as a whole and I was obliged to be more creative, flexible,understanding. It was pretty humbling. Parrots do grow up. They continuously change and so do their needs.
    I Definitely relate to the practical and realistic part.:)
     
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  4. jmfleish

    jmfleish Cruising the avenue Celebirdy of the Month Premium Vendor Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran

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    It can be challenging but one thing I can tell you from living with Reggie Lou is that it's just like a teen, it's hard in the beginning when the hormones are new and they don't know how to handle them, but after going through several years of them and learning how to deal with them, it does get easier. Reggie has seen almost a decade of them and he's almost a different bird now. I used to get bitten a lot when he was younger, he is now 12 and rarely bites and is so much more laid back than he used to be. He's gotten used to them just like someone who enters their 20s gets used to them. So, it does get better....it takes a while though and there can be some bumps in the road that lead to murderous thoughts, I won't lie there!;)
     
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  5. Saemma

    Saemma Ripping up the road Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award

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    Thanks Jen. Any idea how long the *several years* portion lasts and the more stable behavior sets in?
    There were Many moments of this for me....:tmsmakesme: and :madwife:

    When my SO asked whether we could consider adopting a Goffins.. I went...:atomic:on him too.:D
     
  6. jmfleish

    jmfleish Cruising the avenue Celebirdy of the Month Premium Vendor Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran

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    Every birdie is different. With Reggie who is a D2, a little bigger than a G2, it took a good 7 years but he's as sweet as pie now...but still picks which I believe is probably hormonal, although it's probably now just habit. Tuchis is a lot like your Emma where he likes to bug the other birds. I've never seen any kind of actual hormonal actions from him and he's nine now but he still loves to irritate the other birds...he's kind of a brat and I don't know that it will ever go away...
     
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  7. Saemma

    Saemma Ripping up the road Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award

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    Yes... Emma is a BRAT towards parrots who let her get away with it.:D

    The whole thing sort of gives you some perspective as to whyso many uniformed people just quit during this phase of their parrot's life.
     
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  8. Saemma

    Saemma Ripping up the road Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award

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    Sachi was pretty BAD too.:( Probably the worst of my 3 parrots. Real stinky pants for many weeks.:( I had to stop her many times from tormenting Mabel. She is VERY lucky that Mabel has a very sweet demeanor, held back and didn't bite the dickens out of her.

    I know not to expect the same next year when Mabel will probably be going through her own adjustments when it comes to hormones.:o:
     
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  9. Crys12065

    Crys12065 Cruising the avenue Celebirdy of the Month

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    I have not dealt with hormonal behavior in my younger birds ranging from 2-4yrs. Although from Saemma's experience I am expecting B. Angel to hit hormones in the next year or so and get scary:eek:.

    But my newest addition Dale is 15yrs old and currently going through a hormonal period as well as trying to adjust to a new home so I feel bad for her.
    She really has a Jeckell and Hyde personality at the moment. One day she is nice and wants to come out of her cage and step up nicely but the next day she will act like she wants to come out then bite me when I go to step her up. And I swear she Growled at me the other day:eek: Yes I said growl:huh::lol: So at the moment she prefers to be left alone or come out and go on her swing but really wants nothing to do with me.

    Definitely not an ideal time for me to try to bond with her so I am giving her a lot of space and waiting out the hormones. It has to be really hard on her and I feel like I am going to mess up any bond we could have because I can't figure out what she wants or needs right now.

    Only having birds for 2 years this is all new to me so definitely a learning curve but I feel confident I can handle it and it is just all part of owning a parrot.
     
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  10. Holiday

    Holiday Mac Mama Administrator Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran

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    I think my first really clear-cut experience with parrot hormones came when I adopted Elvis. She was new to my household, a 5-year-old large macaw, and I was trying to get to know her and learn her behavior, but little did I know that she was smack in the middle of a hormonal cycle (which, little did know, was one reason why I had her). It made things difficult (she didn't want to come out of her cage and was aggressive), and I didn't fully realize what was going on until the next year, when she started into another cycle. At that point, we had gotten to know each other very well, and I knew she was a sweet bird, and I could see that this behavior was very different from her usual behavior.

    However, luckily, as someone who had grown up around poultry, the notion that birds go through hormonal cycles was not foreign to me, like it is for people who come from, say, cat and dog ownership only. Over the years, I'd seen numerous hens "go broody," and from the time I was a little girl, I learned to recognize the departure from their normal behavior that denotes a nesting cycle: the broody clucking, the ruffled feathers, and the unusually long time spent in a dark corner with a very "serious" expression, and the pecks and screeches of defense when anyone would come near. Broody hens ruffle their feathers and sometimes scream like banshees if you come near their nests. When I was little, I eagerly anticipated the first broody hen of the spring season, because I knew these behaviors meant baby chicks! :) So, I guess you could say I became an "afficianado" of cluckiness when I was young.

    When Elvis started to go broody that second year, I was genuinely surprised at how similar the behavior is in parrots--and by this, I mean that there is a clear-cut shift into breeding/nesting mode that is very visible. Oh sure, she didn't "cluck," but she did start building a nest in her treat dish; she did start spending a lot more time near it, and she did ruffle her head feathers and look very serious about herself. She also became very protective of her nesting area and aggressive toward visitors. The behaviors were more complex in her case than with a chicken, because there were all sorts of bonding issues (chickens don't have pair bonds to speak of), and of course, a broody hen will peck you, but a broody macaw can do you some serious hurt! Still, though, as surprised as I was, I was also not surprised. Nature, in all its wisdom, has made a way for birds to reproduce, and it does so through hormonal changes that cause a very specific set of nesting and territorial behaviors; in some birds this affects the female only (or far more), and in some species it affects both sexes. But, what this cycle has to ensure is that a bird that normally is out flying around in the sunshine and foraging will suddenly find it perfectly natural and appealing to sit all day in a dark hole in a tree or cliff keeping a bunch of eggs warm and holding its poop. This is inherently not much fun (especially in very hot weather), so there have to be some major chemicals bathing the brain to keep that bird sitting right there on that stuffy nest, ready to defend it and the mate if necessary. I just got a reminder, then, that my Elvis is a grown-up bird whose chemicals were functioning perfectly as nature intended. :) When my mother asked me why Elvis was behaving oddly, I was able to tell her "she's trying to go broody" and got a nod of complete understanding.

    For people who don't know about birds and nestiness, though, I realized, this behavior can be bewildering. Their dogs and cats don't do this. Yes, they have mating behaviors too, but they don't go through the obvious, cyclical changes that birds go through--because they hatch eggs. And, when people get a baby bird whose adolescence lasts for four years, they can settle into a routine with their bird just like they would with a pup and not realize that big changes are on the horizon or that these cycles are more than natural; on a grand scale, they're necessary for the survival of a species.

    My little parrotlet, Bella, also goes through very clear and obvious hormonal cycles. She has a mate, and she lays eggs, and she defends her mate and nest with all her tiny might. The way she behaves is similar to the way Elvis behaves, but she also plucks her chest feathers to create a "brooding patch" so that her skin is right next to the eggs to keep them warm. The first time she did this, I thought she'd started plucking. This was a new one on me! But, someone on the forum soon calmed me down and explained this behavior to me. And, sure enough, when the hormones subsided, the feathers grew right back.

    I think some birds in captivity never go through the full monty of breeding behaviors, the full cycle, instead, they're sort of half-in, half-out. This sometimes comes from being in a captive environment where the full range of breeding/nesting cues (nest holes, for example) are not present, but some (a "mate," snuggling) are present continually. This can be bewildering for both bird and owner, and it can lead to a worst-case scenario in which the bird's reproductive organs sort of go into a constant state of "overdrive." I have heard of birds who need veterinary intervention to bring them out of such a state. I think it may almost be better for a bird to go through a more obvious cycle and then return to normal.

    Do hormones get better as the bird gets older? Yes, I think they do, but those cycles are still there. I know that they are more obvious in some birds than others. As I knew very well as a child, some hens never "go broody." They simply do not go through the hormonal changes that others go through. They will never raise a clutch of chicks. The poultry industry has actually selected for this trait because it means a higher rate of egg laying, and so commercial egg-laying chickens (Leghorns, for example) have mostly had the trait of "broodiness" bred out of them. Some breeds (like Silkies), on the other hand, are so broody that people keep them around just to hatch the eggs of other breeds. A Silkie hen may try for months to hatch a golf ball unless her owner takes steps to "break her out" of the cycle. Clearly, parrots are not chickens, but we can still take a lesson away here--not all birds experience hormones in the same way or to the same degree, and this is typical of many species. Some hens are just better at being broody than others. And, in the case of parrots, one would assume that some males are just better "protectors" than others as well.

    What's thought-provoking to me about the whole thing is that broodiness and protectiveness are very valuable traits in nature. A strong, protective male and a nesty female would successfully rear their young and ensure the survival of their kind. In our homes, "hormones" are a scourge, something to be endured. And, that's a little sad :(
     
    Last edited: 5/17/12
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  11. JLcribber

    JLcribber Joyriding the Neighborhood Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran Shutterbugs' Best

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    Those are my thoughts.

    Having a same species mate also seems to help take the edge off a bit. Much less frustration because they get to do what their instincts are telling them to do. Now you just have to deal with "egg laying". :(
     
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  12. Saemma

    Saemma Ripping up the road Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award

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    @ Crystal...:)

    I won't sugarcoat it. Things will probably be different/stressful but thankfully it really does pass.

    Because you have several parrots, I imagine it will be more challenging for you than for someone who only has one parrot to deal with.

    Lately, Sachi's been very docile, go with the flow and non reactive. Very much like the parrot she *normally* is. I cannot imagine living with any of them without my step up sticks. It has really kept me from DISLIKING them.:D

    This winter I purchased a few boxes of bandaids and a new tube of polysporin. Where previously, I used to throw out polysporin because it had expired, this year I found myself purchasing a new tube because I had run out.:o:
     
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  13. Saemma

    Saemma Ripping up the road Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award

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    Holiday, I truly applaud you for your perserverance and fortitude with Elvissa.

    I think Mabel and I will be fine, even when it will one day get *hormonally rocky* because I truly do love her very much and have had alot of time and a chance to get to know her sweet self in advance.

    If I had met her and brought her home in the middle of a hormone cycle?:faint: I truthfully do NOT know whether I would have had the patience, interest, or maturity in sticking it out.:o:

    You're really awesome Holiday.:heart:
     
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  14. Holiday

    Holiday Mac Mama Administrator Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran

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    Awww, thank you :hug8: I was lucky that I had everyone from the forum helping me; otherwise, I don't know what I'd have done. I was also lucky that it was toward the end of the cycle, and the rehoming also sped up her return to a more normal state. So, she started behaving in a more friendly way after a few weeks :) And, by the time the next one rolled around, I was her S.O., and I didn't need to worry about aggression. I'm now the only person who can come near her when she's nesty. :heart:
     
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  15. Crys12065

    Crys12065 Cruising the avenue Celebirdy of the Month

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    Thank you Saemma. I am glad you are not sugar coating so I can expect the worst and be prepared even if it isn't that bad. I would be very upset and shocked if my sweet B. Angel suddenly became mean and unpredictable and I didn't understand why.
    Having this forum and all you guys really is a godsend. I have no idea how people did it before the internet! Because books just don't give you the real truth and all the facts. They tend to sugar coat what owning a parrot is really like, or at least the ones I have read.

    Great thread, reading everyone's experiences really does help:)
     
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  16. suileeka

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    Another mantra to chant along with "This too shall pass" is "Don't take it personally"!

    I don't have time to write much about my experience with my little demon linnies right now, but I will just say that if I'd taken their behavior personally when they were on the cusp of adulthood and dealing with their worst bout of hormones, I would have been :sad10::explode::bash::rant: all the time and would not have been able to react and act appropriately. You have to take a deep breath, step back, and take your personal, human, "But why would they do this to me!? Woe is me!" feelings out of the mix when dealing with a bird in the throes of hormones. Saemma's "step-up stick" is the perfect example of a rational, constructive response to dealing with an unpredictable, hormonal bird. It lessens the chances of damage to her physical well-being and trust and damage to the relationship by taking away the opportunity for the encounter to end on a negative note for both parties.
     
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  17. Ziggymon

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    Another beautifully thought out and expressed post, Holiday.


    I do think that companion birds suffer a lot of negative consequences from humans being oblivious to the fact that they are very different from dogs and cats. (Although I think that people who have taken the time to really observe and try to understand cats have learned lessons that are valuable to dealing with birds, such as "let them do everything at their pace", "pushing anything is counterproductive", "respect their boundaries." Having had a lot of cat experience was really my saving grace when it came to birds, the only thing that kept me from messing up more badly than I did before finding the forums.)

    I think that the whole idea that people have that, if they buy a baby bird and raise it themselves, they won't have issues once the bird reaches maturity, is a prime example of how little those people understand birds and how their hormones affect their behavior.

    BTW, Pekin ducks, like leghorn chickens, have been bred for thousands of years to lay eggs and put on flesh - their brooding instincts have been bred out of them almost entirely. Their eggs have to be put into an incubator or put under a different species of duck.
     
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  18. Holiday

    Holiday Mac Mama Administrator Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran

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    Amen to that :)
     
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  19. Ankou

    Ankou Rollerblading along the road Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran Shutterbugs' Best

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    I was going to add "don't take it personally" as the main lesson I've learned over the years too. I think a lot of the people here have mastered the art of not taking it personally though, take pictures instead. :lol:


    I suppose another thing I've learned that ties in a lot with Holiday's thoughtful post is it's much easier to change our behavior to accommodate their hormonal periods than change theirs. They are what they are and while we can work slowly and build trust we can't change what nature has made them (not without generations of selective breeding anyway. With species who mature slowly and pair bond good luck with the selective part.)

    Peanut is territorial. That's just the way she's going to be, she is that way so she can protect the resources and space she needs to raise a little family. In captivity those instincts are confusing; she doesn't "need" half of the things she protects and will never go hungry but try explaining that to her. It's much easier to change my own behavior and the environment around her to minimize her hormonal periods and avoid her triggers.
    But of course I can say that with the knowledge of, despite her best efforts, she isn't able to send me to the emergency room like your larger birds. Hopefully she doesn't consider that last sentence a challenge to overcome.

    Also, like other older birds, she's mellowed with age and it's much easier now that we both know what to expect.
     
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  20. Saemma

    Saemma Ripping up the road Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award

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    Thanks for the great feedback everyone! Ankou, I really appreciate what you added.:) Couldn't be said any better.
     
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