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Behavioral problems after a major trauma

conureboys

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Hi guys :) It’s been a minute since I’ve been on this forum.

To keep a long story short, my apartment building partially burned down after my next door neighbor’s oven fire. My apartment included in this. I was only able to evacuate with my Sennie Casanova. I couldn’t save the rest of my flock and I have been trying to come to terms with it. It was really a horrific event and I try not to ruminate on it too much. A couple years later now, I have a flock of 2 (Cas & a WBC, Clementine) and I love them so much.

However, Cas (understandably) changed overnight. Once my clingy best friend who would fly to me, he doesn’t like to interact with me anymore. He will scream, bite, and fly manically around his cage if I put my hand in, even just for maintenance/food/water changes, etc. He is also plucking. Of course, this is completely understandable seeing as he went through a horrific and traumatic event where I literally had to grab him extremely abruptly.

I read to him and sit and talk to him next to his cage. He seems fine with that. It’s the touching or hands near that he hates. I am definitely willing to accept if he just needs to be a bird that I love and read to from afar, I want him to be happy.

This is no mystery of WHY his behavior changed. More of how I can begin? I’ve never been in a situation like this before.
 

Fuzzy

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I'm so very sorry you and Cas went through this horrific experience. :sadhug2:

As for dealing with this behaviour, I would start from the beginning, ie. treat him as a new addition to the household. Start from what you can do with him... ie. sit and read and talk to him. Try to keep Cas' body language as relaxed as possible. Each time he has to scream/bite/manically fly around his cage he will be pairing your presence with the aversive feelings that accompany those behaviours. Does he come out of his cage now? If so, why not maintain his cage with him outside it. Another option is to get him a cage where the food and water bowls can be accessed from the outside. At the same time see if you can start to pair yourself/your fingers/hands with good experiences like taking favourite treats from you... maybe start whilst he's inside his cage so that the bars offer him some security.

If you have to maintain his cage with him inside, I would suggest you kneel down so that you are lower than he is. Birds tend to go to the highest spot as it's safer - easier to see predators. A bird can't get any higher in a cage, but you can get lower. This is how I used to first maintain the cage of my then "untame" extremely "fearful" and "cagebound" Amazon Ollie. I found with Ollie, too that direct eye contact would make him extremely fearful - so with Cas I would also experiment in avoiding eye contact at this time. Then you probably know to move slowly and smoothly. Do things in the same order so that you become predictable. If he will take treats from you, you could reinforce his relaxed body language with treats. You could even teach him to target (easy to do with the bird inside his cage) and get him to station at the opposite end of the cage for treats whilst you put in/take out a food bowl. The main goal though is to do everything you can to keep his body language as relaxed/calm as possible. That way you will slowly rebuild trust.
 

conureboys

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Thank you so much for this. Getting low is a great idea that I didn’t think of!! Right now he’s not really coming out of his cage, it’s nearly impossible; but one time recently he did just climb out on his own while I was changing his food dish, which I promptly gave him his fave treat for and spoke to him happily and softly until he decided he’d like to go inside to eat lunch. It was such a hopeful interaction, I look forward to more of those.
 

Emma&pico

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I am so sorry you had to go through this must have been very traumatic I am so glad your safe
I am sorry for loss of rest of your flock

I hope your cas settles must have been so scary for her too
 

Fuzzy

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… one time recently he did just climb out on his own while I was changing his food dish, which I promptly gave him his fave treat for and spoke to him happily and softly until he decided he’d like to go inside to eat lunch. It was such a hopeful interaction, I look forward to more of those.
Agree in this is a wonderfully hopeful interaction especially in that it included reinforcement from you (treat and talking). Way to go!!! :laughing12:

If he prefers to stay in his cage for now, I’d certainly try teaching him a simple behaviour like targeting. Use something that doesn’t scare him like the end of a plain chopstick or lollipop stick or even a small toy. It will give him another way to interact with you that gains more reinforcing consequences… thus increasing his confidence. Here’s a link to how to teach a parrot to target:


Please keep us posted on Cas’ progress.
 

WillowQ

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I’m so sorry for your loss. This must have been scary for you and all your birds. I have only encountered similar situations twice: once there was a gas leak in my house that killed two parrots and made me and my Quaker sick; and many years after that, my Quaker passed due to old age and my older gcc got very upset and refused to leave his cage/ alarm called a lot.

I would kind of start over with Casanova. He really needs to feel safe and secure. I’ve noticed that my Meyers parrot bites if she is anxious at all or unsure of a object. i would prepare for more bites than in the past from your Senegal. And if he whistle calls a lot from anxiety, I would not ignore the calls but would answer quietly “I’m right here.” Or similar.

I’ve also learned that our human moods are contagious to our parrots so if you are feeling anxious, maybe take a bit of time to settle down and self soothe before you handle your birds.

Your Senegal may get extra attached to your conure in reaction to this trauma. And I’m sure you will handle that with sensitivity.
 

conureboys

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once there was a gas leak in my house that killed two parrots and made me and my Quaker sick; and many years after that, my Quaker passed due to old age and my older gcc got very upset and refused to leave his cage/ alarm called a lot.
sending love, i’m so sorry that happened to you! and thank you so much for your condolences and advice. being prepared for bites is something i’ll definitely have to do, and responding to calls out is a great idea.
 

Pixiebeak

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My deepest sympathy and so much love to you. I can't even bare to think about what you went through...

I've worked with some that have been treated horribly ( a different kind of trauma,) but I agree with WillowQ about being careful to not express anxiety , sorrows, hesitation. It can really have a big impact to go about this with humour,,( such a big ask I know, and not to make light of this trauma) . They are reading us , they are reflecting back what we are feeling.

With acting out , fearful, aggressive, or shut down from trauma or abuse or neglect in horses, dogs, and parrots I've worked with , attitude is everything. No tip toe around them, no taking it personally, no sympathy as in not praise it or reassurance or positive feedback when they exhibiting one of the above. I feel struggle in trying to explain. But for example a trembling fearful dog you don't pet and say it's ok you don't reward or reinforce. Cesar millsn the dog behavior guy talks about this and the importance of your energy.

With parrot's, I've seen catering to their fearful cage bound ECT doesn't help them . Of course you understand and have empathy, but you kinds have to wall that part off.

It's often why when parrot's end up in rescues or new homes they start advancing and recovering. It's because the people don't know all their history and bad stuff in detail, they don't have preconceived ideas, they aren't holding that in their mind when they work with them.

You want to hold the vision of your success and his recovery in your mind when you work with him . Really finding that peace , the good vibes , the humour, the joy st each positive step forward. When he isn't screaming lunging, pour on the cheerleading! What a brave good boy!! Look who's in a good mood today!!

I really want you to feel it and believe it. It goes such a long way to making it the reality.

Everyone has shared the great steps and tips and techniques. I spent all this time gabbing on your state of mind and energy because from my experience it's a real big deal. Sometimes even more than the individual steps, techniques, it's believing they will work will help.

But for some things to do. Increase self choice and self directed behavior for him in any way you can. Attach all kinds of perches and toys in the outside of cage, create perch highways from cage to a stand or tree, or above the cage swings or cargo nets. Make it brighter. Birds respond to good bright light ( not in their eyes ) but like a sun filled room. Also being outside can have a huge impact on mood. When your weather permitting, well secure his cage and bottom tray and role outside to light shade if able. If not a smaller cage that lets in light and breezes. Use music. Use shaping. If he comes to the open door praises and treats. If he leans head out more praise. On foot on sn outside the door perch huge praise.
 

Fergus Mom

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How terrifying! I am hoping that he will make more progress as time goes on - the stepping out is huge at this point, I think.
 

conureboys

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I really want you to feel it and believe it. It goes such a long way to making it the reality.
This is such great advice!! Gives me so much hope for the future too. Good point about why birds tend to improve when surrendered to rescues, I hadn’t thought about that. Seems like I really do have to start fresh with Casanova & throw away the worrying that he’ll never improve as it will reflect back on his progress.

Thanks so much !!
 

WillowQ

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This is such great advice!! Gives me so much hope for the future too. Good point about why birds tend to improve when surrendered to rescues, I hadn’t thought about that. Seems like I really do have to start fresh with Casanova & throw away the worrying that he’ll never improve as it will reflect back on his progress.

Thanks so much !!
I think the Fresh Start is part of the tendency for behavioral change in rehomed birds.

What I was most trying to say is to manage your emotions around the bird and not use him to soothe you. For example, when people bring their dog to the vet and are anxious they pet pet pet pet their dog and he understands that mom is anxious—so maybe he should be, too. It makes the vet visit worse.

so if I am very upset about a breakup, for example, my bird may feed off that emotion and conclude there must be a physical danger in the environment. When my living room is perfectly safe the bird becomes more alert looking for danger.

Basically I’m reminding us all to manage your energy if you’re with your bird, just as you would with a child. He’s taking cues from you about when he’s safe.
 
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