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Bitey GCC

connor&co

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Hello all!

I got my GCC, Connor, in 2018 and he's 5 now. He was very sweet and cuddly for the first few years, and I expected some change as he matured, but it's been night and day.

Some general info:
He sleeps in a Prevue F040 and gets multiple hours, if not entire days when possible, of outside time.
He's on a diet of pellets with fresh food and seed treats.
He has multiple toys in his cage (but plays with none pfff).

So about two years ago, he became a biter. Suddenly he just wanted to clamp down, chew, shake his head, and rip out small chunks of me. Previously there had been the OCCASIONAL nip or exploratory bite, but that was it. During a routine vet visit, they said it was probably just hormones since nothing else has changed and he was otherwise given a clean bill of health. When it wasn't getting better, they started him on Lupron to see if that would help and... it didn't do anything.

It never stopped. I haven't been able to hold him without getting a half-dime sized piece of flesh torn off me (if he'll even step up at all without latching on) and I haven't been able to give him head scratches AT ALL. He bites when I open or close the cage. He bites when I'm feeding or refreshing water. He bites for literally everything. Always clamping, chewing, head shaking bites.

He has never been yelled at, struck, or in any other way physically punished. I'd been recommended to ignore him or put him back in his cage. Neither of which have helped at all (and ignoring your hand or arm being mutilated isn't really easy, appealing, or healthy).

He also humps one of his toys (never plays, just humps it). Generally I wouldn't have a problem with it, but it's every day for months, if not over a year now. Sometimes multiple times a day. I know it's a normal behavior, but it's borderline incessant and cannot be mentally or physically healthy at this point. If I were to remove the toy, he would just pick another. I can't have him in a basically empty cage... I can't really put anything around the room aside from perches since I rent. (Don't know where I should include this, but I have tried rearranging his cage as I've seen suggested on multiple sites)

Time exposed to daylight/light in general doesn't seem to make any difference either.

He is friends with my male budgies and they get supervised time. He has never tried to go after them and shows absolutely no signs of aggression towards them. The female budgies, however, get their own independent time out of their cage because he WILL bite them. They all get equal amounts of outside time.

He is due for a wellness check soon and I'll be trying to get in to a new avian vet further away since I left the last one due to a really nasty receptionist.

I'm just at an utter loss for where to go from here, to be honest. I don't know what the heck happened to flip this switch. I love him so much, but he did a total 180 and has been this way literally every day for the past almost two years.
 

Rebel

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We have 2 conures. The one used to bite and the other did not. If and when the biter bit, back in the cage he went. He quickly learned what biting will get him.
 

Xoetix

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Is there ever a break in the behavior? Even if just a few days, has he ever stopped the biting or humping in the last year?
 

connor&co

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Is there ever a break in the behavior? Even if just a few days, has he ever stopped the biting or humping in the last year?
Pretty much an every morning ritual for him and his inanimate "partner" at this point. He may have gone like one day without humping once in a blue moon, but I can't see what he does or doesn't do when I'm not at home.

The biting is daily. Absolutely no breaks in that behavior whatsoever. On the very rare occasions that he does not attempt (and I mean RARE), he gets soft praise and a treat. But then there's about a 50/50 chance whether he'll take the treat or tear into your finger.
 

Fuzzy

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So sorry you are going through this. He does seem to be very driven by hormones. A real shame the Lupron didn't do anything.

What sort of pellets is he eating? - some are higher in sugar/carbs than others. Carbs and fats are not so good for hormones. The better pellets (lower energy) are Harrison's and Roudybush. Fresh food - is that veggies and fruit? What is the temperature like in your house - warm/hot? You might experiment with reducing the temperature.

With biting you need to address the antecedent (the event that occurs immediately before the bite - the cue, if you like) rather than the consequence (eg. punishment of sorts). Reason being once the bird has bitten the deed is done. Therefore a consequence of saying "no," or putting him into his cage, or ignoring him is not going to make much difference. So, thinking about the antecedent, how can you work things so that your hand/arm cannot be bitten in the first place? I see looking at the cage it doesn't have swing out feeder doors. So options could be, to teach him to station at the opposite end of the cage whilst you put in food etc or maybe remove him from the cage first. If he bites when you try to give him a head scratch, don't give him a head scratch for the moment. Do everything you can (read his body language) to avoid a bite, because the more he is allowed to bite, the more he is learning to bite.

Just as important, teach him other behaviours so that not only is he successful at something and earning treats/rewards, but your presence gets to be paired with that great feeling of success! Target training is an easy first behaviour to teach. It is teaching a bird to touch something (usually the end of a chopstick) with a body part (often the beak) for a reinforcer (a treat is great as it is a primary reinforcer). Teach him to target inside his cage first. Teaching behind bars will protect your fingers from bites when you reinforce/reward his successful targeting. When you give him the treat, make him stretch upwards for it. A bird cannot lunge/bite whilst stretching upwards. Or, you could stick favourite seeds onto a lollipop stick or twig with peanut butter and let him have a bite of that as a reinforcer. Or, if he likes millet spray use a section of that so that he can't get close to your fingers. This is how to teach a bird to target:

 

Pixiebeak

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My Ta-dah a green cheek, have shared a decade of life together. During that time we have had a few broken trust times for known and unknown reasons ..that led to the behavior you are describing.

What has worked for us every time, is rebuilding trust. Sort of like starting over like you just brought the bird home and need to be friend and earn trust. Paying very careful attention to behavior to show them you listen and respect before they need to resort to bites. Permission based interaction. And a heck ton of hello here is treat good birdie

I recently had this happen with my quaker Phoebe, have no idea why. But the same process, starting over earning trust and lots of treats and in a month I had earned my way back into her good graces
 

connor&co

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What sort of pellets is he eating?
Fresh food - is that veggies and fruit?
What is the temperature like in your house - warm/hot?

So, thinking about the antecedent, how can you work things so that your hand/arm cannot be bitten in the first place?
All of my birds eat Roudybush.
Fresh food is veggies and fruit - at the moment not as often as I'd like since I've taken a big employment hit and can barely afford my bills, but I share whatever bird safe produce I get.

They stay in my room. I rent and the landlady has a dog, so they can't leave the room. My room tends to run on the warm side and I'm not allowed to touch the thermostat, but it's usually set around upper 60s or low 70s. I try to regulate and compensate by keeping the window open when it's cooler outside.

As it is right now, I can quickly change out his food and he does back up when I'm going in to change water. I've basically given up head scratches. Literally every single time I have offered since the mood change, he's tried to bite. I can't just leave it and go back when he's in a better mood... There is no better mood.

I was training him for better hand step-ups, stepping up on objects, and other things before and after the mood switch. He was doing super well until then. When he does cooperate, he does get rewarded. It can be difficult when you don't know if he'll take the treat or bite. I'll try more target work and hope he takes more rewards than he decides to take another chunk out of me.

I definitely pay attention to body language and I don't bother him when he's looking cranky.

I was also thinking of asking the new vet when we go if they have any recommendations since the Lupron didn't work. Though I'd rather not have to medicate my bird, but this has to be stressful for him too.
 

connor&co

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My Ta-dah a green cheek, have shared a decade of life together. During that time we have had a few broken trust times for known and unknown reasons ..that led to the behavior you are describing.

What has worked for us every time, is rebuilding trust. Sort of like starting over like you just brought the bird home and need to be friend and earn trust. Paying very careful attention to behavior to show them you listen and respect before they need to resort to bites. Permission based interaction. And a heck ton of hello here is treat good birdie

I recently had this happen with my quaker Phoebe, have no idea why. But the same process, starting over earning trust and lots of treats and in a month I had earned my way back into her good graces
I never do anything he isn't comfortable with (unless it's past bedtime and I need to get him in pfff). I can literally be at my computer and he's sitting on the monitor, I'll talk to him, give him some snacks cause he's being good, then hell decide to just flap down onto my desk and bite my hand, or run-waddle to jump onto my shoulder and give me a new ear piercing (that one sucked, literally had a flap of skin hanging on my lobe). Or we'd work on step-ups and he's doing awesome and getting rewarded then suddenly tearing up my hand. He will literally do it with no tells and that's so much worse than when is actually displaying any "no thanks mom" body language.
 

Pixiebeak

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I never do anything he isn't comfortable with (unless it's past bedtime and I need to get him in pfff). I can literally be at my computer and he's sitting on the monitor, I'll talk to him, give him some snacks cause he's being good, then hell decide to just flap down onto my desk and bite my hand, or run-waddle to jump onto my shoulder and give me a new ear piercing (that one sucked, literally had a flap of skin hanging on my lobe). Or we'd work on step-ups and he's doing awesome and getting rewarded then suddenly tearing up my hand. He will literally do it with no tells and that's so much worse than when is actually displaying any "no thanks mom" body language.
I understand, and not making accusations,;).
But this is what mine have done . The trust building has taken care of it
GCC do switch moods like mercury!
On training I never do more than 3 reps in a session, they get bored and act out least mine do

It's a fluid thing when working with and understanding behavior, and some bad habits can be work to undo.

My new re home GCC...oh so sweet to step up and hang out. As Soon as she thinks I'm going to put her back total land shark frantic bite attacks !!! It's only day 2 for us . But now that I know this we will be working on it all the time . By random get yo walk around and set her on different perches then pick her up and back to hanging out. Random trips to cage to step off treats and bs k . Random trips to cage and step in shut dirt ket back out treats. This has worked in past situations I've had . Infact it has worked so well with my flock , and so positive return to cage , thst if they even think I'm putting them up they race back to cages and put themselves up. ! Which is funny and lovely as well when it really is time to go back !

Anyway, I will follow to see what your problem solving comes up with , or other suggestions by members
 
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