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Hormones, over-bonding, or both?

Clynne

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24
Hello again!
I recently posted, talking about my boy, Ezra (Severe Macaw). I got him a little over two months ago. I'm not positive about his age, but we know that he's at least 10 years old. I wanted to give an update, and also ask for help/opinions.

At this point, he seems quite frustrated on and off throughout the day. I do try and play with him and entertain him, but it doesn't usually hold his interest for very long. It's very clear that I'm his person, and I think that he has possibly over-bonded with me. He's very bitey towards everyone else when they try and touch him, or even when they stand near him. He also screams when I leave the room. He screams quite a bit either way, really, but me leaving the room really gets to him. He has also been holding his poops longer when he's in his cage, and will usually hold it until I let him out for the day. This means he holds his poop for about 14 hours, which I can't imagine is good for him. It looks like he has also been slightly prolapsing a bit when he poops. A pink organ type of thing comes out a bit when he poops, and then it goes back in. I can't say for sure that this wasn't happening before, but I have only recently noticed it. I've also noticed that his vent has been winking/pulsating after he poops. I've been googling quite a bit, and I understand all of these things to be signs and symptoms of over-bonding. Some of his actions also seem hormonal though, too. He's been trying to seek out dark areas, he's been shredding boxes and paper, he's been regurgitating for toys, boxes, me, etc., almost non-stop. To help try and curb his hormones, I've been putting him to bed and covering him at 7:00 every night. I have also limited touching to his head only, (aside from his feet when he's perched on me). I'm going to avoid giving him treats with my fingers, as I've heard that can be hormonally triggering also. I'm also going to start having other members of my family work with him to try and get him to be more accepting of them, to try and lessen our bond a little. What else should I do? I really worry about his health in this situation, because I know that hormones and over-bonding can cause serious health problems, both physically and mentally. Does this in fact sound like both hormones and over-bonding? I also have a question about trying to discourage certain behaviors - If I stop letting him shred things, for example, how long before that helps alleviate some of his hormonal symptoms? Does curbing certain behaviors have an impact rather quickly, or does it take a while before it starts helping? Like, would I need to wait a couple weeks before it becomes evident that eliminating certain objects or behaviors has actually helped? Hopefully that makes sense. Any insight is greatly appreciated!

*Also, I thought it might be worth adding as another update from my last post - I took him back to the vet for the possible crop infection. The doctor did notice a little bacteria in his crop, and put him on a 10 day course of Baytril. He completed it a week or two ago. I haven't noticed the smell on his breath since then, so I think it worked.
 

macawpower58

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I'm not sure 2 months is enough time to really have a mate bond. I guess it's possible, but IMO seems unlikely.
I'd hazard a guess you're more likely his safety blanket in the new home.
The screaming is also not something I'd worry too much about, he's so new to your home.
The calls should slowly fade as he becomes more comfortable and feels safe in your home. Try very hard not to reward it.
The prolapse I'd worry about. Have you asked your vet? I'm sure there's members on here that can help in that area.

As for hormones. They are definitely in full swing right now.
All I can do is give me opinion, and it differs from others. I also have birds that have never gone overboard in that their health suffered (a few feathers have).
If you take away shredding, what will he do with all that pent up emotion and drive? I'd say give more; more toys, more shredding.
I also do not put mine to bed early, or change how I feed.
I am careful where I pet, but for the most part I let them do what they do. I dissuade them from doing it on me.
Two of mine love to tear up papers on their grates. I'd rather they tear them up and try to build a nest than sit and rip feathers out if they've nothing to do.
I did once take up the papers from my Too, she decimated her feathers. :( She's always liked nudity, but for that short time she went way overboard.
I gave her her papers back.
I doubt we can stop genetic desires and drives no matter how hard we try. Some meds can, but I'd not use those unless a life was in danger.
My advise is to just work around them, they do ease up. Try not to stress.
 

Clynne

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3/9/23
Messages
24
I'm not sure 2 months is enough time to really have a mate bond. I guess it's possible, but IMO seems unlikely.
I'd hazard a guess you're more likely his safety blanket in the new home.
The screaming is also not something I'd worry too much about, he's so new to your home.
The calls should slowly fade as he becomes more comfortable and feels safe in your home. Try very hard not to reward it.
The prolapse I'd worry about. Have you asked your vet? I'm sure there's members on here that can help in that area.

As for hormones. They are definitely in full swing right now.
All I can do is give me opinion, and it differs from others. I also have birds that have never gone overboard in that their health suffered (a few feathers have).
If you take away shredding, what will he do with all that pent up emotion and drive? I'd say give more; more toys, more shredding.
I also do not put mine to bed early, or change how I feed.
I am careful where I pet, but for the most part I let them do what they do. I dissuade them from doing it on me.
Two of mine love to tear up papers on their grates. I'd rather they tear them up and try to build a nest than sit and rip feathers out if they've nothing to do.
I did once take up the papers from my Too, she decimated her feathers. :( She's always liked nudity, but for that short time she went way overboard.
I gave her her papers back.
I doubt we can stop genetic desires and drives no matter how hard we try. Some meds can, but I'd not use those unless a life was in danger.
My advise is to just work around them, they do ease up. Try not to stress.
Thank you for the response! You've made me feel more hopeful, and like I'm not completely doing everything wrong lol. I always worry about that. I haven't talked to Ezra's vet yet about the possible prolapse, since I noticed it just recently. If it doesn't seem to be a fluke and resolve in the next week or so, I will definitely be talking with him to see if there's anything they can do about it at this point. Thanks again!
 

flyzipper

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I'd echo what @macawpower58 wrote, especially the comment that 2 months together means everything and everyone is still new to Ezra.

Do you know much about Ezra's history in his previous home(s)? When my Severe (Jericho) joined me he was approximately the same age as Ezra, and I know he came from a home where he was the only bird and also displayed behaviours that could be described as over-attachment (he chased his previous caregiver's grand kids). Jericho brought that into my home and it currently manifests in Jericho chasing my other birds. My theory is that once a bird learns that it's "OK" to bond with a human, they appear to transition that bond to a new human fairly readily. Conversely, my Military (Oscar) came to me from a very different household where he was 1 or 8 other macaws, and he has shown no tendency to overly bond with me, and he has great flock manners. Jericho attached to me very quickly and Oscar is still coming out of his shell even after 2½ years together so every individual is different.

Jericho yells when he wants something and that's his way of articulating the want. This particular yell reminds me of a toddler who wants candy. Jericho may want food, or water, or to go to his room, or he may be overly tired, or he may be jealous that I'm interacting with X, etc -- all the things that may cause a toddler to cry because they lack the ability to express their needs directly. I find that proactively knowing when these outbursts will happen, it's easy to avoid them (this takes time). I'd work on learning and establishing a routine for Ezra, since it's best to avoid outbursts than to risk needing to reactively deal with them.

Even though our birds are social creatures, part of Jericho's daily routine is spending time by himself. There's a part of our home that he can safely spend time, and I can watch him with a camera. When I take him there after morning breakfast, he happily says "hello!"... which is often his response when he get something he wants, so I take that as feedback from him that he wanted his alone time. If I delay giving him this time, he yells, so our routine attempts to avoid that. My theory here is that this fits with how he spent the first 10 years of his life as an only-bird -- it may be overly stressful to have other birds around at all times. We're working on this and he is slowly becoming more accepting of the others.

Jericho also loves shredding things, and I give him lots to shred, but I just ensure that it gets cleaned up daily. That's appears to be a good balance to encourage activity while avoiding the nesting instinct for him.

Lastly, I'd offer that encouraging flight is very helpful for Jericho as it gives him the ability to express his own agency without overly relying on his human for every little thing.

So, perhaps a summary is to leverage what you know about his past, and give your new relationship more time to establish into a happy routine (learning Ezra's ins and outs along the way).
 
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BrianB

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It's breeding season so some of this is to be expected. In my own experience, severe macaws can be incredibly sweet and equally difficult. Sometimes from one minute to the next. I think it's best to stimulate their mind and not their bodies. Give him as many toys as he can handle. Encourage the shredding but remove the leftovers frequently to keep him from the nest-building behavior. Rotate them frequently to keep him interested and curious about what's coming next. Use foraging toys so he has to put work into getting a treat or a piece of food out of it. That can help direct his attention away from his frustrated body. Keeping them away from natural light during the hormonal period can help. It's their sense of the days getting longer that helps kick it off so getting him on a schedule of 10 - 12 hours of light and the rest dark can help interrupt that behavior. I use LED lights on smart outlets that let me schedule the times they are on. Outside of the breeding season, the lights are on for 10 to 12 hours and off the rest. Parrots thrive on routine. Getting up at the same time each day, getting fresh food and water at the same time each morning, and settling in for sleep at the same time helps them know what to expect and when. Make it a process with the same motions and the same words. For instance, refresh their food and water bowls in the evening and tell them it's time for bed. If you stay consistent with this they pick up on it quickly and know what to expect. The one thing I never do on schedule is the time my macaws spend out of the cage. I don't want them to think that 10 am each day is playtime because my schedule changes from day to day and if I get interrupted by a phone call I don't want them screaming because I'm late for playtime.

A few of my parrots frequently try to regurgitate for me. I simply move them away from my body and tell them no. I also tell them that I'm a married man, I'm not interested, or that throwing up on someone on purpose is very rude. Whatever works for you. When they stop the motions I bring them back close to me. If it starts again, I move them away from me again and tell them no. If it continues then they go back on their perch or stand for a few minutes. It's a constant process and something to reinforce often. I only scratch the head and chin and never stroke the back or under the wings.

I'm not sure about the over-bonding issue. You've only had him for 2 months. Birds can take months to unpack their bags and feel safe and secure in a new home. He may be testing the waters to see what he can get away with and how people react. Maybe he was this way previously and these are established behavior patterns that you need to modify. It will take slow and steady progress and a lot of patience on your part. Ignore the bad behavior and praise the good.

As for the prolapse, I would get that checked as soon as you can, and speak to the vet about ways to get him to relax with the rigidity of the potty training. I don't believe it's healthy for them in the long term. They will hold a lot of it overnight because it's a natural thing to do. A parrot shouldn't be holding it for hours of time during the day. It's something to work on and maybe integrate into your schedule with a word to trigger it and then work on relaxing it and encouraging him to go on his own, or at least taking himself to a specific place when he feels the need.

Please let us know how he progresses over the next few months as he settles in.
 

Clynne

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I'd echo what @macawpower58 wrote, especially the comment that 2 months together means everything and everyone is still new to Ezra.

Do you know much about Ezra's history in his previous home(s)? When my Severe (Jericho) joined me he was approximately the same age as Ezra, and I know he came from a home where he was the only bird and also displayed behaviours that could be described as over-attachment (he chased his previous caregiver's grand kids). Jericho brought that into my home and it currently manifests in Jericho chasing my other birds. My theory is that once a bird learns that it's "OK" to bond with a human, they appear to transition that bond to a new human fairly readily. Conversely, my Military (Oscar) came to me from a very different household where he was 1 or 8 other macaws, and he has shown no tendency to overly bond with me, and he has great flock manners. Jericho attached to me very quickly and Oscar is still coming out of his shell even after 2½ years together so every individual is different.

Jericho yells when he wants something and that's his way of articulating the want. This particular yell reminds me of a toddler who wants candy. Jericho may want food, or water, or to go to his room, or he may be overly tired, or he may be jealous that I'm interacting with X, etc -- all the things that may cause a toddler to cry because they lack the ability to express their needs directly. I find that proactively knowing when these outbursts will happen, it's easy to avoid them (this takes time). I'd work on learning and establishing a routine for Ezra, since it's best to avoid outbursts than to risk needing to reactively deal with them.

Even though our birds are social creatures, part of Jericho's daily routine is spending time by himself. There's a part of our home that he can safely spend time, and I can watch him with a camera. When I take him there after morning breakfast, he happily says "hello!"... which is often his response when he get something he wants, so I take that as feedback from him that he wanted his alone time. If I delay giving him this time, he yells, so our routine attempts to avoid that. My theory here is that this fits with how he spent the first 10 years of his life as an only-bird -- it may be overly stressful to have other birds around at all times. We're working on this and he is slowly becoming more accepting of the others.

Jericho also loves shredding things, and I give him lots to shred, but I just ensure that it gets cleaned up daily. That's appears to be a good balance to encourage activity while avoiding the nesting instinct for him.

Lastly, I'd offer that encouraging flight is very helpful for Jericho as it gives him the ability to express his own agency without overly relying on his human for every little thing.

So, perhaps a summary is to leverage what you know about his past, and give your new relationship more time to establish into a happy routine (learning Ezra's ins and outs along the way).
Thank you for the reply! I don't know a whole lot of specifics about his past, except that I believe I'm his third or fourth owner. I was also told that one of his previous homes was with an older couple. The woman that I got him from had him for almost three years. She also had an Amazon, but Ezra and that bird weren't really friends. The woman also had some other macaws in the past, but I'm not sure if that was while she had Ezra or not.

I would love for him to fly, and I've been encouraging it, but I don't really know how to coax him into doing it? I've seen him fly a few times (when he's been startled) so I know that he CAN do it lol, but I can't seem to get him to do it. I've stood next to my bed with him perched on my hand, and I've gently swung him up and released him. He flaps and flutters down (and doesn't just drop at least). I have also set him a little higher up than me and have tried to encourage him to fly a short distance to me, but he just looks for alternate ways to try and climb to me lol. Are those okay ways to try and encourage flying? I think it would be mentally and physically great for him to fly, so I'd really love to get him comfortable with doing it.
 

Clynne

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3/9/23
Messages
24
It's breeding season so some of this is to be expected. In my own experience, severe macaws can be incredibly sweet and equally difficult. Sometimes from one minute to the next. I think it's best to stimulate their mind and not their bodies. Give him as many toys as he can handle. Encourage the shredding but remove the leftovers frequently to keep him from the nest-building behavior. Rotate them frequently to keep him interested and curious about what's coming next. Use foraging toys so he has to put work into getting a treat or a piece of food out of it. That can help direct his attention away from his frustrated body. Keeping them away from natural light during the hormonal period can help. It's their sense of the days getting longer that helps kick it off so getting him on a schedule of 10 - 12 hours of light and the rest dark can help interrupt that behavior. I use LED lights on smart outlets that let me schedule the times they are on. Outside of the breeding season, the lights are on for 10 to 12 hours and off the rest. Parrots thrive on routine. Getting up at the same time each day, getting fresh food and water at the same time each morning, and settling in for sleep at the same time helps them know what to expect and when. Make it a process with the same motions and the same words. For instance, refresh their food and water bowls in the evening and tell them it's time for bed. If you stay consistent with this they pick up on it quickly and know what to expect. The one thing I never do on schedule is the time my macaws spend out of the cage. I don't want them to think that 10 am each day is playtime because my schedule changes from day to day and if I get interrupted by a phone call I don't want them screaming because I'm late for playtime.

A few of my parrots frequently try to regurgitate for me. I simply move them away from my body and tell them no. I also tell them that I'm a married man, I'm not interested, or that throwing up on someone on purpose is very rude. Whatever works for you. When they stop the motions I bring them back close to me. If it starts again, I move them away from me again and tell them no. If it continues then they go back on their perch or stand for a few minutes. It's a constant process and something to reinforce often. I only scratch the head and chin and never stroke the back or under the wings.

I'm not sure about the over-bonding issue. You've only had him for 2 months. Birds can take months to unpack their bags and feel safe and secure in a new home. He may be testing the waters to see what he can get away with and how people react. Maybe he was this way previously and these are established behavior patterns that you need to modify. It will take slow and steady progress and a lot of patience on your part. Ignore the bad behavior and praise the good.

As for the prolapse, I would get that checked as soon as you can, and speak to the vet about ways to get him to relax with the rigidity of the potty training. I don't believe it's healthy for them in the long term. They will hold a lot of it overnight because it's a natural thing to do. A parrot shouldn't be holding it for hours of time during the day. It's something to work on and maybe integrate into your schedule with a word to trigger it and then work on relaxing it and encouraging him to go on his own, or at least taking himself to a specific place when he feels the need.

Please let us know how he progresses over the next few months as he settles in.
Thank you for replying! The tips and advice is greatly appreciated! I have been trying to give him a good variety of toys and things, but he doesn't seem super toy driven. He will mess with things here and there while he's in his cage, but I haven't found any toys yet that he just seems to LOVE. He kind of seems to have a short attention span when it comes to the majority of toys I've given him so far. I will say though, that he does go crazy for cardboard boxes and paper, so that's kind of been my go-to. I recently discovered that honeycomb style packing paper that has a bit of stretch to it, and he goes wild for it haha. It's pretty cute. I know that it probably isn't real stimulating for him though, so I'm still on the hunt for more things that can put his brain to use. I like the foraging suggestion. I do have a large pill container that I ordered for him, that has the 7 compartments for the days of the week. I showed him how to open them, and I put treats and food in some of them so he can forage a bit that way. I'll definitely look into more things like that for him, because I think that's going to help a lot
 

flyzipper

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I would love for him to fly... so I'd really love to get him comfortable with doing it.
It's great that you've observed that Ezra has the physical ability to fly.
I'd suggest a more passive approach to encouraging flight -- give him some motivation to fly, and allow him to chose when he wants to.
For example, you could have multiple play stands around the home nearby to the areas you commonly move and if he wants to follow you he'll have a safe space of his own to land.
Similarly, if he has an alternate play stand with food and water, you could vocationally leave treats in that area and he'd have to fly over to see if there's anything waiting.
Also, you could make it easier on him while he's getting more comfortable with his wings if he has a clear line of sight between take off and landing zones.
Lastly, if long flights are too much to start, then use the above ideas but ensure the landing zones are fairly close to each other -- you can gradually increase the distance over time.
 

BrianB

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Thank you for replying! The tips and advice is greatly appreciated! I have been trying to give him a good variety of toys and things, but he doesn't seem super toy driven. He will mess with things here and there while he's in his cage, but I haven't found any toys yet that he just seems to LOVE. He kind of seems to have a short attention span when it comes to the majority of toys I've given him so far. I will say though, that he does go crazy for cardboard boxes and paper, so that's kind of been my go-to. I recently discovered that honeycomb style packing paper that has a bit of stretch to it, and he goes wild for it haha. It's pretty cute. I know that it probably isn't real stimulating for him though, so I'm still on the hunt for more things that can put his brain to use. I like the foraging suggestion. I do have a large pill container that I ordered for him, that has the 7 compartments for the days of the week. I showed him how to open them, and I put treats and food in some of them so he can forage a bit that way. I'll definitely look into more things like that for him, because I think that's going to help a lot
You can be really creative with the honeycomb paper like that. Wrap nuts or some kind of treat in it and twist it into a ball or tie it up. He will have to work to get the prize out. There are also some really good dog toys that are made for chewing that you can stuff nuts into and they have to work to get it out. You just have to be careful with them and check frequently for holes or parts he might have chewed off. I used one for a buffons that I used to shove almonds and brazil nuts into. He put some holes in it but never ate any of it. I would give it a good scrub every few days or throw it into the dishwasher with other bird dishes. You could put a nut or something in a small box, then put that box inside of another, and so on until you have a few nested boxes. Making it a game will keep him occupied for a while. I always suggest trying a bunch of different treats to find out what his absolute favorite one is. I call it a "bribe currency". It's something the bird will do just about anything for. That can really motivate them to try new things, learn new tricks, or go out of their comfort zone to try something new. If they aren't food motivated then it won't help much, but it's worth exploring. You can learn a lot about your guy by trying different treats to see how he reacts.
 

Clynne

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24
It's great that you've observed that Ezra has the physical ability to fly.
I'd suggest a more passive approach to encouraging flight -- give him some motivation to fly, and allow him to chose when he wants to.
For example, you could have multiple play stands around the home nearby to the areas you commonly move and if he wants to follow you he'll have a safe space of his own to land.
Similarly, if he has an alternate play stand with food and water, you could vocationally leave treats in that area and he'd have to fly over to see if there's anything waiting.
Also, you could make it easier on him while he's getting more comfortable with his wings if he has a clear line of sight between take off and landing zones.
Lastly, if long flights are too much to start, then use the above ideas but ensure the landing zones are fairly close to each other -- you can gradually increase the distance over time.
Thank you for the suggestions! Those are great ideas! He's EXTREMELY treat motivated, so I think doing something like that could very likely catch his interest. Thanks again for the idea :)
 

Clynne

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You can be really creative with the honeycomb paper like that. Wrap nuts or some kind of treat in it and twist it into a ball or tie it up. He will have to work to get the prize out. There are also some really good dog toys that are made for chewing that you can stuff nuts into and they have to work to get it out. You just have to be careful with them and check frequently for holes or parts he might have chewed off. I used one for a buffons that I used to shove almonds and brazil nuts into. He put some holes in it but never ate any of it. I would give it a good scrub every few days or throw it into the dishwasher with other bird dishes. You could put a nut or something in a small box, then put that box inside of another, and so on until you have a few nested boxes. Making it a game will keep him occupied for a while. I always suggest trying a bunch of different treats to find out what his absolute favorite one is. I call it a "bribe currency". It's something the bird will do just about anything for. That can really motivate them to try new things, learn new tricks, or go out of their comfort zone to try something new. If they aren't food motivated then it won't help much, but it's worth exploring. You can learn a lot about your guy by trying different treats to see how he reacts.
Thank you so much for the ideas! Ezra is extremely treat motivated, so these are great suggestions! I'm generally not very good at coming up with foraging ideas like that, so I greatly appreciate the examples and ideas you've mentioned. I'm excited to try all of this out with him! :)
 

Clynne

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24
I wish there was a bat light they release into the sky to tell everyone its crazy season. its breeding season but it seems extreme this time around. I pray for everyone to have the patience needed to get by.
I like the bat light idea. That would be handy haha :)
 
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