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Untamed lovebirds and their "nest". To remove or not to remove?

Daanmaz

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Hi all!

I have adopted a very sweet lovebird couple 2 weeks ago. They are very much untamed and I got them from someone who rescued them from a bad home. They don't play with any toys at all.
The rescuer informed me they are probably around 2 years old and are happiest when they can fly, which I let them do every day for several hours after which they return to their cage by themselves at the end of the day. When they are out flying I see how happy and much more comfortable they are, and they get more curious towards me every day (coming over to same side of the room, etc.). They are not clipped, so they go all over and love flying from side to side in our 10 meter long living room. I know I should not expect them to become to tame at all, but I still would like to invest the time I have in trying to bond. I am slowly starting to switch from seeds to pellets, so I can make myself more "attractive" by offering seeds, and I'm spending a lot of time besides their cage.

But, they share a nest box in the cage. When in their cage, at least when I'm around, they hardly come out of the nest box at all unless they need to eat. It makes it incredibly hard to train with them because they hide quite immediately and then I can't judge whether I'm making improvements at all. Above all it makes me feel bad about leaving them in their cage. Also I've read that having a nest may also increase breeding behavior.

So: I've tried taking it away, but when they found out they did not return to their cage any more and decided to camp out on the cabinet. I tried chasing them back in but when that wouldn't work until I returned the box, and then a some more chasing around the room was enough to get them back to their cage.

Question is: Should I still try to remove the nest box? Will it improve taming and limit breeding behavior? And if yes, how would I go about it?

Birds: Paulie and Bonnie (poor bird currently molting), 2 blue colored Agapornis personata.
Photos: Paulie and Bonnie, and their extended space.

WhatsApp Image 2020-05-12 at 17.10.06.jpeg WhatsApp Image 2020-05-12 at 17.08.11.jpeg
 

Zara

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Welcome to the Avenue! :starshower1:

Sounds like you are doing great with your birds!
I don´t see a reason not to keep trying to build trust, even if they will never come to your hand, it is still important to have a healthy relationship with them, so keep doing as you are :)

As for the nestbox, yes I would say remove it before they start laying. Nesty lovebirds are not ¨nice¨ to the human usually and you will end up hitting a wall in your progress of relationship building.
When you take the box away, what is happening is called ¨cavity seeking¨, seeking a small nook, they have no nestbox so they seek a ¨cavity¨ elsewhere.
Try blocking all cavities and small spaces first. Under the sofa, spaces on shelves, behind things, dark nooks etc.
Allocate a little extra time for them to go back to their cage, but they will go back eventually to eat/drink.
For your birds comfort, a natural perch up high to the back of the cage is usually a preferred roosting spot.

Will it improve taming and limit breeding behavior?
Yes and yes. You may still get eggs or you birds mating in the future, but at least the lack of a box will cut that down dramatically.
 

Daanmaz

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Thanks so much. It's very hard to find the right information in books/online sometimes because most things are written for young/tame/clipped/breeder birds and I have 2 that are none of those things haha.
I will keep you guys updated on how it goes, I have time this weekend to try so hopefully by next week mission remove-the-nest-box has been successful.

Welcome to the Avenue! :starshower1:

Sounds like you are doing great with your birds!
I don´t see a reason to keep trying to build trust, even if they will never come to your hand, it is still important to have a healthy relationship with them, so keep doing as you are :)

As for the nestbox, yes I would say remove it before they start laying. Nesty lovebirds are not ¨nice¨ to the human usually and you will end up hitting a wall in your progress of relationship building.
When you take the box away, what is happening is called ¨cavity seeking¨, seeking a small nook, they have no nestbox so they seek a ¨cavity¨ elsewhere.
Try blocking all cavities and small spaces first. Under the sofa, spaces on shelves, behind things, dark nooks etc.
Allocate a little extra time for them to go back to their cage, but they will go back eventually to eat/drink.
For your birds comfort, a natural perch up high to the back of the cage is usually a preferred roosting spot.


Yes and yes. You may still get eggs or you birds mating in the future, but at least the lack of a box will cut that down dramatically.
 

Daanmaz

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Update on the process of removing their nest:
So far so good. I have not fully removed the nest box, but opened it up (the top can be opened up to clean) so it is no longer a real nest to them but more a big-perch-with-high-walls. I can see they think of it this way because they don't sleep in it anymore and they rather climb to the side of the cage than hide in their nest box if you come to close for comfort.
The first week after doing this they did not return to the cage/nest to sleep at the end of the day like they used to. They cannot be lured back in by food, because they figured out all they had to do was to have one of them go in at a time (smart birds) and then they could not be caught. But once sleepy after bedtime they could be "pushed" in to the cage by very gently chasing them back by approaching from the right angles. The whole endeavor takes 5-10 minutes. Now, after 2 weeks they go back to their cage automatically again at bedtime. Although they go and sit in their box then until we close the cage for them, this is not actually where they sleep. I have ordered a different square perch that will eventually replace the box.
So: patience patience patience, and after only 2 weeks they have already adjusted. But it really helped that I felt more comfortable knowing I was doing the right thing.
 

Mtnlovies

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What a cute pair of lovebirds! I recently got an untamed pair of young lovies and I’m allowing them to be mostly free with their cage and play stand as homebase. I hope you post an update on how things go with yours. It takes so much patience but it’s very rewarding!
 

Daanmaz

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What a cute pair of lovebirds! I recently got an untamed pair of young lovies and I’m allowing them to be mostly free with their cage and play stand as homebase. I hope you post an update on how things go with yours. It takes so much patience but it’s very rewarding!
Hi! I'ts an up and down road but I love my birdies!

Successes so far: they are slow in accepting our presence near the cage, but we are still improving. We ended up not removing the nest box entirely as they used it as a safe space in the cage as well and they still love sleeping there. What we did is we leave the top open, so all it is is a little bowl, and not a closed nest environment. They do not seem "nesty" at all, so for now this is how we leave it. They go back to their cage very easily, and if they accidentally end up on the ground we use a bird-proof net to bring them back up. The net also helps as a sign/guiding tool for "back to the cage" without us having to use our hands and running the risk that our hands become a negative thing in their eyes. It took 2 months but we were able to switch from seed to pellet diet, and this makes it easier to use seeds as foraging opportunity and to sprinkle over fresh foods to make them try it sooner.

Not so successful: we've had a terrible scare when Bonnie flew against a wall really hard, probably because she was spooked by a bird flying past the window. Luckily she was just stunned really bad and did not break anything. We decided that we had to cut their wings until they had gotten a bit more used to our house, so got that done at a really good gird specialty store close to our house. This definitely did and will not help making them tame (yes they do not fly away immediately if you get close so they realize sooner that you being close is not dangerous, but they also do not get close by themselves as they did when they flew around), but it limits the chance they hurt themselves for now. As a result, Bonnie did start plucking more (in hindsight, she was not scruffy from molting when we got her, she was already over-grooming/plucking lightly), and I do miss them flying around so once their flight feathers grown back in I don't think I will get them cut again. Toys: still nothing. No interest whatsoever. But we keep offering, and probably one they we or they discover something they really like :).
 

Zara

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We ended up not removing the nest box entirely as they used it as a safe space in the cage as well and they still love sleeping there. What we did is we leave the top open, so all it is is a little bowl, and not a closed nest environment.
Tomayto tomahto. A nest is a nest is a nest.
One of my girls has a little setup on the cage floor right now, she makes a paper nest daily for her (dummy) eggs, as I clean the cage, she rebuilds the nest and she is just unapproachable. It is a task to clean. Once the nest is removed it is night and day.
Lovebirds sleep on a perch. A long one for a pair of birds. Either wooden or rope. Birds do not need a ¨bed¨ or flat surface unless they are special needs - even at that my special girl sleeps on a boing as there are no ¨beds¨ or platforms.

They go back to their cage very easily, and if they accidentally end up on the ground we use a bird-proof net to bring them back up.
Have you looked into perch training? or target training?
Either by tapping the cage to indicate this is where you want the bird to go, or by offering a long perch for them to step up on and you take them to the cage.
Be sure to give lots of treats when they are in there. You can have a treat station where the treat will be on their return, be sure to change it up frequently or your birds will decide whether they want to go to their cage for X treat.

We decided that we had to cut their wings until they had gotten a bit more used to our house,
This is not very helpful. Once their wings grow back in you will be in the exact same position as you were, but worse as your birds will have not flown properly for months. How can they learn if not given the chance?
Oh, you don´t speak Japanese? Then I won´t send you to classes to learn, because you cannot speak it.

As a result, Bonnie did start plucking more
She once could fly, and now she can´t and she is feeling confused and likely upset. If I had my knees capped tomorrow, I´d be pretty upset and confused too.

I do miss them flying around so once their flight feathers grown back in I don't think I will get them cut again
I´m glad you have made this decision. Seeing a bird fly is one of the true joys of sharing our lives with them. It is just so special.

Toys: still nothing. No interest whatsoever.
What toys have you tried? I have some that like certain types and others like others, and I have one that will play with everything and anything, and one that only ¨plays¨ with foraging toys because there´s treats inside.
Another thing to consider is position. Sometimes just moving it somewhere else will change their minds on liking the toy.
Other times, just time passes and then they are interested. So keep any toys they didn´t seem interested in in a box for a later date. If they don´t like something in the cage, try offering it outside the cage.

Sorry if some parts of my post seem a little negative, honestly, I say it as commentary/advice/things to think about, from a fellow lovebird lover :)

Ps, please post a pic, your birds are gorgeous!
 

Marino

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Not so successful: we've had a terrible scare when Bonnie flew against a wall really hard, probably because she was spooked by a bird flying past the window. Luckily she was just stunned really bad and did not break anything. We decided that we had to cut their wings until they had gotten a bit more used to our house, so got that done at a really good gird specialty store close to our house.
I have read so much conflicting information on clipping.

Marino has flown into every mirror in the flat. He's flown into glass cabinets. He has even flown out of a window and into the street (thankfully he came back). But you know what? After crashing into every mirror/window/cabinet once, he's never done it again. I've also found that "showing" him what's a mirror/window helps. When he ventures into the bathroom with me I knock on the mirror multiple times so he realises. I can't imagine clipping his feathers. It's great watching him fly laps round the room just because he can. He definitely flies for fun.
 

Daanmaz

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Tomayto tomahto. A nest is a nest is a nest.
You are right. The reason we have not removed it entirely yet is because it seemed to impact the birds so much that we wanted to take it step by step. we had to prioritize which major change came first, and we went for food and clip as they did not show any other nesting behavior (like taking pieces of wood or paper/straw to build it). At least with the top open, they weren't hiding from us entirely and we were better able to judge if we weren't getting to close to comfort and at the same time to have them get used to us better. Perhaps now that things have calmed down a bit more it is time to make the next step and remove it entirely. Thanks for the motivation!

Have you looked into perch training? or target training?
Yes, we have clickers lying around now. We have 2 small cups in their cage dedicated to offering treats, and try to drop things in there accompanied by a click a few times a day. Same for when they go in their cage. They do not take treats from a spoon or our hand, and they don't immediately get the treats from the cup yet either, but we make sure that they at least see us drop the treat and click, so they know the treat comes with the sound. They seem to slowly catch on to this now. Perch is too much still, since they don't take treats from us yet so it is hard to directly reward behavior like stepping up.

I´m glad you have made this decision. Seeing a bird fly is one of the true joys of sharing our lives with them. It is just so special.
Yeah this was one of the hardest decisions we had to make. We've talked about it with the parrot store owners that helped us with the clipping as well. The thing was: although their history is not super clear it appears as if they have always been fully flighted but kept in a way too small cage so were not able to fly distances at all. Only at the lady that "rescued" them and had them for 4 months before we got them did they learn to fly a room. Therefore they really had to adjust to our house. Since they were so scared of everything still getting easily spooked + not being to good at judging flight routes led to us almost loosing Bonnie (with "stunned but nothing broken" I mean we literally thought we lost her for a few minutes but she made a miraculous recovery over a few days, and we were just lucky that she hadn't broken anything since it might have been hard to get her patched up if her wings had been affected). I hope that them getting used to our house and their space first in a more limited manner will help them feel more familiar with the area, which will make it more safe for them to fly around once flighted again. We got the wings cut in such a way that they can still fly for about a meter or so (from table to cage on other table, for instance), and glide down/land safely from the 1.8m high wardrobe with their play area on it, so they still use their wings on a daily basis. I can't wait to have them fly around the room again though.

What toys have you tried?
Haha I think we have it ALL. I have bells (inside the cage and out in their area on the wardrobe), wooden toys (colored and natural wood), fabric string toys (inside and outside), a swing, chewing wood, and little holders with shredded paper. We try to get them to try toys by attaching millet to it (thank god for millet) but once that's gone they loose interest. But I think for birds that have never had toys it might just take a bit longer, so we keep rotating/trying new things in new places every once in a while. We've discovered that they like to chew up one particular perch so we're adding a bit more natural chewing wood to the cage in different ways at the moment, like in their treat cup and as a DYI toy with pieces of wood attached to a small bird safe rope. See how that goes.

Sorry if some parts of my post seem a little negative, honestly, I say it as commentary/advice/things to think about, from a fellow lovebird lover :)
Haha no worries, I come here for advice after all! It's really helpful to have a place to discuss what is best for my birds.

Ps, please post a pic, your birds are gorgeous!
I've attached a picture of how they spend most of their days when I work from home: happily perched on their rope in the corner of the room watching me work at the dining room table. There's a window just to the right so there's lot's of natural light coming in. Other days I move their cage closer when I sit on the couch, so they can accompany me when I watch TV and sit in the sun if they choose to which they really seem to enjoy.
 

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Zara

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I've also found that "showing" him what's a mirror/window helps.
I have done this with all of my birds. Held them up so their beak touches the window or mirror.
At this point they are all very predictable in where they will land. They like the top of the mirror and the ledge above the door the most.

They seem to slowly catch on to this now. Perch is too much still, since they don't take treats from us yet so it is hard to directly reward behavior like stepping up.
Sounds like you are making good progress :)

The thing was: although their history is not super clear it appears as if they have always been fully flighted but kept in a way too small cage so were not able to fly distances at all.
If your birds can´t fly well, their wings could be atrophied.
You know, One of my birds is a lost bird who lives with us, and so I don´t know anything about her or her life. And she sounds different when she flies. I can hear the difference and know it is her coming without seeing her. She is my worst flier and I often wonder if it is a result of being in a too small cage/no flight time. She never bangs into stuff or falls or misses the landing, but she´s nowhere near as fast as the other birds.

thank god for millet
Right?! :worthy:

But I think for birds that have never had toys it might just take a bit longer,
I think so too. The bird _I mentioned before doesn´t really play with toys, but she enjoys foraging toys. Ones with treats inside to find.
So for her I make sure there´s always some sort of foraging opportunity available.

I've attached a picture of how they spend most of their days when I work from home: happily perched on their rope in the corner of the room watching me work at the dining room table.
That´s a great area for them! Nice and high up and in the corner. If I had a setup like that, that is where my birds would go too!

What is the grey hanging thing in the cage?
And do your birds use the ¨bird bath¨? I had one like that for Sydney years ago but he wouldn´t go near it so used it to feed veggies in instead :lol:
 

Daanmaz

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If your birds can´t fly well, their wings could be atrophied.
Marino has flown into every mirror in the flat. He's flown into glass cabinets. He has even flown out of a window and into the street (thankfully he came back). But you know what? After crashing into every mirror/window/cabinet once, he's never done it again. I've also found that "showing" him what's a mirror/window helps.
Yeah my one hope from this single time clipping is that currently they can still land on things so they learn to do so well, and that with their increasing flight capacity when their feathers grow back they learn to navigate the larger space better. They fly down to the ground at least once a day, and they can get back up themselves by flying to increasingly higher surfaces/climbing up on a stepladder that we put against the side of the cabinet for that exact purpose. Having full flight from day one was just too much in combination with limited coordination and lot's of scares from being in a new environment. There was no way to show them their limits (like showing them what is a wall and what is a window) back then because they were completely untamed. This clip is definitely a single-time thing though, because as you said Marino: you can tell how much fun they are having when they are flying. And: some feathers are already growing back, so they're flying capacity is already increasing bit by bit!


What is the grey hanging thing in the cage?
It's one of those fabric hammocks, the parrot store suggested to try this as an alternative to the nest box if we wanted to offer them something else to sleep in. This picture is from a while ago, I've removed it since as they were not interested at all and well... it's the tomayto tomahto thing again right? Actually, since your reaction last week I've tried removing the nest box again and it's going quite well this time around. The difference with 2-3 months ago and 1-2 months ago when I tried before is that now the birds go back into the cage themselves more often throughout the day, and also when I ask them to (well... Paulie can be asked, Bonnie needs some waving with the net or she will just look at you tauntingly from the top of the cage like that is close enough haha).

And do your birds use the ¨bird bath¨? I had one like that for Sydney years ago but he wouldn´t go near it so used it to feed veggies in instead :lol:
We actually used to have a separate bath and one of those self re-filling water containers, but they only ever use the bath to bathe (Paulie) AND drink (Bonnie and Paulie), so I actually removed the other container and now I just make sure to change water in the bath as often as I can. Paulie will also bath in a water bowl on the top of the cabinet (he's actually doing that right now). Bonnie I've never caught bathing ever, so I give them both a regular misting with a spray water bottle (fill it with hot water, so it comes out not too cold) when they are in their cage. Bonnie doesn't necessarily seem to like it but also doesn't vocalize discontent (like she can do very well if there's anything she is not happy about) and it's the only way to make sure she bathes. I've ordered one of those water fountain bowls that have a stream of flowing water like a real fountain, I'm curious to see if perhaps that will make her bathe on her own.

Do you have experience with bathing completely untamed birds by taking them into the bathroom and offering them an opportunity to bathe in the sink or shower?
I wouldn't mind trying, but as they don't step up I can only take them into the bathroom if I move them there by moving their entire cage and then let them out and have the water running all that time.

And for the veggies: these I often serve on top of the cabinet (so it's a thing they can really look for outside their cage) or in small green cups that I can move around the cage (the same type that I use to drop in treats when I get close, so it's always interesting to see what's in the cup). In the beginning they ate NONE so we keep providing a large variety to, now we're on: any dark green leafy vegetable (spinach is favorite but can't give that too much), carrots. Broccoli and paprika is almost happening I think. Surprising losers so far: corn (any type, sweet.. fresh... popped) and bread.
 

Zara

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it's the tomayto tomahto thing again right?
Exactly.
I don´t know if I wrote on my last post, my birds enjoy sleeping on loing perches, so I make sure I have long perches up high for them some have wood, others cotton.

I've ordered one of those water fountain bowls that have a stream of flowing water like a real fountain, I'm curious to see if perhaps that will make her bathe on her own.
I hope they enjoy it!
@DoubleTake has one for his lovebird and she seems to really like it :)

and bread.
Bread is not good for our birds. If they snagged a mouthful of some bread you were eating it wouln´t be a really bad thing, but best not to offer it in their bowl.
That is great they are eating broccoli and carrtos etc
Have you tried peas too? All of mine love them, and red pepper too.

Do you have experience with bathing completely untamed birds by taking them into the bathroom and offering them an opportunity to bathe in the sink or shower?
Kitchen sink;
(This was I think 45 days after I found her?, Can´t quite remember now)

edIT ;
(This was I think 45 days after I found her?, Can´t quite remember now)
It was 16 days
 
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Rikki0624

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Update on the process of removing their nest:
So far so good. I have not fully removed the nest box, but opened it up (the top can be opened up to clean) so it is no longer a real nest to them but more a big-perch-with-high-walls. I can see they think of it this way because they don't sleep in it anymore and they rather climb to the side of the cage than hide in their nest box if you come to close for comfort.
The first week after doing this they did not return to the cage/nest to sleep at the end of the day like they used to. They cannot be lured back in by food, because they figured out all they had to do was to have one of them go in at a time (smart birds) and then they could not be caught. But once sleepy after bedtime they could be "pushed" in to the cage by very gently chasing them back by approaching from the right angles. The whole endeavor takes 5-10 minutes. Now, after 2 weeks they go back to their cage automatically again at bedtime. Although they go and sit in their box then until we close the cage for them, this is not actually where they sleep. I have ordered a different square perch that will eventually replace the box.
So: patience patience patience, and after only 2 weeks they have already adjusted. But it really helped that I felt more comfortable knowing I was doing the right thing.
I love that your doing this and the patients you have with them. Good bird Mommy!
 
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