Can the lack of change in your bird’s life drive it’s bad behavior?

Phone call from a woman with a 15 year old Blue Front Amazon. He was in his original cage he had come home in 15 years ago. The cage needed replacing and she was seeking an residential model. Because he didn’t like being in the (24″ x 24″ brass) bird cage he had his own room. In the room was his own futon. He perched on top of the futon where he’d been whittling down the wood for a while and spent a lot of time under the futon on a blanket. He was also fond of chewing the wall board in the room.
 
She went on to relate, “We let him out at the same time every morning. I leave pretty early so and he has breakfast with my husband. When it’s time for my husband to go to work, Arnold (the Amazon) gets put back in his room where he seem quite content to be on or under the futon curled up in a blanket until I get home from work. My husband puts him in the cage when we go to bed at night, but Arnold won’t let me do it”.
 
Blue fronted amazon parrots
 
Big picture, the bird cage is a tad small for a bird that size. Good news is that the bird spent most of the time on or under the futon in his own bedroom – more about the futon in a bit. Bad news, Arnold’s likely a girl. It’s clear Arnold is exhibiting brooding behavior. The curling up under the futon AND the chewing of the wall board were all the clues I needed to figure that out. Wallboard has calcium, the stuff that’s in cuttlebones. Unfortunately wallboard also contains toxins and things like glass to hold it all together so it’s not a good choice as a calcium supplement. The blanket made great nesting material.
 
Feathered factoid: Back in the day when wallboard (drywall) wasn’t tainted and didn’t contain things like sulfur and strands of glass, farmers would feed crumbled wall board to their chickens as a calcium supplement. 
 
Another problem that came to mind was the fixed daily routine. In our unscientific observations we see Amazons being a “one person” bird. Because hubby was doing the daily feeding, I asked if she could think of reasons she had issues handling the bird and her husband did not. “He – she doesn’t like me very much – especially lately.” I asked if anything had changed in the household recently. “Actually my husband’s been home sick for the past couple of weeks.” What jumped to mind was this excellent blog post from Lara Joseph Question on behavior . . . Bird showing sudden signs of aggression after change in routine. A sentence she wrote really brings this issue into focus, “I try not to keep the birds on many routines because if that routine is broken, I begin to see undesired behavior issues begin to develop” Our caller had a smartphone so I shot that link right off to her.
 
 
Then I went on to explain, the bird’s point of view and we ask people to put themselves (mentally) in the SAME bird cage (room of the house) for 15 years. Things can get awfully boring for your bird which may be prompting the additional negative behavior Arnold was exhibiting towards her.
 
There’s a reason cable TV offers a gazillion channels – we like variety. Birds need variety to be good mental too. Change is good for birds. Actually as a best practice we recommend taking everything out of your bird’s cage at least once a month and re-installing all the cage perches, feeder dishes and bird toys in new locations in the bird cage. This not only challenges the bird mentally but causes them to use their bodies and especially their feet in different ways, important for good bird foot health.
 
(If you’re doing things right, this is a good size project but will pay off in the long run for your bird’s psychological well being. Some people will look at their cage with the original dowel perch that came with the cage and a couple of toys and say “no problem.” We recommend at least 3 types of perches and no less than 10 toys in your parrot’s cage. A well stimulated bird that feels secure, is a happy bird. – but I digress).
 
Regarding a new bird cage we recommended a larger play top style bird cage giving Arnold a more natural place to be on the cage when out of the cage, a higher point in the room too. To go along with the new cage we recommended a bird play stand. Something light and portable so when Arnold came out of her room, she’d have a place of her own to perch, anywhere in the house.
 
 
How would Arnold react? I guess probably not well initially. But what Arnold doesn’t realize is, in the long run. she’ll feel better about herself in a new bigger home. Just like any of us would. We sugested putting the futon in the trash and introduce a bed inside the new larger bird cage. A place she could feel secure AND safe. Arnold would probably adapt to the new cage in just a few days. Most birds do.
 
Here’s the thing. It seems as though many of us are driven to keep our birds on a daily routine with minimal change as possible. Problem is when that routine changes it can and probably will impact the behavior of your bird. If you get up every morning at 8 AM open up the cage, pour yourself a cup of coffee while going through the newspaper (remember those?), your bird will certainly enjoy the routine. The question is what happens when you have an appointment or an obligation that causes your bird to be locked up for a few additional hours in the morning or the rest of the day for that matter. The change in routine can trigger anything from screaming to plucking to simply acting out with weird behavior.
 
You’re not doing your bird any favors by not exposing them to anything new in terms of their immediate environment or their daily schedule. What was the last time you took everything out of your bird’s cage and put it back in and all new places? It’s been a while hasn’t it? You’re afraid you’ll upset your little pooky bird. 
 
The issue of cage and routine change goes beyond behavior problems. Some of you read about how our Cockatiel Popcorn’s foot ended up in a cast this past February. the reason I’m bringing this up to this discussion is it required us to modify the cage layout to discourage climbing. 
 
This is a bird who usually sees three bird cages a day – home – travel – work. she also lives in a veritable toy store and office so when we see something we think would be really cool for a cockatiel, we stuff it into one of her cages. That said, ask yourself something. How would your bird react if it left home with its cage looking like this
 
White cockatiel on top of platinum birdcage filled with many toys perches and swings
 
and by the time you got back home after being traumatized by the terrible Dr. Ellen AND your foot looked like a stupid duck’s foot, your cage looked like this.
 
White cockatiel with injured foot in birdcage where all the toys perches and accessories have been moved to the floor of the cage
 
Popcorn’s only reaction was the thought they should serve a snack at the vet’s office – because for her, every day is a little different.
 
written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing

 

Mitch Rezman

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they visited monthly birdie brunches in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

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