July 07, 2013

Vinny goes back to basic!

Lately, and I'm talking about the last month or so, Vinny has become somewhat of a teenager. We can tell that hormones are surging through his little body and he's become more difficult to handle. Especially Mommy has gotten a few jabs, probably because she's more around than Daddy.

I guess Vinny has become a Daddy's boy, or in bird-keeper terms a 'one-person-bird'. And being Daddy's boy, he's also shown his affection towards Daddy. Especially after eating fresh fruit, he's more than happy to share this food with Daddy, bring it back up in his beak and offering it to Daddy with a load of head-bobbing and wing flapping. Daddy can deal with it, but Mommy is disgusted to say the least, especially when Vinny mistakes Mommy for Daddy and shares his food with her!

Of course we're not really too alarmed by this, all the experts say that it's just a phase. However, because we were reading up on this phenomenon, we did learn a few things that we've been doing wrong. Unwillingly and unknowingly, we've encouraged his hormonal behavior by giving him tickle sessions, playing with him, touching his beautiful candy corn beak, and the like.

The head bobbing and the regurgitating wasn't the worst. But the last 2 weeks or so he's started to become more aggressive and certainly louder. He's started short but ear-pounding screaming sessions, especially when about to be left alone or when he's been demanding some TLC.

A few days ago we drew the line.

Rule no. One: No more touching of erogenous zones, i.e. no more tickle sessions.

Rule no. Two: Change of diet. Less sugar rushes (read: less carbs), more healthy food.

Rule no. Three: Start over with training.

The first one is pretty obvious. If you play-wrestle with your bird, he might interpret that in an entirely wrong way. We're not his natural parents, he has nobody else besides us, and he doesn't have another Eclectus mate. So if we show the 'right' behavior, he'll start seeing us as his potential lover, even though it's just for short moods swings. I guess tickling areas of his body (i.e. under his wings, his belly, his beak, his neck) doesn't help. So we're done with that.

The 2nd one might seem less directly linked to his hormonal behavior, but hey, it doesn't hurt him. And the sugar rush thing makes sense, right? There was too much pasta and rice in his diet anyway, as opposed to legumes, sprouts and fresh fruits that are not too sugary.

Rule number 3 we read on various blogs. Training is fun and non-sexual attention. And attention is always good. Leave any parrot by himself too long and he'll go bonkers. A daily dosage of attention is very important.

Now, in that area Vinny had no reason to complain, but it's not just about the quantity of the attention, it's also the quality that counts. So, we've started training him again. Potty training, target training, simple commands like 'step up', etcetera.

Now, I can read your mind a little bit and I can see that you're wondering where we got all this 'wisdom'. We promise that sometime soon we'll just make a whole blog post about sources of information. For now you'll just have to believe us when we say that we get our information from various reliable sources (websites, blogs, etc) and we blend it all together.

There are as many opinions on bird-care and bird-handling as there are bird owners. But there's definitely some consensus to be discovered, when you read closely. We just go with the 'general opinion'.

The results?

Even after a few days of change we can tell that his hormonal behavior has become less. It definitely hasn't completely vanished yet, but we're on the way there. The no tickling rule and the training has helped the most so far. So really it's about the type of attention we've given Vinny.

With the training, we've also read up on what's the best way to go at it. Target training is a general type of training that will help with further more specific training later on. And simple commands like 'step up' and 'come here' should definitely be worth the effort.

One source says that you should always stop a training session before your parrot does. Try to figure out his attention span and use that info. Let's say that that's about 7 minutes, make sure you stop the training session after 6 minutes. We've noticed that this really helps. This way training doesn't get boring to Vinny and he stays eager to learn.

Usually he picks up a trick after 4 or 5 tries within one session, but we've yet to discover how many sessions it takes for him to consistently do a trick correct on the 1st try in a new session.

Anyway, as we said, we'll go into reliable sources in a separate post and give you a further update on Vinny's teenage behavior.

Do you have a bird that is or was going through a phase like this? Do you have any hints and tips on how to deal with it? Feel free to comment. Take care and till next time!