Parrots are intelligent, beautiful, and are able to create a loving bond with their humans; for these reasons, they make engaging companions”. People have kept these captivating animals as pets for thousands of years. They are popular, too. In the United States, over 3.5 million households have companion birds. Despite our admiration for our parrots, they aren’t always happy in our houses. Most companion birds aren’t truly domesticated and may not adapt well to the household and types of attention offered to them. For example, many pet birds don’t like excessive handling and petting in the same way a dog might enjoy. A bird may- interpret this as a mating behavior even though it isn’t meant that way. Good intentions can backfire, and companion birds will react in ways that their people don’t appreciate.
It may be difficult for parrots to share your home and be part of your “flock”. Problem behaviors reported by bird owners and veterinarians include aggression, screaming, chronic egg-laying, and feather picking (Gaskins & Bergman, 2011). These behaviors may be overwhelming for the household. Before you decide to rehome your parrot, try talking to your veterinarian for solutions you can try.
Parrots display aggression by biting, sometimes hard enough to draw blood. Biting may be their way to stop unwanted behavior (rough handling) or defend territory or people, and the behavior may stem from fear. It isn’t easy to know what prompted the aggression; sometimes people unknowingly contribute to the problem. Consult with your veterinarian to find the best approach to curb unruly behavior. You may be asked to train your parrot or find positive ways to interact with your bird. To help you, your veterinarian can recommend bird trainers who follow positive reinforcement methods. It is not recommended to use a punishment-based training method; it may only worsen the behavior and it can destroy the trust your bird has for you.
Screaming for attention is very disruptive to the household. Like biting, screaming can be a self-rewarding behavior. Your pet bird will benefit from a trusted trainer and veterinarian.
It’s natural for hens to lay eggs for reproduction. In pet birds, this natural function can become too frequent and endanger your parrot’s health. Female parrots, especially those on an all-seed diet, may become calcium deficient and even become egg-bound (unable to expel an egg normally). Although this isn’t an offensive behavior, it is a sign that something needs to change to prevent serious illness. Egg laying is triggered by a hormonal response to changes in light exposure or to husbandry changes. Egg laying is also a way your bird shows that she feels mated to you or another object (Gaskins & Bergman, 2011). Rather than risk a sick hen, call your avian veterinarian to find ways to direct her affection elsewhere while maintaining a happy relationship.
Feather picking is a self-destructive and painful condition that may not be a nervous habit nor a sign of boredom. Medical conditions such as infections, organ or heart disease, nutritional imbalances, and hormonal or reproductive problems may manifest as feather destructive behavior. Placing an e-collar or a sweater on your bird doesn’t solve the problem. There is often an underlying cause and it is crucial to help your bird by scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian. If you need help finding a veterinarian in your area, try our Find A Vet page or the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV) website.
Some behaviors are less concerning to owners but still may be a signal that your companion bird needs help. If your bird is hiding, destructively chewing, and making repetitive movements, call your veterinarian. A few changes in the household and how you interact with your bird may benefit the whole flock. Keep in mind that parrots are intelligent, athletic, and social animals that need stimulating activities and routine exercise to occupy their time. If you can’t allow your bird to fly, find other types of exercise for a heart-pumping workout. Soft, natural fiber rope, clean tree branches, wooden puzzle toys, and food foraging toys are examples of enrichment items that your bird will enjoy for hours. Provide proper nutrition, clean cages/enclosures, and meaningful socialization, and your parrot will thrive in your home.
Gaskins, L. A., & Bergman, L. (2011). Surveys of avian practitioners and pet owners regarding common behavior problems in psittacine birds. Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 25(2), 111-118.