There are fearful birds with emotional problems that want to avoid being touched. If one of these birds is kept as a pet, it can be problematic for both the bird and the owner, leading to aggression. Fortunately, you can teach your bird to enjoy spending time with you.
Why are pet birds aggressive?
Fear and past traumatic experiences can be one of several causes of aggression in birds. These can lead to handling problems, bites, and attacks when birds interact with their owners and others.1 However, birds are very complex, and a variety of factors can lead to aggressive behavior:
- Fear often develops in pet birds that were not hand-fed when young.
- Inadequate socialization may cause a bird to be fearful of people, other birds, or new experiences.
- Some birds become jealous when their owner is around other people. This alludes to the instinct of pair-bonding that many bird species have, and in captivity, you may be considered your bird’s mate.
- If you adopt an older bird, its previous owner may have mistreated or neglected it in some way.
- Some birds become aggressive during puberty due to hormonal changes. This usually happens when the bird is passed that stage.
- Protecting the territory they claim, such as the cage or feeder, can lead to aggression.
- Birds that are stressed or lack mental stimulation may also behave aggressively.
How to stop aggressive behavior
If your bird bites you when you try to touch it, take time each day to practice handling your feathered friend. This doesn’t have to be anything special; you can incorporate your attempts to reduce your bird’s aggression into your normal interactions with him. For example, you may need to work on bonding with your bird or teaching him that he likes to be petted. You can even teach him fun bird tricks. The more you work with your bird, the more he will enjoy your company and the less aggressive he will be.
When working with your pet, a few tips and techniques will help you learn that handling him is safe and fun.
Move to a neutral location
If possible, move your bird’s cage to a neutral location during training sessions. If you take the bird out of its “territory,” it may be more willing to cooperate with its owner and avoid territorial aggression.
Do not force contact
If your bird lunges at your fingers when you approach, don’t try to abruptly back away out of fear. Your quick movements will likely make your bird more nervous and fearful.
The best method is to proceed slowly and calmly; do not try to force contact. Let the bird decide when it feels comfortable enough to approach or accept a treat.
Try stick training
Teaching a bird to climb on a stick or perch is called “stick training.” It is the recommended alternative for training a bird that cannot be handled initially. It is a less invasive approach, and it is easier for a bird that is fearful or has been traumatized in the past to accept this method of locomotion without having to be forced.
If you raise your voice in anger (or pain), your bird will not understand that you have done something wrong. If anything, it will reinforce your bird’s bad behavior because it is glad you have such a strong reaction.
Offer your bird treats and speak in a soothing voice when trying to hold him. Treats and praise help make your pet more willing to interact with you and are much more effective than discipline. If every interaction with your bird results in a positive experience, it is likely to feel more comfortable and open to a closer relationship with you.
Many people try to force interaction in the hope that the bird will stop resisting and give up when you touch him. This is called “flooding” and is not recommended as a training technique.
Build confidence through repetition
With birds, repetition and consistency are the keys to training. Spend time working with your bird at least once a day to ensure success. Remember that sometimes it takes time for a bird to gain confidence, so don’t give up.
Don’t overtrain your bird
Try not to exceed 15 minutes per training session at first. Birds are intelligent, sensitive creatures, and they need something fun to keep their sanity and not stress them out.
Breaking the pair bond
If your bird is jealous of your interactions with others, you should enlist the help of family members and visitors. The goal is to better socialize your bird and show him that these people are not a threat to his relationship with you.
Try various trust exercises with other people and stay close by to show your approval. For example, you can have visitors offer your bird a treat when they enter the house. To reinforce good behavior, they should also praise the bird in a cheerful, positive voice while maintaining eye contact.
Another exercise is to place your bird’s food on a towel in front of him and have your family nibble on it with their fingers, just like a bird does with its beak. If you do this regularly, your bird may want to participate. They can also help you clean the cage or give your bird food or water to make him feel comfortable with your family.
Provide a flexible routine
Birds need mental stimulation and many like routine. That’s why it’s good to give them regular time each day for eating, playing, and other interactions. However, some birds may react negatively if the routine is too rigid and interrupted.
For example, if you come home from work at a certain time every day and immediately let your bird out to play, your bird might freak out if you are late once. Try to ease up a bit on the daily routines that have to do with your bird. This will help the bird tolerate change better and understand that things don’t always happen in a certain order or at a certain time, but they will happen.
Seek professional help
If you put in the necessary effort, you will be able to train your pet in a reasonable amount of time. If your bird is so aggressive that it cannot perform any training exercises, the first thing to do is to see a veterinarian to rule out any health problems. If there are no physical reasons that can explain your pet’s unwanted behavior, you should contact a certified parrot behavior consultant for an expert opinion on your situation.