Do you fear the arrival of Spring? For bird owners it can be a challenging time as some of our beloved feathered companions can turned into hormonal monsters. In this case Spring doesn't invoke thoughts of fresh flowers, new life, blue skies, and fickle weather. Instead, we cower in terror at the thought of Spring ... rather thinking of band-aids, gauze, ice packs, oozing wounds, and vicious beaks. Generally speaking, springtime is hormonal time for birds that have reached a sexually mature age. This is also referred to as nesting behavior and is a normal pattern of behavior for our avian companions. This pattern of behavior (while ranging from annoying to downright frightening) can be dealt with in a loving manner. By taking the right precautions you may even be able to minimize the effects of some hormonal behavior.
Signs to look for when dealing with a hormonal parrot include:
- Excessive "love" regurgitation. Make sure you are aware of the differences between sick bird regurgitation and hormonal regurgitation.
- Nest making. Some birds will use anything they can get their beaks on to form a nest. Be aware of such behavior and remove any possible material that may be percieved as a good nesting item from the bird's environment.
- Masturbation. This one is pretty self explanatory.
- Feather picking. Yes, it can be a hormonal thing. This most commonly occurs in female birds. Females will pick what is known as a "brood patch" on their chest. If they were to nest the patch of skin would have direct contact with the eggs which would heat them more effectively.
- ... and the list goes on.
What can you do to dampen hormonal behaviors or just make living with your parrot a bit more bearable during these trying times? Several factors should be considered in determining whether or not your birds new behaviors are hormone related. Many things can affect your bird, such as duration of light exposure, types of toys offered,and foods provided to your avian friends can impact their behavior. Some things may even be encouraging hormonal behavior. Typically, light is one of the first environmental factors we take into consideration. As the Spring days lengthen your birds schedule is thrown out of whack. Longer days tells your bird that now is the time for their body to start acting in a certain way that will eventually lead to the laying of eggs. Is your bird exposed to 10 or more hours of light a day? How many hours a day does your bird sleep? Increasing the amount of sleeping time during the spring months and regulating the amount of light your bird gets can help lessen certain hormonal behaviors. Light can be adjusted somewhat by not exposing your bird to light too late in the evening. Shorten their day so they receive about 10 hours of light. One way to help accomplish that is to use a cage cover which are made to completely cover the cage. Using a cover along with turning lights out at the appropriate time should help reduce the hormonal surges.
As I said earlier, make sure your bird does not have anything in its environment that can be percieved as nesting material. For some birds, this can be a cardboard box or perhaps even the paper used in the bottom on the cage. Birds will sometimes try to hide under paper, thus concealing themselves such as being in a nestbox would accomplish. If you find this to be an issue (and a cage grate is not available) you might consider using a single piece of cage liner such as Cage Catchers (replacing it daily), as this thinner paper (with one waxed side for moisture control) may be more difficult for the bird to hide under than newspaper. For other birds, shredding paper is an activity that stimulates hormonal reaction. In this case, it may be best to keep a cage grate in place to prevent access to the paper. Of course, otherwise wonderful cage accessories like Snugglies, Tents and Hideaways provide an inviting place for a bird interested in reproducing. So removing these accessories from hormonal birds is a good idea. Taking steps like these mentioned may reduce nesting urges.
Can food impact your birds behaviors? You bet it can! Certain seasonal foods can encourage behaviors. Take sprouts for example. While they are chock full of nutrition, they are also a Spring item that can stir hormones. Why? Sprouts occur when seeds are fresh, have access to enough moisture, air, and sun that they can sprout. This occurs in Spring when trees are budding. Other foods that can encourage hormones are:
- Seed mixtures that contain hemp.
- Excessive amounts of warm, cooked foodstuffs.
- Increased amount of carbohydrates.
Taking the right precautions can help prevent the full onslaught of hormonal behaviors.... and hopefully reduce a need to increase your stock of band-aids!