Parrots That Bite Think You Have Many Fingers!
You have ten fingers, but that doesn’t mean that you are willing to give one or two to your parrot! A parrot’s hook bill is – like a hook! And it is the strongest beak in the avian world – right? No body wants to be bitten by such a powerful beak – and some parrots, like Macaws, can send you and your finger to the ER!
What do you about a parrot that bites hands?
Parrots can be territorial over ‘their’ space, or their cage. If your parrot bites when you put your hand in his or her cage, then… stop. Use a stick. 🙂 I don’t consider this to be a “problem” in the sense that, if your parrot is too aggressive then you need to work with them, but I believe that everyone, including my parrots, should have their own space and they should be able to ask you to stay out of their space – and when we don’t understand the ask, they often bite. My point: I wouldn’t focus on them biting in their cage, I would focus on their behavior outside their cage, especially when they are on “common grounds.”
When you are in a neutral space in your home, preferably a room other than the one your parrot’s cage is in, then your parrot should not display aggression. The only natural reasons to do so are if your parrot has been scarred, in the case that you adopted a rescue with a traumatic past, or if you have a hormonal parrot. Note: Male Cockatoos can be very hormonal, aka, aggressive. This behavior is innate and not “bad” or “wrong” – even though it can be very hard for us as parrot-keepers to handle.
Choose to work with your parrot in a neutral space.
- Make sure that your parrot feels safe and secure. No creature, human or animal, is friendly and loving when they feel scared or threatened and the threat may not be in their present situation. Trauma stays with creatures until either time heals as much as it can or humans find a good therapist!
- Check your parrot’s diet: a “parrot junk food” diet can cause an unhealthy or cranky parrot. A pellet and fresh vegetable diet that adds seeds (without sunflower seeds) for small parrots (like Parrotlets, Cockatiels, Lovebirds) and nuts for large parrots that require nuts (like Macaws and African Greys) but otherwise omits these will increase your parrot’s health and mood. In other words, it will make them nicer 🙂
Note: Cockatoos, who can be one of the most aggressive parrots, should NOT be given fats in their diet as they are prone to being over weight and having related health issues. This means that an aggressive Cockatoo that is fed a seed-based diet could be a recipe for even worse behaviors.
- Make sure your hands are “magical and delicious!”
Be the only source of your parrot’s favorite treats. This is the only time I see that it is appropriate to give sunflower seeds – when I’m giving them. This way your hands can be conditioned out of an old definition that caused your parrot to bite. Always move your hands slowly and don’t come at your parrot from above, like an overhead airplane. Come at your parrot from below or from their eye level – and with a treat.
- Spend time with your parrot every day. They don’t have to be on you or learning tricks necessarily, but if they are around you for a couple hours or more per day then they will begin to, maybe slowly over time, shift how they feel about you and your hands 🙂 Of course, you don’t want to give them treats for two hours non-stop… but do give them a wonderful experience of you and your hands for as long as you can – and this can happen at intervals (like every 15 or 30 min) so that you keep coming back to talk to them and put something down for them to eat – so that they are experiencing your hands in a positive way over and over and over.
Parrots are smart. Use hand signals, because they understand body language more than words, but couple it with a command. Give them routines, for example take them out of their cage, on a stick, and have them at a play perch for a couple of hours around the same time every day. The trick is to be constant and consistent because then your parrot will quickly catch on to what you are doing and they will “learn” more quickly.
Parrots are amazing – they are my bliss. You should have a blissful bond with your parrot. Not every parrot will want to bond with a human, but generally speaking I find that they are curious about us and want to connect. Spend the time and dedication – move your hand slowly and make sure they are on a good diet so that you can work your “magical and delicious” hands!
Have a questions about parrots?
As the author of “The Parrot Bliss Bond,” I love and welcome questions about having a parrot and creating one of the best experiences of your life!
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