Out of hand Aggression

Posted By: JetBrody

Out of hand Aggression - 10/21/17 11:12 PM

Hey everyone, I've long been reading this website for help but I write this post as a bit of a last resort.

In January I "adopted" a Goffin Cockatoo, Dolly, from a "rescue." I use these terms loosely because frankly the person seemed only interested in profit, and didn't seem to be too concerned with making sure the birds under her care went to a good home. I digress.

Dolly has been a typical cockatoo, I've done my research and knew what I was getting in to, but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle. The occasional bite and (often) screaming, but that wasn't much of a problem. It took some time for her to get accustomed to a proper diet (her old owners allegedly had her for 20 years, and fed her primarily seed) but she has taken to it pretty well.

Over the last few months she's been increasingly aggressive, to an absurd degree. This aggression is often unprovoked and unwarranted. We'll be playing or I'll be working with her in training and she'll act as if she wants to get on my arm, when she does she doesn't just bite she CLAMPS down. I've read not to reward the behavior so I try my absolute hardest not to react, but she continues to bite until I do something. She won't release from my arm, she won't move, she just continues to bite harder and harder. I've suffered some pretty severe injuries as a result, my arms are absolutely covered in scars.

She likes to sit on my knee when she's just hanging out outside her cage, so I let her. Lately however I cannot let my guard down at ALL because she will try to attack me, despite me not bothering her. For instance she may be preening herself for a few minutes, then without skipping a beat will immediately lunge towards me and attempt to bite me. She does not do this with my girlfriend, who she can handle upside down, sideways, any way she wants with no aggressive behavior. After doing some more reading I began training her with a pointer, which she has responded to fairly well until the last few weeks, now she refuses to accept any treats, even her favorites. I also tried to get her to perch on a stick instead of my arm, however she aggressively attacks the stick any time I attempt to introduce it to her.

I've become more and more reluctant to take her out, and I'm fully aware this isn't fair to her, but the bites are becoming more and more painful. I am writing this after the worst one yet, I had her on a training perch in a neutral room as I've read and she was eagerly awaiting the step up command, after I gave it to her and offered my arm she clamped down on it and wouldn't let go. I managed to hold myself back from making any noise, then she let go and did it again, and again. All in all she bit me about four times and I'm bleeding from all four of the bites. I do not want to re-home this bird, she didn't ask to come here and I don't think it's fair for me to rehome her and put her through that stress, however I'm running out of hope. She's responding less and less to training every day and biting me more and more, the emotional impact of which is causing me to break down in tears.

I'm well aware that despite my best efforts I could just be an awful bird owner, and I'm willing to accept that. It's been a hard journey with her, as originally she wouldn't even play with toys out of fear, and maybe I'm just too inexperienced to deal with her emotional issues. I did take her to the vet to get a checkup a month ago, she's received a clean bill of health apart from a minor Vitamin A deficiency which I've been working to remedy with her diet.

If anyone can provide some wisdom I'm willing to hear it, at this point I don't know what else to do.
Posted By: BE2Cassie

Re: Out of hand Aggression - 10/22/17 12:42 PM

I'm not sure if this is what is happening to Dolly but I will tell you seasonally what happens in my house. Cassie is a 13 year old bare eyed hen. Come August/September each year she becomes a major cuddle bug. It is all she want to do. We try to limit her physical interaction with us during this time instead keeping her busy playing games on the floor or activities in her cage. I'm home now retired so it makes it a bit more of a challenge finding things to keep her busy. So following this cuddly stage comes the screaming stage, nothing stops it unless she's eating. The next stage that we are in right now is the aggression. She'll be playing or involved in an activity and like Dolly will strike without warning. This is the only time of the year that she does any serious damage with her bites. I can read her body language pretty good after so many years and can see a bite coming normally. Her eyes pin, fluffs her feathers or pulls them tight against her body. If she does bite she appears contrite right away, especially if it was accidental from falling. This time of the year when she bites she immediately goes back to her activity almost unaware of her biting. This time of year I avoid having her on me at all. It's not worth the injury. I have found other ways of keeping her with me with out her being a shoulder bird. Cassie is flighted so I can tell her to come with me to the kitchen or livingroom and she follows. All of this behavior I have documented on Cassie over the past 7 or 8 years. It's always the same. Her physical features change as well during this time. She gains weight, her legs begin to bow and she gets an egg shape swelling near her vent. A couple of radiographs over the past three years have shown an uptake in calcium in the long bones of her legs and the widening of her pelvic bones. She will start to lay the beginning of December or late November. Come January she will return to normal. During this time my family has all learned ways to avoid the biting most of the time. We let her out only if we can be very aware of what she is doing and where she is. If I'm not able to give her my full attention I will bring her small cage out to where ever I am so we can chat. If this isn't possible I give her new activities for her to do in her big cage. I have tried to decrease her sunlight daily ensuring that she gets 12-14 hours of sleep per night, changed the amount and type of food given to her daily, changed the interior of her cage, moved her cage, put her in different large cages, brought her to work with me(veterinary clinic) three days per week and everything else suggested to decrease hormones and egg laying. In her case it hasn't changed her egg laying or behaviors. He have tried lupron injections that didn't help. In many birds a modification in the above listed changes is enough to change the behaviors and decrease the hormones. Good luck and I hope that this helps with some of the ideas.
Posted By: JetBrody

Re: Out of hand Aggression - 10/24/17 09:12 PM

Thanks for the reply. I've considered it could be seasonale/hormone related. During the spring time she seemed overly attached and was exhibiting some mating behaviors, so I thought maybe after then it would relax. It seems like all she's done is get worse however. I tried to take her out of her cage for some play time yesterday, and she stayed on the door. She was acting as if she wanted to step up and come with me, but frankly I was too afraid to let her near my arm. After a time, she seemingly confirmed my fears because she jumped off her cage onto the floor and began attacking my feet. Luckily I was wearing shoes, as she latched on to them so hard that she was holding herself on with her beak alone.

I'm not sure how I can continue to have any kind of working relationship with her if this continues, but I haven't given up hope entirely.
Posted By: BE2Cassie

Re: Out of hand Aggression - 10/24/17 11:54 PM

I think it's time that you sit back and really think about this. Consider how much you are willing to change your behavior to help change hers. You need to find a way of distracting her from behaviors that you find difficult. Offering her an activity before the negative behaviors start is a good place to start.Try protecting your arm with a heavy sweatshirt before having her step up, then bring her somewhere to perch while you entertain her. Entertainment can be a variety of activities right down to sitting on the kitchen faucet while you do dishes, bring her in to take a shower, let her sit on the back of a chair near a new window to look out, before letting her on the floor get a ball or toy for her to chase instead of your toes and find new activities to offer her in her cage or on top of her cage. Paper rolls are great for stuffing with a treat and shredded paper to pull apart. If the cage is flat on top throw a few of these on top before you let her out. Good luck and keep us posted.
Posted By: Beeps

Re: Out of hand Aggression - 10/29/17 03:42 PM

Every time she bites, she becomes a better biter (though it sounds like she may be at expert level already.) When I was married, I lived with a severe macaw that loved my husband, but absolutely hated me and would attack me if given the chance. I lived with this macaw for over 5 years until my now ex-husband and I divorced, so I have a bit of personal experience with this subject.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is that you may need to readjust your expectations of what a good bird-human relationship looks like, as Nancy suggested above. Birds don't need to be physically touched all of the time. Ambient attention is very important, as well as direct attention that doesn't involve touching.

Right now she attacks you, so it is not safe for you to continue to interact with her as you have been.

In my case, I stick trained my macaw so that I could safely move him around. Even though I'm a huge proponent of allowing captive birds to fly, his wings were clipped since he would use his flight ability to aerially attack me. My relationship with this bird was entirely different than what my husband had. We still sang songs, danced, etc., but I did not ever physically interact with him.

It may help to keep a journal of sorts, but try to figure out if there is any pattern to the attacks. Does she exhibit any behavior prior? Is it happening at a specific time of day? You will be best served by setting yourself up for success, which includes forming a relationship with boundaries that are acceptable to both of you. She is communicating her unhappiness by biting. It is now up to you to try to decipher what is making her bite and figuring out creative ways to still have a productive relationship.
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