This is going to be a long post!- be forewarned
Corey was a rescue from a hoarder situation where over 240 birds were being kept in tiny, filthy cages in a pole barn. I have had him a month now, and some behavioral quirks and issues are beginning to emerge, about which I have some questions.
A bit of background- he's my first too, but not my first parrot (although I currently don't have any other parrots.) I have a background in ABA and clicker training. Our household is me and my husband, a dog, and three senior cats (the dog and cats ignore him completely.) He's eating Harrison's Organic and TOPs pellets with a tiny bit of seed in his foraging feeders, plus fresh fruits and veggies and birdie muffins twice daily. He's getting 12 hours of sleep a night and 4-6 hours of full-spectrum lighting. I work away from home about 8 hours 4-5 days a week but my husband works from home. He's currently getting 4 hours or so a day out of the cage, including some clicker training.
He’s had a thorough vet check. He has an air sac swelling on his head and is currently being treated with meloxicam. It doesn't seem to bother him at all.
He was definitely a pet at some point. He has a huge vocabulary- his name was once Peaches, and he lived with a dog named Poochie, we are pretty sure
OK, now for the issues and questions!
One of my main questions is if some of his behaviors are stereotypies from his former barren existence, or hormonal behavior. Related to this is whether some of his shredding behaviors should be encouraged.
Another is how to establish outside-the-cage playtime that is safe and reinforcing.
Here is a description of the behaviors I am concerned about.
Corey spends a great deal of time shredding wood, corn husks, rice cakes, etc. He will gather the shredded pieces in a food bowl, tap them repeatedly, talk to them and rearrange them. This is sometimes accompanied by tail fanning, but not often. This is the main behavior that I am not sure if it is stereotypical (all he had in his cage in the barn to play with was a food bowl) or hormonal nesting behavior.
He shows other signs of hormonal behavior. When he is out of his cage, he seeks out anything that vaguely resembles a hole or shadow, then tail-fans, displays, and talks to it. It’s very difficult to lure him away from such areas (he does not have a reliable step-up; we are working on that.) He attacks and threatens my husband every chance he gets. We are working on that by having my husband give him small treats in his cage (with tweezers), spray baths (which he loves), etc., plus I withdraw my attention when he displays aggressive behavior. The aggression has become more consistent to where I am not letting him out of the cage if my husband is likely to be nearby. As I mentioned above, he’s already on a light schedule, kept away from nesting spots, etc. He doesn’t yet solicit petting, so over-petting isn’t an issue.
So, should he be allowed to shred wood and play with it in his bowls? If not, what could replace this activity? He doesn’t play with any other toys (except his foraging toys) at this point.
As for out-of-cage time…
Corey is flighted but doesn’t yet know how to fly- and I’m worried about teaching him. I think he would use this ability to fly to seek out holes and attack my husband (the closest he has come to flying was to jump off our kitchen counter onto a bowl my husband was carrying.) At first, when I let him out to play on our kitchen counter or his play gym, he would play nicely. Now, he often spends a great deal of time pacing the counter’s edge or the top of the gym, for example, crouching as if thinking about taking off. He has come off his play gym a few times to wander the floor. So, how to keep out-of-cage time safe and less frustrating for him? When he’s performing this behavior, toys and treats often don’t distract him, although I’ve had some success targeting him to a different area- but he’s back to the pacing a few seconds later.
Corey has a history from the rescue of being a biter. He has not bitten me badly but has snapped a few times, always for predictable and avoidable reasons (he bit my husband badly when he carelessly got fingers too near, and drew blood from the vet as well.) I am being very careful not to trigger any further biting behavior, which is one reason we are going very slowly on step up. If he does get on my hand, he immediately tries, by whatever means possible, to get on my shoulder, where he will display hormonal behavior (tail fanning, cooing, etc.) and will refuse to come off. I am sure that if I tried to get him off at this point, he’d bite. The couple of times he has managed to get on my shoulder, I’ve laid down on the floor until he climbed to another spot on my body. So I’m also concerned that, if he could fly, he’d use this ability to get on my shoulder.
So, given these issues-
- Should he be trimmed until I’m sure he can be trusted?
- How could I create safe and stimulating out-of-cage time for him?
Any and all ideas and questions welcomed!