What are Behavioral Problems?
Behavior problems such as feather plucking, screaming and biting can become problematic for their owners and can even terrorize the household. Many times, behavior problems will begin to develop because your bird’s basic needs are not being met. Basic needs include sleep, food, water, shelter and proper socialization. Usually, once these needs are addressed, the behavioral problems can be much easier to control or completely resolve.
Domesticated birds are widely known for their quirky personalities and loveable demeanors, however, there is an increase in behavior problems that are causing bird owners to rehome or even set free their domesticated birds.
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Symptoms of Behavioral Problems in Birds
In some instances of behavioral problems, there is an underlying health problem that is causing your bird to act out. If you notice any sudden changes in your bird’s behavior, do a physical examination yourself to see there are any noticeable wounds, lumps or other visible ailments. Also, contact your veterinarian for an appointment to do a checkup and rule out any health issues that can be causing the behavioral problems.
- Self-mutilation, especially feather plucking
- Biting at their cage wire
- Refusal to interact with people they know
- Refusing to eat or overeating
- Excessively flapping their wings
- Lack of sleep, extremely restless
Causes of Behavioral Problems in Birds
In most instances, your bird will begin acting out with behavioral problems because their needs are not being met. This can be because of a nutritional deficiency in their food or a lack of water. It can also be because they are bored with their food and you need to begin hiding their food so they can forage for it.
Cage size can also be a contributing factor for behavioral problems in birds. A cage that is too small can cause undue stress on your bird. Being in a small cage can also cause your bird to not sleep well and a tired bird can become a nuisance.
Lack of socialization will cause your bird to act out also. Birds are extremely intelligent and they need social interaction to keep them from becoming excessively bored. Spend extra time with your bird, playing games and keeping them mentally stimulated. When you cannot be with your bird, provide them with lots of toys that will make them think and use their mind, such as puzzle boxes and foraging toys.
Diagnosis of Behavioral Problems in Birds
Your veterinarian will complete a full physical examination of your bird and will also do all routine tests to verify if there is an underlying medical condition causing your bird to exhibit behavioral problems.
If no medical condition or illness is found, then your veterinarian will recommend a bird behaviorist or trainer to help you determine the cause of your bird’s behavioral problems. The bird behaviorist or trainer will come to your home and assess your bird in their environment.
Treatment of Behavioral Problems in Birds
If a medical condition or illness was found, your veterinarian will provide you with appropriate treatments and medications for your bird.
In the event that your bird’s behavior problems are a result of their environment or not having their needs met, there are several things that can be done to correct the problems. Always seek the advice of a professional if you are not a seasoned bird owner or you are dealing with an overly aggressive bird.
Your bird should never be put in a small cage. A cage that is too small for your bird will cause stress that will most often create behavior problems. The general rule is that your bird’s cage should be at least 1 ½ times the width, height and depth of your bird’s wingspan. Birds will outgrow cages so be prepared to upgrade them as they grow and mature.
Location of the Cage
Outgoing birds that need to have constant social interaction should have their cage placed in the room where the most activity occurs during the day. Birds that are more nervous should have their cage placed in a quieter room. Always place your bird’s cage with one side against a wall. This provides a less stressful environment since it gives your bird a place to hide when they need to do so. Never place your bird’s cage in front of a window. Your bird will be in a state of continual stress as they constantly search for enemies that could harm them.
Height of the Cage
Do not put your bird’s cage on the floor, this will increase stress levels. Always put the cage on a stand that is just below eye level. Larger, taller cages are acceptable if you have a more gregarious bird that is very active.
A bird that is bored will look for ways to amuse themselves. If you are not interacting with your bird for long periods of time, such as when you are at work for several hours a day, your bird will expect your full attention when you get home. Help relieve their boredom by providing them with interactive toys that will provide stimulation and are amusing for your bird. Rotate your bird’s toys regularly so they do not become bored with the same toys, usually weekly rotation is best so they always have different toys to occupy their time.
Since so many domesticated birds are from the tropics, they would normally have 10 to 12 hours of darkness a night. Adult birds, such as parrots, should receive 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night. It is recommended that you move your bird’s cage to a quiet room at night and not just use a cage cover. Your bird will still be able to hear the sounds of the house and that will keep them awake if their cage is kept in the main part of the house. Some people will designate a bedroom just for their bird to sleep in in a smaller sleep cage and leave the large cage in the main part of the house.
Recovery of Behavioral Problems in Birds
Once you have determined the cause of your bird’s behavioral problems, you can begin correcting them. In some cases, once your bird’s needs are being fully met, the bad behavior ceases. In other cases, your bird will need to be re-trained so they do not continue with the behavior and are well-adjusted members of the family.