Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing
Valerie H. expressed concern,
My Ducorps Cockatoo has become very aggressive with anyone and anything that gets near me. She has started biting me when my husband gets too close.
If I’m not in the room paying attention to her, she screams.
She’s not interested in toys and would prefer to be carried around and held.
If I pick her up when she’s screaming, it stops. Often, she doesn’t want to be picked up, just preferring to stare at me and scream. I’m stressed because I’m waiting for the ultimatum from my husband.
I do not know your exact situation so I can only address what I can think of. Take this advice as it fits into your situation.
She has bonded to you as a mate and your husband is the odd man out. She can’t reach your husband to bite him, so she is biting you to warn you to stay away from that man.
She is not being mean, this is normal behavior in the animal world. A cockatoo will do this with their mate.
They also have a thick coating of feathers to deflect the bite, not like our bare skin. We went through that with a Senegal that adored my husband and hated me.
He was bitten on the neck every time he came too close to me when she was on his shoulder.
She will have to lose the privilege of riding your shoulders for now. It is not a right, it must be earned. Currently, if he is in view, she cannot be on you. Period.
Stick to holding her in your hand or arm. If she is biting your arms/hands then use a perch. Is she not perch-trained?
If not, get going on that right away. Start doing ladder exercises and slip in a perch, then back to the hand. A perch and your hand should be interchangeable.
When you hold her, are you stroking her below the neck? If so, stop that and only pet her from the neck up, and no cuddling her close to your chest like a baby. She is a bird, not a human.
We take these birds as babies and humanize them. They are messed up mentally, not knowing who or what they are and how they fit into our world.
Many behaviors, most behaviors like this are learned. Birds are amoral, you cannot punish them, instead, you must redirect them to other positive things. Over time they may prefer the other things and forget or let go of past bad habits.
You are only rewarding the screaming by picking up your bird when she is doing it. You need to stop it before approaching her.
If you are out of the room, or out of sight when she starts to scream grab something that makes a loud noise like a pot and a wooden spoon, and bang it. She will stop screaming for a bit while she wonders what the noise is about. That is when you can appear and go to her. Talk to her in a normal voice, tell her what a good girl she is and give her attention.
She doesn’t want toys you say? Toys are merely the leaves on your bird’s tree. She might chew up some, sit and pluck others, and some she will just want to snuggle up to for comfort or to hide behind.
Are her toys just hung or placed in/on her cage? Do you play with the toys with her? All toys should be first held by you and fawned over, exclaiming how great they are, etc. Do any of the toys dole out treats? Look for toys that you can fill with nuts and treats.
Is she food oriented? That can help. Your husband should get a jar of snacks and have them nearby. Every time he walks by the cage, he should drop in a treat. A sunflower seed, a Nutri-berrie, a walnut, or almond (in the shell if she will crack it open). She needs to look forward to seeing him.
How much food are you leaving in the cage at any one time? Her bowl should be large and wide and only have 1/4- 1/2 cup seeds or pellets. Let her run out of food before you refill.
Don’t give her a full-to-the-top bowl of anything. Pellets get stale, so they need to be replaced daily. If you are using a mix with sunflower seeds, remove the sunflower seeds and dole them out as treats.
She needs to have needs from you and your husband. If she has everything she wants 24 hours a day, she has nothing special to look forward to. A bored princess who wants Mommy’s attention all the time, but once she has it, it still does not satisfy her.
Do you have a daily routine set up for her? Birds like a schedule. Once they know things will happen at certain times, they often will settle into the routine and be more patient.
A bird that is uncovered, lights on at widely varied times (6 am, 9 am, noon) will sit and scream hoping someone comes to uncover them. If the light is on a timer and comes on at 8 am daily, they will usually relax until then.
A dish with fresh foods like cut-up veggies, some apple, a snap pea, etc. served at the same time in the morning will give your bird something to look forward to.
A playtime in the early afternoon with a toy or a large rope perch used as an “uppy time”, to lift and lower with her on it so she lifts and waves her wings and gets some exercise is also good. Is she clipped?
Pick her up and toss her onto the bed or the sofa gently. If she is not likely to bite him, you can gently toss her back and forth to your husband. Let her follow you as you walk up and down the stairs.
30 minutes before lights out, give her a chunk of Avi-cake. We do this with our birds every night and it is quiet time as they munch before the lights go out and the cover goes on. And the lights should go out at the same time daily.
I may not have hit everything, but it is a start.
Please give some of this a try. Let me know how things go.
Valerie H. responded,
Catherine, you pretty much nailed what I’m doing wrong. I’ve got my work cut out for me.
I feel terrible that I’ve developed these bad habits.
She was abandoned at the bird vet, living in a filthy kitchen trash can, so I felt she needed love and attention.
She’s not perch trained, so I’ve got to work on that.
Thanks for all your suggestions.
I’ll keep you posted.