Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman
I love your birdie brunch and read it first thing every Sunday. Thank you!
I hope you can help me.
I have an 8 yr. old white-bellied Caique.
Conrad has owned me since he was 3 months old.
I am also a strong proponent of flighted birds (seems to me they were made that way), so Conrad is fully-flighted.
He’s delightful and we are strongly bonded. He’s really a great bird and good company. HOWEVER, I don’t seem to be able to stop him from chewing on everything in sight.
He has numerous toys of varying types and textures in all his houses (currently 3, not including travel),
but when he’s out he chews on furniture, window sills, molding, electric cords, shoes, to name a few.
I’ve tried rewarding him with cuddles and praise when he stops chewing when I tell him to, and giving him “time-outs” when he doesn’t stop, but either he doesn’t get the message or he doesn’t give a darn.
I’m on the East Coast (CT), do you know of any bird whisperers in this area?
He’d be so much better company and have more out time if I could get him to stop the destructive chewing.
Thanks for any help.
Maeve – Maeve – Maeve
The chewing birds do is called foraging. You’re treating it as bad behavior but it’s an instinctual behavior much like reading and making bird noises.
Your Caique has no idea why you are trying to change his behavior through behavior modification.
He has toys in all of his cages which he chews.
It is opaque to me why you are expecting his behavior to change while not in the cage.
A bird has no idea that there’s a difference between a bird toy with buttons and bells and a remote control.
A live electrical lamp cord is as attractive to him as a strand of leather hanging from a toy.
He’s not being a bad bird he’s being a bird.
Your problem is not a behavioral problem it’s an environmental problem.
You’ll not change the behavior of the bird but you can change the environment.
You mentioned he has lots of cages but I am not seeing the words bird stands.
In our house there are 1 to 3 bird stands in every room in the house.
Whenever we put Peaches our Senegal, down – it’s on a stand that she can do anything she wants on it.
Some are fancy some are not but most have a cup for food or at least some treats.
When possible I add toys to give her something to do other than eating furniture and household accessories.
Here is a 20-year-old stand we still use.
I’ve added a ladder that leads down to a foraging area on the stand base you cannot see but the video illustrates how I’ve re-purposed a toy that normally hangs and made it vertical.
I place Peaches on the top.
After a while she’ll get bored climb down the ladder for exercise and have some treats then climb back up.
If I see she has that needy look in her eyes I will grab and pet her for a while then move her to another stand with another ladder, toys and treats.
I cannot keep her from going on our human furniture but I can offer her alternatives which provide comfort zones.
Birds are unable to make the distinction between $100 birds stand and $6000 armoires – they’re both wood.
I pride myself on being creative, a couple of years ago, I sprained my leg and was relegated to bed.
Not wanting to keep Peaches stuck in her cage she stayed on the swing I had hung from a reading lamp (note vet wrap for grip at the top) previously.
The swing I chose has enough shapes and sizes that she can climb the swing to get to the top of the lamp.
I brought in her “dad’s desk stand” in the background as a secondary place for her to perch. Newspaper covers the nightstand (and the floor next to it) She has a heavy ceramic crock (won’t tip) for food.
A drawer full of Lafeber’s Nutriberries and she gets water from my plastic drinking mug that I offer her throughout the day.
It stays covered so she can’t try to help herself, fall in and drown.
Simply put – you’ll never get your bird to stop chewing destructively. You can get your bird to destroy appropriate objects though.
Check out our free and do-it-yourself bird toy category to see lots of household ideas and then stake out areas in your home on the surface of tables or uncrowded areas on the floor.
Then give Conrad lots of fun toys and treats to play with within those designated birdie areas.
You will be babysitting for a while but I think you’ll find Conrad will appreciate having his own little sandboxes outside of his many cages.
Hope that helps
Caveat: getting tens of thousands of words into a usable format that hundreds of thousands of readers can get on any sized screen requires an armada of computers. Enough to intimidate the last Comcast guy when he was here.
Popcorn our cockatiel was enchanted with small wires and it didn’t take much to render the wires from a mouse or some headphones worthless in a single chomp. She was flighted but liked to explore things on foot and the three desktop computers were very attractive to her.
This was my solution
Six feet of wet vac holds – she never went near the wires again.
Written by Mitch Rezman
Approved by Catherine Tobsing