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Old 01-18-2021, 03:39 AM
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Unhappy Cockatiel screams for attention, but decided to hate me..?

Hey fellow parronts. I'm at the end of my wit.

I got Navi about half a year ago, and she is about two months older than that. Bonding has had its ups and downs, as expected, but overall she's grown on me and I would never want a different birdie than my quirky, screamy lady.

Thing is, recently, probably due to puberty, she has been acting nasty from time to time, which we have usually managed to work through just fine anyways. But she also took to eating her cotton perch outside of the cage every other day or so. This, of course, is concerning to me as I've researched what knotting can do to the poor creatures. Now, we have other animals, and I have experience with Dogs and Cats, so I know not to scold or abuse animals when they do something wrong. With Navi, I try a soft "No, stop." and lightly push her away from whatever she shouldnt be doing. When she listens, a treat is in order.

Here's my problem: About five or so days ago, she decided to really rip into her perch (I've removed it by now, seeing how she wont give it up anyways) and I had a horrible day already. I got up from my office chair and reprimanded her a few times, before continuing my work.

Ever since, she has been acting as if I attacked her, or worse. Never have I seen her be so inconsistent about what she wants. She sits on top of her cage, screaming for my attention, for me to look at her, but as soon as I make any sign of getting up or moving she scuttles away into her cage as if I was about to chase her down for something. This has been the same cycle for the past few days and I am at my limit here. She demands attention and playtime, but runs off the second I try to approach her, be it slowly, with treats or whatever.

She does take the occasional treat, but only to run off again right after. And don't even think about stepping up now!

This may sound silly, I am well aware, but its making me mad, at both myself for having overreacted, and inevitably at her, for acting like this..

And advice on how to deal with a super pouty baby dinosaur?
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Old 01-18-2021, 07:04 AM
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Re: Cockatiel screams for attention, but decided to hate me..?

Never reprimand. Even gently "push away" really doesn't work unless what you mean by that is, divert their attention elsewhere. This is one big area where bird psychology diverts so far from mammals that it's hard to understand. Remember that in the wild, birds respond to disliking something, by Flying Away. They are very socially aware and your face looking sad is meaningful to them. Also you looking mad.

Can you re-frame it mentally? When I am amused by something my birds react quite differently than if I am upset. Actually, I have not been upset by my birds, but, my conure has seen me angry on the phone, and her response used to be to scream at me and to run away, while continuing to scream. (In my case, she figured out, this only happens on the phone, so even though most of my phone-interactions are pleasant, she now goes to her cage and turns her back to me, to express her displeasure, whenever I try to talk on the phone.)

If your bird is unhappy and you have a good relationship, start by Apologizing. I apologize all the time to my birds. If I do something wrong and I don't apologize, they get very upset.

Beyond that you can do a re-start-over with your bird. Others can tell you more about that, better than I can.

They are not really pets. They are small People with wings and Opinions. They pay no rent, expect you to come when they call, & like to destroy stuff.
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Old 01-18-2021, 10:41 AM
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Re: Cockatiel screams for attention, but decided to hate me..?

Well stated above. Birds are VERY sensitive to body language, yet are completely clueless about context. As such, you should always try to approach your bird in the calmest state of mind possible. We all get frustrated or annoyed at times. We're human, after all. It's just a matter of managing how much of that your bird gets to see. Know what I mean?

Onto other items you've mentioned. It's good you took away the cotton perch. (Do you actually mean one of those cozy hut things?) When approaching training, the mindset should be to work with an understanding of their wilder instincts. Removing an issue entirely when possible is usually preferable to attempting to make them stop a behavior that they are naturally hardwired to do. (And those huts can be crazy dangerous for them once they start chewing them, anyway.)

As for the screaming behaviors and not coming to you when called, it sounds like you need to do a reset. Start over from the beginning and earn her trust.

First, don't reward screaming behaviors. Come to her and interact when she is quiet. not when she's yelling at you for attention. When you respond to her screaming, you are teaching her that such vocalizations are the way to get you to come over. The extra screaming is a learned behavior. (As opposed to the regular vocalizations birds naturally make throughout the day.)

Next, work on her target training. Here is my favorite video on the topic:

And said target training works best if you do not free feed (have food available in the cage all day long), but instead have defined meals. Which is to say, you have two or three meals a day where you provide enough food for her to be filled at the time. Why is this important? Because then, during the time between meals, the treats you use as incentive will be a greater motivating factor. The trick will be to time the training for a little before the next feeding. That way, she'll be at her hungriest and more likely to associate doing what you want with yummy foods. (Use her absolute favorite foods as treats. All the fatty stuff that you wouldn't use as a main staple of their diet. Nuts, sunflower seeds, millet... or healthy faves like pomegranates - though that can get messy.)

Training is all about association. You don't train birds via domination or reprimand. You train them by tricking them into wanting the exact same things you do. Don't work against their instincts. Work with their instincts.

When I call my birds, they come to me without hesitation. Every time. Why? Because I've gotten them to associate coming to me with fun time. They don't do it because I have control. They do it because they see it as an opportunity to get what they want. Once you come to think of training that way, it becomes far easier. (Still takes a lot of time and consistency, though. But there will be progress.)

And btw, she doesn't hate you. Remember not to frame her behaviors within human-centric concepts of cause and effect. They think very differently than we do. Never anthropomorphize them, because to do so is to misunderstand them.

Please keep us updated on Navi's progress. And let us know if you have more questions.
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Old 01-18-2021, 11:25 AM
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Re: Cockatiel screams for attention, but decided to hate me..?

When did you have your bird checked by an avian vet?

How did you reprimand? It sounds like you may have damaged trust (which can be rebuilt).

In general, all bad behavior (unless you know the exact cause) should be ignored. If screaming is happening, you shouldn't come back into the room or provide attention until it stops for a set period of time. Let's say you are in the room and bird starts screaming at you. Don't look at your bird or speak to it, don't approach etc. I would walk out of the room, or stay in there with my back turned (with earplugs) until the screaming stops for a solid 10 seconds. If that is too hard, try 8 to start. The second the screaming begins, wait for it to stop. You will then count in your head (1 Mississippi, 2 mississippi, 3 Mississippi... until 10). Any screaming that happens before 10 seconds will restart your silent count--- so, you have to start back at 1 the next time there is a break in the screaming and don't attend to your bird until it stops for the set period of time.

If this is hormonal, make sure you are getting your bird 10 hours sleep on a schedule each night, pet on the head and neck only, and ensure that your parrot has no access to shadowy spaces in or around the cage (boxes, huts, tents, bedding, under furniture, in book shelves/drawers, under paper piles etc).
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