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Old 04-23-2018, 06:04 AM
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Please help with GCC - at my wits end. :(

I'm looking for some kind, honest advice and support. Before I write this post, I will point out that Pogo is my first parrot (I've had budgies in the past) and as expected, it has been a difficult and steep learning curve. I'm aware that we (my husband and I) have made many mistakes and that we are undoubtably to blame for his problems. It is for this reason that I want to try and make them better.
To give me the best chance of advice, I will start with some detail. We have a 4 year old yellow sided GCC. I don't know the sex but was told that if they lift their tail when stroked down their back then they are female? If that is the case, it's a she. For the purpose of this post however, I will call him a 'he' as that's what we have always done at home. My husband and I bought him as an untamed 12 week old baby from an exotic pet shop. We did our research beforehand (not enough?) and didn't make the decision lightly. We liked the idea of the GCC's small size but big character. At the beginning, I worked hard to get him hand tame which he gradually became. He would eventually step up, reach out and give kisses (including a sound effect), spin, lift his wings (big eagle) and wave on command. Whilst we were out all day during work hours, we left the radio on for him and the general rule was that whenever we were in, he was out of his cage. He became used to our routine and would call out when he heard the car pull up outside - quickly learning to expect to be let out of his cage. I tried to toilet train him with a 'poop perch' but whilst he would poop when placed on the perch, I was unsuccessful at getting him to go onto his perch himself even with a command. Though small and easily cleaned, his 'accidents' on the floor and chairs became more and more of an issue for my husband.
Pogo was particularly attached to me which made sense as I was the person who had put most effort in, did all the training and spent most time with him. To be fair, it was me who had always wanted a GCC. However due to this, over time Pogo became aggressive towards my husband and their relationship has gone downhill from there.
Pogo started screeching 3 times whenever he was in his cage and we were in the room. He seemed to compete vocally with the TV and became a menace when he was out of the cage when we were eating. Perhaps him taking food off our plates was cute at first but it soon became a problem. Looking back, I recognise that his behaviour has been unintentionally reinforced by us and therefore got worse. We managed it by me getting him out, doing all the handling and care etc. Pogo would fluff up and lunge at my husband whenever he came near me and if Pogo couldn't get him, he would take out his frustration on me.
At the end of last year, we welcomed our first baby into our home. As expected, life changed not only for us but for Pogo too. With time taken up looking after a new baby (now 6 months old) Pogo suddenly didn't have the freedom he was used to. I have tried to make his life as good as possible - he has a large cage in which I have put as many different toys and activities as I can to keep him busy and entertained. Every now and again I swap his toys around so it is 'new' for him. Understandably, he is now aggressive towards both me and my husband due to being protective of his cage. We can't open his doors to change his food and water without him trying to bite. I have allowed him out of the cage a couple of times but he is difficult to handle (tries to bite despite being used to 'stepping up' and a challenge to get back into his cage. He shouts constantly when we are eating in the same room and when we are out of sight but within hearing distance. My husband finds this particularly difficult to deal with. He often shouts at Pogo to 'shut up' and will wheel his cage quite abruptly into another room and shut the door loudly behind him. He also will give Pogo a bit of what he is eating when he shouts to 'shut him up'. I have tried explaining that feeding him is rewarding him and that he will only get worse but he won't listen.
I'm concerned that my husband's actions are making Pogo worse but his annoyance takes over and he continues to do the above. It is causing stress for both him and me (I feel tense whenever Pogo shouts and desperately want him to stop) and undoubtably Pogo too. I have a real sense that my husband 'hates' Pogo and that hurts because he used to handle him. When I'm home during the day, I ignore Pogo when he shouts and he does stop. I try to reward him when he behaves well. I'm noticing that Pogo doesn't relly shout during the day now but does when my husband returns home which makes things worse. I have more patience to ignore him which may be why.
For added info - he is fed on a 'low sunflower' parrot mix but seems to only eat the sunflower seeds. He doesn't get nearly enough fruit and veg and this is something I need to change. I recently bought an organic pellet mix to try and provide him with a more balance diet without him being selective and am in the process of swapping him over to this.
I'm beginning to think that it isn't fair to keep him because I'm not sure I can provide him with the quality of life he needs. However, I want to try because whenever I buy an animal, the intention is for life and I don't want to just rehome him. I'm hoping someone can give me some advice on what I can do to help improve his life, knowing I'm doing lots wrong at the moment. Is there a training regime I can follow, particular fruit / veg I should give him, how I can stop him shouting (if I can resolve this I think we will all be happier) etc... I'm looking for constructive advice so if you have nothing useful to say, please don't - this is a difficult post to have to write and I've been as honest as I can. Thank you.
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Old 04-23-2018, 06:54 AM
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Re: Please help with GCC - at my wits end. :(

Congratulations that must have been extremely difficult to write and I have a great respect for you. I am a fairly new GCC owner and he is only just year a year old, so there are much better people here with advice that will help you I am sure. Your post really touched my heart and I hope you are able to resolve your worries.

I feed mine pellets available all the time, a variety of veg in the morning - I know avocado is toxic so that's a no no - and a mix of fruit in the afternoon but when I first had him it took a while before he would touch anything. He was fed a seed diet before I had him.

I am home all day but even so I try not to have too rigid a timetable if only so he doesn't get upset if I go out at any time, but my instinct for you is to go back to basics and try to persuade your husband to do the same. Talk gently, leave him in the cage while he adjusts, both of you offer him treats through the bars until he is less feisty.

Hang in there someone with the right advice will be along soon, and thank you for sharing. You have made the most difficult step, people on here will support you. Read everything you can about behaviour/training/feeding etc in the sections outside of breeds forums in the meantime.
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Old 04-23-2018, 08:52 AM
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Re: Please help with GCC - at my wits end. :(

"I don't know the sex but was told that if they lift their tail when stroked down their back then they are female?" --Clark has done this and he is a male. If your bird is 4yo and hasn't laid an (unfertilized) egg. Then it's probably a male. Also the comment "Pogo was particularly attached to me" males seek out the females, they can tell the difference.

Pogo became aggressive towards my husband and their relationship has gone downhill from there. --Question, even alone without you in the home? I'm assuming yes by the rest of your text. This is from time spent with, and sex...your husband is competition.

"Perhaps him taking food off our plates was cute at first but it soon became a problem." -- how so?

"My husband finds this particularly difficult to deal with. He often shouts at Pogo to 'shut up' and will wheel his cage quite abruptly into another room and shut the door loudly behind him." this is bad...and will make the bonding MUCH worse. put yourself in the birds shoes....


Ok so...diet yes swap him over to pellets, gradually.mix it together in ever decreasing amounts of the seed mix.

I buy fruit I like, not work buying a melon for only one ounce to be eaten so things like apples oranges strawberries, buy those, and SHARE with the bird. Perhaps do this before dinner so the bird is full, gorged on the yumminess of the fruit.
When I eat an apple I take a bite then just hold it up near my shoulder so me and clark can share it.

Something else I just thought of, you just had a baby, the bird may have picked up on your pregnancy and anxiety and was defending you.

Frankly it's a bad situation but it can be fixed. For the first thing....

CALM DOWN!!!

Especially your husband, and stop worrying, the bird can sense it.

this is the advice I have, when dealing with the bird "Fake it till you make it!"

You have to be patient, stop worrying about whether a human behavior will cause more or less of a bird behavior and just enjoy the bird in the short term. Treats, time out of the cage during baby nap time etc.

The calmer you both are the more calm the parrot will be...ALWAYS.

Stop yelling at the bird, noise will only beget MORE noise. Talk to the bird more in a soothing voice and just explain why he can't do this or that right now. Of course he won't understand, but taking 5 minutes to just talk tot he parrot... the bird will..."catch your drift."

I'll think on this some more....and get back to you.

Also once your baby is old enough to be around the bird, the bird will take to it as an older brother.

Relax! Conure's orders....
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Old 04-23-2018, 09:30 AM
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Re: Please help with GCC - at my wits end. :(

Oh the other thing, the lunging to bite and the bird taking out frustrations on you.

This may not work till you re-bond with your bird but you need to use the time out method. If the bird goes to attack you say NO out loud and put the bird in a place away from you, say 10-15ft. But that they can come back to you from. I like the carpet, but the opposite end of a couch etc. would suffice.

The bird learns that bite behavior gets him shunned. and separated from the flock. And the distance and time to walk back gives him time to calm down and think about why he has to walk back. Normally they come back all super sweet and apologetic.

Note: I recommend this for bonded birds, it may not work if you bird is already kind of shunning both of you? Depends on how much he wants to be on you.
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Old 04-23-2018, 09:42 AM
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Re: Please help with GCC - at my wits end. :(

Aw, I'm so sorry you're having such a difficult time with your green cheek. Know that these things do happen, we all make mistakes but in acknowledging these mistakes we can learn and move forward.

First of all, your husband needs to understand that all birds make noise. Whether it be a cockatiel, conure, macaw, cockatoo, most species are vocal and this is how they communicate to their flock. As flock animals they will do contact calls and generally want to be with you and be involved in what the family is doing. It is when they start getting ignored and become less a pat of family activities and not let out of the cage that they basically become a pretty ornament in the corner to be admired. It happens all too often but it is okay, you know something needs to change.

So the biggest issues I see here are that your husband does not understand that he is worsening the chances for your bird to become tame again by returning the aggression. Birds scream and make noise and yes they make messes. But we love our birds unconditionally. He needs to accept that as part of owning a bird. Parrots, clean? HA! After I let my cockatiel out to fly around since I can't see very well my husband will point out where the bird pooped, curtain, couch, and I'll grab a wet wipe, wipe it up and we're all clean again.

If your husband is willing to accept that your bird will make noise and be messy then I believe this situation can be salvaged. But only if he is willing to stop 100% on the shouting, yelling, aggressiveness towards this innocent bird.

Once everyone is on board with that, then you can move on to getting control of the aggression and reforming your trust bond. Know that the trust between both of you ha been shattered some but if you both are willing to work with your bird, I believe your relationship with him can be changed around.

So, start over. Pretend like he's a completely new bird coming home to you. Know that his agg5ression is probably worse right now because it is springtime and hormones are flowing and the urge to pair and have eggs is very strong. But come fall he should be settling down some.

Start by reading this -- Tips for Bonding and Building Trust

Basically if you want to make him tame again and become a loved member of the family again, everyone in your family is going to have to step up. That means hubby is going to have to be willing to work on his relationship with the bird. Without it, he will likely keep showing aggression towards your husband forever.

Start over by trying to make every single interaction with him a positive one. No yelling, shouting, trying to rise above his screams. Talk softly to him, remain calm always and just try to integrate him back into your family. Walk by his cage, chat with him for a few seconds, offer a treat when no more aggression if shown and be on your way. With enough positive reinforcement, he should start coming around. As for changing his food and water, you could hold up a small piece of cardboard t6o separate bird from you so you won't get bit. You can start feeding him treats through the cage bars when he has calmed down in your presence. But for now you need to work on building that trust again.

I hope this helps a little! Keep us updated!
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Old 04-23-2018, 10:20 AM
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Re: Please help with GCC - at my wits end. :(

I’m glad you found this place. There are many conure parronts and I’m sure you will get good feedback. Some general observations: parrots are not domesticated, but merely tame. Their natural wild behaviors can cause problems in human homes. One of those is pooping ... some parrots learn to poop when put on a perch or held over a trash basket, but don’t learn to go there on their own. You sort of have to know the frequency ... every 20 minutes, say ... watch for the pre-poop fidget and quickly move them to the spot.

Screaming, especially in the morning or at bedtime, is normal and CANNOT be trained out of them. This is how they check in with the flock at dawn ... hey, who’s here? Everybody ok? And how they settle in at night ... I’m ok, are you? I’m here, seems safe to go to sleep ... you can try to cover the cage at night if he’s waking you up too early, especially with a new baby, but expect the noise to be a regular thing.

Parrots do compete for volume. I could never listen to the radio with our BFA because it made him yell. Turning it up just made him yell louder. This is another thing that’s hard to change.

The seed diets with junk food seeds like sunflower are no good. Sunflower seeds are like parrot crack. They will pick them out. If a mix has those seeds, it is likely to be low quality in other ways. I personally prefer Harrison’s as they are organic and well formulated pellets. You can order directly from them, and they have good info about converting parrots to a healthier diet on their website.

Parrots needs humans to teach them appropriate behaviors in loving but firm ways. Punishment NEVER works. Yelling and pushing the cage will only scare the bird and set the bonding process back.

I recommend some books: The Companion Parrot Handbook by Blanchard is fantastic. The Parrots For Dummies by Moustaki is also great. Both those will give you some good insight into how your parrot thinks and how to work with their natural instincts to help them be part of a happy family. Good luck!
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Old 04-24-2018, 03:06 PM
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Re: Please help with GCC - at my wits end. :(

Thank you so much to you all for your replies, advice and support. It really helped. I have been doing lots of reading (will continue to do so) and feel clearer about what we need to do. My husband and I had an honest talk about Pogo last night and came to the conclusion that we both want to make it work for us all. My husband said he would love to have a parrot that he can come home to and cuddle with again and I'd love to see that too. We know it will take a long time but are willing to try. With us both on board at the moment, we have made some changes already including making healthy chop, and have taken the advice to 'start again', as though he is a new bird. I have started by beginning to 'charge' a key word to use and being generally calmer around him and Pogo is responding well. I've even caught my husband 'charging' the key word with a treat whenever he is nearby I feel much better about it all having shared my concerns and received useful advice so thank you.
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Old 04-24-2018, 03:40 PM
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Re: Please help with GCC - at my wits end. :(

Wonderful advice above. It's a very complex problem, and I'm glad you are getting a lot of good input. You sound like a very caring and ethical person. My heart goes out to dear littel Pogo. And congratulations on your family expansion!

I'll address the diet issue further, since an inadequate diet can exacerbate behavior problems.

Harrison's Bird Foods
I feed Harrison's, supplemented by fresh healthy treats. My first, and later, my current avian vet recommended it. My bird loves the pellets now, but to get him converted, my avian vet suggested putting pellets out all day, and putting seeds (his old diet) out for two 15-minute periods a day. That would sustain him but leave him hungry enough to try new stuff. I presume the same technique could be used to get him to eat other healthy stuff, like fruits and vegetables! My guy was eating pellets in a couple of days, and now I can feed a good variety of other stuff, knowing he has the pellets as a basic. Pellets are out all day... fresh treats a few times a day. I also like Harrison's via mail because I never have to worry about out-of-date products.

You have some hard thinking to do, I know, and I wish you the best of luck.
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Old 04-24-2018, 04:37 PM
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Re: Please help with GCC - at my wits end. :(

Quote: Originally Posted by pogoparrot View Post
Thank you so much to you all for your replies, advice and support. It really helped. I have been doing lots of reading (will continue to do so) and feel clearer about what we need to do. My husband and I had an honest talk about Pogo last night and came to the conclusion that we both want to make it work for us all. My husband said he would love to have a parrot that he can come home to and cuddle with again and I'd love to see that too. We know it will take a long time but are willing to try. With us both on board at the moment, we have made some changes already including making healthy chop, and have taken the advice to 'start again', as though he is a new bird. I have started by beginning to 'charge' a key word to use and being generally calmer around him and Pogo is responding well. I've even caught my husband 'charging' the key word with a treat whenever he is nearby I feel much better about it all having shared my concerns and received useful advice so thank you.
Good for you!

I just had a long conversation yesterday about hormone season and the need to "nip it in the bud". Once you're back in Pogo's good graces I encourage you to be on the lookout for those little aggressions and a preferred person behaviors as that seems to be where it all really went south.
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