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Old 08-10-2018, 12:10 AM
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Aggressive Conure - Looking for Help

Hi all!

I'm new here and have owned a little Green Cheek named Juju for a couple years now. She's incredibly aggressive (biter) and I'm hoping some of you might be able to offer some tips for training to make her a little more handleable.

First some backstory for Juju: I got her a few years ago (I don't remember the actual date now) from a breeder in Georgia. The breeder left her in a situation where she was over-preened by the other birds in the cage with her when she was still a little baby. I have a feeling this is the source of her aggression and possible neuroses as I've never fully been able to train her out of her bad habits no matter how hard I try.

Juju was always fine with me, but other people including my brother and mother could not handle her bare-handed without being bitten apart. She really went after them and got them good to the point where they were afraid to handle her. I was always able to handle her with no problem, so I tried to socialize her with my family to try and train her out of her bad habits. It was coming along slowly, but then I moved out of state. I had to leave her with my family for the better part of about 5-6 months while I got settled and found a place that would allow me to have a bird. Once I did, my mom shipped her to me via plane; however, in that period of time she was not handled or socialized very much due to my family's fear of her biting. She had regressed pretty badly when I got her after the time of separation.

When I got her (now in Seattle) and she was under my primary care again, she was back to being handled regularly; however, at this point her aggression was out of control. I could no longer handle her without gloves even though I was the only one that could handle her previously. She bites, hard enough to draw blood and hangs on, and no matter how much I socialize her or try to work her through it it doesn't seem to make a difference. At times I thought it might be making a difference, she would go a week or two without having a "biting episode," but then she would go right back to it like she forgot all the progress in a second. These episodes were seemingly unprovoked, I can't figure out any common factors that causes her random bouts of aggression.

Sorry for the long post! That brings me to the present. I would truly love to get Juju back to the point where at least one person can handle her. I feel very bad for her because she doesn't get to get out of her cage as much as she used to due to the fact that she's aggressive with everyone in the vicinity when she's allowed free roam. I live in a studio apartment currently so I can't keep her out by herself in a room.

I'm just hoping for any advice from some experienced conure-owners that might be familiar with this behavior and how I can best approach it. I have no intention of giving her away, I want to get her through this and provide the best life I can for her, she is my family. It breaks my heart that she can't be out and sociable as much as she used to and I know that she wants to, because she loves to hang out on people (until she flips out and bites for no reason).

Does anyone have any advice or experience in this? I really appreciate your time! I'm sure poor little Juju will too.

Last edited by badjuju; 08-10-2018 at 12:14 AM. Reason: missed a word
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Old 08-10-2018, 03:22 AM
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Re: Aggressive Conure - Looking for Help

Have you tried going back to square one and treating her like a new bird? And working with her on target training and positive reinforcement training?

I've been rather lucky in that I've never had an out-right aggressive bird, but I have had birds that were unsocialized, parent raised, afraid of hands, severely neglected, hurt by another animal, etc.

I'm working with a conure right now that was originally sold by Petsmart and into a chaotic family, but the person who got him did the best she knew how to for him. Never really could interact with him on a frequent basis as he would not come out of his cage if someone was close by. Stepping up was out of the question! We're working on it though and he seems to be doing well under my care!

It can really help knowing what their favorite treats are and why the behavior is occurring in the first place so you can avoid and retrain new behaviors.

The Earth is not flat and the Sun does not revolve around the Earth. Don't be afraid to question what you learn. In doing so, you may discover a greater truth. ~Mc
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Old 08-10-2018, 05:50 AM
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Re: Aggressive Conure - Looking for Help

What Monica said!
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Old 08-10-2018, 08:43 AM
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Re: Aggressive Conure - Looking for Help

definitely follow Monica's advice! Go back to square one, avoid hands for now if she needs to be moved or to step up then try using a stick (I actually try to use a perch from in the cage held in my hand just so it's familiar to them and less scary) you want to try avoiding biting opportunities so keep your hands away. Gloves although they stop pain only reinforce biting and make them bite harder and harder and harder until they get the reaction they desire from you (often that reaction is for you to go away).

Also as another tip try to figure out WHY she is biting? Protecting her territory? Fear? Not understanding hands? I've seen a lot of threads started with aggression and then realization that it was something else going on. I myself had it where I thought my conure went schizo on me and it turned out he was trying to save me from my hoody!
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Old 08-10-2018, 02:28 PM
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Re: Aggressive Conure - Looking for Help

I totally agree, you need to forget about what has happened already, and start from square-one, like you just brought Juju home today. She needs to at the very least have her main-cage located in the main room of your apartment, if it's a studio apartment then you probably only have one room and a bedroom, so if you spend most of your time at home in the living room/main room watching TV, playing video games, reading, with friends talking, etc., then her cage needs to be in that room, not back in the bedroom, as just simply having you and as many others as possible being in the same room as her, even if they aren't directly interacting with her, will help tremendously with socializing/taming her.

Ditch the gloves, as right now you shouldn't be "handling" her anyway, and gloves are only going to make the situation worse and worse, as they scare them and make them extremely uncomfortable. You need to go at Juju's pace, not the pace that you want things to go, and if you cannot handle Juju without her biting you that hard, then you shouldn't be handling her, least of all with gloves on. It's the same concept as trying to train a bird, and the bird keeps flying away from you the entire time, with you chasing the bird around the room over and over again, chasing them with a towel, trying to get them down from curtains, etc. All this does is set you back further and further and make the bird trust you less and less.

Right now you need to start-out like you just brought her home. Get her cage located in the main room of your house so that she is in your presence whenever you're home, regardless of whether you can have her out of the cage or not at this point. Spend time sitting near her cage and talking softly to her, reading to her, etc. And as discussed, Target Training can work wonders if you commit to it.

***The other thing mentioned was trying to understand WHY Juju is having these "episodes" as you call them. And generally when this behavior comes in "episodes", it tends to be at least partially related to hormones. Have you had Juju DNA-tested for gender, or did you get a DNA certificate from the breeder when you got Juju as a baby? I'm assuming that Juju has yet to lay any eggs, and the behavior you're describing certainly sounds to be male hormonal behavior to me. So you may want to consider spending the $20-$30 and getting a DNA test done, if for no other reason than to be prepared for egg-laying or not...And an overall "Wellness-Exam" by a Certified Avian Specialist Vet is a good thing to do at this point anyway, as in addition to hormonal behavior, illness, injury, pain, irritation, itching, etc. can also cause this type of behavior, so a physical health/medical cause needs to be ruled-out first, if you haven't already done this, or had it done in the last 6 months.

Just as an example, I have a male Green Cheek Conure (DNA tested male) who is a little over 2 years old now. I got him at 13 weeks old as a hand-raised, extremely tame baby, and he's always let me touch him/hold him/pet him/handle him in any way at all, he's never been at all nippy, he never bit me hard, or really ever "bit" me at all, only play-biting at best. He's fully-flighted and last year when he was a little over a year old he was out on the play-gym that's in my living room with my Quaker parrot, just hanging out. All of sudden he was gone, I couldn't find him anywhere and he wouldn't answer my calls to him, which was totally unusual. My Quaker parrot was sitting there looking at me, not at all upset as I'm running around the house freaking-out because I couldn't find him. I thought that he must have died because otherwise he'd be answering me back, he always does...After about 15 minutes of frantically searching for him, my Quaker parrot flew over to the couch in the living room and started pacing/marching back and forth on the top of the couch. So I looked behind the couch and didn't see anything, but I heard a weird chattering noise under the couch. I got a flashlight and sure enough, there he was, under the couch, talking non-stop to himself in both English and "birdie", lol, all fluffed-up like a stuffed-animal, and running around underneath there, gathering whatever he could find under there and putting it in a pile. I was calling him to come out and he it was really weird, he was looking straight at me the entire time, but was acting like I wasn't there, he just kept doing his little thing...So I reached my hand underneath the couch and told him to "step-up", he ignored me, and I removed my hand from under the couch...just then I looked under the couch again with the flashlight and he literally charged at me as fast as he could, and he clamped-down on my hand as hard as he could, drawing blood and would not let go. i pulled my hand out and lifted it up, and he was still attached to it, hanging in the air. I grabbed his beak with my other hand and pried him off of me, and he hit the floor and ran right back under the couch...I cleaned my hand up and put a band-aid on it, went back in the living room, looked under the couch again, and there is was, staring back at me while talking to himself, chattering away and running around having a good time...He was ignoring me again, so this time i got a yard-stick and swept him towards the front of the couch, thinking I'd force him out and grab him...However, he just charged out from under the couch again, this time attaching himself to the skin on the top of my foot...I literally screamed, I tried not to but damn...This time I just reached down and grabbed him, which immediately snapped him out of his little "trance", and all of sudden he was fine again, acting normally, and he knew he was in trouble.

It was completely and totally hormonal behavior, he found the dark, quiet, small spot underneath the couch which mimics a nest, and his hormones went crazy. I've since made it so he can't get under any furniture or anything else, no small, dark places at all, and it's not happened since. He has moments where he gets a little worked-up, usually when he's with my female Quaker parrot, but in-general he's fine as long as I keep him from getting into a situation like that which causes his hormones to go nuts. He gets 10-12 hours of sleep every night, and he's on a natural light schedule with the sun, and his hormones are under control for the most part. So the point is that even though your Green Cheek does have an issue being handled that is partly due to not being handled or interacted with for a long period of time, and you do need to approach this as day #1 and start the training/taming process all over again, you also need to look for other influences or reasons for his behavior, and try to eliminate or change them accordingly.
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