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Old 11-27-2018, 09:15 AM
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Behavior modification training w/Lovebird

Backstory: one of two 3 y/o Peach-faced Lovebirds who became increasingly aggressive towards me (the only person who handles her) over the last several months, especially with regard to her cage. She wouldn't let me remove or place bowls of food and water without trying to bite me. Most of the time, she would succeed.

Yesterday, I had a video consult with a bird behaviorist. She had some very interesting tips for me concerning this behavior, and I thought I'd share here in case anyone is searching for this topic.

1. Kennel training: allow her to come out of cage on her own and go in by using high-value treats (millet)

In this case, she is fully flighted and will often fly directly to me. I move the girls into a travel cage in order to carry them to their outdoor aviary. This is where the breakdown of her trust began. I was scooping her up to put her in/out of the travel cage rather than letting her make the decision to go in. This training requires allowing her to decide to come out, step up, go into the travel cage -- all on her own accord. She loves millet so getting her to come to me using millet will help us succeed here.

2. Station training: find a spot in room where I want her to go while I'm changing the bowls in the cage by also using a high-value treat (millet)

I will be using millet and a small playpen that will sit on top of the desk in the room to persuade her to come out of the cage on her own and chow on a treat while I change out the bowls in the cage. Again, I'm letting her make the decision on her own and not forcing her to do anything that may be against her will.

3. Feeding: pull all food at night so I have hungry bellies in the morning

This includes starting kennel training and station training in the a.m. as well. It makes sense to have a hungry girl to work with who might be more willing to work for her food every morning. Granted, it's a very small sprig of millet given each time and I'm not feeding it all day long -- only in the mornings.

I was pleasantly surprised and quite relieved to hear that it could be as simple as working to regain her trust. Trust, itself, is by no means "simple" but regaining it can be, if done right.

The running theme in these exercises is simple. Let Penelope have more control over herself. I have been delegating all movement to/from the cage and to/from the travel cage and to/from the aviary with little consideration for what she may or may not want to do. I have mistakenly used my hand to scoop her up while inside of her cage to come out whether she wanted to or not. We have to go back to basics, and work on stepping up and stepping down. This will allow us to go through all the other exercises a little easier.

I will report with an update in about a month, if not sooner. Here's hoping I can successfully implement what I've been taught!
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Old 11-27-2018, 03:25 PM
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Re: Behavior modification training w/Lovebird

I enjoyed your conclusions and they are spot on. Trust is the center piece of the relationship. One of those stepping stones is: Only Good Things Happen When Humans Are Around.

When food is used as a training tool (behavior modification training) great care must be taken to assure that the Parrot never becomes concern regarding Starvation! Introduction of the fear of Starvation can result in new or enhancing existing behavior problems.

Using the night prior to the training session near demands that the training occurs first thing in the morning. Take great care to assure that is does.
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Last edited by SailBoat; 11-27-2018 at 04:55 PM.
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Old 11-27-2018, 04:11 PM
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Re: Behavior modification training w/Lovebird

How wonderful that you consulted a behaviorist!!!! Outstanding parront of the year!!! Thanks for sharing the details!!! I look forward to reading positive results!!
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Old 11-27-2018, 06:50 PM
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Re: Behavior modification training w/Lovebird

Sounds solid. I just love the overlap between humans and birds..we TOTALLY do all of this with kids.

Reinforcer= Millet

Presumed function of behavior=escape

To solve the problem, build trust by pairing preferred item with non preferred task/person, thereby increasing trust and reducing need for escape behavior.

Empty bellies reduce the possibility of satiation and increase value of reinforcer (millet)

If the bird starts to go for the millet less, you might want to have a backup on hand. This is true of humans as well.


Consistency among all people interacting with the bird will be absolutely key. Also, if she flies to you, always make sure you give the millet immediately.



Eventually, I am guessing that you will thin this out (the 1:1 schedule of reinforcement). After the bird trusts you and associates you with the reward, you will likely go to a variable ratio schedule (vr:2) or something more intermittent. Then you will be like a millet slot machine which will increase your value even more (until the bird realizes that you, on your own, are reinforcing and not scary).



YAY BEHAVIORISM! LOL

Last edited by noodles123; 11-27-2018 at 06:53 PM.
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Old 11-28-2018, 08:44 AM
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Re: Behavior modification training w/Lovebird

Well, it has been two days!

I removed the food the night before and woke them up when the sun came up, as I do everyday. This morning, I opened the cage doors on both sides and Clementine immediately popped out. She isn't the one with whom I'm having trouble though.

Her sister, Penelope, is the one who has been displaying aggressive behavior. She takes a little longer to coax out of the cage. Once out, she flew directly to me. Now, this is where I'm unsure of what to do. I want her to fly to the station which I have decided will be on the desk in the room. I'm unsure of how to get her to fly directly there in lieu of flying to me. Once on my shoulder, she bit my ear (which she has never done before). I then tried to have her step up on my finger but she bit that too. None of these bites are soft. There is no bite inhibition. She bites because she knows it works.

She finally flew off my shoulder and landed on the desk to which I quickly rewarded. She was very pleased with the millet. Her sister, Clementine, also flew to the desk to eat some millet and I then realized I should have kept her in her side of the cage until I was done working with Penelope. Bear with me as I'm learning as I go.

They squabbled over the millet and flew around the room a bit. I took this time to change the water dishes and put in their food for the morning. Now, here's where it gets a little tricky. Penelope has begun charging my hands while I'm holding bowls. I have not seen her exhibit this behavior before and I don't understand it. While I was changing bowls in her cage, she was not staying on the station area. She quickly hurried back to the cage and climbed in to try to bite me as I placed her food in there.

Mind you, she does not do this on Clementine's side of the cage. They are in a large flight cage that's divided down the middle for safety reasons. She only charges my hands when I'm working on her side of the cage. I feed her one bowl of pellets in the a.m. and one bowl of chop in the a.m. I remove the chop in the afternoon and offer a tbsp. of Top's seed mix. She barely touches it.

I don't understand why she's doing this and why she bit my ear this morning. The good news to report is that she did go to the station on her own for a short while and enjoyed some millet.

I will report all of this, as written, to the behaviorist. I'd love some feedback here as well.
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Old 11-28-2018, 09:02 AM
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Re: Behavior modification training w/Lovebird

I use a tiny American flag, when Ta-dah is on my shoulder and won't come off, I raise the flag slowly towards her, she then runs down to my hand and I place her on perch or she flys off. Now I just have to walk to were the flag is and she comes down or I just point at the flag and it works. It's a proven parrot anti bite to have a ( maybe scary) object in the hand. I'm doing a terrible job if explaining it though...but I think it would prevent charges to.
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Old 11-28-2018, 04:38 PM
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Re: Behavior modification training w/Lovebird

She is probably defending the cage. Bottom line, when unsure as to the reason for a behavior, don't change what you are doing as a result of that behavior. Just put the food in as planned and do your best not to react.
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