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Old 01-11-2018, 01:14 PM
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Please help. Wife, bitten... life upset

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Hello everyone. I hope someone can help me. I have a Goffin's Cockatoo. She's a little cutie. I've had her now about five years. She came to me from a friend who had her for a couple of years and he got her from a vet that rescued her from a place that didn't even bother to find out her sex.

Now, before this, I had owned an Umbrella Cockatoo. I had her for 18 years. She died and it broke all our hearts. So I know how to handle a bird.

'too as we call her, (previous owner called her "cecil" and since we found out she was a girl we just call her 'too bird) is really good around me and my son but not so much around my daughter or my wife. She's bitten my daughter a couple of times and bit my wife once on the thumb pretty badly. At the time I refused to get rid of the bird as my then girlfriend wanted. She's a farm girl. To her, if an animal bites, it's gone. I have always felt that a parrot is a smart creature that does what it does for a reason and it's up to us as its caretakers to figure out why so we can stop it. Well, being busy with life I never really got busy with training and here we are today.

Last night we were watching a Nova on parrots. The bird was out and bopping back and forth between our laps. She just bit my wife on her arm. No warnings, no signs, nothing. Just up and bit her. Hard.

My wife is furious at me, at the bird at the entire situation. I'm lost. I don't want to lose my little friend but I also don't want to lose my wife. I'm afraid I'm going to lose one of them.

I just don't know what to do.
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Old 01-11-2018, 11:59 PM
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Re: Please help. Wife, bitten... life upset

Welcome to Parrot Forums.

Sorry that your first Thread has to deal with such a issue. The reality is bits can happen. It hurts and no one wants to get bitten.

It is not common for Parrot to just bit, commonly something is behind the bit. Please take the time to visit the Too Forum and read the light blue Threads at the top of the page and then go hunting within the Threads.

Read and come back with questions!
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Old 01-12-2018, 01:03 AM
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Re: Please help. Wife, bitten... life upset

Welcome to the forums, hope we can collectively salvage the relationship and help you keep "too bird."

Has she always been aggressive toward your wife, or is this new? If recent, the behavior may be triggered by something so innocent as the change of hair style or color. You may have to keep her separate for a long while to "retrain" her brain.
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Old 01-12-2018, 09:25 AM
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Re: Please help. Wife, bitten... life upset

I'm not sure what you can tell your wife besides this is something parrots occasionally do, even the nicest, best trained ones. Parrots are not domesticated. They are at most 2-3 generations out of the wild and still retain their wild instincts and behaviors, unlike domesticated animals who've been bred in captivity for desirable behavior/traits for thousands of years. The occasional bite is a part of parrot ownership and can be expected. Unlike predatory pets like dogs, parrots have no prey drive and they bite for very different reasons than predatory animals like dogs or cats. It is likely the documentary made your bird frightened or jealous of the other birds and he gave your wife what is known as a "displacement bite". Basically, in lieu of being able to bite the birds on the screen, he bit the nearest living thing instead (which unfortunately happened to be your wife).

My dad has had his goffins cockatoo for 40+ years and got him as a baby. He is a mean little thing to anyone but my dad (despite having never been mistreated) and he can certainly inflict a nasty bite. So notorious for his attacks, at some point the family compromise became he was caged all day and only comes out when my dad is home in the mornings and evenings. The room my dad takes him in, everyone else avoids until he goes back in his cage. My mom will only handle him with thick winter gloves on or a stick and only if absolutely necessary. When he's caged, my mom talks to him and "dances" with him even offers scratches with a chopstick kept next to his cage if he puts his head down, but no one but my dad handles, touches or really takes him out of his cage. TBH, I think he prefers it that way. He's not an unhappy bird at all and has never plucked or acted depressed. He has a large cage, lots of stuff to chew up and play with, is an excellent flier and enjoys coming out of his cage to spend time with the only person he likes. Point being, your goffin doesn't necessarily HAVE to be a family pet if he doesn't get along well with your family and that doesn't mean he can't still have a happy life with you if your wife gives him a wide berth. Though, I think at one bite when he was seeing other birds on the TV isn't quite the right time to give up on him being a more social bird yet.

Last edited by Kiwibird; 01-12-2018 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 01-12-2018, 09:42 AM
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Re: Please help. Wife, bitten... life upset

Sorry to hear your are having trouble with your cockatoo. Our experts have given excellent advice. I have nothing to add, only that many here feel your frustration and have been through the same thing. They sure can bite hard!! I hope you and your family can work with your cockatoo to get through this.
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Old 01-12-2018, 11:52 AM
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Re: Please help. Wife, bitten... life upset

The bite of a determined and aggressive (and much smaller) green-cheek conure is off-putting and painful enough. I can only image how much worse it was to endure a 'too bite.

Your bird can't apologize to your wife, and you can easily alienate her without a thoughtful and empathetic response - so apologize on 'too's behalf. Make amends, and create the distance and space necessary so that your wife doesn't feel like you're favoring the bird over her.

Then, analyze the bird's history and behavior towards her, identifying potential triggers. It could be your 'too was agitated over the birds on the TV. Or it wanted attention and wasn't being given any.

Ultimately your 'too is smart, and is certainly enough to respond to dedicated and consistent training. Catch up that, and it should go a long way towards reestablishing harmony.
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Old 01-12-2018, 01:07 PM
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Re: Please help. Wife, bitten... life upset

I don't know much about toos but I do know when Chicky (amazon) is watching birds she gets wound right up and I keep some distance from the beak.
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Old 01-12-2018, 01:08 PM
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Re: Please help. Wife, bitten... life upset

Just ask Gail how smart the Rickeybird is!!
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Old 01-12-2018, 01:46 PM
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Re: Please help. Wife, bitten... life upset

A lot of people just don't understand what it's like being a parrot. Parrots are wild animals and are still very much wild at heart. They're very intelligent, used to being active (in the wild), have rich social lives, and need to be treated with compassion and respect. Most captive animals (cats, dogs, etc.) are predatory animals. Parrots, however, are constantly alert, looking out for predators. They're easily startled and have a more complex social etiquette than your average domestic animal. You can do pretty much whatever you want with dogs (put clothes on them, groom them, hug them, chase them, etc.) and they'll sit there and take it. Parrots won't. Parrots won't tolerate "rude" behaviour on the part of a human.

Parrots often struggle to control their emotions. In the wild, they can fly around, destroy things, or just remove themselves from an upsetting situation. In captivity, however, they're often forced to bite. These acts of aggression (being forced to bite or lunge) are not enjoyable in any way to them. She doesn't enjoy biting your wife or daughter. Too feels so threatened by these female humans that she feels she has to go on the offensive to protect herself. Odds are she's scared. The fact that she reacts so negatively towards them suggests she may have had bad experiences in the past with women, and she has a hard time trusting them.

It's important to try to explain to your wife that Too isn't trying to be mean. Rather, she becomes so overwhelmed that she ends up biting. Too knows it's not nice to bite, and she doesn't want to, but she just becomes so upset that she bites. It's like when little kids get upset and start hitting and kicking their parents. They aren't bad kids. They just can't express themselves properly, have poor impulse control, and just become so upset that they hurt the ones they love. But it's not their fault because they can't control it. Instead, Too needs to be taught alternatives to biting when she's upset.

Many people will punish an aggressive animal, however it's been proven to make things worse. An animal who behaves aggressively due to fear will only become more fearful and less trusting if punished. You need to learn to read their body language and you need to increase their confidence. If an animal is being aggressive not due to fear (the animal is almost always aggressive due to fear), well, know what? It's almost definitely fear based aggression. When you can tell Too's getting upset, ask her to do a trick, give her a toy to play with, or try to get her to dance with you.

Now, here's what's important to think about: Too's had at least THREE homes before coming to live with you. These people were her FLOCK. One's flock is everything to a parrot. To open herself up to these people, only to have her heart broken time and time again, that's just horrible. Everything she grew to know was suddenly gone, again and again, over and over. Just try to get your family to put themselves in her situation. Imagine never having any control over your life, being moved from family to family, never knowing if you'll still live in this home tomorrow. Nobody's taught her healthy ways to express herself.

With farm animals, they aren't constantly being ripped away from their herd or flock, but Too HAS been. To her, the world is a very scary place, and she's learnt that she has to make herself even more "scary" to protect herself and have some semblance of control.
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Old 01-12-2018, 07:17 PM
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Re: Please help. Wife, bitten... life upset

As the non-custodial parront in a family myself, I sympathize with your wife and with your parrot. It's not the parrot's fault - a bite is the bird's best idea for handling a situation. And it's also not your wife's fault. Both of them deserve to have a safe and supportive home. The only one here who has a chance of fixing the situation is you. Since you have the best relationship with the 'too, you have the best shot at changing her behavior. She needs to learn - in a loving way - that biting human is not acceptable, period. A bite to any human is treated just as if it were a bite to you. A ten-minute time out, for example, should be given instantly. There are lots of great threads here about biting birds. Birdman666 has posted some wonderful messages, such as the Big Beak 'O Phobe's Guide to Macaw Beaks which applies to many birds. There is an out of print book by Sally Blanchard called "The Beak Book" which might be found in a library. Her "Companion Parrot Handbook" is also great. Point being there's tons and tons of helpful stuff out there to help you. Your wife needs to be on board as well for this to work. When I met my husband, he had a parrot who didn't like me. The parrot was there before me, so I worked hard to befriend him, to understand him the best I could, learned as much about parrots as I could, and our connection improved steadily. It's not fair to ask either your wife or your parrot to live a miserable life. How would you feel if the situation were reversed, and you were the second class citizen being bitten? Wouldn't you insist that your wife take steps to help things improve? You can do it! Here's to domestic harmony, long may it reign!
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