A little help, please...

Migi.oso.priti

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Apr 1, 2018
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Migi the cockatiel
Preface: I've had migi for 5 years now. He's my best friend. He's had behavioral issues in the past but we've always gotten over those humps. I've done plenty of research online so I think I may already know a lot of the answers I'm looking for, but I'm reaching out in hopes of getting some more experienced insight.

First of all, some drastic life changes took place recently. I married my long term girlfriend (she loves Migi too, but sadly she's taking the bigger hit in this situation) and we moved in together in a new apartment in Brooklyn. I've kept my job until the end of this month on Long Island and I'm very busy out there, so I usually stay multiple days in a row. I'm back every weekend, but right off the bat, Migi is dealing with some uncertain abandonment issues - as far as his perspective goes. It makes me very sad..

My saint of a wife has been caring for him while I'm gone, but unsurprisingly, they're not bonded. His vocal behavior has been off the charts bad. I've met many birds and I would have to argue that Migi is a contender as far as stubborn screaming goes. He will. not. stop. My wife teaches music lessons online at home and she paints as well - we can imagine how persistent squawking in these situations would feel.

I keep explaining that ignoring the yelling and having patience is key. I know it is, and I know the sweet lovable bird is still there - he's just confused. I leave my job at the end of the month and I'll be around more then. I'm hoping things will begin to get easier. But I'm really trying to take my wife's sanity into account - if he's this bad when I'm home, I can only imagine what she's putting up with while I'm gone. I would like to tell you things I've tried and maybe see if anyone has some suggestions for things that have worked for them.

Some clear issues:

- Attention screaming, all hours, very persistent.
- Attachment issues. Every time I get up, turn my back, walk away, shut various doors - even the slightest movements, I don't even have to leave the room - all are met with panicked screaming. Very difficult to talk him down to a point where I can walk away.
- Territorial flying. He will purposely fly to positions we can't reach and scream at us from a distance. Attempts to retrieve are met with taking a couple steps backward, sometimes even a bite if he's angry. If I give up and decide to leave him alone, he will panic scream as I turn my back. I'm not a fan of clipping, but have done so in the past as it was necessary for retraining.

Some things I've tried and his response:

- I recently purchased a full spectrum UV light from M&M Cage Company, as his cage is away from windows and I read that a certain amount of proper lighting could promote health and encourage more comfortable behavior. So far he seems weary of it and has been sitting on the perch furthest away from it - this is not a usual hangout spot. He calms down and rests here though. Whenever he finds himself directly under the light, he doesn't stick around long, and so far it just doesn't seem like something he's actually enjoying. Give it a chance, or nix it? (the thing was 70 bucks...)
- I've spent small fortunes on toys only to largely see them go ignored and eventually covered in poop. He only seems to be very responsive to mirrors, but too much mirror time has also been a negative thing in the past. I'm thinking of limiting the mirror to only playtime, however I'm positive such a move will be met with much backlash.
- He is hilariously unresponsive to clicker training. A seed or peanut is not enough incentive for him to attempt to grasp the concept of why a chopstick might be in front of his face.
- On the rare occasion that ignoring the yelling has worked, my attempts at praising the silence are often met with hissing and the threat of an open beak. "You dare ignore me?" he says..
- I have tried avi-calm at some people's suggestion, I don't notice much of an effect whether it be spiking his water or dusting some snacks.
- He's on a steady diet of Harrison's Lifetime - free fed (our schedules don't align with meal times) - with a small amount of sunflower-less seeds at 5pm. He's a very healthy boy. However he seems to refuse to eat unless I'm also eating (he doesn't fall for the fake eating crap). While this is cute, I think it is also a source of frustration for him when he's hungry and I'm not eating. Also, for no particular physiological reason...he appears to behave like a bit of an addict when it comes to seeds - sometimes ignoring his pellets for an entire day (he'll eat them eventually) while waiting and yelling for seeds, unaware of his 5pm schedule.
- He prefers to stay up with us until we go to bed. I know this isn't optimal for his health. I've tried earlier bedtimes, but he appears to take it as punishment. I feel bad for this, so it is not something that has ever stuck. Should I be persistent about 7-8pm bedtime? When he naturally gets tired around that time, should that be a hard and fast bedtime routine?

I'm feeling bad for my wife who does so much for me and him. Her patience is running thin and I'm often in complicated situations where I know ignoring is the answer but feel pressured to scold him. He's such a sweet boy and I really want to get back to a place where we once were. I know it's not entirely possible until my home life is a bit more stable, but I would really appreciate any advice or tips you may have that could help or expedite the process.

Thank you! - Joe and Migi
 

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JimsBrother

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I haven't been a bird parent long enough to have much for answers. But when my 'Tiel screams it's always a call for attention. Seems that you're doing your best to provide that, so it's not clear why he persists. I do know that the Cockatiel screech can go right through your head, and I sincerely feel for your wife.

My birds' bedtime is about 10 pm. That's when the cages get covered. Morning is 8-ish.

I'm interested to watch this thread, as eventually I will be returning to a normal work day and the birds will be alone. They've had someone in the house with them for a number of years now and I know it'll be lonely for them.
 

Cottonoid

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Oh golly, all of you have had some upheaval and noise it sounds like!

My son and his girlfriend have different work schedules this year than they used to, so they started using a separate sleeping cage in their walk-in closet for their cockatiel so that he can have total dark and quiet for 10-12 hours instead of staying up with them. It's made a big difference! During spring hormones he got a bit more nesty and territorial in that cage than he would have in his daytime cage, but that wasore manageable than grumpy FOMO bird every night.

He's also gotten cage time outside on their patio this spring which seems to help too.

He's also never been much of a trick guy or a forager - he just likes his people and finding anything resembling his reflection to talk to! They have found he likes recall training though, flying to them when they call him back and forth for a while each day. That's helped burn off some of his mental and physical energy.

They also have worked more on his diet over the past year and have noticed it helps his overall moods.

It sounds like you've tried a lot already so apologies if you already have done all these things ;)

Lights are debated here and there but since he's actively trying to avoid it, I'd stop using it - at least not directly shining on his cage.

I've been the recipient of non stop cockatiel screaming when I've bird-sat, but not for more than a day, so I really sympathize with your situation. I suspect you are right, you'll be able to get a better resolution once you're there more, but hopefully you can tweak a couple more things that help a bit in the meantime.
 

Laurasea

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it is miserable and hard to deal with and to stop.

I've dealt with a dedicated screaming quaker, even knowingly took her in because of it. It took a few months to correct. And now after a couple of years this breeding season started the cycle back up! so I've got work to do again myself. Full sympathy!!!

Ok, you've had plenty of life changes and reasons for it to start ...but its also a good idea for a vet check to rule out health reasons.

I found ignoring my screaming buddy accomplishes nothing. Instead I worked on preventing cycles, interrupt and redirect and creating longer and longer habits of not screaming. Praise and random treats when ever quiet.


Millet woven into toys , making them work for it. Moving them from perch hang out spot to different perch hang out spots. Creating a pattern. When ever normal day nap time happens you can build on that. If nap time is 1030 an, offer an apple slice prior to nap time. For me mine are out all day but I wanted a quiet time mid day caged. So I would cage just prior to nap time with apple or some high value food . Then after nap would get term out before screaming. But worked to increase cage time gradually until I could count on about 1-2 hours quiet cage time.

Also I think it helps bunches to always greet and treat as soon as you get home, and goodbye and treat before you walk out the door. Even explain how long you will be gone.

Also never underestimate the power of just having you both go and say hi and give a seed many times a day.

Have a group date with bird on the couch while you watch a movie, really make it special. When my GCC was jealous of my boyfriend we did this. We got a plate of strawberries ( her favorite) we fed each other and her, passed her back and forth for kisses. She was on cloud 9 and loved him after that! Plus he always said hello to her and gave treats and told her bye with treats.

You can also try patterning to soft music. You play it as they go to sleep at night. Then playing it when screaming can cause them to calm down

Good luck!
 
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Migi.oso.priti

Migi.oso.priti

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Apr 1, 2018
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Migi the cockatiel
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Thank you everyone for the great replies.

I'm going to try a more dedicated bed time probably around 8pm when he gets sleepy anyway, sadly at the expense of my guilt and his confusion. Hopefully that can become a healthy habit, and he stops seeing it as punishment and gets decent rest (I'm a bit of a night owl).

As far as the full spectrum UV light goes, I will try to keep it on a dimmer and gradually increase its intensity. If he continues to show displeasure from it I will nix it, although I do like the idea of Migi getting some of that 'artificially natural' light, as we live in an apartment in Brooklyn and his setup isn't near one of the very few windows we have. He has a standard healthy diet of Harrison's Lifetime and no junk, so if the nutrients he gets from that makes UV rays negligible, I'll just return it - but I'm curious what thoughts you may have?

Thank you for the idea of recall training. I've been trying to get him to fly to my finger for a while now, starting at very small distances, but he never showed much interest so it never stuck. I think I'll give that a try again and be consistent, it ought to take up a decent chunk of mental and physical energy (even if he is just standing there very confused why I'm not doing the usual 'step-up' motion).

Almost all of the advice I've seen online says to adamantly ignore the screaming until they stop, otherwise giving them attention will teach them to scream for it. So, engaging and attempting to redirect interest is a new suggestion that I'm interested in trying. However I'm also weary of this because very often he'll be screaming while we're in the middle of something important or intensive and can't really drop everything at once - so I'm afraid I would be inconsistent in this method. Laurasea, I'd love to hear more details about how you employ this method.

I'll be stocking up on more treats. He's tough because he's literally never showed interest in anything besides the Safflower Gold seeds, but he will eat peanuts/cashews from my hand. Admittedly there's much I need to work on as well. I will try and be better about greeting him with treats and showering random praise when he's being well behaved. I will talk to my wife about trying the same, although while I'm convinced they actually love each, they're at odds right now.

Very good idea about soft nap time music that can carry over into a potential attitude adjustment. I'm going to give that a try.

I'll post some updates here and there. Thanks again!

- Joe and Migi
 

wrench13

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Laura's advice is spot on. THis guy is going thru several issues beginning with the 'abandonment', the introduction of a new person, and several habits that have perhaps proven to not be optimal.

For training treats, keep trying different things, me, I found pine nuts to be the magic key that unlocked Salty's potential for learning. Cut 'em into 1/3rds. But try other seeds and nuts til you find one he LOVES. Try to do a regular training session every day, same time, not long, 10 minutes or so. Parrots LOVE routine. Re sleepy time, they need 10-12 hrs quiet dark sleeptime. We get Salty up at 9-10 and he goes to bed at 10PM almost religiously. Tired birds are cranky birds. Me, I would kill the mirrors. Too confusing and too addictive to a cage bird.
 

Laurasea

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its kinda like setting them up for success. If you know you have something important at a set time. Then try a little training before hand, some super easy like touch this, lift this paper for a treat. ( burn off some energy in a postive way) Then for me because mine like baths, I encourage a bath by splashing in a shallow dish or misting them. ( i usually get fir sure 30 min quiet time after a bath) then I put them in their cage with a yummy treat ( slice of apple, some corn on the cob) that can extend quiet time to an hour.

Or if you know screaming triggers or screaming times , keep them busy and distracted. Don't let it get started or interrupt as soon as they do.

Because any vocalization are better than screaming. Get them whistling or talking. If they start screaming i start whistling or saying there favorite phrases often they will switch to that. I will take a million wolf whistles over screaming. Or a bazillion hellos. Often they are happy to switch to those and breaks that cycle so after a few minutes if going back n forth they switch to a different activity.

Or if they have a screaming spot or perch ( lol mine do have favorite screaming spots!) I have them step to me and move e them to a different spot. It works!

And reward reward all quiet birds, or any acceptable sounds like whistling.

Anytime they start that screaming I hop to it. I move them , put them on one side of a perch then walk to me fir a treat. So they are getting treat for working for it not for screaming and getting attention. Or I take them for a walk around house. Then after a few minutes I brag on them for being a quiet bird.

I crested longer and longer habits of not screaming.

All I can say is it worked for me. My quaker Phoebe was an extremely dedicated screaming parrot, from sun up to sunset. I " saved lol" her from the pet store $$$$ because she was non stop screaming. I'd hoped having a home and quakers for friendship would great drop the screaming when I brought her home....but no. It took everything I shared with you and a few months to break it. And I celebrated my five minutes of quite milestone up to getting an hour then more hours .

And we have a mid day cage for an hour or two habit now of quiet time routine. And about 2 hours of foraging time in the morning thats blissful quiet while they stuff their beaks and are occupied without having to be glued to me. Otherwise its normal quaker vocals ( not screaming) mine do like to quack , squeak, chirp, talk , whistle, purr, make kisses and other weird quaker chatter. With the non stop budgies vocals ( those I like!) My green cheek is quiet unless talking to me or alarm calls about vulture or hawks outside.

I hope you get there!
 

Laurasea

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I know its counter the common advice. But it worked for me to break the cycle.

A behavior getts started for a reason , but it can become a self rewarding habit ( I think they get endorphins just like plucked do) so addresses to root causes first. For many its started because the burd isn't getting enough out of cage time, social time, exercise, and mental stimulation. Or there is a stressor ( someone/another pet harassment ) not enough sleep, something outside, pain illness. So addressing all of that can drop screaming 75% then those folks can do minor tweaks to eliminate.

Thats were I think ignoring the screaming advice comes from. Because the screaming got started in the first place by a parrot who's needs weren't getting met and learned to scream for attention or for something to happen in their boring lives . Those type of situations , the parrots whole life needs an overhaul. They need much more time out if cage, much more self directed behavior and usually self directed movements ( flight if had been always clipped ) or big connected play areas they can move around by their own choice not stuck on a stick depending on a human to go anywhwre. They need foraging, they need much more attention ( flock creatures would never be alone)

But I've never found ignoring screaming to do anything. Fixing any issues. Redirecting, reconditioned new habits, lots of rewarding quiet, or talking/ whistling and preventing known triggers is what has worked for me( re home, rescues, fosters)

Hormonal season...there is some increasing calls filor mate announcing territory ...loudness. its seasonal ( spring) and I haven't figured that out yet....tho moving cages around and changing things up, decreased fatty foods, increasing activity no warm foods is helpful. And there is an end date when hormones stabilize. So some if that is just part of having parrots with working reproductive systems
 
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wrench13

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Laura, such great info ! You should write a sticky on the methods that worked for you on this topic! Its like the #1 or 2 reason folks come to ParrotForums for help and guidance.
 

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