Discouraging Nesting Behavior & Mating Aggression in CAGs

LakeDesire

New member
Sep 27, 2012
118
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Seattle
Parrots
Jade (Nanday Conure, 20),
Henry (Red-Crowned Amazon, ~15), Joey and Sophie (Congo African Greys, ~17)
Hello!

I adopted two congo African greys from a parrot rescue about a year ago, and they're overall great birds and behave well when I'm attentive. They are target trained, and will station when I'm supervising them. However, they've been destroying their bird room lately in an attempt to make a nest, and the male turns aggressive when I go near his "corner" where he is trying to nest.

Background:

They're both 15, and met at the rescue and bonded there. Sophie is presumed female, and was in at least two homes before the rescue got her. They found her in a house with too-many birds, living in a cage in a dark corner. The rescue folks had to teach her out to step up again, and she was a loner and inactive until she met Joey. Sophie and I have become pretty close, and have a trusting relationship. We can read each other's body language, and enjoy each other's company. She is very active now, and flies around her room and plays with her toys.

Joey is a confirmed male and had one owner who vetted him regularly before giving him to the rescue. Joey is unusually extroverted for a CAG. He loves meeting new people, and will step up for anyone. He is a great bird to introduce new people to parrots because I can trust him not to bite and he will just push your hand away if he doesn't like how you're petting him. He is devoted to Sophie, and follows her everywhere, and regurgitates for her.

However, Joey wants to build a nest, and turns into a little monster if you get near his corner.

I'd previously had a problem with Joey and Sophie chewing up the trim in my living room and kitchen whenever I turned my back, so I moved them into their own bedroom. This way, I didn't have to cage them while I was at work or not directly supervising them. Their bird room is really fun and they agree: have a cage that usually has an open door, a manzanita tree, a rope-net, a hanging perch, and a stand. They like their room, but lately it is turning into their turf in a bad way.

When I'm at work, they chew up the wood trim in the room. I'd barricaded the spots they really like to chew with some bricks and boards, but yesterday they chewed past the trim, moved my barricade, and made a hole in the drywall. Easy enough to patch drywall, but they've gone too far.

The rescue advised me to cage them when I'm not home, and also cage them when I see the unwanted behavior. Easy enough: Sophie steps right up and accepts her "time out" with grace. However, Joey attacks me if I go near his corner. He will latch on and draw blood if I let him, so when he turns into attack mode I have to towel him and deposit him in his cage. When I let him back out, the behavior repeats, even if I've taken Sophie into another room for several hours.

I have Barbara Heinrich's book The Parrot Problem Solver, which does talk a lot about dealing with aggression, but mostly cage aggression, which isn't really an issue for these two.

I've also removed anything that could be used as nesting material, such as boxes and paper bags. These items were good diversions to get them away from their corner, but ultimately just made them want to defend their box/bad instead.

The wonderful family that runs the rescue helps their adopters build bird rooms, so I'm going to have them over to help me fortify the room to prevent further destruction, but they're busy with the rescue (on top of full-time jobs) and it may be several weeks before they have a weekend free to help out.

TL;DR: My male CAG wants to build a nest at all costs, and is aggressive when I enter his bird room, and time-outs don't see to help. Advice appreciated!
 
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LakeDesire

LakeDesire

New member
Sep 27, 2012
118
Media
4
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Seattle
Parrots
Jade (Nanday Conure, 20),
Henry (Red-Crowned Amazon, ~15), Joey and Sophie (Congo African Greys, ~17)
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #2
Oh, forgot to mention! Sophie plucks around her neck, her armpits (wingpits?), and shoulders. She plucked before the rescue got her and continues to do so. Joey is in perfect feather and bites his toenails when he is nervous, or swings from the top of his cage. Don't know if this is useful information or not!
 

Birdman666

New member
Sep 18, 2013
9,866
18
San Antonio, TX
Parrots
Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
Well, if they are on a destruction tear, I agree cage them when unsupervised.

Personally, I would just towel him if he's being aggressive like that.

My male CAG and female Lilac Crowned are also building nests right now. Only they used my old flip flops, and the telephone books I gave them...

Honestly, I have a little different take on this. I give them stuff they can destroy (i.e. flip flops and phone books. Well, technically I didn't give them the flip flops, my zon stole them, but... old flip flops are pretty cheap bird toys.) and then just tone down the aggressive stuff with behavior mods to defeat biting and/or chasing. (I.E. Mr. Pillow, and Mr. Towel.)

The nesting stuff will calm down after a bit. But it's a base instinct, and the likelihood of a determined CAG NOT continuing to try is, well, probably not worth the battle. Here's a phone book bird, go to it. Just stay away from the trim and my drywall...

If he chases you away from it, Mr. Pillow backs him back into his little nest.

I don't care about your stupid nest bird, don't chase me, or you won't like it.

I don't care if you want to stay out and continue to work on your nest, it's time to go back in the cage, and you won't like what happens if you don't step up nice.

I go through a phone book a week, but my drywall is intact.
 
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LakeDesire

LakeDesire

New member
Sep 27, 2012
118
Media
4
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Seattle
Parrots
Jade (Nanday Conure, 20),
Henry (Red-Crowned Amazon, ~15), Joey and Sophie (Congo African Greys, ~17)
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  • #4
Thanks birdman! It is nice to have permission to give them shredables because my vet says not to give the birds ANYTHING that could be nesting material. Unfortunately mine aren't that interested in the toys I give them, even old magazines/books (we don't have phonebooks anymore in my city).

I hear you on the hormone season... my amazon (who is a sweet, easy bird) was so horny this spring that she moaned every time my partner held her. The poor thing!
 

Birdman666

New member
Sep 18, 2013
9,866
18
San Antonio, TX
Parrots
Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
That would be my red lored...

See, I kinda don't get that advice, because it's an instinctively driven behavior. You're not going to change their natural instincts. So you try to modify them to something that everyone can live with. That's my personal opinion anyway... not everyone agrees, obviously.

My lilac crowned amazon is actually funny in "nesting mode." She's got 3-4 of them. And she'll run up to you to chase you away. But she doesn't threaten anyone. So no one runs, and she just stands there at your feet with a blank look, like... okay, that didn't work, what now?
 
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LakeDesire

LakeDesire

New member
Sep 27, 2012
118
Media
4
0
Seattle
Parrots
Jade (Nanday Conure, 20),
Henry (Red-Crowned Amazon, ~15), Joey and Sophie (Congo African Greys, ~17)
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #6
Joey just attacked me again as soon as I let him out to eat breakfast... got me good before I could towel him again. I had to make sure all the blood was only mine.
 

Birdman666

New member
Sep 18, 2013
9,866
18
San Antonio, TX
Parrots
Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
Mine see the towel and back off.

I don't even have to use it anymore. I just go get it, and show it to them, then give them a choice... step up, OR ELSE!

My CAG knows the term "knock it off!" in context, and uses it in context.
 

Mazen

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Oct 25, 2013
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0
Dubai
Hey LakeDesire,

From what I know, what triggers nesting and mating behavior is the length of day / daylight changes. Since your parrots have their own room, have you tried controlling their light exposure? try to block windows with heavy curtains, and use the normal room lights / lamps and expose them to 12 hours lof light /day followed by 12 of darkness / night everyday for a couple of days and see if that helps. Hopefully it should as it mimics out of mating season day lengths and should calm them down. It is better to cure the source than work on the symptoms, some birds are just aggressive during the season and there's no helping that but to artifically avoid the seaoson.
 

Birdman666

New member
Sep 18, 2013
9,866
18
San Antonio, TX
Parrots
Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
Hey LakeDesire,

From what I know, what triggers nesting and mating behavior is the length of day / daylight changes. Since your parrots have their own room, have you tried controlling their light exposure? try to block windows with heavy curtains, and use the normal room lights / lamps and expose them to 12 hours lof light /day followed by 12 of darkness / night everyday for a couple of days and see if that helps. Hopefully it should as it mimics out of mating season day lengths and should calm them down. It is better to cure the source than work on the symptoms, some birds are just aggressive during the season and there's no helping that but to artifically avoid the seaoson.

That's actually a good point. It just might work...
 

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