Hand fed apparently doesn't mean tame

reddfoxx79

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Hi. I got a 3-month-old Eclectus female from a breeder over the weekend. She's fully weaned - eats veggies, fruits, and pellets like a champ. The breeder let her fledge naturally and kept her flighted. The vet said she's lean and a great little flyer. There are no health concerns at all.

That being said... this baby is evil! LOL. She bites to hurt me, and chomps down, grinds her beak back and forth, and once she lets go, she just keeps tagging me over and over. I guess that hand fed/raised does not equal hand tame. The vet gave me some ideas to help with the bad behavior. She did say, too, that the bird is still young, but she could also just be a bit of a jerk (personality wise).

My questions:
1) The vet said when we're able to get her to step up and come out of the cage, and she then bites, not to put her back in the cage. Put her in a carrier for a timeout of 10-15 minutes. This will teach the bird to find another way to communicate that she wants back in her cage. If I use a larger carrier for her timeouts, that she's never seen and will never be transported in, will she associate that ALL carriers are bad? I do not want that! If so, what alternative timeout location can I use?

2) The breeder showed me how friendly the baby was before I bought her. She gave the breeder kisses, nuzzled her cheek, stepped up/stepped down, and went willingly into her carrier. Since she was so nice and comfortable around the breeder, I assumed that would translate into a nice, well-adjusted baby. But she is not like that at all with me. Is it possible that she bonded to the breeder, and I'm dealing with a broken bond?

3) This baby is so young and has so much potential. However, the vet said Eclectus don't typically act like this, so only time will tell if she's still adjusting to a new environment, or if she's just a very different bird who will remain mostly wild. And I have no idea how to TAME a bird. After two days of her flying around the cage, crashing into things, biting the wires to get out, attacking my hand when changing food and water, attacking my hand when I present treats, and stepping up on command while tearing off pieces of flesh, I guess I need to know exactly what I'm dealing with here. This can't be normal... right? She'll snap out of it?

Thanks so much in advance!
 

chris-md

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Something is triggering me, and I canโ€™t quite put my finger on it. I wish I could give you a straight answer. But I sense this is an issue of either temporary timing and deficit.

For some reason I canโ€™t quite square, Iโ€™m not THAT surprised this is happening. I feel like Iโ€™ve caught wind that the rare chick can go through a phase like this, only to have it revert to normal.

But simultaneously, chicks โ€œgrabbingโ€ - or biting in the extreme - takes me back to weaning. How certain are you the bird is FULLY weaned? 3 months (12 weeks) is just right there at weaning, but MANY ekkies can take upwards of 9 months, and requiring comfort feedings in the meantime.

But also: take a step back and take it slow! Different birds react differently to being brought into new homes. You could see scaring the bird all to hell with how youโ€™re approaching her, trying to make her do things long before sheโ€™s comfortable. If sheโ€™s not ready to step up for you, sheโ€™s not ready. Read her body language as you approach her. She will freeze up and make it clear sheโ€™s not interested in your presence at that particular moment. Knowing when itโ€™s a good time for the bird to interact is very important to developing communication and bind between you two.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Thanks for the reply! It hadn't fully occurred to me this could be weaning related. The only time I asked her to step up was to put her in a carrier to take to the vet today. The rest of the time, I'll sit in the room and watch videos, talk out loud, and pass by her cage without making eye contact. I do enter the cage to clean up some messes stuck to the side (which is prime biting time, so I will not do that tomorrow), and I open the side doors for food and water changes (to which she charges). Mostly, she is terribly restless in the cage, flapping wings, biting bars, pacing, and trying to get out. She actually reminds me of a wild animal that was recently caged - she never seems to settle down. Maybe I'll ask the breeder what specific date she was weaned, and how many syringes she was taking at the time. She's a healthy bird and eats very well, but the weaning is as much psychological as it is physical, from what I've read. Thanks!
 

SailBoat

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I agree fully with my friend above. The three month point is not a cut in stone time that a chick is assured to be 'fully' weened. The general timeline varies with a couple of cornerstones. The most common is that the chick is pushing away the formula and has been eating solid food on its own for 'at least' two weeks.

In the not so recent past, a baby Parrot was not considered 'ready' until it was full fledged as well. You are stating that this Parrot is also fully flighted at three months.

There is also something else happening here regarding your expectations that like a dog, Parrots will love you unconditionally. That is not true, in all cases you have to create a bond with the Parrot. How you handle the Parrot, provide it formula (yes, it is not uncommon for a baby Parrot to back step) and interact has much to do with developing a bond.

The I want that one mentality of Humans doesn't always work. Allowing the Parrot to choose you IMHO does. Dump your expectations and work at developing a bond.

There is a disconnect here and being able to define it is difficult in the blindness of this form of communication.
 

Flboy

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Hi!
Also, you may be overstepping your bounds and not respecting her! She may feel you are the reason her life has been disrupted!
Birds are not people, but think! You see someone that is laughing and playing along with a friend! You want that companionship, so you take her! Only 100% best intentions!
Now throw into the mix, different language, culture, lifestyle! Oh, and throw into the mix, your new companion is autistic!
Space, respect, compassion, and time!
 

saxguy64

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Excellent advice above, and I completely agree. My take is much the same, maybe with a slightly different viewpoint. I would definitely consider whether or not she's truly weaned. Was it her choice? (Abundance weaning) Or, did the breeder make the choice for her? There's a big difference emotionally, especially with Ekkies.

How did she behave for the vet? I'm betting similar to how she is with you. Consider it from her perspective. She felt safe and comfortable at the breeder's, with the breeder. She's been torn away from her universe as she knows it, and it's terrifying to her. She allowed the breeder to handle her, but you aren't the breeder, you're a stranger she doesn't know or trust yet. These things take time, and expecting too much, too fast, generally just makes things worse. Relax, slow down, and move at her pace.

Now, here's another tidbit you may or may not have thought about. You have a FEMALE Ekkie. They have a reputation for being cage protective/aggressive. Not set in stone, but it's super common for them. Nothing you or your breeder did, it's kind of in their DNA. In their natural environment, nesting hollows are scarce, so once the nesting female finds one, she won't leave it, and will defend it with everything she has. She's the diva, and ALLOWS multiple males to service and feed her as she so chooses. With that said, once she's not so terrified of her new life, you may find her behavior quite different away from her cage than in/on it.
 

chris-md

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I keep coming back to this: I really want you to give her back to the breeder to have the breeder care for her just a bit longer, let them evaluate her behavior to see if she needs more time to bake, so to speak.

And definitely ask the breeder - as intimated by saxguy - if they abundance weaned her or force weaned her.

This is a hard one: The immediacy of the behavioral change suggests being unsettled...but that age... To be crystal clear ekkies can and do wean at 3 months/12 weeks. I thinks that is the low side of the average age, but its an oft cited number. That said, most people i personally hear about are close to 4-5 months, then the odd 7-9 month range.

You can also sort of evaluate her yourself by trying to offer some form of gooey mash/hand feeding formula, see if she accepts that. If she does accept it, its a weaning issue and she needs to go back onto once/twice a day feedings until she starts rejecting.
 
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reddfoxx79

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UPDATE:
When we got back from the vet yesterday, we changed some things. First, we put her in a smaller cage. Since she's flighted and acting nuts in the cage, I was certain she was going to hurt herself. Second, I took out a lot of things inside the cage, and left her with two perches and one toy. Third, I moved her into my office, where there are finches, two guinea pigs, and the other Eclectus. This morning, she is better. She is no longer acting like a trapped animal, and is instead perching and observing. She is also showing body language that I can understand (which is basically give me the food and get out, lol. However, she did not attack me when I put the food in, so she's definitely more comfortable in this cage or this room).

The vet said her feet are weak, I suppose because she flies a lot. Also, her bloodwork showed a possible strained muscle. I really hope it's not from being crazy in the cage, but that's exactly what I was afraid would happen. The vet said it's more likely from the breeder exercising her so much. At any rate, I thought the smaller cage would help build foot strength and teach her not to rely on her wings (and to give them a break). She has learned how to move around quite quickly! She is on the higher perch now after being on the floor, so she figured out how to climb within two hours. I'm so proud of her!

Today, I can understand her. She doesn't want to be bothered, she is acclimating, and she is silently watching everything. To me, this is normal behavior. The pacing, biting, and attacking the cage like a feral animal was not. I will continue to work with her (with her permission) and back off when she tells me to. As I saw with the other Eclectus, just one day of not asking for anything goes a long way in building trust.

(Also, please don't yell at me for putting the two Eclectus in the same room. I know they're supposed to quarantine for 45 days. If you've ever watched Life Below Zero, or seen an animal caught in a trap, then you'll understand how she was acting in the cage in the other room, and you'll know why I couldn't let her stay there. The risk of disease is lower than the risk of her killing herself out of fear, in my not-so-expert opinion.)

Thanks for the advice. I'm waiting for the breeder to call me back to discuss her specific weaning timeline, and see if there's something I can do to help the little bird along. We will also evaluate the cage in the other room and try to identify what it is that scared her so much.
 
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Laurasea

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Her feet should not be weak no matter how much she flies.

Do you have a scale and tracking weight daily since she is new to your home?

Extreme stress, excess exercise, trigger lactic acid build up. In wild creatures its called capture myopathy, or white muscle disease. Its possible something of a lesser extent has happened to her. Rest is best. Abd trying to increase fluid intake, fir her I guess a bump in watery fruit. Just fir a couple of days.

https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/Wildlife-RelatedDiseases/Pages/CaptureMyopathy.aspx

Stress reduction ideas. Great article
https://lafeber.com/pet-birds/stress-reduction-for-parrot-companions/
 
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reddfoxx79

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Wow, okay. I've not heard of this. I will read the article and add more apples to her chop. She loves apples! I don't have a scale, but I can get one. I'll miss these few days of weighing while I wait for it to come in, and also wait for her to want me to take her out. I thought they weighed while hand feeding, and I didn't think I'd need to do that at home. Thanks!
 

Laurasea

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How do poops look?
Yes weight checks are important for life! Burds hide being sick or other issues. Often this can be picked up by weight loss way earlier sbd the bird treated successfully.
Since birds are different sizes, the guidelines are by % of body mass lost.
Take number of grsms lost divide by normal weight x 100 = % lost.
3% lost make a vet appointment, 5% lost yiu have a sick bird see a vet quickly, even when no other symptoms!! 10% you are going to have to start supporting supplemental feeding with baby bird formula.

Burds that are sick or injured can burn almost 3 x their normal calories, so even if eating on their own they can't keep up, or because they are having symptoms they eat less, burd will even fake eating to hide they are sick.
So a scale truly is important, and logging weight fir life us best practices abd can one day save your birds life.

Because she is so young and in a new home. I would offer comfort feeding in late afternoon of baby bird formula , warm and a little thicker than directed. Don't force, offer by spoon, or syringe at beak tip. 7-15 ml is my estimate, its just a support comfort feeding. As burds mature their crops don't expand like a babies do. Don't force. Fir me I had my left arm around loosly while bird stands on town, left hand hovered over head but didn't touch, used right hand just to left of beak tip and placed a few drops. Once she liked it she opened her mouth to take a little at a time, go slow you don't want any choking. but this is a support comfort thing so do nit force.

If the above doesn't work offer warm food in a bowl before bedtime. Plain cooked warm oatmeal, or something like that
 
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noodles123

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Your vet is not using ABA and I disagree with their blanket suggestions. If your bird bites when you try to touch, YOU ARE overstepping. You have to know the reason for a bite in order to respond appropriately. You cannot strong-arm a parrot without seriously damaging trust. I highly doubt this is an avian vet, and if it is, I would look for a new one. If you do not know WHY the biting is happening (attention, escape, tangibles, or sensory) then there is no way to know how to react, so for your vet to suggest this without adequate analysis/behavioral observation means that your vet is applying a VERY (overly) general statement to your bird...and it could make the problem worse.


You should ignore a bite is when you do everything else (to your knowledge) right and it still happens...but the bite should never happen if you are doing your job on your end. If you get bitten and you did everything you could (including the sleep/shadowy spaces/petting rules etc) Then, it is best to ignore because you don't want to reward the biting by accidentally giving the parrot what it wants...but not wanting to be touched (due to fear) is a reasonable boundary that should be respected and will grow if you respect it. That STILL means, moving at the bird's pace, reading body language, 10 hours sleep minimum on a schedule, solid diet, 3 or more hours out of cage etc etc. IF when you read body language and follow all of these steps to a t and you are sure you have, then, ignore biting, but biting is there to send a message...Ignoring is designed to prevent reinforcement, but that could still happen if your bird is scared of you--- place it in a sleep cage and you still reward the behavior if the intention was to get away from you. The main thing though, is that you shouldn't be pushing so hard. You also should try to allow your bird to go in and out of the open cage freely (with supervision) but without contact (assuming the contact leads to biting).


Look into ABA-- I will post more on ABA and biting


Hand-raised does not mean tame for YOU, you are correct. It means that that person has a bond with that bird temporarily, but please know that even a bonded baby bird will push away from its handler in many cases (As wild parrots do their parents).


See my response to this post and the links http://www.parrotforums.com/training/86854-my-parrot-keepsbiting-me.html. I DO NOT believe your bird is biting for attention--- it is biting because you are pushing (therefore escape) but a better method of dealing with escape biting is to not handle a bird when you know it is too fearful.
 
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wrench13

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My friend you are getting excellent advice here, I sincerely hope you heed it.

Just a small comment, when you are 100% sure you didn't cause the bite, best method is called shunning by placing the parrot immediately on a handy chair back, turn your back to her, no e ye contact, nuthin. Only for a minute, 2 at most. Why? Any longer she will forget about the lesson. Works best when the bird is bonded to you at least a Lil bit. No stuffing her in a travel cage or back to her reg cage.

Looking forward to progress reports.
 

Laurasea

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My friend you are getting excellent advice here, I sincerely hope you heed it.

Just a small comment, when you are 100% sure you didn't cause the bite, best method is called shunning by placing the parrot immediately on a handy chair back, turn your back to her, no e ye contact, nuthin. Only for a minute, 2 at most. Why? Any longer she will forget about the lesson. Works best when the bird is bonded to you at least a Lil bit. No stuffing her in a travel cage or back to her reg cage.

Looking forward to progress reports.

I agree, only a couple of minutes. A longer time and they loose the connection. But if the birds goal is to get away from you. This method really doesn't work. It takes time to build trust. It takes time for you both to read each other.

Noodles is right applied behavior, or behavior shaping. Read up on target training.

I wish i was better st explaining shaping. But its little steps, and a fluid thing. For example if you start with a bird that is fearful and running away. You would start with the bird looks at you, say good and out a high value treat in the treat dish and walk away. I go about 10 feet, don't focus on them, and when they take the treat I also say good. I repeat a few times spread out. Tgen I might show tge treat and wait till they lean towards me , stretch out thee neck or take a step towards tge treat dish tgen say good out treat in dish walk away and say good when they take, repeat, I till slowly or quickly tge burd starts coming to dish or wait by dish for treat. This shaping is having them move towards you and be rewarded. It has a powerful effect. While chasing them around trying to give a treat has a negative effect.
 
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GabeB

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If Echo has a time out it is usually about 30 seconds to 1 minute, and he has responded to that really well. Just my personal experience but you can try different amounts of time to see what she responds to best. I feel like putting her in a carrier might be a little extreme if she bites you while you have her out. For Echo, I put him on his perch and look away from him for a minute. After a little over a year, I can finally tell (by body language and general signals) when he wants to go back to his cage and have some alone time, which is totally normal! I'm saying this to let you know that it can take a lot of time to get to know each other. But as Chris mentioned above, I am very curious about how the weaning may factor into her behavior. I definitely think it's worth exploring and see how she reacts.

I am by no means an expert on this, but I'd like to think I've learned a lot from Echo, and my parents who have owned birds for decades. Including a cockatoo which taught me many lessons with her beak at a young age lol. So just take this as a personal experience/opinion. Also, I haven't dealt with a female Eclectus, so that also impacts my experiences vs. yours.
 
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reddfoxx79

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UPDATE: Since I can't figure out how to quote people and reply where it follows the topic, I'll just give an update and respond here.

DAILY WEIGH-INS - I've been weighing her daily. Her original empty weight was 282 grams. She's now up to 294 grams. Full weight ranges from 303-310 grams. She never drops below 294, so I'm confident we're on the right track there. Poops are normal. Feathers are shiny and clean, and she preens regularly.

TIMEOUTS - Don't work, lol. She bit me and I put her on the chair. She immediately flew away.

HANDLING - I honestly don't handle her more than a minute or two twice a day. I have to give her a piece of apple for her to be willing to step up for her daily weigh-ins. She shows positive body language and a willingness to come, so I ask her to step up, she does, she gets the apple, and then I can get her on and off the scale and back to her cage. If she doesn't show a willingness to come, I leave her alone. If I run out of apple while she's on my hand, she bites. I weigh her before breakfast, when she is most willing and empty. I weigh her again in the afternoon, and this is the one where she doesn't always want to come the first time. I'll ask her once, and if she says no, I'll try again in 30 minutes. If she still says no, then she doesn't get weighed the 2nd time that day.

BODY LANGUAGE - When she sees me in the morning, she fluffs up, shakes, and stretches. She grinds her beak. She moves along the perch to meet me at the door for her apple and weigh-in. Throughout the day, she vocalizes, preens, stretches, eats, plays, and comes to see me on that side of the cage. If I'm holding her for her morning or afternoon weigh-in, she is relaxed. It is not uncommon for her to stretch while perched on my fingers. If I happen to run out of apple while she's there, she will bite. She is very beaky. If I don't keep her beak busy, she will waste no time biting me. Nothing changes. She's sitting on my fingers, chewing on apple, watching me as I talk to her, totally relaxed. Apple's gone, and she reaches between her feet and bites my finger. Not exploratory like she's trying to taste it or lick it - a hard bite. Her body language doesn't change (and I've seen it change, so I recognize the difference). Still calm and relaxed, and she bites over and over and over again. And they're hard bites. Then she'll shake, fluff, stretch, and bite, bite, bite. I've tried to lower my hand to offset her balance, and she tries to fly away. I'm holding her foot so she can't fly away, and that triggers different body language when she's trying to get away. Then she bites hard and everything changes. If I release her foot, she flies away. If she bites and I put her on the chair for a timeout, she immediately flies away.

It's like she's too independent to care. Why would she need to listen to me or communicate with me when she can just fly away? She wouldn't. But she doesn't try to fly away until I try a method to teach her not to bite. And since she can flee, she isn't getting the lesson. I don't know why she bites so much, and why she bites so hard! God forbid I run out of apples, and she turns into a ball of needles. I know people say to take the bites and don't make a big deal out of them. But I'm telling you, it hurts. I'm not a wimpy person, and I have RA and deal with constant pain and discomfort. This little bird bites and it hurts.

I don't know what to do, honestly. I thought if I tried to extend the time she was on my finger by even a few seconds a day, we'd make progress. Eat an apple for 20 seconds, sit for 3 seconds without biting, then back to the cage with a treat. Nope. If the apple runs out at 20 seconds, she's biting by 0:21. And it's not mean or aggressive because she's relaxed. I don't understand. And I've not yet figured out how to teach her not to bite (since my two methods have both resulted in her getting upset and leaving).

From here, I'll continue listening to your advice, and I'll try to start target training. I'm not sure how target training will keep her from biting me, but maybe there's a connection I don't understand. I get why she would bite if she tells me to back off and I push. I don't get why she bites when she's comfortable and is there willingly.

VET - She goes to a certified avian vet, the best and most highly recommended in Houston. The vet said not to revert to formula or comfort feedings because she doesn't think the little bird needs them. She is weaned, eating on her own, and gaining weight. There's no reason to revert her back to something she doesn't need.

So.. I feel lost at this point. I don't know what the next step is. She's not aggressive anymore, not tearing up her cage or charging. She's a happy little bird. She vocalizes, she's learning to sing, she's active and climbing, and she eats about 30 grams of chop a day, and pellets at night (which I haven't weighed yet). Is it really possible that this is our relationship and one day, weeks or months from now, she'll suddenly not bite during her morning weigh-in when the apple runs out? How do we get to that point? Has anyone else had a perfectly healthy 4-month-old parrot that they couldn't interact with after three weeks? I was told to spend time with a baby, watch a movie, take it out and sit with it, talk to it, give it treats, and that's how a trusting relationship is built. How can I do that if after 2 weeks of daily weigh-ins, she still won't sit for more than 20 seconds without biting? I can't think of a time where she trusted me and I failed her, or a time that I scared her. And based on her willingness to come to me every morning, I don't think she's harboring resentment or fear toward me. I just don't understand why she bites any time she doesn't already have something in her beak, and I don't know how to get her to stop doing that.
 
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Iyanden

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I think I see another post from you where you mention your daughter and your eclectus get along well? Is your daughter doing all the training and feeding?

When my wife and I first brought our eclectus home, she really preferred my wife over me. It took a good half to 3/4 of a year for her to get really comfortable with me. The most progress happened during 2 weeks when my wife was visiting a friend in a different state, and we were alone together.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Iyanden, that's right. My daughter and the other Eclectus, Lulu, get along very well. She is doing all the training, feeding, and care. Lulu stays in her bedroom, and they watch anime, listen to Post Malone, and watch The Resident together, lol. Lulu also gets a shower every other day, and absolutely loves it. She sits on a perch under the water while my daughter watches videos and talks to her. While I've built trust with Lulu, she doesn't get as bossy with my daughter as she does with me - there's a lot more tolerance of my daughter. It's a good match. (Lulu was originally for me, but the baby my daughter was getting aspirated while weaning, and didn't pull through. My daughter was very upset, so we got another baby from a breeder. That baby is not tame or trusting, so I offered Lulu to my daughter and took the baby. And the baby is this "problem child" I can't seem to figure out.)

From your Eclectus's perspective, I guess beggars can't be choosers, huh? LOL. That's great she came around - too bad it took so long! I don't fully understand that. I mean, she knew you were there, so I would think her curiosity would get the best of her and she'd at least try to see what you had to offer. Birds are more confusing than mammals.
 
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Iyanden

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Ah, I see. So that's a different eclectus.

Even now, ours can go suddenly from being cute to a monster. We've sort of accepted that and can better gauge when the transition happens. It seems to be very time and hunger dependent.

Where and how do you feed yours currently? We mostly feed ours outside of her cage. She can be very aggressive when she's inside or on top of it. She has a stand across the room from her cage; she always eats her breakfast there. We bring her there after weighing her in the morning; occasionally she's willing to fly there.

Then, during the day and for dinner, when she's ready, she'll let us know by suddenly becoming very active, going to a specific spot on her cage to be picked up, or flying to the kitchen counter. She usually eats with us near the kitchen for dinner. As in, she'll get a small plate next to our bowls. Later on, she'll sit on her stand in the kitchen, and we'll hold some food in a small bowl for her to eat from.

Her behavior in these situations is totally different from when she's in her cage. I can't even put a bowl of food safely in her cage if she's anywhere nearby - she would move aggressively to attack my hand.
 

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