How do I stop conure from biting too hard?

Lucielle

New member
Apr 4, 2021
3
0
Parrots
Gray Cockatiel, Luka.
Pineapple Green Cheek Conure, Toki.
Hello everyone! I stumbled upon this forum recently and found great resources that are very valuable to me!

Now I have read multiple articles and watched several videos on pressure training and stop biting, but nothing seems to be making progress to stop it. I am feeling dumbfounded since I love spending time with my lovely bird, but the biting gets a little too hard sometime and I feel like it's just the stage of curiosity, and not knowing it hurts vs actual biting of frustration.

To give some more information;
Toki is a pineapple green cheek conure as seen in my profile picture, his hatch day was in November, parent raised, and adopted from PetSmart about over a month ago.

He is very alert and comes right up to the door when I open it to swap his food and water dish with new ones. He loves playing with his toys in his cage, especially the "bird kabobs." I do freelancing work from home so I spend all day in the room with him and let him out on a home-made play gym, though he keeps hinting at wanting to be on my shoulder. (Which I am having a little bit of trust issues with due to his biting, so I don't let him just yet.)

He doesn't understand the step up command yet, target training has been going very well and understands it, but as soon as my hand is nearby he starts nibbling it softy then proceeds to try it harder. I have tried saying "no" and putting him back in his cage for 10 minutes before trying again. I have also tried the "earthquake" method on a perch but it just seems like he doesn't understand it. He does step up on the perch without biting it, it's just my hand he loves to take a nibble at.

The only time he sits okay on my hand is when I have some food cupped in my hand, but sometimes will dig through the food to bite my hand. He lets me "preen" him without any aggression or biting, he takes treats from my hand without biting either so he's not afraid of my hand or anything.

Now here is my question: What can I do to stop this? Or is this just going to be a permanent thing I need to get used to? Perhaps is this going to be one of those birds that may take weeks/months to progress with?

I know he's just about 5 months old and could use some work, but I've been doing this for 2 weeks with no progress unfortunately. I just want the best for him and me so we can spend the most time together. I'd just love to know how to work better with him because he is very curious and excited to see me when I get close to his cage.

Thank you in advance for reading my wall of text! <3 I hope you all are having a great day! :rainbow1:
 
Last edited:

fiddlejen

Well-known member
Mar 28, 2019
1,157
Media
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877
New England
Parrots
Sunny the Sun Conure (sept '18, gotcha 3/'19). Mr Jefferson Budgie & Mrs Calliope Budgie (albino) (nov'18 & jan'19). Summer 2021 Baby Budgies: Riker (Green); Patchouli, Keye, & Tiny (blue greywings).
Don't jump straight to "no." Do NOT do earthquake!!!!

You are right that what you want here is bite PRESSURE training.

He is preening you and getting to know you. His hand-equivalent claws are usually Under him, holding a perch or etc., so instead of hands, all he has is a beak. "NO" and returning to cage are disciplinary measures. Do not jump straight to disciplining your loving bird for attempting to learn how to preen you / explore & learn about you.

In nature, birds preen each other. Especially the head and neck etc which they cannot reach well with Own beak. In nature, if birds preen too hard the other birds will move away, maybe "beak" at them if they are not happy, or have little spats.

If young birdie #1 preens birdie #2 the Wrong way, birdie #2 will Not say "NO" nor impose a timeout. Birdie #2 will NOT somehow cause a perch-Earthquake. (In other words -- earthquake method makes NO SENSE to your bird. He will not understand which will just lead to frustration which will then lead, later on, to actual aggressive-bites.)

So. Imagine your hand as birdie #2. As young birdie #1 nibbles, Hand stays there. But if birdie #1 nibbles Too Hard, Hand moves away. An actual bird would give a little negatory squawk or chirp. HAND (ie, your mouth), instead, needs to say "be gentle," as hand moves away. Only a moment, then Hand goes back to allow more nibbles. IF nibbles get harder, Hand might Twitch away instead of ease-away. Second time, Hand (ie you) says "Be GEntle." Third time, 'BE GENTLE," and HAND actually WITHDRAWS, quickly; the nibbling-game is over for the time-being. Wait a little while, so Birdie can sense that something happened. This you can move to something else.

Doing this consistenly is the way to teach bite pressure. Remember, your command for this should always be "Be Gentle." Save any sort of "no bite" commands, time outs, etc, to ONLY be used for aggressive or attention-seeking biting. NOT for exploratory type, pressure-training-needed biting.

Also, once You have this concept down, you might move on to gentle stroking of your bird's beak. Very gentle. Their beaks have nerve endings, they are not like hair which is dead but more like fingers. Beak play, always remember that if birdie responds by chewing on you Too Hard -- the command is "Be Gentle," and this should inform your gently pulling away.

REmember to be aware of birdie body language. It is the Opposite of mammals such as pets or you and I. For us, if we are upset or tense, we fluff up. Hair on end, make ourselves larger. BIRDS FLUFF when relaxed. Fluffly bird, usually (unless ill or cold) means relaxed bird. SUDDENLY fLAT and Slick feathers -- means, FLIGHT-READY - means, tense unhappy or frightened bird. This bird is more likely to bite you as a warning (telling you, "there is danger, you should fly away!"), and should not be punished or disciplined for that. You should never try to scritch your bird when it is all slick-n-smooth. Offer scritches to a fluffly relaxed bird.



Feathers will go
 
OP
L

Lucielle

New member
Apr 4, 2021
3
0
Parrots
Gray Cockatiel, Luka.
Pineapple Green Cheek Conure, Toki.
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #3
Don't jump straight to "no." Do NOT do earthquake!!!!

You are right that what you want here is bite PRESSURE training.

He is preening you and getting to know you. His hand-equivalent claws are usually Under him, holding a perch or etc., so instead of hands, all he has is a beak. "NO" and returning to cage are disciplinary measures. Do not jump straight to disciplining your loving bird for attempting to learn how to preen you / explore & learn about you.

In nature, birds preen each other. Especially the head and neck etc which they cannot reach well with Own beak. In nature, if birds preen too hard the other birds will move away, maybe "beak" at them if they are not happy, or have little spats.

If young birdie #1 preens birdie #2 the Wrong way, birdie #2 will Not say "NO" nor impose a timeout. Birdie #2 will NOT somehow cause a perch-Earthquake. (In other words -- earthquake method makes NO SENSE to your bird. He will not understand which will just lead to frustration which will then lead, later on, to actual aggressive-bites.)

So. Imagine your hand as birdie #2. As young birdie #1 nibbles, Hand stays there. But if birdie #1 nibbles Too Hard, Hand moves away. An actual bird would give a little negatory squawk or chirp. HAND (ie, your mouth), instead, needs to say "be gentle," as hand moves away. Only a moment, then Hand goes back to allow more nibbles. IF nibbles get harder, Hand might Twitch away instead of ease-away. Second time, Hand (ie you) says "Be GEntle." Third time, 'BE GENTLE," and HAND actually WITHDRAWS, quickly; the nibbling-game is over for the time-being. Wait a little while, so Birdie can sense that something happened. This you can move to something else.

Doing this consistenly is the way to teach bite pressure. Remember, your command for this should always be "Be Gentle." Save any sort of "no bite" commands, time outs, etc, to ONLY be used for aggressive or attention-seeking biting. NOT for exploratory type, pressure-training-needed biting.

Also, once You have this concept down, you might move on to gentle stroking of your bird's beak. Very gentle. Their beaks have nerve endings, they are not like hair which is dead but more like fingers. Beak play, always remember that if birdie responds by chewing on you Too Hard -- the command is "Be Gentle," and this should inform your gently pulling away.

REmember to be aware of birdie body language. It is the Opposite of mammals such as pets or you and I. For us, if we are upset or tense, we fluff up. Hair on end, make ourselves larger. BIRDS FLUFF when relaxed. Fluffly bird, usually (unless ill or cold) means relaxed bird. SUDDENLY fLAT and Slick feathers -- means, FLIGHT-READY - means, tense unhappy or frightened bird. This bird is more likely to bite you as a warning (telling you, "there is danger, you should fly away!"), and should not be punished or disciplined for that. You should never try to scritch your bird when it is all slick-n-smooth. Offer scritches to a fluffly relaxed bird.



Feathers will go

Thank you for your input! I do let him nibble me which is okay, but once he starts biting hard is when I put him in time-out. Gentle nibbles I allow since they're harmless it's just the harder ones he tries out that hurt. I'll try the "be gentle" command instead of no. I saw a few videos where they said that moving the hand away when biting hard will cause trust issues to not see it as a stable perch so I had been avoiding that.
 

fiddlejen

Well-known member
Mar 28, 2019
1,157
Media
11
877
New England
Parrots
Sunny the Sun Conure (sept '18, gotcha 3/'19). Mr Jefferson Budgie & Mrs Calliope Budgie (albino) (nov'18 & jan'19). Summer 2021 Baby Budgies: Riker (Green); Patchouli, Keye, & Tiny (blue greywings).
Thank you for your input! I do let him nibble me which is okay, but once he starts biting hard is when I put him in time-out. Gentle nibbles I allow since they're harmless it's just the harder ones he tries out that hurt. I'll try the "be gentle" command instead of no. I saw a few videos where they said that moving the hand away when biting hard will cause trust issues to not see it as a stable perch so I had been avoiding that.

So if he is nibbling your hand that he is perching on, try offering him your other hand to nibble at the beginning of the process. OR if he is standing on your hand and nibbling it, then when nibbles get to hard, then along with the "Be Gentle" command, bring in the other hand to ladder him up. In either case you are coupling "Be Gentle" with an immediate non-punitive removal of the ability to nibble too hard. Bird thus will quickly learn that if he is enjoying preening you he needs to be attentive to his beak pressure, and this skill will serve him well.

And maybe I missed a bit when I first read your post. Looks like he frequently is not preening, but is often Testing to see if he Can Step Up. TESTING for a STABLE PERCH. When that's the case, ONLY IDEAL option is to HOLD STEADY while he bites. Any sort of response to this will cause him, at that moment, to conclude your (bitten) hand is not a stable perch. You will respond when it hurts!
But, TRY not to, and try to restrict your words and physical responses into the "Be Gentle" range.

Certainly, if he is testing your hand to see if it is stable enough to step up, responding with a "No Bite" punitive option would cause even Worse trust issues than just gently moving Hand Away.

When you move hand away with a "Be Gentle" command, bird will eventually figure out, he was biting too hard.

While you are doing this bite pressure training, using "be gentle," you will also learn to accept somewhat more-pinching bites, as well.

Something else to remember with the nibble-to-bites. If he is going for your cuticles or fingernails (which hurts more!, of course). Birdie is trying to help preen you. Birdie wants to Help you by Unwinding those Pinfeathers on the ends of your fingers. :17: Just move your fingers away, say "Be Gentle," and you can even explain to birdie, these are your claws, they are Not feathers, please don't chew them. ...:rolleyes:

On the rare occasions my bird Actually, intentionally Bites me, my first response, is to quickly hold still and quickly figure out why. Did I mis-read her body language and provoke her? IF SO my job is to Apologize. Was she Scared or trying to Warn me for some reason? IF SO my job is to tell her (and the budgies!), soothingly, that EVERYTHING IS OKAAYY. Biting for these reasons is natural and instinctive, and would be cruel to try to train it away. The only correct response is to correct one's Own behavior, to not provoke, and to soothe, not scare.

OR. Is my bird biting to try to Get Her Way? IF SO -- ONLY ONLY ONLY if so -- then what she wanted is what she does NOT get.

For one example, i have told her I want her to come out of her cage. She does not want to. IF she BITES me - then i WILL remove her from her cage. (This can work in reverse for bird that bites to stay Out of cage.)
IF she uses her body language to negotiate, that is fine, she can stay in her cage... unless she HAS TO come out. In which case, I accept the bites! And thereby she has learned, BITE is NOT an effective negotiating tool.

Again, this is Not punishment Not disciplining. It is just teaching her, that biting is not an effective way to express her wants. She can use other body language or vocal language to tell me what she wants.
 
Last edited:
OP
L

Lucielle

New member
Apr 4, 2021
3
0
Parrots
Gray Cockatiel, Luka.
Pineapple Green Cheek Conure, Toki.
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #5
Thank you for your input! I do let him nibble me which is okay, but once he starts biting hard is when I put him in time-out. Gentle nibbles I allow since they're harmless it's just the harder ones he tries out that hurt. I'll try the "be gentle" command instead of no. I saw a few videos where they said that moving the hand away when biting hard will cause trust issues to not see it as a stable perch so I had been avoiding that.

So if he is nibbling your hand that he is perching on, try offering him your other hand to nibble at the beginning of the process. OR if he is standing on your hand and nibbling it, then when nibbles get to hard, then along with the "Be Gentle" command, bring in the other hand to ladder him up. In either case you are coupling "Be Gentle" with an immediate non-punitive removal of the ability to nibble too hard. Bird thus will quickly learn that if he is enjoying preening you he needs to be attentive to his beak pressure, and this skill will serve him well.

And maybe I missed a bit when I first read your post. Looks like he frequently is not preening, but is often Testing to see if he Can Step Up. TESTING for a STABLE PERCH. When that's the case, ONLY IDEAL option is to HOLD STEADY while he bites. Any sort of response to this will cause him, at that moment, to conclude your (bitten) hand is not a stable perch. You will respond when it hurts!
But, TRY not to, and try to restrict your words and physical responses into the "Be Gentle" range.

Certainly, if he is testing your hand to see if it is stable enough to step up, responding with a "No Bite" punitive option would cause even Worse trust issues than just gently moving Hand Away.

When you move hand away with a "Be Gentle" command, bird will eventually figure out, he was biting too hard.

While you are doing this bite pressure training, using "be gentle," you will also learn to accept somewhat more-pinching bites, as well.

Something else to remember with the nibble-to-bites. If he is going for your cuticles or fingernails (which hurts more!, of course). Birdie is trying to help preen you. Birdie wants to Help you by Unwinding those Pinfeathers on the ends of your fingers. :17: Just move your fingers away, say "Be Gentle," and you can even explain to birdie, these are your claws, they are Not feathers, please don't chew them. ...:rolleyes:

On the rare occasions my bird Actually, intentionally Bites me, my first response, is to quickly hold still and quickly figure out why. Did I mis-read her body language and provoke her? IF SO my job is to Apologize. Was she Scared or trying to Warn me for some reason? IF SO my job is to tell her (and the budgies!), soothingly, that EVERYTHING IS OKAAYY. Biting for these reasons is natural and instinctive, and would be cruel to try to train it away. The only correct response is to correct one's Own behavior, to not provoke, and to soothe, not scare.

OR. Is my bird biting to try to Get Her Way? IF SO -- ONLY ONLY ONLY if so -- then what she wanted is what she does NOT get.

For one example, i have told her I want her to come out of her cage. She does not want to. IF she BITES me - then i WILL remove her from her cage. (This can work in reverse for bird that bites to stay Out of cage.)
IF she uses her body language to negotiate, that is fine, she can stay in her cage... unless she HAS TO come out. In which case, I accept the bites! And thereby she has learned, BITE is NOT an effective negotiating tool.

Again, this is Not punishment Not disciplining. It is just teaching her, that biting is not an effective way to express her wants. She can use other body language or vocal language to tell me what she wants.

The only issue with putting the other hand as another perch is he doesn't quite understand to step up on it, he just sits there and looks at it like "what do I do with this" and does the same nibbling-into-biting with that hand. (I'm trying it from a standing perch, or his cage door where he climbs to immediately to greet me) Is there anyway I could try it differently or should I just keep trying with the method you mentioned with the other hand?

Surprisingly with the fingernails he's gentle, he does try to nibble the corners but nothing drastic so I'm lucky in that regard I think!
 

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