pls help!! baby Eclectus extremely fearful of hands!!

ifnlovebirds

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hello,
I adopted my 12 week-old baby male Eclectus two weeks ago. Before his arrival, the breeder contacted me 2 days prior to his adoption date with concerns about his behavior. She said that ever since his brother got adopted, his behavior has become aggressive. I believed this story because I know birds can get depressed when a bird they know leaves suddenly. I asked her to send videos of his behavior and he didn't seem to be biting so I still accepted him. (yes ik this was my first mistake even choosing this breeder but I believe all domesticated birds deserve a home)

When the adoption day came, I went to pick him up and immediately saw how fearful and aggressive he was. Even the shadow of hands on the outside of the carrier made him lunge. Any hands that he could see he would try to lunge at and bite. I would wait for him to calm down when he would try to bite my hand in the carrier and reinforced his calm behavior by removing my hand. When I took him home (since he is flighted and would like to keep it this way) I opened his carrier in my bathroom (a small area for him to come out and not freak out or fly away/crash) and let him come out on his own. I offered him some fresh food & water. After about an hour of sitting on the floor in front of the carrier, he flew out and landed on my leg. I tried to pick him up but he immediately went to bite and lunge. Since it had been 4 months since I handled a bird (my conure passed away then) instinct took over and I pulled away from his bite although I shouldn't have. Then I sat there for a while, hands behind my back or he would have his mouth open to bite the entire time. This is when I realized this guy would probably take months to a year of training. It's really sad seeing hand aggressive birds at such a young age. I thought about contacting the breeder because as more time went by the less confident I got with this bird. But because of how aggressive he is towards JUST HANDS at this age (I can put my face close and even give him kisses as long as my hands aren't there) it is a bit concerning to send him back to where he came from because I feel like I was not given the full story. So I decided to keep him again.

I've been working with him every day and doing things like eating together, target training, and power pause training (showing him my hand, rewarding him when he shows signs of disinterest in my hand, and gradually decreasing distance) It doesn't seem to be working though. I also don't want to TRAIN him to accept touching (unless it's wings, feet, etc. for vet those I would want to train) I want him to be OK with touching without thinking it's a trick. There were so many things I was planning to train like recall, free flight, stationary training, and taking him on errands to desensitize since all my birds have enjoyed being shoulder birds (basically going everywhere with me). He also doesn't WANT to be with me. If I wear gloves and try to sit with him on my hand (he steps up on gloves occasionally) he will fly back to his cage & only wants to stay there. (He has a play area on top and he goes there too) He flies around a lot which I like, and if he's hungry he will fly above me to get my attention. Other than that he does not seem like he wants to interact with me. I do understand he is just a baby (I've also tried consultants about him but they tell me things I already know and didn't add anything helpful -- a waste of money T.T) and that is why I want to start early. I also need to cut his nails, (his nails are so sharp and since he wants to stepup onto my forearm instead of my hand he's been shreding my arm) but I'm not sure if I should yet because that could set us back further in training. Do you guys think he will eventually warm up?

Any advice for my bird Yoshi would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for taking your time to read 💕
 

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Cottonoid

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A belated Welcome to the forums! My golly, Yoshi is adorable!!

I can sympathize with you - when I started thinking about getting a parrot, I had visions of training (which I've loved doing with other animals) and socialization in a backpack and teaching behaviors to make vet visits easier, and on and on. This is absolutely something you can work on with training, though!

The bird that found me is terrified of hands, does not want to be touched at all, and has the willpower of Mahatma Gandhi.

I have an African Ringneck - it seems that a lot of the ringneck species have an extreme fear of hands and fingers, so training around that fear is common. I don't have resources handy (I keep meaning to make a list!) but if you search the forum you might find some good ideas (the magnifying glass at the top of your screen).

Have you thought about target training? Yoshi might take to it quickly since he's wanting to interact with you in other ways. It's a great way to learn each other's communication styles, build trust, and do something fun together while being hands off.

Specifically to fear of fingers/hands, if you're in weather where you can wear long sleeves and keep your fingers covered, I've had this general progression recommended to me:

Once you can be around Yoshi while he stays calm (which it sounds like you can), keep your hands covered and see if he will take a treat pinched between your thumb and finger inside either your sleeve or under a cloth. I like using a clicker for training, but you can also use a marker word like "yes!" or something you wouldn't normally say. Basically let him come to you to take the treat, and if he does, "click/yes!" then let him pick up and take the treat. This step might take days of waiting for him to take the first treat, or he might figure it out right away.

If you start with a cloth over your hand, move to using your sleeve after he'll take it from the cloth for several days.

Once he will reliably take the treat this way for several days, let just the tiniest part of your fingers show - like not even the whole fingernail - and repeat the exercise, treat held in between your thumb and forefinger.

After a few days of that, more fingers showing - but not ever moving the fingers. Try to hold your finger/thumb so that he can grab the treat vertically between them and not have to turn his head.

Sloooooooowly work to your whole hand showing but with your other fingers curled into your fist.

From there you can use the same pincer grip with the treat in your forefinger and thumb but have your other fingers alongside.

At this point he might be willing to step up onto your fist or your hand with the fingers all held together.

You can also try this from the first step but without covering your hands to see if he can start there - just make sure you don't move your fingers. My bird for example is really scared of washcloths or towels so he gets even more freaked out when I cover my hands.

Some birds might always be scared of wiggly fingers, almost like they don't recognize them as connected to YOU. I've chatted with quite a few people since adopting my bird where they've worked with birds like this, and it sounds like you can get to a point of trust and also just experience in knowing exactly which movements will scare him to the point of biting.

He's a super cute baby; hopefully he'll come around for you when he realizes yummy food comes from your hands :)
 
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ifnlovebirds

ifnlovebirds

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A belated Welcome to the forums! My golly, Yoshi is adorable!!

I can sympathize with you - when I started thinking about getting a parrot, I had visions of training (which I've loved doing with other animals) and socialization in a backpack and teaching behaviors to make vet visits easier, and on and on. This is absolutely something you can work on with training, though!

The bird that found me is terrified of hands, does not want to be touched at all, and has the willpower of Mahatma Gandhi.

I have an African Ringneck - it seems that a lot of the ringneck species have an extreme fear of hands and fingers, so training around that fear is common. I don't have resources handy (I keep meaning to make a list!) but if you search the forum you might find some good ideas (the magnifying glass at the top of your screen).

Have you thought about target training? Yoshi might take to it quickly since he's wanting to interact with you in other ways. It's a great way to learn each other's communication styles, build trust, and do something fun together while being hands off.

Specifically to fear of fingers/hands, if you're in weather where you can wear long sleeves and keep your fingers covered, I've had this general progression recommended to me:

Once you can be around Yoshi while he stays calm (which it sounds like you can), keep your hands covered and see if he will take a treat pinched between your thumb and finger inside either your sleeve or under a cloth. I like using a clicker for training, but you can also use a marker word like "yes!" or something you wouldn't normally say. Basically let him come to you to take the treat, and if he does, "click/yes!" then let him pick up and take the treat. This step might take days of waiting for him to take the first treat, or he might figure it out right away.

If you start with a cloth over your hand, move to using your sleeve after he'll take it from the cloth for several days.

Once he will reliably take the treat this way for several days, let just the tiniest part of your fingers show - like not even the whole fingernail - and repeat the exercise, treat held in between your thumb and forefinger.

After a few days of that, more fingers showing - but not ever moving the fingers. Try to hold your finger/thumb so that he can grab the treat vertically between them and not have to turn his head.

Sloooooooowly work to your whole hand showing but with your other fingers curled into your fist.

From there you can use the same pincer grip with the treat in your forefinger and thumb but have your other fingers alongside.

At this point he might be willing to step up onto your fist or your hand with the fingers all held together.

You can also try this from the first step but without covering your hands to see if he can start there - just make sure you don't move your fingers. My bird for example is really scared of washcloths or towels so he gets even more freaked out when I cover my hands.

Some birds might always be scared of wiggly fingers, almost like they don't recognize them as connected to YOU. I've chatted with quite a few people since adopting my bird where they've worked with birds like this, and it sounds like you can get to a point of trust and also just experience in knowing exactly which movements will scare him to the point of biting.

He's a super cute baby; hopefully he'll come around for you when he realizes yummy food comes from your hands :)
Thank you for your response!! He does thankfully take treats from my hand pinched, open palm, and is okay with my hand being near him as long as I have food. He’s also pretty good into clicker training but will not step onto my hand even if the target is on the other side. It’s like I’m at a stuck point. Do you think I’m going to fast?
 

Cottonoid

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Haha, I almost said before that he looks like a super smartie and you've just proven it! That's gret he's doing all of that!

I don't think you're going too fast. It sounds like that next move of stepping up onto your hand is too big a step for him, but breaking training things into smaller steps is always my weak point ;)

So he steps up onto your forearm, right? Have you tried holding your hand either in a fist or with all your fingers together/flat in line with your forearm? Does he also step "off" of you when you ask?

Some pretty random ideas:
You could try working on step up/step off one after the other; that might help him because he's practicing the whole movement of up and down which might not be as scary as just stepping up.

You could try putting a cloth or small towel over your forearm and training him to step up onto the cloth, then move it down to your hand.

I'm still working on basic trust with my parrot, but with my dog I always start with a few repetitions of something she's good at, then try the new thing 2-3 times, then back to something she's good at before she gets frustrated. I feel like it helps build confidence - 1. that she can do hard things, and 2. that she can trust me to read her and give her good guidance.
 
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ifnlovebirds

ifnlovebirds

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Haha, I almost said before that he looks like a super smartie and you've just proven it! That's gret he's doing all of that!

I don't think you're going too fast. It sounds like that next move of stepping up onto your hand is too big a step for him, but breaking training things into smaller steps is always my weak point ;)

So he steps up onto your forearm, right? Have you tried holding your hand either in a fist or with all your fingers together/flat in line with your forearm? Does he also step "off" of you when you ask?

Some pretty random ideas:
You could try working on step up/step off one after the other; that might help him because he's practicing the whole movement of up and down which might not be as scary as just stepping up.

You could try putting a cloth or small towel over your forearm and training him to step up onto the cloth, then move it down to your hand.

I'm still working on basic trust with my parrot, but with my dog I always start with a few repetitions of something she's good at, then try the new thing 2-3 times, then back to something she's good at before she gets frustrated. I feel like it helps build confidence - 1. that she can do hard things, and 2. that she can trust me to read her and give her good guidance.
The cloth idea is genius!! I will defo try that. He doesn't step off things even if I am setting him up in an elevated place. I was planning to try to get him to step off through target training.

You're right I will try to break down the stepping onto my hand. Maybe letting him continuously reach over my hand?
Again, thank you for your reply
 

saxguy64

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Wow, lots of things going on here. First, brilliant advice above! Breaking down to baby steps and progressing gradually at his pace is the way to go. That said, determining his pace is super important. The point being, parrot's pace is typically waaaaay slower than "traditional" pets like dogs or cats. So, your expectations have to be adjusted accordingly.

Now, also consider the fact that he's a baby. Regardless of how he was raised, good or bad, that's the only world he knows, and everything he knows, everything comfortable and familiar has suddenly disappeared. Consider a human child under similar circumstances. He's terrified. That beautiful orange weapon on the front of his face is his only means of protection, so it's what instinct tells him to do. Parrots have absolutely zero natural reason to trust us big scary humans. Zero. We have to earn their trust, and always strive to keep it. This might be of some help: https://www.parrotforums.com/threads/tips-for-bonding-and-building-trust.49144/

It's actually very common, as @Cottonoid mentioned above, for parrots to see hands as a separate entity from our bodies. It wiggles and moves independently from the rest of us, it must be a big scary snake! Eeeeeeek! Slow, tremendously patient exposure, conditioning, whatever you want to call it. Key word is patience, in everything you do with him. Forcing him to accept your hands is counter productive. Chances are, the breeder either didn't handle him at all, or did so in a way that he didn't like. It's okay, all is not lost. Again, patience. Additionally, ekkies traditionally aren't fans of being handled/pet/scratched. If they allow it at all, almost universally, front to back only. They HATE when you mess with "the doo." They can still be very affectionate, but maybe not in the same way as others. Lots of kisses have been the thing with mine, like, ALL. THE. TIME. That's an earned privelige as well. You have to trust him enough to know he won't bite your face, lips, jugular...

Okay, one more thing to consider. He's 13 weeks, and you've had him for 2, so you got him at 10 weeks? Did the breeder tell you he's fully weaned? If so, at that age, he's almost certainly been force weaned, and not actually completely ready to be 100% on adult diet. If you're not offering formula still, you may want to consider doing so. I'd recommend talking with your (hopefully) avian vet, or a responsible breeder about hand feeding for amounts, frequency and proper technique. Keep offering until he completely refuses it. This link might help as well:

Please keep us updated, and ask questions. We're here to help in any way we can. :)
 
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ifnlovebirds

ifnlovebirds

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Wow, lots of things going on here. First, brilliant advice above! Breaking down to baby steps and progressing gradually at his pace is the way to go. That said, determining his pace is super important. The point being, parrot's pace is typically waaaaay slower than "traditional" pets like dogs or cats. So, your expectations have to be adjusted accordingly.

Now, also consider the fact that he's a baby. Regardless of how he was raised, good or bad, that's the only world he knows, and everything he knows, everything comfortable and familiar has suddenly disappeared. Consider a human child under similar circumstances. He's terrified. That beautiful orange weapon on the front of his face is his only means of protection, so it's what instinct tells him to do. Parrots have absolutely zero natural reason to trust us big scary humans. Zero. We have to earn their trust, and always strive to keep it. This might be of some help: https://www.parrotforums.com/threads/tips-for-bonding-and-building-trust.49144/

It's actually very common, as @Cottonoid mentioned above, for parrots to see hands as a separate entity from our bodies. It wiggles and moves independently from the rest of us, it must be a big scary snake! Eeeeeeek! Slow, tremendously patient exposure, conditioning, whatever you want to call it. Key word is patience, in everything you do with him. Forcing him to accept your hands is counter productive. Chances are, the breeder either didn't handle him at all, or did so in a way that he didn't like. It's okay, all is not lost. Again, patience. Additionally, ekkies traditionally aren't fans of being handled/pet/scratched. If they allow it at all, almost universally, front to back only. They HATE when you mess with "the doo." They can still be very affectionate, but maybe not in the same way as others. Lots of kisses have been the thing with mine, like, ALL. THE. TIME. That's an earned privelige as well. You have to trust him enough to know he won't bite your face, lips, jugular...

Okay, one more thing to consider. He's 13 weeks, and you've had him for 2, so you got him at 10 weeks? Did the breeder tell you he's fully weaned? If so, at that age, he's almost certainly been force weaned, and not actually completely ready to be 100% on adult diet. If you're not offering formula still, you may want to consider doing so. I'd recommend talking with your (hopefully) avian vet, or a responsible breeder about hand feeding for amounts, frequency and proper technique. Keep offering until he completely refuses it. This link might help as well:

Please keep us updated, and ask questions. We're here to help in any way we can. :)
His hatch date was 7/19 so it has been a little over 12 weeks now. Do you think it's possible he is behaving this way because he was weaned so early? It was wrong for me to assume the breeder knew what she was doing. Because I was concerned about the weaning date, I continuously asked her about it she said they were doing fine and eating great. She also said she didn't weigh the babies, I should've left there. He's a picky eater and maybe the formula will help. (He eats kale, green beans, sweet potato, bell peppers, quinoa, corn, and broccoli but mostly just chews and throws them out) I will go ask his vet about formula feeding. Do you think it is okay that I have already been feeding him solid foods? Will he even accept the formula? (This actually makes so so so much sense because he has been saying the "I'm hungry" baby call but was confused since I had fed him already) and I know pellets should not be fed to this species especially, but the breeder fed him some, and right now I'm trying to get him off it. He seems to prefer it over fresh food though, maybe it tastes like formula.

Thank you so much for your response and helpful information.
 

saxguy64

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Okay, yes, force weaning can possibly be the reason for a wide number of behavioral issues. Not guaranteed, but definitely possible. Even properly weaned, many birds regress when they are faced with the scary world of a new home and unfamiliar people, surroundings, faces, sounds, smells, routine, universe... Like I said, all is not lost, and starting at the beginning with reasonable expectations will pay off.

Sounds like you're on the right track with diet. It's tricky, and the biggest considerations are variety (for best overall nutrition) and also that in addition to weaning from baby food/formula, you also need to wean off of improper solid diet. Remember, parrots absolutely do not subscribe to the old "he'll eat it if he gets hungry enough" school of thought. If there's nothing offered that they'll eat, they will in fact starve themselves to death. Pellets, in and of themselves, are not completely evil, but if you feed them, they should only be a very small part of the diet, and generally not "fortified" with additional vitamins and such. My guy gets a small amount of Top's, mostly because he's not a fan of most greens. It's a way to get some of that spectrum in to him. My ekkie's first owner had him on mostly supreme natural pellets. It must be good because it has an ekkie on the bag, right? It was his favorite go-to food, and he would pick them out before he even considered anything else. I took months weaning him off of them, and it was well over a year before he decided Top's were acceptable. They're still not his first choice, but he'll eat them now.

You're not harming him by feeding solid foods, it's part of the weaning process. He may not accept formula, but I'd be willing to bet that he will for a while. What you're looking for is abundance weaning, where he decides when he's ready and will no longer accept the formula. It's also a handy thing for him to know about and accept it for later on, since it may be extremely helpful in the event of illness or injury.

BTW, your little guy is adorable! What's his name? And also, if you'd like to share more, we love pictures here :)
 
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ifnlovebirds

ifnlovebirds

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Okay, yes, force weaning can possibly be the reason for a wide number of behavioral issues. Not guaranteed, but definitely possible. Even properly weaned, many birds regress when they are faced with the scary world of a new home and unfamiliar people, surroundings, faces, sounds, smells, routine, universe... Like I said, all is not lost, and starting at the beginning with reasonable expectations will pay off.

Sounds like you're on the right track with diet. It's tricky, and the biggest considerations are variety (for best overall nutrition) and also that in addition to weaning from baby food/formula, you also need to wean off of improper solid diet. Remember, parrots absolutely do not subscribe to the old "he'll eat it if he gets hungry enough" school of thought. If there's nothing offered that they'll eat, they will in fact starve themselves to death. Pellets, in and of themselves, are not completely evil, but if you feed them, they should only be a very small part of the diet, and generally not "fortified" with additional vitamins and such. My guy gets a small amount of Top's, mostly because he's not a fan of most greens. It's a way to get some of that spectrum in to him. My ekkie's first owner had him on mostly supreme natural pellets. It must be good because it has an ekkie on the bag, right? It was his favorite go-to food, and he would pick them out before he even considered anything else. I took months weaning him off of them, and it was well over a year before he decided Top's were acceptable. They're still not his first choice, but he'll eat them now.

You're not harming him by feeding solid foods, it's part of the weaning process. He may not accept formula, but I'd be willing to bet that he will for a while. What you're looking for is abundance weaning, where he decides when he's ready and will no longer accept the formula. It's also a handy thing for him to know about and accept it for later on, since it may be extremely helpful in the event of illness or injury.

BTW, your little guy is adorable! What's his name? And also, if you'd like to share more, we love pictures here

I spoke with my vet and got the Kaytee formula. My bird refused it though. I tried syringe, spoon, and just giving it to him. He had no interest. He also is addicted to pellets as he now seems to only want pellets over fresh food. (I know I can’t starve or only give him fresh foods because then he won’t eat at all)

He did step up onto my hand on his own earlier and doesn’t freak out even if my hands are moving a bit fast so, lots of behavioral improvement.

His feathers are worrying me a bit although I hope it’s just stress lines since he’s so young. Id like to get him off pellets completely asap but he doesn’t seem to want any vegetables but occasional nibble on a carrot.
 

LoveOfallAnimals

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I spoke with my vet and got the Kaytee formula. My bird refused it though. I tried syringe, spoon, and just giving it to him. He had no interest. He also is addicted to pellets as he now seems to only want pellets over fresh food. (I know I can’t starve or only give him fresh foods because then he won’t eat at all)

He did step up onto my hand on his own earlier and doesn’t freak out even if my hands are moving a bit fast so, lots of behavioral improvement.

His feathers are worrying me a bit although I hope it’s just stress lines since he’s so young. Id like to get him off pellets completely asap but he doesn’t seem to want any vegetables but occasional nibble on a carrot.
Have you tried making him a chop? That would be my recommendation since he is able to eat pellets. Also, I don't know what brand of pellets you are feeding, but I would strongly recommend only feeding Tops since eclectus parrots are more sensitive to food dyes and preservatives.
 
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ifnlovebirds

ifnlovebirds

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Have you tried making him a chop? That would be my recommendation since he is able to eat pellets. Also, I don't know what brand of pellets you are feeding, but I would strongly recommend only feeding Tops since eclectus parrots are more sensitive to food dyes and preservatives.
I feed him zupreeme and I hate it!!! I want him off pellets fully and to only eat the chop I make him but he’s so picky and only eats green beans carrots and corn out of all the ingredients in it :(
 

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