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Friday, September 12, 2008
No Biting!

By Jessica Pineda, Assistant Editor of BIRD TALK and
Follow in the adventures of Jessica Pineda's experiences in bird ownership in The Parrot Life.

When my nephew was a baby and beginning to teethe, he tended to bite me a lot. I was 9 years old at the time and I didn’t understand why my nephew was being “mean” by biting me. My parents and sister must have not explained he was teething in simplistic ways for a 9 year old to understand (or I didn’t listen). In the end, annoyed and frustrated by being bitten, I did the sensible 9-year-old thing and gentle “nibbled” back. While I got in trouble for it, my nephew never bit me again.

Birds go through the teething stage, too, called “beaking.” This is where a lot of people start saying that their bird is mean because it is biting them.

“Well, no,” I would reply, “Your bird is just teething, like a baby does.” 

But while I would not recommend biting a bird back to teach it a lesson (but watch your kids; make sure they are not thinking that!), what I recommend is giving your bird a firm and gentle “no,” placing it back on its cage and giving it something else, like wood or a foot toy, to chew on. It doesn’t always work on the first try, just as my nephew didn’t automatically stop biting me the first few times (again, don’t bite your bird!), but persistence is key.

This works for a lot of problem behaviors, I’ve found. If your bird likes to climb up your arm onto your shoulder, you have to keep taking them off. I usually say “No shoulders!” or “No shoulders for baby birds!” I’ve met a few green-cheeked conures that squeak in protest but, eventually, all birds get it and learn that the hand is the place to be. It does take a few dozen reminders but all birds, from budgies to macaws, will learn.

Think of the shows like “Nanny 911” or “SuperNanny.” The first time the nanny instigates a timeout for when the child is bad, she places him in their timeout spot. Most often, the child gets back up and runs around the house. She calmly places them back in timeout, ignoring tears and protests and the child runs off again. She continues to do it until the child eventually gets the hint that they have to stay put before they can get anything else.

It’s the same for young birds. Be persistent, calm and firm. You don’t have to resort to extremes to get your parrot to “be good.”

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Reader Comments
Thanks for the article. My male Senegal is awful a bout biting me. He seems extremely protective of his cage and his mate and dominates both her and me..I don't know his age and don't know how to tell his age to know if he is beaking. But he's got a helluva sharp beak. He does love to gnaw on things literally shredding an entire wicker basket top in one day. What's your guess and how do I get him to stop. I can no longer get food or water in his cage without him attacking me. He wasn't even that bad at first until he saw he could scare me away!
Parris, Bluffton, SC
Posted: 3/1/2009 4:06:50 PM
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