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discussion about biting

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ellieelectrons
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Joined: Mon Jul 19, 2010 1:17 am
Location: Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

discussion about biting

Post by ellieelectrons » Tue Dec 11, 2012 7:48 pm

Hi All

People regularly come on this forum asking about how to stop birds from biting. There is a range of advice given but the most common one is to let your bird bite you and don't react. The theory being that once it knows you won't react, it will eventually stop doing it.

I came across this article about biting a while ago and I really like its approach:
http://goodbirdinc.blogspot.com.au/2012 ... -bite.html

In some ways harder to implement because it requires you to try to figure out the triggers that cause the biting behaviour.

In my very limited experience, IRNs have a range of biting abilities. I have one bird whose bite feels like a pinch (sometimes it can be a hard pinch) and another whose bite is extremely painful and if she means it, it will usually draw blood. If your bird is giving you the equivalent of a little pinch, I can see how ignoring the bite might work but if your bird is chomping away at your flesh, I just don't see how you can not react and let it keep doing it... Especially if the bite comes when you aren't expecting it, it's even harder to control that initial reaction.

Given the variables:
- how hard the bird bites
- your tolerance to pain
- whether you are expecting the bite
I'm not sure that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to this.

What does everyone else think?

I'd also be interested in hearing any stories about IRNs biting and how you dealt with it, what worked and what didn't and also how severe the biting was.


Ellie.

fionalouise1989
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Location: South Brisbane, Australia

Re: discussion about biting

Post by fionalouise1989 » Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:56 pm

Hey Ellie,
I like the articles that you've posted about kind of looking at their body language and distracting or getting your hand out of there before they bite! My little one is only 15 weeks old now but hardly bites and when he/she does never draws blood and you can usually predict it as its normally when im trying to get something out of the cage or touching toys inside the cage, so I guess I adopt your chosen method and remove the bird from the cage before i venture in to remove things to avoid the situation. But otherwise if I can predict I avoid it but if I cant then I tend to just let it have a go as he/she doesnt bite that hard but if it was a chomp instead of a pinch I certainly wouldnt be tolerating it... Im lucky... for now... :) I definitely agree that there isn't a one size fits all solution unfortunately!!
Fi

Melika
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Re: discussion about biting

Post by Melika » Thu Dec 13, 2012 10:54 pm

My experiences with biting and prevention of bites with Hane:

First, when Hane was bluffing, I did call his bluff. He never did more than nip. Calling his bluff was the best thing- I just followed my instincts really. When he was young, he wasn't allowed the right to say no and refuse to step-up. I didn't want him getting into the habit of being territorial of his cage or taking the chance of him being cagebound. Was it right? I don't know. I do know that what is good for one bird isn't always good for another. I just did what I felt was right in the moment.

...
After he was about a year or two old, I always offered my hand to Hane AFTER asking if he wants to come out. He knows what it means (he should by now!) and if he doesn't want to come out he makes it very clear by moving to the back of his cage. Sometimes I can come back just a few minutes later and he has changed his mind, sometimes he just doesn't want to come out for an entire day. I leave him that space and let him make that decision. Sometimes he wants to come out and be with me on my hand, other days he just wants to sit on his stand. He's a very independent bird, and I like it.

...
Years later, he began biting quite viciously (well viciously for him, only ever broke my skin one time but it still hurt!) when I would offer my hand for him to come out- and this was when he was clear he wanted to come out. As I was worried about open wounds with my job, it made me nervous and this went on for weeks. I finally realized that my behaviour was the trigger. I was pulling away, anticipating the bite, and that made him bite since I wasn't being reliable and trustworthy. Instead of enduring a bite, I simply offered my hand and when he went to bite, I pushed my finger into him and he stepped up, too busy balancing to really bite. It took a few days, but he stopped biting when he realized I wasn't going to pull away anymore. Then I was able to go back to simply offering my hand.

...
Hane's body language is very clear. Sometimes he wants to come out, but is too excited (which would result in a bite for me) and pins his eyes while singing and stretches his neck out alternately fluffing and flattening his head feathers. At those times I don't offer a hand and close the cage. I might just talk to him for a little while and see if he calms down, at which point I would re-open the cage and offer my hand. If he doesn't calm down- or has made it clear he does not want to come out, I just do normal bird care chores and we talk/sing through the bars. When he is calm and wants to come out, he stays near the front of the cage and might croon a little bit at me, his head feathers very slightly fluffed into what I consider his "happy smile" after which he slowly walks over to the offered hand and steps up.

...
Jewelry was Hane's obsession. If anyone wore a ring or bracelet he would latch on and I would have to pry him off. I never wore jewelry on my hands so I never thought to get him used to it. Now I do wear my wedding rings and that took some training. A few times, he did latch on (he only latched onto the jewelry, not the skin) and I would just pry him off and settle him right back onto my finger if he was calm enough. If he wasn't calm he had to go to a stand or cage. I had to practice the 'earthquake' method to get him to stop focusing on the rings. Eventually he would just look at them and I would turn my hand slightly to break his focus. It has been almost a year now and the other day was the first time he didn't even seem to notice my rings at all when I put my hand up to pet him. Major progress! I don't like to vocalize if he is doing something I don't like. I feel like he sees that as attention and a reward, something to be sought after. I might mention that my 'earthquake' is very subtle and doesn't drop very far at all. It's more like a quick supination of the forearm and return to normal position.
Image
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I've been called 'birdbrained' before, but somehow I don't think this is what they meant. say:hah-nay

Jen&Bug
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: discussion about biting

Post by Jen&Bug » Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:38 am

Hi everyone, I'm new to this site...hoping you can help me...

I've had Bug, my green ringneck, for about five years. He's always enjoyed doing the mating dance for his favourite humans (as well as for mirrors and other objects around the house). We've never worried about this because it's seemed harmless and never escalates to other mating behaviours. In fact, we've found it very cute and part of his gregarious personality.

The problem is, he's recently started punctuating the dance with really savage bites, so it goes something like this: lean forward, lean backward (wings out), lean forward, lean back...CHOMP! This is no fun if he happens to be sitting on your hand or shoulder at the time. He doesn't bite hard in other situations, even in fear, but when he does this he draws blood.

I don't think it's an aggressive bite, because it occurs in situations where he seems very confident. Also, if I shake my hand to avoid the bite, he'll fly off and then come straight back and start the dance again, so I think he enjoys the interaction.

Any ideas for how to manage this? I don't think we can stop him from doing the mating dance altogether, as it's always been a big part of his interaction with his world (one of his nicknames is 'Buganova'). Can anyone think of a reason for the biting? Has anyone had a similar experience?

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ellieelectrons
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Re: discussion about biting

Post by ellieelectrons » Mon Dec 17, 2012 2:48 am

Hi Jen
Jen&Bug wrote:Can anyone think of a reason for the biting? Has anyone had a similar experience?
Not exactly similar, but I had problems with my female when she was in "nesting" mode. You can read about the saga here: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=14905

From what you are saying, I think this is hormonal biting. I've never had these problems with my male as he never does the mating dance to us. To be honest, I don't think this is a behaviour you should be encouraging, I think you probably have one confused bird! There is a chance that the biting will stop when breeding season is over in your area, but it may not. How old is your bird?

If you are confident that the dancing is what triggers the bites, I would be putting him on a perch or in his cage as soon as he starts the dance. Another thing you can do is train your bird to do the dance to an object that he likes rather than you. You can try redirecting his attentions to that object, as soon as he starts the dance and praising him for doing it. You can see an example of this type of training here:
http://goodbirdinc.blogspot.com.au/2012 ... usual.html
and http://goodbirdinc.blogspot.com.au/2011 ... akapo.html

Other things you could consider is getting him a birdie friend (male or female) in the hope that he will redirect these attentions to the bird instead of you. This may or may not work as he is used to displaying these behaviours to you.

No matter what you do, I think it is going to take some time to change his behaviour. I think the focus needs to be on not letting him do the mating dance for you or on you.

These are just my opinions, maybe someone else will have some other ideas.

Good luck and best wishes.

Ellie.

Jen&Bug
Posts: 98
Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:02 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: discussion about biting

Post by Jen&Bug » Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:34 am

Thanks for responding Ellie. Bug is about five years old and I'm in Melbourne so yes it might have something to do with the time of year.

I think you're probably right...training Bug not to do the mating dance is going to be hard but probably the only way to guarantee that the biting stops, as it does seem to be embedded in the dance. Maybe I can try doing the hand wobble as soon as the dance starts and then distract him with something else, like whistling which he likes. Poor little confused guy.

He does have a birdie friend, a sun conure called Rufus who is a little younger. Bug has tried the mating dance with Rufus, but a couple of warning lunges from the sun conure beak soon sorted that out. Now they have a funny bonded relationship; they'll sit for hours allopreening sometimes, and Bug will make sun conure noises (charming!) if Rufus is out of his line of sight.

Thanks too for the links to Sirocco. He's incredible, isn't he? My parents (NZers) saw him on his recent tour of NZ and said it was absolutely magic. Barbara Heidenreich is also very cool, I saw her at the Step Up expo last year (maybe you did too?)

Anyway, thanks again for the response.

Jen&Bug
Posts: 98
Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:02 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: discussion about biting

Post by Jen&Bug » Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:51 am

OK, no-one has said that their bird does anything similar...so it probably isn't a typical IRN behaviour. This got me wondering: why does Bug do it, if no-one else does?

I had (possibly) a breakthrough on this today. Bug lunged at me when I was just chatting to him on top of his cage, without even doing the mating dance first. I was horrified, and started thinking what I could possibly have done to provoke him. Did I make any sudden moves? Was I wearing anything that might have frightened him...?

And then I remembered that I had a sun conure tucked under my chin.

From there, I realised that I pretty much ALWAYS have a sun conure tucked under my chin, or on my shoulder, when I'm interacting with Bug. Rufus, my SC, is the classic 'velcro bird', and he's on me so often that I hardly even notice it.

Thinking about it, it's possible that Rufus's presence has been bothering Bug. Rufus has got more territorial in the last few months, so maybe there's some kind of turf war going on for my attention. I also tend to automatically divide my attention between them when I have both together, even it's just to look at Rufus briefly. Maybe this is what provokes a bite.

This will be an easy theory to research so I'll see what I can figure out. I've had two bite-free interactions with Bug already today while Rufus has been otherwise occupied, so fingers crossed I'm on the right track...

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ellieelectrons
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Re: discussion about biting

Post by ellieelectrons » Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:22 am

Sounds like a good theory. Good luck!

Ellie.
P.s. I didn't go to Barb H. Last year. She is coming out again next year so I may go then.

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