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too much stimulus

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ellieelectrons
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Location: Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

too much stimulus

Post by ellieelectrons » Wed Jun 20, 2012 9:57 pm

I had an interesting interaction with Charlie this morning that I thought I'd share. I had already taken Janey into the shower and she was sitting on her shower perch awaiting shower time. I went out to get Charlie, I charged through the streamered doorway into the kitchen (we've put the streamers up to prevent Janey from trying to nest in the laundry) - this freaked Charlie out and he flew to his cage. I tried to get him to step up from the cage and he bit me. Charlie doesn't bite hard and I wouldn't say he bites often - but obviously he didn't want to step up for me at that moment, even though he normally loves the shower. Trying to find Janey, he then flew to his perch in the lounge room. I offered my finger again for him to step up and again he bit it. I then realised that he was quite stirred up by a few sensory things going on in his environment. Firstly, the noise and the fluttering from the streamers had freaked him out... and now as I offered my hand to him, I was standing on a painters' dropsheet and it was making a noise as it crinkled beneath my feet. I realised that all of this stimulus was not making for a calm bird. It reminded me a little of how some people, especially people with autism, have trouble filtering out background noises and distinguishing the foreground noise from the background noise. So, I took my hand away, stood still, waited about 5 seconds until he looked calmer and then presented my hand again for him to step up... and he stood up no problems. So from this I've learnt that Charlie (and possibly all birds) can get distracted/distressed by all sorts of things in the environment and just because the bird is presenting biting or other negative behaviour, it doesn't necessarily mean it's because he doesn't like stepping up (or whatever it is you want your bird to do) - it just can't process all of the stimulus in the environment at that time. So sometimes, creating a calm environment and waiting until the bird is calm again is a good idea.

When I think about it, it kinda makes sense because as a protection mechanism birds in the wild need to be alert to all of the sounds around them not just focussing on the thing in front of them.

Anyway, just thought I'd share the insight I had this morning!

Ellie.

sanjays mummi
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Re: too much stimulus

Post by sanjays mummi » Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:04 am

Absolutely!, animals often "angst" bite. A good way to test if an animal is stressed is to offer a treat. An anxious animal will refuse point blank. Yesterday I was sharing my yogurt with Sannay when the Doberman across the road started barking,, Sanjay stopped eating and froze. Once the barking stopped he relaxed and carried on gently nibbling from my finger.

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ellieelectrons
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Re: too much stimulus

Post by ellieelectrons » Sun Jun 24, 2012 5:05 am

I came to a startling realisation today... I realised that I get bitten by Charlie much more than I get bitten by Janey and yet I thought it was the other way around... and the reason for that is that Charlie doesn't bite as hard as Janey. When Janey bites she has intent... and boy does it hurt! When Charlie bites it hurts a little but not too much... but what I realised is that because of this I can tend to ignore his bites sometimes... which is not good... My little guy is getting distressed enough to bite me and I ignore it. That makes me quite sad. So, I've been trying to think what I can do to fix it. I'm not sure but I think there are two reasons he bites:
1) too much stimulus in the environment (as discussed in my earliest post)
2) protecting his cage (whilst I'm trying to do the food and water and clean the cage)

I think I can address (1) by being more aware of his body language and looking for any additional stimulus I may inadvertently be providing (eg. crinkling the drop sheet under my feet)

(2) I think is a common problem and I was wondering how others address it? I once read the idea of training your bird to sit on a particular perch whilst you change their food and water. I can get them to go to a particular perch but I'm yet to learn to train them to stay there. The easiest answer is to do it when they are in another room but that's not always practical. I think I will work on training him to stay but I was wondering if anyone else has any other ideas?

Ellie.

sanjays mummi
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Re: too much stimulus

Post by sanjays mummi » Sun Jun 24, 2012 10:54 am

Sanjay is mega territorial about his cage, so we always say "are you coming out?, come on then".Over a period of time he came to understand what it means, and now he obliges every time, we have free reign to clean his cage and put his fresh rations in. Sometimes, in fact, more often than not he sits on top of the open door and supervises proceedings. We find a vacant cage is the best solution all round.

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ellieelectrons
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Re: too much stimulus

Post by ellieelectrons » Sun Jun 24, 2012 4:26 pm

Thanks Sanjays mummi

I manage to get him out of the cage without biting every day. I always let them come to me, so that's not a problem. He does however fly onto the cage when I start to work with their food. This morning I decided I would never invite him to step up from the cage. I decided to entice him to his gym with some treats and then would proceed to do their food and water. There were a few interruptions with him flying to the cage. When that happened, I'd entice him with treats back to the gym or go away for a bit. No bites yet today so I'm going well!

Ellie.

sanjays mummi
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Re: too much stimulus

Post by sanjays mummi » Mon Jun 25, 2012 12:46 am

That IS good news, where there 's a will, theres a way.

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ellieelectrons
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Re: too much stimulus

Post by ellieelectrons » Mon Jun 25, 2012 1:04 am

Oh and I meant to say, I will definitely keep the other cage thing in mind if it seems necessary. That's a good idea. Our only other cage is one we can fit in the car and they don't generally like going in there! Thanks for the idea.

I've just put them to bed for the night and I managed a bite-free day which is really nice.

Regarding Charlie, all I really needed was a bit more mindfulness on my part... I do feel sorry for him, poor fellow, I'm always mindful of Janey biting because she hurts so much when she does it! It was time I paid more attention to his needs and behaviours too!

Ellie.

birdynamnam
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Re: too much stimulus

Post by birdynamnam » Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:29 pm

Yes, indeed, I couldnt agree more, any sudden drop of stuff on the floor, then we get spooked. It all comes down to what they are used to actually. I have a large dog (we are talking almost 40Kgs here) which Birdy has grown up with so far, no problems Birdy is walking around on the floor all the time whilst Mojo is in the house, never had any problems as Mojo is soo gentle with him. However when people come to visit we go shy and trying to hide under my hair. Its quite interesting how they take to things. Birdy loves the shower too, he gets all drenched, shakes off the excess water and the feathers on his head are standing straight up, he looks like those "angry birds" its hilarious.

Jen&Bug
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Re: too much stimulus

Post by Jen&Bug » Fri Mar 22, 2013 2:21 pm

Ellie, I loved what you said about the importance of 'mindfulness' when dealing with your birds. I've found that almost all of the problems I've had with my birds come from me rushing around (as I tend to) and not really taking a moment to look at a situation from their perspective, and think how it could be better.

I've found distraction is the best approach with Rufus (sun conure), who will give me a solid nip if I try to steal his beloved water dish to change the water, which I sometimes have to do while they're both still in the cage. I use one hand to dangle something interesting in the top of the cage while the other hand sneaks in the side and grabs the dish...yes this does occasionally result in water on the carpet, as I'm not that co-ordinated, but at least all my fingers are still attached!

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ellieelectrons
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Re: too much stimulus

Post by ellieelectrons » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:28 pm

Thanks Jen. Lovely to hear from you.

Ellie.

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