5 Ways to reduce hormonal bird behavior before you see the avian vet

Close-up of a Panama Yellow-headed Amazon (5 months old) with its beak open, isolated on white
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Hypothetical – a 21st century genie sits down next you on a park bench. He looks pretty normal and explains that the whole genie thing has evolved along with modern society.

The dapper young lad named Gene (really?) goes on to say;

“The new rules are that you still get three wishes but “me” the genie decides what they are? It’ll be fun.

Wish number one is from this point forward you will have the ability to fly.

It gets better.

Animals that fly like birds can see the ultraviolet spectrum of light, but that’s boring for mammals.

Wish number two is x-ray vision. Now you can see what people look like naked under their clothing”.

Close up of businessperson hand holding lamp in hand

You’re thinking “this is great I can’t wait to leap a tall building in a single will bound AND see people naked under their clothing”

With a huge grin the genie goes on;

“Wish number 3 three is always the best wish. You can never leave your home again AND will spend at least 12 hours per day in a jail closet with erratic light cycles.

Oh yeh, food – the food is the funniest part”.

Gene was getting down right giddy.

“You get to eat colored morsels that resemble the gooey clay you squeezed out of a Play-Doh set as a child – forever”.

Magically now sitting next to Gene on the worn out sofa in the living room of your miserable little bungalow, on a cul-de-sac (meaning the only women you will ever see naked are ones you don’t ever want to see naked).

“Did I mention I was a comic genie?

Have a nice life and try to stay stay normal for the next 50 years. A professional is on stand by should you require injections of nefarious fluids that will fix anything that ails you. 

Nice place you got”.

Alone (you can fill in the blank on how Gene made his exit), reality rapidly sunk in.

You found yourself floating, bumping your head on the bungalow’s 8 foot ceiling with purple sunlight streaming through the big front room window, making your headache – worse.

All you can think of is “this is gonna be rough”.

Moral? Learn to speak bird.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a drug called Lupron used by avian veterinarians to reduce prolific egg laying in birds as well as reducing aggression in male birds.

A couple of women on Facebook were astounded as in “how dare I” talk about a drug (Lupron) that caused young woman’s tooth enamel delamination, bone degeneration, fibromyalgia and chronic back pain to name a few symptoms (by the way did I mention that the manufacturer of the drug lost a law suit and had to award $852 million to a plaintiff?) 5 – 10 years after taking the drug.

Anyway they felt that my unscientific research would in no way hamper them in seeking to inject THEIR birds with Lupron while they are clearly able to pronounce it 100% safe in all avian applications – it’s a muricle lord.

I make no apologies for this. It’s an OPINION of somebody who doesn’t have the alphabet after his name. Ironically not one veterinarian came out in defense of the drug.

What’s important is that you know you have options available and I am saying that Lupron should be your very last line of defense in spite of what any veterinarian will tell you.

Veterinarians make money on $50 Lupron injections. Not advising on how .25 worth of light might solve the prolific egg laying problem with zero side effects.

Don’t get me wrong. Veterinarians have a valuable place an avian medicine when it comes to a bird’s overall health.

I like seeing a blood workups. I like seeing a physical examination. I like seeing x-rays. Yet far too frequently I hear read or see the self mutilating bird who’s been to the vet a number of times for a series of injections.

Along with prolific egg laying, feather mutilation is rarely seen in the wild. If you want to start fixing a bird begin with its birdcage habitat, nutrition and delivery of said nutrition. Couple that with proper lighting and we have a good start.

Raise your hand if a veterinarian has said these or similar words. It’s not their fault. They been blindsided by behaviors now prevalent because of the soaring popularity and misunderstanding of captive bird behavior.

By creating and understanding the relationship between veterinarian, caged bird keeper and captive bird environmentalist (I just made that up), many of these behavioral and physical issues can be fixed.

This also goes beyond talking to “bird behaviorists”. Behavior modification can be effective  but not persistent without looking holistically at birdcage habitat, nutrition, nutrition delivery system (food bowls versus enrichment opportunities), home environment, flight, lighting and human flock.

You can’t alter a bird’s negative behavior with a “better pellet”, an injection, a class or a seminar.

It’s a BIRD! It thinks (pigeons can process thought 3 times faster than humans) but not like a mammal.

 

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Tactic I

Veterinarians don’t make money on your electric bill by exposing your bird to 72 hours of constant light which could shut down your birds reproductive system.

We wrote about how effective this was with our own cockatiel Popcorn and offer FAQ’s on the benign process

Tactic II

Simply having lighting over birds cage that is on 12 hours and off 12 hours can make all of the difference in your bird’s behavior

A woman wrote with the following question. If the bird isn’t in the cage all day how is the 12 hour light cycle effective?

First I’m almost certain that I never answered her (I apologize). The question got lost in one of the many venues that I get problems posed to me. The big kids get a fire hose of data – I get a hundred garden hoses of noise I must pick through.

But it’s a great question. Usually when the light comes on over the bird in its cage in the morning, it signals the beginning of the day. We then try to put Peaches in her cage five or 10 minutes before the light goes out signaling to her the end of the day.

This very simple technique can help your bird reduce it’s hormonal activities by keeping their circadian clock set the proper time. A birds circadian clock is more accurate than a Rolex.

Caveat: when using a timer do not respect daylight savings time. Your bird doesn’t understand it. It will be confusing. Let the timer run on the same 12 hour light cycle all year long.

Tactic III

Avian nutritional thinking has evolved over the past decade and many avian veterinarians believe that soy could be a major contributor to enhanced hormonal behavior in birds.

If your bird is feather plucking, screaming or performing hormonal “posturing” which you’ll know when you see it, you may want to consider eliminating soy from their diet which may be triggering food allergies

Bird foods we offer with no soy are

Tactic IV

For the most part, we keep our birds locked up with little or no exercise having chopped off the wings and then wonder why they act “weird” to the introduction of new food.

Why they exhibit no interest in new foods is no surprise when they have not exerted any caloric burning activity for the day. By introducing foraging & enrichment enrichment activities, you will enable a bird’s normal way of eating while providing some exercise.

You can spend your Sunday afternoon making chop for a week or spend 2 minutes building a foraging box and spend sunday afternoon watching romantic movies with your honey

Tactic V

Don’t forget to weigh your bird on a regular basis at least twice a month – rapid changes in weight in either direction are your “first responder” line of defense to define the perfect time to visit your vet rather than waiting until it’s too late. A sick bird can be a cranky bird

Providing proper lighting can be a challenge 

given unlimited ways we can set up cages within our home. This is a question that came in recently.

Hi, I want to improve my Bird’s lighting, which is currently 2 screw-in compact full spectrum bulbs. I like the look and description of the Fluval ecobright lights.

A couple of questions….can I hang it from the ceiling over her cage? Does it need an additional fixture to do so? In your pictures, it looks like the light is sitting on top of the cage, but my bird’s cage (umbrella Cockatoo) has a dome top, and she also clmbs on top of it.

Do you consider this the best option for lighting?

Ling

Greetings Ling,

For our application having the LED lighting in top of the cage is safe because budgies are benign little birds. That said a U2 is anything but benign.

The Fluval LED lamps have extensions on both ends allowing them to hang over an aquarium which  would make it quite easy to hang from the ceiling keeping them just out of reach from your bird.

I do consider it the best option for lighting but more importantly it needs to be attached to a timer so that the lights go on and off every 12 hours with no respect for daylight savings time.

Hope that helps

written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing

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