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Aggression Problems with Green Cheek

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Aggression Problems with Green Cheek

Postby birdresqr » Sun Mar 04, 2018 5:47 pm

Hello All.
I became a guardian for a green cheek conure, Oscar, five months ago. Prior to that, he had been in a shelter for a year, and prior to that, lived with his previous owner (male) for 5 to 6 years. This person took serious chances with the bird's health and well being. After escaping from an outdoor aviary during the cold month of November, a neighbor found him(?) and took Oscar to a local vet who eventually turned him over to the shelter.
I knew he was a biter from the shelter's write-up. I learned the hard way what provoked him and how to read his body language. I have done constant research on what not to do to avoid hormonal release. He gets 12 hours of total darkness. He has a huge cage and a play unit I put on top his cage. I do not touch him below his head. I feed him parrot chop along with a good pellet food -- with appropriate healthy snacks. I ma retired and home all day -- spending most of the day with him.
My problem is that his aggression seemed to double overnight about a month ago. His vet suggested Lupron injections -- did not phase him. Then Oscar was given an implant -- Nothing. I ended up clipping his wings -- something I normally feel strongly against -- but had to because he was flying to attack me. When I say attack it means biting 2 to 3 times in the blink of an eye drawing blood and removing flesh -- he takes his work seriously.
My dowel and towel are my trusty companions these days. I would welcome back the days when Oscar came to live with me -- this new version seems to lay in wait for the moment I am close enough for him to nail me. He has my dogs scared to death of him. They flee in panic when he gets near them.
I am trying to keep life with him the same -- I just have to use the dowel to transport him about the house, and keep my distance. I miss him -- having to keep him at bay constantly. I am getting discouraged. I keep telling myself it is nothing personal -- just chemical and he cannot help it. Will he ever get out of this hormonal rage?
birdresqr
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 3
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: green cheek conure
Flight: No

Re: Aggression Problems with Green Cheek

Postby Pajarita » Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:58 am

Welcome to the forum and thank you so very much for taking in a bird that you knew had problems! If we had more people like you, parrots in captivity would have a better chance of making it!

Now as to your question if he will ever get over this hormonal stage - well, the answer to that is yes but only if you change his sleeping schedule because the 12L/12D [12 hours of light/12 hours of dark] does not allow his endocrine system to become attuned to the seasons so the bird is kept hormonal all year round but gets even worse when the days start getting longer -which is exactly what is happening here. Let me give you a bit of background on this: we used to keep parrots at a human light schedule so they were up and exposed to light when we got up and went to sleep when we did [something that, unfortunately for them, some people still do]. But we realized that this was making the birds hormonal all year round so we went to the 12D/12L because we figured that this is the light schedule in the tropics and, if it worked in the wild, it would work the same in captivity. But we did not take into consideration that some parrots are not tropical or even semi tropical and that, in the wild, there were more triggers than just light [food availability and weather conditions]. But the biggest mistake we made with this was that we did not know that a bird internal clock doesn't just work with plain old exposure to light, it needs to be turned on and off by the different light that happens during twilight which is a consequence of the sun rays hitting the atmosphere at an angle which, in turn refracts it differently creating the 'special' light that happens at dawn and dusk. Think of it as a stop watch, it gets turned on by dawn and off by dusk and the number of hours between these two events is what tells the bird's body what to do: start producing sexual hormone or stop production, when to eat, when to sleep, when to molt, etc. The fact that your bird's body is 'confused' by the lack of twilight is, in a nutshell, your problem. All birds [not only parrots] are photoperiodic but that doesn't mean that we can arbitrarily [and quite arrogantly, I might add, because it implies that we know more than nature] decide to give them a certain number of hours of light, it means that they need to follow the solar schedule as it changes throughout the year with the seasons.

This time of the year, I open my blinds, uncover the cages and open their doors at get up at 6 am but I don't turn on the overhead full spectrum lights [which I would also recommend you get as the birds need them for production of good hormones: endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin that make them calm and happy -not all are hormones, some are actually neurotransmitters but 'good hormones' is more common] until 8:30 am [when the sun rays are already streaming in through the windows - but you can actually do it a bit later, if you want]. Then, at 4 pm, I turn off the lights, I give them their dinner at 4:30 to 5 pm -it depends on the brightness of the day itself because you want them to have enough light to eat and still have some time of light left so they can go to their roosting perch and slowly get drowsy as night falls naturally. At around 6 pm I draw the blinds and cover their cages with materials thick enough to block any light that might accidentally sneak into their cages [this is also very important because we have studies that tell us that the merest amount of light causes their photoreceptors [cells that react to light] in their brain [birds have them in the eyes, like mammals do, but also deep inside their brain] to react.

Did your vet explain to you what the Lupron or the patch actually did to the bird's body and what it is? Because vets love to use it but they never actually explain - something I do not approve of as people need to make informed decisions. Lupron was created to be a contraceptive for female dogs so it has never even been tested in birds and the dosages avian vets use are pretty much a good guess fine-tuned by experimenting on pet birds by the vets. But that's not the worst thing about it. It is what it does to the body. Lupron makes the body produce so many sexual hormones that the body, realizing something is terribly wrong, stops production altogether. It works with mammals but, as you have experienced, it doesn't always work with birds and, when it does, it's only temporary but, even if it was not, it still could not be used long term. Now, I don't know how your feel about this but, personally, I don't think that messing up even more an already messed up endocrine system is any kind of solution! Especially when the solution is as simple as following Mother Nature's guidelines in both light and diet.

Hope this was helpful to you but, if you wish [and I ALWAYS recommend it!], you can do more research on your own by putting avian photoperiodism, avian reproductive system and avian endocrine system in your search engine.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 13326
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

Re: Aggression Problems with Green Cheek

Postby birdresqr » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:18 pm

Thank you so much, Parjarita, for your valuable advice. I do have a full spectrum avian light over his cage. I also have grow lights over my windowsills for a variety of flowering house plants.
I research almost every day and after becoming aware of Oscar's need for complete darkness for 12 to 14 hours a day, I put a very dark cover over his entire cage, and roll the cage into my walk-in closet with a very dark curtain hung in the door way. I did modify the light conditions recently by turning off the grow lights, and his overhead cage light late afternoon as the sun starts going down -- then I cover him and put him in the closet. Do you recommend any change to that routine?
The avian vet I take him to was recommended to me -- but I have found that communication is very brief to non-existent. He recommended Lupron on Oscar's first visit for a full physical. He said that Oscar was fearless and could use some relief from his constant state of arousal. Oscar was whisked away and I was directed to the lobby. When I came home, I researched Lupron -- I cancelled the other scheduled injections. I am so sorry I put him through the implant. I need to schedule an appointment to remove it now. Yes, from now on -- nothing but natural methods. I may need to locate another vet too.
I mentioned that I use a towel to remove him from me when he is intent on attacking me. As soon as I wrap the towel around him he calms down, relaxes, and does not really want to leave. After holding him for a few minutes, he starts to fall asleep. My hold on the towel is very loose, it does not cover his head at all so as not to mimic a dark nesting spot. I asked the vet, and he said it was fine -- I would hate to think I am adding fuel to the fire.
I appreciate your help -- I am open to any advice you have to offer!
birdresqr
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 3
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: green cheek conure
Flight: No

Re: Aggression Problems with Green Cheek

Postby Pajarita » Tue Mar 06, 2018 11:02 am

Yes, I can tell that you have been putting a lot of work into his proper care. Kudos to you for that! And don't feel bad about the whole 'whisking him away' thing, it happens to all of us. I know it took me years to get the gumption to stand up to a vet... And I learned to do it the hard way when a bird I had rescued was misdiagnosed and the vet kept on telling me he was fine when I kept on bringing him back because I KNEW there was something wrong with him. I finally went to another avian vet [the best one I've ever had and not even board certified!] who did more tests on him and diagnosed him right -but, by then, it was too late and he ended up dying a little after that. We are raised to respect authority and knowledge [at least, the older generations are :lol: ] and not to question people who are supposed to know better. But the problem is that avian vets don't really know that very much about birds [because nobody does!], and they are all trained on dogs and cats first and never actually even go to school to become an avian vet so the greatest majority of them treat birds pretty much like feathered mammals. Hence, their proclivity to use Lupron and other medicines that are not really good for birds.

Now, the thing about full spectrum lights [for birds, plants or whatever] is that, as the light industry is completely unregulated, there isn't a standard or even official guidelines as to what constitutes 'full spectrum'. In my research, I have found that one needs to pay attention to the specifications of each light source [something that, unfortunately, is not easily available in some brands]. There are three specifications when it comes to light quality:

1] the CRI [Color Rendering Index] which tells us how faithfully the different colors are seen under that light. The best is 100 so the closer to this figure, the better [I always strive for, at least, something over 93].

2] the Ktemp [Kelvin Temperature] which basically tells you what is the actual 'color' of the light. Lower Ktemps make for a redder light and higher Ktemps make for a bluer light. Birds are more prone to breed under redder light so, although the Ktemp of sunlight at noon is around 5500, when one has a hormonal bird, it's best to expose it to a higher Ktemp so as to make the light bluer [I would say something in the 6,000 - 6,500 range]. As an FYI, red light transverses tissue much better and faster than bluer light so, when we are talking about birds which have photoreceptor cells deep in their brains, the redder light affects them more than the bluer light because it needs to go through the so thin to be actually translucid bones of their cranium and the brain tissue - how cool is that, eh?!

3] the Spectral Distribution which is like a chart of how much of each light [or wavelength] is on that particular light but, unfortunately for us, this information is never accessible to us.

So, check the bulbs you have and see if you can come up with the specs for them and, if they are not what would be best for him, get some other ones that would.

On the light schedule question, the main thing is that they are exposed to twilight for, at least, 1 hour [I do it for 1.5, actually] with no artificial lights whatsoever so they only get this 'different' natural light. You are already doing the 'complete darkness' thing after so that's good.

As to his calming down when he is toweled... I don't know exactly why that is but it might have something to do with the fact that you cannot really touch him much and, as they need touch to produce the 'love hormone', this gives him a sense of wellbeing. Parrots are very reactive to feelings produced by hormones - which is something that people believe is one of the reasons why pluckers pull their feathers - the pain of a feather being pulled by the root makes the body produce endorphins which, in turn, creates a sense of wellbeing [as an interesting FYI, the word 'endorphin' is actually a contraction of 'endogenous morphine' meaning 'morphine' produced by the body] and, in their depression, anxiety, dispair or whatever it is that makes them pluck, they become addicted to it.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 13326
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

Re: Aggression Problems with Green Cheek

Postby birdresqr » Tue Mar 06, 2018 1:47 pm

Wow! You are an incredible wealth of information. I will check on my current bulbs and change out accordingly. Yesterday I started earlier turning out all the lights in the room letting it darken naturally. I did notice a difference in his mood. I know it takes several days for his body to really respond -- but this morning, I could actually hold him on my finger for a few moments.
I am in total agreement with you about the use of the towel. Oscar definitely needs close time. I think after being in the shelter for a year after loosing his bond with his previous guardian -- to continually keep him at a distance would have a further negative impact on his psychological well being. Thank you, Pajarita. I truly appreciate your expertise. My homework: new bulbs, new vet
birdresqr
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 3
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: green cheek conure
Flight: No

Re: Aggression Problems with Green Cheek

Postby Pajarita » Wed Mar 07, 2018 10:21 am

One more thing that I thought about last night thinking about you and your bird: you will not really see a huge change right away or even in the next few months. The reason for this is that senegals are short day breeders [in their natural habitat, they breed in the fall] so although he should react to the very long days of summer by stopping his hormone production, because his endocrine system is messed up and it takes -at the very least- a couple of seasons for it to go back on track, I doubt that you will see his 'normal' self until next year. I am saying this because people usually think that the bird will be fine in a matter of weeks and kind of give up on the solar schedule when they see no big results soon and I would not want you to give up on it. I once had a female lovebird that had been kept at an incorrect light schedule all her life [9 years -she was a show bird and a breeder] and it took her an entire four seasons [one whole year] for her endocrine system to become completely attuned to the seasons. The longer a bird has been kept at a wrong light schedule and fed too much protein [something that, unfortunately, happens to pretty much all of them in captivity], the longer it will take for his body to go back to where it's supposed to be.

But, if you are very observant [and, going by your comments, I have the feeling you are], you will notice changes because birds sleep and eat better when under a solar schedule. The other thing that helps a lot is to reproduce, as faithfully as possible, their natural daily bio-rhythms. Parrots, like all animals, actually follow a strict schedule every single day of their lives. This schedule has to do with when they eat, when they interact, when they rest, etc. so, if you take away [or, like me, feed just enough for dinner so there isn't any significant leftover] his dinner bowl after he falls asleep and wait one hour after dawn begins to break [which is when you should uncover his cage and open the blinds] to give him his produce, then another half an hour for his morning chop, gloop or mash [I put my birds back in their cages for half an hour when I give them their gloop], then let him go out to fly and interact and then put him back in his cage for his 'noon' rest [I actually do it around 1:30 to 2 pm during the short days because they don't come out in the pm but, in the summer, I do it at noon and leave them there for two hours], you will be following what his body evolved to get at just the right time. And, I know that it sounds a bit farfetched but following the same schedule as the wild birds helps a lot with their mood!
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 13326
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes


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