Saturday, January 22, 2011

When Reducing Hormonal Behavior Does Not Work

When we discuss hormones in our companion birds, and ways we can reduce undesirable behaviors and egg laying brought on by those hormones, it is easy to find a list of "do's and dont's" offered on bird sites and forums. While following these recommendations may help reduce some hormonal behaviors and egg laying, there is a problem...

What happens when nothing works?!

At best, the companion is frustrated. At the worst, they are made to feel they did not truly do everything suggested, or they would not still be having problems.

Far too often, dealing with
undesirable behaviors and egg laying (brought on by those hormones) is painted with a broad brush. It is human nature to want to help, and folks are anxious to regurgitate the 'list of answers' that has been floating around avian circles forever.

Often egg laying, in particular, is labeled as a 'husbandry issue'. In other words, this means that doing things, or failing to do things, are the sole reason a hen lays or chronically lays. Thus, it is purported that we have the ability to completely stop egg laying if we try hard enough.

So, what does that mean when we can't?! When despite all best efforts at following recommendations a hen still lays?

Experiencing hormones is normal. And in reality, it seems there may be a number of birds that for whatever reason will lay eggs, like clockwork, even large clutches, despite all our best efforts.

I have a logical mind, so it occurs to me that if we in fact have the ability to stop a hen from laying with proper husbandry techniques (meaning, following the 'list of recommendations'), then conversely doing the exact opposite should mean lots of eggs, and that could be tested!

That means we should be able to take a bird (or a couple), bring them into our home, put them in a cage, and do everything we are told 'not' to do.... give them lots of light, lots of nesting material, feed them warm foods, high protein and abundant diets, and make sure we touch them on their backs and under their wings alot...

Then.... voila.... lots of eggs! Hey, no more endangered species if we follow this tact! The birds would lay tons of eggs because we were doing everything opposite from the things we are told not to do so that egg laying and hormonal issues can be avoided! Could it be that easy? I think not. Otherwise, entrepreneurs would seize upon the opportunity and the market would be flooded with fluffy cute little chicks of all species. Many of us have hens that never lay, and many more 'break the rules' without any eggs being laid.

It seems to me in my travels that "hormonal behavior" is equally if not more of a concern than chronic egg laying. We want to do everything we can to reduce or eliminate hormonal behavior. Why?

There are only two reasons I can think of:

1) Because "hormonal behavior" is inconvenient for me; and/or
2) Because we do not want a hen laying eggs and potentially become egg bound or nutritionally deficient.

Of course, the second reason does not apply to male birds. Therefore, when speaking of male parrots, the one and only reason for wanting to reduce or eliminate hormones is because the bird is doing something that we find annoying or inconvenient.

Perhaps the bird desires less human interaction. It is labeled as "hormonal". If the human does not respect this, the human gets nipped. The bird is labeled "really hormonal!"

So instead of giving the bird its space, the focus is placed on attempting to manipulate the bird's environment to make them "less hormonal". Why? Is it perhaps so the bird can better meet our needs? We want to interact, and we expect the bird to be the same - all the time? Humans are not the same all the time. We have days we don't want to interact. We don't take it personally or think the human "hates" us. We do not label each other hormonal. We say things like "I need my space", and "I just don't feel like going out tonight", or "I need some time alone."

So, let's see how this might look for a companion and bird:

* Bird experiences normal hormonal changes, and often times is more interested in chewing wood and looking in a mirror than interacting with the human.
** Response: Human takes away chewing toys and mirrors because they are "interfering" with the relationship between human and bird.
*** Result: Frustrated bird? I say there's a big chance the answer is yes! I know I'd be pretty frustrated if I was enjoying a quiet activity and somebody came in and took my book away from me and demanded me to interact!!!

Then the human is surprised when bird sits on perch listlessly, starts to pluck, or starts to scream. I'd scream too! The companion took away 2 things the bird was enjoying because it was "more interested" in the wood chewing and mirrors than stepping up! What's wrong with that?! Time to consider things from a different perspective, in my opinion.

It cannot be a coincidence that so many people are having no success in reducing hormonal behavior and egg laying despite following all of the traditional recommendations, while other people break all the rules and experience little to no hormonal issues or egg laying. Obviously there is something missing... something we do not know!

I say - if the things on the list help, and work, then wonderful! Do them in abundance!

But if they do not work, it is frustrating to see the person treated as if they are still doing something wrong because their bird is still laying eggs. It is time to try something new.

We must recognize that we humans do not have all the answers, and that some things simply don't work for certain birds. We must be willing to treat our bird as a study of one, doing those things that are best for our individual birds. And, if the things 'recommended' do not seem to be working for our bird, then willing to try something else even if it is the opposite of what has been recommended.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

RIP Lickle Box.... You Were Loved!

RIP Lickle Box....

It was only 'with us' for two days.

But it was loved, from the beginning to the end....

You may not be able to tell from the pictures, but all that is really left is a roof and a little bit of its floor. Both sides and the back of the box are almost, well, demolished! She continues to be incredibly calm, and as you can see, quite busy as well! Nothing like a mission and a hobby! I did remove a small plastic grocery bag full of shavings to make more room - and because the shavings were falling out the sides of the house!

Hey! I would never get away with pulling a stunt like that and making a mess!


Monday, January 17, 2011

A Day Off So I Can Work?!

There is nothing like a day off to get some work done!

The birds and I were up fairly early today, and I have spent most of the day cleaning and cooking (for both myself and the birds).

It is time for another batch of Birdie Crock Pot Surprise! I think I have 3 or 4 "ice cubes" of bean mix left, so time for a new batch.

This time, I plan to add a bit more rice to add firmness and extra grain value. I'll also be including cous cous and some tri-color rotini for fun.

I still have plenty of dry beans left over from my purchase at the organic health food store many months ago, including four different types of lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans, split green peas, split yellow peas, garbanzo, pintos and kidney beans. Penske especially loves anything orange, so I will definitely include carrot and sweet potato in this mash.

For the budgie-boys, I mash some up in the food processor before I freeze their ice cubes.

In the meantime, the bird room is in the process of getting a good cleaning (now that Coco has received her bath)! Look at that dirty face already!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Coco, Meet PigPen!

The sun has been an infrequent visitor to the mountains as of late, instead being overshadowed by Mr. Snow. But this morning was an exception. The sun shone brightly as I entered the bird room, and Coco greeted me with a happy, full body shake. As I gazed across the room toward her, I could clearly see she was encircled in a shroud of bird dust! Oh, my gosh - shades of PigPen from Peanuts came to mind!

Time to see if she was at all interested in a bath! While I would like her to have one, it is still her choice. I prefer not to mist her in the bird room, if I can avoid it. If I were to mist her in the birdroom, before she became sufficiently wet I would have to stop to build an ark to get the budgies to safety!

So I brought the mister into the room just to see if I could pique her interest, if even a little... and then hoping that this would encourage her to desire a regular shower-bath.

Then I reached for the treat cup to see if she was interested in taking a trip to the bathroom. I had previously heated it up, including warming the cold porcelain tub, in hopes of a positive reaction.

As we walked into the bathroom, and I lowered my arm into the tub, I watched her carefully. If she is not interested in taking a bath, she will start walking up my arm toward my shoulder. Otherwise, she will step down off my arm into the tub.

If she starts walking up my arm, I may wait a minute and give her a second chance. But if she doesn't step into the tub the second time, only a fool would try it a third time!

Fortunately (whew!) she stepped down immediately! She was as anxious to take a shower as I was to see the dust cloud in the birdroom settle.

She showered for about 15 minutes, and probably would have stayed for hours if I had let her. It can be tricky knowing the best time to call bathtime complete. I will watch her to see when she is showing less interest, walking away from the water stream more often or maybe starting to preen a little.
Because she knows it is an opportunity to receive a treat, she also looks forward to coming out of the bathtub. As she steps onto my arm, the treat cup is there for her to take a little bite if she wants (and she usually wants!) as we walk back to the bird room. Then she can spend several hours busily zipping her wet feathers... Doesn't she look beautiful all cleaned and dried!

Eventually it will be time to get back to shredding activities! She continues to be so fabulous in behavior. Last night she took food from my husband's hand twice (with me in the room), and this morning he was in the room alone with her and she gently took several sunflower seeds from him! She has a mission and a project (and, taking it quite seriously, I might add!), and is in a wonderful birdie frame of mind. The more relaxed she is, the happier I am. Then she picks up on my happiness and relaxes even further... and so on and so on it goes. It is wonderful to see her project as it progresses....

Time to look for a new cardboard box, already!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow, Snow and More Snow!

And then, more snow! This past Friday night we received 5 inches of snow, and then another 10 inches over the weekend. I'm hoping to get off the mountain sometime tomorrow.

However... surprise, surprise... it is snowing again! The slush on the roads has refrozen, and it looks like we will get one inch of snow overnight to add to the existing mess.

Is it a ski slope? Nope - wait - it's the road!
Watch out... no guard rails!!! Keep to the right of the pink flags!

The driveway leading to the house:

Looking from our driveway down at the road leading off the mountain:

Gotta love snow days, though... lots of bird time!
(Or lots of time to get belly rubs from dad)!!!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Poor Me!!!

It's pretty bad when you have to scratch your own head!!!