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.


1 comment:

Arlene said...

Great Robin. While I have never seen an egg from my budgies they do go through some mood shifts.

I'm all for letting them have what they enjoy.
I'll never take their mirror away or their favorite chew branch. They love each other and me just the same. :)

Post a Comment