Ask Lafeber

Question:

June 10, 2022

An unhealthy bond


Hi there I recently came across your article that triggered me a bit in regard to my situation. I have a mother and a daughter bird that I’ve inherited with a very unhealthy Bond. They think their partners obviously and their bond is so unhealthy that the daughter bird shits watery stool and paces back and forth without the other. Their bond is so unhealthy that when the mother wants to hang out with me – the human in the kitchen the other bird aggressively follows her and gets in her face to the point where the mother has to shoo her away herself…. To add to that the mother’s head is picked because the daughter pulls her feathers out when caressing her.. and to add even more harm the mother recently had a very difficult prolapse that I had to heal for about a month.. we had to take her to a vet and get surgery… After which I had to keep putting the prolapse back in myself for about a week and the mother has gone through tremendous amount of stress I wasn’t sure if she was going to survive this. This point on it is my belief as well as the veterinarian who treated her that the two should be separated due to their unhealthy Bond. So I’ve done so about a couple of months ago and the daughter bird immediately started crapping watery stool all she does is eat and eat and eat and loses her feathers as well. The mother however is fine she’s just very tired and a bit depressed from the change obviously and from what happened to her. It’s so unhealthy that the daughter bird doesn’t even play with toys or forage or chew on anything she just paces back and forth waiting for her mommy eats and drinks water and that’s it. Right now it is a bit better I am keeping them separate but within each other’s sight but still as soon as I let them out – the daughter follows the mother and gets anxious if she’s not in the same room with her. Whoever there was also good news because she is gaining slowly Independence and she’s no longer screaming for her when I take the mother in another room. There were a couple of times where she didn’t even notice and kept to herself so that is a healthy development. I know when you blog you said it it’s cruel to separate the birds but I don’t believe that it applies to everyone. One doesn’t have to be a veterinarian or avian specialist to understand that sometimes the bond is very unhealthy and if I hadn’t separated them the mother bird would have died. Because she is not allowed to keep laying eggs she’s 18 years old. If you have any other suggestions on how to calm the daughter bird down..let me know. I’m looking into holistic stress reduction herbs for her such as chamomile and others.


Answer:

Hi Layla,

There are certainly exceptions for any situation. The advice we give is based on what is typically the norm. And we also only have the information provided by the owner to go on. For instance – you didn’t mention what species you have, and my advice can vary greatly depending on the species. In a case where I have said it is cruel to split up a pair, it is when I feel the person is doing it for selfish reasons or possibly to profit from breeding. One owner also used the term “unhealthy” bond, but in that case, it was a perfectly normal bond and the owner was jealous that the bond wasn’t with him/her. But there are definitely times when it is better for one or both birds, for the owner to separate a pair, and often that means one bird needs to go to a new home.

With your birds, I am going to guess these are cockatiels? Based on what has been going on, yes, it sounds better that they were separated. But there is another big issue that is not being addressed, and that is the fact that the younger bird is being driven by hormones. Even if she isn’t laying eggs, she is clearly hormonal, and the mother is, too, to have suffered a prolapse. I’m sure your Vet mentioned it, but a prolapse can never be cured – it will almost always recur from time to time, and avoiding hormone triggers is very important when you have a bird with a history of prolapse. I don’t know if the Vet discussed hormone treatments, but I think both of your birds could benefit from the hormone implant, or the shots. The implant is preferred because it lasts longer and in the long run is less expensive. If these are cockatiels, the issue you have with keeping both of them, even separated, is that a cockatiel’s hormones can be triggered simply by hearing their mate call to them. I don’t know if they call back and forth to each other, but this is something to consider, and is why I will generally recommend re-homing one bird when cockatiels have to be split up. There are also some changes you can make to help both bird be less hormonal.

You need to do all of these things to discourage hormone triggers & egg laying. Keep in mind that for her hormones to be triggered to lay eggs, she needs longer daylight, warmer weather, abundant food, and a quiet, private environment. Your goal is to reverse these conditions.

Limit her light to 8-10 hours by covering the cage early each evening

Do not give her anything to use as a nest – no bird huts or tents, no box, bowl, etc. If she decides to sit in a food bowl, remove it and replace with smaller cups.

Do not give her anything to shred such as paper or cardboard.

Rearrange the toys in the cage frequently.

Move the cage to a different place in the room. Move the cage about once a week, or whenever she shows signs of nesting – settling on the cage floor for example.

If she is let out of the cage, do not let her get in any dark cozy places and don’t give her free roam.

When you handle her, limit any petting to her head and neck – do not pet her on the body.

If there is no metal floor grate, then do not use any bedding or paper in the cage tray – leave it bare and clean it daily.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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