Ask Lafeber

Question:

February 10, 2021

What is wrong with a parrot being hormonal


I might be missing something: if a “hormonal” (euphemism!) bird is well behaved, gentle and a delight, why would this be a problem? I wouldn’t like it if someone took away or discouraged my “hormonality” and don’t necessarily agree that “hormonality” is bad in a companion bird. What am I missing?

(I don’t understand why her having the bottle she thought of as an egg is bad….)

How can I find link you mentioned on food? My guys are a bit on the hefty side and it might be good to put them on a diet. Perhaps I start by giving them only as much food as is recommended for a B&G macaw. (BTW they particularly like the Lafeabers tropical pellets!)


Answer:

Hi Ian,

As Dr. Lamb explained, the main issue with parrots being hormonal is that we aren’t birds and can’t be a mate for them. Most behavioral issues with pet birds are based on hormones. But there are also health problems caused by hormones. In the wild, breeding season is once a year, and this is when a parrot’s hormones kick in, breeding happens and chicks are raised. In captivity, they do not receive the seasonal triggers since we tend to keep the house at the same temperature all year and provide them with all of the food they need. On top of this, we provide items that resemble nesting materials and nests, and when we pet our birds, we pet the wrong places and they get the signal that it’s time to mate. This can result in many issues both behavioral and health related. It’s not normal for a bird to be in a constant hormonal state. With a female, this can cause chronic egg laying which can eventually kill her if you don’t take steps to stop her. Parrots aren’t like domestic fowl, which have been bred for the purpose of laying eggs and have the year round constitution to do so. Wild parrots lay eggs once a year. Their bodies aren’t designed to keep laying eggs all year. So their health is depleted, they get egg bound or lay soft eggs or get a cloacal prolapse and finally they die from the strain on the system. This was why when Dr. Lamb’s Grey treated the bottle as an egg, it was better to remove it. It could have led to unnecessary egg laying.  Male birds can get aggressive and territorial and become impossible to handle. The larger parrots can actually be dangerous. Both males and females can get so frustrated due to the constant hormonal state that they begin to pull out their own feathers or with some females, dig into their own body presumably because of discomfort in the ovary. Males can also suffer from cloacal prolapse, cause by constant masturbating or straining to relieve themselves. This condition is very often permanent and leads to lifelong treatment and vet care. Most birds that end up in rescues are there because they became too unpredictable or anti social due to hormones. In your case, you don’t mind that they are territorial around the cardboard box. But it’s probably best that you don’t let them do this year round. This may be causing frustration that you haven’t noticed. And long term, it can lead to the above issues. I would suggest treating them like a captive breeding pair, even though both are males, and let them do the shredding and nesting for 4-6 weeks, but then move their attention to something else for a few months, like foraging exercise or training. In captivity, since pairs will breed year round, the breeder has to block off or remove the nest box in between clutches to make the pair rest from breeding for about 6 months. Responsible breeders do not allow more than 2 clutches per year. So minimizing or controlling hormonal behavior has to do with their mental and physical health, and not because it is inconvenient or unwanted behavior. I hope this gives you a better understanding of all of this.

As to diet, it’s best to offer 80% of their diet a their nutritionally balanced daily diet – this can be the pellets they enjoy or one of our foraging diets which are balanced the same as a pellet. You can also offer fruits, veggies, greens and healthy table foods as 20% of their diet. Birds are not likely to overeat if their nutritional needs are met. The issue comes if you dilute the nutrition with too many treats or loose seeds. So as long as you are careful with those offerings, you do not need to limit or measure their nutritionally balanced daily diet.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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