“Hormones” may be a bird owner’s least favorite word. It is hormones that bring on the breeding behaviors that cause peculiar routines, odd interests and sometimes intimidating aggression. The likelihood of being bitten increases dramatically and sometimes we react to their behavior in ways that results in problems that last long after the season has passed and the hormones are gone.
The funny thing about the reproductive hormones is that they are self-perpetuating. Certain triggers, such as climate change, will cause the body to send out these hormones when it is determined that the conditions are appropriate for raising young. And as long as the conditions remain suitable, the hormones will keep flowing. It is a cycle that maintains itself until something happens to break it, such as the arrival of a season that brings unhospitable conditions.
For captive birds, some of the conditions in the home appear to be right for breeding year round – ample food and moderate temperature to name a couple of examples. I think one of the biggest factors in perpetuating that cycle of hormone production is our birds’ urge to nest and that presents a huge challenge to us as owners.
Almost all parrots are tree cavity dwellers. They are also very adaptable which is why they have been around for so many millions of years. This means that to your creatively thinking bird, nearly anywhere can make do when they are in search of a place to make a nest. It can be any area that offers a small measure of privacy. If it’s dark, all the better.
If your bird hangs out in the closet or has a favorite kitchen cabinet, it is nesting. Under the couch, behind the drapes, in a less traveled corner of a room – also nesting. Behind a favorite toy in the cage, under the couch pillows, in a shoe box placed just about anywhere – nesting.
As you walk through your house, take note of all the places your bird might perceive as a potential nest spot. He or she may not choose to actually nest in all of those places, but as long as the environment provides the means for nesting, it is a trigger that keeps the body supplying the hormones.
Another part of the nesting urge is the provision of nest lining. In the wild, that means wood chewed down to the right texture for bedding in the tree cavity, or leaves and strips of bark. In captivity, that would equate to bits of wood or the shreddable materials from natural toys, as well as fabric and paper if they have access to it.
Removing or blocking access to nesting spots and removing chewed off toy remnants right away is a great first step to keeping the spring hormones to a minimum. If there can be no nest, there can be no babies.
For further information on avoiding or reducing the hormones that overtake our birds and how to handle the birds while they are in the thick of it, click HERE.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.