Cage Aggression in Parrots
I am often asked why a parrot is very mean when it is in its cage but is much nicer outside of the cage. This “cage aggression” is very common in Quaker Parakeets, conures, miniature macaws, African grey parrots, and Amazon parrots, but can occur in every species. Breeding parrots are usually territorial about nest sites and cages and you may see it more worsen during breeding season.
Cage aggressive parrots will threaten, hiss, and bite around their cages, play areas, or other living areas but are typically well-behaved and friendly when they are removed from their cages. Some parrots remain aggressive as long as they are able to see their cages and must be taken into other rooms to become calm. Smaller cages may promote this type of aggression since it defends the whole cage with the same tenacity it would a nest box.
It is difficult to extinguish this behavior and requires that you practice general obedience training with your parrot away from its cage. Teaching or reinforcing the step-up command is essential. Start training using the step-up command in a separate room using a T-stand. When does this correctly, offer a reward such as a small food treat, gentle praise with your voice, or stroking the feathers. As you see progress, slowly move closer the T-stand closer to the cage. Eventually you can transfer the behavior so that will “step up” from a perch inside the cage. Some birds respond to a command that tells them to enter or exit the cage. For example, say the word “Exit” when you open the cage and then “Step up” to have it move to your finger. When you return it to the cage, open the door, say the word “Enter”, and then “Step down” as you move it to the perch. If you are able to train the exit and enter commands you may help extinguish cage aggression (or prevent it from developing).
Try to make your parrot less dependent on the cage by offering a large play-pen type cage during the day for it to exercise and forage and move to a smaller cage in the evening. Its a good idea to have portable perches that allow your parrot to be out of the cage and stay close to family activities.
The websites www.goodbirdinc.com and www.avianstudios.com have many useful training tips in the form of website columns, videos and DVDs, and books.
Dr. Kevin Wright, Dip ABVP (Reptiles & Amphibians)
Kevin Wright DVM, LLC
Distinctive Care for Unusual Pets
4902 S Val Vista Drive, Suite 108, Gilbert, AZ 85298
Appointment (480) 495 3420