How Do You Rehabilitate a Biting Senegal Parrot?

The following is in response to our feathered community member Patrick.

 

Hi Patrick B,

 

I have a 27-year old Senegal.  I was reading your post and thought I would offer a few suggestions to you. First, as Mitch said, try clicker training.  It is basically positive operant conditioning.  Birds do not understand the word “no” and yelling at them will teach them how to scream.  So please give it a try.

 

 

A few questions… How long have you had your bird? Did you just get him? You mentioned that he is 3 years old.  If he is new, I would suggest that you figure out how much time you have to spend with your bird each day, and then keep that amount consistent. 

 

For example, if you have 1-2 hours a day to spend with him, keep that constant. What is the environment near your cage? Are other people or animals nearby? His environment may affect his behavior.  

Also, unlike some birds that I have had, I have found that you need to read your Senegal’s mood every day (like a person). 

 

Look at how your bird is behaving/responding.  In particular, look at your bird’s eyes.  Are they dark?  Is he all fluffed up, bracing himself for an attack?  If so, that is not the time to try to get him/her out of the cage.  If you see more green color and less black pupils, he will be more approachable.  

 

On biting, if he tries to bite, immediately drop your hand and leave the area.  Do not give him a chance to bite you.   Stay calm and gentle, but be alert when you approach the cage in a few minutes.

 

I did notice that your Senegal does not have much to play within his/her cage.  Senegals are shredders and foragers.  They are very bright and need things to do to occupy their day.  They love to shred wood, untie knots, and clip objects with their beaks to just watch them fall.

 

I would suggest that you hang some toys in the cage for him to play with.  My Senegal also likes to attack some toys.   Mitch and Catherine have a lot of cool ones in their shop.  

 

Does your bird respond to music, to the t.v.?  Mine is addicted to television.  I work full time and prior to COVID, off-site.  I set up a timer to break up the day. Maybe that will help. 

 

My Senegal and I whistle tunes to each other when we are not in the same room.  For example, she starts the wolf whistle and waits for me to finish.  Then, she repeats my whistle.  When I respond, she repeats my response as if saying “that’s right.”  She literally stops in the middle of whistling the Andy Griffith theme song, waiting for me to continue whistling my part.  Exactly who is training who here?

 

Also, figure out where you can approach your bird (with a stick to climb onto).  He may climb up if you introduce the stick slowly, perhaps just under his sternum, and then move it slightly away from him so that he can start learning how to “step up.”  

 

Remember to click to reinforce the behavior at the “Kodak moment.”  And give him a treat or praise as he does what you want.  In time, you can fade the stick and use your finger.  And even then, sometimes a Senegal will perch on your finger if you approach him from one side of the cage and get upset if you approach from another angle.  So some of it is trial and error.  

 

I hope you can use some of these suggestions. Senegals are super birds.  They can be very sweet and loving.  Mine looks out for me if someone drops off a package outside or comes into my apartment.  I call her my little “birdlar” alarm.  And yes, she can imitate the burglar alarm’s sound as well as the smoke detector, etc.  So why do I pay ADT?  Well, good luck with the clicker training and let us know how you are doing.

 

Best regards,

 

Lynn H

 

Hello Mitch,

I have re-arranged JoJo’s cage, with rope perches and a new lamp which sits on top of her cage. Tonight we will begin the 72-hour period of keeping the lights on at night.

 

Look forward to hearing from you.

 

Patrick

 

Dear Patrick

 

This is Catherine jumping in here. Mitch is out and away from his desk.

 

I want to clear up any confusion on the light treatment and the cover.

 

First off the bird should be kept inside the cage for the full 72 hour period (3 days and nights) for the best light treatment benefit.

 

The cage only should be covered at night like normal. Otherwise, during the day it is a normally uncovered cage.

 

The cover helps the bird be able to relax and not be disturbed by seeing you walk by at night.

 

The new bulbs don’t throw as much heat as the old incandescent bulbs did and won’t burn the cover.

However, you can also clip the cover “around” the sides of the cage, leaving the top open if you like.

 

Expect to hear your bird talking, calling out during the night. The bird will sleep and nap as needed and also eat.

 

After the three days and nights remove the cover and resume with the lights on a timer 12 hours on and 12 hours off. (we do 7:30 am to 7:30 pm at this time of year).

 

If you have a laying bird they should lose interest in their nest, eggs within about 24 hours.

 

If you have a male, you should notice improvements in aggressive behavior within 30 days.

 

This is all due to the reset of the circadian rhythm from the light treatment.

 

I hope this helps.

Catherine

 

Hi Mitch,

 

I do have one more question for you …

 

I looked at the photo of the cage covered. Is the covering placed over the lamp? Is that safe?

 

I use a sheet to cover JoJo’s cage at night. If the lamp stays on for 72-hours, wouldn’t the lamp get too hot to place a sheet over it?

Thanks,
Patrick B

 

Hi Mitch,

 

I use a sheet to cover JoJo’s cage at night. If the lamp stays on for 72-hours, wouldn’t the lamp get too hot to place a sheet
over it?

 

Thank you for sharing the information regarding Rehabilitation for a Senegal Parrot. I wanted to share with you some information …

 

#1. There are 2 NU perches in her cage from the Parrot Wizard, so there is no damage to her feet.

 

#2. JoJo has always sat on her food/water bowl from the time I got her.

 

#3. Her perches are not perfectly cylindrical as mentioned in #1.

 

#4. There are 2 perches at the top of her cage – One of them is a a NU perch and the other is a natural perch.

 

#5. I’m not understanding the “L” formation for the Rope perches.

 

#6. JoJo is fully flighted and when she is out she always wants to be on my shoulder – this is a problem because it’s distracting (I work from home) and she likes to bite my earlobes.

 

#7. Shredding — I order a box of Balsa Blocks every 3-weeks for JoJo. She loves to shred balsa wood – that is the material you see in the bottom tray of the cage.

 

#8. Toys — JoJo has never played with toys, I’ve replaced toys in her cage regularly and she does not play with them.

 

#9. Cage — I will close the window blind behind her cage so that she does not feel so exposed. 

 

Food – I have just ordered the Higgins Safflower Gold Conure/Cockatiel food for Jojo. It will arrive tomorrow.

 

I will order 2 18-inch rope perches for her cage and move down the water/food bowl, then I will be able to center the swing in the middle of the cage.

 

I will keep you posted Mitch on how things go as these changes are made. I do hope Jojo becomes a happier bird, as I know right now she really isn’t a happy bird.

 

Thank You again Mitch for your assistance, I really appreciate this a lot.

 

Kind regards

Patrick B

Patrick B Writes

JoJo my Senegal

 

Good Morning, I wanted to provide you with an update regarding JoJo. She completed the 72-hour light treatment this morning. Her cage now holds 2 new rope perches, 6 new toys, a new Diet (Higgins). Here is my observation: – JoJo is not playing with any of her toys.

 

She has never been the type of bird that enjoys playing with toys – only Balsa wood that she can shred. – As I sit next to JoJo at my desk, JoJo is in her cage eating and Screaming! She screams out every 5-10 seconds all day long. At this point, I don’t know what is bothering her, I don’t know what else I can do to make her life happier.

 

Her cage door is open, and she has the freedom to come out and go in at will. She continues to sit on her rope perch and scream. In addition to doing all of the above, is there anything else that you can think of that will help JoJo become a happier bird? Patrick B

Patrick B. would like his Senegal parrot to stop biting.

 

I have a 3-year old female Senegal parrot who has a nasty habit.

 

She bites.

 

She bites for no reason and she is quite vicious, she also screams for no reason (even when I am sitting right next to her cage). I’m worn out from all of this ……

Hi Patrick,

 

I’m sorry for the problems you are having with your Senni.

 

You don’t mention if there are other humans in the household.

 

Senegal parrots are a one human bird and jealousy can trigger bites.

 

Birds do not bite nor scream for no reason.

 

There is always a trigger for negative hormonal behaviors.

 

That said there is never an excuse for biting.

 

If the bird is biting you while handling it, stop placing your body in jeopardy by using a happy stick to transport the bird when needed.

 

You’ll start by locking the bird in the cage for 72 hours keeping a full-spectrum light over the cage on for the entire time.

 

That will look something like this (except you’ll only be covering one birdcage).

 

2 bird cages covered at night with lighting still on

 

Here’s why that works:

 

How Pet Bird Keepers Get The Lighting Thing Wrong

 

After this initial 72 hour period which may need to be repeated, immediately begin clicker training.

 

You can learn how to do that by following the steps in this video.

 

Building Trust With Your Bird ~Video

 

Reach back out to us after a couple of weeks of clicker training and let us know what is working and what is not.

 

Stay safe
Best
MitchR

 

Mitch –

Here is JoJo’s cage.


Senegal in barren cage with light on top

SEX – Female

 

LIGHTING – Natural Light & Zoo Med Avian Sun Deluxe Floor Lamp

 

DIET – Nutriberries, Caitec bites, Fresh fruit/vegetables

 

WEIGHT – 127g

 

Patrick

Here are some observations, comments, and recommendations.

 

Kudos on the light, I hope it is on a timer for 12 hours on end 12 hours off, if not it could be one of several stress triggers.

 

From the looks of it, JoJo is stressed, in pain, bored, and generally unhappy.

 

How I reached these conclusions:

 

Jojo is sitting on her food/water cup, not on the long perch that is the only one offered for sleeping.

 

The food cup is too high in the cage causing her to crouch slightly which is probably also annoying, another stress trigger.

 

Because these types of (perfectly cylindrical) perches have no texture or variants, birds who spend all day and night on them will get sores on their feet.

 

We recommend that these perches be removed from the cage upon assembly and used as “friendly sticks” for retrieving a bird stuck between a wall and furniture or refrigerator.

 

When you get a moment please pull JoJo from the cage, wrap her with a towel inspect the bottom of her feet closely with a magnifying glass.

 

How to Get Your Bird Used to Towel for Restraint

 

This is best done with two people.

 

The rope swing is a nice touch but from the angle I’m looking at it, it might be too close to the cage wall not allowing her enough room to actually use it and God knows Senegal’s love to swing.

Peaches our Senegal
parrot is a real swinger~ Video

 

I will advocate that you remove the two dowel perches and replace them with at least two medium thickness soft rope perches, placing one about an inch lower than the long doll at the top of the cage for her to sleep on connecting one end to one side of the cage and the other end to the adjacent side of the cage forming an “L”

 

All our birdcages utilize soft rope perches ~ Video

 

Because there are no foraging and enrichment opportunities, she’s bored.

 

There are some balls at the bottom of the cage along with some stuff that she shredded but clearly got tired of it.

 

Could you please identify that pile that kind of looks like wood shavings at the bottom of the birdcage?

 

I see there are few toys hanging from the top/middle of the cage which means it is hard for her to access.

 

They should be where the rope swing is and the rope swing should hang in the middle of the cage.

 

She’s locked up in the cage in the middle of the day.

She would probably like to be let out but it could be that her presence distracts you while working at your desk.

 

Here’s how I solved two problems.

 

Sennies are prolific shredders but there’s nothing for her to engage with.

 

Peaches Computer Foraging Wall

 

I let her forage at my desk – she’s with me and she’s chewing something which I’m constantly changing.

 

JoJo’s diet has no base food, only snacks.

 

Nutriberries do have 8% pellets but there’s also a lot of waste so we don’t know how much nutrition she’s getting.

 

Start with Higgins Safflower Gold Conure Cockatiel No Sunflower 3 lb (1.361 kg) while continuing to supplement with the three aforementioned treats.

 

Her weight is good for a Senegal but I don’t want to take a chance of inducing vitamin deficiencies.

 

The Higgins Safflower Gold has InTune pellets which round out her diet.

 

I would add 5 to 10 toys, around the perimeter of the cage which will provide a feeling of security.

 

Arranging Your Bird’s Cage: The Cage Canopy Concept

 

Because the back and side of the cage are open she may be feeling exposed which is another stress trigger.

 

this image illustrates how I added a 1/4 inch thick piece of handiboard (Menards) to the back of our solo budgies cage.

 

Budgie in birdcage with a security back

 

I intentionally left the gap to the right so he could see me working at my desk.

 

One thing I know for sure about females, when they are stressed, bored and in pain, they tend to lash out and in your bird’s case, it manifests itself in biting.

 

Circle back to let us know of your results after you’ve made some of these changes.

 

Stay safe


Best


MitchR

Mitch Rezman

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they visited monthly birdie brunches in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

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