Join Date: Apr 2014
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Could use some help with my young GCC
Brand new bird owner here. I've had a 3 month old green cheek conure since Thursday (so 4 days now). He was raised by a breeder so when I acquired him he was "mostly" tame. I put quotes around that because while he's incredibly interested in me, he seems to have two very different personalities, one in his cage, and one outside of it.
I have been working with him on step ups and target training, both of which he does pretty well with. I have a couple problems with him, though, that make me concerned that the bird is going to end up hating me.
When I'm working with him outside of his cage, he cooperates pretty well for a while, and then he'll start turning his back on me and try to fly on top of his cage to get away from me. He also routinely tries flying onto my shoulder, even though I try to discourage this as much as possible by pulling my shoulder away. He is clipped, so he doesn't fly too well, but it doesn't stop him from trying.
I'm trying to get him used to touch and taming him further, but I'm having a rather difficult time of touching his back or his head or ear area - I am going very slow, distracting him with treats, talking to him reassuringly... the only thing that works is distracting him with a treat, for the most part, and then I can touch him, but he does then start to run up my arm to get away from the hand at his back.
Eventually, he grows tired of me asking him to do things that he resorts to biting. I'm not trying to force him to do anything; I only ask for step ups and never push my finger into his belly. If he starts biting when he's perched on my hand, I will shake my hand to make him lose his balance (I've read and watched multiple sources that say this is a good way to get them to stop biting). He squawks when this happen, clearly not liking that, but I'm not sure it's effective, or that I'm just not making angry and losing his trust by doing it. I've also tried putting the bird down and walking away. Because he wants to be near/on me, he'll try and fly to me, so I've had to shut a door on him before. Again, I'm not sure if this is an effective biting deterrent or if I'm just making things worse.
The thing that kind of sucks is that I've found that he LOVES being touched through the bars of his cage. He'll come up on his rope perch, and he's learned that when I lift my index finger high and through the bars, that it's time to get pet. He comes over, gently tongues at my finger and beaks it, but not bites - more nibbles. I lift my finger higher and start to scratch at the top of his head and his ears, and he closes his eyes, coos, and presses up into it, so clearly he likes it. My only guess is that he feels comfortable in the cage and not out of it, but I approach the petting in the same manner either way.
What do you think I should do at this point? Should I be:
1) Limiting his time out to very short intervals?
2) Try to continue getting him used to my touch even though he's uncomfortable with it out of the cage, in the hopes that eventually he'll stop being so cranky about it?
3) Should I let him out and just kind of do his own thing? I've tried to get him to play with jingle bells and empty spools of threads as simple mouth toys but he's really uninterested in them.
4) Is it possible I am damaging my relationship with any of my (gentle) negative reinforcement (hand/perch shaking, ignoring)?
I'm so very scared I'm doing more harm than good to the relationship at this point, and I know it's really critical to get it right early. Please help!