What to do if your Green Cheek (or any bird) is biting....

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So, your sweet baby bird is biting and you're at your wits end...what do you do? Many baby Green Cheeks will go through a biting stage during different periods of their lives. I do know from our experience with many different pet Green cheeks that they do stop this biting if it is correctly handled.

I have had people ask me how long will it last? That is like you asking my how long will your child whine. The answer depends on how the parent handles it and on the individual makeup of the child. Same with a parrot. I am not there to see what you do and how consistent you are with your reaction. I can not tell you how long it will last, but I can tell you what has worked for us and others who have had our babies for a few years.

Click on the picture above to see how 2 young green cheeks use their beaks while playing.

 

The first may begin soon after you bring your baby home. Do not think that he hates you and loved his hand-feeder or any of that nonsense! Just know that he is going through a “teething stage” and you’re the “teether!!” and that it’s going to hurt a couple times!! You need to teach your new baby the difference between "beaking" and "biting." This stage reminds me of puppies who are rough housing on mom and all of it is acceptable, until all of a sudden she growls and snaps at them. She does this when a puppy gets out of hand, BITES instead of nibbles and she lets him know it is unacceptable. I am not saying you should growl and snap! You do need to teach them no. When young birds play, they frolic and bite each other. But, when they bite each other, they get a mouthful of feathers. When they play with you, they get skin. Ouch! It is your responsibility to teach them appropriate beaking; teach what is gentle and what is a "no bite." REMEMBER that if you draw your hand back during beaking, YOU will be teaching your pet to bite. Most birds reach out with their beak to "step up" and if you draw back, you will be teaching them to bite.

Often, the hormonal surges associated with sexual maturity will cause some bites in the home.

One other good thing that you need to make sure you do is use positive language with your bird. When your bird is being good, make sure that you praise them. Birds overall are "Drama Queens!" If you yell at them, they want attention so bad that they will (try) to yell it back at you :) Just remember that you want to make sure to praise them when they do good. Praise them with lots of enthusiasm. The wrong ways to teach a bird "no" is by hitting them, yelling at them or by the means you see when a person loses self control in anger. The right ways will be discussed below. Anger does not produce righteousness in humans (so says God in His Word) nor in birds (so says me).

Remember that you want their biting to work against them. Thus if the bird  feels more secure in his cage, you would not want to put him there as a consequence. He is then being rewarded for his actions. You want to choose something that motivates a change in behavior.

One of the most important things for a new baby parrot to learn is the "STEP-UP" and "DOWN" command. Please read our article on "Games everyone should play with their new baby!" On that page are more lessons for your baby parrot.

As soon as your baby parrot is perching it's time to begin training sessions daily.  The sessions should last only 10-15 minutes each a couple of times a day.  Find a place outside of your birds established territory for training to take place. Somewhere the bird can focus its attention totally on you away from all distractions in a quiet room works best. 

 

1) Practice "LADDERING" your parrot from hand to hand and hand to perch while giving the command  "STEP-UP".  

This command is very useful when correcting a misbehaving bird. The laddering technique teaches the parrot that you're the one in charge not them!  Keep laddering the bird 6-8 times while firmly saying "UP-UP" until you have gained control of his/her actions. Then give the command "DOWN" and place the parrot on his/her stand on in their cage. This practice inspires cooperation, respect and trust from your parrot.  Establishing guidelines for your parrot from the start will eliminate a lot of future behavioral problems.   Remember parrots are flock members and "YOU" are the leader of the flock. It is interesting to me that even when my horses misbehave, I make them work or get their attention back on me. This same prinicple works with birds. If they bite, instantly make them step up, step up, step up, about ten times. You are basically saying, “If you’re gonna bite, you’re gonna work and pay attention to me."

Always put the bird back down with him/her facing towards you while making eye contact.  Do not wear gloves of any kind your bird needs to learn to trust the bare hand. If the bird isn't tame you'll need to start with stick training instead of your bare hands.  As the bird learns by using a stick to step up and down you will be able to graduate to training him/her to step up onto your hand. 

 2) Always end your training sessions on a positive note after a successful completion of the commands. Be very careful not to reinforce negative behavior by giving into an uncooperative parrot and losing your patience.  

 3)  At the end of each training session always reward your parrot with lots of praise and enthusiasm. Make sure to reward him/her with their favorite treat for a job well done. We often keep cereal handy for trick training and just give a half of one after each successful lesson.    

*These simple commands are one of the most important things for your baby parrot to learn and will be used daily in order to enjoy letting your bird out of its cage. In no time at all your parrot will be calling from it's cage "STEP-UP" &"UP-UP" wanting you to reach out your hand!  

 

 
Our most effective technique is this and this is the technique WE MOST OFTEN USE: when they bite, grasp them on the cheek bones (just below the eyes) and gently rotate them onto their backside. Then stroke their beak and say your instruction of “be gentle” or “no bite.” I hold them there talking to them until they relax in my hand. Hear that part...."UNTIL THEY RELAX." You are not be angry or aggressive in this hold. I even use this hold if they are on my shoulder and nibble my ear too hard. I reach up there, while saying "nooooo" and restrain the baby under the cheek bones for about 5 seconds. Lisa has even done this type of restraining with her African Grey. She is a delightful Grey that anyone can handle and has passed the critical age of sexual maturity.  This is critical because many a bird becomes unruly when hormones hit :) We videotaped us holding birds in this restraint to help demonstrate this technique. Click here to watch! We have used this same training technique with birds as large as Congo African Greys all the way down to the small little Lineolated Parakeet.

 

Another lady says that the “turn your back and walk away” is a good way and she also says, “Cover the cage for a few minutes when you go to your baby out, tell him to “be gentle” and she said it works like a charm. The key is to be consistent and use the words “be gentle” lowly and firmly. Don’t get excited or mad or scream. Birds like screaming!

You may want to gently wrap him in a towel and talk softly to him and try rubbing his head. Sometimes those time outs just don’t work.  Wrap him all up and talk to him. Stroke him and tell him to be gentle. They get this attitude of, “Let me out!!! I won’t bite…” And, they also can see that hands do not harm them, but can make them feel good. I love the Landofvos website and Carolyn Swicegood describes this technique in more detail if you click here.
I have seen one child who blew gently in the bird's face to discourage them and the surprise of incoming air caused the bird to let go of the finger.

Play with your bird's beak a lot. They like beak rubbing and scratching!

Another lady I know lets out a high pitched squeak and this has worked for her to let her youngster know that the beaking was too rough.

Tammy of Alaska Parrots uses the distraction technique. She has a foot toy on hand to give the young bird when he starts nibbling. Tammy uses a rubbery toy and we have used leather pieces. The trick is teaching them not to bite hard, but to nibble gently.

One lady says, “My Rocky Green Cheek was a little monster when going through the "terrible twos."  When I first got him, he was the sweetest little baby...and then he changed.  One minute he would be his sweet cuddly self, and the next a biting machine.  It was awful.  I sustained some bad bites...one to my nose that bled horribly.  I talked to some people and they told me to be patient, not to give up.  They were right.

This is what I did...I learned what would set him off.  Mainly, if I was holding something SHINY like car keys or if I had plastic grocery bags (what I was holding when he bit my nose).  For some reason I was not to have these and they were HIS.  He loved to attack the bags and the keys.  Also, if he was thirsty or hungry, he would nibble on my lips, but sometimes a little too hard.  I drove out of state to visit some family and took Rocky.  I decided that in the new environment I would take action.  If he bit, I would let him flutter to the counter, or even the floor, and walk away.  Sometimes I would even shut the door.  I would leave him for maybe 30 seconds at the most.  I could hear him crying and when I went back he would quickly hop back on to me.  He was scared in the new environment.  I continued this at home.  I don’t know this method is why he quit biting or if he just outgrew it, but he RARELY bites now.  Even if he is hungry, he gently nibbles my lips.  He has turned into a great pet, and I couldn’t love him more.”  

You get so many stories like that of people who have little “biting machines” that turn into “a great pet.” Like this lady did, figure out what sets your bird off. It may be nothing…some Green Cheeks will just get wound up and then…watch your nose! They will get over it. Green cheeks are very playful and get overly wound up and lose self control too. I do KNOW that they mature and work into wonderful pets though. We have completely trusted ours; enough to pass them around to dear elderly folks at the retirement homes and to little children. Both of these are folks I would never want to see bitten. It takes consistent handling. 

It is important that you buy your baby from a good breeder who is willing to help you through this stage with guidance and a breeder who starts the process of teaching them unacceptable bites right from the start of their weaning. I know as a breeder, you have to start this during the handfeeding stage. Our babies have gotten better and better as far as the initial nipping stage, the longer we have done this. Ask your breeder if he/she is going to help you on down the road as your baby matures. I get so many calls from bird buyers who say their breeder will not talk to them any longer.

Here is a little checklist of things to try...

  1. Turn your back
  2. Cover the cage
  3. Wrap ‘em up
  4. Step up…make ‘em work
  5. Blow gently
  6. **Grasp their cheeks until they relax.
  7. Let out a high pitched squeak
  8. Play with your bird's beak

To try and give you hope that your bird will work through the nippy stage, I polled many of our buyers and made a page of their answers. Read answers to the question....Just How Nippy is Your Green Cheek??

Click here to read more about my answers to people when they ask me about biting.....     

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