Parrot biting ankles

AviculariaLover

Arachnoknight
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I was wondering if anyone else had this issue with their parrot...

We have a Caique, don't know much about his history except that his previous owner, who had passed away (thus bringing him into our care) was a drunk and kept him in a small cage with a green conure. (the conure went to a special place for rehabilitating birds, he was really mourning his owner)

When he plays with/attacks things, or in general gets really excited, he bites his ankles. There is a lack of feathers in that area, though it doesn't get to the point of bleeding.

It would seem to be a behavior due to stress, but he does it when he seems to be happiest, or, well, I guess angriest, because his favorite things to do are attack stuffed animals, rip paper towel tubes to shreds, and chase/throw plastic cups in the air (we play fetch... but I'm the one that does the fetching). He has stopped picking at the feathers on his chest, which was from stress. He's quite spoiled... but still chews at his ankles.

Any insights?
 

bugmankeith

Arachnoking
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Could be mites, birds feet are scaly so mites find it easy to latch on their and they get quite itchy.
 

AviculariaLover

Arachnoknight
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I don't think it's mites, we take him to the vet every so often to get his wings clipped and a general checkup, the vet has never said anything about that. And it's not a grooming thing... its only when he's really excited. He doesnt chew, just latches on for a few seconds. It's weird.
 

AneesasMuse

Arachnoangel
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I don't know what could cause it, but is it possible for you to try and train him to bite or attack something else besides his own ankles? Maybe offer some organic apple sticks about the same size as his ankles when he's getting worked up? :)
 

Taceas

Arachnolord
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Our Blue Quaker used to idly nibble her feet when she was sleepy, kind of like a kid with a thumb in the mouth. =P

Maybe your parrot has the same neurosis as our ferret, when he gets super excited and worked up with playing he'll flop over and bite at his stomach or penis. He never does any damage, its like the type of biting they do to fix an itch. But I still haven't figured it out after 6 years.
 

GailC

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My sun conure will occasionally bite at his ankles when excited if there isn't anything else handy. Its never a hard bite, more like just putting his beak around the leg.
As long as he is not hurting himself then it probably nothing to worry about, if he ever draws blood or starts plucking then he needs to see a vet/behaviorist.
You can try giving him more toys and change them every 2 weeks or so, parrots get really board fast. Some of pookies favorite toys are almost empty toilet paper rolls and Popsicle sticks.
 

AviculariaLover

Arachnoknight
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Aneesas - he sure does love to bite everything, the thing is, he does intervals of biting his toy, and biting his ankles, back and forth, as he's playing. Doesn't seem like there's anything we could do to stop it as it's happening. I hand wrestle with him sometimes and manage to keep his beak occupied enough so he doesnt get as many opportunities to bite himself, but I end up getting a few dents in my fingers. Nothing serious though, just like with dogs, theres a huge difference between play biting, and attack biting.

I'll talk to the vet about it next time we take him. Don't think it's really doing any damage, but it's strange.
 

AviculariaLover

Arachnoknight
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Waldo - yeah that sounds about what my caique does. He was plucking a bit when we first got him, obviously due to being in a strang environment, but now he's been deemed pretty healthy and pretty spoiled. We get him new toys frequently, and yeah paper towel tubes are his favorite. We stick one into the bars of his cage and he'll spend hours ripping it to shreds. And he has a favorite stuffed animal tucan that we play with him with... he doesnt get as much attention when I'm away at college, but now that I'm home, I'm with him almost all day.
 

Avic_Addict

Arachnosquire
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...his favorite things to do are attack stuffed animals, rip paper towel tubes to shreds, and chase/throw plastic cups in the air (we play fetch... but I'm the one that does the fetching).
I'm not an expert on avian behaviour, but I discussed this with a friend who is an animal behaviourist, and she says that although the ankle biting isn't a major problem as long as he is not self-traumatising (making himself bleed), it may be worth trying to train his playful tendencies away from the aggressive/violent types of play (attacking toys etc) and instead encourage him into non-aggressive play such a peek-a-boo and sound-mimicking games, using tasty treats (not honey-coated or sunflower seed-based) to positively reward good behaviour. This may in turn help reduce instances of self-inflicted aggressive acts (the ankle biting does not have to result in injury to be an self-aggressive act). Apparently the best way to approach parrot behaviour problems is to consider them on a par with small children, as befits their intelligence, and treat them accordingly. So ignoring/removing certain privileges for bad behaviour, enforcing good/desirable behaviour with plenty of positive reinforcement like a cuddle/fuss/treat, and being careful to meet their needs without overindulging or spoiling them.
 

AviculariaLover

Arachnoknight
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Thanks for your input... I do spend a lot of time making noises with him and play "catch" with him, in which he takes a plastic cup and flips it up in the air for me to catch... the thing is, he could also spend hours chasing it around on the floor, pouncing on it, attacking, flipping it up in the air. I think that can be good though, to get him some exercise. "Rip to shreds if possible" seems to be his natural reaction to just about everything. He really hates tv remotes, he has ripped off a few buttons, and just gets this crazed wild look in his eyes when he sees it. Same with anything else plastic or metal really (makes it hard to take pictures). And he doesnt like towels, or bathrobes, probably because the vet holds him with a towel when clipping his wings and nails.

And part of the problem is, he hasn't been too keen on physical interaction with people. We've had him a few years now, and he finally will tolerate me handling him (rubbing and playful 'hand wrestling')... we have cuddle time in the evenings where I act like I'm preening him, and he purrs. But he won't allow anyone else to touch him like that. And he HATES my brother (15 years old), and other teenage boys. I've heard that's common though. He's picky about who he likes, and what he'll tolerate depending on his mood. I'm working on getting him to behave better but it's tough since I'm at college away from him during the school year. I don't think he was socialized with people very much with his previous owner.

I think we tend to give him too much "people food"... sometimes simply because he'll crawl onto the couch while we're eating and steal our food! Need to work on getting more good fruits and such in the house for him... and us. :}
 
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