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Conure Plucking Mate And Drawing Blood, Help!

Discussion in 'Feathers And Grooming' started by kana245, Mar 22, 2019.

  1. kana245

    kana245 Regular Member Registered

    Hi, I am new to the forum and in desperate need of some advice from more experienced parrot owners. I have two crimson belly conures, they are 10 month old siblings who as far as I can tell are fairly pair bonded (feeding each other, grooming, mating etc). In the six months I've had them I've unfortunately realised I just don't have the experience I need to do a good job of knowing what they need, having only had budgies and tiels before. There's been various behavioural issues that have been slowly improving, but they always have very tatty tails where they have shredded the vanes, which I thought might be from boredom. They also playfight a lot, much more than I'm used to with budgies, which I assumed was contributing to the tattiness. Recently Girl has had a little bald spot on her head which has slowly grown, and today Boy has obviously picked at it so much it's formed a scab at least 3mm across. They have had one fight that resulted in a bitten toe (Girl's, though she is normally the more bossy and dominant one), but otherwise seem to get along mostly.

    Is there anything I can do to discourage Boy from picking at Girl aside from splitting them up? I'm running on the assumption it's a mixture of boredom and spring hormones, but tbh I know now I really am out of my depth with conures. They have a diet of a seed mix and lots of fresh fruit and veg which they prefer, and a UV lamp. They have 3 hours out of cage time 4 days a week, and 5 hours the other 3, but it definitely isn't enough on the 4 days I work, unfortunately. Boy especially gets bored and screamy during the day, even with lots of different toys. The cage is 54 x 85 cm, though I'm trying to get hold of a cage about 2x the size with a divider to give them some time out from each other.

    I feel terrible that I just don't know how I can improve their quality of life, aside from trying to rehome them with someone with more experience and who can give them more attention during the day, though that would be pretty heart breaking. Any advice, even just generally, would be very welcome.
    Kendra likes this.
  2. Michael Reynolds

    Michael Reynolds Regular Member

    the problem may be that the female is too young for the males advance's or that she is from the same family if so I would recommend splitting them for now but keep them in cages next to each other but allow time out together to see if this improves the situation. you may not see too much change in the feather condition until there next moult
    Kendra likes this.
  3. TomsMum

    TomsMum Administrator Staff Member Admin

    Hi and welcome to the forum...
    This does seem typical behaviour from these little conures, and our member @Kehaar has brother and sister siblings and although they are nearly five now, this is a cycle that they go through especially at this time of year when hormone levels are raised. When the Male gets too domineering and plucking her female she does separate them for a while to give the female some space and let the feathers recover.
  4. Michael Reynolds

    Michael Reynolds Regular Member

    its not owing to boredom or any thing that you can blame yourself on, the ways of a conure are quite hard when it comes to hormones, tails often get damaged and this is caused by the male treading on it or biting it as it try's to persuade the female to let it mount. I have had a few sets of conures and separating them at times I recommend. I like the idea of getting a cage that you can separate each side. other things that you may notice that are quite common with these birds are feathers missing from the back of the neck (as the male holds on or normally the males toes can get small injuries as the female tells the male off.
    Kendra likes this.
  5. Ararajuba

    Ararajuba Regular Member

    If our Crimson-belly Dido is anything to go by, I very much doubt it's about boredom as such. The screaming may be due more to these birds being a bit too prone to over-bonding with humans (which can itself be related to sexual excitement and the hormones that drive it). I wouldn't be at all surprised if it is actually being done in the hope that you will come and pay attention to them. The play fighting doesn't surprise me in the least. Ours used to attempt it a lot with her cage-mate Vivi, who is also a conure, but is smaller and of a different species, with a rather gentler and calmer disposition - she spent a lot of time being disappointed that she just ran away or shouted at her rather than joining in, though she has learned it's not going to work and tries to inveigle her into play fights much less than she used to. Considering how rough her idea of "play" is, I'm not terribly surprised that Vivi doesn't want to know.

    As for the hormones... Dido seems to spend a good deal of her time being hormonal, which is directed both at me and Vivi. With Vivi she will have episodes where she chases her round the cage and tries to mount her forcibly, eliciting many vocal complaints from Vivi about the attempted molestation, until a human comes and distracts her, which usually makes her forget about the idea for a while. With me she will sometimes get so over-excited when getting scratches that she will start lowering herelf on her perch, lifting her wings to try to get me to scratch under them (which I am not going to do as it is too stimulating and will just make her worse), lifting her tail, and presenting her rear to the bars. "No thanks, I'm already taken!" I tell her, much to her disappointment. She does tend to screech for attention more when she is hormonal too.

    I did ask the breeder (who is likely to be interested in selling more birds, as he makes his living from the activity) whether it was likely that the hormones would calm down if we got her a mate, and perhaps let them breed. "Probably not," he said laconically, "they [I'm not sure whether he specifically meant Crimson-bellies or small conures in general] are terrible for this kind of behaviour. Only get a mate if you're serious about breeding, as you can't count on behavioural improvment, and they may fight worse than two females."

    I don't know whether yours have them for the same reason, but Dido's tail has also been in a pretty tattered state most of the time we have had her (nearly 3 years now). In her case I doubt Vivi is pulling on her feathers - the main cause seems to be her sliding backwards down the cage bars when she is rushing around at top speed, and in the process catching her tail feathers and bending them the wrong way. She seems to have improved a lot since her last moult, and I have noticed that she's been going backwards less than she used to for the last few months, so this may be the reason.

    Yes, they are very different from budgies in personality - much more active, boistrous, highly-strung, intense, inquisitive, demanding, and prone to be interested in human "business". (We have several budgies at present to compare; they seem almost unbelievably laid-back compared to the conures, despite having one or two behavioural issues of their own.) It's worth remembering that vocally demanding attention isn't quite the same as really needing that attention, though, especially when there are already two to keep each other company, so you probably have less to feel guilty about than you think.

    Being demanding and trying to control their favourite humans just seems to be something that conures like to do (especially this type). I think it's how they show their love, or something. I definitely would consider separating them until any existing injuries heal, as that scab is likely to get picked at otherwise. I have to take extreme care handling Dido when I have any kind of scrape, band-aid, or mark on exposed flesh - anything that makes it look different, especially on hands and arms, as she will invariably head straight for whatever it is and start using her beak, none too gently, to investigate.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2019
    Kehaar and Kendra like this.
  6. DizzyBlue

    DizzyBlue Administrator Staff Member Admin

    Hi and welcome to the forum
    I would separate them and let them have their own cages side by side. As others have suggested that way they have company but can't get into a fight.
  7. dianaT

    dianaT Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    :welcome: all good advice given, do keep us up to date.:thumbsup:
  8. Michael Reynolds

    Michael Reynolds Regular Member

    Sorry I forgot my manners, Hello and Welcome, we love photos on this site and would love to hear more about your feathered friends
  9. kana245

    kana245 Regular Member Registered

    Thank you all very much for the advice! Conure personalities have definitely taken me by surprise - I thought I'd done my research but I definitely wasn't prepared for the level of aggression they show each other. They are clingy and tend to stay together even when out but also bicker constantly, don't share toys well, will immediately prioritise taking whatever food or treat the other has, and mutual preening generally turns into rough and tumble after a few minutes. I never know whether that's just how conures work or if I should be trying conure couples counselling! With me they are not that interested but still possessive; they will scream for me to come to them but once I am in the room are happy for me to just be there in sight while they're in the cage. They are also not at all cuddly and emphatically do not want scratches or much attention, though I was expecting that with a pair. Girl does like the occasional footrub!

    Thanks in particular for the info about your Dido, @Ararajuba , that sounds very familiar so it's good to know they might be meant to be like this! I asked my breeder about keeping two together as I had read about conures being very hostile to cagemates when introduced as adults, and I didn't want a single lonely bird, and she assured me that she'd never had problems keeping two sibs in the same cage. I probably should have been a bit more sceptical there. (She did also say that only Boy ever gave a gentle nip and they were actually incredibly bitey for the first 4 months and will still take your fingernails off given half a chance, but I didn't believe that at least :emoji_joy: ). They definitely are still bashing their tails up on the bars too, so good to hear that's normal too.

    I will try the double cage with a divider, and then at least they can have more flight space when they do get on. I am a bit worried that splitting them up will lead to them screaming to get to each other, especially Boy who is the screamer of the two. Classic rookie mistake but I did underestimate the sheer volume of the screaming (and crimson bellies are supposed to be the quietest of conures!?) and my family while tolerant aren't all that keen on the eardrum-rupturing shrieks clearly audible even through a double-glazed window. But have to give it a try. Thanks again!
    Kendra, Roz, TomsMum and 1 other person like this.
  10. kana245

    kana245 Regular Member Registered

    I don't have very many good photos of them as they view my phone as a high value chew toy, so I mostly just have rather a lot of photos of a gaping conure beak heading at speed towards the camera...but here are a couple. The first is of Doris and the second Frank (hopefully added properly).
    20190323_104007.jpg 20190323_104016.jpg
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 24, 2019
    Roz and Michael Reynolds like this.
  11. Michael Reynolds

    Michael Reynolds Regular Member

    they are beautiful and both looking rather cheeky ok screaming can be changed to a more acceptable noise now these are one of the quiet conures but even my sun has learnt to shout out his name instead of the very loud call they can make. and all I done is just repeat his name each time he called (mind you its the only word he says clearly) but I rather hear Ricky Ricky Ricky than the ear piercing scream I know they can do.
    Kendra likes this.
  12. kana245

    kana245 Regular Member Registered

    I think training them into a more harmonious shout for attention might be beyond my very limited training skills Michael, though I can always dream! They have learnt (chosen..?) to scream a lot less than they used to, but I have generally found that they laugh/squawk mockingly at my efforts at any training past stepping up and coming when called. I have tried following the very helpful advice in the training section here over the past few months but either they are tough customers or I haven't got the knack. Or both!
    Kendra and Kehaar like this.
  13. Michael Reynolds

    Michael Reynolds Regular Member

    its always harder to train two birds what I advice is concentrate on training one and only when that one has learnt the trick then try training the other one so it can see the first ones action
  14. Kehaar

    Kehaar Regular Member

    Hello! Welcome! Sorry for the eh-hem, late reply. I've had no access to t'internet for a while now, but I'm back! What absolute pretties you have. I love the way crimsons always look like theiy're wearing red leotards :p

    I know exactly what you mean about their personalities taking you by surprise. Countless time I think 'I should have gone for a Bouke's (or a couple of hamsters), would have been easier on the mental health and the ears!!'
    The playfighting is totally natural. It took Cicero about a year to calm his beans with the whole play fighting. He'd go up to Kouki and try to knock beaks with her. This has now stopped as he realises that's not really acceptable play and she doesn't like it.

    I pop my two in seperate cages during hormones as poor Kouki last year ended up with a totally bald head! So I have the other cage on standby 24/7 just in case Cicero gets too enthusiastic with his beak.

    My two still scream. Right now they are whizzing around like malfunctioing spitfires, and as they pass my ear they are screaming into it, reducing my hearing age by about 50 years, I reckon. If your little skallys are chilling and do a kissy nopiuse or something nice and quiet, give them lots of praise and do it back. They will soon learn that that is what gets your undivided attention :) Saying that, my two show no signs of letting up on their screaming just now. Little poo heads.

    Hope this helps. Fear not, they will calm down (slightly ;) You will sonn figure them out, and see what makes them light up and tick. Their senses of humour are funny too.
    Michael Reynolds, Kendra and TomsMum like this.
  15. Roz

    Roz Regular Member

    I'm late too with a :welcome: Gosh your two are beautiful birds!! Love their names too! :)
  16. Kehaar

    Kehaar Regular Member

    How are you doing with you're gorgeous little ones?
    Michael Reynolds likes this.
  17. kana245

    kana245 Regular Member Registered

    Hi Kehaar and Roz, thank you for the welcome and sorry for missing your replies earlier! The divisible cage I ended up getting them has been a partial success...all the new space seemed to distract Frank from restyling Doris' head feathers for a good while, so they shared the whole cage at first until I came home one day to a sudden bald and grumpy Doris. So in the divider went, with much high drama. They are ok being split during the day and are fighting much less in their out of cage time, it feels like, but clearly really hate sleeping apart which makes me rather sad.

    (I laughed a bit reading about how your Cicero has learnt to play nicely with Kouki as she prefers, Kehaar, because I think half the problem is my two both love fighting sometimes when they get very violent with other I start to intervene and they'll stop immediately and eyeball me, like WHAT. Stop spoiling our fun, wimp!)
    Michael Reynolds, Kendra and Kehaar like this.
  18. kana245

    kana245 Regular Member Registered

    They are still VERY cute though so all gets forgiven forgot to add a photo or two... Screenshot_20190610-224044_Gallery.jpg Screenshot_20190610-224631_Gallery.jpg
    Kendra, Kehaar, dianaT and 1 other person like this.
  19. Kehaar

    Kehaar Regular Member

    I know exactly what you meant about them sleeping apart. Cicero used to call out for Kouki when they were first seperated at night. He's fine with it now when they do have to be seperated. Sometimes I listen to Kouki and see what she wants, if she hops into Cicero's cage when she sees me getting ready for work, I leave her there but if she pops into her own cage I know she's wanting her own space. she's very bald at the moment because Cicero decided that one day she should have a no1. hair cut.
    My two do the same as yours it sounds like they are murdering each other and get the eye ball response too!
    Michael Reynolds and Kendra like this.
  20. ste langton

    ste langton Regular Member Registered

    Get rid of one , then you can bond with the remainder, its hard enough with one specially if your not used having this sort of bird....