Desperate - may need to give Gerry away

GerryFero

Regular Member
Registered
Hi, I hope I am posting in the right section, if not, I apologies.

I am in desperate need of help and feel so sad right now.

My husband and I have an OWA, he is 7.5 years old, we have had him since he was 6 months old. He was parent reared and had little contact with humans, so despite having him for so long, he is quite feral and won't allow touching left alone petting, he bites and growls if we try. However he is very attached to me, in fact it is obvious he loves me as he will follow me around and wants to sit next to me, he will jump on me and sit on me, he will be so happy when he sees me and chirp away. He is nice to my husband too, but not as attached to him as he is to me.

He has a large cage, but we try to have him out of it a couple of hours every day. He has a good diet (I believe), all the supplements he needs, plenty of toys.

The problem is that he screams constantly, as soon as he hears me moving in the morning or if he sees me he starts to scream for attention non-stop. I work from home and cannot have him out when I work, because I am in meetings all day. I also cannot be in the same room he is when I work, as if he screams, it will be a problem for my meetings.

His constant screaming is driving me crazy, I am starting to resent him and don't feel like spending any time with him, even when I finish working. I feel very guilty about it, but it is just too much for me, being in the house all day since the start of the pandemic. I feel like I have to tip toe around the house and even then he screams anyway.

I am seriously considering that we need to rehome him, because my mental health is starting to be badly affected.
We do love him though and feel terrible about the thought of letting him go. We are responsible owners, but honestly this is so exhausting for me.
Do you have/know of a behavioral expert that could help us train him? I know screaming is natural to OWAs to an extent, I just think there may be ways to decrease the screaming and train him; we read so many books but practice is different to theory and we may really do with some help. I am pretty sure we are doing the wrong things, as, if anything, he got worse.

I am so sad, so please don't judge, be kind if you can.
 

dianaT

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
:welcome: sorry to hear this. I am sure folk on here can advise in behaviour let's see what @Roz can advise and other members too.
Don't make any hasty decisions though as with time, training and patience the behaviour could likely be sorted.
 

DizzyBlue

Administrator
Staff member
Admin
Definitely not going to judge you and really glad your asking :) Roz is brilliant she's done brilliant training posts for us on here so we can easily understand and implement what she's saying. Best of all Roz is an Amazon parrot addicted owner

Below are two of her brilliant posts


 

Wakizashi21

Regular Member
@Roz would be the best person to advise. There are some really useful training guides here on the forum that i use alot.

When i want to change the beaviours of my parrots, i tend to:
1. ignore the bird completely when hes shouting and screaming. When he stops....i run over to hand him a treat he really likes....like a nut or sunflower seed. it takes about 10-15 turns but they are soo clever they understand really quickly.
2. For the time, maybe a dark cage cover to replicate the night-time can be used....until you remove the cover, they usually tend to stay very quiet.
3. When he screams, i walk out the room....when he stops....i walk back in.....and it really helps them understand when its silent "she walks in"

Hopefully some of the hints work for you too.

Sometimes its good to always talk it out....we all go through this phase....but we get through it....

I would only rehome as a last option.
 

GerryFero

Regular Member
Registered
Definitely not going to judge you and really glad your asking :) Roz is brilliant she's done brilliant training posts for us on here so we can easily understand and implement what she's saying. Best of all Roz is an Amazon parrot addicted owner

Below are two of her brilliant posts


I am reading these posts now, thank you so much.
The problem is that I am not particularly calm person, in fact I often lose my calm and I start to scream and him and cover him, as after ours of him screaming I cannot take anymore. Other times I just ignore him completely all day, hoping he will stop, but he doesn't. He is terrified of hands - he will take treats from my hand and spin on command for treats, but if I get close to him he'll go crazy. After he bit me many times, I no longer try getting close. I wish I could do the head stroke technique, I tried in the past but he is just so scared of everything. And in terms of chewing, he is only interested in destroying the house (sofa, chairs, etc.), if I offer a paper or something that he can actually chew he is not interested. All he wants to chew is stuff I need, such as the bills or my passport.
I apologies for being so negative, I feel so upset right, so desperate, it's almost like I needed to get this off my chest for the last 7 years.
I wish there was someone that could train with me, as I think reading how to do it unfortunately doesn't seem to help as I keep doing things wrong :(
 

GerryFero

Regular Member
Registered
@Roz would be the best person to advise. There are some really useful training guides here on the forum that i use alot.

When i want to change the beaviours of my parrots, i tend to:
1. ignore the bird completely when hes shouting and screaming. When he stops....i run over to hand him a treat he really likes....like a nut or sunflower seed. it takes about 10-15 turns but they are soo clever they understand really quickly.
2. For the time, maybe a dark cage cover to replicate the night-time can be used....until you remove the cover, they usually tend to stay very quiet.
3. When he screams, i walk out the room....when he stops....i walk back in.....and it really helps them understand when its silent "she walks in"

Hopefully some of the hints work for you too.

Sometimes its good to always talk it out....we all go through this phase....but we get through it....

I would only rehome as a last option.
I think my bird is broken: I ignored him for days on end and he just scrams anyway, I also rewarded silence but I work in the house the whole day so I cannot run to him every time he is quite as I may be busy with something else.
I tried cage covering and yes he is quite...until I uncover him and he starts again.
I tried walking out of the room, he just continues anyway and if he stops and I walk back in, next time it will be the same situation. He has no memory. I honestly see no intelligence in him, just a lot of noise and I am starting to feel like I cannot even work anymore because of the noise.

I truly believe that I need someone that trains with me, not to read or watch a tutorial, as I read and watched a million and obviously they did not help, I need to see where I am going wrong and for an expert to guide me in person I think.

I am so stressed out :(
 

Roz

Elected Forum Trainer
Regular Member
:welcome: GerryFerro. I hugely sympathise. Screaming is indeed exhausting to live with.

Ask yourself what purpose the behaviour serves for the bird? There may be different reasons throughout the day. Commonly there is the screaming first thing in the morning and/or in the evening. This is the normal dawn or dusk chorus which means it’s good to be alive! At other times the reason could be fear, boredom or joining in with loud household noise (a running tap or vacuum cleaner). Maybe it is separation anxiety or an overzealous contact call. Or perhaps it is being reinforced either by another animal or human.

If the bird enjoys attention and you go to the bird to quieten the screaming/squawking (consequence), guess what you are reinforcing? Yes, more screaming. You are teaching the bird to scream every time he wants attention. If you then try to ignore the screaming it becomes worse. The bird thinks, “this worked before, I’ll just have to scream louder and longer and eventually they will come running”. And what does the human do? The noise is unbearable so eventually the human goes running to the cage. You have just reinforced the louder and longer screaming! I am guessing that is what has happened.

As with any unwanted behaviour the best way to deal with it is to use differential reinforcement. This is putting the unwanted behaviour on extinction (removing the reinforcement) AND even more importantly, reinforcing another behaviour.

Think of another behaviour the bird can already do that you can reinforce instead. A whistle? Talking (eg. Hello)? Ringing a bell? A whistle or talking is going to be doubly effective as the bird can’t whistle/talk at the same time as screaming. It is important the bird already knows how to do the replacement behaviour so that you can easily put it on cue when required.

Cue the whistle or other more acceptable sound BEFORE the unwanted behaviour is expected to start. And reinforce like mad!!! A HUGE amount of attention (since this is the reinforcement for the unwanted behaviour) and maybe even treats too. EVERY time the bird makes the more acceptable sound REINFORCE!! You may have to drop what you are doing to come running! Later on you can drop back on the reinforcement and start answering from afar, but when teaching a new behaviour it is vitally important that you put it on a continuous schedule of reinforcement, ie. reinforce EVERY TIME!

At the same time, you need to put the old behaviour on extinction. ie. remove the reinforcement for it. No running up to the bird to quieten him. Wait until a gap in the screaming and cue the whistle. If the bird is screaming with you outside the room, wait for a gap in the screaming before you enter the room again. Then cue the whistle as you walk in and reinforce like mad!

Every animal will choose to do the behaviour that gains most reinforcement, which is why the more desired behaviour MUST be HEAVILY reinforced, at least to start with.

If the excessive screaming starts when you go to leave the room (the antecedent), it might be separation anxiety. You can still teach the bird to whistle instead of scream using differential reinforcement as previously explained, but it is important to answer the bird’s whistle with your own whistle as you leave the room and from outside the room to let him know, “it’s ok, I am here!”

Teach him to play/forage – he needs to learn how to keep himself occupied. You can do this by providing foraging toys. Nothing complicated to begin with:

Try wrapping his favourite treats in pieces of coffee filter paper (let him watch you do it and leave some of the treat sticking out so that he catches on) and putting them into his dry/seed bowl.

Or fill his dry bowl with beads (big enough so that he doesn’t swallow them) as well as seed/pellets to get him to forage for the food.

Work up to hiding wrapped treats in toys around the cage.

String pieces of fruit and vegetables on a birdie kebab skewer (available from most pet shops) and hang in the cage.

Weave big wet kale leaves through the bars of the cage or hang them from a clothes peg. You may have to start with smaller leaves so as not to frighten the bird.

Fill lengths of coloured paper straws with safflower seed (if he likes safflowers).

Fill woven “finger traps” with sugar snap peas and tie them to a toy.

Remember you will have to teach him how to forage in tiny manageable steps so that he gets it. Each tiny step he makes towards foraging should be reinforced with lots of attention (since human attention is reinforcing to our bird with separation anxiety).

If he is flighted let him fly and exercise to burn up energy and release feel good endorphins.

If you go out, leave the radio on so there isn’t a crushing silence.

Once in a while turn the music up and scream and dance with him – it’s ok to scream sometimes!
 

Wendy Cooper-Wolfe

Regular Member
Hello and a big hug for you.... I'm looking at this from the human point of view rather than focussing on Gerry. Something l am picking up is that you seem to be Gerry's main carer, and even though he is more attached to you could / would your husband be more actively involved with him. Which might both give you a break and reinforce their relationship.
Also regardless of your reacting by running around like a loony or ignoring him he will have picked up on your stress and that can make it worse. (my husband is a very highly strung stress person too), so trying to keep yourself really calm may help.
I see that @Roz has posted since I started this and all she has said will be excellent advice.
It's difficult for you to feel positive but this forum is really supportive....hang in there.
 

GerryFero

Regular Member
Registered
:welcome: GerryFerro. I hugely sympathise. Screaming is indeed exhausting to live with.

Ask yourself what purpose the behaviour serves for the bird? There may be different reasons throughout the day. Commonly there is the screaming first thing in the morning and/or in the evening. This is the normal dawn or dusk chorus which means it’s good to be alive! At other times the reason could be fear, boredom or joining in with loud household noise (a running tap or vacuum cleaner). Maybe it is separation anxiety or an overzealous contact call. Or perhaps it is being reinforced either by another animal or human.

If the bird enjoys attention and you go to the bird to quieten the screaming/squawking (consequence), guess what you are reinforcing? Yes, more screaming. You are teaching the bird to scream every time he wants attention. If you then try to ignore the screaming it becomes worse. The bird thinks, “this worked before, I’ll just have to scream louder and longer and eventually they will come running”. And what does the human do? The noise is unbearable so eventually the human goes running to the cage. You have just reinforced the louder and longer screaming! I am guessing that is what has happened.

As with any unwanted behaviour the best way to deal with it is to use differential reinforcement. This is putting the unwanted behaviour on extinction (removing the reinforcement) AND even more importantly, reinforcing another behaviour.

Think of another behaviour the bird can already do that you can reinforce instead. A whistle? Talking (eg. Hello)? Ringing a bell? A whistle or talking is going to be doubly effective as the bird can’t whistle/talk at the same time as screaming. It is important the bird already knows how to do the replacement behaviour so that you can easily put it on cue when required.

Cue the whistle or other more acceptable sound BEFORE the unwanted behaviour is expected to start. And reinforce like mad!!! A HUGE amount of attention (since this is the reinforcement for the unwanted behaviour) and maybe even treats too. EVERY time the bird makes the more acceptable sound REINFORCE!! You may have to drop what you are doing to come running! Later on you can drop back on the reinforcement and start answering from afar, but when teaching a new behaviour it is vitally important that you put it on a continuous schedule of reinforcement, ie. reinforce EVERY TIME!

At the same time, you need to put the old behaviour on extinction. ie. remove the reinforcement for it. No running up to the bird to quieten him. Wait until a gap in the screaming and cue the whistle. If the bird is screaming with you outside the room, wait for a gap in the screaming before you enter the room again. Then cue the whistle as you walk in and reinforce like mad!

Every animal will choose to do the behaviour that gains most reinforcement, which is why the more desired behaviour MUST be HEAVILY reinforced, at least to start with.

If the excessive screaming starts when you go to leave the room (the antecedent), it might be separation anxiety. You can still teach the bird to whistle instead of scream using differential reinforcement as previously explained, but it is important to answer the bird’s whistle with your own whistle as you leave the room and from outside the room to let him know, “it’s ok, I am here!”

Teach him to play/forage – he needs to learn how to keep himself occupied. You can do this by providing foraging toys. Nothing complicated to begin with:

Try wrapping his favourite treats in pieces of coffee filter paper (let him watch you do it and leave some of the treat sticking out so that he catches on) and putting them into his dry/seed bowl.

Or fill his dry bowl with beads (big enough so that he doesn’t swallow them) as well as seed/pellets to get him to forage for the food.

Work up to hiding wrapped treats in toys around the cage.

String pieces of fruit and vegetables on a birdie kebab skewer (available from most pet shops) and hang in the cage.

Weave big wet kale leaves through the bars of the cage or hang them from a clothes peg. You may have to start with smaller leaves so as not to frighten the bird.

Fill lengths of coloured paper straws with safflower seed (if he likes safflowers).

Fill woven “finger traps” with sugar snap peas and tie them to a toy.

Remember you will have to teach him how to forage in tiny manageable steps so that he gets it. Each tiny step he makes towards foraging should be reinforced with lots of attention (since human attention is reinforcing to our bird with separation anxiety).

If he is flighted let him fly and exercise to burn up energy and release feel good endorphins.

If you go out, leave the radio on so there isn’t a crushing silence.

Once in a while turn the music up and scream and dance with him – it’s ok to scream sometimes!
Thanks for your support.
Regarding the rewarding behaviour I tried so much I could no longer try. The problem is that I have chickens and rabbits in the garden so I spend I while there and he can see me through the window. It doesn't matter if I ignore, he continues. It doesn't matter if I say hello (and he can say hello too), he continues. While. Working, if he's quite I cannot go to him, I'm in meetings with external clients and dropping is not an option unless I want to risk getting fired. I get it, he wants me to be with him, but time with him is so boring: I cannot touch him, the only thing I can do with him is click him to spin or give me his paw, but they're only so many times you can do these tricks before it becomes tedious for both. So then I start to play on my phone and here he goes, chewing sofa and anything, which obviously triggers me to wave s cushion at him or tell so he stops and the cycle of negative reinforcement begins again. But I see no alternative, since we cannot have any fun interaction.

Regarding foraging, honestly, he's scared of everything and when I say everything I mean it: he doesn't even grasp the concept of a treat being hidden or wrapped, he would starve to death if food wasn't handed to him in his bowl. I tried many many times already. And he's a picky eater anyway, all he wants is his seeds or whatever I'm eating ( but only while I'm eating it, if I leave it for him and I'm not eating it he's not interested).
I'm so hurt and stressed :(
 

GerryFero

Regular Member
Registered
Hello and a big hug for you.... I'm looking at this from the human point of view rather than focussing on Gerry. Something l am picking up is that you seem to be Gerry's main carer, and even though he is more attached to you could / would your husband be more actively involved with him. Which might both give you a break and reinforce their relationship.
Also regardless of your reacting by running around like a loony or ignoring him he will have picked up on your stress and that can make it worse. (my husband is a very highly strung stress person too), so trying to keep yourself really calm may help.
I see that @Roz has posted since I started this and all she has said will be excellent advice.
It's difficult for you to feel positive but this forum is really supportive....hang in there.
In fact Nik, my husband, he's the main carer. He is a saint and spends plenty of time with him. But the thing is that Nik works in an office, while I work at home so I have to deal with 24/7 screaming while he can have a break.
I see your point on staying calm, but honestly I'm unable, it hurts my ears do badly (I'm on the spectrum and very sensitive to high pitched continuous noises). Honestly when he screams I hate him with a passion, if just he could understand he would stop as I know he loves me, unfortunately I don't think he's very intelligent :(
 

Wakizashi21

Regular Member
So sorry to hear that your going through a hard time....

I can try and help by rehoming him temporarily if needed? Would give you time to rest and recover and maybe give yourself some time to relax? Permanent rehoming is also an option. I have an outdoor aviary that is split to allow new birds so can maybe help that way?
From reading the above, it seems you have tried everything to make it work to change his behaviour but he is 7.5years old so changing behaviour isnt as easy. I am based in Birmingham West Midlands
 

DizzyBlue

Administrator
Staff member
Admin
Hmmmm have you tried having him with you rather than in a separate place where he can't see you? My amazon boys (blue front and a double yellow head) are in breeding hormonal meltdown yelling mode at the moment it's that time of year.
They want to eat what I eat at the same time as me as in their eyes it's bonding mate behaviour and if I go out of sight .... Hell breaks loose them trying to out shout each other to get my attention to return to within view. Experience tells me there's about 2 weeks left of this behaviour until hormones subside again until next breeding season.
 

GerryFero

Regular Member
Registered
Hmmmm have you tried having him with you rather than in a separate place where he can't see you? My amazon boys (blue front and a double yellow head) are in breeding hormonal meltdown yelling mode at the moment it's that time of year.
They want to eat what I eat at the same time as me as in their eyes it's bonding mate behaviour and if I go out of sight .... Hell breaks loose them trying to out shout each other to get my attention to return to within view. Experience tells me there's about 2 weeks left of this behaviour until hormones subside again until next breeding season.
I cannot work when he is in the same room as me, I am a Project Manager, I work with big pharmaceutical companies and part of my role is having a lot of meetings with them to help them run their trials. I cannot risk Gerry flipping and starting to scream, it's not the type of job where him screaming on top of his lungs would be seen as a funny glitch :(
He also screams sometimes when I am there, because I ignore him, but there is not much I can do with him, we only have a couple of tricks and then it gets repetitive, so even when we are together often it's boring for both. until he either screams or attempts to destroy something(sofa, chairs, TV) and I have to wave a cushion at him to make him stop.
:(
 

GerryFero

Regular Member
Registered
So sorry to hear that your going through a hard time....

I can try and help by rehoming him temporarily if needed? Would give you time to rest and recover and maybe give yourself some time to relax? Permanent rehoming is also an option. I have an outdoor aviary that is split to allow new birds so can maybe help that way?
From reading the above, it seems you have tried everything to make it work to change his behaviour but he is 7.5years old so changing behaviour isnt as easy. I am based in Birmingham West Midlands
I will have a think at this one thanks. But we have had plenty of breaks before, when he goes to my in laws while Nik and I are on holiday.
I will think about the permanent rehoming, thanks for offering.
 

GerryFero

Regular Member
Registered
Hi all, thank you so so much for your comments.
But is there anyone that could actually help me per my question?
I appreciate all the advise but this doesn't actually help, as I pretty much tried everything and read plenty of books about training and obviously I am unable to do it right. My post was about having an expert helping me with training, so unfortunately a passing by comment doesn't solve my problem. I am convincing myself rehoming is the only option, I am sorry about as I think I will break his heart, but nobody seems willing to help me identify a good strategy and work with me to change the behavior.
:(
 

Roz

Elected Forum Trainer
Regular Member
Unfortunately there is no quick fix. It sounds as if it took years for him to get to this stage of screaming. It is going to take a lot of time and effort to train him to get the same reinforcement for doing more acceptable behaviours. If you don’t have the time then perhaps rehoming is your only option.

You could join Lara Joseph’s Facebook group: Animal Behavior Center or Google Barbara Heidenreich, also an animal trainer in the US.
 

DizzyBlue

Administrator
Staff member
Admin
If your unable to retrain then another option rather than a pet home since he was parent reared is Tropical Bird Land in Leicestershire. Have been a couple of times myself birds allowed to be birds and lots of room and interaction for them.
Might be worth seeing if he could go join them.

I wouldn't recommend the one in Lincolnshire though.
 

JessCheekyMia

Regular Member
I am so sorry to hear you are going through such a tough time. You have come to the right place for help. This forum is helpful and best of all friendly. It sounds like you need someone to come to your home and work with your Ammie to help and guide you. I am not sure with covid if people can go into each others homes yet.
But if you feel you need to rehome make sure you are able to keep in regular contact even if it is just regular updates. Some people find this hard but all my birds previous owners and breeders are very appreciative of this. Or like @Wakizashi21 a temporary break, give yourself some respite but knowing your ammie will come back to you. My rehomes previous owners are given the choice to have their bird back at anytime. I can't take on anymore but hopefully you will find someone that can and work around your wishes.
I really hope things work out soon for you.
 

GerryFero

Regular Member
Registered
I am so sorry to hear you are going through such a tough time. You have come to the right place for help. This forum is helpful and best of all friendly. It sounds like you need someone to come to your home and work with your Ammie to help and guide you. I am not sure with covid if people can go into each others homes yet.
But if you feel you need to rehome make sure you are able to keep in regular contact even if it is just regular updates. Some people find this hard but all my birds previous owners and breeders are very appreciative of this. Or like @Wakizashi21 a temporary break, give yourself some respite but knowing your ammie will come back to you. My rehomes previous owners are given the choice to have their bird back at anytime. I can't take on anymore but hopefully you will find someone that can and work around your wishes.
I really hope things work out soon for you.
Hi and thanks for your words.
Yes, what I noticed about this forum is that everyone is so kind and I don't feel judged for how I feel at the moment. It is a very welcoming place and even just getting things off my chest helped me a bit.
Ideally, yes, someone coming to mine would have been amazing, maybe post-COVID
I do love Gerry very much and the thought of giving him away is heartbreaking. I am trying very hard to find a plan that works at making him less loud. I have started a new routine yesterday, after reading so many links etc: basically before I used to go see him at some point mid morning (it is my husband who feeds him and spends breakfast with him), so he could hear me around the house and see me in the garden from early morning (I get up very early), but he could not get me there with him. I thought maybe if I spend half an hour with him first thing in the morning, as soon as I am up, he may feel happy that he saw me and had me to himself for a bit and maybe don't miss me so much.
I also stuffed a few of his toys with monkey nuts, to see if he will feel curious to find to get them and the chewing through the shell may keep him busy.
I also rented a webinar from a Barbara Heidenreich and I will watch it with my husband in the next few days.
Let's see how I get on...
 
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