Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Article: Overactive Hormones - chronic laying, panting, masturbation

Overactive Hormones - chronic laying and sexual solicitations
By Mandy Andrea
February 2009

Depending on the species, parrots' sexual hormones are usually triggered in the wild by increased rain and moisture, food abundance, change in daylight, and availability of nests and mates.  These factors are usually tied to the once-a-year rainy season, and sometimes to moderate rainfall during a short period later on.

Our homes, in contrast provide our parrots a year-round "season" optimal for raising young. The continuous elevation of breeding hormones and chronic egg laying is very stressful to organisms. The following are some suggestions I have gathered from speakers at conventions, breeders, and parrot owners for reducing breeding behavior. Be sure to ask your veterinarian before applying them to your particular bird and situation.

1. Mental and physical exercise keeps them engaged in activities and exploration so they don't have as much time to think about breeding.  Exercise alleviates stress induced by hormones.

2. We don't want to simulate 6 months of drought, but if your parrot has food in their bowls all day, try giving them meals instead so they don't feel like there is food available all the time - an all-day buffet.  Try giving them food twice daily and remove their food for the rest of the day which rather mimics parrots in the wild that actively search for and eat food in the morning and in the evening but engage in other activities during the rest of the day. Encourage them to be mentally and physically active by using their daily ration of seeds, nuts, and other treats as incentives to forage, fly, and keep busy.  They can be mentally challenged trying to figure out the foraging toy or how to get the nut from the cup hanging from a chain tied to its perch. You can encourage exercise by training them to fly to you for a treat.  Having food and treats readily available in bowls all day simulates a cash crop season very favorable for raising young.

Also limit the amount of warm mushy food. In the wild parrots usually feed each other warm mushy food from their crop most frequently during breeding season to provide food for the mate and chicks. It is also part of foreplay. (Ever had your parrot “gurge” on your fingers or other body parts?)

3. Pet your parrot only on the head and neck. In the wild, only its sexual partner is allowed to touch the rest of the body. Running your hand along the length of the bird's back and under the wings tells your parrot that you are in the mood for sex, and will get your cockatoo hen panting in no time.

4. Limit access to and shredding material and dark hiding places - nest boxes, drawers, cardboard boxes, shopping bags, cupboards.

Try rearranging the furnishing inside the cage often. Also try turning the cage to face a different direction, or move the cage to a different location in the room or house so that the parrot feels it is not in a good location to start rearing young.

5. Adjust the ratio of light and darkness to fairly equal amounts. For most species, the lengthening of daylight hours are a trigger for breeding. The artificial lighting humans use in the late evenings creates an artificially long day.

6. If your hen lays eggs anyway, addle the eggs or trade her eggs for artificial ones and let her brood away. This is supposed to lengthen the amount of time between egg-laying.

Try one, two, or all of these suggestions. Continually elevated hormone levels damage organs, cause territorial aggression (resource guarding) against people or other birds, and in the case of chronic layers,the added problems of depletion of the adrenal gland and nutrients that can cause egg-binding and other health problems. In addition, if you have a bird that does not get enough exercise (like most birds that have been clipped) these stress hormones can do much harm to an already compromised cardiovascular system.

Resources include:
1. Manual of Parrot Behavior, Andrew U. Luescher
2. Indonesian Parrot Project, Barbara Bailey
3. Smiles Germeau
4. Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World, Tony Juniper, Mike Parr, Kim Franklin
5. http://www3.sympatico.ca/davehansen/endocrin.html

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