Winning the trust of a companion bird is a fantastic feeling and forms a bond that is unequivocal. However, sometimes a re-homed bird comes with bad behaviors, just as a bored bird can develop them. Biting can be painful, and some owners fear they don't have the time or patience to devote to correcting the problem. But take heart -- a rewarding relationship with your Jenday conure is just around the corner.
Types of Bites
Birds are a little like babies in that they use their mouths to explore things. So before you label your conure a biter, determine just how he's using his beak. He could be tasting, testing the rigidity of something to perch on, or touching out of curiosity, and all of these are normal and acceptable. Remember that your bird cannot speak to express his displeasure with something or someone, so a relatively painless nip is his way to express that he's had enough. If he's frightened or defending his territory, you'll receive a painful bite or even a chomp that breaks skin -- this is the behavior you'll want to remedy.
Why Birds Bite
Biting can mean several things in conures: they're scared, they're uncomfortable, they're defending their territory or they simply haven't been taught that it's wrong to bite, among other possibilities. Each bird has a unique personality and background; some are more defensive than others, especially those that have been mistreated. If you have been the only owner of your conure and he begins biting, pay close attention to when and why he is biting, and that will get you closer to solving the problem. For example, if he bites as you reach for him in his cage, perhaps you are moving too fast and scaring him, or he has grown territorial and feels threatened that you are invading his space. Try moving more slowly or inviting him to exit the cage on his own.
The key with conures is consistency, and working with your conure daily will bring faster and better results. Trying a multitude of behavior-altering techniques will not do much more than confuse your bird, so don't give up if he's not cooperating immediately. Remember this behavior stems from something and, in some cases, has been long ingrained in the bird. It will take more than a couple of days to fix the problem, and you must remain committed. Don't approach him with fear, but rather confidence, love and patience, and always speak in firm yet calm tones. Depending on the nature of the bites you may want to wear gloves.
Nip It in the Bud
If a conure has been abused, calm and careful hand movements are very important. Once your conure understands you're not trying to hurt him, things will go more smoothly. Keep treats handy to reward good behavior, such as stepping onto your hand or allowing you to stroke him without biting. Don't punish bad behavior; birds don't understand punishment and it only damages what you're trying to fix. Tell your bird no in a firm voice and perhaps put him back into his cage for a time out -- conures don't like being separated from their family. Once he understands biting is keeping him from his flock, he may stop. If you are bitten, don't overreact or yell, because some birds delight in this response.
Call In the Pros
If all else fails, you may want to call an avian veterinarian. Biting might have an underlying medical cause that you're unaware of. Once anything medical has been ruled out, you might try contacting a professional trainer or bird behaviorist for help. Don't feel like a failure if you have to call in the pros -- you're still helping your bird and remaining committed to a healthy future relationship by doing so. Perhaps you're not exuding total confidence while working with your conure and he is picking up on your nervousness. A professional trainer can help give you tips for better handling.
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Alana Krall has been writing professionally since 2008. Her work has been published in "North Valley Magazine," "Vancouver View Magazine," as well as online at VancouverBC.com, YoungEntrepreneur.com and other sources. Krall is currently pursuing a certificate in medical billing and coding.