You can’t neuter parrots. The procedure’s too dangerous, and there are also various health complications to consider. Parrots commonly experience hormonal problems, but changing their environment enables them to cope better.
To calm a hormonal parrot, make its environment comfortable. Minimize the light it receives and keep the temperature cool. Too much light and warmth make parrots think it’s Spring. Remove materials your parrot can shed and change its position. Don’t feed it high-fat foods, as this stimulates hormones. Distract your parrot with exercise, toys, and games during a hormonal surge.
Sadly, many parrots are given away and rehomed due to hormonal behavior. This behavior is completely natural and can’t be stopped, so you need to understand why it happens and be prepared in advance.
When Is Hormone Season for Parrots?
Hormone season occurs around Spring when three environmental conditions occur:
- Days become warmer
- Days get longer
- Seeds germinate, creating food for parrots to eat
Smaller birds tend to come into season more frequently – at least more than once a year. Because they’re lower down on the food chain, they need to keep their populations strong. As a result, they procreate faster and more often than larger birds. There are several different breeding stages, including:
- Pre-breeding: This is where the parrot’s body prepares to breed. A lot of birds molt during this stage, losing old feathers and growing new ones.
- Mate selection: Birds engage in mating rituals and select a mate they believe will produce healthy chicks.
- Finding a nest site: Parrots will find a hollow tree or other nesting site and get it ready to raise their young.
- Preparing the nest: Parrots create a war, safe nest during this stage, ripping and chewing any material they can find.
- Breeding: Once the nest is ready, female parrots lay fertile eggs. Both males and females incubate them.
- Rearing their young: Once the eggs hatch, parrots forage for nutritious foods and start teaching them how to survive.
How Long Do Parrots Stay Hormonal?
Once parrots become sexually mature, they remain that way for the rest of their lives. Their hormonal stages can last as long as 10 weeks, but this varies depending on the species. The hormones also tend to subside after a few weeks. The season starts when the environmental conditions are right and end once the parrot’s laid its eggs.
Similarly, hormone ages vary between the parrot species because they become sexually mature at different times. These are the ages at which the most popular parrots become hormonal:
- Budgies: 6-9 months
- Cockatiels: 9 months
- African grey parrots: 2-4 years
- Amazon parrots: 2-4 years
- Conures: 2-4 years
- Goffins: 2-4 years
- Mini macaws: 2-4 years
- Pionus: 2-4 years
- Blue-and-gold macaws: 3-6 years
- Umbrella cockatoos: 3-6 years
- Moluccan cockatoos: 4-7 years
Some parrots experience stronger hormonal surges than others. African greys are particularly hard to handle during the breeding months.
What Are the Signs of A Hormonal Parrot?
Some parrots never experience behavioral changes when they become hormonal. This usually comes down to their owners socializing with them in the right way from an early age. Similarly, if you never allow your parrot to become dominant, then you’ll find it much easier to deal with when it experiences hormone surges.
Unfortunately, some parrots become excitable, impulsive, or aggressive during hormonal times, making them difficult to handle. These are the most common signs parrots display when they’re hormonal:
Parrots regurgitate their food to signal an interest in mating. It shows how well they scavenge and provide food, making them more attractive as partners. In captivity, parrots will regurgitate on the owners they see as potential partners. Unfortunately, this behavior means your parrot’s too attached to you.
You mustn’t reward this behavior, but you must also tread carefully – rebuffing your parrot’s advances too suddenly can cause it to become upset. It may also damage the bond you both have.
Biting is a common side effect of hormonal behavior. This is known as “bluffing” and affects even sweet and gentle parrots with no biting history. Signs of bluffing include:
Your parrot will seemingly start biting overnight, which can be frightening and painful for owners who aren’t expecting this behavior. This isn’t necessarily something to worry about as it’s your parrot’s way of coping with its sexual urges.
Unfortunately, unexplained biting is one of the main reasons why parrots are surrendered to rescue shelters. However, this behavior stops once the hormones subside, so you’ll need to keep your fingers.
When parrots become hormonal, they over-preen and pluck their feathers. While this is normal nesting behavior in captivity, it can quickly become a destructive habit. The Exotic Animal Veterinary Center explains how feather plucking isn’t seen in the wild, so the behavior signifies captivity-specific stress.
If feather plucking continues beyond the parrot’s hormonal surges, your bird may move onto self-mutilation, which is life-threatening. This is where parrots chew into their skin, muscles, and bones to self-soothe and ease stress. It’s a common way for them to cope with things beyond their control, such as their raging hormones.
There are certain zones on a parrot’s body that are reserved for mates. According to VCA Hospitals, many parrots rub their cloaca or vent against their owners, which is a parrot’s form of masturbation and their attempt to initiate copulation. If you accidentally touch this area during the breeding season, you’re encouraging your parrot to choose you as a mate.
Parrots are also highly sensitive under their wings, down their back, and towards their tail. If you touch any of these areas, your parrot will become sexually aroused and display inappropriate behaviors in response.
Hormonal birds commonly seem more territorial than they usually are, becoming possessive over their cage, toys, games, and food. They’re essentially protecting their nest from dangers and predators.
Alongside this territorial behavior, they become more vocal and aggressive with people and other birds as they defend what they see as rightfully theirs. They also become possessive over people and are more likely to turn into one-person birds, shutting out the rest of the family and attacking them when they get too close to their humans.
Hormonal birds build nests within their cages, shredding paper, carpet, or any other material they can use to create one. They’ll also attempt to shred their toys to get the same result. Some parrots become so fixated on building a nest, they can’t think about anything else and will obsessively chew and shed anything they can find.
They’ll also spend time looking for suitable nest holes when they’re outside of their cage. Dark hiding spots are ideal for parrots to use as a nest, so keep an eye on your bird to ensure it doesn’t wander off and hide away.
When parrots become hormonal, they tend to become very noisy. Some birds scream and squawk more often, significantly increasing their vocalizations. For many owners, this becomes a nuisance to live with. Unfortunately, this is normal for parrots experiencing hormonal surges.
Don’t be tempted to scold or shout at your bird. Doing so will make it feel like it’s in trouble when all it’s doing is giving in to its instincts. Once the mating season ends, the noise should subside. If it doesn’t, it’s likely to become a habit that you’ll need to address.
Mating displays are a chance for parrots to attract a mate. During which, they’ll display strange behaviors, such as:
- Eye pinning
- Wing flapping
- Tail fanning
- Bowing displays
During the hormonal stages, parrots will also crouch down low and pant. If you only have one parrot, don’t be surprised if it does these things to you. Your parrot will consider you its flock mate and equal and will attempt to win you over.
Increased Calcium Intake
Female hormonal parrots will have more interest in calcium and protein-rich foods, such as cuttlebones, eggs, and meat. This enables them to produce healthy eggshells, reducing the chances of hatching mortality. If parrots don’t have enough calcium in their bodies, the eggs are at risk of breaking.
Can Parrots Be Attracted To Humans?
Unfortunately, it’s common for parrots to develop a sexual attraction to their owners during the hormonal stages. The Proceedings of the International Aviculturists Society Convention explains how over-dependent parrots or birds that adopt a dominant role are more likely to create problems for their owners when they become sexually mature.
In the wild, parrots form life-long pair bonds. They mate whenever they want and socialize with their bonded parrot throughout the year, doing the following things together:
Parrots living in captivity don’t always have the same opportunities to mate with their own kind, so they imprint on their owners instead. This becomes awkward for owners, especially if they’ve never experienced this before.
However, if you set the foundation for positive interactions early enough, you shouldn’t experience any significant problems when your parrot becomes hormonal. Owners must discourage sexual behaviors as much as possible to prevent their parrots from displaying their frustrations towards them.
How To Deal With A Hormonal Parrot
As mentioned, you can’t neuter a parrot like you can with mammals. This means your parrot’s likely to experience hormonal problems that undoubtedly alter its mood and behavior in some form.
These hormones will subside once the breeding season’s over. In the meantime, you’ll need to make changes to your parrot’s environment to help it cope. Here’s what to do with a hormonal parrot:
When your parrot experiences hormone surges, limit petting to a minimum. Wherever possible, avoid touching it altogether until its hormones subside.
However, if you want to give your parrot some attention, pet it anywhere except the neck, head, and skin around the feet and beak. These areas are likely to sexually stimulate your bird, causing significant behavioral problems and causing it to imprint on you.
Alter Your Parrot’s Diet
A hormonal parrot’s diet needs altering to prevent excessive hormones. Therefore, limit foods high in calories and fat, as they can stimulate your parrot’s hormone production.
To be on the safe side, restrict fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to only a couple of times a week and stick to your parrot’s everyday pellets. Specific foods to avoid include:
- Sweet potatoes
Limit Light Exposure
Light exposure can alter a parrot’s hormonal profile – especially if you have a parakeet or conure. Too much light signals that spring’s arrived, telling them it’s time to breed. As a result, you need to decrease the amount of light your parrot gets throughout the day to 8-10 hours. This should help stabilize its hormone levels.
At night, cover your parrot’s cage with a sheet or blanket to make it as dark as possible. Be careful of artificial light, too. Bright lights can also affect your parrot’s hormonal profile.
Rearrange Perches and Toys
As mentioned, hormonal parrots will start to exhibit nesting behavior to get their environment ready for breeding. If you allow this to continue, your parrot’s hormones will become stimulated. Remove things like blankets and boxes from your parrot’s cage and reset the territory by rearranging the perches and toys.
You may also want to consider moving your parrot’s cage once or twice a week to discourage hormone simulation. You’ll only need to do this until the hormone surges subside.
No Shedding Materials
You’ll need to make sure there’s nothing in your cage your parrot can tear and shed. If there is, a broody parrot will attempt to make a nest. Avoid putting paper, cardboard, and other easy-to-tear materials in your parrot’s cage until the breeding season’s over.
Cool the Temperature
Like excessive light levels, too much warmth will trick your parrot into believing it’s Spring and, therefore, the breeding season. For that reason, make sure the room’s not too warm – but don’t allow it to get too cold, either. A consistent, warm temperature will keep hormones stable.
Distract Your Parrot
Exercise is one of the best ways to keep your parrot healthy during the breeding season. Help your parrot release pent-up sexual energy by distracting it with toys and games, being careful not to touch it in any of its sensitive areas.
While this is a good idea, be careful not to give your parrot anything it can shed and tear. This is also the perfect time to teach your parrot new tricks. Doing so enables your parrot to focus its energies on something rewarding. Parrots also enjoy burning their energy by chewing bird-safe twigs, wood chunks, and newspapers.
Hormone therapy for parrots is available, but it’s only really used in extreme circumstances when parrots lay eggs aggressively and can’t stop.
According to Niles Animal Hospital, avian vets administer a testosterone injection to negate the effects of the female hormone and cease egg-laying. It can also calm sexually aggressive females. However, it shouldn’t be given to males because it would raise their testosterone levels too much. Other forms of therapy include:
- Medroxyprogesterone (Depo Provera), which stops egg-laying activity. However, there are dangerous side effects, such as lethargy and increased weight gain.
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (hcG, Pregnyl), which can hold off egg-laying for several months. However, its effectiveness diminishes over time.
- Leuprolide acetate (Lupron), which safely prevents egg-laying in budgies and cockatiels.
- Salpingectomy (“hysterectomy”) is a last-resort solution where a portion of the oviduct is removed. However, parrots still display sexual behavior afterward.
These are extreme measures for serious issues and aren’t a quick fix for parrots with natural breeding hormones.
Dealing with a hormonal parrot isn’t easy. You’ll experience mood and behavioral changes that can be difficult to deal with. This is a large part of parrot ownership, so make sure you understand what the breeding season entails.