I got this question sent in from Reza and Bita Azimi, about how to get their Sun Conure to stop chewing up their shirts, and thought it would apply to enough people to post it here:
We have 6 parrots. 5 cockatiels (they are one family-parents and 3 kids), and 1 sun conure. It is understandable that our conure is a little lonely and maybe feels left out of that family. He literally glues himself onto us. We have no problem with that. However, lately (since 2 months ago) he has started a habit of chewing on all of our clothes. He is about 3 1/2 to 4 years old and we don’t think he is too bored. He gets tons of attention from us (he demands it!) and he has toys in and on his cage and he has lots of treats and music and TV, etc etc.
All of our birds have grown their wing feathers and freely fly around the house. That is why our conure is able to reach us and never leave our shirts. If we try to be without our tops, he will just slide down to the pants!!!
He will not play with any other “toys” that we provide for him away from his cage…. not interested.
We love to have him join us on our shoulders/fingers during our daily activities at home, but how can we stop him from his destructive chewing habit? We almost have no shirts left and will have to start buying monthly supplies of house shirts.
P.s. We are thinking of adopting him a female sun conure companion (which he may or may not get along with), but that is not going to be very soon.
Any input will be greatly appreciated. Or if you can show us a link on your website, we will appreciate that as well.
Reza and Bita Azimi
First off, way to go on not clipping your bird’s wings. It gives them such a great outlet for all their extra pent up energy, and makes them so much easier to live with. I’ve noticed that after letting my birds do some flying around the house (the ones who can) they are so much more mellow once they get that energy burst out of their system.
But as for your question about chewing, I have two suggestions.
Suggestion #1) Force your bird to eat out of Food Finding Toys
We talk a LOT about Food Finding Toys in our Total Parrot Transformation Seminar DVD series, because it gives you a way to get your bird, even a bird who doesn’t play with toys, to get his God given “Foraging Fix” out of his system.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but one thing I’ve noticed with my birds after all these years is that they seem to live out every day in two mental states. They are either actively exploring or eating, or they are resting ie. roosting. And they tend to go into their resting states ONLY after they’ve had their flying, foraging and exploring fix for the day.
In the wild they tend to spend 6-8 hours a day looking for food, and the rest of the time just sitting there.
So when you ask me about how to fix your Sun Conure’s shirt chewing habit, the first thing that comes to mind is that he wouldn’t be eating your shirt if he’d already had his Foraging Fix.
Luckily, even though you say your bird doesn’t like to play with toys, Food Finding toys are a way to MAKE your bird play with toys WHILE giving him his “Foraging Fix”.
Here’s a post I did a while back on how you can use our Food Finding toys to do this with your own bird, it’s called: Taking A Knife To Your Bird Toys
Suggestion #2) If suggestion one doesn’t completely eliminate your birds shirt chewing habit, you should resort to my next favorite training technique: Giving Permission To Misbehave.
Giving your bird permission to misbehave is a training principle where we know the bird is going to do something we don’t want him to do, but instead of trying to stop him, we change his environment so that it doesn’t bother us to have him misbehaving.
In the case with shirt chewing, what I’ve done most recently, when raising two blue and gold macaws for a client of mine was to wear a devise that I could throw over my head that covered my shoulders (for pooping), and that also had little clips that I could hang toys off of.
Quickly throwing this little shawl over my head when I was with my blue and gold macaws, and hanging little bells and trinkets on it, gave the birds something to chew on for a good 30 minutes instead of me. (baby macaws love earlobes, and moles on my neck This worked perfectly for these baby blue and gold’s because they were still being hand fed and Foraging, or Food Finding toys were out of the option. So the only way I could satisfy their Foraging Fix was with this strategy. Plus, after just 20-30 minutes of letting them chew on the toys, they got their fix and would sit calmly for hours… it worked perfectly.
If you’d like more suggestions about how to use this Giving Permission To Misbehave Concept in other areas of your bird’s life, you should check out our Seminar DVD Series.
Hope this helps stop your Conure’s shirt chewing!