Dealing with a Growing Conure: The Terrible Twos

by Alexandra J

Most new conure owners do not consider that, as their conure grows, he or she will undergo a number of developmental changes. These changes are primarily physical, mental, and...hormonal. The physical changes include, but are not limited to, moderate color variations, body growth, beak growth and appetite changes. These are relatively simple to deal with. The mental and hormonal changes are quite a different story.

As a conure, or any parrot, for that matter, matures you will most likely be faced with a period of "terrible twos." Not unlike the human event...these can be trying times. As your conure matures and begins to reach maturity (OK, hard to believe that a conure can be mature...but you know what I mean) you might begin to observe strange behaviors that you did not see in the adorable baby that you brought home. Biting, excessive defensive tendencies and territoriality can be troubling to an owner if they are not dealt with immediately. It is helpful to know the sex of your bird - behaviors can vary between male and female birds and being able to avoid situations that might trigger adverse behavior is far easier if you know what you are dealing with. I have used Avian Biotics ( for DNA testing. They can test from a blood sample - I only recommend this method if you are VERY experienced with taking avian blood samples OR they can test from feather samples. Both methods are extremely accurate and the feather testing can be done on 3-4 feathers plucked from the chest area. Testing kits are available at no cost by visiting their website and requesting either blood or feather sample kits.

Once you have determined the sex of your conure the real fun begins. I have been working with an extremely unruly male Jenday conure, Ducky, who has decided that anything on the floor that moves (vacuum cleaners, feet, my Quaker parrot) is an enemy and must be destroyed! Poor Daisy the Quaker has sacrificed many a tail feather to Ducky (a.k.a. Fluffzilla). My first attempt at controlling his biting was to offer him a chew toy whenever a situation would arise where he would normally begin an attack. After trying a variety of bird toys in many shapes and sizes he decided that a sock tied into a know was the only one he liked better than whatever he was attacking. Situation #1 somewhat solved.

Now that triggers for biting have been identified and solved to some extent we began working on his territory problems. His most overt display of territoriality and defensive behaviors would, to no ones surprise, happen during breakfast. He would clear all three of the cockatiels out of their flight cage and then guard a bowl and wait for their food rather than sitting in his own feeding area. This one was more easily solved - I placed a special feed dish on top of his cage and filled that one first while he watched from inside of his cage. Once he had acquired a "food target" he would head there first rather than sending the cockatiels into a fit. We have dubbed this behavior "big cookie syndrome" - if someone has a cookie, he has to have a BIGGER one.

Some of the less obvious defensive behaviors managed to slip by my notice until they began to get out of control. Ducky is VERY wary of new people and new birds that are his size or larger. He will march right up to someone that he perceives a s a threat (and that is not everyone) and take his best shot at getting a bite in. I get many strange looks from first time visitors when I had them a spray bottle. The spray bottle is a disciplinary tool that I avoided until I realized that the sound of it bothered Ducky more than the actual spray. Now a quick shake of the bottle is all it takes to stop him in his tracks. Ducky was a rescue (3 of my 5 are rescues) and I wonder if water bottles have a significance to him because of past abuse (he was rescued at 5 weeks after being VERY prematurely weaned and then left at a shelter when his new owners couldn’t get him to self feed!!!!!) In my opinion spray bottles should be used for bathing of birds rather than for discipline...however many birds respond very well to this method. I would recommend finding a sound that is unpleasant to the bird and working with that.

With some love and understanding you and your parrot can make it through the toddler years unscathed....remember that your relationship with your bird is supposed to be fun!!!