What is the "Intensive Love" method of taming?

Once upon a time, two of my young Eclectus males staged a coup in an attempt to become rulers of the roost. They were great buddies and experts at getting into trouble. These mischievous young hooligans became feathered thugs who tried to bully their flockmates, both feathered and human, with the threat of biting. After having no luck with the usual methods of dealing with biting, I experimented with what later was described as "Intensive Love" sessions. I was quite surprised at how quickly they started to "love me too much to bite me". This method wins parrots over with love, rather than controlling them through fear.

I also use the method with birds that have never learned to enjoy being touched and stroked due to their fear of hands or close contact. Many birds are deprived for years of the pleasure of bodily contact with their human flockmates because they lunge at the owner out of fear, thereby making the owner fearful of being bitten. By gently covering the bird's head and body, the fear of biting is temporarily removed and the bird can then discover the pleasure of being petted. Work with your bird when he's most relaxed and receptive to interaction.

DIRECTIONS: If the bird will step up on your hand without biting, pick him up and bring him to a towel, baby blanket, or soft T-shirt on your chest. Fold the unused portion of the cover over the bird, covering him completely -- his head should also be covered so that he will not be able to bite you. If you cannot pick up the bird without being bitten, gently towel him and place him on your chest, completely covered. Once he's covered, stroke him gently through the cover and if he squirms, you can distract him by rocking your body back and forth or rocking in a chair. Singing or whispering softly to him is also reassuring. The first time that I tried this with one of the male Eclectus hooligans, he relaxed and actually started kissing loudly. Rather than continuing until he's exhausted, keep the session short and sweet. Several five-minute sessions daily are better than one ten or fifteen minute sessions because the bird will tire of it in that length of time, and you might too. Short sessions are just as effective and more enjoyable. It will be easier for both of you if the bird is first made comfortable with the cover that you use.

When a cover is used to remove the fear of biting, you will be able to show affection and once he realizes that you want to enter his personal space to show him affection rather than aggression, he will lose his fear and become comfortable enough to return your affection. The basic nature of the Eclectus is friendly and non-aggressive, and biting is nearly always a fear response. When they lunge at your approaching hand, it is usually an attempt to protect themselves. The Intensive Love method gives a fearful bird a chance to realize that there is nothing to fear from the owner. However, a bird with a phobic fear of being covered is not a candidate for this method! It will take longer to win them over but, steady trust building day by day will eventually achieve the same results.



MY THREE AND A HALF YEAR OLD MALE HAS RECENTLY STARTED TRYING TO MATE WITH ME, SCREAMING INCESSANTLY, AND BITING ME. WHAT CAN I DO?

If you are unable to contact a behaviorist in your area, I have a few suggestions for you. Although I am not a behaviorist. I have enjoyed my small flock of exclusively eclectus parrots for over ten years and therefore am somewhat familiar with their behavior.

DISTRACTION: The first suggestion is to try many forms of distraction for your hormonal male eclectus. These might include filling his cage with fresh clean and safe tree branches from which he can strip the bark and leaves. If he does not have ropes and swings already, provide him with those two toys which eclectus especially enjoy. Food toys such as millet sprays, shish-ka-bobs, and green foods threaded through the cage bars can help to occupy his time. Also, untreated pine wood pieces and small magazines such as TV Guides, minus the shiny pages, provide safe distractions from screaming and feather destruction.

I have had success in several cases of screaming by using the "ultimate distraction" of moving the bird's home. He has developed an unacceptable pattern of behavior in his familiar surroundings. If you move his cage to an entirely different area of the house, he may behave quite differently for long enough to break this pattern. You might have another family member take over much of his care for a short while, just long enough to break the pattern of screaming when he sees you. At his calmest time of day, you can begin brief visits with him again. Try to behave "differently" when you visit with him, in order to develop and define a new and different relationship. Try to project an image of yourself as"flock leader". Avoid doing anything that you know will trigger his sexual displays to you and his screaming.

If he is receiving any foods that contain extra vitamin E, wheat germ or wheat germ oil, you need to discontinue these to see if he is being over-stimulated by them. A small percentage of eclectus parrots also become hyperactive when given supplemental spirulina. This supplement is present even in the one brand of organic pellets. Also be sure that he is getting ten to twelve hours of sleep in a dark and undisturbed place.

Above all, do not give up on him. Many times, unacceptable behaviors are temporary and can be stopped by making a few changes. It is quite natural that you would feel disappointed and frustrated, but try to relate this genetically-programmed behavior to the inevitable trials and tribulations that we parents experience with teenagers. This difficult stage will not last forever. Try to keep your eye on the goal of successfully weathering the temporary hormonal storm and still being friends when all is calm again. Unconditional love and consistent guidance can see you through this trying time.



IS THERE A SOFT FOOD MIX RECIPE THAT ECLECTUS LIKE?

If you want to offer your birds a nutritious cooked food which they are guaranteed to love, read on! This food combination provides a complete protein--between the beans and the rice, all eight essential amino acids are present--and complex carbohydrates, all necessary to the health of our parrots.

If you've ever used any of the prepared soak & cook mixes like Crazy Corn, you know that it can be expensive but that your birds really enjoy it. If you make your own recipe, it can be tailored to the individual tastes of your birds. For instance, sweet potatoes are a wonderful food for Eclectus and they add color and a major boost in Vitamin A and other nutrients.

As Paula warned you, most of the ingredients expand to double or triple their original size after they are cooked, so keep in mind the number of stock pots or large cooking vessels that you have and the amount of freezer space available. If you have lots of birds and lots of freezer space, you may want to make a large amount as I do and then you won't need to make it again for weeks. If you have only one or two birds, you might want to start with one pound of whole dried corn or popcorn, one box of brown rice, one package of beans, and a couple sweet potatoes. When I make it for my little flock, I start with three to five pounds of popcorn, a large package of brown rice, several pounds of beans and four or five sweet potatoes. When you choose the beans, remember that Eclectus favor garbanzo beans (chick peas). My birds also like navy beans and lentils. Remember that the beans need to be cooked until completely done. My birds look forward to this warm "glop" every morning! Here is the recipe:

Soft Food Mix For Eclectus

Soak overnight half a large stock pot of dry shelled whole corn or popcorn. Bring to a boil and cook over low heat the next day for several hours, or until the corn is plumped and soft in the middle. Water will need to be added several times as it is absorbed by the corn, which more than doubles in volume.

Also, soak overnight your choice of dried beans. Eclectus seem to favor garbanzo beans (chick peas) and you can also use lentils, cranberry, pinto, lima, northern, chili, black beans or others. Cook the next morning for about an hour or until done, but before they turn to mush.

Cook one or two boxes of Uncle Ben's Original Brown Rice or a large bag of brown rice for approximately thirty minutes. For the last fifteen minutes of cooking time, add to the rice chunks of raw sweet potato. I dice the sweet potatoes large so that the pieces don't fall apart.

Optional foods to be cooked with the brown rice are raisins, currants, shelled sunflower seeds, shelled pumpkin seeds, wheat berries, barley, whole oats, pasta, or nuts. Cinnamon, cloves or ginger may be added for flavor.

Combine all ingredients in a large container, clean sink, or clean garbage bag. Mix and allow to cool. Seal in plastic freezer bags in daily portions, press flat for faster thawing, and freeze. To serve, thaw and bring to a boil. Allow to cool before feeding. For faster cooling, add frozen garden peas or individually frozen fruits, such as cranberries or blueberries, which act as mini-ice cubes. The heat from the mix will thaw the peas or fruits. Do not leave this mixture in the feeding dishes long enough to spoil.


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