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When your parrot doesn't like you

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I'm having some troubles with Alfie in that he doesn't seem to tolerate me any more... let alone like me. Alfie has been with me for his whole life- since he was 11 weeks old. I have always been his primary caregiver. He is going to be 17 years old this year.

I'll be the first person to admit I haven't always been the best owner I could be over the years. I got Alfie when I was 17 years old and thought I had life all figured out (as you do at that age). Well, life happened and I wasn't always as present as I should be for Alfie and he didn't get all the attention he deserved. Since joining these forums I have been trying to correct that and Alfie get a lot more attention and time out of his cage than he probably ever has these days. The problem is... he doesn't seem to like me anymore.

Now I'm well aware that greys will have their 'favourite' person and that this can shift and change. I've got no problem with that. At the moment his favourite person is my housemate, who has very little to do with him but is able to give him the odd head scratch and treat. This is fine and I have no problem with that. I like that they have become friends over the years as my housemate never used to like Aflie (or the noise he made).

Last year there was a bit of upheaval as I was redecorating the rest of the house so the cats had to live in the same space as Alfie for a few weeks, which meant he has less out of cage time. There was a lot of noise and people coming and going because I was having flooring fitted and family came round to help decorate the other rooms. Alfie's room/space hasn't been changed- other than having to live with the cats for a few weeks. I also had a biiig hair cut and now have shorter hair. He took a dislike to me after all that and would fly to the back of my head and bite it a few times. We got past that but it's never been the same between us. He stopped letting me scratch his head- either through the bars or when he was out of his cage. He stopped putting his head down for scratches and it got less and less as time went on. I can't just walk up to Alfie and start scratching his head as that is a sure fire way of getting bitten- you have to wait for him to offer his head/neck to you. He doesn't do that at all anymore- even when it's time for him to go to sleep. I can't remember the last time he asked for scritches from me. He will ask my housemate, but never me.

When he is out of his cage he comes out and pretty much does his own thing. He plays with his toys and throws things around and flies to whatever perch/surface takes his fancy. He no longer wishes to fly to me, either of his own accord or when asked.

I know I shouldn't apply human emotions to his behaviours but I'm feeling pretty run down from work and being a bit poorly over the last few weeks so I keep finding myself getting quite emotional about this. I'm trying to remain cheerful in front of Alfie but it's now progressed to the point where I can't even give him a treat. I always try and reward him with a tasty treat like  a walnut or banana chip when he goes into his cage nicely... but now he sees this as an opportunity to lunge at my hand rather than take the treat. Now I'm finding that I'm really nervous around him (I know, I know, he'll pick up on that!!) and I'm really wary of him lunging at me or trying to bite me.

Is there anything I can do to try and repair this relationship or do I just have to deal with whatever comes my way? I can stand right next to his cage and chat to him and he doesn't show signs of anger/aggression. When I get him to go back to his cage I'm asking him to step up on to a perch rather than my hand- usually because I can't reach where he is but also because I'm too nervous to offer my hand/arm. When he comes out he just climbs out of his own accord- if I offer an arm he ignores me and won't move until I get out of his way so he can climb out himself.

I don't care if I'm not his favourite person but something has definitely shifted over the last year and I worry about how nervous I am around him now. I don't know how to try and shift things back to how they were before... I wasn't the favourite but I was able to give him scritches and interact with him more without worrying about him lunging at me.

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Sounds like you're pretty clear about the trigger - the hair cut.   Did you ever let it grow back out?

I'm not sure if Greys can be as shallow as men (me) but I've told my wife since day 1: if she ever cuts her hair or colors it, I'm out.   My wife has beautiful long bronze hair and if she were to do something to it, I'd be cantankerous too.  Not sure if Greys are capable of this type of nonsense or not.

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I think greys are capable of a lot of "nonsense." I don't think it's an exaggeration to say many of them are more than a bit neurotic. You have zeroed in on changes in the past year, which is a trigger for behavior changes (in my experience anyway). I don't have any answers, but I can understand how upsetting it is to do everything you can and be rewarded by biting and bad behavior. It's a blessing that your housemate has a relationship with Alfie. They do seem to switch allegiances over the course of time.

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I assume it was a combo of all the upheaval of redecorating as well as the haircut, as they all happened within the same few weeks. 

My hair is super thick, super curly and totally unmanageable. 🤣 I have it short so I can deal with it easier and so I don't have to stress about it. I'd rather not grow it back out if I can avoid it because its so much hassle to keep it long. I had it cut short previously a few years back (similar length but a straightened style instead of curly) and didn't have these issues with him then. So I'm surprised if this is the only trigger. I just wonder if it was too much change/upheaval all at once? Either way, it all happened about a year ago and he did settle back down for a while before he started getting more distant.

Coincidentally, 'BirdTricks' are doing a UK tour this year in July so I have signed myself and Alfie up to one of their masterclasses as they are travelling relatively close to where I live. I'm hoping they will be able to help out and give me some advice on how to repair and rebuild my relationship with Alfie. That's happening in July (all being well). In the meantime I guess I need to try and find a way to be less nervous around Alfie and hope he starts to tolerate me a bit more...!

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In good news- Alfie flew to me (by choice) this evening and perched on my knee for a few seconds. He was still in 'adventure mode' though so didn't stop long, wandered off down my leg and on to the sofa before flying back to his shelves.

But hey, I'll take it... after being mostly ignored (or lunged at!)

Please excuse my whining post. I was feeling particularly run down and exhausted yesterday so everything seemed a lot worse than it perhaps is. I know I just need to be patient and ride it out. I can also recite the type of response I would be giving someone else if they had posted a similar story! I just want a happy and healthy bird. If he hates me, so be it... so long as he's happy and healthy whilst hating me! 😂

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Don't feel bad about venting. It's hard not to be upset when you spend so much time trying to make things as good as you can for one who seems totally unappreciative and even hostile. I've felt that way several times myself! That's what we are here for, to share the joys and perils of fids.

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Just be glad he is not trying to make a neoow burger out of your fingers and hands....LOL

Always remember, it could be worse, I'm starting to think after 8 years with Sukei, relationships have their ups and downs.

There not like dogs and cats, did you know that parrots have a completely different chromosome structure then dogs and cats, and humans for that matter.

They are unique in and of themselves.

I think maybe its the fact they were never meant to be domesticated, they are free spirits that get fed up with our BS from time to time.

 

Truth is, I wouldn't have taken Sukei on were it not for his imminent death.

No I rather think they are much more suited to being in the wild, we just try to bend them to what we want, and sometimes they wont be bended. Not without a fight any ways :)

In my case, you let them die, or try to give them a life......

 

I dunno, that is a question that will be debated for a long time.

 

Relationships are strange, I have 4 kids in my family including me, and as children, we always had a bet, who would get married first.

I came in 1st 3rd and 5th LOL, I'm no saint and don't pretend to be.

 

These poor guys dont get a choice, free will is out the door.

So I imagine sometimes, they act out with the only free will they can.

I imagine he loves you, I would not  take it personally.

 

Next week, he may decide that you are better then the invention of sliced cheese :)

Its the commitment we make, and they loose sight of it, or don't understand it.

 

You will be ok I promise, all things pass.

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Your parrot is different -- he's sexually mature and he has changed over the years as you have.

I do think parrot-human relationships have their ups and downs.  I consider this just a less favourable season right now for you guys.  And seasons change (sometimes slower than we want).

You have my full empathy - it's sad to be have to be so wary and careful with a parrot -- esp when things used to be calmer/safer.  :(

Hoping better days to come!!!

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Thanks for all the wise words. I'm just letting Alfie come and go as he pleases at the moment. He seems quite happy as he's being quite vocal and he gets lots of exercise when he's out of the cage because he keeps flying round the room. He's fascinated by the 'new' cat tree (we got it in December) so keeps flying towards it but circling back... he'll do this several times in the evenings. He used to spend a fair bit of time on the old one and I think he's keen to do the same with this new one but has only actually landed on it once. He has his two shelves which are full of toys and paper/card to shred. I got him a new foraging toy and hung that near his shelves so he often grabs himself a walnut or banana chip from that.

He's still good at getting in his cage to go to sleep - I have to use a perch to fetch him from his shelf (I'm a little too short to reach the higher shelf!) but he often steps up with no problem and climbs into his cage without issue. I give him lots of praise but have held off offering a treat in case he lunges at me. I want to ensure I am able to offer treats with confidence. I think if I approach whilst feeling nervous he will pick up on that and it's more likely to result in a lunge.

I also (finally) got him a UVA/UVB light this week which he seems to enjoy sitting under. I don't think that will necessarily make a difference in terms of behaviour, but hopefully it will help beat the winter blues. (It's always very dull, grey and miserable here during winter)

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Alfie is blessed with an caring loving owner!  I'm not worried -- you've got this!  :)

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