Attacking my face
(New Hampshire, USA)
Hi, I'm in a pickle. My conure has been attacking me - and only me - since I got home from a 2 year trip abroad. My parents and I have a Black-capped conure that is 11 years old. Not sure if he's a boy or girl, but we named him Chico and have been referring to him as "him" ever since.
We got him practically out of the egg and he's been a great pet in all of that time: learned to poop on command, step up, take food with his foot. He has mixed seeds and fresh fruit or veggies everyday as well as a bit of egg for protein (recommended by the breeder who cared for him in the first few weeks of his life and any time we went on a trip).
I've been living abroad, as I said, and I was always the one in the family who would help Chico with the new feathers coming in around his cheeks and head... during molting season he would get really prickly and allow me to put him on his back and help him prune the really long waxy feathers while he scratched his face and chin with his foot. We had a great mutual relationship before I left.
Since I've come back and am again living with my parents, it seems like his has become obsessed with me. When he comes out of the cage, he won't stay with my Mum or Dad if I'm in the room. Yet, he gets very aggressive when I approach him while he's in the cage. He'll sit on my finger with his back against my nose and mouth or cheek or chest for a little while, or sit there and prune himself for a short time. If I pet his back he hunkers down and makes these tiny squeaking noises and ruffles his feathers and shakes a little... I think it's a hormonal/sexual thing... not sure.
Once he's had enough of that, he goes for my shoulder and my head to sit there... I've been trying to prevent him from doing so after reading other posts. Once on my chest/shoulder he will not step up on any hand and attacks whoever tries to get him to step up from there. This is unusual behavior for him.
So I thought I could just leave him out with me for a longer period of time thinking he missed me and just didn't want me to leave again. THEN... after he's been on me in some form (hand, shoulder, head, lap on the couch, top of my knee if I'm sitting, etc.) for an hour or so, he begins to go crazy. He 'eyes' my face (extended neck, puffed cheeks, looking with one eye and then the other in a very slow bobbing motion) -
I've learned enough from watching his body language over the past 10 years to know this is his "attack" mode. From this point, he will either attack my face or my hands (or under my chin if he's on my chest). And I mean attack... like he wants to kill - blood is a guarantee every time. He also gets this way when I go to put him back in his cage.
I've done my best to just keep calm and say "No" in a stern but low voice and take the beating... my hands are so battle scared that they look diseased. He started pulling out his chest feathers just before I got home - my parents had been away on vacation for 2 weeks prior and a woman came in every day to feed him and spend some time with him.
I'm writing today because he brought me to tears this morning. He was out of the cage when I woke up, and I came downstairs to be flown at and get a new hole put in my neck!
I love him so much but I don't know what to do about this. I'm nervous about taking him out of the cage because I can't get him back in without being brutalized. So, while my folks are out working, I spend time with him near the cage, but I don't take him out until they get home. I've tried wrapping my hands in my sweater to alleviate the pain and damage to my hands, but he won't go into his cage off my sleeve... he'll just climb up my arm until he's on top of the cage. Then he'll get himself under a bar up there so there's no way we can get him.
I know he hates going in his cage and I'd be happy to have him out all day long if he didn't attack me. I also have a good feeling that he's stressed out because I've been gone so long. I'm willing to work with him. I just really don't know what to do. Any advice or help would be wonderful.
My next step is the vet. OH, and we don't clip his wings because he was a much more entertaining, fun, and happy bird after we stopped doing it around age 5. We may need to do that, too.
Thanks in advance for your advice. Sincerely, Jess