Over the years during which I have kept a large flock of birds in my home, I have been surprised by how few times I have seen behaviors that stem from hormonal excess. I attribute this almost entirely to the whole foods diet that I feed. I believe that the excess nutrients, and particularly proteins, commonly found in pellet diets, contribute to the frequency of excess hormonal behaviors we see in companion parrots.

My favorite "treatment" for excess hormonal behaviors is to place the bird on an austerity diet for two weeks. The austerity diet consists of no more than three seeds or grains which the bird's owner can choose. I often use a single seed or grain, but up to three can be chosen. I prefer to use spray millet  in most cases, because millet is less fattening than other popular seeds like sunflowers or safflowers. If the bird is low in weight, sunflowers and safflowers would make a good choice. Usually I use the austerity seeds in dry form, but in certain cases soaked seeds and grains (buckwheat, quinoa, whole oats, etc.) might make a better choice.

The austerity diet can be used for two to four weeks. I usually start with two weeks, monitoring the bird throughout the period to ensure that weight is maintained and there are no episodes of fatigue or feather-puffing. After about two weeks, I often notice the start of a molt cycle, and this is an indication that the hormonal cycle has broken. Birds often begin to molt once their hormone period closes: they cannot do both.

As mentioned above, I feel that birds on a balanced diet will not be likely to experience hormonal imbalances, so once the hormonal excess is curbed, it is a good idea to examine the overall diet. In general, excess nutrients (proteins in particular) encourage the production of breeding hormones, whereas the reduction of nutrition is likely to trigger a hormonal shutdown (and often a subsequent molt).

Lainey Alexander

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, or by any veterinarian. All information, including any product or technique mentioned, is for educational purposes only. None of the information is intended to diagnose or treat any disease.