Rehomes – The Way to Go

Many people often ask the question:

Should we go with a baby bird, or look for an older bird who needs a new home?

Hubby and I have done both; each experience was fulfilling in its own way. The biggest benefit to a baby bird is that it allows you to learn to handle your parrot without fear early-on; but they grow up, they often change, and young birds are incredibly vulnerable to illness.

As far as older, rehomed birds go: there is nothing so touching as bonding with an older parrot. I have never met a more grateful creature in my life than a rehomed parrot.

sophie
This is Sophie, a goffin’s cockatoo with a plucking problem. She’s looking for her forever home in the Denver Area at Busy Beaks Bird Shop.

It may take patience, it may take some very deep understanding, and for some, it might just take lots of time. But winning the trust of a parrot neglected or formerly abused is one of the most rewarding things I’ve experienced in my twenty-seven years of pet ownership.

Sure, they have a funny way of showing their gratitude–tearing up all the cardboard and wood we provide (and some that we don’t), singing, dancing, screaming their hearts out when I’m trying to work, making giant messes, destroying a student’s homework for funsies, chasing my feet around and trying to kiss my ankles while I cook dinner…

There is an element to a rehomed parrot that just doesn’t exist when you raise him or her from a baby. It is absolutely beautiful and indescribable.

Even Louie, who clearly hasn’t been neglected a day in his life, also has that extra element of thankfulness and joy that many home-raised babies I’ve met and/or raised do not: he is deeply, deeply attached to us now, not because he thinks we’re his parents, but because we have been excellent flock-mates. =) We have earned his trust.

I’m sure that people who adopt shelter dogs and cats experience this as well, but there’s something extra special about forming a bond with so long-lived a creature.

That trust can be hard-won, but once you have it, it’s incredible.

harry
This is Harry. He’s a little shy, and also looking for his new home in Denver!

Now, I’m not suggesting you go out and take home a bird that clearly hates you (or is even indifferent about you.)

Before we adopted Louie, I visited:

-a goffin’s cockatoo who liked me just fine, but just wasn’t all that into me. I could just tell.

-an amazon I wasn’t comfortable handling, though he seemed to like me. A lot.

-another smaller amazon who bit the dickens out of me (with virtually no warning)–no way we were taking her home!

Finding the right ‘fit’ is essential; you have to know what you’re comfortable with, what your triggers are, examine your own experience.

And you may walk into a bird store one day, and a bird may fall in love with you. They may dance when they see you–they might let you pet them when no one else can touch them. They might sing you a lovely little song.

Louie met Fletcher and I and immediately began kissing us on the cheeks, over and over. His former owners were blown away–he NEVER does that. Now that we’ve had him for over a year, I can vouch for that!

If you’re struggling to decide what to do, my advice:

Pick the parrot that picks you.

It is beyond worth it.

If you’re really struggling with the idea–baby or adult?–I implore you:

Look for that right fit: Give a re-homed bird a chance. 

It may be the best thing you ever do.

An open letter to my new parrot.

Dear New Parrot,

Wow, this must be a scary transition, huh? Everything you have ever known has totally shifted; baby or adult, this is a new chapter in your life, so I suspect you must be feeling really uneasy. You probably miss your person, no matter how poorly that person treated you–you probably don’t know if we’ll provide for your needs, if you’ll ever taste your favorite foods again, or if we’re even nice. 

So here are a few promises to you:

  1. I solemnly swear to respect your body language so that you’ll trust me when it’s really important; if you back away, I’ll let you leave. If you tell me to back off with that big beak, I will. I want to earn your trust so you don’t feel the need to bite to communicate.
  2. You will have tasty, fresh food every day. Fruits, veggies, noodles and beans–whatever is bird friendly is yours. Food is one of my favorite parts of life; where is the fun in eating nothing but dried pellets every day? If I’m eating something that you can taste, I promise to offer you some, too.
  3. I won’t show my anger when you destroy some part of my furniture. I know you don’t mean to–it’s my responsibility to make sure you have plenty of interesting things to chew on so that you have a better outlet. I’m prepared–I know there will be some splinters. It’s okay. You’re worth it.
  4. I will not mind the mess you make; my husband puts up with me (and I’m messier than you, dear parrot!), so I’ll bite the bullet and clean up after you, too, as long as you keep me company while I do so. =)
  5. I will not react (and I will forgive you) when that inevitable bite happens. I’ll try my hardest not to provoke it, but I know that it’s coming–it’ll be okay. No one ever died from a bird bite, although there is apparently now a medical code for someone who has been bitten by a macaw parrot–not an amazon, but a macaw. Go figure.

These are just a few preliminary promises; here is to many happy years together!

Step Up Training, Day Two: Venturing Out of the Cage

Well, it’s day two here at Birdy.Blog.

Things are going pretty well! The only way they could be better is if we had a repeat of Louie, who came up, snuggled right up to us, and immediately commenced settling in quite happily.

Vi (as we are now calling her) seems pretty happy, like she relishes being able to choose to come out of her cage; she definitely wants our company and will call for us when we leave the room. I’m a bit concerned she’s not eating as much as she could be, but that will likely come with time.

Today, we opened her cage while we putzed around the basement, and within minutes, she’d came right out! She’s currently sitting contentedly atop her cage; she even deigned to take a chip from me, and an almond, which she can’t quite seem to break open yet. She’s working on it, though!

Ambient Attention: Being AROUND your bird, but not directly interacting with her.

She climbs around inside her cage a fair amount; based on her size, I was worried she’d be a perch potato, but she’s fairly active. She might actually put our boing to good use! (Louie is too clumsy to use it, unfortunately.)

Only hiccup came when Hubby went to put paper down around her cage; that freaked her out a fair amount, but she’s recovered nicely from that minor set-back.

Now… what to do about her going back into the cage? Decisions, decisions.

Remember: Make every experience a positive one. If you leave food and water in her cage only, she will crawl back in on her own.

Step Up Training, Day One: Waddles has arrived!

…And I want to rename her “Viola”, even though she knows her name and a chorus of “Hi Louie!” and “Hi Waddles!” is echoing back and forth between my main floor and my basement.

Meet Waddles!
First day in a new home.

We met Samantha (the grey) as well, but the other woman decided to brave her fears and take her home. It’s a coin toss over whether or not the grey will become ours or not at some point, but for now, we have Waddles. =)

She seems like a pretty good girl! She was nervous and understandably didn’t want to come out of her travel cage initially, but after giving her some time while her mom set up a few toys in her cage, she eventually stepped up for her. Once she did, though, she happily accepted scritches and let her Mom pet her; the woman wasn’t even watching her, just petting her like you would a dog or a cat, so I suspect that for the right person, Waddles might be extremely docile.

This suspicion surprises me a bit–why not let a bird out every day to spend time with you if she is that mellow? I will never understand that.

We encouraged them to let us know if there were any triggers for her where she displayed more aggressive behavior, but according to them, there are none. We assured them that we wouldn’t mind, we just want to know if there are, but again, nada.

We’ll see about that.

According to her former owner, when she won’t step up the first time on an open hand, she’ll willing step up for a hand covered in a soft peach cloth, which we have; I plan to use this incredibly sparingly, as trust is key to living with an older, re-homed parrot. She used that to put her in her cage when she didn’t want to hop off the top of the stand. It’s good that it’s an option, but still. I hope I won’t have to use that tactic for any reason.

So now, here I sit, blogging away as she looks around her new temporary home, our basement.

She is in desperate need of new toys. We’ll see how this goes…

The Pampered Flock is going to get a little larger and a little less pampered.

Hubby says this episode of our bird-owning lives is like the plot twist in a reality television show–something deliberately messed up to keep the viewer interested.

Hurray?

So. Hubby is a teacher who knows a teacher who has a friend who knows a friend who has decided that she would rather put down her twenty-year-old African Grey and Amazon parrots rather than worry about either one “going to a bad home.”

Sure–let’s not call the local parrot rescue which SPECIALIZES in finding wonderful homes for challenging parrots. Better kill ’em. Only option.

I hate people. Which, coincidentally, is why I have parrots.

Anyway, we have a neighbor nearby who will take the Grey, and we’ve offered to take in the Amazon, a double-yellow headed girl.

viola

Her species is also known as one of the “hot three” of the Amazon world, the ones who are the most unpredictable, the most excitable–in other words, the ones most likely to bite.

Amazons (in general) hate me.

The last one I encountered bit my finger so hard that my nail split in half and then fell off.

Having four birds from a variety of different backgrounds has taught me about quarantining new birds, positive reinforcement, slowly introducing new foods, and the general basics.

But we’ve never taken in a rehome who has been super abused, and I have no idea what I’m doing.

Websites along the inter-highway say things like, “Go slow! Sit by the cage; target training eventually!” And I get that in this big, abstract sort of way, but I kind of need like a daily step-by-step breakdown of what to do and what not to do.

Day 1: Take bird home. Give her a few hours to get acclimated. Go and sit next to her; do something quietly where she can observe you without feeling threatened. Make no demands. Play some soft music.

Days 2-Infinity, I have no idea what I’m doing.

We don’t know what we’ll do for the long run–guess it depends on whether we are the right fit for her or not, though five parrots is quite the house-full, especially in a home as small as ours.

Worst-case scenario, we’ll contact MDPR, then foster her until they find her a wonderful home. Best-case scenario, she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to us. Like Louie and Qtip… and Ozone on his good days. xD

Coin toss. Take your bets–this is going to be a bumpy ride!

Flock Mentality – The Pull of other Parrots & Whistle Training

I now understand why Karen (the former owner of the bird shop where I volunteer) told me to keep my budgies in separate cages where they can’t hear each other.

Flock Mentality: It’s A Thing.

Qtip (our cockatiel) came to us knowing the “Imperial March” and “Zippity Doo Da”. Sure, he’d get stuck on the four march notes like a scratched record we couldn’t quite shut off, and he definitely only really liked the high part of Doo Da and would repeat it infinitely, but hey. It was cute.

Unfortunately, the call of the budgies was too strong. In spite of whistling both  tunes to him every single day we’ve had him, this is all that remains:

Maybe he’s an improv artist…?

Before he came to us, Qtip lived for a time with a lovebird (not necessarily a good pairing, for those of you wondering–love birds are frequently mean to birds of other species), so he adores other birds.

Thus, simply being surrounded by two other budgies (that he can hear) has worked as a memory charm for Qtip, and he has forgotten his tunes.

I know why the caged bird sings, and it’s often because he’s lonely.

Many birds mimic the songs and sounds of humans for one of two reasons: 1. They imprinted on humans and thus think they are one (like in Louie’s case), or 2. They are lonely for the company of ANY other creature (in lieu of another bird) and pick up songs to attempt to communicate.

Hence, the minute Qtip heard other birds singing and chattering, the Obliviate curse was cast, and the more he forgot.

Training your Parrot to Whistle in a Multiple-Bird Household: Isolate them.

Now, this isn’t true of all birds, but if you’re absolutely bent on having a young bird imitate you (and you have more than one), you definitely want to keep them both in separate cages, and where they can’t hear each other during the day.

They can come out for playdates together, but it’s important to spend one-on-one time with each bird and keep them where they can’t hear each other–limit the pull of other parrots.

Personally, we’d rather have Qtip around his friends, so we’re okay with him forgetting what he once knew.

It starts with one…

Collecting birds is kind of like eating chips. One simply isn’t enough. Nor is two… or three… or five.

signaturestartfivebirds

Five? Five is enough, unless you want to dedicate your entire life to maintenance and clean-up. Which I don’t. Only most of my day. 😉

Ours started with a budgie. Meet Roosevelt Polk Kennedy: the lead domino in a series of (mostly) fortunate events:

Roosevelt Polk Kennedy
Never name a budgie until they’re a year or so old; otherwise, you’re probably wrong. xD

My then-fiance/now-husband sneezed up a storm when exposed to fur of any kind. He wasn’t a “pet person”, but I was, and our house was just a little too quiet.

And I was getting tired of loving on my electronic “Petz!” dog, especially after I let that pretty much ruin my marriage proposal (sort of). But that’s a story for another day.

One accidental trip by a Bird Store followed by the discovery that he isn’t even mildly allergic to a feathery flock, and I put my foot down: we were getting a bird.

And now we have five. Oh my.

It’s never an instantaneous process, and we have definitely made some mistakes. Big ones–but we’re still learning, and our mistakes will be our guide. This blog will cover a variety of avian subjects, such as “Why is owning a cockatoo really hard?” and “Okay, so you successfully hand-fed a baby bird–that was a bad idea, wasn’t it?”