Step Up Progress: Lifting a Foot

Progress! Eeee!


…The reason I am so excited about this is because I didn’t think I was actually making any progress; she was comfortable leaning against my wrist to take a chip from me, but refused, refused to even try to move her foot closer to my wrist.

But today was the day of toast. She crawled alllll the way down her cage and was looking for a way to make it to the floor–apparently, she wants toast more than she wants chips.

On a hunch, I offered her my wrist, a tiny piece of toast, and voila, Viola! She lifted her foot to step up!

…Granted, she didn’t actually set it on my wrist, but hey, that’s HUGE step. Celebrate every little victory, right?

The other excellent news is that it will be MUCH easier to give Vi her medicines; when Louie got sick, we’d only had him a few months.

Giving Meds as a Positive Experience

We could either force him to hold still (which took two of us) twice a day to force-feed him something he hated, or we could saturate tiny pieces of bread with the medicine and feed it to him a little at a time.

The latter built trust (Louie LOVES bread–not exactly good for ekkies, but there are worse things we could do), made sure EVERY last drop of medicine made it into his system (don’t just leave it in a bowl), and was a nice little ritual we had every morning and evening.

To whomever came up with the mechanisms necessary to make tasty, tasty bread, I thank you–you’ve made my bird-owning life much easier!

Training Rescued Parrots: Setting Goals

Well, we’ve had Vi for a little over three and a half weeks now–things are going well.

Slow, but well.

Man oh man, unless your rehomed parrot is super well-socialized (which many aren’t–probably why she’s a rehome), this task is not for the impatient.

I’m following my mantra of “every experience a positive one” and it seems to be working, but as a woman who grew up in the world of instant gratification, it’s hard to wait for her to be ready to step up!

Thus, without further adieu, I detail my process!

Week One – Goal: Building the Beginnings of a Relationship – FOUNDATIONS

Since day one, she has consistently climbed out of her cage and hung out on top with her toys. Keep it positive–no chasing her back into her cage! Every day, we plan on spending at least an hour at a time sitting near her cage in the basement so she has the opportunity to go back into her cage on her own (and we tell her to “cage up!” when she does and praise her for being in her cage–hopefully this command will stick eventually We leave her food in there to encourage her to return home every now and then for a nibble so we don’t have to chase her back into the cage with a towel, something her former home did. If we’re in a rush, we’ll also put a pretzel, grape or two, or other favored treat in her food dish so that if she’s been out a bit, she’ll go right in!

So yeah, teaching her to trust us enough to step up looked (and still looks) a lot like sitting around our basement for hours on end while she makes decisions–I’ll coo at her, sing to her, etc. That first week, I offered her a variety of treats. On days one and two, she wouldn’t take them from my fingers and would only eat them out of her food bowl. By day three, she trusted me enough to take something from my fingertips!

Week Two – Goal: To Teach Her That We Will Respect Her Body Language

My goal this week was to continue to build that trusting relationship, but also one of showing her absolute respect; this was the week she would bend over, grab onto a bar, and shake all over while making these weird grumbly noises. After consulting my handy-dandy bird forums at Avian Avenue, it was determined she might want scritches. So, the next time she bent over, I came it low from the side where she could see–and she let me pet her! Woohoo!

The key to not being bitten before or during scritches is to pay careful attention to a parrot’s body language. The moment she starts to pull away, I slowly (don’t jerk!) remove my hand and coo to her. If she backs away when I approach, I freeze; if she changes her mind, she’ll lean back in. If she stays put, I’ll remove my hand. The goal this week was to continue to reinforce the idea that I will respect the signals she gives me, that she does not need to bite me to get her message across.

This is the first time I haven’t been bitten (EVER!) by a parrot. Fingers crossed that I can make it to one month! I’m learning!

Week Three – Goal: Figure Out Her Favorite Treat(s)

In addition to repeating everything mentioned above, this week was dedicated to finding Vi’s favorite treat… so that I could eventually deprive her of it so that she can only get it from me, and only if she does something for it.

Clearly, I’m a middle school teacher. xD

Vi is not particularly food-driven, so this was initially kind of a challenge–all the mentioned “favorite treats” made Vi happy-ish, but it wasn’t enough to entice her to even move from wherever she was perched.

Thus, I resorted to eating whatever next to her cage–it was thus that I discovered she ADORES Tostidos. Health food? No way. Key to her heart? Oh yeah. The only issue is that Louie also loves this food, but it’s made with corn and makes him wing-flap. Boo.

Moreover, this week taught me that my mantra is extremely important–every experience a positive one! It’s been pretty dry, so a few times I’ve approached a very affectionate Vi only to accidentally shock her with static electricity–she won’t let me touch her the rest of the evening when that happens.


Week Four – Goal: The Hokey-Pokey

You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out…

It’s been four days since I started “Operation Hokey-Pokey.” Now that I have a treat Vi REALLY wants (one she’ll enthusiastically move towards when offered) I have my positive reward for behavior I want!

On Saturday and Sunday, I started by just holding the chip in FRONT of my wrist so she could see that my hand was there; she’d hesitate, but she’d eventually take it if I spoke gently to her. If I moved it over my wrist so any part of her head had to move over my hand, no way would she take it, and she’d move backwards. Patience–I only had to commit fifteen minutes to this process. Any more, and I’d be pushing it.

She took three small chip fragments each day from me this way–again, the key here was don’t pursue her. Let her come to me.

It was SO HARD to not just give it to her these two days, but she has to work for it–otherwise, this process will take even longer.

Yesterday, I held it over my wrist, a little further behind so she had to reach over my wrist to take it–she took five chips this way, pausing less and less every time!

Now today we had progress–I held the chip JUST out of reach, wrist in front of her coveted treat. If she wanted it (and boy, did she want it!) she had to lean against my hand to take it. She took FIVE CHIP FRAGMENTS! WOOHOO! PROGRESS!

Here she is, trying to be closer to me tonight–this is the first time she’s been trusting enough to hang out close to the floor to be near me! Meanwhile, of course, Louie was running all over the floor… That fella, I tell you what… But I digress.

Tonight, I realize: Oh my gosh. I’ve spent twenty-five days with this little girl and all I’ve accomplished is her leaning for all of two seconds against my hand… but progress is progress!

Patience is a virtue, right?

By Sunday, I am hoping that she will be comfortable putting one foot on my wrist in order for her to reach her treat… and by the end of week five, I’m hoping she’ll feel comfortable enough to step up and sit on my hand for thirty seconds… and then longer and longer.

By and large, I feel like I’m learning and enacting an important life lesson right here–1. Set a goal. 2. Set tiny, measurable steps to work toward it so that 3. every day, you are closer than before, even if it’s only a foot or two in a marathon. And of course, celebrate every bit of progress!

Day Four: Free-Falling, but Forward!

Today, hubby came a little too fast down the stairs and startled the daylights out of Miss Vi–or, “Viola Valkyrie Waddlesworth”, as we’re now calling her.

Pretty sure her being dubbed with three names means we’re keeping her… But I digress.

Miss Vi went FLYING across the room (note to self: get wings clipped PRONTO), only to find herself trapped between our washer and dryer, wings spread wide and body twitching awkwardly.

This, it turns out, was a golden opportunity for trust building.

I, in my blind desperation to save her from a potentially harmful situation, forgot my fear of her beak, and she wanted nothing more than to be rescued–so without any fear on her part or mine, Viola stepped right on up; I spoke soothingly to her, walked her back to her cage, and returned her to her comfortable perch.

Our other fids seem perfectly content; Louie continues to obliviously court my foot, Ozone has discovered the bell on his stand, and the tiny ones have learned to tolerate each other–well, Winston really doesn’t have a choice.

All is well here at the Pampered Flock! =)

Early Step-Up Training: Let The Bird Come To You

Day Three – The Bird Calls the Kitty

Okay. How UNBELIEVABLY adorable is this?!

We have continued to let her come to us at her own pace; so far, we have left the cage door open and let her come out on her own. Tonight, we had a singing party (just the TWO of us!) and she had a grand old time; more of her vocabulary is coming out!

The best development of all–I took the advice of the parrot forums and, when she leaned over to bite the top of her cage and shook (like Louie does), I reached gently and slowly (where she could see) so I could pet her shoulders… AND SHE LET ME! Eeee! Over and over! HAPPINESS!

Pampered Flock’s Rules for New Parronts

Rule # 1 – If the new parrot backs away from your hand, let her! Show her you’ll pay attention to her body language.

Rule # 2 – If your new amazon parrot (no other species that I know of) grabs onto something with his/her beak and quivers, he/she might just want you to give scritches. Go from the side or underneath, and when he/she lets go or backs away, let them go. No pursuit. Build that trust! Help them WANT to be with/on/petted by you!

I can’t believe we’ve gone three days without being bitten; I guess we’re getting better at this parrot stuff after all!

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…

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.