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 AvianAvenue.com 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!

Multiple bird syndrome? Just wait.

They will find you. And there will be more than you know what to do with.

It’s pretty rare for a bird person to stick to one bird–sure, if you have a cockatiel who comes out to hang with you sometimes or a canary who sings to you, then maybe you’ll stick to one or two, but when parrot fever bites you, they’r
e like chips–you can’t have just one! …Or six…

Take today. The woman who agreed to take the Grey (friend of the Amazon we’ll be taking in tomorrow) has backed out, having no bird experience–so what are we going to do? Take the bird in, of course.

Heaven help us.

If you’re a bird owner and you quite suddenly develop parrot fever…

Just wait.

Our number will be up to six in one house, three of which will be large… oi vei. And just because I’m having fun with a meme generator:

“I live to irritate you!”

I imagine that Louie follows the aforementioned sentiment on a daily basis. As much as I adore the rascal, he drives me batty frequently… but then, I’m definitely feeding into those behaviors.

Observe:

Seriously, what a pain! He shows very little interest in toys, bags, crinkly objects, etc–unless I’m ignoring him while he’s out (you know, like when I’m staring at pesky grading?)

His obnoxious behaviors (like the one above) stem from the fact that they get my attention; kissy noises not working? Regurgitating for my toes producing no effect? Better chew on a bag or some books!

I have to wonder how many parrots are given up because their owners don’t realize that they are frequently the cause of a developing behavioral issue.

Today, I hereby resolve to give Louie the attention he so desires BEFORE he starts being bratty. =)

 

Gram scales are worth their weight in gold.

It’s no secret that birds hide their illnesses; by the time the standard bird owner notices that her bird is acting mildly sick, her feathered friend is often knocking on death’s door.

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Winston is a little on the skinny side for an English budgie; 45-55 is pretty typical for these stout fellows.

Typical avian illness symptoms include fluffed feathers, a loss of appetite (this can be mild at first and hardly noticed), being quieter than usual, tail bobbing, and if things are really bad, you’ll find your friend on the floor of his or her cage one morning.

Sometimes, they’ll seem perky and alert as they look up at you from the floor of their cage.

Sometimes, they are quite clearly dying.

How do you protect your feathered friends when they are masters of disguise?

It’s possible to predict the future and possibly prevent a tragedy with one simple trick:

Buy a gram scale. Weigh your bird in the morning.

There is one simple sign many parrot owners overlook that can be the canary in the cave of your bird’s health, and that sign is your parrot’s weight.

Weighing your parrot regularly could save your feathered friend’s life, especially if he or she is a newer member to your flock.

Take Louie: He came home with us at the beginning of last summer, otherwise known as during the “comp time” for all the sixty-seventy hour weeks we put in during the school year as teachers (smack anyone who tells you teachers “get summers off”–we earn them, darn it.)

We had three months of round-the-clock, home-always happiness with our little man.

But, the summer of our much-content had to come to an end at some point, and we weren’t sure how our jolly green man would adjust to waking up four hours earlier–would he be grumpy? Sleepy since he was now only getting eight hours plus naps rather than an unbroken twelve hours? We had nothing to compare it to and weren’t sure what to expect.

One week into the school year, he seemed a little tired. Just a touch. Quieter in the evenings–he was still eating generally the same amount. Maybe a bit less, based on observations.

It was because we were weighing him regularly that we caught his illness, and caught it early.

Louie was, ah, a touch on the bovine-side weight-wise when first we brought him home (apparently a diet of cheese, meat, pellets, and peanuts doesn’t bode well for ekkies).

The week before school began, we were weighing him every other morning or so.

His initial morning weigh-in was a whopping 394, on the heavy side for a Solomon Island Ekkie (other types of ekkies usually weigh more than this). One week into the school year, and he’d dropped to 370 during his morning weigh-in, a loss of nearly 24 grams.

This worried us, and with our experience losing our baby before, we didn’t wait. We called and set up an appointment for the earliest opportunity, which was the next day.

The night before we brought him in, he was lethargic. Tired. Sitting, mute, on his tiny perch, and leaning off to one side, barely able to keep his eyes open.

The next morning, he weighed in at 355.

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Louie’s healthy morning weight these days: between 365-375 when he wakes up. He’s usually around 385/390 at the end of the day and can eat 20-30 grams in one sitting!

Dr. LB put him on an antibiotic immediately, suspecting a bacterial infection. Louie hated the syringe, so I ended up dousing small pieces of bread with the medicine and feeding it to him, crumb by crumb, to make sure he took every last drop.

Within twenty-four hours, he was UP. Peppy. Perky, talking, kissing our cheeks, and back to romancing our feet with a vengeance. Because we’d only known him a few months, we weren’t able to spot his initially mild change in behavior.

We’d assumed he was just tired/acting differently because we weren’t home the way we had been. If we hadn’t been weighing him, it might have been too late.

But because we weighed him every few days or so, we were able to spot the subtlest of signs of illness, make the appointment, and take care of our little man.

Today, he weighs a healthy 373, which is just about perfect for a Solomon Island Ekkie. =) It fluctuates here and there, but nothing shouts “sick!” like a twenty gram + drop in weight!

Moral of the story:

1. Weigh your bird often.

2. Know what he/she typically weighs (link), both species-wise and your-individual-bird-wise.

3. Take him/her in to see an avian vet immediately at any sign of sudden weight loss.

Louie has finished dancing! Toe-Tapping Part 2.

Take a bow, Louie! Your dancing (i.e. terrible toe-tapping) is done.

Hopefully.

By the time we took Louie to the vet, he had stopped tap-dancing. In twenty-four hours, he went from almost violent, uncontrolled spasms to… nothing.

Nothing.

What…?

He was a lovely little patient at the vet; his coloring is growing in vibrantly in shades of glowing emerald, so much so that another woman asked if we wanted to breed him. Nope, no thanks; he likes feet, not other birds anyway. Dr. LB was impressed with his weight, how healthy he is, how he recovered from his bacterial infection a few months ago, how happy he is. No sign of toe-tapping.

His verdict? Food allergies. Dr. LB claimed that this is a “syndrome”, otherwise known as “Well, we have no clue what causes this, but it’s apparently a thing.”

According to the best avian vet in Denver, the toe-tapping is usually caused by one of the following:

  1. Spirulina – Ekkies do really, really poorly on this nutrient compared to other parrots.

  2. Wheat – Often in pellets.

  3. Corn – AKA a semi-weekly part of Louie’s diet. We solved this by switching to TOPS organic pellets, which are green and corn-free (though not wheat-free.)

We removed the corn (and all corn products) entirely from his diet: boom. Fixed.

Twenty-four hours later, the toe-tapping eliminated. He tapped yesterday morning a bit and the morning before, but there was nothing today.

Moral of the story:

Some parrots (ekkies especially) toe-tap behaviorally, some do so because they’ve lost feeling in their feet (really important to look into it), and some just have allergies, like Louie.

Vet check-ups are essential to know the difference.

Luigi is tap-dancing, and it is horrible. Toe-Tapping Part 1.

The internet is full–FULL–of misinformation. And frustration.

Last night, out of the blue, quite suddenly and violently, my baby boy eclectus started toe-tapping.

Dreaded, dreaded toe-tapping: the allergen of the ekkie world. The curse we all hope never to see, that we dread, that we read tales of ekkies chewing their toes off to stop.

Now, I’m a member of many a bird forum. I volunteer at a local bird shop. I’m a crazy internet-researcher-English-teacher and know to take everything I read with a grain of salt, but I know my ekkies; but the more I research, the more I talk to my vet, and the more I talk to general bird people of the world, the more I realize that very, very few people actually know what in God’s name they’re talking about.

With absolutely no warning, my baby boy started clutching one foot convulsively. His entire foot would seize up, curl up–I always thought that toe-tapping would start slowly and grow progressively worse, but nope. It came on suddenly. Violently.

Louie was toe-tapping.

And still, happy-go-lucky Louie energetically tried to woo our feet (let’s just say he has a foot fetish…) perhaps with more vigor than ever before. Go figure. He encounters the scourge of the ekkie world, and there’s our boy trying his hardest to romance our various appendages.

Hubby and I worried awake all night: “Click-click-click-click…”

Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” has nothing on Louie’s toe-tap.

The internet was full of (what I hope is) hyperbolic paranoia. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself, because sick birds terrify me.

The internet’s theories:

Was it the fact that he’d gorged on ekkie-designed pellets yesterday? (His veggie lunch apparently disappointed him.) Some ekkies do horribly imbibing on any sort of pellet–has he succumbed?!

Is he low on calcium?

Perhaps it’s the weather change! It is now officially autumn, after all!

Is it hormonal? Is he getting enough vitamin D? What about vitamin A?

Too much protein! That must be it! Cut out all forms!

…Etc. Hyperbole? God, I hope so.

This morning, it was better. Not great, but better. Whereas last night he was practically convulsing, this morning he was merely tapping. When he’d walk on the floor, he’d lose his balance; this morning, he clicked across the floor, happy as could be. No spasm.

So we called the vet to figure out what to do; naturally, they never call me back until I have to teach for five classes in a row, but their voice message left me even more confused.

“His toe-tapping could be behavioral, or it could be him attempting to regain feeling in his foot.”

Oh good. It could be nothing–or, it could be something severe enough to cut off circulation in his bloody foot?!

#ReasonsYouShouldCallYourVet #TheInternetIsNotAnAvianVet

Hubby called. We have an appointment tomorrow at four fifteen with the vet; our avian vet is known as the absolute best in the area. He’s also one of two, but at the same time, all the bird people I know praise Dr. LB like he’s their own personal Jesus. Tomorrow, we will find out what was wrong with Louie. Tomorrow, we will run panels. Tomorrow, we will pray for answers.

Tomorrow is another day. Part two will follow, complete with ekkie videos.