One of the hardest parts about teaching for me is that I have to leave my fids at home.
Sure, my admin *might* be open to my bringing of my feathered friends to school occasionally since they don’t leave potential allergy-inducing dander behind, but let’s be real–I teach middle school, and kids do stupid things to each other. Who knows what stupid things might accidentally happen with a bird?
Thus, the rare glory of the teacher in-service day allows me to work with one of my dinosaur companions by my side. Sure, he has to sit idly by in a small cage for the four hours of meetings in the mornings, but he gets to spend the afternoon with me, right? =)
Louie isn’t particularly helpful on these days (especially since he has determined the best place for him is smack-dab in the center of my keyboard, and he absolutely HATES with torrid passion my computer mouse and pens), but he sure is cute.
He gets to play on a desk pod away from my desk, make a GIANT mess, and receive frequent kisses while I grade and plan.
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.
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.
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!
Thank you for saying goodbye to your feathered friend.
Maybe the decision was easy; maybe he spent most of his time in a bedroom where his constant chirping (“Hello? Mom? Are you there? How about part of a verse of zippidee-doo-da?”) wouldn’t bother the rest of your family. It only made sense–it was only fair–to find him a new home.
The first time he bopped his rosy cheeks along to music, we were thrilled. When his frantic chirps for attention as we left the room gradually waned, and then disappeared entirely, we celebrated. When he started playing with toys again, content on his own because of the blossoming knowledge that he will come out to be with his flock every day, we watched with happy hearts. When he joined our flock of little birds, with whom he plays every night, we were content.
Thank you for saying goodbye. He has the life you wanted for him!
Perhaps your decision was hard; perhaps your parrot was a beloved family member, cherished. As life changes threw you curveballs and you realized that, down the road, your feathered friend would need more from you than you would be able to provide, you said goodbye.
Now, he spends the holidays with a loving family who plays with him for hours on end. Now, he gives constant kisses, pigs out on all kinds of food (that he’s finally learned to love!), and is our jolly green man every day. He is spoiled rotten with treats, toys, and attention, and everyone agrees (usually when he’s hanging from our fingers like a bat) that he is the best bird in the world.
You made the decision before life became too crazy to care for him the way these sensitive parrots need. Because you found the courage to do so, he is still the epitome of an amazing parrot and treasured companion. So many people wait until it’s too late, until the once docile gentleman turns into the surliest of grouches.
Thank you for saying goodbye.
The hardest of all–maybe you were forced to give up your feathered friend due to age, illness, or the ill-will of other family members.
I want you to know that your little man is very, very loved. Yes, he has a sharp little beak, but he loves to have his head scratched. He is stubborn and bald and loud, but we adore his gurgling chatter, and we’ve learned to work around his temper. Although he still bites, he lets go sooner, clamps down softer, and plays joyfully with his bells when we sit with him the evenings.
Thank you for saying goodbye to your feathered friend, and thank you for taking the time to find us, the people who will love and care for your friend forever. Thank you for not simply dumping your bird at an over-crowded shelter, or giving him to the highest bidder on Craiglist. Thank you for reaching out, for interviewing us, for finding the right home for him, rather than just any home.
I know parronts aren’t supposed to pick favorites, but I think you should know: your boys are our absolute favorites.