Archive for 2010

At Last, Skritches! Oh, and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 31st, 2010

My custom each evening is to sit in my chair, sandwiched between the cages of Sam and Steve.  I will often sit there long after all my flock has gone to bed, either reading or watching a DVD with headphones and a small dull lamp on, so as not to disturb the birds’ sleep.

Tonight, I was finishing up and still in my chair when I heard Steve clanking down from his sleeping perch.  Since a food door is next to my elbow, I lifted up the cage covers and opened the food hatch, and there was Steve.  He was about ready to pop out!  Since I thought he wanted a treat, I got up and retrieved them from the kitchen,  By the time I returned, he had climbed up a level higher but he was still there:

Here I am giving him a tiny nut treat.

So then, I let him nibble my fingers.  I began stroking his beak.  And very soon, his head was in my hands.  He finally asked for head skritches!  It’s been 3 months and a day since I skritched his head when he was in the airline carrier on the way to my home.  It’s been something I’ve longed to give him again.  I think his wanting to pop out of the food hatch was not so much the want of treats but head skritches. So we spent the next hour communing through head skritches.

O happy day!  And a Happy New Year to Steve and the rest of us!

Steve Below Stairs

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Today Steve has been here for 3 months, and I just love this little guy who’s been through too much.

Today we crossed another milestone.  You might not think this is much to show, but Steve actually spent a short amount of time below his regular perch to forage for his seed treats.  I call this “below stairs,” as he gets down there by climbing down and back up a series of 3 perches I’ve placed on his cage door.

In fact, Steve actually went even lower than this photo shows.  He went to the “basement!”  – that is,  the rope perch you see at the bottom of the photo, which nearly skirts the bottom of the cage.  What a brave boy!  This is really a great step because he needs to be much more active than he is right now.  Slowly, slowly, I’m going to remove his pellet cup after he gets used to foraging for wrapped pellets, which I’ve already begun by placing pellets here and there in his cage.  So far, he now forages for his seed treats and has found a few of the pellets.

Good job, Steve!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Friday, December 24th, 2010

I’ve had a few lovely Christmas gifts from Steve in the last week, and I’d like to share them with you:

First, here is Steve after having had his shower with warm water spray today:

He fluffed up his feathers, clearly in great enjoyment, and allowed me to spray him for a long time.  You can also see a bit of goose flesh from the chill of his bath, but also how his feathers are growing back on his chest.  I think he’s calm enough now that he’ll let them grow back fully.

Hand training for trust: I’ve been giving him his clicker training treats with my hand fully open and the treat in the middle of my hand in an attempt to get him more used to my hand.  This has many practical benefits, because I often need to replace chewed toys and move things around in his cage.  If he’s terrified of my hands, I can’t do much without freaking him out.  (Steve has good reason to be afraid of what hands might do.  When he was mutilating under his wings, Steve was removed from his cage by pulling him out by his head to avoid making his wounds worse!  Poor guy…)  Steve initially was afraid of my hand, but now he’s very calm about my hands when I do expected things.

His first self- initiated communication: This past week, I came home later than usual and the other guys were clearly excited and clamoring for their supper.  They like to share my steamed veggies and have grown used to getting that most evenings.  When I finally fed Steve his seed treats, he calmly grabbed my finger as if to say, “Man, the service around here is going downhill!”  It was the first time Steve has initiated clear communication to me. That was wonderful!  Maybe he now understands I am NOT going to pull him out by his head!

Exercise: Steve has gotten used to not moving about much in his cage, probably through the years he’s been in pain from his wounds.  I moved his foraging cups down a level in his cage two days ago.  I figured he’d eventually move down if he was hungry enough for his seed treats.  It took 2 days, but he now moves more!  Yay!

More progress: Steve will have been here 3 months by the end of December.  Today, when I was replacing food in his cage, he got scared by something and jumped out of his cage onto the floor.  I offered him my arm to put him back into his cage, but he didn’t want to return.  Instead, he climbed up my arm and sat on my shoulder.  I was so surprised!  I determined to treat him for his bravery and made the mistake of taking a step toward the treat bowl.  Steve got scared, so he tried to fly away, landing on the couch.  He was slightly rattled, but by the time I got him back into his cage, he was not so much freaked as deeply thoughtful.  He always seems to really think hard about his new experiences.

Wound healing: I took a good look under his wings, as he holds them out when he’s on the floor or my arm.  Even after his two landings, one of them quite awkward where he lost a wing feather, I could see no bloody crease or any blood anywhere.

So you can see how happy I am.  I think Steve is learning that life can actually be more fun than he thought.  He sure deserves every happiness he can get for the remainder of his life.

Thank you, everybody, for rooting for him!

And a beautiful Christmas with special gifts to you too.

Flock Stuff

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Everybody’s doing great around here.  This is Steve, in a very upright position, feeling naked and exposed by my camera, which he doesn’t care for much.  We made a little breakthrough today!  Steve accepted – even seemed to like – being sprayed with warm water!  He’s been watching the exuberant and very enthusiastic bathtimes of my other birds, and I think he’s been ready for a little while.  When I’d finished with the cockatiels, I made a fuss of how great the concept of a bath was, I knelt down so as not to spray above his eyesight and scare him, and began spraying him from a distance through his cage bars.   He liked it!  (Believe me, he would have growled and screeched and freaked out  if he did not want it.)  His first instinct was to fluff up his feathers and welcome the warm water.  Then I think he thought about it and stopped being spontaneous.  But he didn’t move away.  I’m really glad about this because I doubt he’s had a bath for years and his skin and feathers must be very dry and uncomfortable.

I’m also including a video of today’s clicker training to show you how much more relaxed he’s become since the last time I did the same routine.

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Saturday is cage cleaning time, so everybody gets involved.  That included Bun Rab, who finds shredding newspaper hugely fun.  (And what’s even more fun for her is to find Harrison’s pellet pieces on the floor.)

While Sam’s cage was being cleaned, Charlie sang to Pippin:

And all is right with the world – at least in our universe!

Hope your coming week is a good one.

Brave Steve

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Steve has not had a good week, no thanks to Sam and me.  Sam is going through an intense hormonal phase.  I think this is owing to extra nuts (rich=abundance=time to nest) during clicker training, and probably owing to his insecurity about our new addition of Steve to the family.  Consequently, Sam’s behavior is very erratic and unpredictable.  I’ve had to manhandle him off me when he has tried climbing my up clothes.  On one occasion, he bit my chin (fortunately, no break in skin) and several bites to hands (yes, broken).  I’ve withdrawn all rich foods and he’s basically eating only pellets and a small amount of apple and cauliflower.  He is not suffering!

However, Sam has unintentionally buzzed Steve when Steve was outside his cage, causing Steve to panic and tear his underwing sores.  This has happened twice.  I’ve taken further steps to minimize these “surprises.”  And then, because he was already getting more nervous, he panicked when I adjusted one of  his perches yesterday.  So he’s had 3 panics in the last week.   He hasn’t been outside of his cage for several days, and he’s very nervous again around my hands.  I thought that this morning we had undone everything we’d accomplished in the last two months and I was feeling quite badly about my part in this.

HOWEVER, Steve is nothing if not resilient.  He made me understand today that he wanted to do clicker training, so here we are.  You will notice Steve is chewing his nails vigorously – a signature Grey sign of nervousness.  But, dang!  Isn’t he great?  He overcame his nerves to do a great job, yet again.  I hand him a bead, he drops it into the cup, he gets a treat.  You gotta love him for his pluckiness, despite his obvious fear.  A lesson to us all!   Without further ado, heeeeer’s Steve!

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PS  By the way, those dark splotches on Steve’s chest are his new feathers coming out after he plucked his chest fairly clean.  I’ve not seen him continue to pick, so I’m crossing my fingers he’ll let his feathers stay.

A Good Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Someone’s Watching You…

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Here’s Steve watching and taking in all the activities of the evening.  He is SO much more relaxed about my presence, that I’m sighing with relief for him.   Steve is also much less stressed about my hands near him.  As long as I perform normal tasks, such as filling his foraging cups, placing his fresh food kabob, and regular maintenance, he’s pretty relaxed.  It’s only if I do something out of the ordinary that causes him to be worried.

Tonight, Steve didn’t climb on top of his cage, but he sat for a good 45 minutes in the position above watching me, drinking from his water bowl, fluffing up his head feathers in a relaxed way, and watching me with great interest as I scratched Sam’s head in the chair next to him.   I can tell Sam is feeling just a little off-kilter about the changes in Steve.  Steve isn’t purposely hiding himself anymore, so I think Sam is feeling slightly insecure.  So we are embarking on a new shift in the large parrot scene here.

The three smaller birds are oblivious to the large birds.  They form their own “clique” and are a self-sufficient unit, tightly bonded to one another in the little cockatiel/lovebird triangle.  So these large bird issues don’t touch their concerns!

Things are going well, all told, and I’m grateful.


Monday, November 15th, 2010

Steve is starting to climb out of his cage!  (Sorry about the poor quality of the shots – I had to take them with my phone under low light conditions.)


These are not long explorations – just little quick trips – but a great start to a new approach to life.


Oh, and he said twice tonight a long exaggerated “ooh” as he used to when getting treats or food from Mary.

Clicker Training

Friday, November 12th, 2010

We’re all doing fine here, though a bit chilly around the edges.  I’m currently experiencing some heating problems (skunk infiltration and the like) and am hoping the situation gets resolved soon before it begins freezing outside in earnest.  Unlike their human companion, my birds have it made:  Each bird has an avian heater just outside the back of each cage where they can snuggle close to if they feel the pinch of Jack Frost nipping at their toes.  Many are the early winter evenings when I arrive home to find everybody dozy and sleepy, sitting next to their heaters!

Steve is doing well.  He’s picked a lot of his chest feathers, but Mary tells me that he did so during the first month or so when she had him.  Regardless, it’s OK and I’m not fussed.  He’s healthy and has a good appetite, he’s chewing a lot on his leather/bead toys, and he eagerly does his clicker training every day.  This photo shows the straw I use as a “target.”  He touches the target, I click, and he gets a treat.  He loves this.  He also does a great job of using a bead as a target, which Mary taught him while she was fostering him.  I hold a small yogurt cup near his feet, hand him the bead, he takes the bead and drops it into the cup, I click, and he gets another treat.  He’s doing better each time I do this – less nervous about the proximity of my hand.  It’s definitely not his favorite concept  – my hand being too close – so this is perhaps helping to desensitize him a bit, while being rewarded for his bravery!  (I will make a video of this as soon as I get my tripod out and figure out how to do this – as it is, both my hands are full of cup, clicker, bead, and treat.)
Last night, my co-worker dropped off an oil heater for me to borrow while my heating problem drags on, and Steve sat – calm as a cucumber with one foot up in the manner of a totally relaxed African Grey, and accepted eagerly a treat from her hand.  He’s doing great.
For the last couple of nights, I’ve left his cage door ajar – enough so that if he wanted to do so, he could leave his cage.  Fortunately, it seems OK for him.  I have a hanging toy near the door, and he’s been spending a lot of time chewing on this toy with his head partially outside the cage.  A good first step!

Steve, Naturally

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Steve continues to do well.  He seems very used to my routine now.  He’s still nervous at what I call “transition” times:  when I’m physically busy around the house; when I’m leaving or returning; when things are not according to the quiet routines when I’m at work.  I think when things are unknown in his mind, he worries.

But as far as treats, he’s addicted to his little nut pieces and nearly begs for them, which I think is great!

In fact, he tells me when he wants to go to bed by anxiously sidling up to me when I’m sitting next to his cage.  He then looks at me intently.  Then I know that he’s ready for his bedtime treats:  2 tiny pieces of cashews or pistachios.  The pose in this photo was rewarded by a treat.  I think he looks a lot more relaxed than he was 5 weeks ago!

Very soon I will experiment with leaving his cage door open during quiet times – just so he knows he has more options, and to get him used to his open door in a gradual way.

Steve continues to have a good appetite for his Harrison’s pellets, which I supplement by a fruit and veggie kabob in the morning, and a few seeds in some foraging cups.

So far, no more talking vocalizations after the first time last week, but he just might be practicing when I’m not home.  We will soon find out!

By the way, this perch is where Steve sleeps each night.  I can’t imagine it would be comfortable as he has to hunch over.  He has plenty of other more comfortable sleeping spots, but that is the one he chooses.  Parrots are so funny in their preferences and choices!