Archive for December, 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.

YouTube Preview Image

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.