I know, the titles are pretty cryptic! But this concerns Chipper’s love of books (see a previous post here) and his influence on our newest flock member, Steve, our rescued African Grey.
Chipper the cockatiel, at age 11, is our oldest and first flock member. From the time he was a baby, books have been his #1 source of fun. He gets super excited about them and surrounds all his play and being busy with books. He croons to them, he chews them, he flies on them. How? With the help of his human slave (me), of course.
I ask Chipper if he “wants to go for a ride,” and he usually does. This is Chipper, ready to “fly” with his magic book (this one entitled The Shape of Mercy!!), with the aid of my hand. I run through the house with book and bird in hand. He grasps my finger tightly, bends down as if streamlining his body for the wind, and cries loudly “Weeeeee….!!!”
Steve, who has been watching these antics for a few weeks, has been getting increasingly excited about them. Every time Chipper “flies” past his cage, Steve puffs up his feathers with happiness, his eyes pin, and he moves closer to the cage bars to watch. Believe it or not, this is the first time in one year and 3 months that Steve has ever shown excitement and a playful side. He has never, apparently, know how to play. All these months since he came to our flock, I’ve supplied toys of all kinds. He often chews on some of them but never explores or plays with them or shows excitement about them. I seriously doubt he ever played in his life. It is very sad to think that even when he was a baby, he was deprived of the joy of play and not given encouragement to just be.
I gave Steve his own book (Comanche Moon – I buy these thrift store books based on their size, not contents!) and he is quite tickled with it, providing another way that he and I can interact. Here he is showing some feather puffing. He’s going after Chipper’s book!
Note how flared Steve’s tail feather are – he puts everything into playfully chomping on the book!
I’ve always known the value of play for my birds, but none of them have problems being playful. Having never had such a repressed bird as Steve has been, the concept of how healing and freeing play is has been underscored. In the last couple of weeks, Steve has been much more relaxed and easy with me. His resilience to change and sudden things that happen in life are that much easier for him to take in his stride. I even saw him peering intently at the bottom of his cage (he never goes down there) and environs, as if he was seeing it for the first time. I think being playful has opened new pathways in his brain, making him more exploratory and less fearful.