Archive for the ‘Behavior & Care of’ Category
Steve finished with a shorter second round of antibiotics and is doing well after an initial low-energy period after his ingrown feather ordeal.He’s now back to be his version of “active,” which is a very, very slow form of active for most African Greys. He’s just a quiet and slow-moving guy. However, once in awhile, he really gets mischievous as happened today: he really, really, wanted a soaking bath. I usually spray him, but he continued in his water dish. So I provided a low tub of water for him, which he splashed his head into, and then upended most of it onto his play station. It was good to see, even if a bit messy!
Sam is being adventurous by accompanying me on my daily walks (that is, when it’s not too cold or too hot). I recently bought a nifty (though expensive) small walking carrier made by Celltei that can be worn like a back pack or worn in front (which I prefer, so that Sam feels I am close and he can see me). Sam LOVES the carrier! Here he is, waiting for “walkies.”
The carrier sits on top of his cage, where he plays during the day. I will often find him quietly sitting inside, just hanging out serenely. I love being able to include Sam in more of my activities, and this is a great boredom-buster. It tires him out too – an added benefit. This is the small size, though it borders on being almost too small. But it works for a Jardine’s Parrot. It would be too small for an African Grey.
Dr Linda Contos saw Steve on his follow-up to his first appointment, where it was discovered that his bloody underwing was the result of ingrown feathers. The wing is still pretty raw but healthy – he’s not worrying or chewing there any more, so the removal of those ingrown feathers did the trick. The doctor felt, after reviewing all his vet records from Wisconsin (during which time he was in the rescue facility and was being seen by the vet who handled birds from the rescue) that his original bloody underwings probably began with ingrown feathers that no one discovered. All along, it was thought to be a behavioral issue. At one point, the sores were so bad that the vet recommended euthanasia if there were no improvements. That’s when Mary decided to foster him and give him a new chance. And that’s how I found Steve, through Mary’s blog Parrot Musings.
I’m very happy to find that Steve is much more resilient about vet trips, now that he knows he’s mine and I’m his. He must have come to that conclusion a little while ago, and things are starting to open up for him. Even last year around this time, he wasn’t sure he was going to be hauled away yet again. Steve continues to have a very sweet, gentle nature. I’m so glad he’s part of my family. And he can be darn cute and winsome as he shows in this picture:
Steve is feeling mellow and quiet after his dose of antibiotic and Metacam, following a very bad day on April 16 when I took him to the vet for the first time in 2.5 years! He has been problem-free for that long – and he needed that long a stretch without vet interference to heal from his bad experiences from previous vet visits in Wisconsin. But this time I had to bring him in. I noticed that some of his feathers were growing weirdly on his left wing and he was beginning to fuss with them, pull feathers, etc. Then I noticed a spot of blood on his beak, so I got him into see our new New Mexico vet, Dr Linda Contos, at Ventana Animal Clnic in Albuquerque. She’s an avian vet and very good with birds.
He did indeed have two ingrown feathers under that wing and a bad infection, so she removed the offending feathers and began him on a course of antibiotics. I was very impressed by Steve – after his initial protest about being hauled out of his travel cage, he was very calm. The doc said that owing to his previous history of mutilation under his wings, it didn’t surprise her that some feathers are ingrown. They form little abscesses and cause discomfort. She did not advise putting a collar on him to prevent him from chewing further, since he is a calm bird and that previous chewing was for a specific reason – to relieve his discomfort and pain – rather than from an emotional or behavioral issue. Collaring is extremely stressful. I agreed – Steve is a happy bird and no longer has a reason to feel abandoned and neglected and he rarely pulls his feathers unless the humidity is extremely try (I keep a humidifier on next to him here in the desert to avoid the feather picking and try to keep the humidity between 38-50% RH). The doc also said that Steve almost seemed even grateful that the offending problem was removed.
The doc also showed me how limited his wing muscles are – which I already knew – and that he will never be able to fly. The good news is that we examined the other under wing and it was totally healed and pristine. It’s just that the skin is thin and the muscles atrophied. And because he is so hand shy and phobic about being forced out of his cage, it’s unlikely that muscle rehab is in the near future, if at all.
It took Steve about 24 hours before he began looking and acting like his normal self, but we’re back to his normal routine of foraging on his play station in the morning, and all looks to be very good for his future. And he doesn’t appear to have held it against me that I had to towel him to get him out of his cage!
Steve is doing really great these days. After a settling period from his move from the Pacific Northwest to the high desert Southwest in New Mexico, he’s starting to blossom! For readers who are not familiar with his story, Steve is a rescued African Grey who was emotionally neglected for his first 6 years and had self-mutilating issues. He’s also extremely hand phobic and has had fear issues about coming outside of his cage.
But, I’m happy to report that he’s now easily and willingly moving outside his cage on a daily basis to forage for treats and to chew on toys – this is more than I ever thought might happen! I had been pretty concerned about his apathy and lack of interest in fun, so he’s now learning, thanks to the help of small pecan tidbits from our two old pecan trees in our New Mexico backyard. I set up a tray on top of a rolling cart and load it up with toys and interesting bird-safe objects. Steve then comes out of his cage via a food hatch. The tray is essentially his “back porch.”
Here is Steve foraging for small nut treats that I’ve wrapped inside mini muffin baking cups. I poke them inside toys he has to chew open to get to the treats. Or I hide them inside other toys. I’m making it increasingly hard for him to get to, so this is stimulating him to be more creative and brave.
The result of this serious foraging business? Well, a brain that is stimulated and less bored, a bird that learns to play with toys (or at least be curious enough to chew them). A normal African Grey would be all over this tray and into everything else, but Steve has been severely stunted as a youngster, so he’s very slowly making up for lost time. Steve is still phobic of hands inside his cage, but maybe that will come in time.
For now, I’m overjoyed with the more tangible result: A huge and glorious mess!
Yes, my flock and Bun Rab will be “flying” south this fall to a new home in New Mexico! I will be very happy to be living next door to my mother and sister, who are waiting for my arrival with great anticipation.
It’s a big move – I’ve been at my present location in Oregon for the last 10 years – but I eagerly look forward to a new beginning. They are always challenging but usually rich with many benefits and blessings.
Chipper is a veteran traveler, having made the trip to New Mexico once before (but ended up only visiting). Sam has made a trip to California. Steve is also a veteran traveler when he flew with me two years ago by Southwest Airlines from his foster home to Oregon. Charlie is Oregon-born and never gone further than 10 miles anywhere. But as long as he’s next to Chipper, he won’t mind the trip. The two cockatiels will have a lot of fun.
My greatest worry has been how to shoehorn Steve from his cage to which he is inextricably bound by his phobia of being outside his cage. But I think I came up with a solution: getting him used to his travel cage gradually by making it a “sun porch” off his main cage via his food hatch. With the lure of a pecan in the shell, he easily comes and goes now between his cage and his travel cage, as you can see from this shot:
It is a morning ritual now that Steve comes to visit his travel cage for his breakfast goodies: apple, a bit of home made mash, etc.
So Steve and Sam will accompany me in the front passenger seat, and the cockatiels and Bun Rab in the back seat. It should prove to be quite an adventure!
We’ve had some great spring/early summer weather with mild temperatures and lots of rain. But summer finally caught up with us in the last two weeks with triple digit temperatures and some humidity (usually it’s pretty dry here).
Bun Rab copes pretty well, armed with frozen water bottles and a fan blowing directly on her. Here she is cooling her heels against the bottle:
The avian flock seems to be fine with it, so long as I give some misty showers each day.
Steve still won’t come out of his cage except briefly to his ledge outside of the food hatch door. But he does come out each night there for head rubs. Lately, he’s even been venturing out to play with a toy I got for him last year. Up till now, he’s been too afraid of it, but I’ve been using it myself to show him that it’s not going to hurt him and it’s not scary after all. It’s a fun toy that has 4 buttons. Each one, when pressed, has a different sound: “hello!” “hello, bird!” “I love you” and a short recording of laughter as a bird might interpret it.
Steve has finally found out how to apply the right pressure to get it to say something. Now, he presses the “hello!” to get my attention. He’s perfectly capable of saying “Hello,” as I heard him answer my cell phone ring with a loud “HELLO!” But he usually chooses not to talk.
Steve is finally also developing a playful side. After I cover him up for the night, he clanks up and down his cage and waits for me to lift the cover to say a final good night by hanging upside down and soliciting touch and head rubs through his cage bars. It’s hard to believe he never knew how to play before – such a basic part of any normal African Grey’s nature! It’s taken him nearly two years to get to this point. I can’t imagine how sterile and empty his life was before.
He’s just as phobic about coming out of his cage as he was when I adopted him, but he’s made some great progress in the past two years. I couldn’t be more pleased. And I think he is too.
All is well with the flock. It’s been awhile since I posted last, but the 4 parrots continue to be good boys.
Spring is nearly upon us, so that means hormones begin to show themselves. With careful dietary restrictions, Sam has managed to be a very good boy and he is nearly not hormonal at all, compared to last year when I seemed to have an unending string of months in which I struggled with Sam’s hormones. I find I have to cut out ALL fatty and sweet treats, such as seeds, nuts, apples, and other sweet fruits. He’s safe with a daily raw Sugar Snap pea, bits of raw cauliflower, a piece of raw whole wheat pasta, and tiny bits of “Mary’s Gone Cracker’s” crackers. Fortunately, he likes these treats. But he always looks for nesting areas, nonetheless!
Steve, however, needs lots of small treats as he is more of a forager than a player of toys. I try to keep the treats very small but frequent to keep him interested. Once in a while, he gets to tackle an organic almond in the shell. He generally takes about 3 days to break into the shell, unless he’s really intensely interested. The first one he tried took him only a concentrated 10 minutes. But he takes a more leisurely go at it nowadays:
And there are days when the vet needs to be seen for various trims. I have “Wingabagos” for 2 birds, and this time it was Sam and Chipper who had the honor during a recent visit. Here they are sitting next to me in the front passenger seat, which Chipper strapped in and Sam tucked in front of him:
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.
I apologize for not writing for so long. Again, computer problems. I seem to have a bad effect on new computers. I finally had to dump my new HP desktop and switch to a Mac – now no problems!! May it continue thus…
For you Steve fans, Steve is doing fine. While there isn’t much outward progress to report, my feeling is that he’s doing well. He continues to have a serious case of agoraphobia and hasn’t ventured outside of his cage in a long time, EXCEPT at night when the other guys have gone to bed and it’s head-rubbing time. Then he consents willingly to stick his head – sometimes half his body – outside the food hatch near my chair. But no more than that. In this, he has regressed a bit, as he used to come out periodically when things were quiet. That hasn’t happened in a long time. But I don’t force the issue or any others. I figure that in time – perhaps a great long time – he may finally feel he’s safe enough to come out a bit more.
Steve is also very shy with the other birds. Having been a single bird at the beginning of his life and gone through terrible years of neglect, he is timid of the cockatiels (they are the noisiest and most fractious) and Sam (who is definitely unpredictable). He may never warm to any of them, but that’s OK. And he doesn’t know how to play (having never been given destructible toys to play with). This has been a challenge. He also often opts not to get excited about things because it may still hurt to move his body a lot (the skin under his wings is very tender). But at least he chews on various items I have hung and attached throughout his cage, and that’s good.
He continues to keep the feathers off his neck and upper chest – it’s a bit of a habit now, I think. But when he began chewing the feathers on this thigh big time, I felt there was another reason at play. I began spraying him daily with warm water, in case it was because of the increased dryness with winter heating. That seemed to do the trick. He has stopped chewing his thigh completely and I will continue spraying him, despite the colder weather. He seems to really enjoy the spray, so it must be what he needed.
The one thing that pleases me most is that his relationship with me as caregiver and friend is much stronger and feels cemented somehow. He gets very excited to see me if I’m out late, beaking my fingers happily. And his personality is starting to manifest at odd moments. If I turn on a light in the living room after I’ve put the birds to bed (covered), he will emit a soft heart-wrenching wail, which means he wants me to come and say hello, followed by happy finger-beaking. Then it’s hard to cover him as he will continue with a few pips and whistles when I re-cover him. He is the sweetest, most gentle of greys!
The other guys are doing just fine too, though I think Chipper has been missing Pippin my lovebird. This past week, he kept referring to her in such phrases as “What, Pippin?” and “Whatcha doing, Pippin?” – which has the effect of tearing my heart! Sam continues to make Pippin’s sweet sound and also her sounds of annoyance – sounds which Pippin made about HIM when he did things Pippin considered in poor taste or simply bad behavior.
The cockatiels Chipper and Charlie are fine too. I had to replace Charlie’s sleep basket with a very large one, so it displaced a wooden box I had previously used to shore up his basket. Chipper has always coveted it, so it’s now in his cage, and he is most pleased! I call it his hobbit home, and here he is coyly peeking out of the hobbit hole:
(By the way, don’t ever give such a nesty box to a female bird or it will induce them to lay eggs, which can be dangerous.)
And here is Chipper again, in your facet:
That’s a summary of how things are going in my flock. Here is hoping that your life goes well this special season – that you stay healthy and happy and warm!