Step-Up Perch Training

February 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

It must be that time of the year, because I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about nippy and hormonal cape parrots.  It hasn’t quite hit Lola yet, but one of the things I’ve done to prepare myself and others for when that time does arrive is to train her to use a hand-protecting step up perch.  I think this is really key for when hormones do strike– and even better if you can get started well before they do, so that your parrot is trained to step up immediately by the time hormone season rolls around.

lola on her step-up perch

The right type of step-up perch is necessary.  I chose one that is simple with no distractions, but also amply protects the hands so that you can safely transport your parrot into or out of the cage during those difficult times when you your parrot doesn’t want to be handled otherwise. It’s simply made of two dowels and a stainless steel screw, along with a small sheet of clear acrylic that protects your hand. It’s called the Buddy Perch and you can buy it at 4Z Birds, but I’m sure that if you’re crafty you can also make one yourself. (That being said, I was really pleased with the excellent customer service I received from 4Z Birds and highly recommend them!  They were really fantastic to work with and put a lot of care into their products.) I’ve seen others that use coconut shells and natural perches, and a plastic one as well on the market.

Funnily enough, Lola, who is normally not afraid of any new perches or toys, was absolutely terrified of this thing when I first took it out! It took a few weeks of persistent training and many an in-shell almond for her to realize that it’s her friend, not foe. At first, the most I could do was get her just to touch it with the tip of her beak. But we went at her pace and she learned very quickly. I made sure to train her to step up whether it’s me or anybody else holding the perch. She is a little more hesitant with strangers, but she knows that stepping up = reward. It took less than a month for her to get really comfortable with it, and we practice consistently, even though hormones haven’t hit. That way, when they do come around, we’ll be ready.

I think having your parrot trained to use a step up stick can also help in a lot of others ways. For example, if you ever want or need to travel and require a bird sitter, it can be difficult for the bird sitter to allow out of cage time or even retrieve your parrot if they accidentally sneak out of the cage while changing bowls or cleaning. But now that Lola’s trained to step up for anybody anywhere, I know that there will be no problem with getting her back in the cage safely and keeping everybody’s fingers in tact in the process. I definitely recommend training your parrots to use step-up perches as well. It’s great for some peace of mind and I’m sure it will come in handy when we find ourselves dealing with hormones!

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The Budgies’ New Setup, Too

July 17, 2012 § 3 Comments

Well, I was really hoping to get better photos of the budgies’ setup before posting, but I seem to be having very bad luck with my digital camera as of late and cannot find it anywhere, so I guess that’s not happening.  Again, the lighting is very funky in these photos and they are just generally unflattering, but they will simply have to do for now.

Like Lola, the budgies got a brand new cage setup recently but the biggest news is that they have graduated from the solid acrylic divider in between them to stainless steel bars!!  This was a huge and exciting step for them and for me.  I noticed that they’d both seemed much more chilled out and calm recently (perhaps diffusing the essential oils has been helping?  Nothing else has changed!) and decided to pilot the barred divider for a few hours in the afternoon while I was home.  Well, they’ve been doing so great with it that I no longer switch it out when I leave.  They have access to each other through the bars at all times now and I’ve yet to witness a single spat between them.  I’m so happy with them!!  Hopefully in a few weeks or months, we can eliminate the divider all together– that’s the dream, at least.

the entire cage

Until then, however, we’re making do with the bars and with two of everything.  Usually I tend not to do such similar setups for both of them, but everything kind of fell into place this way while I was arranging their cages, so I went with it.  They seem pretty happy so far.

open sesame

Here it is with the door open.  On the door, as you can see, they each have their own adorable skywalk platform perch from Oliver’s Garden.  I just love these perches and can’t say enough good things about them for birds of all sizes.  Lola has a beautiful one with beads in it, and the littles just love perching up front on their skywalks and crawling between the center cut holes!

We’ll take a look at Sabrina’s side first.  She has her lovely welded sleepy swing (a custom item from Grey Feather Toys) up on top, which both she and Charles would be completely lost with that.  You can barely see it but in the back there is a cute little fleece covered platform perch.  Towards the left is a boing, also from GFT, and another snuggly type of swing from Big Beaks Bird Toys.  Perches include a nicely branched sandblasted manzanita one in the back and a cageput one towards the front, and plenty of toys including Kris Porter’s fantastic foraging block, lots of custom toys from Things for Wings, and some great jingly stainless steel ones from GFT too.

Down below, she has a tiny safety pumice perch in purple in the back, two more natural wood perches, both of grapevine wood, some more toys, and some more food bowls.  I’ve since added one more perch towards the back there, pretty low to the ground as well.  So far, her favorite spots are on her platform perch on the door, the cageput perch up top (where she and Charles sit across from each other and chit chat), and the sandblasted manzanita perch towards the back, where she can chew up and destroy a lovely seagrass toy.

On to Charles’s side… he looks quite tubby in the photo!  Up top he has a very similar arrangement.  His custom sleepy swing, a fleece-covered platform perch in the back (this time in blue), a lovely boing with a foraging block, and some great toys.  In the back there is a sandblasted manzanita perch and a manu mineral perch on the right in front of a food bowl.  It’s out of focus, but way in front on the right side there’s also a fluffy swing for him with a natural perch.

And zooming out, there are two great grapevine wood perches in the front on both the left and right sides, and a branchy dragonwood perch towards the bottom.  Like Sabrina, I’ve also added one more perch in the back for him towards the bottom.  He has some great toys– one of his favorite toys of all time is the little leather horse with seagrass legs from Grey Feather Toys, and he also loves his custom toys from Things for Wings.

So far the setup has been working out really well for them– they’re using all of the different levels of their cage and they have a nice variety of surfaces on which to perch.  I’ve also attempted to arrange everything such that no perch or toy is getting soiled regularly, and so far, so good!  It’s always tricky with a more vertical space like theirs is.  Hopefully, one day, they won’t need the divider at all, and I can get a lot more creative with their cage arrangements with the more open space. Until then, this setup will do!

Batty Little Budgies

November 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

Oh, these two… they’re enough to drive me batty!  I’ll start with Sabrina.  Last week, I received a wonderful order from Kathie at My Safe Bird Store with some staples, some great toy parts for foraging (on sale!), and some little pedicure perches for Sabrina.  Sabrina’s nails are getting long and sharp, and because she’s so tiny, it’s more of a safety hazard for her than for a larger bird because her nails can so easily get stuck in cotton rope or even stainless steel chain.  But, she doesn’t trust me enough to let me cut her nails.  I could grab her and just do it as quickly as possible, as I have in the past, but she’s actually beginning to trust me right now and I don’t want to ruin the little I have going for us.  (Charles is a good, sweet boy and lets me do it myself.)  So, I purchased a safety pumice perch for her because they’re effective and in my opinion, the safest type of grooming perch. (For those of you who have agreed with me in the past that the larger ones look… well, questionable, you’ll be happy to know that the little ones don’t at all.  They’re so tiny and thin that they’re almost cute!)

I put the little purple perch in her cage last week on Tuesday or Wednesday, and of course, she was completely terrified of it.  Absolutely wouldn’t go near it– wouldn’t even go near that part of the cage.  It was right next to one of her food bowls and she stalked and pounced on the food bowl from the opposite side and kept an eye on that evil perch all the while.  I thought she’d give it up after a day or two, but by Saturday, she still wasn’t going near it.

Finally, I decided I’d hang her veggies above the perch, so that she had to step on it if she wanted her coveted leafy greens (they’re about the highest value treat you can give her or Charles, funnily enough!).  I took a nice, thick bundle of organic pea shoots and tied them to the cage bars right above the perch.  She was hilarious.  For half an hour, she sat across from the perch, staring at those greens and thinking of how she could possibly get to them.  Finally, she decided climbing up to the ceiling and then backing downward and eating the greens upside down was the best course of action, all to avoid this perch.

Eventually, I am happy to say, she did finally step on it, and– it didn’t kill her!  She still isn’t crazy about it, but at least now she knows that it’s not some sort of evil contraption bent on destruction. Plus, she got to enjoy her delicious, fresh, healthy greens in a more comfortable position.

Some of you might notice the chubby fellow in the background.  Why yes, that is Charles, who doesn’t seem to understand that there’s a divider in between him and the coveted pea shoots.  Of course, he had his own very large bushel of them in his side of the cage as well, but that didn’t seem to make a difference.  You always want what you can’t have, it seems!

"So close and yet so far away!!"

On another note, I think the acrylic divider is actually working out quite well.  They seem to like being able to see each other and also seem to like each other more while the divider is there.  I very frequently come home to really adorable little scenes like this:

Charles and Sabrina, across the divider

It breaks my heart to see them yearning to get to each other!!  Of course, the other day when I actually tried removing the divider to see how they would act towards each other, they were good for all of 10 minutes.  Then they started clobbering each other once more.  I am hopeful, however, that the divider is helping them to learn to coexist and to learn how to have their own spaces.  I’m hoping that in time, I can begin removing the divider maybe for half an hour everyday… and building up from there.  I am constantly catching them trying to “communicate” through the divider in non-aggressive ways, so perhaps this is the beginning of something.  Let’s hope!

Lola’s Social Skills: Meeting New People

November 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

I very, very often get asked about Lola’s personality and Capes in general, so I figured I would just blog about her a little more to answer some of the more common questions I get.  One of the most common is, how is she around other or new people?  It’s actually kind of a tough question for me to answer because, to be honest, she isn’t really around new people all that often, as I try to keep it relatively quiet that I have parrots (for safety and security reasons).  But I have observed her with a few other people and I will comment on how she interacts with them.  I will note that with me, she is a total angel and sweetheart and never bites.  Of course, this isn’t always the case with everybody.

In general, she is very cautious around new people, and when somebody she does not know enters the room, she stops whatever she is doing and watches them very carefully.  This is the case whether she is in or out of the cage.  And this is pretty much the rule with her in most situations: I have never, ever seen her run or fly at somebody to attack them or “defend her territory” — she is the quiet and cautious type, rather than the aggressive type.  That said, if you do invade her space, she does lunge.  For her, an invasion of space is when somebody comes too close (within a foot) and makes a clear sign that he/she is going to try to touch Lola.  If you stand close to her, however, that’s okay.  She is fine with sharing, but she doesn’t necessarily want to be bothered.

There are a few people, aside from myself, that are “regulars” in her life.  She reacts to each of them pretty differently.  She actually loves my S.O., but it depends on how long it’s been since she has seen him.  If it’s been a while, she needs a day or two to warm up to him before he can handle her again.  Once she “remembers,” she’s a melted puddle of scratches and cuddles for him.  She likes one of my sisters, with whom she has spent the most time, but she also has a “lag” with her — she has to remember her and get comfortable with her again before they can make contact.  On the other hand, one of my other sisters, who is a bit more hands on and a bit less patient, is definitely not okay by Lola.  And for some reason — we have never been able to figure this one out — she has never liked my mother.  I’m not sure why, but the only thing I can think of is that it’s my mother’s fingernails.  She has really long and always manicured nails, and Lola’s not used to that at all.  I think she might be intimidated by them because she seems to react especially to her hands.

I have one friend who is my “bird sitter” who comes by to change the food and water if I have to be away– Lola is completely fine with her, even though they only see each other every once in a while.  Lola lets her go in and out of the cage without bothering her in the least, and Lola is fine with her in her space.  Of my other friends, Lola seems interested but I have not yet wanted to take the risk of letting them handle her.  She has quite a formidable beak.

In general, I would say, Lola is cautious but friendly and not aggressive.  I am sure that if she had been raised by more people than just me– a family bird, for instance– she’d love every member of the family.  I have no doubts about that.  She does not strike me as a one person bird; I think it is simply the circumstance since there is only one of me.  I think with her, taking things slowly is the most important factor.  Of course, I can’t really generalize about Cape Parrots.  Lola is first and foremost an individual, but she is also a female and she has yet to come of age– who knows what she will be like when she hits maturity?

Sabrina, Sabrina

August 18, 2011 § 17 Comments

I admit that I have, on occasion, entertained the idea of relinquishing Sabrina.  Translate: I’ve thought about rehoming Sabrina.

There, I said it.

Have I made an plans to do it or am I actually going to do it?  No, probably not, or at least not at the current time.  I’m definitely committed to trying my best to make it work.  But I needed to get this off my chest.

Rehoming is not something I take lightly, at all.  I definitely think of myself as my birds’ forever homes, and brought them home with the attention of keeping them forever.  They’re more than pets to me; they mean the world to me.  But I do understand that there are many valid reasons to rehome a parrot.  I have always thought that for me personally, it would only happen under one circumstance: both that the parrot was causing a serious upset of a violent nature in my household or flock, and that I could find the parrot a better or more suitable home than that with me.  Both parts of the equation are very important to me, since I don’t take the adoption or bringing home of a parrot lightly, either.  If I made the decision to bring him or her home, I made the decision to give it all I’ve got to making it work.  I know that parrots don’t take rehoming easily and that the bonds, trust, and relationships broken aren’t easy on such a sentient creature.  So it would very seriously not have to be working for us, and I would have to have a clear alternative that would be better for both my flock and the parrot in question.

With Sabrina, I would say that with her recent developments, we definitely have the first condition fulfilled.  She has posed a serious threat to Charles in the past two weeks.  Her chasing him and pulling his tail has escalated into full on beak fighting, pouncing on him, biting toes and feet, and other very aggressive behaviors.  I don’t allow them out of the cage together anymore, but the problem is that even when I allow her out, she immediately goes to his cage and starts provoking him through the bars.  The other difficulty is that she absolutely hates me now for trying to break up her squabbles, and completely runs from me.  She used to be very good about stepping up, but now it is literally a thirty minute ordeal when I need to get her back into the cage.  On the one hand I feel that it is so utterly important for her to get out of cage time, but on the other, I really can’t do that as often as I’d like to if she is going to literally make me chase her around the room from high to low for half an hour.  It’s good exercise for me, perhaps, but sometimes I have other things to tend to and can’t afford to leave her scrambling about the room by herself– especially considering that she has discovered that she can fit through the cage bars on Lola’s cage and likes to terrorize Lola, too.  (Talk about a kamikaze budgie.)  So she’s getting less out of cage time now, and neither of us are happy about that.

Then there’s the other half of the equation– finding her a better home.  I’m just not sure about that half right now.  I’m a big advocate for budgies.  I adore them and I always try to treat them with the same dignity and loving adoration that I treat my Cape Parrot, despite the wide difference in price tag.  But would most people spend the money on a welded swing to protect Sabrina’s toe nails– a swing that cost the equivalent of a pair of budgies at the pet store?  I’m not sure.  She gets freshly chopped veggies and sprouts every morning, as well as a freshly cooked meal nightly.  All of it is organic, and I even tie up a big, organic leaf of chard or kale or broccolini in her cage as well because she likes to eat and climb at the same time.  She wastes a lot of it, but she has a lot of fun in the process.  She throws food up to four feet away and she screeches like a banshee.  Finally, she bites indiscriminately and has a beak like a razor blade.  She’s a whole lot of budgie and a whole lot of effort.

I have considered finding someone or somewhere with an aviary setting for budgies only, where she could be with other budgies and join a flock and just be a bird.  But I’m not sure that that would necessarily be what she wants.  She is kind of a menace to other birds and she also needs an inordinate amount of toys to keep her busy.  I have never seen a budgie destroy like she can.  She saws through willow wood!!  She is also an avid metal chewer and I wouldn’t trust her with anything but stainless steel.

So therein lies my dilemma.  If I really, sincerely thought she’d be happier somewhere else– well, it’d be hard, but I would strongly consider rehoming her.  But I won’t let her go to just anybody, anywhere.  I’m also hoping that maybe, just maybe, we can turn it around.  I’m sincerely hoping that the new cage helps.  I guess I should finally write an official entry on it one of these days.

Why am I writing about this?  I guess on the one hand, it is somewhat cathartic for me.  But more importantly, I don’t feel that I talk about the “downs” of parrot ownership enough.  I love bragging about my birds.  I’m definitely guilty of that.  They are gargantuan sources of joy and even learning in my life.  But not everything is peachy keen, not even for my small flock of three.

We’ll see.

My First Taste of Cape Parrot Biting and Aggression

June 8, 2011 § 10 Comments

Or perhaps I should say Lola’s first taste?  Well, regardless, my sweet little Lola bit me for the first time yesterday!  As I’m sure you can imagine… that big beak of hers can do some damage.  She didn’t actually draw blood but bruised my finger pretty badly and I lost feeling in it for a few hours.

Lola has always loved my S.O.  We are long distance, though, so he isn’t here all the time, and hadn’t been around for about two months until he visited this weekend.  Usually, when he’s around, she just goes nuts for him.  She will fly over to him or step up for him over me, beg for scratches, and even regurgitate and spread her wings in that way for him on occasion.

Well, this weekend, things changed.  Suddenly, she hates him and wants nothing to do with him.  She was on my arm yesterday when he walked towards us and she bit my finger quite vigorously, in what I assume was an attempt to get me to get away from the “predator.”

Although I was quite surprised, as she has been so sweet thus far and is still quite young, I’m also somewhat relieved to know that she is indeed a normal parrot.  The S.O. is gone already but for the remainder of his stay, I had him try to curry favor with her– giving her almond slivers or sunflower seeds whenever he walked by the cage, spending quality time with her without me in the room or even at home, etc.  She seemed to be more receptive last night and this morning, or at least not aggressive– she kept her distance rather than lunged.

We are traveling soon to visit my family, whom Lola hasn’t seen for several months now.  She used to adore one of my sisters as well, so I am very interested in seeing how she reacts to her after this incident.  I am observing her behavior around strangers and others very carefully and will be sure to diarize all incidents of aggression in the future.

In the mean time, I’ve been working on creating other things for her to chomp:

A spool of thin paper cord and some home made foot toys!

I received a massive spool of thin paper cord from Things for Wings this week and got straight to work.  The rope is killing my hands after a few hundred foot toys.  What’s photographed is only about half.  I also made an equal amount of colored ones now that I can be home more often to keep an eye on Lola’s water, but most of those are already gone.  It doesn’t even look like I made a dent in the spool though!  I sense that my fingers will be very sore and tender before I finish this one…

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