Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Joey, in three months time

Nearly three months ago I agreed to take in five birds from a friend who had to rehome her animals due to a tragic, life changing event.  Her flock included a 5 year old White Capped Pionus, a 4 year old Canary Winged Parakeet, an 8 year old Green Cheek Conure and two budgies.  Two of the five have moved on from my home, but Joey, the Pionus and Easter and Peep, the two budgies will remain with me.

I have spent a great deal of time over the past three months working with Joey.  When he first arrived here he was very defensive of his cage and would lunge and bang into the sides with his beak every time I came near.  When my friends family brought the birds they told me that he was very aggressive.  I was not able to communicate with the friend who had the birds before me.  Just going by what I saw it was clear he would be hands off for a while.

Joey's cage was set up in a way that you could only change his food and water by opening the large front door opening and putting your hands into the inside of the cage!  This is challenging when you have a bird who is rushing to get to your hands aggressively when you open the door.  I have had this issue with several birds and always deal with it the same way which is to teach them to go to a certain perch in their cage and remain there while I do what I need to do.  That is what I did with Joey.  I tested foods and found his favorite to be grapes.  Grapes are not particularly nutritious to birds, but I offer them because they like them and they are not harmful.  I have used grapes with a few of my birds as I worked through finding other things they like.  Every time I would go to feed or water Joey, I would lure him up to a certain perch and fed him grape pieces while I changed his food and water.  I would continue to offer pieces or give him big pieces that lasted awhile.  It wasn't a day or two later that the moment I came into the room he would rush up to that perch.

As time went on, he began to look pretty excited when I came in and went up to that perch every time I would enter.  I did not let Joey out of his cage right away for a couple of reasons.  First, I did not want him to come out and then me have to force him to go back in.  Our relationship was moving forward in a way that I was really happy with and I didn't want to damage that.  So, we did quite a bit of training with him in his cage and me sitting with him, talking to him, listening to music with him and training him.

Finally, about 3 weeks after he arrived, I decided to open his cage and let him come out.  He crawled right out and went to the top of his cage.  He seemed happy to be out.  I offered my hand and he lunged to bite it.  I did not offer my hand again for more than a month but I did begin to let him out regularly because I learned that he would go back in eventually, so I just had to time it when I had plenty of time.  Here is the first time I let him out of his cage.

Sometimes when I had Joey out of his cage he would do the infamous "Pionus strut" where he would drop his wings and march back and forth on the top of his cage.  He has not done this in a long time, but did do it when a new person came by to meet one of the birds to adopt.  That strut clearly indicated he was feeling defensive and probably a bit territorial and that it is best not to touch him!  Here is a short video of Joey "strutting"

I decided to move Joey to another cage.  I had a trip planned and my friend was going to be staying with my animals and I didn't want her to have to rely on Joey staying on his perch while she fed him, which by the way, he did, but I didn't know it that would be an issue.  Also, I wanted him to have a larger, heavier cage and I happened to have my Amazon's old cage, so I decided to see if Joey would mind moving to that one.  I also hoped that a new cage would lesson the territorial behavior around his cage.  I left the open cage next to his cage for days and let him explore and check it out at his pace and then finally moved him in.

I began stick training him and the stick training came along really well.  He learned to step onto a dowel fairly quickly which allowed him to choose to get close to me.  He began to want to be close very quickly and would come as close to my hand as possible.  Initially, I would put my hand inside my sweatshirt so that he couldn't see it since it seemed to upset him so much in the beginning.  He always seemed to be asking for me to get the stick so he could come and be close.

We continued with the stick training and he would always rush onto the stick and as close to me without getting onto my hand.  A couple of times he beaked my finger through my shirt.  Only one time with pressure and not very much, just exploring and checking it out.  One day I went into the kitchen just around the corner from where he was and he flew into the room after me.  I decided to put some trust into what I thought we were building and I offered my hand and he stepped up.  A lot of birds will step up from the ground, but I would never purposely put a bird in that position just to get him to step up.  When he stepped up that time I brought him back to his cage, but he wanted to stay on me and he hung out on my arm watching tv for a really long time.  He did make his way up to my shoulder and hang out there for a while to.  Clearly, he was ready for the next step in our relationship.

Joey now steps up and hangs out with me regularly.  He gently puts his beak on my fingers but never with any pressure.  He allows and asks for neck scritching.  I am impressed and amazed with how far he has come in such a short amount of time.  People sometimes think that 3 months is a long time, but it is actually an incredibly short period of time for a parrot.  I am excited to continue to grow with Joey.  

So, that is where we are at and I will surely keep you posted on our progress!