Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hey, It's Almost Easter !

Monday, March 29, 2010

What is Tame?

Lately I have received a number of questions and concerns as to how one can be assured that their new bird will be 'tame'.

First, it is critical to define and explore the expectations involved when someone uses the word 'tame'. Is the person inquiring about a relationship with the bird, or is it possible that behind the questions lurk some or many of the following contentions:

1) It is possible for a bird to arrive in our home in a state of near or complete tameness to us, although we do not have a relationship with the bird.

In other words, is tameness an 'event', or is it borne from a relationship over time?

2) A baby that is hand-fed by humans is the best (or in some folks' opinion, the only) method of assuring a tame bird.

If this is true, then all re-homed and rescued birds are certainly behind the 8-ball when it comes to finding good homes! Even if it were true (and there are many who are the companion of rescued and re-homed birds that would contend otherwise), we would also need to ask ourselves if we could provide a healthy, loving home to a bird that would never necessarily (or quickly) meet our personal definition of tameness.

In reality, we have many relationships with animals that do not meet the tameness expectations that many place on birds. For example, a cat that will be occasionally loving, but more often than not conduct itself as if it is doing the human a favor by allowing it to exist within the cat's space. Or fish that come to the glass, interact and respond with humans although there is never any hands-on interaction and they certainly wouldn't respond well to being petted or given a 'step up' command.

3) A bird that is handled by humans as a baby will remain 'tame' to all humans, in all circumstances, forever.

All animals and humans go through numerous stages of change and growth. This contention, again, would place the focus on tameness being an event and a trained behavior as opposed to an experience within the context of a relationship.

4) A bird that will step up on command must be (or is) tame.

This is one of my favorites.... if stepping up on command, allowing a scritch or any other behavior is what someone uses as the definitive ruler to measure tameness, then what is the response when the bird prefers to nap or play rather than step up, or does not want a scritch one day? I know that most of my birds over the years may have gladly stepped up or spoken an extensive vocabulary until a stranger happened by. Then they became about as willing to step up as the stones in my rock garden!

Instead, there are many factors that combine to form the relationship between human and companion. Certainly, appropriate exposure to humans and hands early on can be an advantage. However, there are many examples of parent-raised baby birds that are on-par with their human-raised counterparts. And likewise, many human-raised baby birds that later turn out to be a disappointment to their companions who thought they would experience only perpetual and effortless sweetness and spice.

There are numerous physical and psychological benefits to allowing baby birds to be parent-raised, and plenty of folks who have experienced the wonderful relationship with their parent-raised chicks, despite not being 'handled' and hand fed.

Whether hand-fed, parent raised, re-homed or rescued, it is about relationship and expectations.
A bird does not magically appear on our doorstep tame. As is the case in a relationship with our human counterparts, it is a process as opposed to an event. Additionally, experiences and events may occur that cause deposits into the trust account between us and our bird, and likewise some that may cause withdrawals.

Additional reading:
Expectations for Interaction?
Is That Bird Tame?

Hey - - - I don't bite... pet my belly!!!!!!!!!!!!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Beaver or Parrot?

You thought Coco was doing a good job already of making sawdust? Just look at what she has been able to accomplish in a few more short days! Clean through!


After.... !Mom, I've got some bad news for you...
I think you may have termites!!!

Beaver or Parrot... vote now!!!


Friday, March 26, 2010

Meet the Newest Family Member!

Hey... that white thing on the floor does not look like dad's underwear- It's moving!!!

Join me in welcoming the newest member of my extended family - - B'Elanna a maltese that now owns my sister, Marianne. She follows her everywhere!

Isn't she simply too cute?! Should be a law against this much cuteness!

Looks to me like she rules the roost already!

(Just wait until Barney sees her....
she's actually shorter than him!!!)


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Least of These

Let's face it - - more children may grow up around cats than around birds. Therefore, it is often easier for us to relate to issues with cats more readily than birds.

For instance:

A little girl is playing with her new kitten. She runs to her mom crying after being scratched. Some expected responses from the mother:

1) I've told you not to bother kitty while she is sleeping...
2) Remember, when kitty is growling or wagging her tail, you need to back off....

3) How many times have I told you that the kitty doesn't like being petted?!

In a similar circumstance where a child is nipped by a budgie, what might some of the expected responses be? Of course, they might be the same. However, often well-meaning bird owners have a different set of responses:

1) Your bird is probably grumpy because it is molting...
2) I think your bird is trying to *be boss* and dominate you....
3) It is "that" time of year... sounds to me like your bird is hormonal!
4) Seems to me that your bird needs to know who is *boss*!!!

In the first scenario, the cat is displaying body language (growling and wagging of the tail), and the mother is suggesting that when the cat is otherwise engaged (napping) or displaying back off body language, that the child needs to learn to leave the kitten alone and thus avoid being scratched.

Do we usually hear folks suggest that the cat needs to learn that it cannot dominate humans? That the kitten needs to learn who is boss?

Anyone usually recommend we let a cat bite and scratch us until it learns that it cannot gain anything and eventually stops?

Can we imagine giving someone this advice about any biting and scratching animal? Well, many of us can. We have read advice just like this:

...that we should allow our birds to bite us, and not pull our hands back.
...that we should let the bird bite and pretend it doesn't hurt..
...that eventually the bird will learn that it cannot win...
...that we need to teach the bird who is *boss*...

Wow, what a dichotomy!

I believe that the extent to which body language is observed and respected could be directly proportionate to the animal's ability to 'put a hurtin' on the companion. Think about it... are we tempted to teach a king cobra who's boss? Would we allow a wild mink to bite us relentless until we were sure that it had learned it couldn't *win*?

Why might some push past and ignore the body language of a budgie, while being quite respectful of the body language of a macaw? Naturally, the reason that comes to mind is that the immediate, physical repercussions of ignoring budgie body language are not as dire as ignoring those of a macaw or angry badger. But the affect on the relationship remains the same.

It may simply be that it is easier (tempting) to force or coerce a behavior out of a budgie.... with just a teensy-weensie "gentle push" or just an itsy-bitsy aversive.

A bird that is performing a step up behavior because it has learned to do so to avoid a finger being shoved into its belly and the feeling of being pushed off the perch, performs the same step up behavior as a bird that learned it can gain a valuable reinforcer when stepping up. But the relationship that these birds and their companions share are quite different.

Many of us would easily choose for our birds to never step up rather than force the behavior through aversive methods. However, the good news is that it is not an either-or proposition.

Whether big beaks or small, furred or feathered, gentle or giants, how we treat the least of these whom have been entrusted to us, and the relationship we engender with them, speaks volumes.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gimme 'Dat

I knew when that dang ground hog saw its shadow, that it was going to be a long winter. I think the black bears here in the mountains have it right... the winter is best spent hibernating!

Although I am a firm believer in plenty of beauty rest, year round, I do (occasionally) get a little active...

Just a little....

Here's a video of me - this is about the most excited I get.. My mom has my favorite - a peanut butter rawhide. It doesn't get much better than peanut butter! Enjoy!


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sawdust Anyone?


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saboteurs Among Us

Parents know the importance of a united front when rearing children. For their part, children learn quickly if they can play one parent off another! If mom says no... ask dad! Maybe he'll say yes!!!

However, when mom and dad have a united front and excellent communication, the likelihood of being manipulated by their precious, innocent little munchkins is greatly reduced. Both parents have the same standards, behavioral expectations and responses.

Naturally, you know where I'm going with this... the same applies to our birds! Like children, they quickly learn the behaviors and expectations of various family members.

Let's face it, if we are working to correct a behavior problem in our bird, and another family member inadvertently or purposely sabotages our efforts, it can be a little more than frustrating.

So, what to do?

There are many parallels between raising children and living with birds. If we were facing this dilemma in regards to parenting, the logical advice would be for the parents to sit down, communicate with one another, design a plan, create boundaries, and work toward a solution. Time would be set aside for frequently comparing notes, and making any adjustments as needed.

In the case of our birds, the same advice applies. From time to time, we may find ourselves faced with a family member that is perpetuating an undesirable behavior, or otherwise working at odds with our efforts.

Some considerations:

1) Assume the best. We all appreciate it when others assume the best of us, and it is nice to be able to return this blessing. Absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, if we assume our loved one is unaware of the consequences of their actions, our approach toward them is more likely to be positive and successful. Even if they are aware, and find it cute to watch the bird crawl into a bag of potato chips, our success will be bolstered by a gracious conversation.

2) Describe specific ways in which the loved one can make a difference. A statement such as "there you go again, reinforcing bad behavior!" does not provide concrete information on what was done, how things could have been done differently, or the impact upon the bird, training and relationships.

3) Provide ways the loved one can be part of the solution. If they can see that their efforts to help reduce the bird's excessively loud vocalizations are working, they will be more engaged and invested in maintaining the training plan. Set the loved one up for success by providing ways they can be part of that working solution.


Our bird is a bit of a pudgie-budgie. We've provided increased opportunities for flight exercise, and a well balanced diet, but PB lovessss him some millet... (don't they all!) And, our loved one (LO) really enjoys watching PB go crazy over the millet. Every chance, LO is slipping PB a spray of millet. LO doesn't really think PB is that overweight...

A couple of things we might consider:

* Create a chart to follow PB's weight loss progress.
* Involve LO in the weekly weighings.
* Plan a celebration when PB reaches the goal weight set by his avian veterinarian.
* Since PB will be getting some limited treats each day, allow LO the joy of dispensing those treats.

* Provide LO access to reading material about the positive benefits of a good diet (and the detriments of a poor diet).
* Serve LO a wonderful breakfast in bed the following Saturday morning to express your gratitude for the help, and support, complete with the daily newspaper inside which is taped a thank you card "from PB" himself !!!

In no time, you'll be turning that would-be saboteur into a most supportive and reliable parront!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Some Things Never Change....

Some things never change....

Like, Barney doing what he does best...

Taking life easy!

Here is a recent photo "spread" on Barney.

Oh, and for the record... he does get off the couch.. sometimes...


Friday, March 12, 2010

Another Video of Coco and the Budgie-Boys!

Wow, regular life has been so busy lately - I just realized my last post was February 25!

Work had been keeping me very busy, but has now slowed down a bit. I hope it will remain that way! I've been burning the candle at both ends, and am getting a bit too old for that!

Meanwhile, Coco and the budgie-boys are doing wonderful, and I thought you all might enjoy a new video! I've placed a copy at the bottom of this post. You are in for a treat:

You will hear Coco say "pretty bird", "I'm a bird", and "bye". You will also see how much progress Penske has made! (Disregard me in the first part of the video talking about Strider... I meant Penske!) He's really coming out of his shell, and I can no longer refer to him as my shy-boy!

For Coco's part, she has been in her own little pulverization mode. Everything she can get her little beak on is turned into shreds or sawdust nesting material. She's having fun, and the pieces of wood are easy enough for the Master Fort Designer to replace as needed. I believe this has been one of her most efficient nesting material creating years. She has provided enough for ten amazon nests! Her beak is in amazing condition from all this chewing!

She has not (at least yet) experienced any change in personality during this season. Her behavior of shredding has definitely increased, but her desire to interact with me has seemed to remain the same.

I did see one behavior a few months ago that I wanted to change.

When I would open or close the curtains covering the sliding glass doors each morning and evening, she became very excited. A bit over-excited. She would flare her tail, open her wings, and pin her eyes. Sometimes she would prance around in circles. She became a bit more excited than I wanted to see. And if Steve was the one moving the curtains, she would lunge toward him on occasion. So this behavior needed to change in my opinion. The curtains sliding across the traverse rod make a lot of noise, and she has always been responsive and reactive to noises.

I began by putting sunflower seeds in a small cup. When I would go toward the curtains to open or close them, I would step into the area and give her a seed. Then I would open or close them and give her another seed.

It did not take much time before she began looking for the seed cup in my hand when I would approach the curtain. She quickly forgot about responding to the curtain, and was completely focused on the treat cup. Now she no longer flares or responds to the curtain - even if I do not have the treat cup in my hand. Additionally, Steve can also offer her a seed if he is the one opening or closing the curtain. Often she will not take a treat from him, but at least she has the opportunity if she chooses.

I hope you enjoy watching the birds on the video as much as I do!