Sunday, June 12, 2011

Common Birdie Sense

At a family gathering a number of years ago, I recall a distant relative complaining to my grandmother that her toddler was still not potty trained. She quizzed her as to the right age for a child to be trained.

"Dear, I've raised 6 children to adulthood. All of them potty trained at different ages. But this I can promise you - not a single one of them wore diapers in high school."
If there was one thing she knew, it was that each child was an individual. And she treated them accordingly. If one of the children didn't eat their dinner, she did not become frantic and call the doctor. There certainly was not the money for that sort of thing. She simply didn't allow them desert, and knew that eventually they would get hungry and eat. She sent them outside to play, or assigned chores (work) to increase their appetite. She seemed to have a keen sense as to when a child was actually ill and when they were just simply feeling like being rebellious and refusing to eat their vegetables. She knew her children, and she knew them well.
Likewise, each of our birds is an individual. Not all birds of a certain species eat the same amount of food daily. Not all macaws love the underside of their left interior wing scratched. And, not all cockatiels like to play with the same types of toys.

We humans seem to gravitate toward taking the unique and making it ordinary... turning the complex into a recipe for sameness, and categorizing the splendor of each bird into the clump of "all"or "most".

The joy in living with a companion bird comes in developing a relationship, learning their preferences, likes, dislikes, and tendencies. Then as any good parront, we help them develop to their full potential. We expose them to different foods, people, and situations carefully and lovingly encouraging them to explore the environment and expand their horizons. We are certainly the product of genetics and environment, but we are also shaped by our experiences. By knowing our birds, we can begin to predict how they might respond to a new situation or food, and are also in a position to know what is normal and when things are not at all right.

Common Birdie Sense.... it helps us focus and not freak.

It allows us to quickly call the avian vet if there is an illness, and enables us to take a deep breath and relax when there is not.

In the bird world, it seems sometimes we see parronting skills that are on opposite sides of the spectrum. One person will write: "I plan to take my bird to the vet first thing tomorrow morning - because I have not seen her take a single drink of water in over an hour!!!" While another person will post a question on a bird forum that reads, "My bird is in the bottom of the cage convulsing and unable to perch. Does anyone know what could be wrong, and if there is some herbal tea home remedy I can give her?"
That's where a little Common Birdie Sense can really come in handy. It's just as absurd to freak out that we didn't see our bird take a drink in the past hour (some birds will never be seen drinking), as it is to be looking for home remedies and internet advice for a convulsing bird.

It is really important to take a common sense, educated approach to bird care, and that begins with our responsibility to know each of our birds. To really know them.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, this is also true when it comes to reinforcers. In the same way that each bird has food and toy preferences, birds also are unique as to what they consider a high value reinforcer. And even those are not only personal, but also situational and changeable.

The last couple of weeks it has been hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. Knowing Coco, it didn't surprise me when she slowed down on her food intake. I've seen this in the past during the hot weather. She did not stop eating, but she has been eating less. Using a little Common Birdie Sense, I thought I would change things up a little bit. Normally, she receives fruit as a treat. So I bought some seasonal raspberries and strawberries, and whipped them up with a light tossing of vanilla yogurt. Sugar often sparks appetite, and what better than some juicy berries! Yep - that got her appetite moving again! And being the dedicated parront that I am, I joined her... just to set a good example, you know... !

(Now, if grandma were here right now, I bet she would have a nice slice of homemade pie to go with this!)

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phonelady61 said...

What a great post Robin , you are awesome dear and thanks for giving us things to think about with our feathered babies .

Robin Cherkas said...

Thank you for your kind words, and always for your support, Phonelady!

Arlene said...

I absolutely loved this post Robin. Sometimes we just have to sit back and think and use that old common sense. I know how my birds will react to any situation. When there are strangers over they sit outside the cage on the perch near the ceiling and remain quiet until they're gone being ever vigilant. Knowing them as much as I know myself is a huge plus in a relationship.
And aren't you the nice parront giving Coco berries and yogurt. Umm...I'm not so sure that's yogurt on your place. Looks oddly like vanilla ice cream with something wonderful drizzled on top. It must have been a great bonding/eating special moment. :D

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