Rocky Cockatoo's New Corner

Companion Parrots rely on location, materials and employment to establish trust. Cockatoos particularly rely on locations.

Rocky Cockatoo's New Corner

When Rocky first moved in with us, it was spring and the porch was exceedingly pleasant, and we didn't have another corner, so he lived on the enclosed porch for a couple of weeks. He could see the bird feeder and get lots of fresh air, and it was warm without being too hot. We rearranged the living room and moved him inside the front door before it got hot. 

Now that it's fall and the temp's going down, we thought it was time to move his cage again, to get him away from the front door and the drafts that he would be in when winter comes. We rearranged again and moved his cage to the opposite end of the living room, where he can still look out two windows, but without the drafts. 

When you move things and rearrange things and especially when it involves his cage in any way, Rocky gets very agitated. It's not just that parrots dislike change in general. To him, these are the signs that he's going to yet another new home. Reassurances don't convince him that you're just rearranging. It takes several days for him to process the changes and be convinced that we've only moved his cage and he's staying. So, during those days, he screams a lot. He demands extra attention. He's upset and on edge and Mama gets a few more pressure bites than usual. See Mama's arms. See the bruises on Mama's arms. See Rocky shriek at full volume until the dogs are begging to go outside and look for new homes! 

One benefit to the previous location was that when he demanded to go to bed around 7 p.m., I could turn off the lamp at that end of the room and it was mostly dark around his cage. The TV was still on. The other lamp was still on. But that end of the room was dark. Now, at the other end of the room, the kitchen light and the other lamp still cast more light than is ideal, and Rocky is harder to get settled down. Yet letting him stay up isn't an option, either, because Rocky insists on going to bed and nothing will do but going to bed, even though Rocky won't go to sleep and yells and talks and makes a sound that I can't identify but which is vaguely like the one the Wolfman makes in the old black and white movies. 

However, a benefit to the new location is that now we and the dogs can come into the living room from the hallway without being ambushed by a nosy 'too who considered that doorway his personal domain, and whose motto was the Black Knight's from Monty Python: NONE SHALL PASS. At least, not without petting the King of All Toos, or if you were a dog, dodging a lunge from the King. Those lunges were mostly empty threats, but the dogs weren't willing to take the chance. Jack learned to do the yoga pose Upward Facing Dog while trotting.

As upset as moving things makes Rocky, he has progressed in other ways. He has begun to preen me, and surprisingly, he is very delicate with his giant beak. He can rearrange hair and investigate imperfections with such a light touch that I hardly even feel it. While I still respect The Beak and keep an eye on body language and feather position, particularly the crest, I have learned to relax and trust him as he relaxes and trusts me. Crest up does not necessarily mean a chomp is coming. It could mean he's seen or heard something and is curious or alert. Bouncing up and down is sometimes just being silly or dancing. 

We can go into the kitchen now, if I walk slowly and stop every couple of steps to let him look around and satisfy himself there are no threats. We even peeped into the bathroom over the weekend. I tried misting him and offering a dishtub full of water after I gave the other birds their baths, and while he wasn't willing to participate, I think – I hope – he was less disturbed by the misting than he was at first. I talked the whole time and I petted his head and I kept telling him what a good boy he is.

We've made it all the way to the screen door on the Birdcage, the room where the Quakers, tiels, budgie and pigeon live. The screen door is to keep them in and Jack the mutt out. He can't quite be trusted (he's too afraid of Rocky to be a threat to him, and Rocky can defend himself, whereas the smaller birds can't). 

Rocky was intrigued by the sounds coming from within, and Clyde and Benjy, the two top birds, were sitting on a boing where he could see them. But then Maggie the Pigeon Queen did what Maggie always does when I'm near that door, and she flapped over to say hello. The sudden appearance and the noise a pigeon makes flapping startled Rocky enormously. His crest AND face feathers stood at attention, he raised his wings and did Car Alarm and darned near fell off my arm, which meant, of course, that he had to grab something to catch himself, the something being my arm. Ouch. I made as hasty a retreat as possible under the circumstances, but crept back once he was calm, because I want him to learn to trust my judgment about what's scary and what isn't. At present, he thinks I'm hopelessly dense about what's scary and it's his job to let me know. It's the MAILMAN! It's the GARBAGE TRUCK! It's the WIND! What's WRONG with you???? Our lives are in danger, here!!!! I can tell him repeatedly that it's okay, and he will turn and look at me with that expression of “Mom's an IDIOT” that I know so well from the Quakers. Quakers are not shy about letting their humans know when they're being idiots. Rocky has only seen Quakers at a safe (for the Quakers) distance, but I'm sure they yell to each other across the house when we're not home.

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