To The Rescue

There is no such thing as a "starter bird". All parrots, no matter the size, require elevated empathy, investment and care.

To The Rescue

Recycle, reuse, rescue...there are many kitschy names used for taking in an orphan companion parrot. One thing is certain, our best intentions may not be enough for the transitions going on for that bird

I've rescued three birds myself; two CAGs, and a cockatiel. One of the CAGs was miserable in our home due to multiple flighted birds. But I interviewed 9 families and he now lives like a king as an only bird VERY much loved. The other CAG flourishes with us. The cockatiel is a proud momma bird here, and part Velcro. All three of these experiences taught me the same lesson. You can not understand why your rescue acts or does the things they do, but you can accept those foibles as what they are; part of your bird.

We as individual humans are a sum of the parts of our lives. Experiences, environments, pains and joys have created the end result we have at this moment. A companion bird is no different. I will never be able to overcome my insane reaction to cockroaches. Period. Stella our rescue cockatiel will never be able to overcome her insane reaction to being touched by a hand. Period. We both have a reason for these issues, but neither one of us can explain it clearly enough, so we just need understanding. Stella lands on my shoulder and rubs my cheek and neck, I lean in a little and rub back. That is called a best case scenario for the time being.

I killed my first cockroach a few weeks back. I felt like godzilla. I've since killed and disposed of a few more . Stella allowed me to scritch her head and neck with my fingers for 20 minutes last week. I look forward to her allowing me to do that again, soon. It's the first step that's tough. It takes a concerted effort on the companion parrot to become vulnerable to take a step in the direction you want to go with or for them. Birds are NOT naturally willing to be vulnerable. At all. EVER. Vulnerable equals dead in the wild. And therein lies the crux. To come to you with a history you will not know, and their internalization of that history you can not understand, requires you to be the vulnerable one first.

Flocks mimic members inside the group. Fear, joy, hunger, all emotions roll through a flock one by one. So, as you gain small successes of any nature with your rescue, remember those are ripples of success that will course stronger everyday. Have faith! You are both growing together. Approach your new flock member without expectation, without fear, without demand. Relax your eyelids, almost in a sleepy way. Why? Because predators stare with big round eyes of white. Don't look directly at your new flock member first, but just off to the side or down a bit. Be vulnerable, be submissive first. Why not? Some will counter, you have to be the flock leader! I would rebutt; No. You have to be the flock member who leads through physical and emotional example. Watch a flock of any bird outside. You will learn quite a bit about your companion birds by watching a flock of any winged variety. There is wisdom in their ways, and clues to leading and unlocking your rescue's trust and heart. You may want your parrot to step up on your hand, and you might just never get it. But your rescue may step up on a perch or training stick with joy. That is called the best case scenario for the time being.

When I brought Stella the cockatiel home she was terrified. She wouldn't come out of her cage for a week. I put her cage on our dining room table in the main living area we call the bird room. (yes, just like it sounds, full of birds and I painted the walls to look like a Florida jungle). Every day I ate lunch with her. Every day she saw me engaged with all the others. Every day starting the 6th day she moved closer to the door, until one day...she jumped on my shoulder and never wanted off again. That was called the best case scenario for the time being. Until 1 and half years later, she let me scritch her head with my fingers. Whatever issues you have with your rescue are not issues, but your rescue being...themselves. We can not as companion parrot lovers expect our birds to act like birds we see elsewhere. We can not hold our parrot to some ideal of what "they should be acting like". Rescuing is a process. Your bird may bite you today, but do not react. Proactively seek trust by acting vulnerable and submissive. Do expect your bird not to bite. But consistently give it a reason not to bite. And one day, you may just get what you were hoping from that cutie you couldn't resist. And that is called the best case scenario for the time being.

Here's the trick of new and better reasons; they hinge on you understanding and knowing the bird well enough to present variations of the things that get that bird interested in moving forward. That knowledge takes observation over time. Modification by observation applies to reasons just as it applies to laying out a cage. This is why I see a Parrot Rescue as a Parrot Rescue-ing. Only time allows your to untangle the yarn ball of the life before, so you can rewind it properly now. Referring back to my cockatiel rescue, Stella, bathing was a foreign idea to her. She didn't see water as anything other than a drink. And certainly never saw it as an optional event that could be entertaining. I spent two years proffering passive water options to her. She learned by watching others of the flock. I never forced her, I allowed her to join the shower festivities by sitting on the curtain. She watched the sink bathers from the spigot. She took mistings with little fuss, but what's the fun in that? Running water truly intrigued her, and she loves to watch me do dishes. She'll land on the pass through window to watch a session of dish washing. And so it was one day, that the left side sink where I piled cleaned dishes for rinsing became full while the water ran. That darn drain stopper always fell closed on itself. And, thank goodness it did! Because with 2 inches of water and the water splashing oh so right, Stella jumped feet first right into the sink! And she opened her wings and just sat as the water got higher. Then she floated. And THAT'S when I found her reason to take a bath! Stella likes to float like a duck. And who will ever know the reason behind that, but that is a best case scenario for the time being.

Stella's reason for bathing is to float around like a duck, until she's ready to wash, then I let out half the water and she stands and baths. We've got a signal when she's ready for that step. Communication, observation and experimentation lead to new and better reasons. Those, even with a new baby bird, a bird you've weaned or a bird that has you as parents for the first time require time investments. But they do not have a database of reasons already formed by past experiences and turned into habits. They are clean slates. Which is why rescues take more time, more observation and more understanding. A rescue is the trickiest lock at the bank, but when you crack it, it's a big pay day for everyone involved. Incorporation of a known habit with unknown reasons is another avenue to new and better reasons. Felix our rescue CAG came to us without knowledge of toys. But an understanding that newspaper needs to be murdered with fierce determination. Observation taught me what papers pass his inspection as murderable. We've added thin card boards, postcard stock, tissue paper and torn up box bits. I wanted him to understand wood, so I infiltrated his cones of wrapped and twisted paper with bits of wood. These were long pieces already shredded and left for dead by Butters the Macaw. (recycled/reused toys). I found he hated colored woods, but plain jane woods were welcomed! I put in cotton rope chunks. Yup! Sold! He now has 3 hanging wood and rope toys in his cage and his very own dish rag (no color) to destroy. This took about 8 months.

For comparison, Butters was hand raised by us from 4 weeks...I spent 13 months hand feeding her as I believe in abundance weaning. So she's intimately trusting with us. A new toy takes exactly 15 seconds to be welcomed into her foot and beak. I get a bigger kick out of picking the lock of Felix' brain because, well, it's a locked lock! We all need good reasons to do just about anything, and a companion parrot is no different. They are thoroughly cognitive of their time and what they can get out of it. Building a new reason has a fabulous side affect,too. That side affect is called trust, and that is the very glue that binds a bird to his parent, and it's the very reason that causes a bird to do something just because we asked. Trust.

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