BirdTricks | Parrot Training Blog » Monique

How To Go About Training Foster Parrots

 February 15th, 2015
Posted By:
Monique
Cutie-Pie. HE IS SO CUTE!

Cutie-Pie (and me). HE IS SO CUTE!

To be honest, I had NO idea how to start training fosters. I tried with every one of them, but never made any progress whatsoever at first. Training fosters was a bit different than training my own birds. I know I already wrote about the importance of time when working with new birds. That’s one of the reasons I tend to foster birds I know personally, that way I have an idea of how long I should wait before taking the first step (or second step, I believe that first step should be giving them space). Something that everyone should remember, myself included, is that every bird is different and what works for one might not work for another. Certain situations might give cause for some extra creativity.
Take my latest two foster Cockatiels for example, Poppet and Cutie-Pie. The male, Cutie-Pie, is, well…a cutie pie! He is incredibly sweet and like all male Cockatiels, terribly charming and charismatic. From a behavioral aspect, he didn’t require that much training. The female, Poppet on the other hand was fearful, a little skittish and not a big fan of hands. So I decided to give training another go but this time started training them at the same time I started target training my two new male budgies.

Reason being is that I tend to get carried away sometimes and over do it. So instead of just focusing on them, I had two others I had to train as well. Definitely worked for me. Of course the easy-going male responded much better to the clicker conditioning and the target stick. He was a bit reluctant to come near the chop stick so I pushed most of the chop stick into my sleeve and just exposed a little more every time he seemed comfortable with the current length. Same can’t be said for the female. She was okay with the sound of the clicker but the target “stick” definitely wasn’t working for her. I couldn’t push it into my sleeve because she wouldn’t come so close to my hand. What to do….?

The sweet and gentle Poppet, see where training can get ya?

The sweet and gentle Poppet, see where training can get ya?

So I started looking around the room and in her cage, something relatively “stick like”, something she knows but not something she necessarily came in contact with or needed. At the bottom door of her cage I found a wooden peg! It was there to keep that little door closed since she has a habit of sneaking out. She wouldn’t come close enough at first so I took it and used it to grasp a sunflower seed, showed her the seed and clicked as she reached over to take it. Normally you would keep the target and the treat apart from each other when you are target training – that way there is no confusion that they have to touch the stick to get the treat. She had to touch the wooden peg while reaching for the treat and as long as I clicked right then, she understood.

Eventually I took the seed out and offered it just like that, every time she ran over to touch it, I clicked and then gave her the treat by hand. Few more sessions and she was perfect, running to me anticipating her reward after the click. In the end, her target training skills were far more advanced than little Cutie-Pie’s!

Introducing My 5 Budgies

 February 1st, 2015
Posted By:
Monique
Male green budgie, Robin.

Male green budgie, Robin.

Not sure how all of this happened, a year ago I remember saying I like budgies and would like one of my own…somehow I ended up with 5. First there was Snowball and Robin, two males with a complicated relationship. They were aviary bred and raised birds but bought as pets about 6 months before I adopted them. Life in a small cage and a human trying to handle them wasn’t something they adjusted to easily…or at all really.

In my previous post I mentioned their wing clips which just made life that much harder for them. Robin grew out most of his flight feathers in one molt (how awesome is that!), but at the same time Snowball was going through a molt and only grew in ONE flight feather. At first I was hesitant to clip the other wing to even his wings out and restore some balance since Robin’s came in so well. But after multiple crashes into the wall and fluttering up somewhere high and not being able to come down, I decided to clip his feathered wing for his own safety. His feathers molt very slowly but luckily he is almost fully flighted now, just need 4 more.

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Adorable white male budgie, Snowball.

Back to their “complicated relationship”, well they are both males with two very different personalities. Robin is very gentle and doesn’t have an ounce of confidence or aggression in that little body. He is also the smallest and I’m guessing the oldest amongst all of my birds. Then there is Snowball…what a jerk! Lol. He has a very overpowering personality and  is more confident and used to have a crush on Zaza (my senegal bad boy). I was going to separate them a long time ago but Robin is incredibly dependent on Snowball and is lost without him (he becomes frantic when Snowball is out of sight) and Snowball loves him too…in his own unique way. They do have their loving moments.

Lucky for me Snowball’s aggression towards other birds eased up quite a bit after I brought home Sky and Neon, two young males who don’t take kindly to being pushed around!

Budgies, Snowball, Sky, Robin and Neon.

Budgies; Snowball, Sky, Robin and Neon.

A couple of months ago I took care of a terminally ill budgie for a couple of weeks, another male (it’s like the universe doesn’t want me to have female birds), even just hearing another budgie and seeing him outside was enough to perk Robin up and allowed him to come out of his shell a bit more. He was, after all, a previous aviary bird! So that’s how I started looking for another budgie to add to my flock.

Then I adopted two males. Shocker.

One of the newbies. That green and yellow fluffy thingy is my male budgie, Neon.

One of the newbies. That green and yellow fluffy thingy is my male budgie, Neon.

Sky and Neon, they are both around 3 years old. They have very interesting personalities, so Patty and I started with the “budgie match-making” process. At first Sky seemed to be the confident, cocky one but more even tempered towards the other birds so we thought he and Snowball might connect. And Neon, at first, seemed to be the sweet gentle one amongst the two, like Robin, so we thought the two sweet ones might bond. Boy were we wrong. Turns out Neon is worse than Snowball and Sky is the sweet gentle one who has no interest in birds! Nevertheless, adopting them certainly had a positive impact on all of my birds. Robin became more confident and has his moments where he will stand up for himself, Snowball calmed down a bit and is much calmer and gentler towards Robin and since Sky and Neon spend hours every day flying all over the bird room. They have encouraged Zaza to fly on his own. And they are much more confident than my other two, so definitely had a positive affect on Zaza’s budgie bullying attitude. Their boisterous and active nature has encouraged all of my birds to be more active, Snowball and Robin come out of their cage on a daily basis which I thought might never happen.

Zaza warming up to the budgies, you can see my hand behind him to take him away in case he changed his mind.

Zaza warming up to the budgies, you can see my hand behind him to take him away in case he changed his mind.

The last one to join my flock is Smooches (or Kisses as she is known by the rest of my family), my only female. She got her name by mimicking the sound of a kiss every time she heard the other birds. I’ve only had her for about a month and still deciding when I’m going to introduce her to my boys. Something I’m very nervous about because I know Snowball and Robin were previous breeders, actually one of their previous female mates died due to egg-binding. I plan on having her in a cage of her own and allow supervised interactions, but my “planning” hasn’t worked out so great in the past so…at least she’s still in quarantine for another month so I’ll let you guys know!

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Blue male budgie Sky loves human company. (Sorry I don’t have any usable pictures of Smooches at the moment)

Why I Keep All Of My Birds Flighted

 January 18th, 2015
Posted By:
Monique
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Camelot macaw, Comet, on a free flight trip.

Generally I tend to avoid the topic of wing clipping, we all know how heated these discussions can get, however I personally can’t see myself ever clipping or allowing anyone near my birds’ wings! Birds fly, I accepted that way before I even set foot into parrot “ownership”. I think everyone would agree when I say that there are very few things as beautiful as a bird in flight. Those colorful flight feathers and skilled graceful movements are more than we crazy bird lovers can handle. Before any of my birds were actually flighted, I did a ton of research online to more appropriately explain my decision for choosing not to clip their wings again. There are quite a bit of information regarding the health benefits but I couldn’t find much regarding behavioral differences. This was quite the learning experience for me, a very fun one!
But first, this blog post will not be about wing clipping in general (check out this post by Patty ), this will just be me sharing my experiences with flighted birds.
Only half of my 6 birds came to me flighted, so I think I have a pretty good understanding of the behavioral benefits with flighted birds. The three birds that came here flighted are Sky and Neon, two male budgies, and one female, Smooches. (Will introduce them in the next post!) Even though Smooches and Neon aren’t as tame as Sky, they are the picture of confidence. The two other budgies, Snowball and Robin, both had cosmetic one wing clips (when one wing is left fully feathered but nearly all the feathers on the other wing are clipped except for the first primary flight feather), they are nervous and clumsy even though both are almost fully feathered. Wouldn’t take much to completely throw them off balance and short flights are all I can ever get out of them.

My two perch potatoes, Snowball and Robin. Snowball is the white one in case it's not that obvious.

My two perch potatoes, Snowball and Robin. Snowball is the white one in case it’s not that obvious.

Zaza (my Senegal parrot) recently molted out his last clipped feathers and is now fully flighted but I tried to encourage flight even while he was still clipped. He’s been practicing his flight skills on his own these days and honestly, the nervous, overly phobic, clumsy bird I brought home last year has all but disappeared! Especially the clumsy part. I can’t even recall the amount of times Zaza fell to the ground unable to save himself from a potentially dangerous and painful fall. At one point I even had a stack of thick towels folded underneath his newspaper in his cage, naturally he ended up with a foot injury that took a long time to heal up. Hard to believe the same bird can now comfortable fly 10 feet to and from his cage multiple times with ease. Before every flight he says “come on, come on Zazi” (that’s like the cutest thing ever).

Also one thing I never thought flight would have any affect on is…their appetites! Zaza used to drive me insane with his picky attitude towards his food. Not just him not wanting to eat healthy food, but also him not eating more than a few bites at a time. Regardless of the food offered, a teaspoon amount was all I could get into him. Which made training and ‘bribing” very difficult, but after starting with the flight training and after becoming confident enough to take short flights on his own, he pretty much cleans out his bowl every day. Sky and Neon are also very excited about their fresh food and wouldn’t think twice about devouring a big piece of kale or swiss chard!

Sky loves his greens!

Sky loves his greens!

I think flight is especially important with rescued birds. When you think about it, MOST rescued birds have been poorly treated in one way or another. I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve seen who complain about their bird’s biting yet can regularly be seen forcefully handling their bird who is desperately trying to get away from them. Of course, those are usually the same people who fall on their backs when they see my birds willingly flying to my hand. Even if that bird finds a loving and understanding home, flight would finally provide that bird with a choice and the confidence to put his past behind him! I can’t ever see myself taking away that type of freedom from my birds just because I don’t want to work harder to ensure their safety.

Remembering Toeksie, My Sun Conure

 January 4th, 2015
Posted By:
Monique
Toeksie

Toeksie

Okay so this probably won’t be the easiest post to write, can’t say I’m all that excited about this one but thought it was about time that I write a little something about Toeksie my female Sun Conure. She came into my life two years ago somewhat unexpectedly. January 28th, 2013 I went to a local pet store to kill some time while waiting for a friend, I wasn’t looking to buy…well, anything really. I already scheduled an appointment with a local breeder to go see her sun conure babies, I didn’t expect to find the most adorable sun conure babies at the pet store! I saw Toeksie and that was it, done deal. I fell in love with that sweet little face the moment I laid eyes on her.

I sure learned a lot from her, I thought I knew enough about birds to be okay but as soon as I got her home I completely forgot about everything I read online. I had so much to learn and I was so lucky to have such a patient teacher, she had the softest, sweetest heart of any bird I have ever met. I had to seriously screw up to get her to bite me.

Taking a nap after breakfast.

Taking a nap after breakfast.

We were inseparable in no time, since I stayed home most of the time she was only ever in her cage to sleep or to eat breakfast (dinner was always with me). Her favorite meal was cooked oatmeal, she absolutely loved it. It was so bad that I couldn’t prepare it in front of her because she wouldn’t think twice about diving into a boiling hot bowl, which luckily never happened. She also had this thing about green apples, no matter how hard I tried she would not go near a red or yellow apple. I regularly tried to mix a couple of yellow apples in with the green ones but as soon as she tasted the sweetness from the yellow ones, no way.
She was always so easy to train, I used to complain about her pickiness regarding the treats. One day she likes sunflower seeds, the next day they apparently tasted like dirt. But she was awesome, her bests were the “kiss” and “wave”, she would even perform for my then two year old cousin.

She filled such a big void in my life.
February 4th I took a bunch of pictures of her for the BirdTricks Valentines day competiton (before I became a blogger), she did so good! She looked so beautiful and I wanted to show her off to everyone. There were so many awesome pics entered though and unfortunately we didn’t win but we had so much fun with our little photoshoot!

Toeksie's valentines day photo.

Toeksie’s valentines day photo.

…….
10 Days later, on the 14th she had to be rushed to the vet’s office due to a bad bacterial infection. She died early the next morning.
When something like this happens you start thinking back, searching for possible signs that you might have missed. You over-analyses every detail. Words cannot express the amount of guilt I still carry with me, I’m not even sure how I managed to finish this post. Took a long time for me to even grasp the fact that she won’t be there when I wake up in the morning or screaming for me when I get home. I remember a couple times when I got home and started worrying about her being so quiet only to be confronted by the painful reality.

A happy memory.

A happy memory.

Love your fids as much as you possibly can. Now if you’d excuse me, I have to find another box of Kleenex and hug my animals. <3

My Thoughts On “Shouldering” Birds

 December 19th, 2014
Posted By:
Monique
Pepper

Female Eclectus, “Pepper”

Don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly fond of what we call “shoulder birds”. Ironically I was always the one carrying/allowing birds on my shoulders. At first I didn’t see a problem with it, when I first got Toeksie, she was terrified of my hands and would only climb onto my shoulder. I used that to my advantage. Even now, there are a few birds from Brainy Birds who I allow on my shoulder, but I have a whole list of birds I won’t ever allow anywhere near it. Pepper (female Eclectus) is a good example of a bird I can allow to do something like climb onto my head/shoulder. She is very predictable and even tempered, with me anyway, so I can trust her in ‘normal’ circumstances. She actually prefers being on my hands and I only really put her on my shoulder when I need both my hands for something else, BUT she’s not always that great with other people so I’m not sure how I feel about other people allowing her so close to their faces (sorry Pepper).
Then there’s Zaza, my adorable and scary little Senegal parrot. He’s generally very predictable, by predictable I mean I usually know when he’s going to be cool and when he’s going to try and kill me….except for when he’s on my shoulder. I can allow him near my face, no problem. But something about just setting one foot on my shoulder usually sends him into full blown attack mode. Turning him into a little hissing, growling green monster and don’t you dare look at him! Eye contact will only make it worse. So since pretty much anything can set him off, he’s never allowed on my shoulder.

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Adorable Senegal parrot, “Zaza”.

But first, there was Ozzy. He gave me a pretty painful wake-up call very early on in our relationship.
Ozzy (A.K.A “Bo”), one of my previous fosters, is a Bare eyed Cockatoo/little Corella who has a thing for shoulders. He only has eyes for one person at a time and when he chose me, I couldn’t stop myself from “spoiling” him. I broke all the little rules because that’s what made him happy….OH BOY! He might have left me, but at least I still have the battle scars, actual battle scars.
At first everything was fine, he stayed on my shoulder the entire day and we had a lot of fun, really. It wasn’t until much later when things started going south, it was around 5 pm and I was still at Brainy Birds. Dee was out back busy with the birds and I was alone inside with Ozzy, this time he was playing on my lap. One wild pigeon flew passed the window giving him a fright, he bit my hand next to him and jumped onto my shoulder where he proceeded to bite into my ear. Since he was on my shoulder I had no way of knowing whether or not he was calming down, so all I could do was talk to him and pray I wouldn’t need to look for a plastic surgeon by the end of the night. Dee came and we moved into the birdroom, but when he saw he was about to go back to his cage, guess what he did…

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Me shouldering the infamous “Ozzy”.

If you guessed he bit my ear again, well done!
I wasn’t angry with him though, I knew it was my fault and, after taking care of the bites, Dee made sure to give me a good scowling and I got that famous “I told you so, didn’t I?” lecture. I promised to never do it again, but I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I saw him again the next week on my birthday, my mom and I baked birdie cinnamon muffins (with a delicious homemade pecan nut butter topping) for all the birds at the rescue, I went over to Ozzy’s cage and reached over to scratch his head. He had different ideas. He grabbed onto my palm and pulled himself up so that he could easily jump back up to my shoulder. From there on he bit my hand closest to him and also bit my face as I tried to turn my head away from him. Biting when on my shoulder became an impulse reaction instead of him just reacting or redirecting. And after Dee got him back to his cage, he flew to three different cages in his attempt to get back to me and also flew onto my mom’s shoulder, poor woman almost fainted.

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Patty with Quaker “Libby”, Cockatiels, “Tinky & Dee Dee” and Goffins cockatoo, “Theo”.

It was actually after all of this when I first got in contact with Patty, you know, that pretty redhead who really, realy likes owls. 😉
Anyway, my point is that it’s not right nor is it ‘wrong’ to shoulder birds. It just comes down to the individual in question. I am a bit of a “speciest” since there are certain bird species I generally wouldn’t allow near my shoulder, such as Amazons and most cockatoos. Do you allow your birds on your shoulder? Why or why not?

 

Saying Goodbye To Foster Parrots

 December 14th, 2014
Posted By:
Monique

Ozzy

Imagine looking after an animal for a few months, earn their trust, feed them, train them, love them. And then they’re gone. Off to live with someone else and you’ll probably never see them again……………….

If you’re reluctant to foster a bird (or any animal) for a rescue centre because you’re afraid it might be too hard to let them go, then you’re not alone. It’s not easy…at all! I’ve had a lot of people assume how much “fun” it is and often they find it hard to believe that I actually do love the birds as much as I say simply because I am able to let go of the ones I foster. But I remember every one of the birds I have fostered, I remember their history and the day I first met them.

I loved Ozzy’s big feet.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fostering because I love learning from the birds, every one of them is unique. But I would hate for someone to go out and become a foster “parront” without knowing what to expect. So I think the best way to do that is to make a list of all the pro’s and con’s (from my point of view).

Pro’s:

  • Shelters need the space, one animal being adopted/fostered out means one more animal they can save.
  • It provides the animal with a temporary loving home environment, perfect opportunity to work through possible bad behaviors and earn their trust.
  • Time. Okay so this might not apply to parrot rescues (certainly not ones I know of), but a little more time to find a new home can literally mean the difference between life and death for some animals.
  • Learning experience. That was my main reason for becoming a “foster parront”, the opportunity to learn from the different species and personalities.
  • It can be FUN! Because….do I really need to explain how birds can be fun? And what’s more heartwarming than when a rescued animal reaches out to you? Uh…nothing!

Now for the con’s.

Con’s:

  • Most rescued (rescued, not rehomed) animals have been abused in some way at some point in their lives. Understanding that that takes time to work through is very important, if not vital, to the animal’s recovery. In most cases, it might take more than just love to win them over.
  • Letting them go…well, that sucks. Plain and simple. However eventually you start to understand that your involvement is like a stepping stone in that animal’s life (a very, very important stepping stone that is). What they learned from you will now be carried over to the next person, even though they might not trust that individual they do know they can trust people.
  • …….Okay I ran out of con’s.

Rosie

The key is going into it with the appropriate mindset. When I took in birds I KNEW I was just going to foster it was easier to let them go again. I never thought of them as mine. But I have fostered two birds in the past where I got carried away, referred to them as my own, I introduced them to my family, took thousands of pictures of them…but in the end, it was outside of my control. I don’t think of those two as fosters who left, I think of them as birds I’ve lost. Till this day I have trouble talking about where things went wrong…

Ozzy and Rosie

So in conclusion, fostering is; fun, frustrating, heartbreaking, heartwarming, educational, unpredictable and totally worth it!

P.S in case you’re wondering, those “two birds” mentioned are in fact the ones pictured throughout the blog post. 😉