I’m finding this post hard to write. I messed up and got bit, a nasty evil little knick on my middle knuckle. I’m a bleeder. So think half a box of bandaids, which seems ridiculous for such a small cut. Ever tried to type with fingers that won’t bend due to bandaids? I’m giving autocorrect way to many chances to change the meaning of my sentences today.
I live with three lorikeets. Lori and Dori are two female rainbow lorikeets and Otto is a male musk lorikeet. The rainbows are caged together; the musk has his own cage. The main reason for this is Lori. I tend to refer to her as the bird that has “small bird syndrome”. She has a tendency to challenge everyone and anything with absolutely no regard to her own safety. Sweet and loving one moment and then puffing herself up and saying “I could take you!” the next.
I don’t know her history before she got here (she was a rescue) but I’m thinking this behaviour could be the reason she is missing a toe. I don’t think she learned from that experience though. She still likes to challenge everyone and there doesn’t have to be a trigger. It seems the fact that her opponent is breathing is enough to set her off. Ironically, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her actually bite – it’s 90% bluff but she does have a real knack for offending the other birds.
Otto is my smallest bird and therefore he requires a little protection from the others. He does adore the other lorikeets though, so much so that I place their respective cages next to each other. He copies them. When they bathe, he bathes. When the rainbows are rolling a ball around the bottom of their cage, he’s rolling a ball in his cage. They sleep on neighbouring perches. They call for each other if they’re in different rooms. I genuinely feel for him when the rainbows are preening each other. He is always on the outside looking on.
Well lately the rainbows have discovered the joy of pulling the newspaper up from under their cage grill. They delightedly shred it. Otto tries to do the same but frankly he sucks at it. So he has been passing his newspaper through the bars of his cage to the rainbows for them to shred. They in turn give him toy parts. Destroying their environment has been a group effort. It isn’t lost on me that shredding newspaper is a hormonal activity and so I’ve been encouraging the sharing of toys rather than paper and that seems to have worked. It gave me hope that maybe they’d finally come to terms with each other enough for some mutual out of cage time. That was my mistake.
It started well. They played “scream at the galahs”, “steal Fid’s food” (Fid my macaw was in another room at the time), and “let’s make kiwi fruit splats on the bird room window”. Then Lori decided to play the game “Kill Otto”. With a shrill cry she suddenly swooped on him and then lunged in to bite, Dori came to help.
It could have been disaster, but they never made contact because it was supervised play. I saw the body language change and moved to intervene immediately. I caught the rainbows swoop, batting them away from Otto before he got hurt. Otto meanwhile went nuts. He was defensively biting anything that came near him, which meant getting him back to his cage and safety by getting him to step up wasn’t going to happen.
Lori and Dori were repeatedly trying to charge Otto but kept hitting the barrier of my hands. I wound up upending a water jug over the lot of them (great distraction if you ever need it). I dumped the empty jug over Otto (he could still breath as it was on top of a cage, so a grill was under his feet). I unceremoniously grabbed Lori and Dori (who were now trying to bite through the jug) and dumped them back in their cage. I released Otto from the jug and that’s when he nailed my knuckle. Seems he didn’t appreciate the rescue.
Now they’re back in their neighbouring cages on neighbouring perches and they are best friends again. It’s enough to suck you in and make you think that maybe they could get along… Especially when Otto makes these pathetic bleating noises asking to join in to the others’ games. Especially knowing that other people successfully house these two species together and they co-exist in the wild. It isn’t going to happen here though.
I share this story because a lot of people ask me if I can let all of my birds out of their cage at the same time? If I’m brutally honest – I’ve never tried. There are birds that I can (and do) let out at the same time, but I’ve never had them all out at once because it’s too big a risk that one might hurt another. The only reason I tried to have all three lorikeets out at the same time was because the two species are almost the same size and these specific birds play together all day everyday between the bars of their respective cages
A common question is what species will get along? When people add another bird to their flock, they often want to house the birds in the same cage. It’s not an easy question to answer though. The reality is, if you add another bird to your flock you have to be prepared to house it in its own cage. Even birds of the same species won’t always want to live together. Even birds that have lived together for years may not always want to live together.
I have seen that here too. I have 4 galahs, the disabled one clearly needs his own setup but the other 3 lived quite happily together for a few years. This actually surprised me because I expected the bonded pair (Merlin and Morgy) to reject having a third bird (Nemo) around them.
What actually happened was that after several years the bond between Merlin and Morgy broke. Merlin and Nemo wound up bonding together and Morgy started to display behaviour that told me she wasn’t happy with the living arrangements. There was never any aggression between any of them but I suspect if I had ignored the signs there would have been eventually. I gave Morgy her own aviary and consequently I can still have the three of them out of their cage at the same time. Their relationship never deteriorated enough to do permanent damage.
This is something to think very carefully about before adding more birds to your flock. ANY addition will change the dynamics of a flock whether the addition is a traditionally compatible species or not. It’s wise to make sure you have adequate housing for each member of your flock individually in case you ever need it.
If you do decide to add an extra bird to your flock, it isn’t wise to immediately add that bird to your existing bird’s cage. In the very least, any new bird but needs to be quarantined (whether you think you know its state of health or not). Click here to read a post with tips/steps on how to introduce a new bird.
I will say that while not all of my birds are to be trusted to play nicely together when they’re out of their cages, they’re still very much a ‘flock’. They still look for each other; call each other when one is out of sight. They talk to each other and they seem to be great company for each other. It’s very different to a wild flock’s dynamics but it works.