Saturday, November 29, 2008

Petey's obsession with hand towels

Petey has been going through a hormonal phase these last few months. Although her attitude has been getting better these last few days/week, she still goes a little crazy when she's around blankets or hand towels. It's automatic, the hormones kick in stronger when she hides in their folds.

I caught a video or her playing around with the hand towels near the sink in the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Follow-up on Petey's progress

Well it seems I spoke too fast. Today, I tried to get her to step up on my finger without my significant other around and using a Nutri-berry as a treat. Didn't work. She chomped down on my index finger and did not let get until I wrapped her in a blanket to pry her off.

I'm actually amazed with myself that I did not react at all to the bite. Usually I let out a gasp or a groan, nothing this time...and it was a pretty bad bite, I'll be sporting the marks for it for a while, I wouldn't be surprised if I'll get a nice scar there.

Eh, at least I'm proud of one of the two of us; I made progress.

Now to let my finger believe that...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Petey's progress

This week-end I went to the Canadian Parrot Conference, which means my parrots were being birdsat by my parents. Before I left, I was perch handling Petey as she would always lunge and try to bite me. Yesterday, when we came back home, I managed to get her to step up on my hand without biting for me to transfer her from her cage to my significant other (who she loves). Considerable progress. I just hope this continues to get better rather than having her return to wanting to bite my hand.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Clowning around

Red-bellies are known to be the clown of the Poicephalus family. After owning one for a couple of months and being able to compare it to other two different Pois, I can say it seems true.

I've started taking videos of my birds and lately, Joey has been featuring more and more in them. I'm not trying to be partial towards him, but he's the one bird that keeps doing things which makes me laugh.

Poicephalus are also known to love playing on their backs and although I've seen all three of mine do it, I was only able to capture Joey doing it on video. Shade sees the camera and stops whatever she is doing to pose and when Petey sees it, she just freezes up.

Therefore, here are a couple videos of Joey clowning around.

Playing on his back (he does mumble quite a bit in the video so it's worth listening with the volume up)

Playing with a bell

Playing with multiple bells

Monday, November 10, 2008

Morning bath

Piper and Shade decided to take baths this morning in each of their water bowls. I'm actually quite surprised this didn't happen on Saturday, as they usually do it right after I've cleaned their cages. However it didn't happen then and they obviously decided to keep their synchronized bathing period for today.

I absolutely love the wet bird look. Always have. Here are a couple of pictures from this morning.

Joey's progress

Yes I am aware that in my descriptions of my parrots that Petey seemed to be the one who "needed some work". She does. However, that doesn't mean that all my other birds are "perfect" (using the word perfect for lack of a better one, but it's not quite what I want to say; I'm aware that no one is "perfect" and that every individual's idea of perfection is different, so do take this with a grain of salt please).
Piper and Shade better fit my idea of what I'd like my birds to be. It helps that I did raise them from a very young age compared to my other two.

But this post is meant to be about Joey. When I first brought him home, he had a good behavior except for the biting. He bit me a lot (not so much my significant other to whom he took an instant liking) and hard. He did seem a bit more wary of me than of any men who approached him (we did bring him to the local Parrot Club meeting early on). I did get him to stop the gratuitous biting by saying no and putting him on or in (if in, it was for 5 minutes at the time) his cage, depending on the frequency and force of the bite. Although he didn't bite nearly as much anymore (there is still the occasional nip, but I'm no longer getting them more often than my significant other) I still couldn't handle him the way I would handle either of my other parrots. He also progressively allowed me to scratch his head without freaking out at first but we still needed to work on our trust.

When Joey first entered our home, his flight feathers were clipped. I did make the decision of allowing him to grow them back in for multiple reasons. One, he crashed a whole lot on the floor during some panic attacks (which are known to happen to young Red-bellied parrots) and I wanted him to flutter down more gracefully and being able to keep his tail intact (he had a couple of broken tail feathers). Two, I have a cat and even thought the cat is not out and about the living room when the birds are out of their cages, I wanted to give him the possibility to fly away would he ever meet her face to face. Three, I enjoy watching my birds fly and I have a big enough room to allow them free flight without too many obstacles on which they could hurt themselves. As his flights have grown in, I have seen Joey grow more confident. His panic attacks have almost all stopped (still the very VERY occasional one once in a while, but this could be because he's growing older too), he seems to enjoy the extra exercise and his noticeably more extroverted with us and the other birds. And although threw the months of him being him he has grown to accept me better and come to see me once in a while, lately, he's been doing it more and more and without me asking him to come to me. Two days ago, he allowed me to grab him softly around his body and lift him up from wherever he was standing. My significant other has been able to do this with him from early on so it was obvious that Joey did not have a problem with everyone doing that, just me (and other women). I nearly cried of joy when I did it. He did not budge, he did not try to bite my fingers like he did whenever I tried it before.

But the biggest progress for me happened yesterday. When a bird will willingly lie on it's back in the palm of your hand is a great sign of trust on it's behalf. Yesterday evening, Joey allowed me to take him and lie him on his back on my flat hand; I was not holding him there. I did it once and couldn't believe I brought him back up to a normal standing position and tried it again. He lay there without a fuss. I was so happy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Foraging basket = fun toy

Last month I bought untreated wicker baskets at Michaels with the intent of giving them to my 3 Poi. I wanted to make it more interesting and use the full potential of the basket so I modified it a bit. I added some beads on the outside (my birds do not eat them, they enjoy taking them off the string/rope (I usually use untreated hemp string for this purpose). I then added some goodies inside the basket (foot toys, treats of all kind, paper) so that they could do a little foraging. The baskets had two handles so I added baby links to those handles and put them up in their cages.

Joey was the first one to show interest in it. He had it up for a couple of days until it fell (from the result of him chewing the wicker, I knew it would happen). He did make the most of the foraging bit before making the toy crash and seemed to genuinely like it.

Shade took a couple of days to really warm to it, and now, she tilts it sideways and uses it for her afternoon nap.

I had to take Petey's away. She became nesty around it and it probably contributed to her increasing nastiness (she's been better with it out of her cage). I had the extra basket laying around so I figured I'd put it up on one of the hanging play gyms I have in the apartment for everyone to share. Piper, who didn't have one until then, enjoyed going in and taking it apart from the inside. Ultimately, Joey made it fall by chewing the handles. It's now filled with toys on the bottom of a perch I move around. However, while it was still up, I did take a video of Piper and Shade enjoying it.

This was a very cheap toy to "make" and ever bird here has enjoyed it, in some fashion.

Petey the Meyer's

"Battling trust issues"

Finally we get to Petey. The 13 year old Meyer's that has been with me since the beginning of last August. I was told Petey was a male, but based on some recent mating behaviors, I would guess that Petey is a female (and my vet agrees, although we can't be 100% without DNA testing).

Petey came to me through friends that run a home base rescue. They got her from one of her previous owners (he worked in a pet store in a another city and Petey came in for a wing clip and the owner at the time just left her behind and walked out). Not sure about much of Petey's life before that. In any case, she came to my friends' because of a mean streak. They've worked with her on the problem. See, Petey is a doll with men but will attack women (or any partner of her favorite person). I took her in knowing this problem.

The first month and a half, she was very sweet to everyone. She wasn't as affectionate with me as she was with my significant other, but she didn't bite. She was ok with my other birds. Then the honeymoon ended. The "devil" bird came out. She did bite me a couple of times, which resulted in me handling her with a perch, screamed like I've never heard a Poicephalus scream (bear in mind that they do have a reputation of being "quiet" parrots). She became less tolerant of the other parrots meaning she had to be separated from the others when they are out of their cages (my other birds can play on the same play structure without any problem). For a while I wondered what I got myself into (after a very bad couple of days). Then things started to look up. She screamed less, she was less nasty with me (mind you I still use the perch to move her around because she can still be a little testy, but I'm about to try using my hand again). I actually found out that Poicephalus birds tend to breed when the daily amount of light grows shorter (compared to other parrots that do the deed when the days grow longer). Seeing her attitude, she did look like a very hormonal bird. Hormones do go up and down and I figured she was in the high period. She's been calming down, thankfully, and this I can work with. Really, this poor bird does deserve to be given a chance. Also, the knowledge about parrots in general wasn't all that great 13 years ago and even if she did have the best upbringing she could have back then (which I don't know), I don't think it's up to par with what is common knowledge today. I have actually seen in the past week or two progress in our relationship. I like to think that I'm seeing her struggle with the idea of it being ok to trust me. She seems to want to come to me, and not for an attack, yet is still fearful. But I'm sure that having her see my relationship with my 3 other parrots is helping in a positive way the way she sees me. I'm not going to give up on her, although on one day I was willing to throw in the towel, because I think she's worth the effort.

Now, Meyer's in general don't have the same attitude as Petey. On the contrary, they are believed to be the best "family bird" amongst the Poicephalus family. They usually are quite willing to go see every member of the family without particularly bonding to one person and will even go to friends of the family. There's a saying about Senegals that goes "They love you to love them" whereas for Meyer's it's "They love to love you". They are also the least likely to speak in the Poi family, but that doesn't mean anything (Petey is my bird with the largest vocabulary of clear words).

Taken during her first week here

Petey and I

Joey the Red-bellied parrot

"Little clown"

Joey entered my life on March 1st 2008, a couple of weeks shy of his 3rd birthday (March 14th).

Earlier that week for no particular reason I was looking at online classifieds for birds. I normally stay away from those sites, feeling the temptation to "save" one or two or three parrots almost unbearable at times. So why I did it on those last few days of February I do not know. Oh and I went deep in old posts on one of those websites. Joey's "For sale" post wasn't a recent one. When I saw it, I was immediately drawn to it. The add was nearly a month old if I remember properly and I didn't have high expectations of Joey still being for sale. Which, I thought at the time was a good thing, because I wasn't really looking to add a bird to my flock. I tried convincing myself that I was looking at the adds simply because I was curious. I had done research on Red-bellied parrots when I was looking at Poicephalus as a whole. I actually knew that at one time in my life I would like to own a male Red-bellied parrot (because of the bright orange that I've seen females up close, I must say they are beautiful too and wouldn't mind adding one to my flock eventually..). However, I didn't know if then was the time. But I still contacted the seller, mostly out of curiosity (so I like to believe). Lo and behold Joey was still for sale. And I actually knew the seller (used to be a member of my parrot club). So we arranged a time and day for me to meet Joey with my significant other (can't take on a new bird without him being comfortable with it). Because of somewhat conflicting schedules during the week, the first visit was made at night. It wasn't the best meeting (nor the worst), but because of the lateness and it being dark out, Joey wasn't particularly cooperative. So we scheduled a day visit the following week-end. World of difference. That morning I was still in conflict with myself (will the new parrot get along with my other two, will I disturb the harmony I have at home). But with that sole visit, Joey won me over. We brought him home (after I went to get money out of the bank, see how unconvinced I was with myself, I didn't come entirely prepared (or maybe I thought I would be less tempted if I didn't have the money during the visit, who knows)).

I do not regret the purchase. I'll be honest and say I did not put him in quarantine. I knew his history, I had access to his file at the avian vet's office, I knew he was not sick, I knew my birds were healthy too, I took my chance. I was told by his former owner that he usually takes a day or two to come out of his cage when he was being birdsat. Well, he didn't want to stay in his cage that first day. He wanted to come out and interact with us. He was curious about my other birds and was quite friendly with them (Piper tried bullying him around, not being mean though). He did show a preference for my significant other (and other men), but I'm slowly winning him over too. He's learned that my head scratches are probably the best and steps up readily when I ask him to.

He is a hoot when we have company over or when we go to parrot club meetings with him. He loves to entertain people. Red-bellies do have the reputation of being the best talker out of the Poicephalus family. However, with Joey it's more mumbling than actual words (he does say "Hi Joey" almost every time I come through the door). I do hear him practicing saying other things when he thinks no one is around (I'll be in another room) while the birds are in their cages. So he might say more distinct words one day, but for now, Shade and Petey have a larger "clear" vocabulary.

Red-bellied parrots, specially birds under 2 years of age, are known to sometimes have panic attacks. I didn't quite know this fact before getting Joey so the first time he did have one, I was a little scared. After reading that it is somewhat common knowledge, I eased out. It is important that a Red-belly who is experiencing such an attack (with Joey it was going to the ground and flapping/jumping around erratically) to be allowed to finish it before being scooped up. Otherwise, you can be associated with whatever bad thing (real or not) that caused the attack in the first place. Although Red-bellied parrots love to "show off", they won't necessarily want to go to strangers right away.

A Red-bellied parrot can be a wonderful companion. I can't imagine what life would be without my little clown.

One of my favorite pictures of Joey

Joey and I

Shade the Senegal

"Inquisitive, trusting and loving"

My first Poicephalus.

Shade is two years old and she is the youngest of my birds, although my second parrot.
Back in 2006 I was researching a lot about different species of parrots. I wanted something relatively independent, capable of spending lengthier periods of time in it's cage, relative quiet so that I could have it in an apartment, not too big yet not too small (aka something bigger than my lovebird but not as big as an African Grey). I didn't need anything with flashy colours (I actually find that those that have less "wow" factor on a picture are actually quite nice when seen up close for real; sometimes they have a subdued beauty that isn't quite captured by cameras), talking was not a requirement (nor should it EVER be one, even within species of parrots that are known for their talking ability there are some individuals that will never talk). Then I found the Poicephalus family. They fitted my set of criteria perfectly. My parents were aware (well my mom was) of the fact that I was looking into getting one of these little African birds when I graduated from University later that year. I didn't make any decision about which Poi (Senegal, Red-bellied, Meyer's or Brown head) I wanted; quite frankly, I figured when I was ready to get one, I would probably take which ever was available at the time if, of course, I bonded with a baby. Well the end of April was coming along and so was the end of school and my parents decided to surprise me with a next parrot. Now my mother had found babies for sale in Montreal, unweaned. I would never suggest people take on unweaned babies and finish the process of weaning them themselves. However, it just so happens that my mother's friend from whom I got Piper was willing to finish weaning my baby Senegal, choose we get it. So on the 30th of April of 2006, my dad and I went to Montreal to see the Sennies. Now, my parents had already dealt with the guy selling the babies before. When we got there, he showed me around his house. He had a couple of birds, kept in ok condition (not ideal, but not terrible, everything was fairly clean and the birds had clean water and fresh food and pellets). Then I got to see the babies. There were two of them left. Turns out the babies were not from any of his breeder pairs, a friend of his had given them to him. But both remaining babies had issues with their legs, seemingly splayed. One looked pretty severe (both legs). Of course, when I saw those one month old balls of fluff, my heat melted. Ideally, I should of turned away and said no...but I'm a sucker and couldn't fathom leaving without at least one and I was really eying the one with just the one bad leg (since that baby had tried to get close to me). I think the guy knew it and it might have been what prompted him to offer to give me the one with both splayed legs for free if I took the other one. Well my dad didn't feel like leaving them behind, my mother, whom we called, said to bring them home. So we did. I only wanted the one parrot at the time so my parents were going to keep the other. I named mine Shade and theirs was named Nemo. They both went to the vet during the following week and it turns out Shade had a broken leg that was healing improperly set and Nemo had dislocated legs and one of them had an infection. At this point, I can't say anything but positive things about our vet. She fixed Shade's let (the "cast" she had afterward was awfully cute) and treated Nemo the best she could and he can now perch properly, even though one of his legs won't ever be entirely functional.

They spent most of the summer at Piper's breeder's house. Then in August I finally brought Shade home to stay. Early on, I brought her to the local Parrot Club meetings to socialize her, get her used to other people, to traveling in a car and seeing different places. Senegals do have a reputation of being one person bird and I'm happy to say that Shade does not fit that description. I am her favorite person, yet she will go see other people without any trouble. She does not attack, does not bite. My boyfriend has even won her over (she wasn't a fan of him at first, but would just run away when he tried to make her go on his hand). She is quite capable of independent play but will gladly take the one on one time when I offer it to her. She LOVES food. She'll eat just about anything (with a preference for carrots lately). She trusts me like none of my other birds do (although Piper is a close second).

Senegals can make wonderful pets in you put in the time to socialize them well early on and keep handling them daily.

Baby picture

Shade and I

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Piper the Lovebird

"Feisty lovebug"

It was quite the dilemma, whether I should start with Piper on a blog called "It's a Pois World" since she's not a Poicephalus parrot. She is, however, my first parrot so it seemed logical that I would start with her.

Piper is 3 years old. I have had her since May 2005. She came from a friend of the family who has a small home-based aviary. Her and one of her two siblings from that clutched had a splayed leg. Given their handicap (the third sibling was fine), the breeder didn't feel right selling them so both of them were to be given away. Piper actually went to another home before coming to mine. Those former owners actually lost her in the house and brought her back to the breeder nearly dead. Piper pulled through (first indication on how strong her will is really). Then on the 17th (if I remember right), I went with my mother to visit her friend. Knowing I was coming along, she had her two remaining babies (Piper and the one that was fine) out and ready to show. I was only going to visit the babies, I had no intention of getting one (I was interested in a Green cheek conure that was for sale in a local pet store). The moment I was close enough to Piper for her to jump, she did, then ran up my arm and nuzzled behind my ear and chirped softly there. There was no dislodging her. She chose me and I couldn't say no. She came home with me on that day (the breeder was nice enough to lend me a cage until I could buy one myself).

A lot of people are wary of Lovebirds. They seemingly have a reputation of being nasty and nippy. I don't find that true at all in every case, in fact I know a couple of very nice lovebirds. If properly handled each day and given plenty of attention, Lovebirds thrive and can be adorable and sweet. Piper rarely ever bites, and when she does it's not hard and it's because she's been really bothered. She's well socialized and will go to anyone. Having to keep Lovebirds in pairs is a myth; it is absolutely unnecessary. In fact, if you keep only one, chances are it will have a stronger bond with you. Also, there is no guarantee that putting two Lovebirds together will mean they will get along. Lovebirds can inflict serious wounds so before sticking two birds together, think about it.

Baby picture (the yellow one on the right is Nicky, one of my mom's lovebirds)

Piper and I

The beginning

I don't quite know the reason behind it all quite frankly.

I woke up this morning with the idea of starting this blog. It might prove to be a fun experience since it will be about my birds and not about myself. I have no trouble sharing thoughts, experiences and funny anecdotes about my birds.

Why the title? Seeing how three out of my four pet parrots are members of the Poicephalus family, I find it's fitting. Of course, this will not stop me from sharing things about Piper, my Lovebird.

Overall, I think the purpose of this blog will be to educate, but mostly to share my love of parrots, namely the Poicephalus. Although gaining in popularity, there are still some misconceptions about them out there which sometime scare people away of ever wanting to own one. They are feisty, independent and lovable clowns (some more so than others) and I could not imagine what my life would be like without any of them, Lovebird included.

In the next few days I will be posting about each of the birds.