Monday, June 30, 2008

Another eventful weekend: new arrivals at our house and my new love

As I said in my title, another eventful weekend at our house!

Friday, we picked up our vegetables from our CSA farmer: scallions, zucchini, lettuce, strawberries, and 2 kinds of peas. We've eaten about half and should eat the rest before our next box arrives! So far, we've only not eaten a small amount of spinach from the first week, and that's because I stored it improperly in the fridge, so it was bad by the time we went to eat it.

Friday night, Thomas was playing video games and I was reading on the couch. Rocky decided he wasn't getting enough attention, so he was adorable, as he so often is. He climbed on his cage, right at Thomas's eye level, and hung off, swaying and repeating, "Hi Rock!" until he got what he wanted: attention.
Beeps, my newspaper destroyer, decided to hang out on the outside of his cage, pull the newspaper through, and shred it. He is so messy!
Saturday I volunteered at the rescue, where I got to hang out with my new love. Don't tell Thomas or Max! This guy is so special and whoever adopts him will be one lucky person. I know I can't take everyone home, and birds like this amazing greenwing macaw make that difficult.
My backyard wildlife sighting are nowhere near as fun and exotic as those of Shannon, but I make do with what I get! We've had quite a few bunnies outside lately, which has been fun to watch. This guy was eating the weeds growing in our brick patio, so he was doing us a favor. Bring some friends! We have lots of weeds!
Sunday, Thomas and I went strawberry picking, and ended up with a little over 9 pounds of strawberries. I just love this time of year, for precisely this reason. Fresh picked strawberries are so much tastier than anything I've been able to find in the store (and much cheaper!) I've been eating them pretty much nonstop and brought a bunch to work today for lunch. We may try to make some strawberry food items, if we don't eat them all first!As for the new arrivals at our house, they are incredibly difficult to capture on camera. Yesterday, I was watching our aquarium and noticed a tiny fish swimming up towards the top. We haven't added anything to our tank since September 1, 2007 -- 10 months -- so I knew this guy hadn't snuck in on some plants or with other fish. Our fish had babies!

We think he's an Australian Rainbowfish, but he's so tiny yet that he could be a Glowlight Tetra. Last evening, we then saw 2 more extremely tiny fish babies -- they were pretty much just an eye with a tiny amount of see-through body hanging off the back. This morning, I could only find one of the tiny babies and couldn't find any right before I had to leave for work.

The largest fry had grown measurably in the 24 hours I'd been monitoring him, and I think he's big enough to survive in our tank. The tiny guys might get eaten by the other fish in our tank, but we have so many plants in there they should be able to find hiding places.

What's kind of funny about this is that our tank really needs to be cleaned, and I'd hoped to do that before we have visitors on Thursday. But now, I'm too worried about disturbing the water quality and hiding places of the babies, so tank maintenance will be put on hold until these guys are much bigger.

In this video, you can see the largest baby swimming around. I hope to get better pictures of him once we can clean the algae off of the glass (apparently my otos and pleco are on strike) which won't be until they get bigger.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Possibly my longest entry ever

I'm not sure why I have so many pictures and videos from yesterday. There are a bunch I'm not even posting because this will be long enough!

First, I realized why Andreas has been sort of crabby lately: he's going through a major molt. This isn't the best picture, but you can see how the red skin is flaking off, particularly near his head. I found a piece of skin in his tank that was about the size of his belly. When I help him with the skin that's around his fingers, the skin retains the cylinder shape. I'm hoping that soon he will no longer have remnants from the colored sand they had him on in the pet store, but his tail has a long way to go yet.
We often give our empty food boxes to the parrots to destroy. This one had been on the bottom of a stand for several weeks, and yesterday Beeps decided to go down and shred it.
Here is Rocky, looking for Thomas to come home. You can see our ill-fated attempt to grow edible flowers for the lizards on the other side of the glass. Right now, it appears as though we're growing some mini maple trees!
I know I've been posting a lot of Max/lettuce pictures lately. I wish I would have caught what she did last night on video. She knows she's not supposed to go near our salads-in-progress, since she just takes the leaves and throws them on the floor. Last night, she snuck over there when my back was turned, grabbed a leaf, and ran as fast as she could to the other side of the counter. I thought she was going to throw it in the garbage, which is something she often does with things she finds on the counter, but instead she started eating the leaf.
While the humans of the house were eating dinner, the parrots of the house got busy chipping wood. I wish there were some sort of market for these tiny pieces of wood!

Rocky with a piece I thought was too thick for him (he showed me wrong):
He insists on chipping wood either on Thomas or on a towel.

Here's Beeps, chipping away. In the background is one of my favorite parrot toys. It's sucker sticks embedded in a piece of wood. This can be used as a perch or as a cage topper. Each of my parrots has at least one in their cage. Beeps has chewed away all but one stick, so I'll get him another one this weekend!
We've been doing our parrots' grooming in shifts. Part of this is due to the fact that their nails need to be trimmed at different times, and part is due to the fact that our Dremel battery does not keep its charge very long (I would have loved to get Calypso done last night). But it was Beeps and Kika who were trimmed yesterday.

Kika, in the middle of her trim:
And Beeps, right after, still in Thomas's lap. Unfortunately, the flash made him look very bright, but he'd flipped back over by the time I tried to take another picture.
After dinner, I was assembling toys to donate to the shelter where we volunteer. Even though Thomas was playing video games on the floor, Rocky climbed up on the couch next to me and played with a towel.

Then, Thomas put the video game away and we ate some strawberries for dessert. Even though Rocky spurned them the day before when I had offered them to everyone, he ate it when it came from Thomas. Of the remaining five parrots, once again only Calypso ate some.

This video was taken this morning as we were eating breakfast. We had swept up and changed the newspapers last night. However, Beeps is going through a stage where he does not want any newspaper in the tray on the stand. So, he works to throw all of the newspaper on the floor. This can be funny to watch because he's pretty small in comparison to the size of the paper, so it really takes some maneuvering on his part!

Rocky decided to take advantage of the paper on the floor to cover himself with the paper and walk around. I started calling his name towards the end of the video so that you could see him. Otherwise, it just looks like a moving piece of newspaper! Towards the middle of the video, you see Beeps walking over on the edge of the tray.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Yesterday was my weekly trip to the farmers' market, and once again, my favorite farmer was selling strawberries. What a treat! As I was cutting them up to put on our salads last night, all of the parrots were begging. I can understand why -- strawberries are delicious! But when I went around to distribute the strawberries, everyone threw theirs on the ground, with the exception of Calypso. I don't think this guy has met a fruit (fresh or dried) that he doesn't love!

As I was changing the parrots' water dishes this morning, I came back to find a little goofball perched on the place where his water dish goes. He is just so curious, and makes me laugh. I don't even know how it's possible for him to be so adorable!
Beeps has been rather attacky lately, so we've had some discussions about impulse control (I don't think he understood them, though!) He launched at me three times last night when I was spraying other parrots with the water bottle, and launched at me the night before when I was clicker training Kika. Since he's a rather slow and noisy flyer, I was able to duck out of his way. For a few days, at least, he's going to have to go in his cage when I spray or train the other parrots.

One of the things that I love best about caiques is their fiery personality. I was reading an article about recovering parrots that were outside in a tree (I can't find it again or I'd link to it), and the author said to never bring out people or objects that the bird hates, with the exception of caiques. The best way to recover a caique in a tree, according to this article, is to bring out the object(s) of their derision and they'll get so angry at the object that they'll come down to attack and you can bring the caique to safety.

While I've been lucky enough to not have to test this, and am doing everything possible to make sure that remains the case, I think there may be some sense to that! All I'd have to do is show Beeps some technology or a broom and he'd come right to me!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A typical evening

We've been eating a lot of salads lately. The farmer at the market makes a wonderful greens mix, and we got some mushrooms in our CSA last week. Thomas chopped up the mushrooms and had them in a bowl, waiting to be parceled out onto the salads and the pizza that we made. Of course, nosy Max had to come over and started eating the mushrooms:
You can see by the way her eyes are pinned how much she's enjoying it! She also saw the bowl of greens and had to come over and start throwing them out of the bowl. I don't know what it is about greens that makes her act so destructively!
Back in the living room, Rocky has started hanging out under his cage again! I think this is one of the most adorable things that he does, and he hadn't done it for several months.
Kika was also making us laugh yesterday. Even though she has plenty of wood toys in her cage, even some that are exactly the same as in Rocky's cage, she had to stretch out her body to destroy his. He did not seem to mind the intrusion!
I was sitting on the couch and assembling toys to give to the birds currently residing at the shelter where I volunteer. Max gets quite jealous when I do this, as she wants all of the toys for herself. She climbed down from her cage and perched on the shoes I wear around the house. Finally I gave her a wood slat to chew (even though she has plenty in her cage) and she walked happily back to her cage.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hate Songs?

Yesterday morning I was getting ready for work. As usual, the greys, caiques, and Daphne (budgie) were with me in the kitchen, and Rocky was hanging out in the living room. He's been anti-social in the mornings lately. Maybe it's because I've been putting his favorite songs on the ipod and he wants to listen to them. Who knows with him?

I hear him singing, and then I realize what he's singing. Mostly unintelligble macaw babbling, but then he'd throw my name in every 30-45 seconds or so. He was apparently singing a song about me, but I couldn't understand what he was saying!

I'm hoping he just likes the way my name sounds and he isn't plotting anything...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekend recap

We had a pretty busy weekend. I left work a bit early on Friday in order to run a few errands. We had symphony tickets for the evening, so Thomas and I stopped to get a coffee drink (the concert didn't even start until 8 pm and we wanted to stay awake!) We brought the drinks home and were drinking them in the kitchen while doing other things. All of a sudden, I felt a sharp pain on my right forearm and looked down to see a caique attached to my skin, grinding away. Devilcake! As best as we can tell, he was angry because I didn't offer him any of my drink which looked like a smoothie (due to the caffeine inside). Luckily he didn't do serious damage and my arm is almost healed.

With the rhubarb I bought last week, we made a rhubarb-pineapple compote. Here are a couple of in process pictures:

The finished product did not look appetizing, but was absolutely delicious! I've been adding it to my morning yogurt instead of honey.

I know I've posted pictures like these before, but I just love this routine Thomas and Max have. This usually only happens on the weekends, when he has a bit more time to eat breakfast and read the paper. She waits patiently (well, for a timneh) for him to finish. She'll occasionally throw out a "want some!" or start dancing around, but Thomas reminds her she needs to wait her turn.
And then, when he is done, she is allowed to drink up the remaining soy milk:
On to my other grey! When we got her, less than 2 months ago, we were told she was terrified of toys. What a difference 2 months makes as she is now a master toy destroyer. I know I've mentioned this before, but I think one of the best parrot toys is a simple untreated 2X4 chopped into thin slices. We drill some and hang them on wire or chain in their cages, and also give them out as foot toys.
Here is a short video of her destroying the wood:

While we are lucky that Thomas is handy enough to slice the 2X4s himself, you can buy these at places like The Parrot Asylum. Every single one of our birds (even Daphne our budgie) has toys made with these in their cage.

Let me finish with a scare I had this morning. When I looked in Andreas's cage, this is what I saw:
Why would he sleep like that? I was terrified that he had died during the night since both of the lizards are usually so careful to contain themselves fully in their hides (they are prey animals, after all). Luckily this was a false alarm and I brought him out to warm up.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Calypso Bathtime

All of my parrots love bath time. They get so excited when they see the spray bottle and all clamor for more. No matter how much I spray him, Calypso doesn't think it's enough and after every shower, he retreats to his water dish to finish the job.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Holding On

We often offer the parrots a few sips of what we're drinking. Beeps and Max will usually put their foot up to hold on to the glass, as though they're afraid we're teasing them and will pull the glass away. Before he offered some to Beeps, Thomas said, "Please don't put your foot in my smoothie, OK?" But Beeps didn't listen. The color wasn't the most appetizing, but we made this smoothie with frozen mango, banana, carrot juice, walnuts, and spinach (from our farmer). It was delicious!
Here is another meal we've made with vegetables from our farmer. Thomas had made pesto from basil leaves we purchased at the farmers' market last week. It was delicious! We used it as the sauce on the pizza. He's started making pizza crusts from scratch. The spinach on the pizza was also from our farmer. This is what it looked like before we baked it.

Last Friday was the first pickup of food from our CSA. That's where we pay a farmer in advance for weekly deliveries of produce. Every Friday into the fall, we pick up a box of fresh vegetables. The challenge is not to let any go to waste. Last week we got spinach, cilantro, greens, and a little broccoli. We've eaten most of it, but have a little spinach yet to eat.

We've also been frequenting the farmers' market in our town on Wednesdays, so we've been eating a lot of fresh, locally-grown produce. Thomas told me to get 2 pounds of rhubarb for a recipe he wanted to try, but I thought he said 4 pounds, so now I have to find a way to use up the rest!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vomit Sounds of Silence

I mentioned yesterday that I would talk about Rocky's screaming and his vomit sounds. I can't believe I haven't talked about this already!

When Rocky first came to live with us, he was 19 years old and had not lived a particularly happy life. For at least the previous 6 years, he was cagebound and we suspect locked in a back room. He had learned to communicate by screaming. He was so starved for attention that even getting yelled at to quiet down was better than being ignored.

That is not acceptable in our house! While parrots are noisy and you can't expect to have a bird that never screams (especially a macaw!), neither should you have to live with a parrot that screams constantly. We needed to teach him a new way to communicate.

In much parrot literature, people living with screamers are advised to ignore the screaming. While that is a component of what we did, that wouldn't solve the problem. He was trying to tell us something by his screams. We needed to give him a different, more acceptable way, to communicate with us.

The first thing we did was try to figure out what was making him scream. Could we arrange the environment to make him less likely to scream? One thing that made him scream is that he felt like he should be fed dinner within about 5 minutes of when I arrived home from work. Realizing this, I'd give him an almond when I got home, which bought me enough time to change out of my work clothes and get everyone's dinner ready.

He also liked to keep order in our house. If any of the parrots were in a place he didn't consider acceptable, he'd scream. For example, if Max went on Calypso's cage, or if any of the parrots (except him) went on the floor. We'd softly say, "it's OK, Max can be on his cage" and he slowly learned the rules.

The other, main, reason why he screamed was for attention. He is one of the most social parrots I've ever met. We can only imagine how starved for attention he was after his previous home! This required a two-pronged approach: teaching him personal responsibility (which will be a topic for a different post) and giving him an appropriate way to call us to him, which is what I'll talk about now.

We realized that when he was about to scream, he'd make a short, almost vomit-like sound. It's like he was gathering his breath to launch his assault on our ears. Seizing on that, we'd run to him when we heard the vomit sound. (You can hear his vomit sound in the background of the video of Max eating a wrapped pellet in yesterday's post). We dropped everything and ran to his side. Then, we'd sing and dance with him or talk to him in this funny voice he likes. We'd give him the best kind of attention. If he started screaming before we got to him, we'd turn around and walk out of the room. We completely ignored the screaming.

Soon, he'd make his vomit sound for a longer duration before he'd scream. This was working! We kept at it, running to him at every vomit sound. We did this for perhaps a month or so? We knew that we could not live our lives running to him at every occasion, so we started acknowledging him vocally and suggesting that he come near us (encouraging personal responsibility). We'd still run to him on occasion, but started moving more and more towards vocal rewards.

It took a lot of patience on our part, but it worked. He will still scream occasionally -- after all that's what worked for 19 years and he's only been with us for about 2 years -- but it's tolerable and he usually remembers quickly that's not what he's supposed to do.

Actually, the more I think about it, he now usually screams just when he's angry and he wants us to know it. For example, if we've already given him some of what we're eating but he wants more. In that case, he looks right at us, and gives off the loudest scream he possibly can. Usually, he lifts off of his perch with the force of his scream. He doesn't do this too often and we find it a quirkily endearing part of his personality.

Here he is last night. He climbed up on the table and perched on the stick that I always keep near me if I need to move him. I'm glad he likes his stick so much!

I hope this video will work! I posted it on youtube a few months ago for people to see how loud a severe macaw can scream. He was competing with the blender and stopped about 6 seconds in after he realized I was paying attention to him. It's hard to catch him screaming since he stops when he sees the camera!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Grey videos

Here are a couple of grey videos that I took over the weekend. Kika was clipped when she was surrendered to the rescue, so now we're waiting for her flight feathers to grow out so that she can fly. In the meantime, we have been having her flap her wings so she can work on strengthening her muscles. She loves this and will often start flapping when I pick her up.

In this video, Max is eating a pellet. As I've mentioned before, Max does not have a food dish in her cage. Every morning, I wrap her pellets in little pieces of adding machine tape and hide them in her cage for her to find. We've recently started doing this with Kika, slowly (5 of her 20 pellets are wrapped and hidden) and hope to soon have her on 100% foraging as well.

Max really loves foraging, and I think it's adorable how she eats the pellet out of the wrapper.

Also, in the background, you can hear Rocky making his vomit sounds. I did a quick search and was amazed that I haven't talked much about this before. I will do so in an upcoming post. His vomit sounds are how he lets us know he wants something (he used to scream). As soon as I finished taking this video, I gave him attention so as to avert the screams!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Parrot Burrito

I'm not putting this disclaimer on the following video for people who've kept up with the goings on at our house. It's for anyone who may stumble upon this and decide to try similar things with their parrots. Please don't! You will likely make your parrot angry and possibly receive a bite.

Rocky is very strange and loves stuff like this. He and Thomas did this several times last night and then I decided to film one. We would not do this with any of our other parrots, and I would never do this with Rocky -- only Thomas can!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

More Max Mischief

Our community has a farmers' market on Wednesdays, and we've been taking advantage of that. Since it's early, all that's been available so far have been greens, asparagus, and edible flowers. Yesterday I also purchased some basil so that we could make our own pesto (which turned out quite nicely!)

Thomas placed the cleaned basil leaves in a bowl in preparation to make the pesto. I'm not sure what it is about bowls of greens, but Max is enthralled. As soon as she sees this, she has to fly over and start emptying the bowl. (Notice the greens on the counter. Those were all in the bowl before Max arrived).
Here is a video of her emptying the leaves on the counter. You can hear Beeps beeping in the background. We stopped her and rewashed the basil after taking this video!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Updates on all the parrots

It's been a long time since I've made a post with pictures of all of the parrots in our house. Hopefully this won't get too long!

We've recently been making our own nut butter. We just get bags of roasted unsalted nuts from Trader Joe's and blend them up. It's delicious! Lately I've been dipping apple slices in the nut butter as part of my breakfast. Of course observant Max noticed this and came over to help herself.
Kika loves getting sprayed almost as much as Max does. I've been trying to spray her at least once a day to help with her new feather growth. Another thing we've been working on with her is getting her to hold her own food, like she is with a piece of bread in this photo. She prefers to nibble as Thomas or I hold the food in front of her. She's starting to catch on!
I'll finish talking about the female parrots in the house with Daphne. She is so docile and well-behaved that I rarely talk about her here. She also tends not to photograph well as she gets washed out. I've been unable to capture how pretty she is -- she usually looks aqua in pictures but she's more of a periwinkle.

One nice thing about the small stature of a budgie is that she can perch just about anywhere. When she's in the kitchen with us, I usually place her on a bowl, like here:Calypso is one of the most beautiful parrots I have ever seen. Here he is, wondering why I'm taking pictures of him instead of feeding him breakfast!Caiques tend to be playful parrots, and that's certainly true for Beeps. This figure-8 dog pull toy is the best $1 I've ever spent. He's been swinging on it, doing flips through the loops, and all sorts of other things. One of his favorites is for me to swing it while he hangs off and flaps -- I can get it going faster than he can.

Getting in position to do a flip: Posing (you can see Kika's face in the background):
This video of Rocky is a bit longer than I normally like to do (about 40 seconds). This morning I put the ipod on instead of listening to the radio, and the parrots were happy to hear some of their favorite songs. For whatever reason, they all love the band Bowling for Soup. I was in the kitchen with everyone else and Rocky was in the living room, being antisocial and playing on his cage. As soon as this song came on, I could hear him singing. I tried to capture that on video, but he wouldn't sing in front of the camera -- only dance (I taped a little longer than usual as I was hoping he'd forget about the camera and start singing).

Rocky is quite musical, and I use this to my advantage. If he's really worked up (screaming) or about to attack, I either start singing one of his favorite songs or put them on the ipod (depending on how much time I have) and he immediately brightens up, joins in the dancing, and often starts singing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I guess I misunderestimated* him

Thomas frequently tells me that he thinks I baby Calypso too much. And after an experience last night, I think he may be on to something.

Calypso is the parrot in our house who suffered the most psychological damage from his previous mistreatment. I don't even believe that he was the one who received the worst treatment -- he's just the one that has the most trouble overcoming his past.

As a consequence of that, I have low expectations for him. All of the other parrots must step up on my hand (or a stick, in Rocky's case) to come out of their cages, while I open Calypso's cage and allow him to decide when he wants to exit. I always offer my hand to him, but if he declines, I leave his cage door open. I go to extreme lengths to make sure that he gets the largest cashews (his favorite treat). The other parrots have to do a trick before receiving favorite treats (they've got to earn it!) I treated him differently when it came to clicker training (which is really what this post is about). I've come to realize that I've been enabling him!

Last night, I was doing extended clicker training sessions with the parrots, specifically Max and Beeps. Daphne is not interested in training, but she was off to the side, watching what we were doing. Rocky was in the living room, playing and waiting for Thomas to arrive home. The rest of the parrots (caiques and greys) were in the kitchen with me.

I always train Max first. She was in a wonderful training mood and we quickly went through her entire routine, including working on her latest trick (doing a quick head-first dive off of the seed cup holder). Calypso was very interested, so I did a few targets with him (more on this later, but it's the first step in clicker training).

In the past, I used a different, smaller, target stick for Calypso because he seemed afraid of the larger one I use for everyone else. Last night, he eagerly used the larger stick. In the past, I eschewed the clicker and used a marker word ("bon" -- the French word for "good") because he seemed afraid of the click. Last night, he reveled in the clicker. Why did I allow my preconceptions of him to derail our training?

He was absolutely fantastic! He was a master targeter, never once getting confused. He repeated his one known trick -- shaking my hand -- and started working an another -- shaking his head. He made amazing progress and I am reenergized to work with him.

Shannon had asked in the comments for me to talk a little bit about clicker training. I first found out about it about two years ago when I was doing research into ways that I could make Max happier. Here is a good article explaining what clicker training is. I learned how to do it by joining this yahoo group (it's free) and reading through the files. Clickers can be picked up for about $1 at most pet stores.

Basically, it's a fantastic way to communicate with your parrots. Most parrots love the one-on-one interaction and learning that takes place. When Max sees the clicker, she starts saying "want some!" and flies to her training perch.

The first step is to figure out what food (or other reward) will motivate your bird -- what will they think of as an adequate reward for what you're asking them to do? Ideally, it should be something small that is quickly eaten. If you use a full almond, for example, the bird will quickly fill up so training is truncated, and the long time it takes the bird to eat the treat will affect the flow of training. I use safflower seeds for the greys and caiques. Thomas uses sunflower seeds for Rocky. I use praise for Rocky because he'd rather bite me than nicely take food from my hand. (Yes, I've tried using favorite treats like peanut butter on a spoon to put a barrier between his beak and my hand. He ignores the treat and pulls the spoon closer to his beak to try to bite. He's determined).

The second step is to make the bird understand that click=treat. Going forward, every time you click a bird, give her a treat. Even if you didn't mean to click. It's a contract, and you don't want to break your parrot's trust! To do this, have a treat ready, and then make the click and give the bird the treat as quickly as you can. You only have to do this step when training a new bird. From my experience, I usually have to do this between 5-20 times (depends on the bird) for them to understand. Pretty soon, when you click, you'll see the bird make a move to get a treat. That's when you know they understand.

The click is a marker. It's a way for you to communicate to your bird. You're saying, "What you did when I clicked -- that's what I like and I'm giving you a treat. If you do it again, you'll get another treat!"

The first "trick" to teach is targeting. You want the bird to bite softly on the end of a stick (I use a straw). When the bird does this, click and treat. When this becomes easy, move it off to the left so the bird has to lean. Then the right, up, and down. Continue working, in small steps, until the bird has to take several steps to get the straw. Incidentally, this can be a great way for a perch potato to get exercise -- make them walk all over to target.

I'm skimming over some things (the yahoo group I linked is really a fantastic resource!). I think the two main things to remember are:

1. This is supposed to be fun for you and your bird! Watch her and stop on a positive note before she gets bored. My training sessions are generally less than 5 minutes per bird per day. Stop if you feel yourself getting frustrated!

2. Many people feel self-conscious when they start doing this. They feel silly and don't know what they're doing. Who cares? Your bird doesn't know any better and will love the training sessions anyway! I'm certainly not an expert trainer, but in the past year and a half or so, my parrots have learned quite a few tricks and, most importantly, our bond has strengthened and we've had fun along the way!

I'll try to update more regularly on our training progress and hopefully get some videos and pictures demonstrating what I'm talking about.

*I know this isn't really a word, but I'm taking it from my favorite TV show, Arrested Development (which took it from the previously linked source).

Monday, June 9, 2008

Parrot relationships and Kika update

There are times in our house when all of the parrots are getting along quite well...
And then one of them (usually Beeps) has to instigate another one (usually Max)...
Thomas is currently a resident physician, which means that he's graduated from medical school but is still in training before he can get his license and practice on his own. During this additional training, he spends quite a few nights on call, which means he stays at the hospital (with no sleep) overnight. The animals and I were alone last Friday night, when Max and Rocky resumed their strange friendship.

When Thomas isn't there, they often like to hang out in the little area in front of our stairs, and sometimes on the stairs themselves. I can't figure out why they do this, or why they only do it when I'm alone with them. Thomas thought I was making this up until I showed him pictures.
A few Kika updates. As I mentioned in my previous post, we try to get the parrots to make decision for themselves. Here is Kika deciding which piece of dried fruit she wants to eat:
This made me so happy! I was knitting on the couch and looked up to see her playing with a box that was on top of Rocky's cage. I was happy that she felt comfortable enough to do that! Of course then Rocky had to come over and play with that box even though it had probably been three months since the last time he'd played with it!
We have to get Kika a new cage. She's currently in the dome-top cage that we got from the rescue when we were fostering her. I really prefer the play-top cages since the parrots spend a lot of time on top of their cages and a play-top seems to encourage that type of play better. Hopefully we'll be getting one in the next month or so -- I have to get my act together!!!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Favorite Rocky moments

Below is a video that captures something that happens pretty much every day at our house, generally several times a night. I think it is so adorable and it's one of my favorite things he does.

We keep bins with 2X4 wood slices in several areas of our house. Rocky loves to chew wood, and he knows what is acceptable for him to chew and what isn't. However, if the urge strikes him and there's no acceptable wood around, he takes a chunk out of whatever's available. For that reason, we make sure there's plenty of acceptable wood around!

In the beginning of the video, you see him grab a piece of wood out of a bin, and then he takes it around to chip it up in his favorite place.

Also, let me reiterate that parrots are messy! Our floor had just recently been swept, so please don't think we're living in squalor. It only takes about 10 minutes for the living room to look like a disaster area once the parrots are out.

In case anyone is wondering, we were listening to Mason Jennings. It comes out much louder on the video I took than it seemed to when we were listening!

Rocky is a very hands-on bird (with Thomas, not me!) and demands head pets. We sometimes call it, "getting the business," as in Thomas will ask him, "Do you want the business?" and Rocky gets excited and runs over, often flipping on his back. He's strange.

This time, he had a nosy observer, Beeps, who had flown over to get some attention of his own.

Of course, Thomas was only too happy to oblige:When Thomas doesn't lie on the floor, offering Rocky easy access to go inside his clothes, he makes do with chipping wood near his feet:One thing we work on with our parrots, especially Rocky, is the notion of personal responsibility. We give our parrots enormous amounts of freedom, so if something is making them unhappy, they need to do something about it in order to improve their lives instead of screaming about it. I think I'll do a separate post on that concept someday; however, one of the ways we do that is by giving them as many choices as possible so that they get used to making decisions that impact their lives.

Here, Thomas is eating some dried fruit. He went around and offered the bowl to everyone so they could take their favorite piece. Rocky climbed up on the couch for seconds:

This is what I have to be alert for whenever Rocky is out:The sneak attack! He often likes to hang around corners, hoping to ensnare me in his trap. I am wise to his games, and rarely go anywhere without my stick (onto which he steps up), but he still tries.

This doesn't have anything to do with the parrots, but I saw this as I was driving to work this morning. I hope that's a sign I'll have a great weekend, and I hope everyone reading this does, too!