Why you probably don’t want a parrot as a pet.

Since I have a handful of pictures, but not enough for an interesting post, I’m going to intersperse them with some educational text.

I post a lot of pictures, pictures of parrots, and of cats, and of dogs. I tell a lot of fun stories. I’m quite sure that I make living with parrots look pretty fun. Clearly, I think it is pretty fun, or else I wouldn’t have as many as I do.

However, living with parrots comes with some serious downsides, and most of these are true from the smallest budgie to the largest macaw.

1. Parrots are messy.

If you look closely at my photographs, you’ll notice that in most cases, I don’t include the floor. There’s a reason for that.

This is what stands and the floor looked like after about 45 minutes of Fun Macaw Time.

This is a pretty excessive amount of mess, because macaws come only in excessive. However, even smaller birds leave mess. Feathers, poop, toy bits, etc. Slightly larger birds are quite capable of eating the world.

Some parrots, such as these pair of greys (and seriously, how cute are they preening in unison?), create powder down, which coats everything around them with slightly sticky baby powder.

It’s as awesome as you think it is.

2. Parrots are destructive.

Earlier today, Keela (a 280 gram Timneh grey) climbed up onto a bookshelf and did some serious damage to a wooden game box.

Imagine what Cin, who is almost twice her weight, can do.

Tea, a 100 gram conure, has popped off more keys on my laptop than I can count.

Theo loves to remodel door frames. Check out Tlalli vs the swing and you can see how easy that is.

3. Our instinctive reactions to parrots are usually wrong.

This is the big one. This is the one that screws parrots and parrot owners worse than almost any other.

In almost every case that I can think of, a human’s typical reaction to what we consider ‘bad behaviour’ in parrots is far more likely to encourage the behaviour to continue than to discourage it.

Or, in behaviourist terms, we reinforce undesired behaviour easily.

Let’s take a good example. Parrots make noise. The amount of noise that a parrot like this can make is unworldly.

One of the first times Tlalli screamed in my ear, I cursed loudly, without meaning to. Yesterday, we had a friend at our house, and Tlalli screamed, and the friend looked over at her and said something.

Tlalli was rehomed in her last home partially because she climbed down off her cage and chased around the elderly mother in the household, who screamed and ran away.

Ten years ago, when I brought home this little darling, I taught him to scream for attention and bite me in the span of a few months.

It was unteaching him how to do those things that started me really studying behaviour.

Here’s the fact that I learned from all of that.

Parrots are heavily reinforced by attention, in some cases, as much or more so than by food.

I have massively increased Tlalli’s flapping on her stand simply by yelling happily, “FLAPPY!” every time she does so.

Imagine how bad that would be if I yelled “No!” every time she screamed.

Imagine how bad it could be if I went over and fussed over her every time she chewed her feathers.

She’d be a lot more bald, likely.

Does this mean that you can’t learn? Absolutely not. It does mean that, unlike dogs who have been genetically altered to better live with humanity, parrots require more knowledge.

They require more knowledge on how to keep them, as well as how to live with them. They require creating habits, the habit of realizing what you’re reinforcing, of investigating how to modify behaviour, whether increasing it or decreasing it. It takes a lot of thought.

4. Parrots are expensive.

They’re expensive to buy, they’re expensive to feed, they’re expensive to keep entertained, they’re expensive to take to the vet, and they’re expensive to fill your house with swings.

(Yes, that last bit was just to show you that we made another new swing for the kitchen/living room area).

5. Parrots are extremely long lived.

This pretty man is the oldest parrot in my house.

He’ll be turning 25 years old this year.

Assuming that he remains in good health, he could potentially live another 25 – 50 years.

Tlalli, who isn’t even 6, could do significantly more than that.

That’s a really long time. For many people, that’s a benefit — it’s amazing to get to live with a pet for most of your life.

For some people, it’s a downside.

Is it worth it?

I think so.

Then again, it could just be that the bossiest pair of creatures on the face of the planet told me to say so.

You decide.

However, if you have questions about what it’s like to live with parrots, feel free to ask them in the comments, and I’m happy to answer. :)

Posted in Akeelah, Cinereo, High Tea, Kyklos, Parrots, Theodore, Tlalli | Leave a comment

The swing has been a huge hit.

The kitchen swing has been so much of a hit that we’re adding another one which is being drilled and crafted as we speak. Of course, we still lack hooks to hang it up, but I’m sure we can manage that at some point.

In the meantime, would you perhaps like to see a random cornucopia of parrot pictures?

Cody’s settling in pretty well, getting used to life in this house. He’s talking quite a bit with the other birds and with us, and seems to be having a great time. Eating well, has had several baths, and finds Ky significantly less evil than I do. ;)

He thinks the swing is pretty okay too.

It’s funny. Amazons are pretty awkward looking fliers at best. They resemble a football trying to hurl itself through the air. However, Cody has not had a great deal of practice in landing, and he’s even more of a kamikaze flier than Ky is — he frequently stops by crashing into curtains.

Or atop cabinets.

He’s got the pretty amazon wings though.

Keela says that she is an excellent flier, which is pretty true. She’s still got a number of clipped feathers, but she maneuvers very well.

Today’s interesting fact. Cody was born at HARI, and I took a guess to see if they had kept information on them. They had, and he was born on July 17th, 2005, making him less than a year younger than Ky is.

This is a horrible picture, but in the upper right corner, you can see the feets of a disappearing amazon.

Ky had to be rescued from atop the toy holder on Tlalli’s stand.

Tlalli (who is finally molting yay!) thought that was interesting.

Keela too, with her little grey waistcoat.

Cody now plays this ridiculous game where he throws around a cat toy. I took a few pictures of it.

But it’s way better in video. You can also hear some of the others in the background. :)

Mar 17, 2014 | Cody killing the cat toy. by stejacks on Keek.com

Last night, I laid down on the couch to watch some TV, and Keela came over and decided that she needed to be a little nesty. It was cute enough to take a picture of before I removed her. She clacked disapprovingly at me.

Everyone loves the swing, even (slightly less) fat African greys, who flew up there on his own after his spray bath and has more or less moved in.

Tlalli shows off how very, very long she is as she walks around on her stand.

Cin has decreed that it is acceptable to destroy a Lady Grey teabag wrapper. No tea was injured in the making of this photograph.

Then he did some elaborate preening.

While Cody investigated a toy.

And with that, we come to the end of the gazillion pictures that I’ve taken over the past few days.

Posted in Akeelah, Cinereo, Cody, Kyklos, Parrots, Tlalli | Leave a comment

Introducing Cody!

As I had mentioned in a few previous posts, we’ve been keeping an eye out for a few specific species around as companions both for us and for the parrots we currently have. Thus, Tlalli came home, and then Keela.

And now Cody. Cody is a male red lored Amazon (Amazona autumnalis) who was previously owned by some people who loved him immensely but had some life changes that no longer allowed them to keep him.

We went to visit yesterday and, to no one’s big surprise, he came home with us. As he’s another one like Keela from a one parrot household for the past few years, we’re skipping quarantine and letting him interact with the other parrots immediately, though of course, he’ll go to the vet sometime in the next month or so and get a checkup and bloodwork, probably going along with Ky, as we’ve got a handful more parrots to get through. :)

He’s a very sweet, very social parrot who finds the house very interesting. He’s completely unfazed by dogs or cats, and seems to enjoy very much watching the other parrots. As you can see from the pictures, Ky and he seem to think that things are pretty okay. He thought Keela was pretty interesting too, but she flew around too much.

He talks quite a bit and switched to eating the diet we feed in the typical Amazon way. “Oh, food? I like food, I will eat it.” We’ll introduce fresh foods tomorrow, which I’m sure will go just fine. :)

We were told that he was approximately 5 years old, but I managed to get a glimpse of his band, and he was probably born in 2005, and came from Hagen. I’ve emailed them to see if I can get a hatch date, which is always fun.

He will fly, though he’s not very good at landing — he ended up on the curtain when Ky took off and flew around. That will improve, since we encourage parrots to fly.

He’s not great about stepping onto hands yet, but he’s already upgraded from uncertainly taking treats from us to walking over to take a treat with happiness, which is great for his first day.

He’s very pretty too. :)

Ky quite likes the swing as well.

One of the things we’re focusing on with the number of parrots in the house now is more fun things upstairs. I just got a jumbo Orbit from Mother Pluckin Bird Toys for up here as well.

Crazyzon.

Wet bird post bath!

Today’s life lesson for you. Do not put your hand near an Amazon that looks like this. This is one excited crazyzon.

Keeping a close eye on the new boy, Ky is.

She keeps an eye on him, and he, in typical Amazon fashion, keeps an eye on the food dish. :)

Pause for big red crazy, who is methodically destroying the egg carton toy that she was just given.

Pair of Amazons, onlooking poodle.

A little flirty.

We tossed them both on the same stand to see what would happen.

They calmly checked each other out.

They’ll be great friends in no time.

And this is the last new parrot for a good long while. :)

Posted in Cody, Introductions, Kyklos, Parrots, Tlalli | Leave a comment

Swing in the kitchen!

One of the joys of owning your own house is that you can do crazy things. We had a giant swing in our aviary in Vancouver that was on an old rusty chain. We removed the chain and restrung it on some nylon rope, adding a bunch of new toy parts to the side, and then hung it in our kitchen.

Because everyone needs a giant swing in their kitchen, right?

Keela thinks it’s evil still, and Theo is not a big ‘let’s go up in the air on things that move’ sort of bird, but Tlalli found it awesome.

Super awesome.

Mar 14, 2014 | More crazy caw! by stejacks on Keek.com

Also peek-a-boo.

Mar 14, 2014 | Crazy macaw on a swing in my kitchen. by stejacks on Keek.com

We got some pictures too, of course.

Today’s life lesson for you. If there’s a parrot out there that you meet that has this expression on her face — do not touch her. This is a SUPER excited greenwing macaw.

So fun!

All of her, including tail.

Eating swing — we’ll have to re-string this pretty frequently, I fear.

For times when we might not want to have a giant swing in our kitchen, it can be easily removed and stored elsewhere.

However, for fun parrot times, it looks like this one is a hit. :)

Posted in Parrots, Tlalli | Leave a comment

What does it actually look like, living with so many pets?

Thanks to a great deal of environmental arrangements and training, all of my ‘free-range’ type pets are generally okay with each other. By free-range, I mean those who get free time in some part of the household. Not, for example, the fish. :)

Which means that there’s frequently a number of animals hanging around doing things, and capable of being photographed. So that’s what I’ve done.

This, for example, is what it looks like when a greenwing macaw is working on climbing down from her stand, and a doberman is trying to see if food is involved.

Tlalli likes to climb down pretty frequently and go walk-about on the floor. The other day, I was shaping bread while standing at the end of the kitchen island, and of a sudden, I felt a thumping on my slipper, and heard “Hi! Cracker? Mmmmm!” from the floor, and there was Tlalli, being creepily adorable while attempting to assault my feet.

This is the expression of a poodle who you are trying to get to look at you, but who is aware that there is food in the kitchen and if he stares there, he might get some.

And, of course, everything is made better with a tiny grey on your knee, right?

Tiny grey, poodle in background is even better, of course.

I don’t think I mentioned here yet, but Keela has been to the vet and was pronounced in fine shape, negative on all the viral diseases, clean wellness bloodwork and fecal.

Back to completely random pictures! Here, we have the typical ‘the gas fireplace is on’ look — doberman and some subset of cats. Today, we have Nemo.

As you can see, the cats do not at all get along with the dogs.

Nemo sometimes just stretches out on his own, to show off how long he is.

And sometimes, he just catloafs on his own.

The boys play on the bed together sometimes too.

Also, while I’m updating on random things, I emailed the chain pet store that I thought Tlalli was purchased from, and struck gold. Her hatch date is April 30th, 2008, which makes her not quite six years old. (It also means that she was born four days before Schrodinger was, which makes me both happy and sad.)

But she’s pretty, which makes me happy! And she’s finally starting to molt, so maybe, just maybe, she’ll have better feathers one day. Maybe.

Random Ky, wet from a bath!

Tlalli, also wet, destroying some tissue paper.

And I leave you with a final Random Amazon.

Posted in Akeelah, Cats, Crow, Dogs, Kyklos, Macavity, Nemo, Noire, Parrots, Tlalli | Leave a comment

Parrot related goals!

It’s funny, two new parrots in the household, and there’s suddenly a number of specific behavioural goals that come with them.

I figured it’s worthwhile to discuss a little bit, mixed with pictures, so that people who read this and have parrots feel that if they’re having issues, they’re fixable, and second, for those who don’t have parrots, they can really comprehend what living with parrots is like.

1) Diet.

Tlalli eats pellets, but not fresh food.

Keela eats pellets and will somewhat eat fresh food, but only if in company.

In both cases, the fix is pretty straight forward — keep providing fresh food for several hours in the morning when they don’t have other food, and eventually, they will eat it — so far, this method has never once failed, though the record was eight months before Pineapple, our previous lovebird, would eat fresh food.

2) Feather destruction.

Tlalli barbers her feathers something fierce.

She seems to mostly do it at quiet times, when there’s limited stimulation going on. She will not do so when she is wet.

Two pronged attack for that one — once she’s started molting and growing in new feathers, we will keep her damp as much as possible.

Also, we’re working on more and more playing with toys and environmental enrichment in the form of foraging, crunchy feeling things to destroy, and rope and other things that she really seems to enjoy.

3) Cohabitation!

We would like Tlalli and Theo to share a cage. They have an 8 foot long by 4 foot deep by 6 foot tall cage to share, so there’s plenty of room.

However, they are not ready yet. We tried, briefly, and Tlalli cornered Theo and he had to be rescued.

Plan for that is pretty simple though — both Tlalli and Theo are very food motivated, so they will be regularly reinforced for calm behaviour when close to each other, as seen below.

Both of them are on the same stand, both are showing relaxed body language.

With enough time and enough proximity, they’ll be fine together — just need to continue reinforcing calm body language when they’re near each other, and stop allowing Tlalli to chase Theo into corners, which sets back the relationship on both sides.

The next set of cohabitation is a little more challenging — Keela and Cin. Keela is very curious about Cin, approaches him politely, and seems not at all bothered by his presence. Cin clearly has a different opinion. He tightens up his feathers when she’s nearby, he will fly away if she’s too close.

Which is a shame, because she’s so pretty.

The reason this one is more challenging is fairly simple. Cin is not interested in treats, because Cin is fat. Keela would eat the world, so reinforcing her for things is very simple, but Cin will not even take nuts half the time.

He has disapproving African grey bird boobs.

There’s a whole lot of fixes here for all of this.

First, I’ve cut back on Cin’s pellets, but I am going to have to cut back further.

Second, we’re encouraging more flight as much as we can.

Third, Keela’s cage has been moved downstairs next to Cin’s so that they can see each other more frequently (and Keela can get decent amounts of sleep like our other birds).

I will also work on getting a weight on Cin so that I can monitor more closely, but I care more about physical and behavioural changes more than a number on a scale.

And finally, a fun goal more than an unfun one.

4) Flight training Keela!

Keela’s an amazingly good flier, particularly for a parrot who was very likely not fledged, and has been clipped for most of her life.

Right now, we’re working on recall to hand, which she’s gotten much better at. On the other side of things, I need to build up the value in the stand, because for the past few days, she’s been flying to me whenever she’s had a chance.

Foraging works well for the stand though.

So, in a nutshell, living with a bunch of parrots involves a whole lot of learning, teaching, and problem solving.

That, and a lot of picture taking too. :)

Want to guess what Tlalli’s doing in this picture? Feel free to leave a comment!

Posted in Akeelah, Cinereo, Parrots, Theodore, Tlalli, Training goals | 1 Comment

A visiting cat and possible future excitement.

Nearly a year ago, we found a picture of an adorable fawn solid Oriental shorthair on Jelly’s breeder’s facebook page, and made arrangements to take him home.

Because of his colour, bloodline, and general structure, when we went to visit him at 8 weeks, his breeder asked if we would be willing to keep him intact and let her use him to stud. We agreed, and Macavity has been a great introduction to cat shows (so much fun), intact cats (louder than the rest), and now the joys of waiting to see if kittens will magically appear.

Champion Siam Jewels Spot On came to visit for the past week and have some fun with Siam Jewels Macavity (who should hopefully get his championship shortly — no shows have arrived since he’s turned 8 months old).

We’re all crossing our fingers for some really pretty kittens, which I hope will arrive, because she’s awfully pretty.

Isn’t she?

She’s gone back to her home, and now we wait.

Posted in Cats, Macavity | 1 Comment

Chess club and frat boys.

Tonight, we let the pair o’ greys meet each other, and watching them watch Tlalli flail around in joy is possibly the most entertaining thing I’ve ever seen.

Greys are relatively reserved parrots (although Keela is much less so than Cin is) and macaws are extremely vivacious, and Tlalli is particularly so. Tlalli spends a huge amount of her time flapping, climbing down off her stand, yodeling at people to come and collect her, and generally being demanding.

Keela’s doing quite well so far, talking more in a little munchkin voice, although I’ve not caught a lot of what she’s saying. She’s getting better at stepping up and not just flying to the shoulder, switched to eating the same pellets as the other birds without issue, and loves eating mulch.

She’s also had two baths and a cage rearrangement, all accepted without much fuss. She doesn’t play with toys as much as I’d like, but she does like shredders, so we’ve set her up with a lot of light shreddy toys and she’s happy to chomp on them.

Keela and Theo will be going to the vet on Thursday for general checkups and in Keela’s case, a definite nail trim. Hers are like daggers, but I don’t want to stress her by toweling yet. She’s also missing some feathers on her head, which you can see in some of the pictures.

Which we’ll start with now! :)

Cin’s quite a bit bigger than she is, and yet, significantly more wary.

Pretty girl, Keela!

Cin’s world has been throw upside down by this new addition. It’s good for him. :)

Pair o’ caws. Tlalli’s figured out how to climb down to the bottom of the stand and thinks it’s great fun.

As far apart as you can get on the same stand.

Keela’s done most of the approaching so far, and both of them had a brief fly around the house when the other got too close, but so far so good.

This is by far the easiest introduction I’ve ever done.

Little crazy eyes for the toys. :)

And crazy eyes for Cin too.

And then, big miss crazy showed up behind them.

Pause for pretty Theo!

Back to drama.

What is WRONG with her?

Back to the greys.

One of us has a red butt. The other, not so much.

And the last pictures were taken thanks to me taking one for the team and grabbing the obnoxious dinosaur myself.

She’s a fun shoulder dinosaur though!

And she’s very curious what I’m saying about her on the internets.

Next time, I will give you an update on our Visiting Cat. :)

Posted in Akeelah, Cinereo, Parrots, Theodore, Tlalli | Leave a comment

Introducing Akeelah.

One of the things that I’ve mentioned of late, and will be discussing more in the future, is parrot companions. The longer I’ve owned parrots, the more I think that they get a great deal out of having a similar-species companion to share their lives with, and in most cases, with owners who understand positive reinforcement and don’t expect a mate-relationship with their birds, they stay fun pet companions too.

So, with that said, I’ve been keeping my eye out for parrots who need homes of certain species. One of them is a Timneh grey. Timnehs are smaller and darker than African greys (sometimes called Congos), and are significantly more rare around.

And yet, two weeks ago, I found a six year old Timneh who was looking for a new home on kijiji. Her name is Akeelah, Keela for short, and her previous owners loved her dearly and cared for her to the absolute best of their ability. Her diet needs a little improvement, but that won’t be an issue as you can see. :)

She’s very interactive, makes a ton of interesting noises, talks in a little robot voice, gives kisses, and flies like a dream. She’s not at all bothered by the business of our house, which is also awesome. I’m really interested to see the differences between the two species as we get to know her better.

We’re off to the vet this week for a checkup, but as she’s been vetted before and has been in a single parrot home for the past six years, we’ve decided to skip quarantine this time around, though we’ll avoid physical interaction for a while anyways.

Tonight, she helped us make our mash diet (call it chop, mash, mulch, what have you — grains, beans, and veggies), and thought it was pretty awesome.

Pretty picture to start with (though she had a dirty beak still).

I eat squash. Squash is good.

Crazy pinning eye good.

She’s also good at helping with the dishes.

And hanging out on the couch.

She LOVES giving kisses.

And is moderately interested in the other (giant, crazy, singing) parrots.

But food wins over all — I was mixing the mulch, and offered her some more, which you can clearly see was a hit.

Mmmmm, mulchy beak.

She shook her head and threw mulch everywhere.

Great capture of her shaking.

Pretty girl!

She’s a lot of fun, and it’ll be great to get to know her better.

And there’s MORE news too, but that will get photographed tomorrow.

Posted in Akeelah, Introductions | Leave a comment

Photos various, or cats, dogs, and birds, oh my.

Life continues along swimmingly. I’ve had the head cold of doom the past two weeks but have somehow survived.

The main household issue lately has been what we politely call ‘rotten foot dog’. Noire scraped the side of her foot on ice, licked it until it was massively infected, and had to get a round of antibiotics. She will still lick it if allowed, which is why we’ve alternated between putting dressings on her foot, her wearing a basket muzzle, and the cone.

She is not pleased, as you can see.

I also managed to grab a picture of the Elusive Cat Who Is Not Photographed, our eldest. Fetch is a former feral who is still somewhat cagey around people. I would say he’s our only non-oriental, but as you can see, his colouring is red lynx point, so who knows what his background is.

While we’re on the subject of cats, I give you slightly blurry Macavity sitting on a heat vent….

And Nemo eating a blood orange. No, I don’t know why. He’s just defective.

In other news, Tlalli got to move into the big cage, and I snapped a few pictures of her. Theo is in the smaller cage for the meantime until they can move in together.

We’re not quite there yet, as Theo’s completely wary expression may show you.

And finally, I grabbed the camera while we were downstairs today, and got a few more pictures.

The grey bird, on the smaller atom.

And a slightly wider shot.

Pair o’ caws!

Tlalli’s beauty shot, with ball.

Cin being silly.

Theo’s beauty shot. No ball.

That’s it for now, but stay tuned, there may be some interesting news this weekend.

Posted in Cats, Cinereo, Dogs, Fetch, Macavity, Nemo, Noire, Parrots, Theodore, Tlalli | Leave a comment