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Hello all. First large bird. Need some advice please

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Hello all. First large bird. Need some advice please

Postby Mo_Hillbilly » Sat Dec 02, 2017 2:27 am

I apologize for the length of this post. I'm new to this. Both raising parrots and being in a forum.

So, I just got my first large parrot. I've owned cockatiels previously but nothing like Chewy. She is an umbrella cockatoo that is 13 yrs old. I'm the guy that always wanted to own a large bird but knew I didn't have time to do this properly. I now have the time to commit to doing it right and a friend had to find a place for her cockatoo because of health problems. She told me Chewy had "issues". She had her for about 3 years. So,, being a patient man and having time (as I stated earlier) I figured I could help my friend out and realize my dream. Win Win right?
The first week was a steep learning curve. My friend informed me that the people she got the bird from would throw a thick blanket over the bird when she became upset with something. My first bite came when I went to change my shirt. As I lifted the shirt up Chewy attacked. She bit me twice before I could retreat. As I said, I am a fairly patient man. I walked out of the room until I composed myself and then I re-entered the room. I was amazed that Chewy was calm, and ready to resume life as usual. She went from calm to crazy and back to calm so fast it was incredible.
It has been a month now. We have worked through the aggression issue and believe it or not Chewy has bonded with me and my wife. She began to show jealousy when my wife and I are close. Having my wife spend more time alone with her has helped in that respect. The biting has stopped but Chewy is an attention hog. I have all kinds of time to spend with her but there are chores we must take care of and with it getting cold outside I have to leave her in her room. Eventually she will be able to free fly around while I am feeding the stock and working outside (hopefully). My friend owns a ranch and Chewy flew around following her around the property as she worked so I think this is not impossible for us.
OK so, I built a spare room into an aviary. The whole room is hers except a two and a half foot ally along the walls for cleaning and to keep her from getting into the wall. (wiring and all that).
She has a problem that I need help understanding and dealing with. When I am taking care of chores I am out for about 2 hrs every morning and 1 hr of the evening. She chews her feathers and sometimes pulls some while my wife and I are outside. She had rough looking feathers when I got her so this is not a new thing for her. I take her to the shower and she loves the water so I don't think it is dry skin. She doesn't scratch overmuch so I don't think it's parasites.
Doing research I assume it is a nervous condition that manifests itself when she is upset by being alone no matter that it isn't an overlong period of time.
Short of getting another bird, she has never been kept with other birds and I am afraid she might not accept another "intruder", is there a strategy for helping her with this. Her room has all kinds of toys and interesting stuff to climb on and explore. I change the room around about every 3 or 4 days to keep her actively exploring to find new food stashes and toys to play with. I also installed a television on the wall for her. She loves the music stations.
Any advice would be much appreciated.
Mo_Hillbilly
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 9
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Cockatoo
Flight: Yes

Re: Hello all. First large bird. Need some advice please

Postby Navre » Sat Dec 02, 2017 8:24 am

You describe a typical umbrella Cockatoo in my opinion. She wants to be with you, always, and she barbers and plucks if she is alone. You can try giving her lots and lots of wood to chew.

I wouldn’t let her outside without a harness. If you can harness train her, it would be great to be able to take her with you in the good weather.
Navre
African Grey
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 1643
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Re: Hello all. First large bird. Need some advice please

Postby Navre » Sat Dec 02, 2017 8:36 am

You certainly seem dedicated to this bird. Your research seems good and you’re doing great by her. You might need to tweak some things like lighting, Paj is better at that than I am, so she’ll probably post on this thread, but it’s super hard with Umbrella and Moluccan cockatoos. Once they have started plucking, they usually keep it up. They’re super needy. They love so deeply they just can’t stand to be alone. The thing that makes them so wonderful is the exact thing that makes them so difficult.

I’m not sure if another bird would help. We had a pair of Moluccans. They both were mutilating and they have both gotten better since they have been separated. It’s not like trying to pair up cockatiels. If that didn’t work out you would then have two cockatiels in separate cages. With big, loud birds, you might double your problem.

Don’t be discouraged.
Navre
African Grey
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 1643
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Turquoise Green Cheek Conure
Timneh African Grey
Hooded Parrot
Flight: Yes

Re: Hello all. First large bird. Need some advice please

Postby Pajarita » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:54 am

Welcome to the forum! It was real good of you to take Chewy from your friend but you really bit quite a large mouthful because cockatoos are the most difficult of the large parrots. Having said that, it's not impossible to keep them healthy and happy if you put the time and work into it. There are three essential points to follow with them:

1. A super strict solar schedule with full exposure to dawn and dusk [they are short day breeders and have two breeding seasons during which they naturally become a bit difficult but they are practically impossible to handle when they overly hormonal]

2. A fresh food diet [cockatoos consume A LOT of produce and need it every single day] and lots and lots and lots of chewing material.

3. An inordinate amount of time spent with them both out of cage and one-on-one and strict and completely unchanged routines.

Now, a word of caution, she has not bonded with you or your wife. She is in what we call 'the honeymoon period' where she is beginning to learn about her new humans, home, routines, etc - the bonding comes later and it takes months and months. Furthermore, parrots always behave their best during the honeymoon period so don't get discouraged if she starts getting even more aggressive with you in a couple of months or so - it's normal.

A solar schedule is something that people usually think they understand but, in reality, they don't so, if you have done research and know about avian photoperiodism, skip this part but, if you don't know about it or still have doubts, read on. Birds are photoperiodic - this is a long word that means that their bodies know what season it is [courting, nesting, breeding, molting, etc] from the length of the daylight hours. In order for their bodies to know how many hours of light are in the day, they need to be exposed for, at least, 1.5 hour of twilight both in the morning and in the evening [well, this time of the year, it's not the evening but the afternoon]. Birds need good light to see properly, to regulate their moods and their endocrine system. It's the way nature evolved them and not my personal opinion. Because they are the most vision-dependent of all the vertebrates and because they can see better, more accurately and more colors than mammals do, they need a good quality full spectrum light when indoors [the specs you will be looking for are a CRI as close to 100 as you can get it but not lower than 92 and a Ktemp not lower than 5000 but not higher than 6000]. Now, their endocrine system needs to be exposed to the different spectrum that happens during dawn and dusk because it is this special light that turns on or off their 'internal clock' [pineal gland] and the number of hours between these two events is what marks the different seasons for them. This time of the year, I uncover my birds cages at 6:15 am but do not turn on the artificial lights until 8 am - then turn off the artificial lights at 3:00 pm and feed them dinner right after that. I cover their cages at around 6 pm when they are all fast asleep in their roosting perches [I use quilts and bedspreads for the covers because they are large and thick enough to prevent all light from 'sneaking' into their cages but I also never turn on any artificial lights in the rooms where they are kept and have a black-out curtain covering the entrance to my kitchen because there are studies that tell us that the merest sliver of light affects them].

Cockatoos eat A LOT of plant material - so much so that they are the ONLY species of parrot that, in my personal experience, actually go for the greens before they go for the fruit or veggie. I feed mine a leafy green [or raw broccoli but, when it comes to leafy greens, they prefer the ones with crunchy stalks like bok choy, Swiss chard, nappa and the very heart of the romaine], a raw veggie and a raw fruit with gloop [this is a dish made out cooked whole grains mixed with chopped veggies - I've been doing research on parrots natural diets for over 20 years and have long ago reached the conclusion that pellets are not and never will be the best dietary option for them, I can elaborate on this if you are interested]. For dinner, mostly nuts and a few seeds [all my birds get a multivitamin/mineral supplement twice a week and extra dosages of calciboost for the laying hens].

There is nothing more important for undomesticated species kept in captivity than a steady, unchanging daily routine. Parrots don't live in hierarchical societies so, to them, obedience and subservience are concepts that cannot be understood as they all make their own decisions so, when we take away the power to decide what to do when, we cause them a lot of stress. Following the same biorhythms they would follow in the wild helps reduce stress - and the fact that they learn the routine and can then predict what will happen when, gives them a sense of control over their own lives -again, stress reduction. My birds get their cages uncovered and open when there is just a little bit of light on the horizon, about 1 hour after this, when there is already good light, they get their produce, half an hour after this, their gloop and they are then put into their cage to eat breakfast. About half an hour after this, their cages are opened again and they stay out and with me until about 1:30 pm this time of the year [it's later during the long days of the summer] and I already told you that I turn off the lights and give them dinner at around 3 pm.

The best time of the day to interact with them is after breakfast and before dinner but, when they are out, they are always interacting one way or the other [mostly me running around taking things from them or preventing them from chewing something they should not be chewing :lol: ].

I would NOT recommend you take your bird out without a harness. Parrots are not dogs, they are undomesticated animals that do not have it in them and cannot learn to be obedient up to the point that they would not take off to look for a mate when hormonal. Even professional trainers [the kind that give shows] lose birds they free-fly.

Cockatoos can be the sweetest things or they can be completely unpredictable and aggressive. It all depends on the care they receive. Give them what their bodies and minds need and they will repay you with love. Parrots are not naturally aggressive [they are not predators or live in a hierarchical society where they have to fight for their 'place'] and they only attack defending or protecting their nest, their mates and themselves. Unfortunately, they can also learn to bite in order to get their point across because people who don't understand them teach them. These humans don't mean to cause the bird harm and they don't do it on purpose but, like I told my kids and now tell my grandkids, "Sorry, I did not mean to" doesn't walk the dog - and the result is the same: pee on the floor and a dog that did not learn to go outside.

So I suggest you start with her 'the right way' as soon as possible because although the days are now getting shorter, this will change very soon [the winter solstice is on Dec/21]. Mind you, you will not notice a change right away because the more messed up an endocrine system is, the longer it takes to go back 'on track' but you need to start somewhere.

As to her plucking, keeping her to a solar schedule, giving her a fresh food diet [cockatoos fed most pellets tend to have subclinical chronic dehydration], and having a strict routine plus lots and lots of chewing material [I suggest thick cardboard boxes and pieces of untreated 2x4] will help a lot but it might not completely 'cure' her of the bad habit because it becomes second nature to them [kind of like people who chew their nails]. I took in a 25 year old male LS2 that had very few feathers on his body, showing large areas of naked skin [belly, chest, back and back of wings, etc] and no wings or tail feathers and he now has his body completely covered [although not all of it with contour feathers] and just his chest shows skin - he had also allowed all his primaries [the long feathers in the wings and tail] to grow after his last molt but he has now been barbering them :( Not that I am discouraged in any way because, based on my personal experience with extreme pluckers, it takes them years to get a better plumage and some of them never quite stop although ALL of them improve with good care. So don't lose hope if she keeps on doing it - as long as you see the smallest improvement and this improvement remains, you are on the right track.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 12602
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

Re: Hello all. First large bird. Need some advice please

Postby Mo_Hillbilly » Sat Dec 02, 2017 7:53 pm

Thank you all for your responses to my post. I will not lie and say I am completely confident in this endeavor. I am a voracious reader and a lot of what I have read, including from you good people, confirms that there are a lot of ways I could blow this. My main concern is the well-being of Chewy. She is so intelligent. I can see her working things out, almost systematically. It is my experience that such intelligent animals needs to be provided not just a life of stability but one of exploration, mental challenges, new things to figure out... I have trained horses throughout my life. Some would be pleased as can be just to do their work and be well fed and cared for. Others become problematic and hard to handle if they are not given enough mental stimulation through advanced training to keep them happily moving forward and interested in exploring their world. I know birds and horses, (apples and oranges) but smart is smart in any species including the human species. I wonder, however, just how much Toos hold on to their past. If they realize they are now in a different (better) situation do they soon adjust their mindset to the new or normally take years to become confident that things are better now so a new response is called for? I'll continue doing what I am doing. Sure that I'll be making some mistakes but learning and getting better from successes and mistakes as well. I'll be around to pick your brains. Thanks for the forum and again for your knowledgeable responses.
Mo_Hillbilly
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 9
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Cockatoo
Flight: Yes

Re: Hello all. First large bird. Need some advice please

Postby Pajarita » Sun Dec 03, 2017 11:25 am

Well, going by my own experience and observations, all companion parrots take about two years to feel completely at home BUT these birds are highly intelligent and, as all animals, VERY pragmatic so they figure out very soon when the new home is better than the old home. Plus, although you are correct in that they need mental stimulation, they are intensely physical beings and, as their needs are very difficult to fulfill [how many people do you know that can spend from 6 to 8 hours a day with a bird, live with poop all over the place and chewed up furniture, paintings, moldings, windowsills, never go on vacation, never take a sick day, and have no real social life? Not that many, I bet :lol: ] they sure appreciate it when they are! The trick with all parrots is not to fight their natural needs, compromise and just find a way that both the bird and the human are content. I'll give you an example: my birdroom has untreated wood boards on top of all the baseboard and door and window moldings and sills plus, the doors have metal edges all around so they don't get chewed up. This way, the birds can chew to their heart's content and the room is easily fix up if you need to sell the house. I also have birds in the living room and the dining room so I cover all the tables and the credenza with thick plastic, the sofas with quilts and the area rugs with sheets and all the windows edges have an extra molding on them [the one that is like an L shape] which I replace and paint the same color as the rest of the woodwork periodically - they do, on occasion, chew things they should not [I just had to get brand new draperies for the living room because the senegals were chewing the back of them in their quest for a nest -they breed in the fall] but I can have a pretty living and dining room in a matter of a couple of hours when I have company.

As to mental stimulation, cockatoos like nothing better than to open locks - they are masters at that!
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 12602
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

Re: Hello all. First large bird. Need some advice please

Postby Mo_Hillbilly » Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:09 pm

Yet another question. I have been reading a lot of people quoting an article written by a Mrs. Sarah Stull about parrot behavior and hormones. I tracked down the article. This person writes about over cuddling with your bird. She writes, "let’s talk about cuddling and what you’re really telling your parrot when you snuggle up and pet him outside of his head, neck, and feet! Cuddles like that mean sex to a parrot. Not companionship or love – at least, not the way owners are thinking. To a person, touch is a way of connecting emotionally, of expressing empathy and love. But to a parrot, most touch says, ‘Let’s be mates.’" She goes on to describe the eventual outcome of this. She writes of aggression (outwardly and turned upon self). If you care to read the article here is the link. https://studentswithbirds.wordpress.com ... hat-to-do/

Please give me a little feedback on this subject. I spend a lot of time with Chewy and pet her quite a bit. I would hate to be creating a future problem or cause her stress. Also, I understand (and believe) you when you say she hasn't truly "bonded" with me. I am probably letting my desire for that to cause me to see it in her just wanting contact. I want her to be fine with my family as a whole. If Mrs. Stull is correct I would be creating a "one person too". Thanks for your expertise and for your kindly answering my questions. I thought about opening up a line for discussion on this subject.
Mo_Hillbilly
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 9
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Cockatoo
Flight: Yes

Re: Hello all. First large bird. Need some advice please

Postby Navre » Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:09 pm

Just touch head and neck only. Feet are okay, too. But don’t touch any other areas.
Navre
African Grey
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 1643
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Turquoise Green Cheek Conure
Timneh African Grey
Hooded Parrot
Flight: Yes

Re: Hello all. First large bird. Need some advice please

Postby Pajarita » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:11 am

Yes, she is correct in the cuddling and touching subject [I don't agree with everything she states - for example, I would never recommend a UV lamp]. Parrots should only be touched on the head [top, sides, back, cheeks, chin -not that they really have one :lol: I mean under the beak] all the way down to the neck. Never anywhere else on the body because the ONLY other being that touches these parts is the mate so they are all erogenous zones, most especially the back, the lower belly and under their wings [this is mostly a too thing]. BUT owners that clip their bird's nails find it easier to do if the bird is used to having his toes touched. I only clip nails on the birds with liver damage, I don't find it necessary to do the others although I do, on occasion, do the cockatoo's because he tends to grab real hard and can easily punch a hole into my hand with his nails.
Pajarita
Norwegian Blue
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 12602
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

Re: Hello all. First large bird. Need some advice please

Postby Mo_Hillbilly » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:19 pm

Thanks
Mo_Hillbilly
Parakeet
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is male
Posts: 9
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: Cockatoo
Flight: Yes

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