We’ve gone through a lot in the twenty-three years I’ve lived with Sam, my 35+ year old female blue and gold macaw, the least of which was relocating 10 times. I was a full-time animal technician student who was home studying several hours each day when I initially moved in with her. Following college, I worked in a 24-hour veterinary emergency clinic, where my shift changed every three days. I went to work at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, overseeing the small animal practicum for animal nursing students, after enduring that crazy for two years.
Is Sam for sale…?
When I initially began working extraordinarily long hours four years later, I was on the verge of selling Sam. That was around fifteen years ago, when I took on the responsibility of heading a second department at the University of Prince Edward Island’s Veterinary School. I had long been a fan of parrots and was also captivated by other exotic creatures such as reptiles, so when the opportunity to build and oversee an exotic animal section presented itself, I couldn’t say no. I started working ten to twelve hour days and was on call every night and weekend.
For the first time in our eight years together, I felt Sam got much too little attention for an extended length of time. She had her radio and lots of wooden toys to gnaw on in her 4′ x 3′ x 3′ cage, but she didn’t have the company she was used to. Needless to say, I felt terrible and was on the verge of finding her another home.
I, however, did not. I loved her and didn’t want to go through life without her.
Life Has Calmed Down———-
I left the U of P after a few of years of putting myself into a physical coma and went to work for an avian practitioner. My working hours became more “normal,” and I had a lot more time to spend with Sam again. I even have vacation days! To my surprise, she and I were able to start up just where we left off; in other words, she was still my closest friend, and she forgiven me for my negligence.
Craziness strikes once again.
After two years, I cofounded an exotic animal clinic and became the hospital manager. I returned to working twelve to fourteen hour days, eight days a week, and carried a beeper in case of an emergency. When I arrived home, I was so exhausted that all I could do was sit and gaze at the wall. Sam’s basic needs were met, but she was once again emotionally ignored.
Working on My Own———-
Another shift after approximately two years of that craziness! I created my own boarding and grooming company, then moved on to parrot behavior work, doing a lot of freelance writing and phone consultations. Now that my office is in my house, I have more time to spend with Sam. And she was there waiting for me again, still my closest friend and happy to see me.
The idea of this narrative is straightforward: if you’ve formed a strong, solid connection with a parrot based on love, proper care, and nurturing dominance, the relationship becomes similar to a healthy marriage. True, Sam did not get the attention she desired and required for long periods of time, but it did not imply she had given up on me. She put up with life’s inconsistencies and remained my buddy.
Change causing stress in parrots?
Many pet bird periodicals rave about how difficult change is for pets. The same message is continually repeated: a conscientious bird owner should do everything possible to maintain daily routines. “They [birds] do not like change in their surroundings, and stress from that change will shorten lives,” according to a regular piece in BIRD TALK from the August, ’93 edition, “and stress from that change will shorten lives.”
Parrots, like people, are creatures of habit and regularity, in my opinion. They, like people, want assurance that their fundamental requirements of food and shelter will be met on a regular basis. However, my personal and client experiences have shown me that parrots are much more adaptive than most people believe.
For instance, I’ve been boarding birds at my house for many years. Many individuals first request that I come into their homes to care for their pets because they believe that altering the bird’s environment would be too distressing. When I had more time, I would do this, but I discouraged it since I am not as comfortable just seeing an animal for a certain amount of time every day. When birds stay with me, I possess a nice scale and weigh new boarders daily to ensure proper food intake – yet I’ve never seen any significant weight reduction. Most of the hundreds of birds I’ve boarded at my house have gained weight throughout their stay.
The flock taught me…
Sam, as a wild-caught bird, was most likely educated by her parents and the rest of her flock to adjust to change. After all, I doubt that anything in the natural surroundings where these birds have lived for thousands of years is regular and constant. With fluctuations in weather, food sources, and so on, the only true constant may be when the sun rises in the morning and sets at night. Wild parrots may return to the same feeding place day after day, but if the food supply runs out or a predator appears, the wild parrot must be versatile and find alternate food sources. Its existence is in stake.
As an avian behavior expert, I often see major issues with domestic-bred parrots that have been shielded from change by their well-meaning human parents. The juvenile parrot will never learn to adjust if it is not exposed to change. As a consequence, the parrot becomes rigid, and an inflexible creature is far more susceptible in the long term. After all, we know that parrots may live exceptionally long lives – as much as eighty years for Amazons. And who among us believes that we can maintain a consistent schedule for the next eighty years? I’m aware that I can’t.
When change comes, as it always does, these young domestics typically lack the flexibility to react, resulting in traditional behavior issues such as feather plucking, biting, and excessive screaming.
Teaching Them That Change Can Be Enjoyable———-
As a result, I believe that parrots should be trained to embrace change rather than being shielded from it. Changing the location, people, toys, and food in a bird’s life can assist build a psychologically healthy, well-socialized, and self-confident companion parrot.
Instead of sticking to inflexible habits, parrot companions should be gradually exposed to non-threatening changes. Move their cages on a regular basis, and replace toys every few days. Place them in various rooms of your house. Take them on vehicle drives and visits to various friends. Send them to a “slumber party,” where they will spend the night with a special human buddy. If possible, bring them with you on vacation. Provide a lot of diversity in their food so they don’t become bored with their eating habits. In other words, show them that change can be enjoyable, fascinating, and non-threatening.
Then you won’t have to worry about what will happen if unexpected changes in your life occur, such as emergency hospitalizations, business travels, job changes, and so forth. You won’t feel compelled to find another home for your parrot if you suddenly find yourself with less time to dedicate to it, since it will have learnt to adjust. You will have taught your tiny feathery companion how to cope, giving you peace of mind when you confront an uncertain future, as we all do.
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