Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chester, Solomn Island Eclectus

When I got Chester, I really thought he would never be a very "tame" bird, and would certainly never want human attention. He hated other birds, with a great passion, and was terrified of people, and spent all of his time sitting listlessly in his cage. He did not like being looked at, or having anyone near him. When you were in the room with him, he would not do anything. He of course would never take treats. His feathers, the ones he had not plucked, were very dark and greasy, and very unhealthy looking. When I later saw him open his wing, it was pitiful to see the bones under his bare skin, with the occasional fatty deposit. His joints were all huge and swollen, and rather yellow. He had a great deal of trouble balancing, and slept with his head tipped forward, resting on the cage bars. He also had a nervous, and constant, habit of flipping his head upside down, repeatedly, over and over. I suppose this is how he dealt with living in that little cage for so many years.

I do not know a great deal of his history, perhaps a bit more than I know with some rescues, but I have been able to read between the lines by observing his behavior. For instance, he was never quiet at night. I had him in a almost totally dark room, that was very quiet, and yet he always came alive at night. It would wake me up, and I would come stand outside the door, listening to him move around, yelling, chattering, playing with the two new toys I had managed to introduce to him. I have heard of other birds that are known to have been kept in basement or closets for long periods of time, and they also did not seem to care about darkness, or know the difference between day and night. I assume at sometime he was kept in a dark area for a while, likely a closet, as he has shown a great fear of closets.

Chester was caught loose when he flew into a lady's yard in Pennsylvania. As that lady did not want him, she gave him to her neighbors. I am not sure whether they already had a bird at that time or whether Chester was their first. They kept him for 7 years before moving down to Va. They had several excuses for wanting to get rid of him, but I believe the most accurate was that he was loud, and hated the wife.

When I got him, he was in a little 18" by 18" cage, with one very dirty concrete perch and one old wooden toy. He had been fed only sunflower seeds and some chopped "dried fruit bird treats" (the fruit part is still up for consideration.) According to the couple, they were a "bird haven" and had rescued Chester and their two other birds (that they kept) from some other horrible life. It is funny how perceptions differ.

Anyway, Chester was, as I said before, not tame at all. He was totally cage bound, as well. For the first week, I simply spent hours sitting in the room, far away from him, on the floor with my back to him. The second week, after a major break through when he actually ate his breakfast with me in the room, I started leaving the cage door open. It took another week before he considered coming out of the cage. Once he came out on top, and really seemed more comfortable having me in the room, I started slowly sitting closer and closer to the cage. The third break through was when he started taking treats off my shoulder, which was followed in a couple of days with his starting occasionally to accept treats from my hand. He soon started calling for me, as well, and would run out of his cage whenever I came into the room. He still never left his cage, always keeping at least one foot holding onto some part of it. He would try to get as close as possible to my head and face, as that was the only part of me he did not seem overly afraid of.

This continued until the end of quarantine, when I moved him into my bedroom right next to my bed. Then I started to get real progress. He slowly overcame his fear of me and of leaving his cage, and would venture onto the bed as I was lying there. The first time he ventured onto my chest was really remarkable, and from there the progress was amazing. After having him sit on me, I tried sitting up with him on my shoulder and putting him immediately on his cage and giving him treats and praise, and then I stayed sitting a little longer before putting him back on his cage. Then I tried standing before going to the cage, then walking away from the cage and then back, etc., until I could go out of the room and take him to other places in the house. This took a very long time, but it was really worth it. Sometime during all this, he learned to say my name, Meg, and would call it over and over after I left him.

Despite all the breakthroughs, he still had a total hatred of all other birds. Claudia, as she had been around other birds her whole life, was actually very excited hearing another ekkie in the house. I tried slowly giving Chester glimpses of her, and then longer and longer ones, and then finally bringing her into the room with him when he was downstairs. She was very good throughout all of this, and seemed to care less that he was screaming at her and doing his very best imitation of an angry gorilla. She continued to go about whatever else she wanted to do with no concern of him. I hated to put them both, well all three of us, through that, but I knew I could not find a home for him with someone that had enough experience to handle him, unless he learned to at least tolerate other birds. He was, at this point, extremely protective of me, and would even go after another person if I seemed at all upset.

I finally decided to just try a risk, and brought Claudia into my bedroom and put her on a chair next to the bed. She was very interested in him, as usual, and began pinning and ruffling her feathers. He also began his usual yelling and territorial pacing. After several day of this, in longer and longer intervals with lots of calming spray the whole time, Claudia flew onto the bed. I was right there, and immediately threw a pillow in between them and picked her up. Chester seemed stunned to think she would go onto his bed. After she flew onto the bed twice more, he calmed down and I could see he was really pretty afraid of her. After she started doing a nesting dance, and doing her best to get his attention, he began to look interested. He would run over to me, look at her, and walk closer and closer to her, before running back to me. She tried several times to get him to feed her, but when she finally got him to accept some food from her, that was it. From then on, he was in love, as was she.

They now have a great time together all day, feeding, preening, foraging, playing together. They both demand plenty of time with me, though, so I consider it the best of both worlds. Chester still has very distinct ideas about putting an end to all the other birds in the room. Fortunately, though I have watched them all closely for any sign that they are stressed with this fact, they seem to care less about him. In fact, I could swear they mock him. I am careful not to let them out together, needless to say.

Chester has progressed even more, and now loves to get on my shoulder/chest, right under my neck, and lie down, with his wings stretched out, and the back of his head rubbing back and forth on my neck. He is even learning to step-up, not only on my shoulder from anywhere, which he already learned, but onto my arm, after watching Claudia do it so many times. Really, he is an incredibly sweet bird, even with all his funny quirks. His plucking is getting better, in fact, is almost gone. I am hoping with the good diet I have finally gotten him on he will soon grow in many new feathers, as he has already gotten a few new ones.

Chester, on his concrete perch (cleaned as well as I could)
he is so attached to it still, I had to put it in his new cage,
at least for a little while.

Chester enjoying the view out the window.

Chester having some relax time with me.

He has never quite lost his repetitive habit of flipping
his head, but it is much better.


Best in Flock parrot blog said...

Awwww, poor Chester. I'm glad he found you, and a new Ekkie friend to love.

Ulrich said...

What a heartwarming story! Thanks for giving Chester a loving home!

Anonymous said...

Meg, it's an amazing story!
Chester is such a sweet and beautiful boy, he and Claudia make a wonderful couple.

Brenda S. said...

What a great story. Chester is lucky he found you...or I guess that you found him! I have a Grey and a sun Conure They are NOT the best of friend!LOL Anyway, its good work you are doing, so many parrot without a good home out there.