Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Friends? Pretty Please?

Despite the fact that I do like to keep my birds in pairs, something that will always carry inherent risks, I consider myself fairly cautious about allowing any of my parrots to be together. Then again, since many people, such as one of my past vets, think keeping birds together at all can be quite dangerous and should be preferably avoided, maybe I am actually a reckless caretaker. Who knows. What I do know is that whatever the risk, my birds are much happier with friends. There have been disasters before (think Peter and Ava) but I just cannot really regret the situation which allowed the fight, and though I can hardly speak for any of my birds, I am not sure Ava necessarily regrets her life up until he flipped, either.

Let me be clear- I do not think anyone should get a parrot they do not want. Before getting any parrot, any bird at all, you need to think through how it could change your household, as well as how it definitely will; costs, mess, etc, are things that will always be there, at least. I mean really think about it. When I say a friend for your parrot is a good idea to consider, I mean it is a good idea to consider AFTER you have already decided to get another parrot. If you have decided another parrot is something you are prepared for, it is then I strongly recommend looking at the option of another of the same species.

However, I do not just throw any birds together and hope for the best. There are many fine people in this world, even some I admire, that I would likely try to kill (assuming my hatred of violence suddenly dissipated) were I forced to live with them. Sad fact. I see no reason why we should think animals, and in this case parrots, are any different. It is somewhat easier with flock parrots, like budgies and some conures for example, as they are small enough to have a fair amount of room in a standard flight cage and are pretty good at getting along with others though they may not be their heart's desire- think roommates. Contrary to popular opinion, though, many parrots do not naturally stay in flocks, and would in the wild spend most of their lives just with their intimate family- their partner, chicks, and not-quite-mature young. This means they do not generally take kindly to the idea of a roommate, since all they are looking for is "the one", so to speak. And, getting back to the first sentence in this paragraph, you can understand why getting another parrot, even of the same species and opposite sex, and expecting them to be "best best!" friends can be quite chancy. They may, and they may not. You have to be prepared for either outcome.

Yes, this has picture been posted before, 
but if you do not think it is cute enough for a re-post.....
there is just no hope for you.

I am perhaps more fortunate than the average parrot caretaker in the ability to search and find friends for my parrots. Since I foster, if I think one of my foster parrots might work out with one of my own, I can introduce them after quarantine and find out. Obviously, this is not an option for everyone, but it may be more of an option than you think. If there is a rescue near you that fosters out, such as Phoenix Landing, you may be able to try this for yourself. If the foster does not work out, you are still helping them get to a wonderful home. If fostering is not an option, carefully evaluate your parrot. Do you know whether they were ever socialized with other parrots, particularly those of their own species? Were they hand-fed from a young age? Do they play well on their own, or are they severely attached to you or another person? What is their general personality, and what personality do you think would mix well with them? These questions, save for the first two, are just guessing, but they will certainly improve your chances rather than a shot in the dark.

Frank was not socialized, was totally hand fed, and is a hyper active, very sensitive (formerly often depressed) special dude. Lola seemed a good match. Because of Frank, I had to decide what seemed to work and try it over several months, since Frank was not going to be able to make friends quickly. And yes, I was prepared to have a second quaker he could not be with. Back to Lola- she was older, calm, confident, and somewhat maternal. Most importantly, she knew she was a bird, and (shocker!) a quaker at that. I was hoping watching another quaker would help Frank, I could hardly imagine both how close they would become, and more surprising still, how much it would help Frank; he is a totally different bird now, and clearly very happy.

Clementine has quite surprisingly become good friends with the ekkies. She has been around many different birds throughout her life, including several other greys, but she never took to any of them and would attack if they got too close. Therefore, I was not planning on allowing her out with any of my parrots, even when she showed such interested in the ekkies, and they seemed to return her long-distance friendship. Chester took an almost immediate liking to her from across the room, which considering he has an even worse attack bird history, is very surprising. After several months of talking to and mimicking each other from their respective cages (and turning the bird room into a real college cafe in the process, seriously) Chester stole over to Clementine's cage one time when I was [practically standing on my head in a very unique and previously unknown yoga position] cleaning his own cage. Needless to say, I was a bit stunned to turn around and find him feeding her through the bars. I also lifted the ban on time out together, so now all three play quite happily on the play gyms and tree! You just never know, do you?

By the way, I do not recommend ever allowing one bird to "corner" another,
as in this picture, even if they are getting along. There should always 
be an escape route. Below the bottom of the frame 
is another perch Clementine could easily reach, 
but I moved her anyway after shooting this, just to be safe.

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