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Old 10-05-2016, 02:49 PM
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Disability: Inability to preen my bird...

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I thought long and hard about posting this rather personal issue, but I have become very comfortable here, and I could really use some input.

I have a neuromuscular disorder that has resulted in loss of feeling in my feet and hands. It was mild for a very long tme, but has finally resulted in complete numbness and significant decline in fine muscle control in my fingers. I have a lot of support, and great medical care, and I manage to do most things I want. One problem I have not solved, however, concerns the Rickeybird.

Specifically, I can no longer preen his head (or anything else)... light strokes are about all I can manage. After many years of ridding him of feather sheaths on his head and neck, and smoothing his wings and tail, it has all ground to a stop.

We all know how important mutual preening is. I can only imagine that he interprets it as rejection, if not hostility. Annnnnnd... those of you who know the Rickeybird will already be aware that he is pretty much a terror in the BEST of situations, let alone this one.

I got him a brush-like fixture that is supposed to allow single birds to preen their own heads; he didn't lile that. I tried preening his head using one of his own flight feathers; he didn't like that. I tried using my knuckles on him; he didn't like that.

He used to preen my bangs... he would do one or two hairs and then bow his head for minutes and minutes of me preening HIM. But now he doesn't even do that.

I feel sorry for him. Any thoughts? At least I'll feel like I left no stone unturned by asking here. You're all the best!

Here's a video of his poor little green head full of pin-feathers.
But isn't he cute with his funny little toy-link-colorful-thingies?


Which reminds me... I was going to post this video but felt ashamed of his pin-feathers, and that convinced me to go ahead and bring the issue up.

Thanks as usual, everybody!
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Old 10-05-2016, 03:19 PM
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Re: Disability: Inability to preen my bird...

Well, until you can come up with a way to preen him better, maybe you should let Rickeybird know that your fingers are "sick." By not preening him like you used to, he probably thinks you don't love him as much, not knowing you can't preen him. For example, one of Washoe's (a chimpanzee) caretakers took time off work for a month after having a miscarriage. When she came back, Washoe ignored her and wouldn't communicate with her. So, her caretaker explained to Washoe that her baby had died, and Washoe just sat there quietly for a minute before signing that she (Washoe) was sorry that the woman's baby had died and wouldn't let her leave without hugging her.

If you could maybe convey the idea that your fingers aren't able to work properly, he'll understand and be more accommodating? Like, when animals are living with disabled friends, they treat them differently to accommodate their needs. Like, a lot of times with animals in captivity (and in the wild), if a member of their group has some sort of disability, whether physical or mental, they'll be very compassionate. For example, if one of their friends is mentally disabled and has a tendency to pull their hair/feathers or be generally "weird" and irritating, they'll often just let it go, understanding that individual is special and can't help it.

As for actually preening him, have you thought about one of those finger toothbrushes? Like, the kind with actual bristles and not just rubber nubs. He'll probably have to know first that your fingers don't work properly so he'll accept the finger brush as the best thing you can offer in the way of mutual preening.

From the video you posted, it appears as though nothing is wrong with your fingers. You're able to move them and get the job done. This is what Rickeybird sees most of the time. To him, you can still pick things up, use the remote, and everything else that doesn't require very delicate fine motor skills. He probably thinks your fingers are fine because you can still do all these things as your neuromuscular disorder progressed slowly, allowing you to adapt. Had it happened quickly, he would probably be able to tell that your fingers don't work like they used to and he would probably be more understanding and receptive to different preening and bonding methods. You have to help him understand.

Last edited by Teddscau; 10-05-2016 at 03:29 PM.
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Old 10-05-2016, 03:28 PM
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Re: Disability: Inability to preen my bird...

I hear you and had a couple of ideas float in and out of my head. Prior to expanding on anyone or considering others, what is your comfort level with hand /eye coordination at this point? Available finger motion, etc...

This subject can /could become uncomfortable in an open Forum and based on your consideration, I am willing to take this as a PM with a third party as oversight like one of the SM's.
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Old 10-05-2016, 03:58 PM
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Re: Disability: Inability to preen my bird...

Hey Gail, I'm really sorry that you're going through this! That is super tough for you and the Rbird, physically and emotionally. If I were you I would continue to try the alternative methods of preening that Rickeybird wasn't too fond of, giving him time to adjust to this as the new way for you two to have your mutual preening sessions. Is there any chance that Rbird might let his dedicated Rival get the actual pin feathers (do the literal preening) then you could just do a lighter, alternative version with your knuckles? I really hope you figure out a way to work it all out, and much love to you! *hugs*
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Old 10-05-2016, 03:59 PM
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Re: Disability: Inability to preen my bird...

Teddscau... I think that's a brilliant idea. I will ponder it... how to show him my fingers don't work. OF COURSE he sees my fingers working elsewhere, not understanding that the sensitivity and gentleness needed for preening is so much greater. How exasperated he must be with me. I'll really study the idea, maybe do some reading. At some point, I'm more than willing to try a finger-thingie. I actually have some. Thank you so much for such an intriguing possibility.

Sailboat... if I am looking at my hands (or feet) I can control what they do. I still have dexterity with things like those link-toys. But as for sensation, absolutely none. When I reach into a bag of chips, I don't know what I'm bringing out, a hand full or none. Plus there's some motor control problems: I can't thread a needle, for example. I'm not very self-conscious, but I trust your judgment and would be grateful for private chat if you think it would be best.

One thing I should add is that we have had this preening stand-off for six months or so, and he is MAD about it. Still is. He hates my hands now. Will perch but even an attempt to groom makes him bite (sadly, as I was discovering I couldn't preen, I know I pulled and bent and hurt the tender shafts). He still nuzzles my lips and rides my shoulder and flies around after me if I leave a room without him. It's the quiet preening he used to love to do at dusk and dawn that he misses. So do I.

Thank you both.
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Old 10-05-2016, 04:03 PM
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Re: Disability: Inability to preen my bird...

Puck, thank you so much. I will go back to trying to think of some possible "instruments"... maybe just stick with the flight feather thing and see if he'll accept it.
No, sadly, the Rival is not ac acceptable nor willing preen-er. That would be a knock-down-drag-out fight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks for your good thoughts.
I really do feel sad for him. Here he stuck by his gigantic featherless eggless beakless hen all this time and now she won't even do her wifely duties.
I'll keep working on it!
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Old 10-05-2016, 04:04 PM
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Re: Disability: Inability to preen my bird...

Gail, I am so sorry you are going through this, and so glad that you chose to share this with us. I am going to do some research to see if I can find something for you to try, I honestly can't think of anything right now. It would be great if RB would allow Rival to do that, it would be an incredible bonding experience for them.
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Old 10-05-2016, 04:17 PM
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Re: Disability: Inability to preen my bird...

Terry, thank you so much. I feel good about sharing it and asking for thoughts. The good wishes are pleasant, too! I will remain open to any ideas ANY of you have!!!!!!
Rbird and Rival hate each other so much. Despite my best efforts to build a bridge between them. Our biggest accomplishment has been that he will allow Rival to change his food and water, and IF AND ONLY IF we are at the vet's he will step up for him. If Rival tries to get near him OR ME, Rbird makes a flying attack. So it looks like my bird and I have to work it out between the two of us.
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Old 10-05-2016, 04:17 PM
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Re: Disability: Inability to preen my bird...

Dear Gail, I understand very well that you feel sorry for RBird.
I am going to think real hard..... Maybe I'll get an idea.
My motor skills is also bad. That is why my crochetwork also is slow.
But I keep doing it.
Preening RBird requires all fine motor skills.
Like I said ... ... I'm going to think twice.
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Old 10-05-2016, 04:24 PM
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Re: Disability: Inability to preen my bird...

I'm glad I could give you some ideas into the issues the two of you are experiencing. Also, don't feel bad about not being able to thread needles, as whoever designs them are sadists! I've spent a solid two minutes once trying to thread a needle before yelling at it and getting someone else to struggle with it.

With Noah, he's quite flexible when it comes to preening. He just enjoys the intimacy, whether I be actively working on pin feathers, gently petting him, or softly pressing my head against him and gently moving my head while he's cuddling on my shoulder.

When you two used to preen, was it more of "I love you Mommy, I want to enjoy the physical intimacy that comes with preening", or "What are you doing just sitting there, can't you see I have itchy pin feathers?!"

Man, I'm really tired from worrying about Ju, so just pretend what I'm writing doesn't sound weird or lame.

Anyways, if it's the bonding he's missing, you could try just having him sit on your shoulder in the evening and gently caress him with your chin if you don't think he'll try to peck out your eyes or anything (I don't know very much about your little guy, so don't blame me if he chomps on your lip or something ). A lot of what Noah and I do in the evening involves him nestling on my shoulder in my hair, making weird little noises. He just wants to be close to me, and he loves it when I nuzzle him and caress him with my face/head. Rickeybird probably misses cuddling with you. During the day, Noah can be picky when it comes to preening, but pretty much anything goes in the evening, and it's probably the same for most birds.

And while we're all sharing how much our bodies suck, I might as well join in. I also suffer from mobility issues and whatnot. I suffer from hyper-mobility which means I tend to injur myself. There was a period of time a few months ago when my right should would get stuck whenever I reached and I'd have to pop it back in place (you have to be there, it's not as gross as it sounds). I also have to be careful when I use my left hand or else my wrist develops a ganglion cyst. Once, I couldn't use my left hand for a month because of a ganglion. I'm also flat footed which means I spend most of my time just sitting. Walking for more than five minutes causes me discomfort, but standing in one spot for more than a couple of minutes is far worse. I couldn't walk for two days after I went to the Smithsonian. Because I stood for so many hours (taking frequent breaks), I'd injured my joints and my left hip couldn't even support me by the time we got back to the hotel. So, you shouldn't feel bad about any disabilities or difficulties you have. I understand how hard this must be for you.

Last edited by Teddscau; 10-05-2016 at 04:40 PM.
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