Finicky Fennel: The Female Eclectus

reddfoxx79

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Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
March 27, 2021
My daughter and I drove from Houston to Beaumont to pick up a baby Eclectus female. The breeder said she was weaned at 12 weeks and was a calm, sweet baby, ready for her new home. The breeder had us meet inside her husband's carpet store, where we met the little bird on a counter top inside her travel carrier. The breeder took the bird - Fennel - out of the carrier to show us how the bird can step up and step down. She showed us how the bird gives kisses. My daughter held the bird for a minute and the breeder put her back inside the carrier to send us all on our way.

When we got home, we took the bird out of the carrier, wiped the breeder's lipstick off her beak, and put her inside her cage. It had been a long day. Fennel was agitated, pacing, and flapping her wings inside the cage. We decided to leave her alone, give her food and water, and check back later. That night, she squawked while my daughter slept, and was restless inside the cage. That made perfect sense to me. New environment, baby bird, long car ride - of course Fennel was restless.

The next morning, Fennel was acting like a wild animal caught in a trap. When I entered the room to feed her, she was fluffed up with her wings back, her eyes were pinning, and she was charging the cage. I slowly gave her the breakfast of veggies and fruits, and she charged the door where the food bowl was. I took a couple bites from her beak, closed the door, and checked back later. She was no different. She was pacing and charging, throwing her body all over the cage. I told my daughter to take a video of it and post it to a parrot Discord group she's in so we could get some advice. I also reached out to the breeder to ask why this bird was behaving this way. Why is Fennel feral?

The Discord parrot folk said she's a baby, she's scared, leave her alone for a few days. The breeder said stop pushing the bird - she's scared. (Okay, I wasn't trying to handle Fennel. I was simply trying to give her a bowl of food. If that's pushing, then this whole thing is over my head.) I reached out to Parrot Forums and responders said it sounded like she wasn't fully weaned. I asked the breeder about this, and she refused to answer. She said simply, "Give her space."

I mean, if I can't even feed her, then what am I going to do? I'm certain she does not want a sloppy kiss from me. I was the highly disappointed owner of a feral Eclectus, and I didn't know what in the world I was supposed to do with her.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Mar 4, 2021
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Houston
Parrots
Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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March 29, 2021
I had the right mind to make an appointment with an avian vet so Fennel could be seen right after coming home. I took her in and explained what I had experienced, and asked the vet to clip her wings. The night before, Fennel had charged out of her cage and flew across the room, spraying poop across the bed and on top of stuffed animals who were sleeping comfortably beneath her flight path. Maybe if she had nowhere to go, she would stop trying to get away.

The vet said Fennel was a great little flyer, and was very lean. Her weight was good, bloodwork was good, and overall health was great, with one exception. She said Fennel's blood showed some high levels that indicate a pulled or strained muscle. I asked the vet if that could be from the flapping inside the cage, and she said it was more likely from being over-exercised by the breeder. (I wondered to myself if the breeder had her doing laps so she would be calm when we went to pick her up.) As for her attitude, the vet said she hadn't come across many birds this age with this sort of behavior. She said time would tell if Fennel was still adjusting, or if she is just an a-hole bird. Good luck.

Would you like to know how we got Fennel in the carrier to see the vet? She was on the bottom of her cage, charging the door, and flapping her wings. My daughter reached in and tried to get her to step up, took a few bites, and grabbed Fennel's body and put her in the carrier. It was a fight, and Fennel was biting anything she could get a hold of, and my daughter had her in the carrier within 30 seconds. I was impressed. She showed me her hands and arms and she had dents and scratch marks all over.

I figured getting Fennel out of the carrier should be my job. I opened the door of the carrier at the door to her cage, and she flew in and I shut the door. Success! Later that night, I went to change her water, and she got payback. It was the only feral animal attack I've ever suffered (well, aside from a chipmunk who didn't want to be petted when I was 8 years old). She latched on and chomped, over and over again. It hurt. A lot. She tagged my forearm, my hand, my fingers... It was like getting punched by a sock full of needles.

Again I asked myself, if I can't even feed and water this bird, what the hell am I going to do?
 
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reddfoxx79

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Mar 4, 2021
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Parrots
Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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March 30, 2021
The next day, I moved Fennel to a smaller cage in my home office. She had been squawking each night in my daughter's room, and everyone on Discord and the breeder seemed to think she was terrified of something in the room. (Must be the rabid bunny on the opposite wall.) I gave her one small toy in the cage and one perch. Not only did she have less to be afraid of, but she also had less room to stretch her wings, ergo her pulled muscle. Besides, she needed to learn how to climb a cage, and not fly everywhere.

It took a few days for her to explore beyond the perch. I was able to give her food and water without getting attacked, although she still postured. And she wasn't acting like a wild animal in a trap anymore. She was acting like a scared bird who was acclimating. This I could handle. No big deal.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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April 9, 2021
Someone on Parrot Forum recommended that I weigh Fennel daily. Great idea, except I can't handle this bird. My scale came from Amazon, and I set it up and left it for two days so she could see it, and hopefully not be afraid. I reached in one morning and asked her to step up. She let me get close to her, without retreating or puffing up, and just watched my hand as it approached. When I got near her feet, she tagged me. Then she fluffed up and sat down. I retreated. I had nothing.

I watched some Birdtricks YouTube videos and learned that I could hold a treat in one hand and get her to step up with the other. I tried that with an apple the next day. She plucked it from my hand, tossed it to the floor, and attacked my hand. The next day, I tried again. When she grabbed the apple and threw it, I had another one handy. I offered it to her, and she reached for it. Without knowing, she stepped onto my finger to pluck the apple from my hand and throw it away, and then began biting my hand. I took her out of the cage anyway, and offered another apple, one she didn't need to work for. I was easily able to get her on and off the scale.

We did this for a week. Apple to step up, apple to step down onto the scale, apple to step up to my hand again, and another apple to step down onto her perch. This was successful. And she wasn't biting anymore, as long as I continued to offer apples. I decided to push her a little, and do a mid-day or late afternoon weigh-in, as well. After over two weeks, I couldn't hold the bird more than 15 seconds. That was the only personal interaction we had, other than me working out of that room during the day. She started to come out the second time each day, and it felt like progress.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Mar 4, 2021
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Parrots
Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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April 15, 2021
After a week or so in the smaller cage in my office, I moved her into a bigger cage. I did it before breakfast, after her morning weigh-in, and she did great. I didn't run out of apples. She seemed immediately comfortable in her big-girl cage, and went right down the side to eat. She had learned to climb and navigate a cage, and I was proud of her. The only issue, other than a million issues, was that when she came out for me, she wasn't actually stepping up on her own. She would allow me to peel her off the perch, but when she lifted her feet, she was not committed.

I decided to challenge her a bit. Since we had a couple weeks of her sitting on my hand for a few seconds without biting, I wanted to let the apple run out. I wanted her to sit there for two seconds without an apple and not bite me. If she did it, I would put her back in the cage and reward her with an apple. I was very disappointed that on my first try, the apple ran out, and she bit me immediately. And she didn't stop. We didn't make the 2 second goal. Hell, we didn't make it one second. I tried the next day, same deal. When she bit one day, she really got me. It hurt a lot. I dropped my hand to offset her balance, but she still had skin between her beak. I blew on her, she let go, and she flew across the room.

Nothing changed. From the time I took her out to weigh her, to the time she ran out of apple and latched on, nothing in the room changed. Except Fennel. I went to the Parrot Forum for advice, and responders said that I need to stop pushing, put her in timeout, and check her poop. I don't know that I'm pushing. I mean, 20 seconds a day of physical contact for two weeks doesn't feel like pushing to me. And it doesn't appear to be pushing her because when she has apples in her beak, she fluffs up, shakes, and stretches while on my hand. She bites the second the apples are gone. Why? I still don't know. I guess Fennel is bipolar.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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April 17, 2021
Fennel was not compliant with this morning's weigh-in. This is the first time she refused to come out before breakfast. Fine, Fennel. Whatever. I left for the day and went to the pet store where we got our other Eclectus, and visited some hand tame birds. I know I'm doing something wrong with Fennel - I just don't know what it is. This was a chance to see other birds who weren't feral, and could step up on command. Save but one, they all stepped up without an issue.

I saw a conure, all cute and bouncy, asking to play. I asked him if he would step up, and he did. And then he bit the ever-living hell out of me. Several times. I dropped my hand to get him to let go and the little turd starting bouncing up and down, riding the wave, with my skin between his beak. I shook him off and he flew happily to his toy and left me alone. I saw another conure that my daughter was holding. It was so cute and chirpy, and she was scratching his head. You could touch that bird anywhere and he loved it. Nicest bird I've ever met. His name is Kevin, and he belongs to one of the employees. She said I could go talk to his brother, seeing as how Kevin already had a home.

I went to see the other conure baby, and he stepped up easily. He was more of a jerk than the older one. He bit me in multiple places on my hand, over and over again, and I had to cover his wings and head to get him back in his cage. No wonder Kevin doesn't live with him anymore. I went to talk to an adult Eclectus who was returned to the store because she's acting like a cockatoo. I asked her if she wanted to step up and she wouldn't look at me. I left the store frustrated and in pain.

I went to see Fennel when I got home. It was 7:30 PM, about 30 minutes before lights out. I have never asked Fennel for anything this late in the day. I figured, my hands are hot with inflammation from all those conure bites, and Fennel and I have some things to discuss. She can bite me all she wants. I need to know whether this is a bird I can handle or not. I need to know whether us singing together during the day, hanging out while I work, and the dozens of apples I've given her have built any kind of trust at all.

I had a piece of walnut with me because I didn't feel like chopping an apple. Take it or leave it, Fennel. She didn't take it. But she did let me pick her up in her non-committed, indifferent way. I stood by her cage and fed her walnuts, and she eventually started to eat them. I slowly walked her to where the skinny pigs are, and she met each of them without fear. I showed her the finches and she was relaxed. I slowly sat in the chair and told her we needed to have a come-to-Jesus meeting.

I told Fennel that I'm so tired of getting bitten all the time. My hands hurt. I'm tired. Something here isn't working. If she doesn't want to be bothered, she can tell me without biting. I'm not asking her to perform onstage in front of hundreds of people... I'm asking her to step up. How are we ever going to bond, little bird, if you're mean all the time? I'm reading, I'm watching videos, I've learned more about birds this year than most people know in their lifetimes. I'm trying so hard to earn your trust, Fennel. What is the deal? This can't go on. If you're scared, I'll help you. If you're nervous, I'll talk you through it. If you want me to shut up and get out of your face, tell me. But please, Fennel, you have to give a little here. I promise I won't eat you. I'll never hit you. I will feed you and take care of you. Sometimes I will challenge you, but I got you, little bird. I won't ask you to do anything you can't do. But Fennel, I won't do all that if you can't trust me. I'm not going to keep you in a cage and just feed you for 30 years. You're a good girl, I know it. Please start showing me something.

I thanked her for not biting me at all while we chatted, even after I ran out of walnuts and things to say. I said good-night and left. I went outside and cried a little. If this was a puppy, I'd have it sitting and following me and it wouldn't be biting by now. Birds are complicated. I'm not a behaviorist. In fact, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I have two more weeks of working from home and then I'll be gone all day. I have to get this right, or Fennel can't stay here.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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April 19, 2021
Fennel has been really good the last two days. She's come out to be weighed and may or may not take the walnut. I can reach in and ask her to come, if she wants, and she will extend her toes to me. That means I am allowed to peel her feet off the perch. Progress.

I decided mid-day today that I would open Fennel's cage door. The room is mostly bird safe, except for a heavy cable wire. I tied her door open and put rope perches on the outside with a toy to entice her to be curious. I went back to my computer and continued to work. In less than 10 minutes, Fennel had flown out of her cage to the middle of the floor. I faced her and talked to her, and she sat and looked around. After a bit, she walked to the skinny pigs' cage and climbed around the bottom. She went to the side where the finches' cage is, and climbed the pigs' cage to get to the finches' seed guard.

Once on the finch cage, she King Kong'd her way to the top, full of determination. She got to the top and went to the finch nest and attacked it. Luckily, the little finches weren't in it. They were mid-cage, chirping and watching the giant Fennel. There's a behavior these Eclectus females do that I call The Mad Chicken. They'll extend their necks all the way, move in jerky robotic-like movements, and start pecking things in an exaggerated manner. Fennel did this atop the finches' cage. She figured out she didn't actually have to be up there, and flew down to the floor.

She climbed onto the legs of my office chair and refused my help. She climbed up the bottom of her cage and flew to a stack of work papers. Remember that large cable I mentioned? She started chewing on it. I said, "Uh, uh, uh," and she stopped. We did that, back and forth, three times. She suddenly got very bored with the cable and flew back to her cage. She climbed up the side, rested on a rope perch, and then finished the climb to the top of her cage. It's a dome cage, so going to the top middle was fine, but coming back down the side scared her. I offered help and she refused.

I know she'll figure it out, but I also want her to know she can trust me. The part she missed, that she couldn't get back to, was that the rope perch would have led her to the cage door. From the top, she couldn't see the door and wouldn't go over the side to climb down to it. So I watched, rooting her on silently, hoping she could solve her own problem. She went back and forth on the dome top for a bit, and then parked in the middle and looked at me.

I approached with a walnut - experience has taught me she will not come without food. I talked to her a bit, and asked if she wanted to step up. When I presented my hand, she puffed up and put her wings back. I figured I was going to move forward anyway. She's watching, her eyes aren't pinning, and maybe, just maybe, she'll come to me. I was ready to get tagged, honestly. I want her to know she can trust me to help her, so I made myself plow ahead and deal with the consequences. I got my hand near her puffed up, agitated body, and she extended her toes. I rolled my finger under one foot, and she grabbed onto it for dear life. I didn't move. She brought the other foot very quickly, squeezing the blood out of my finger. I waited a beat, brought her toward me slowly, and then she took the walnut.

I told her what a brave little explorer she had been, and what good exercise she got today. I told her she can do it again tomorrow if she wants to. I gave her another walnut. Then I cleaned the walnut dust off her beak and put her in the cage. I opened my hand and gave her the jackpot reward of five more walnut pieces while I stood there and said nothing. I closed her cage door, she perched for a nap, and I finished working for the day.

At bedtime, I offered her a walnut in my open palm. At first, she was weirded out by that since that's not usually how I feed her. But after a moment, she bent forward so slowly and cautiously that I was sure she was lining up to attack, and then took the walnut very gently from my hand. She did so well that I offered another, and she took that, too.

This - finally - feels like real progress. She actually committed to stepping onto my hand. She let me reach for her beak to clean the walnut dust off it. And she came to me to help her off the top of the cage - she didn't come because of the walnut. Fennel is 16 weeks old now, and she's been with me three weeks. Tomorrow is a new day, and I will keep giving her small challenges, little pushes every couple days (when she's in the right head space), and try really hard to keep this momentum going. She's gaining confidence and skills, and I just want her to be as interested in me outside the cage as she is inside the cage. I hope we get there soon.

Don't mess this up, reddfoxx79.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Mar 4, 2021
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Parrots
Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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April 20, 2021
My daughter wanted to see if she could get Fennel out of her cage today. I didn't think Fennel would go for it, but I figured we'd try anyway. My daughter held a walnut and asked if Fennel wanted to step up. She did not. My daughter opened her hand and offered the walnut from her palm. Fennel waited and watched, and it took almost a minute before she slowly reached down and gently took the walnut. She slid it under her tongue, and hit my daughter's palm with her open beak. My daughter said, "God, you're such a jerk" and closed the cage door. Fennel fluffed and righted herself on the perch. I couldn't help but giggle.

I decided later today that I wanted to work with Fennel's step up. She opens her toes to let me know I can peel her off the perch and take her out. What I would like is for her to make the choice to come onto my hand, and do it herself. I offered the walnut and she extended her toes. I put my hands down and didn't give her the treat. She looked at me. I tried again. She touched my hand with one foot, didn't commit, and put it back on the perch. I dropped my hands again. She walked across the perch now, looking side to side, confused why she didn't get the walnut. The third time, I moved the walnut a little closer. She reached and almost lost balance, and looked down and saw my hand. She righted herself. Then she reached again, and as she lost balance, reached out and stepped onto my hand. The other foot followed, and she got her walnut. Finally! She made a choice. And now she knows what I mean when I ask if she wants to step up.

I took her near the perch tree since she's afraid of it. She was shaking a little, and when she stopped, I gave her a walnut. (BTW, let me add here that she stopped biting when the treats run out! I have NO idea why! It has been like this since Saturday's come-to-Jesus meeting.) I talked to her while she ate, and slowly moved her to another part near the tree. She didn't go anywhere, but her body retreated away from it. I waited and talked to her. When she relaxed again, I gave her a walnut. We stood there for a few minutes, talking to the skinny pigs and watching the finches. She looked toward her cage.

I want Fennel to make her own choices and be rewarded for the right ones. I also want her to learn how to communicate. So when she looked to her cage, I did nothing. She looked back around the room, tilted her head as I talked, and then looked again at her cage. Any movement, Fennel, any indication at all, and it's yours. I was quiet. I felt the weight shift in her feet and felt a very slight lean in her body toward her cage. Good girl, Fennel. I walked her to the cage, asked her to step onto the perch, and when she turned around, she got a walnut. She took it so slowly from my hand, that I offered another from my palm. She took it so slowly and gently that her beak didn't touch my hand at all.

I couldn't be prouder of the little bird. I've been approaching this feral bird as though she's beyond my skill level, this is over my head, I don't know what to do, nothing is working, I'm frustrated, and I've been wondering if I should even keep her. Then I realized something today. If I want to learn what's going on with Fennel, I need to talk to Fennel. I need to watch her body language and learn HER. Stay off the internet, stop asking other people, and use my eyes. Observation beats advice any day.

I will do my best to earn her trust and not lose it. If Fennel has a great day, a marginal day, or a bad day, that's on Fennel. That's to be expected - she's her own bird. For me, it is my job to learn everything I can about her and make her as comfortable as possible. For all my back and forth with her, for all the wondering if I can tame a feral bird, and questioning myself every step of the way, there is nothing more rewarding than watching her internal struggle while she overcomes the fear and chooses to trust me. I've never felt this good after teaching a puppy to sit. I think I'm starting to get it.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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  • #9
April 21, 2021
Today Fennel was an earlier version of herself. She would not step up to take the walnut for her morning weigh-in. In fact, she wouldn't let me peel her off the perch, either. I tried again mid-day, and again, she wouldn't do it. I later moved the tegu into the office so she can be in her new tank. It was the first thing today Fennel was actually interested in. My daughter came in and asked how Fennel was, and I showed her. I said, "This might be a good time to start target training. I'll start inside the cage." My daughter suggested getting her Eclectus, Lulu, and doing target training in front of Fennel.

Fennel gets lively when Lulu is around. She vocalizes, she fluffs, she stretches, and she watches everything Lulu does. Lulu is target trained, does spins in both directions, and waves. Fennel watched as Lulu went through her repertoire of tricks and was treated for each good deed she did. Fennel was talking and energetic, and she was really interested in what was going on. I moved toward her cage and she retreated. My daughter wanted to try the target training. I didn't think it was a good idea but Fennel surprises me sometimes, and I haven't target trained a bird before.

Fennel retreated from the target stick. My daughter held it in place, and Fennel became interested. She walked slowly toward it, and then tried to attack it. Click, treat offered (let's get the behavior first - we'll shape it later). Fennel's feathers came up and she pecked the treat out of my daughter's hand. My daughter tried again. There was actually nothing my daughter could do - Fennel got increasingly more agitated and defensive. My daughter is more patient than I am, but it didn't matter. Fennel's original desire and focus was long gone. I tried to calm Fennel and it didn't work. We left the room with Lulu and left Fennel to herself.

I tried to get Fennel to step up two more times after this. She refused. All I want is for her to move her feet toward me, and she won't do it. In fact, she would retreat when I didn't bring the walnut closer. Before bed, I planned to offer a walnut from my palm. (Fennel still needs to learn that hands are safe, and this is my method of teaching her that.) As soon as I opened the cage door, my daughter came in the room. Once Fennel relaxed after the interruption, I offered my palm. She saw the walnut and slowly reached for it. Then her body language changed, I could tell her intention was bad, and she lashed out with an open beak. She got zero walnuts today, and I got zero quality time with my bird. Well, there were three seconds... when I fed the skinny pigs and Fennel talked to me.

I don't know if this is a factor that influenced Fennel's behavior today, but it's worth mentioning. I've been working from home for over a year, and Fennel has been in the office with me the last two weeks. With my return to work the first week of May, I've been working in another room the last two days in an effort to get Fennel used to my absence. She is very lively in her cage while I work. She comes to the side of the cage where I am, she vocalizes, she's curious, she fluffs and stretches a lot, and she naps. I have been in and out of the office the last two days, but I haven't been in there full time. I wonder if today's behavior is a reflection of that. I'm trying to avoid going to work and coming home to a bird who acts like she doesn't know me. It's possible that happened today, but I'm not sure. Could she be different because she's had less time with me the last two days?

I also think my daughter being present could've upset Fennel. Tomorrow, I'll be in the office more and I'll see if Fennel's behavior is better. She needs to get used to small changes like this. It's called life... not every single day is the exact same. She doesn't seem to be super attached to me, so her acting differently because I'm not in the room makes no sense. But on the other hand, I've weighed her multiple times with my daughter in the room, and Fennel didn't freak out over her presence before. I don't know why today was different, but I'm going to attribute most of this to Fennel having a bad day.
 
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AmyMyBlueFront

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Apr 14, 2015
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And a Normal Grey Cockatiel named BB who came home with me on 5/20/2016.
I have no experience with Ekkies...I'm an Amazon snob :) patients is always needed...it could take days/weeks/YEARS before they ("they" meaning birds in general) see the light and understand you aren't gonna eat 'em :eek:
Sounds like you are making progress though.



Jim
 
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reddfoxx79

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Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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  • #11
April 22, 2021
I made my morning coffee, walked into the office with kale for the piggies and chop for Fennel, and said good morning to everyone. Fennel started vocalizing. She never vocalizes when I come in the room. I talked through feeding the pigs and changing everyone's water, and all the while, Fennel was chatting it up. I grabbed a piece of walnut and opened her cage door.

Fennel, would you like to step up? Here's a walnut. She picked up her feet and rocked, but stayed on the perch. C'mon, Fennel, let's get weighed. She put one foot on me that had some weight to it, so that means she committed, and wanted to come. I weighed her (303 grams), and I talked to her for a bit before putting her in for breakfast. I was in the office a large part of today, and played music for her. She sang the first three songs as always, and when "Proud Mary" got to the fast part (Tina Turner version), she squawked and complained to tell me to turn it off.

She was sleeping mid-day, so I didn't try to take her out until before bedtime. When I entered the room, because of things that happened during the day, my mindset was different. My frame of mind was that whatever happens with Fennel, happens. No pressure. No expectation. It is what it is. I asked if she wanted to step up. She fluffed, shook, picked one foot up off the perch and stepped onto my hand, and brought her other foot to follow. Yes, Fennel! That's what I want!

I held her for a minute and she dropped the walnut. This part is tricky. When I've bent down with her (all but one other time), she gets scared and bails. I moved very slowly, fully aware of keeping her level, and as soon as I started toward the floor, she panicked. I stopped mid-bend and talked to her, and told she's okay, I got you, little bird. I moved again when she relaxed. Coming up wasn't as scary, and she ate her walnut while I talked to her. She dropped her walnut again. This time when I moved, she really panicked! Wings came out, head shot up, body got super straight. I stopped moving, and instead of bailing, she calmed down. I got the walnut, gave it to her, and we did a short little photo op of her on my finger. Fennel's first selfie! She was amazing today!

My attitude going into the office tonight was different because I talked to a bird trainer about her. (I know I said I would stop asking for advice, but I really do want to be sure I'm doing the right thing.) I told him about her behavior, how she's progressing and then regressing, and there are moments of huge success, and then she's scared all over again. He said he's never heard of a bird this young behaving this way. He mirrored what the vet said. I was so bummed. There is a part of me that's hoping it's me and not Fennel, because I don't want her to be one of those rare birds who won't acclimate to living in a house with people. She is trying, and she has improved, and I felt defensive for her. Then I thought this trainer maybe doesn't have experience with ekkies, and maybe he's never met a hand-raised, socialized bird this age who acted like this. Thing is, Fennel isn't that type of bird.

I don't want to take anything from Fennel today. She was awesome! There is still, and has been all along, an underlying concern on whether she's going to be a good bird, and whether I'll have the companion bird I want. I am not ready to give up on her. I told him to come meet her this Saturday and tell me what to keep doing, stop doing, etc. to make her more comfortable here. He could be a quack, and I hope I can tell right away. I won't lie, though... if Fennel takes to him and he can do things with her she won't do with me, I will be pretty upset. This is our struggle, and I'm really starting to like this little bird. I'm also starting to regret calling a trainer.

I've attached Fennel's first selfie. She's just so stinking cute! And she looks like a baby in pictures, something I don't notice as much in person. It's a good reminder of how young she is and how far she's come. I am so proud of this little bird today!
 

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reddfoxx79

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Parrots
Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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  • #12
April 24, 2021
The bird trainer came this morning, and it wasn't the gentleman I spoke with on the phone. This trainer worked with birds at the zoo. She used to train the birds and run the shows for visitors. I liked her immediately. She said Fennel is not broken, there's nothing wrong with her, and that everything she's doing is perfectly normal for a bird her age that came from a breeder. She said (from my rundown of behaviors, tries, fails, and successes) that Fennel is learning, she is making progress, and there is trust between us already.

She said it will take time. One thing she told me to try was smaller approximations. Rather than moving two feet very slowly with Fennel on my hand, move 4" and reward; then move 4 more inches and reward, etc. She said this gives Fennel the opportunity to succeed six times, rather than one time. She also said when Fennel does choose to come on my hand, set her down again and reward. Then ask her to step up again. Do this several times in one minute, and in no time, Fennel will step up without the hesitation she currently shows. She also suggested I offer my hand a little higher, to help Fennel feel more confident in her stepping up.

One thing I noticed is that Fennel showed the trainer some "back-off" body language, which was respected. Within seconds of the trainer moving away, Fennel became curious. I was shocked! I asked the trainer, "Do you see that? She's not been curious like this so quickly after being scared before." Of course the trainer saw it. I was so excited. I feel like the first three weeks with Fennel were pretty much the same, with very small instances of progress. But within this past week, Fennel has grown so much. I keep thinking that the moment she fully trusts me, everything will change. And I'm seeing so many instances of this every day. She may not be as easy as a hand-raised bird, and she may not ever transition from room to room, or person to person like other birds do so easily, but that's okay. We have a couple decades to work on that.

The trainer said she has seen birds like the ones I'm worried Fennel is like - the ones who are always a little more wild, not curious of things, scared of everything, and who don't ever really bond or acclimate to their owners/homes. She said Fennel is not one of those birds. She said Fennel has a personality, and a cute one at that. The trainer also said that once Fennel gets over her fear, and is fully trusting of me and the room she's in, she will be a great companion for me. She said Fennel is going to attach, and she's going to rely on me for a lot. She said I have to help her build confidence, respect her choices, and be there when she needs me. Overall, the trainer said I'm doing a great job, to keep it up, and call her if I have any problems. I was thrilled, and so relieved.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Houston
Parrots
Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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  • #13
April 25, 2021
I went in to feed Fennel breakfast later than usual today, so I wasn't sure how her demeanor would be when she saw me. She instantly came to the middle of her perch (which she doesn't typically do), and waited for me to open her door. I reached in and asked if she wanted to step up. She put one foot on my finger without hesitation, but she wasn't committed. I dropped my hand, stood back, and waited a second. When I asked her the second time if she wanted to come, she fully committed with both feet and stepped up. Amazing!

I put her on the scale for her morning weigh-in. Today, she would not step up to my hand. She sat on the scale and looked around the room. She vocalized to the noisy skinny pigs (who were waiting for their kale breakfast), she looked at the perch tree, and she looked at me. I asked again if she wanted to step up and she did, and then she looked a the perch tree again. I slowly moved toward it and she bailed to the other side of the room. She was a little stuck near my desk, so I went to help her and she took the help. I stood there and held her bowl of breakfast, and she ate some while on my hand. When it started falling off her beak to the floor, I put her back in her cage to finish it.

My daughter has been bringing the other Eclectus into Fennel's room the last two days, and Fennel loves the company. She has been watching the other ekkie train, eat, and be free in the room, and they've been talking to each other. I'm hoping this helps Fennel build more confidence and see that she's safe outside her cage, just like the other one is.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Mar 4, 2021
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Houston
Parrots
Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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  • #14
April 27, 2021
Fennel didn't come out this morning to be weighed. I later tied her cage door open so she could explore if she wanted to while I worked. She climbed out this time and flew to the floor. She tried to get back to her cage, but the seed guard was in the way. I helped her up until she was on the cage and let her explore. She stayed on the cage a long time. She made it to the top and immediately did The Mad Chicken, attacking the wires, chewing her feet, ruffling her feathers at the toys' through the bars.

After 40 minutes, she vocalized. I went to see if she wanted help and she didn't. I left her alone. Ten minutes later, she gave a long, low squawk. I asked if she wanted help again, and she said no. She flew to the floor, and walked to me to pick her up from there. She didn't want back in the cage yet, so I walked around the room with her. She seemed interested in the tree perch, so I put her up there. She Mad Chickened the pellets in the bowl, looked around a few seconds, and flew off. I picked her up from on my computer monitors and put her back in the cage.

She fluffed, stretched, and yawned. It was nap time. She was very nice today, and I wouldn't think of Fennel as a "nice" bird. I'm so happy for her that she's curious and wanting to explore. I've given her foraging toys that she's starting to pick at, and she had all the corn husk toys out this afternoon. She's growing, this little bird - she's learning. And she is weaseling her way into my heart day by day.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Mar 4, 2021
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Houston
Parrots
Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
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  • #15
April 29, 2021
Now that this little bird has gained some self-confidence and is building trust, she has become a bit demanding. As soon as I walked out of the bedroom this morning, she squawked in her room. When she came out to be weighed, she didn't want back in her cage. Not even for breakfast. She wanted to go places, see things, and peck at my hand between her feet to tell me where she was heading. I left her cage door open today and she was out for a few hours. She even sat on the perch tree for over 30 minutes. I don't know what's gotten into her. Suddenly she's brave.

She's 18 weeks old now. Such a big bird. It's been weeks since Fennel has bitten me, which has been amazing. Except today she started chewing on me. I don't particularly like that. She'll be sitting with me and then start chewing my finger. Why? Fennel, stop. And if I drop my hand or tell her to stop, she pins and bites hard. Since she doesn't want anything else, I suppose this is part of her new exploration agenda. I just wish she'd lighten up and not revert to the biting so much... I still have PTSD from the first three weeks with her.

Overall, we're making very good progress. I think Fennel and I are starting to be a bit of friends. She's learned to climb and navigate her cage really well. I bought her a ladder today so she can climb back into her cage (around the seed guard) from the floor. I may have to rearrange some things in the office again for her to be able to get to the tree perch herself, and back to her cage, and I might work on this over the weekend.

I return to the office Monday, and I won't be home with her all day anymore. I'm sure she'll be fine without me. My daughter will be here if Fennel needs something. I'll try to get her set up this weekend to be out all day while I'm gone, so I hope it goes well. I'd hate to have her caged all day after she's shown so much interest in being out. We'll work it out, though. My little Fennel... who knew she'd be this good after 5 weeks? I thought this was going to take forever.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Mar 4, 2021
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Houston
Parrots
Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
  • Thread Starter
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  • #16
May 3, 2021
I returned to work today. I left Fennel in her cage since I wasn't sure if she could be loose all day without supervision. I thought of her all day at work, wondering if my absence would cause us problems. When I got home, I went straight for the office to visit her. She was an upset little bird. She was puffy, lunging, and didn't want me to reach for her. I opened her cage door and sat in the room to see if she would come out.

Within a couple minutes, she came out of her cage and let me talk to her. If I reached for her, she would put her beak on me and chew my fingers. She would give a lot of back off language in between vocalizing and fluffing up. Since her body language changed so quickly from content to back off, I figured she was letting me know she was unhappy, but also still a little happy to see me.

After 15 minutes, she finally came to my hand. I fed her walnuts and told her about my day. She listened and turned her head side to side while I talked. After 30 minutes with her, I decided to leave the office and get things done around the house. She didn't want to be set down. She was bitey and puffy, and wanted to stay on my finger. I obliged. I was eventually able to get her to step onto the new ladder that takes her from the floor to her cage door. I let her stay out until bedtime. At 8 PM, she was back in her cage and easily able to put to bed.
 
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reddfoxx79

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Mar 4, 2021
37
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Houston
Parrots
Fennel, Solomon Eclectus female (12/25/20)..... Lulu, Solomon Eclectus female (10/1/20)..... Vegas, Harlequin macaw (2/2/21)
  • Thread Starter
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  • #17
May 15, 2021
Over the last two weeks, Fennel has had a few good (and one bad) experience. She is able to navigate the room safely and take herself back to her cage for naps and bedtime, so I've been leaving her cage door open while I'm at work. I lost her in the room one day. I opened the door after work and didn't see her anywhere. I called her name in search of her, and she walked from the back of the top of the skinny pigs' cage to the side, where I was able to see her. It made me giggle. I did check the pigs to be sure they weren't hurt or terrified, and they were fine. For her to be up there, she had either flown to the floor or used her ladder to get down, walked across the floor to their cage, and climbed up the side of it to perch on top. I don't think this is an issue as the pigs seemed fine, however I did find some bird droppings on the top level of their cage (which they don't use).

Fennel also uses her ladder regularly to get back in her cage, sit and eat walnuts that I give her, and as a method to get closer to me if I'm sitting in there. One day, I left Fennel in her cage because neither my husband nor I were home. My daughter went to check on her and saw Fennel out of her cage, soaking wet and shaking on top of her cage. My daughter noticed that Fennel got out through the water bowl door - whether it was accidental or not, I don't know. Fennel was soaked, so I imagine she went to drink water, the bowl moved, she fell in, and then found her way out. I felt terrible! My daughter said she reached for Fennel and asked her to step up, and Fennel did. This is the first time Fennel has chosen to go to my daughter, and my daughter was thrilled. She sat with Fennel until she stopped shaking, and then put her back in her cage. She waited to make sure Fennel was okay, and Fennel promptly took a nap.

One Saturday, my daughter brought Lulu into the room for her morning training session. Fennel really responds to Lulu. They trained, Fennel watched, and then we let Lulu stay in the room. She immediately went to Fennel's cage, and they beaked each other through the bars. It was very affectionate and kind, and my daughter and I were so proud of our birds. Fennel didn't mind Lulu on her cage until Lulu went to the top. Fennel was a bird on a mission, climbing erratically to the top, hanging upside down, and following Lulu's feet. When she was close, she bit Lulu's toe. Lulu squawked and walked away. Fennel followed, and bit another toe, and Lulu squawked again. I said, "Fennel, don't bite." She pinned her eyes and came back to the side of the cage. I took Lulu off the cage and put her on a tree stand. Fennel then called to Lulu for a bit, and then they both napped.

On work days, I feed Fennel breakfast around 6:30 AM. On weekends, breakfast does not come that early. As soon as Fennel hears me awake on weekends, she squawks. If my husband is awake, she doesn't, and if my daughter visits her, she doesn't. But when she hears me, she squawks. I'm sure it's for the food and not my stellar personality, but there is a part of me that absolutely adores that. I've been noticing that she perks up when she sees me, she pays attention to what I'm doing when I'm in the office, and she comes to see me (when she's ready). The other day, I was allowed to pet her face, her neck, and the top of her head. I even lifted her wing a little. There are some instances where she bites, but she has tempered it so it doesn't hurt anymore. She has learned manners and understands that we are safe.

I ordered a play stand for the birds and hung half a dozen toys on it. I put it in her room earlier this week to get her used to it before asking her to step on it. She went on it for a moment yesterday, then flew off to visit the pigs. I may have to move things around so she can stay on it, but I thought it was good progress. I also ordered a t-stand to start target training. We've tried inside her cage and on the bird scale, but she hasn't been receptive. I think a separate training area will gain better results. Some days, she comes to me willingly, and some days she doesn't come at all. I think the training sessions will accelerate our interactions to get her to be more reliable. So far though, this little bird has made amazing strides and shows me all the time how open she is to new things. I think I might see if she'll go in a carrier for me so we can start taking her places. Lulu has no issues with a carrier and has always gone in willingly. I hope the same is true of Fennel.
 

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