Rescued macaw training tips

MisterManGuy

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Apr 24, 2017
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Hey all, in about a month or so I'm adopting a rescued Green Winged Macaw that I've been visiting for over a year and a half now and looking for any tips on training or just overall wellness. Before the rescue, he was hoarded for years and and has taken a toll on his health. He plucked nearly all of his chest feathers and back feathers, his head and wings are pretty much the only parts that weren't as affected, and although he has picked a lot under his wings, no one was sure if he refuses to fly because of fear or because he physically can't.

Fast forward to present day; he's doing tremendously better than he was first rescued. He's stopped picking at his wings for the most part and doesn't nearly squawk as much as he used to. Something that I need tips on though are mainly his trust issues. I'm one of the only people he'll let pet him without striking, he seems to favor men over women (few exceptions), deathly afraid of water sources outside his water bowl, and refuses to allow a sweater to be put on to keep him warm during the colder months (I never try to force it on him or "ambush" him with it, I'm always upfront and calm with it). His trust issue with other people is the big problem I want to work on with him, in case for whatever reason someone needs to watch him and such.

If anyone can shed light on some training techniques that you believe can help him cope with these issues, that'd be amazing. I'm actively hanging out with him and these are the biggest problems that I want to help him with. If you have any questions about him, feel free to ask!
 

Birdman666

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Sep 18, 2013
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San Antonio, TX
Parrots
Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
Trust Issues only go away when he learns to trust again. And it's typical with abused birds. I've dealt with this issue many, many times...

If you have a travel cage... put him in a travel cage. Take him to the local park. Get him used to people running around and coming up to him... watch fingers. Get the braver people to give him favorite treats...

He won't like it at first, but he will quickly learn to accept it, and his behavior will improve. He will look forward to it. And that's where you turn the corner on the bad behaviors.

As for the sweater thing? Depends on the bird. But until you get it on him a few times, he won't let you. If you get it on him and he decides he likes it, then you're golden, it will get easier and easier. If you get it on him and he doesn't like it... you'll probably never willingly get it on him again... He'll fight it. Very much a "depends on the bird" thing...
 
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MisterManGuy

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Apr 24, 2017
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I'll have to try the park idea when I get the chance. I'll look into sweater alternatives or different material as well. Thank you for the response.
 

SilleIN

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Aug 18, 2016
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Lots of parrots, most of them rescues
My Scarlet male is also plucked. To start with he hated his sweaters, but now he hates, then I take it off, as he then freezes. However he dislikes when I put on a new sweater.

I have made an outdoor sweater for my macaws. He doesn't mind getting his outdoor jacket on.

Here I have a template for the sweater;
sillein-albums-other-stuff-picture17504-stincil-bird-clothes.jpg


And a photo where the velcro needs to be put on;
sillein-albums-other-stuff-picture17505-plucker-jacket.jpg
 

Birdman666

New member
Sep 18, 2013
9,866
16
San Antonio, TX
Parrots
Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
The outdoor sweater means I get to go outside! I'll take that any time!
 

SilleIN

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Aug 18, 2016
495
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Lots of parrots, most of them rescues
Ohh and I don't have to push any fabric over his head and I don't have to pull his wings through a hole, as with his indoor sweater.
 

Birdman666

New member
Sep 18, 2013
9,866
16
San Antonio, TX
Parrots
Presently have six Greenwing Macaw (17 yo), Red Fronted Macaw (12 yo), Red Lored Amazon (17 y.o.), Lilac Crowned Amazon (about 43 y.o.) and a Congo African Grey (11 y.o.)
Panama Amazon (1 Y.O.)
Ohh and I don't have to push any fabric over his head and I don't have to pull his wings through a hole, as with his indoor sweater.

Use the sweater for peek e boo when putting it over his head. Make a game of it. THEN after 3-4 peek e boos, put it on.... and when the head goes through yell peek e boo....

That's the deal with getting a big mac to do something they don't want to do. Trick them into thinking we're playing... THEY EAT IT UP!
 

SilleIN

Member
Aug 18, 2016
495
1
Denmark
Parrots
Lots of parrots, most of them rescues
Use the sweater for peek e boo when putting it over his head. Make a game of it. THEN after 3-4 peek e boos, put it on.... and when the head goes through yell peek e boo....

That's the deal with getting a big mac to do something they don't want to do. Trick them into thinking we're playing... THEY EAT IT UP!

Tino and I have come to an agreement regarding changing indoor sweater. The old ones I cut off and throw away (they're made from socks, so quite inexpensive). The new one go on my wrist and Tino gets a good neck/head scratch and in one movement, I pull the sweater over his head and beak. I then slowly tug at the fabric to get it around his body and wings. I then have to pull the wings through one by one. Tino LOVES hugs, so I place him on a waist height stand and offer a hug. Once he climbs up, I "help" by pulling his wing through one of the holes. I then pet and praise him and put him back on the stand and do the same with the other wing.
 
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MisterManGuy

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Apr 24, 2017
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Awesome idea with the sweater, I'm going to work on that and try the game plan to get it on. Will any soft material or fabric work, or is it more what the bird themselves prefer? Again, thanks for all the help!
 

SilleIN

Member
Aug 18, 2016
495
1
Denmark
Parrots
Lots of parrots, most of them rescues
Awesome idea with the sweater, I'm going to work on that and try the game plan to get it on. Will any soft material or fabric work, or is it more what the bird themselves prefer? Again, thanks for all the help!

The indoor sweaters are really soft and streachy socks. I don't know what they are called in English, but they are kind of fluffy. They look like this;
dame-hyggesokker-graa-sort.jpg


The outdoor jacket is made of thermal fabric with a rain resistant outer shell, but any soft fabric would do.
 

Teddscau

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Sep 25, 2015
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Ontario, Canada
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Budgies: Lara, Trixie, Rainy, Alex, Starlight, Sunshine, and Birdie; Parrotlet: Noah; Peach-faced lovebird: Rosie; YSA: Jasper (♀)
You can also buy him a heated perch, a Snuggle-Up Bird Warmer, and/or this: https://www.avitec.com/Cage-Heaters-AviTemp-Infrared-Heat-Panels-s/50.htm

You can also buy (food grade) organic lavender and chamomile from the health food store to help him with anxiety. Put the dried flowers in a food dish, and he should be more than willing to eat them.

I'd also buy him a UVA/UVB parrot bulb to use over his cage. The UVA allows him to see in ultraviolet, and the UVB allows the oils on his feathers to synthesize vitamin D. Being able to see properly and ingesting vitamin D will help him feel better. I'd also take him outdoors (in a cage or something) on warm, sunny days to enjoy the warmth and brightness. Just be mindful that he'll probably get terrible sunburn if you aren't careful (pretend he's a human infant or something. One of those really pale babies).

To help him get over his fear of water, I'd fill a glass pie plate with water and put some of his plastic toys in it. If he doesn't have plastic toys, put some water bottle lids in it or something. Set it on a table and play with the water, splashing it, dropping toys in it, and filling bottle caps with water and pour it out. Let him watch from a safe distance. I don't know, maybe fill a large bowl with water and put some bath toys in it, playing with them and making sound effects or whatever. If you stay far enough away from him while you do this, his curiosity should overpower his fear. Before misting Noah outside in his cage on a warm day, I like to take the spray bottle and spray myself a bunch first, turning my head so my entire head gets wet, lifting my arms/wings to spray my sides, etc. You could try misting yourself at least 5 feet away from him. Just don't spray him though. After several sessions, you could squirt the water above him (if he seems interested and not nervous), and let it gently sprinkle down on him.

In his cage, try putting water in one of his dishes and put some grapes, cherries, carrots, cucumber slices–whatever–in it to so if he'll be willing to try picking them out of the dish. Getting him used to water, and having him associate it with play and food, will help him learn to relax when he sees "scary" water.

Based on his phobia of water, he either hasn't bathed in years, or humans did something scary with water, like spray him with it when he was screaming, or left him outside during a storm or something. From what I understand, macaws tend to like water, as they're from humid places that get a lot of rain.

I'd recommend buying him some Liver Detox from Bird Rx or whatever it's called. His liver's probably fried from all his years of mistreatment, so we'll want to get things back on track. I use their Liver Detox formula to help treat three of my budgies who have cancer (research is being done on dandelion root's ability to cause cancer cells to kill themselves). He might also benefit from red palm oil or whatever it is that everyone with large birds seems to use.

Oh. My. Gosh. Are you giving him human grade, in-shell nuts? I know, they're fattening, but it's full of good fats that will help his skin and feathers, and they'll distract him from plucking and will cause the release of dopamine. All animals (including humans) have a strong "seeking" drive, so giving him foraging opportunities, and allowing him to safely "explore" your house at his own pace will create fillings of curiosity/interest/excitement, which is extremely pleasurable. That's why drugs are addictive. They stimulate the seeking centre in the brain, causing feelings of excitement, which leads to pleasure.

Also, I'd definitely work with him to get him to wear a sweater. Deep pressure causes the brain to release endorphins, which will help to calm him, make him more receptive to affection, and will make him feel good. Being near and/or touching someone he cares about also causes the release of endorphins, as does physical pain...oh my gosh, maybe that's part of the reason why parrots pluck! Plucking might start out of boredom, but then as they continue to pluck, they start to become addicted to the increased levels of endorphins caused by the pain! Endorphins help with physical pain, as well as psychological and emotional pain.

Even if a parrot has plenty of enrichment, many suffer from depression, etc., if they don't receive enough social interaction. Social interaction helps them maintain their endorphins at a healthy level, but if they're left neglected, like when he lived in that hoarding situation, his endorphin levels would be really low. Normally when one's endorphin level is low, they seek out extra social contact, but since he couldn't do that, he likely learnt that plucking would make him feel better (release endorphins in response to physical pain). He has to learn that spending time with you is a better way to increase his endorphin levels. I think drugs also increase endorphin levels (heroin, for example), and that's why a lot of addicts withdraw from social contact. They get all the positive feelings associated with social interaction from their drugs, so they don't feel the need to interact. Pluckers and mutilators are addicted to the endorphins they get from harming themselves.

In case you're wondering, we're at the "brain chemistry" part of our Animal Minds & Emotions course.
 
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SilleIN

Member
Aug 18, 2016
495
1
Denmark
Parrots
Lots of parrots, most of them rescues
I can only say Great advice from Tedd.

My scarlet plucker (on the mend) sleeps ON me either under or on the covers. He has a HUGE need for physical contact. If I leave him, when I go to bed, he comes walking down the hall and climbes up the end of my bed. Even if I go during the night, he will climb down the bed to go find me.

I also "hide" almonds or walnuts in the shell around the house to get him to be more active. I actually didn't know it also hit some pleasure centres in his brain, I was just really chuffed that he would move from his spot when he first started.

I have started a "plucker group" here in Denmark in for us to exchange different methods of battleling this problem. Is it ok for me to translate your post and share it with them?
 

Teddscau

New member
Sep 25, 2015
603
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Ontario, Canada
Parrots
Budgies: Lara, Trixie, Rainy, Alex, Starlight, Sunshine, and Birdie; Parrotlet: Noah; Peach-faced lovebird: Rosie; YSA: Jasper (♀)
I can only say Great advice from Tedd.

My scarlet plucker (on the mend) sleeps ON me either under or on the covers. He has a HUGE need for physical contact. If I leave him, when I go to bed, he comes walking down the hall and climbes up the end of my bed. Even if I go during the night, he will climb down the bed to go find me.

I also "hide" almonds or walnuts in the shell around the house to get him to be more active. I actually didn't know it also hit some pleasure centres in his brain, I was just really chuffed that he would move from his spot when he first started.

I have started a "plucker group" here in Denmark in for us to exchange different methods of battleling this problem. Is it ok for me to translate your post and share it with them?

Oh, what I wrote? Sure, go ahead and translate it :). Sad that some birds resort to plucking because they can't get the social interaction they need to keep their brain chemistry at healthy levels.

Oh, and no problem, MisterManGuy!
 

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