The ups, downs, random thoughts, and pleas for advice on adjusting to life with Ruby

Scott

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Thanks for upgrading, enjoy the perks of Supporting Membership!

I suspect you are correct, "foster" is fig leaf for eventual sole custody. My guess is once Ruby makes the transition, she will have powerful motive to share if not shift allegiance to you.

Agree with lower perch for easier access. If playstand not immediately available, perhaps attaching a perch outside the cage a temporary substitute. You'll need newspaper or other barrier to protect floor.

Bringing the conures for visit not a bad idea. Unsure if it will accomplish much short of simply observing their reactions as precursor to setting up living room. Good plan to let them observe each other for a few weeks before allowing more freedom.

Macaw sized playstands readily available but relatively large and costly unless you are handy with construction. What I'd envision is large wheeled base with one or more thick vertical structures and horizontal perches + treat/food cups. A more modern interpretation substitutes PVC pipes for wood with advantage of durability and ease of cleaning.
 
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Bekki

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

This update is mostly so I can get my feelings out. After the incident I describe below I had to do some serious soul searching. Am I really the right one to take on Ruby? Am I mentally and physically prepared to do what is necessary for her? I was really doubting myself and wondering if I was making the right decision for myself - as well as for Ruby.

After talking with my husband, I do still believe taking her is the right decision. He reminded me that I felt the same way when we fostered our first Pit Bull (20 years ago - gosh time flies). Making a better life for animals that most people are afraid of, and helping those animals become an ambassador for their type - that's one thing I do really well and that gives me great fulfillment.

First and foremost, my soul feels exponentially lighter when I spend time with her. I look forward to watching her respond to me and things in her environment. I love watching her figure things out. I love the little wins I have with her as I gain her trust. I am proud of myself when my time/sessions with her end in a positive manner and she has a contented energy when I leave for the evening. I am still looking forward to bringing her home with me to really begin working on her socialization, even after yesterday's "blip".

I had my first well crap moment involving Ruby yesterday. Let me tell you - crap is not actually what I said.

I was having my regular visit and was feeling really good. I was alone with the birds, and had brought some supplies to make both Ruby and Blu some toys to shred. My aunt/cousin hasn't purchased new toys for them since they brought them home, and Blu had toys more appropriate for Ruby, so I wanted to give him something to enrich his day. I was really hoping that Ruby would be curious about what I was doing, and would approach me, instead of the normal me coming to her. While she didn't come all the way over to where I was making the toys, she did come down from her cage and started towards me, then became distracted by some food she had dropped, and after consuming that she went back up onto her cage. But I still considered that progress!!

Ruby caught on to the shredder toys very quickly, and so I was scouring my aunt's kitchen for some bird safe items that would hold her attention a bit longer than what I had brought from home. While I'm in the kitchen I hear Blu screaming and I turn to look - Blu was inside Ruby's cage, Ruby was outside her cage, but she had a hold of him (I couldn't tell how from the angle I was at). I yelled from the kitchen - Ruby, drop him - and she let go. Blu quickly flew the corner of ruby's cage where she couldn't reach him from outside. I walked calmly to the cage began to attempt to assess the damage, while frantically thinking of how I could transport Blu if I had to. My aunt/cousin do not have any small travel cages (how Blu got to their house, I don't know).

What I was able to ascertain: Blu was not bleeding (thank goodness), Blu was standing on one foot, holding the other very close to his body and was trembling, Ruby was unconcerned and had gone back to playing with her toys.

I will accept some accountability for this. I had told my aunt/cousin they shouldn't be out at the same time when I began my visits, but on each of my visits I never made an effort to put Blu away. Probably out of empathy because I wanted him to have some human interaction time as much as Ruby, and when I am there he is typically on me, not around Ruby. I know better now.

I called and texted my aunt - no answer. I called my cousin, who didn't answer my call, but when I texted her that Blu may be hurt she did call me.

My cousin was not concerned, said that Blu was a drama queen (which tells me this isn't the first time this has happened) and that she had told her mom not to let them out together, and basically it was her mom's problem.

Meanwhile, I'm just trying to figure out how I'm going to get Blu out of Ruby's cage if he won't come to me, trying to remember if I have anything I can use as protection for my hands if I have to grab him. But I lucked out, when I opened the big door to Ruby's cage Blu started making his way towards me, and when I offered my hand he stepped up. When I brought him up to see his foot better he hopped to my chest and leaned on me a bit, I sang to him silly soothing sounds and he calmed down. Once he was calm(er) I placed him in his cage, where I thought he might feel safest while I tried to figure out if I needed to take him to a vet or if I was over-reacting. I don't spending enough time or focus with Blu to really know his body language, but I know general bird body language, and his foot was hurting.

All that said, he is not my bird, so since it didn't appear he was in any immediate, urgent danger I decided to leave it up to my aunt. There was no swelling or redness, and he began putting weight on it and moving around.

I went back over and talked to Ruby, who wanted to show me the shredded paper she had found inside her new toy. I praised her and told her how smart she was. Maybe that was wrong, maybe I should have scolded her, but all I could think was that she could have hurt him worse - and he should not have been in her cage, so the yelling I did from the kitchen that startled her was enough for her to know I wasn't pleased with that behavior.

I spoke with my aunt on my drive home, told her to check on him regularly this evening and tomorrow morning. To not put any additional food in his dish (she had filled it to the brim before my visit) so that we could monitor if he is eating/drinking. I asked her to text/call me later with an update, or if she felt she needed to take him to the vet. Later that evening she texted me to let me know that he was walking around like normal, and she had taken him out and spent time with him to see get a better read on his behavior, and he was acting completely normal.

Writing this all out - it feels like I over reacted to it. Not outwardly, I kept calm and positive while in front of the birds. But once I was in my car on the way home, I had a small emotional moment. But it was an important lesson for me. One of the many I feel Ruby will be teaching me.

I plan to go over again today - check on Blu, and spend more time with Ruby. I asked my aunt (again) not to let them out at the same time, and not to let them out at all if they aren't supervised.

I guess I'll find out today if she respected my request. It's an awkward thing - because they aren't mine, so I can't dictate what they do with them, but I know the poor choices they are making are coming from good intentions. Hopefully now that I've educated her a bit she does better.

This forum has really helped to educate me so that I can feel solid in the decision I'm making - both for Ruby and for my family. I'm so grateful for those that take the time to read and respond.
 

Scott

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RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Re: Birdsitting to ownership

My take is Ruby was irritated her territory (cage) was invaded by Blu and took control of the situation with that trademark beak. Thankfully she applied minimal pressure and responded when you shouted. A good chance you are correct suggesting precedent due to lack of oversight. Ruby could have severely injured Blu but chose relative moderation.

Your response validated reasons to adopt Ruby. Blu is in a compromised environment, you properly assessed and managed the transgression without undue emotion. After compartmentalizing, you allowed yourself relief in the car on the way home. You have my vote of confidence FWIW!!
 

Goosamus

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Bekki,
Thank you for being a kind soul. Hope it all works out for you, Ruby & Blu. You definitely are thinking on behalf of the birds. Too bad, your cousin didn’t really think things through as most people find out . Too many birds end up getting rehomed due to no fault of their own.
If for some reason it doesn’t, please feel free to contact me. I have big parrot experience & having been looking for a Macaw.
I have been following your posts.

All the best,
Biya
 

Inger

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Re: Birdsitting to ownership

Sounds like you did an amazing job of handling the situation, which Scott already told you. And his vote of confidence should mean a lot to you! He’s a serious bird guy if there ever was one.


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Bekki

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Quick update on Ruby (and Blu)

We brought Ruby home with us last Friday. I am pleased to say it went far better than my Enneagram 6 brain thought it would go!! We had to completely disassemble her cage, but that worked out really well as we were able to give it a good wash with the power washer before bringing it in and setting it up.

She took both the ride, and to her new digs as though nothing much had changed. She interacts with me the same, if not better now that I can spend much more time with her.

My aunt has chosen to keep Blu - and took my advice on getting him a playstand, and size appropriate toys to provide alternatives to destroying her home decor. She has reported in a few times this week that things are going well with Blu, and she has watched some of the video's I've suggested to her on Bird Safety, food, and training.

One "bummer" is that we made a PVC perch for Ruby, and a PVC playgym, and she seems to be frightened of them. I've worked with my conures on them in front of her, and attempted to entice her with her favorite treats, but even those treats aren't enough incentive for her to get on them. I'm not giving up hope on them yet - it's only been a week after all, and she has never seen anything like them before.

She still won't step up on me, or anyone else in my family for that matter, but hopefully that will come in time. Lord knows that's something we have plenty of now that she is here!!

My aunt had told me that she hates water and/or baths. I decided to test that myself, and got some warm water in a spray bottle and started misting it above her and beside her. At first she made a lot of noise and moved away, but I kept misting to make sure she knew it wasn't something I was directing at her, per se, like a punishment or anything. Soon she was coming in trying to capture it with her beak, then stood under the mist flapping her wings. I took that as a good sign!! When it all ran out she stood at the top of her cage flapping away (drying herself, I'm guessing) and chirping her macaw gibberish. I took that as a good sign that she actually liked it!! I'll give it a few days and try it again!

I've been slowly introducing fresh veggies and fruit to her, learning some of her favorites, and her preferred method of getting them (bowl vs. skewer etc).

She has attempted a few "flights". She is currently clipped, as that was the preference of my aunt and cousin. They are unsuccessful, but she makes it safely to the floor, walks around for a bit, and then climbs back up on her cage.

All and all good things for the first week!! Below is a pic from the wing flapping after her first bath in her new home!

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Scott

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RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Lovely update, glad you and Ruby build on progress from your aunt's home.

I use fresh "Dollar Store" adjustable spray bottles for bathing. Begin with fine mist, spray upwards from offset position and allow droplets to fall, simulating rain. Progressively open nozzle for greater delivery!

Ruby's "flights" may give opportunity to coax perching on your hand/arm. Birds who don't typically enjoy close contact feel vulnerable on the ground. Try using this as opportunity to "rescue" Ruby when far from cage. Offer your arm with hand "balled" closed for protection, stand between Ruby and cage. Piece of walnut or almond balanced on arm may provide incentive. Ruby may prefer walking to cage but keep trying!
 
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Bekki

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Well, the honeymoon is over - I'm both bummed and relieved. I feel like that chapter is done - now on to the next one.

Ms. Ruby had her very first vet appointment. I asked her person, my cousin, if she wanted to join us, which she did.

I don't know if it was the aftermath of the first vet visit, or if it was because that is the first time she has seen her person since I picked her up from my aunt's house - but she COMPLETELY regressed to the same behaviors she had when I first started visiting her at my aunts.

Before the vet visit she would step down onto her play stand, and step up on our arm (with less biting each time). She chattered and yelled often, and especially when any of my family members would leave the bird room after popping in to say hi. She would let me, and any member of my family approach her cage without test bluffing us, and had even begun letting me rub her feet and beak through her cage when I would sing her the night night song before covering her cage.

Then, the vet visit, and the visit from her person. I'm not sure which one caused the backslide in behavior, but after that she was silent for the rest of the night. I was actually beginning to worry - even though she got a great bill of health from the avian vet.

The next day I followed our normal routine, but she wouldn't eat veggies, and barely any pellets. She would only take a treat from her cage - no amount of temptation could get her down onto her play gym or perches, and she would REFUSE to go into her cage when it was bedtime - when just the day before she went in as soon as I started singing the night night song.

Was she depressed from seeing her person? Was she completely traumatized by going to vet? I guess I won't know until/if her person comes for another visit, although I have no idea when that will be.

I was becoming very distraught myself over her new behavior, but dedicated even more time to just sitting beside her - asking nothing of her, just talking and singing to her. Hours and hours and hours of it. She continued to bluff me, and would try to bite when I would attempt to rub her feet or beak through the cage like I had before. But I wasn't giving up - I was just resigning myself to starting over.

It totally paid off, she slowly began making some noises again, and started showing interest in the veggies. The morning, when uncovering her and delivering her veggies before I left for work, I was singing the good morning song to her, and she let me pet her feet and beak through the cage. Just in the past few hours she has begun "talking" and yelling even MORE than she did before the vet/person visit. I was able to get her to step onto her playstand, and it looks like she took a few bites of her veggies today.

I know it's silly, and when I said this to my family they teased me about it, but I think maybe the routines with the songs helped to reassure her that nothing has changed - she is still with us and still safe, and we are still going to do the same things we have been doing.
 

Scott

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RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Difficult to know exact cause of regression but you have two powerful clues! Hopefully vet visits far less common then your cousin!

Have you considered keeping a journal of Ms Ruby's activities? You'll likely spot patterns and devise shortcuts for better behavior modification techniques.
 

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Regression is understandable. The human analogy is if your SO happens to meet their previous paramour and slides back into using their pet name for them or certain behaviors that were a part of the old relationship. Very annoying to you, the new flame. I think after a few days it will pass. I would maybe keep the visits to a minimum for awhile. Parrots do remember! I had a Quaker I rehomed after a few years, and he remembered me and the our relationship after 2 years of not seeing me. The new owner said "Oh he is going to bite you, he doesn't like anyone but me" however I was able to handle him, even laying him on his back in my hand. I know it annoyed the new owner!
 
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Bekki

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2 month update

Well, almost two months. It feels like I've had her so much longer!! She is STILL molting, and has been since she moved in with me. My sunnies have gone through molts, and while they were a bit cranky, it was NOTHING compared to what she is going through!! I can tell that it's uncomfortable and I wish there was more I could do for her.

To work on building trust I've been clicker training her every day for at least 5 mins a day. She can now wave when I ask, and spin around - she picked those up so fast I was amazed!! But she still wouldn't step up, and when I would offer my hand and ask her to step up she would lunge at it, and when I stopped slowly withdrawing and forcing her to make contact with her lunge she would squeeze with intense pressure. I remembered the article I read about pressure training so I just worked with that. Sometimes she would just grab my hand with her beak and just hold it for a bit, not increasing or decreasing pressure, just hold it. Her own form of testing me, I'm sure. I'm 99% sure I passed ;)

Up to 2 weeks ago when I would let Ruby out for her daily "out of cage time" I would sit in the bird room with her, and talk to her, sing to her, clicker train with her etc. Somedays I would just sit there and breathe her air. You get the idea.

There finally came a day where I let her out of my cage, but then had to manage something in the kitchen. She would call to me, and I would call back reassuring her that I was fine and would be back in soon. So after an hour or so I go back into the bird room and everything resumes as normal. Then I leave the bird room to refill the "shower" bottle and when I walk back in she launched herself off of the top of her cage towards me. I held out my arm which she grabbed with one foot, and then grabbed my shirt with her beak (which, tbh, scared the beejeezus out of me for a brief moment). I was able to get both her feet onto my arm and talk soothingly praises to her as she was very scared!! I then took her into the kitchen to the bird perch so that she could be in the same room with me, and as soon as I was done in there I took her into the living room. She wouldn't get on any of the bird perches in the living room, but she would get the back of the couch so she hung out with us in there until her bedtime.

Since then she launches herself off of her cage with increasing frequency. She was clipped before I got her, so she doesn't get far, but I think it is helping her confidence and helping her to lessen her fearfulness.

She does like to sit on my shoulder, which I really don't like since she hasn't yet responded to my "step up" training requests. I don't like shoulder privilege's until we both understand the expectations of that privilege. But I'm not sure exactly how to prevent the move to the shoulder, I have to do more training research. I will say she is mostly well behaved on my shoulder - she has tried to take my glasses twice, and she has "knocked" on my head when I moved my head to quickly. Nothing painful - and she didn't knock my head at all the last time she was on my shoulder.

Also, as I read in another post, there is nothing like having a beautiful creature of that size sitting on your shoulder. I can't describe the feeling, but I will admit it's pretty darn awesome.

Another positive, she lets other members of my family pick her up as well. Yesterday I was working remote, but went to another room for a meeting (I got tired of the "are you at a zoo?" questions when the birds would pipe up during meetings) when she decided she wanted to leave the bird room but only made it to the hallway. My daughter went to her and asked her if she wanted to step up, and she did, and a similar situation happened with my husband. That's sooo important to me. I want her socialized and comfortable with multiple people. I don't want to be her only person. I want her to trust and feel comfortable with all people, and I hope this means we are on that path towards that goal.

Anyhoo, I've included some pics, because pics are fun.

If anyone has any tips on keeping her from going to my shoulder - please share!!

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Scott

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RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Lovely update and pics, you and Ruby are bonding extremely well. Very difficult to prevent a bold and inquisitive macaw from landing on or running up to your shoulder. Generally, shoulder privileges ought be reward for 100% trust, and you're not quite there yet. Yet she's done nothing more than any bird might do on occasion. You'll either have to recalibrate expectations or firmly move her off the shoulder. Lowering to a table, counter, etc and gently pushing her off or using a perch. Either method fraught with controversy and may excite her leading to unwelcome surprise. If this were my bird, I'd have to debate risk/reward and would probably acquiesce to the shoulder pending additional conditioning to step up on command.
 

saxguy64

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Thanks for a wonderful update! Progress for sure :)

Patience is paying off. Trust is earned, I'm both directions. You're doing great!
 
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Bekki

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Another call for advice!! A new "thing" Ruby has started doing is when I'm standing and talking to her, she reaches out, grabs my shirt and starts climbing me. I offer her my hand, which she bites (not in a way that hurts or leaves a mark) I've left my hand there, thinking she was using her beak to gain leverage, but she quickly let me know she meant "get that thing away from me". I feel like she's saying, NO, I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP. Once she scales up to a certain point she steps over to my arm. I usually stand there with her talking calmly, but if I move she launches herself off me to get back to her cage. Should I discourage this behaviour or is this a good thing? The only time I can get her to step up on my hands in a normal fashion is if she is on the floor. She will not step up from a perch or furniture or boing, she just want to do the climbing thing. I'm so baffled!!

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Scott

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RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Parrots are generally thought to recognize face as your essence. Hands and feet can be perceived as threats or method of control. Highly bonded birds typically comfortable with the whole of your body. Your last comment highly suggestive of Ruby's hand perception: Rescue! Most hand-averse parrots gladly step-up from the floor or precarious position. Might take Ruby longer to desensitize to your hands keeping in mind past experiences (possibly unknown to you) at aunt and cousin's home.
 
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Bekki

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Time for our 3 month update!! This one is going to be fairly boring, but I wanted to document some things in the event I want to reference some milestones in the future. In the past month Ruby has begun to allow me to rub her beak and when she raises her foot I can touch all of her toes without any lunging or running away! Just yesterday she allowed my husband to rub her beak without attempting to bite or fake a bite - and I feel this is excellent progress.

She has finally begun to climb down her cage and onto the floor (this is something she did frequently at my aunt's house, but hadn't even attempted it here until this month). She walks around on the floor for a bit, appears satisfied with her floor inspection, and then climbs back up her cage. That also made me super happy as I took it as a sign of her being comfortable.

We are still doing clicker training, and I am attempting the clicker training to make her comfortable with the pvc play stand I made for her, as well as the T perch I had made for her. Not much progress there. She sat on it the one time in the kitchen as mentioned in a previous post, but has not gotten onto it since. I'm not giving up hope yet, and continue to offer it up every day as part of our training.

She has expanded her vocabulary, just a teeny bit. When she came to my home she could say "Hi Ruby". Over the last month she has begun to say "Good Girl" in the same inflection I use when we are training. She doesn't speak on command (yet - I haven't attempted to capture her words with a clicker - yet). My family all tell her good girl when she does her "tricks" for them, but the inflection she puts into it when she says Good Girl - "chef's kiss" - that inflection is all from me!!

I've subscribed to a Large Parrot Toy box - so she is building up a nice array of toys I can rotate out for cleaning and keeping her interest purposes. My next goal is to get more perches that attach to her cage - I'd like her to have more options of places to hang out both inside and outside her cage.

I also bought a tripod and blink camera. The tripod I use to video my training time with her - it helps me improve on what I'm going, and let's me study her body language - what went well, what didn't ect.

The blink camera let's me check on her when I have to go into the office - or when she refuses to leave the bird room.

Now that she lets me touch her feet I'm attempting to turn it into a "trick" of her offering her foot and leaving it up until I touch it with the phrase of "high five". Right now she raises her foot when I say Hi - but puts it right back down.

I'm hoping for more of the same type of stuff during the next month!!
 

Scott

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RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Wow, already three months and Ruby is socializing nicely! Ruby becoming more tactile a wonderful thing as may parrots consider parts of their body sacrosanct. I'd imagine the camera to be useful tool for analysis and listening to her chattering.
 

GaleriaGila

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I'm late to this party, buttt...
Please allow me to jump in and say what a pleasure it is, to see a new parront join our Community, and make such good use of it. We love to support new folks. What a joy.
Okay, I'll sound like such an old-timer now (I AM!) but... when I first brought the ol' Rb home in 1984, there was no 'net. I just thrashed around, did my best, stumbled in the dark...
It's a wonder he lived, but he did, and it has been a gratifying life together.
I wish you the same, and I am SO GLAD YOURE HERE WITH US!
 
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Bekki

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I'm late to this party, buttt...
Please allow me to jump in and say what a pleasure it is, to see a new parront join our Community, and make such good use of it. We love to support new folks. What a joy.
Okay, I'll sound like such an old-timer now (I AM!) but... when I first brought the ol' Rb home in 1984, there was no 'net. I just thrashed around, did my best, stumbled in the dark...
It's a wonder he lived, but he did, and it has been a gratifying life together.
I wish you the same, and I am SO GLAD YOURE HERE WITH US!

Thank you so much for your kind welcome!! I am so happy when I find great people that have had birds long term. Most people (in my community) that have had birds always say "I used to have a blah, blah, blah - but he didn't like my blah blah so I had to get rid of them".

I am very grateful for the internet and especially this forum, as I'm sure I would have made some seriously wrong decisions in every aspect of bird ownership!!
 

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