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

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Bekki

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Here is something that experienced bird owners probably know, that I was happy to learn about. I was researching bird behaviors, and came across a vet that shared information I haven't seen in any other bird behavior articles, specific to the difference in which eye they are using to observe. I know about eye pinning, but it never mattered with my conures, as they have dark eyes and it's near impossible to see them pin. It's different with Ruby, I can clearly see when she is pinning and have read several articles about pining and what it can mean.

Anyhoo, this vet shared that when parrots (or chickens) have feathers ruffled or standing on end and use their left eye to look at something with eyes pinned that indicates fear and it's likely he/she is going to show a sign of aggression. That if they are mouthy with a fabric item that is nearby, like a towel or blanket that is also a sign of fear. Now they will do similar things if they are excited, but because of bird neurology they will look at you with their right eye if they think you are familiar or they will look at you with their left if they are expecting you to move quickly. That because of how their brain works they can do different actions more quickly based on which eye they see it from (those weren't his words, but my interpretation of them). If a bird only looks at you with their left at first, and then gradually starts looking at you with their right eye that means they are starting to calm down.

I mean, in the big picture, once you really know a bird, you can read their body language, but the whole "looking with the left vs. the right was fascinating to me!!

So, while I think I'm understanding of Ruby's body language, I'm now I'm going to be paying more attention to what eye Ms. Ruby is looking at me with during our interactions and see if this lines up with the vet's statements.
 

Scott

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Fascinating insights! Quite familiar with eye-pinning of Amazons as precursor to behaviors but unaware of split eye perceptions. Will have to experiment with my Gonzo!!
 
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Bekki

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Fascinating insights! Quite familiar with eye-pinning of Amazons as precursor to behaviors but unaware of split eye perceptions. Will have to experiment with my Gonzo!!
4 month update!
** Side note - I have noticed her use of left/right eyes, and it seems to be fairly spot on, but only when she is in an agitated state.

The last month was more of the famous "1 step forward, 2 steps back" with Ruby's progress, but we are still seeing positive forward progression.

Last weekend I had been gone most of the morning and afternoon, and so my husband had let the birds out of their cages so their out of cage time was consistent even though I wasn't there to provide it. When I got home, Ruby was on her perch that is attached to her cage, and I was chatting with my husband standing a bit in front of her. She reached out with her beak to grab my shirt (something she has done frequently) and I asked her if she wanted to step up, and offered my arm WHICH SHE ACCEPTED!! This was a first, she usually only accepts my offers to step up if she has somehow thrown herself from her cage.

I praised her, and gave her a treat. I brought her up to my eye level and talked with her for a few moments, and then offered her the perch to see if she wanted to step down, which she did and for which she received a treat (step down is often as much of a trick as step up!). I then offered her my arm again asking if she wanted to step up - and she did!! We did this for several minutes before she lost interest and I was on a Parront high!! I thought - FINALLY - progress!!

The next day I went in, she worked her way down to the perch, I asked if she wanted to step up - she did, I rewarded. We chatted for a bit, I asked if she wanted to step down, she did, I rewarded. I asked if she wanted to step up, she began to - then decided to beak me. I was like - okay (internally disappointed). We worked on some of her other tricks, and then I tried the step up again - and she beaked me again - que the "wah, wah wah" sound in my mind. I remember reading Wrench advising someone about the tango dance that often happens with new Fids and was not going to let my disappointment color the positivity of the progress.

So - all week we followed our normal routine, with me offering her the option to step up at any opportunity I could in the hopes of more forward progress. No interest all week. Lots of her beaking me to reinforce her "no" response.

So - yesterday I was doing a deep clean of my bird room and after a few hours I heard Ruby flapping her wings, which isn't a normal thing she does, usually only if someone is getting a treat for her and has their back turned. I was no where near the treats and so I turned around very puzzled to find her on her perch. I said, "What do you need, Ruby?" and she lifted her foot up. I asked, "Do you want to step up?" to which she responded by flapping and lifting her foot up. I thought, what's the worst that could happen, she beaks me? I've survived that before, so I walked over and she stepped right up!! I rewarded her, talked to her and offered her an opportunity to step down, which she declined, so I was like - okay, let's go walk around the house for a bit. I walked her around, and once we got into the living room I offered her the boing (she declined), I offered her the play gym (she declined) I offered her both the couch and my chair (she declined both). So I stood there talking to her and to my husband, and then she decided on her own that she did, in fact, want to be on the chair. So when she stepped down I rewarded her, then I sat in the chair so I could be nearby, in case she became nervous. After a bit she flew over to the couch to hang out with my husband for a while, then back to the chair. She did that several times over the next hour, then she finally flew to the boing and proceeded to happily chatter and shred some toys I had placed nearby. She did try to fly out of the living room at one point, landing herself in our hallway. My son happen to be coming out of his room, and he offered her a step up, which she declined by walking past him (no beaking or biting, which I'll count as a positive) and she began to make her way to me. My son was disappointed, and in hindsight I should have stayed out of her sight to see if she would step up for him. I'll do better next time.

However, she she got to me she stepped up, and I thought maybe she wanted to return to her cage/room, but she did not! So I brought her back into the living room, where she visited the chair and couch again, finally returning to her boing to continue to her work of destruction on the toys. She stayed with us in the living room for her longest adventure yet! Any time I would leave the room she would call for me, and I would call back to reassure her I was returning.

Over the course of the rest of the evening I would offer her opportunities to go out of the room with me, or to return to her cage - and she let me know that she was NOT ready, thank you very much. I brought water to her a few time, which she gratefully had several long drinks from (and then tried to nip my hands and steal the bowl). I have water attached to the play gym in the living room, but I don't have any way to make water accessible to her when she is on the boing. Since she has only been willing to visit the living room 2 or 3 times since moving in with us, and the previous times for less than an hour or so I haven't had to address this issue. The Sunnies all go to the play gym where I have water bowls mounted when they need a drink, but Ruby is still afraid of the play gym (I have no idea why, it was hers at her previous home, but she was seldom given an opportunity to use it).

I'm not holding my breath in thinking that when I go home from work today she will be happy and ready to visit the living room again, but I'm at least going to give her the option. I am just so grateful that she is finally at a point that she is willing to ask to step up!! I honestly didn't expect that for several more months!!

I will also remember to grab more photos - I haven't posted any in awhile, and photos are fun!!
 

saxguy64

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WOW!!! Wonderful progress! It takes time, but sooooo worth it when things come around. Keep up the good work, you're doing great! Thanks for the update, and yes, more pictures please :)
 

Scott

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RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
You're doing so well with Ruby despite occasional setbacks. You're dealing with an intelligent creature whose motives and thought processes remain enigmatic!
 
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Bekki

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Quick question - Ruby DESTROYS her "boing" perches within a week of getting a new one. But she LOVES to sit on them, they are her favorite perches. Any suggestions for preventing the destruction, or suggestions for a more durable, but comparable replacement?

Now it's time for another update!! You know I'm long winded, so be prepared to read a short novel.
For those that don't have the patience for my longwinded style - TL/DR - My cousin and aunt are still ridiculous and Ruby is showing more signs of trusting me and becoming comfortable with her environment.

We have now had Ruby in our home for about 5 and 1/2 months! Time, as always, goes so quickly. She continues to surprise and amaze me on a regular basis. We have had some recent growth/accomplishments, most of them in the last few days.

One thing that is interesting to me is that she is STILL molting. Like - how long is this going to go on? I've read that it varies from bird to bird - but O holy feathers, batman. And her poor beak just keeps peeling and looks terrible!! Maybe it's because she is so young her body is a doing a SERIOUS molt but I can't imagine it's very comfortable for her, and I wish there was something I could do to help speed it along!

Ruby's owner, my cousin, decided to visit (after 5 months have rolled by) a few weekends ago. When she walked into the room to see Ruby, Ruby was so happy!! She ran right over to her, asked to be picked up, and wanted to just be close to her. My cousin sat with her for about an hour and a half - taking photos and such. She then goes on to talk about how maybe they have their own place then they will build Ruby a walk in aviary on the back of the house, because when she brings Ruby home she plans to get a second macaw so she can breed Ruby. I am not happy about her plans, but I have no power over her decisions.

I was really worried, because the last time Holly had left Ruby it took well over a week for Ruby to emotionally recover and "act normal". She was angry and upset, and continued to call for my cousin for well over an hour. My heart broke for her. I had braced myself for her tantrums, and that day and the following day she did do all of the things I expected, refused to interact with me, be extra lungey and bitey (I don't think those are actual words, but they fit), but it was only 2 days as opposed to over a week - so I thought that was excellent progress.

When my cousin brought Blu to me (I'm bird-sitting for the week), I told my cousin that Ruby was out, if she wanted to go spend some time with her. Here's where it gets interesting. She walked into the room, and this time (only 2 weeks since her last visit), Ruby did not react AT ALL. She didn't get excited, she didn't come over to her or anything. I just stood back and observed, I may have said something like - "look who's here Ruby" in an excited tone, but Ruby still didn't react, just stood in her same spot looking at everyone. Then my cousin walked up to her, talking and offering her hand, and Ruby lunged and gave her a warning beaking. My cousin stepped back and was like - that's weird, and tried again - same result. So then my cousin said, well I'm going to step over here like I'm leaving and watch her run to me. (I thought, that's very emotionally manipulative, but whatever).

She moved over to the doorway, and Ruby did come over towards the doorway, like she does when anyone stands in the doorway. My cousin reached for again - Ruby didn't even try to beak her, she pulled back, came away from the doorway and moved over to perch next to where I was standing. I tried really hard to keep my face emotions under control, but I couldn't stop myself from reassuring Ruby that everything was okay. My cousin said, I don't understand, why is she mad at me? I didn't say anything and then her boyfriend said, maybe it's because you left her here last time.

We stood there in silence for a bit, and then I said, well, I'll leave the room, if you would like some time with her by yourself and she said - no, we still have to finish packing for vacation, we are going to go. I said, okay have a good vacation and then she left. My husband was in the garage and he said she didn't say a word to him, just got in her jeep and left.

I'll own my pettiness - I was gloating after she left. All I could keep thinking was - what did she expect? Did she really think there would be no repercussions for her choices? I know I shouldn't take such joy in Ruby's behavior towards my cousin and that I should hope that she retains a connection to my cousin, but I'm kinda bitter about how she has handled every single thing about Ruby as well as her future plans for her. I can only hope she does some serious soul searching while on vacation. I plan to have a meeting with her after the vacation so we can again establish expectations and time constraints.

So - the exciting part? We built a play gym for Ruby back before she even came home with us. She has always been fearful of it and made every effort to stay away from it. I don't know if Ruby had a growth spurt or what, but yesterday she climbed onto the play gym I built for for back in May. She crawled all over it!! Then she started making sounds that she typically only makes when it's dark and she's in bed, that I call her "sleepy sleep" sounds. So I approached her to investigate, worried something was wrong (my daughter had let her out before I got home from work because I had to work over and I didn't want to limit her out of cage time for the day). When I approached her she fluffed up, again, an abnormal behavior. I became very concerned that she was in pain, or that something was wrong. I was doing a visual examination and raised my to get her to tip her head back to try to "beak" me, which is her normal behavior when I've attempted to pet her. She didn't raise her head, just started trembling. I grew even more concern and slowly lowered my hand towards her head to see if she would let me touch her head and see if I could feel anything (a long shot, but I was thinking on the fly). She just stayed very still and let me pet her. Once my hand was on her head she tipped her head down, which is the same behavior my conures do when they want me to pet them. So I kept petting her (and checking to see if she reacted in discomfort in any way). Then when I stopped petting her she stopped being fluffed up and went about playing with her toys.

One thing I've noticed about her - when she makes progress, aka does something out of her comfort zone, she trembles. Based on her behavior for the rest of the night, nothing was wrong with her at all, she was just going out of her comfort zone by allowing me to pet her!

This was so HUGE for us. No one else has been able to pet her, other than my cousin, since she stopped being "bird formula" fed.

Then, about 20 minutes later, she climbed to her side perch and made those sounds again, and I went to her to see if she wanted another "scritchen", but she wanted to step up!! So we did a step up training for a few minutes - which is also HUGE because she RARELY initiates these types of interactions!! She wouldn't let me pet her while she was stepped up, but that's okay, I'll take whatever she is willing to give!

The main take away from all of this for me is that the time in between her "growth" moments, where she allows human interaction, or she gets onto something that previously scared the beejeezus out of her is getting shorter and shorter, which is such a positive thing. I really thing she is allowing herself to trust more - trust me, and also herself (which I think not being clipped and being able to fly has helped her trust herself).

I know it's a roller coaster. I know I could go home today and she won't step up, or she won't let me give her scritchens, and that's okay. It's a process and the rewarding feeling I have when she DOES allow it - it's a feeling that I don't even have a comparison for.

Oh - and for reference to my future self - She currently says "Hi" most consistently. She also says Hi Ruby, Good Girl, and she has started to say "I'll be right back" - which are all the phrases she hears most consistently from me. She also "barks" like my dogs, which is probably the sound she hears the most. I'm trying to be more intentional with my "consistent" phrases, and I'm hoping her next words are "Good morning beautiful" which is what I say when I uncover her and bring her breakfast.

Ruby October 2021.jpg
image000000.jpg
 

saxguy64

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Wow!!! Great progress! Thanks for keeping us updated. I really feel that over time, Ruby will more consistently turn to you as her favored person, and cousin will get the cold shoulder. Ruby knows a good thing when she sees it. As for cousin breeding her, very bad idea. She'd be in over her head in a heartbeat. That assumes that Ruby and another bird get along in the first place. There's zero guarantee on that, and it's not something that can be forced. Fortunately, that would be several years away before she's even old enough to start breeding. She's still jus a baby if I remember correctly? For now, just keep doing what you're doing. It's working!

Not sure what to tell you about the boings. My two use them. My ekkie climbs around on it all the time, and never chews it or his rope perch. My YNA... Yeah, rope perches don't last long, (maybe a few days now she's learned to destroy them) so I gave up. The boing still gets chewed, but not nearly as frequently as the perches, so I just have to replace it about every 6 months before the fibers become an issue. Once she starts really picking at it, it's over. She uses it like her own personal escalator/spiral staircase to get from upper perches to the lower ones where the dishes are -until she decides it's time to chew it up. :) No great ideas on what to replace it with if she gets as determined as she is with the rope perches. More tree branches, I suppose...
 

Laurasea

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What's Ruby's weight? In pictures looks a tad thin.
Sometimes a prolonged molt can indicate a chronic low level health issues.
Molt I offer an increase in protein, I don't have sr my finger tips, but I've read several articles that 25% increas in protein needed for feathers.
A happy update. And I would have Gloster too ;)
 
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Bekki

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Loki - Sun Conure
Mango - Sun Conure
Ruby - Camelot Macaw
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What's Ruby's weight? In pictures looks a tad thin.
Sometimes a prolonged molt can indicate a chronic low level health issues.
Molt I offer an increase in protein, I don't have sr my finger tips, but I've read several articles that 25% increas in protein needed for feathers.
A happy update. And I would have Gloster too ;)
Thank you for pointing that out!! At her vet visit several months ago her weight was perfect (according to the CAV), but with this molt going on so long, she may have lost weight. I have considered buying a perch scale, but since I'm still getting her to trust me handling her I'm not having success in getting her to willingly step on to anything other than her cage, my couch or most recently her play gym.

I'll do some research on incorporating more protein into her daily meals.
 

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