Unique situation

Derpology

New member
Jun 22, 2021
10
10
USA east coast
Parrots
Rascal aprox 37 yr Cockatoo
Hello!

I've found myself in a pickle. Im about to rent a friend's in-law apartment which currently is occupied by a bird. the bird is neglected and I want nothing more than to help him feel loved again.

The family who has the bird views the bird as too sentimental to trust others (like a sanctuary) with its care, they want it to stay in the family. This is why the bird is suffering and I?m the only person with an opportunity to help him. :white1:

Okay so here?s the situation. I know it?s long please bare with me it?s important info.

30-35 years ago a woman bought an umbrella cockatoo to have as a family pet for her husband and children. Over the last 30 years, the bird has lived through incredible traumas in losing his cage mates, moving cross country(this is what triggered his plucking) Watching his owner's children move away, and his owner(s) pass away.


In recent years after the death of this woman?s husband, she moved into her sons in-law apartment with the bird. He was well socialized as she was retired but she began to get sick and unfortunately passed away earlier this year.

As she got sick he came out less and less became socially isolated. He turned violent to everyone. And has bitten unprovoked before. He?s not allowed out of his cage as he will not re-enter it. His cage has not been cleaned for months and he is truly in an unfortunate situation and frankly a neglectful situation.

This is where I come in. Before this women?s passing, she also maintained a 60g fish tank which her son has given me the responsibility to care for it as I mainly own aquariums. I?ve been maintaining the tank for a few months now and cleaning up the bird's area as much I can. I try to sweep around the cage and clean the dust off the bars. I also do my best to continually talk with him and engage with him. The son who refuses to rehome him checks on him once a day to refresh water and food but other than that this bird sits alone.

a few days ago I worked something out with him allowing me to move into the in-law apartment where I would care for his bird, fish, and my own animals.

So my questions

How do I best help this bird with becoming trusting again.

How can I switch a bird on a seed diet onto a pellet diet? is it even possible at 33yrs old?

what are some good websites to find info? I keep seeing blatantly wrong information out there.

what toys and treats would you recommend for him? (he likes red things)



I understand these birds are LOUD, emotional, and A LOT to deal with, and I'm willing to deal with it to make his life better.



Thank you for helping me.
 
Last edited:

JohnH

Member
Dec 23, 2016
150
21
NY
Parrots
Sulphur crested cockatoo
I feel for you and your bird. I don't have much advise for you but i can tell you that patience is extremely important. I received my cockatoo under similar circumstances. My birds first owner passed away also. She plucked herself clean. And bit me to the bone more times than i can count. 3.5 years later she still plucks but our bond has grown. I am now able to do many activities with her. More so than most people i suppose. Rides in the car, bike rides and walks on the beach. She has taught me patience that i didn't think was possible. I love this bird so much. I only wish she had come into my life sooner. There are many educated people on this site. Read read read. Patience my friend.
One more thing. Try not to make sudden fast movements around your bird. It's a sure way to get bit. And don't try to touch him/her with any objects in your hand. Jewelry may trigger an attack as well.

Good Luck
 

Betrisher

Well-known member
Jun 3, 2013
4,246
61
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Parrots
Dominic: Galah(RIP: 1981-2018); The Lovies: Four Blue Masked Lovebirds; Barney and Madge (The Beaks): Alexandrines; Miss Rosetta Stone: Little Corella
Wow! Good on you for your initiative! Thank you for caring about this poor, poor bird!

The first thing Rascal needs is good health. Might a vet check be possible? Will the owner allow it? At the very least, you could begin by gradually changing him to a better diet. You could try adding a small amount of pellet to his seeds and see if he'll take them. You might be surprised! My 35-year-old Galah began eating pellets when he observed that my Alexes were eating them. That was useful! He needs vegetables as well as something to chew on for occupation and stress release. It might happen overnight or it might take ages, but a seed-only diet is begging for fatty liver and the growth of lipomas (which are not always benign).

Regarding trust, you can check out our stickies for good advice on bonding techniques. Most of us start by feeding treats and by simply spending time with the bird, talking or reading or singing to him. (I used to recite my Latin verbs to my lot. It helped my Latin, but they never learned a thing!) Building trust may take quite a while, especially if the bird has learned *not* to trust his family of humans. However, if his trust can be gained it will be the better for him, obviously.

I think *this* website is the best one for finding info. I'm not aware of any others that cover all aspects of bird care, feeding, caging, training etc. I'm a fan of Bird Tricks, run by Jamieleigh Womach and her husband, but many aren't. You'd need to decide for yourself. :)

Toys:
- chewing material (cardboard, untreated timber, safe natural branches listed in our stickies pages)
- foraging opportunities - hide his food so he has to search for it
- noise makers - my lot like stout plastic baby rattles, but you need to make sure they cannot bite the plastic off
- ropes and swings - if there's space, an arrangement of hanging loops and ends of rope can provide endless entertainment. My Corella enjoys hanging and swinging from a rope I hold in my hands.
- Beware of bells! Most cockies can open a metal bell and ingest the clapper (heavy metal poisoning). Only use pipe bells, which can be a bit hard to find, but far preferable.
- acrylic puzzle-type toys are made for cockatoos! My Alexes just look dumbly at them, but Rosetta, the Corella, solves them in a trice.

Treats:
- try to eliminate sunflower and safflower seeds from his diet. These are both oily seeds and lead to deposition of unwanted fat. Use them only as treats, which can be given in reward for good behaviour.
- my lot likes dried mango and pawpaw/papaya - be careful with dried fruits, though, as they're sugary and lead to weight gain
- nuts are good treats and you can cut them into smaller pieces so they go farther - again, nuts are fatty, so go easy on them
- some smaller birds will take a bite from a millet spray as a treat - however, if I offered one to my Alexes or Corella, they'd have snarfed down the whole thing before I'd blinked
- grass seed heads make good treats, but do be sure you get them from 'clean' grass (ie. not treated with any chemicals or garden sprays).

Sorry for the length of this, but I hope others chime in as well so you get a lot to go on. This bird is worth it, right? Thanks again for caring for him. :)
 

Scott

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Aug 21, 2010
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Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Welcome to you and Rascal! Thanks for a comprehensive introduction and deep respect for what is clearly a rescue from neglectful situation.

Superb advice above! Efforts to earn Rascal's trust and bond will take time and concerted effort with rich rewards. Many parrots become "cage bound" but seems Rascal prefers a bit more freedom. Limiting food to inside the cage (aside from treats given while out) may be good compromise. Never too late to introduce healthier diet with quality pellet. Not pushing the brand, but Harrison's conversion protocol worked well for my flock and ought be successful regardless of brand: https://www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com/using-our-foods/large-bird-conversion/

Effective techniques for bonding/building trust: https://www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com/using-our-foods/large-bird-conversion/
Superb plucking narrative: http://www.parrotforums.com/behavioral/52217-plucking-search-answers.html
Helpful hints for managing the beak: http://www.parrotforums.com/training/63988-bite-pressure-training.html

My cockatoos are voracious chewers. Colorful wooden blocks strung on stainless steel chain are favored. We have many large-cockatoo members, feel free to post specific questions!
 

Ria.345

New member
Jun 23, 2021
26
19
New York City
Parrots
Sun Conure and Umbrella Cockatoo
Good evening!


It sounds like your parrot is in a tough situation with not only partial neglect (because the son was only doing food and water refills), but also you're right on this fact: he is lonely.



With everything that has happened in his past, there was a continual pattern of people leaving in his life, but not just his humans, also other birds that he could have bonded to. Because cockatoos are extremely sensitive and emotional to even the slightest changes, it makes sense that he would be both traumatized and isolated from everyone, which eventually causes problems such as aggression and bitterness to others even if they are just trying to help him. I am glad you have addressed the fact that these types of birds are emotional and a lot of work and that is the foundation of knowledge needed in order to move forward with this little guy. Let's address some of your questions now.



Cockatoos and all other birds who faced trauma take a lot of time to heal from it and be trusting again of other humans. Know that it takes time, for some birds it can be a quick recovery in as little as a couple of months, but most in this kind of situation may even take years to recover and trust humans again. So it is best to expect this kind of outcome and just trust the process as well as be patient with him. I would recommend sitting distanced from the cage for a bit and softly talking to him. This lets him know that your in his presence but not all over him. Let him process this. As the weeks and months progress, move closer to the cage and maybe even gently pet him and let him understand that you are not a threat at all. Just there to love. Eventually, this gradual process could even surprise you and he may trust you enough to let you pick him up, pet him, and even play with him at times. But this outcome will be far away from now and it's good to acknowledge that fact. The basis of this whole process: take things slow and at the bird's pace. This is very important to keep in mind.



Now for your second question. For a 33 year old bird, it is hard to train them at all to do anything new. Especially with diets. So this is another difficult task. Assuming he has been on a seed diet all his life, this is going to be a tough transition but it will be worth it for health's sake. Again, everything is gradual. So I recommend a pelleted brand like Harrisons or Tops and give him a spoonful for his first day and he may just pick out the seeds, not even realizing the pellets are food. Each day I want you to change the seed to pellet ratio in his bowl by increasing the amount of pellets and then decreasing the amount of seeds. It will take time for him to get used to the pellets and mainly because it's a whole new thing to transition to, a whole new taste. Focus on getting him switched over to pellets for now, but eventually start incorporating fruits and veggies )more veggies than fruit) into his diet through chop. This should be given in the morning and then pellets can be given throughout the day and dinner time. Treats should be mainly for trick training, as positive reinforcement for wanted behaviors, and rewards.



As for your third question, some good websites for proper information on parrot care would be the BirdTricks website. They focus on flight training, regular training, and proper avian husbandry. I also love Marlene Mc'Cohen's YouTube channel for good, reliable information since she has had parrots since she was young. I will link you some other varied websites if you wish later on.



As for toys, parrots love variety. It is good to provide him with a lot of enrichment, especially since he is a cockatoo, this is a major component of his care. Cockatoos need to keep busy through mental stimulation. Some fun toys for them should be in a large size since they won't destroy it in minutes with their large beaks. All parrots have different tastes for different toys. But I would try offering him shredding toys, either paper based or cardboard maybe. Perhaps some natural wood block toys would be fun for him. Make sure to incorporate foraging toys as well since parrots in the wild spend their days searching for food, so foraging for food is a great way to keep them stimulated in a healthy way. You can even DIY toys if you wish to save some money, you can buy the toy parts and make the toys by attaching them to twine and a hook. They are fun to make as well. Make sure to not get happy huts, avoid cotton rope toys since they are known to be ingested, causing crop impactions. They can also get tangled in the thread and loose fibers. So please be careful. Rope perches I would avoid unless your parrot is being supervised. Foot toys are also great if they are in or out of the cage. This keeps them busy too.



I wish you the best of luck out there with your new feathered friend! :p
 
OP
D

Derpology

New member
Jun 22, 2021
10
10
USA east coast
Parrots
Rascal aprox 37 yr Cockatoo
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  • #6
Re: Unique situation UPDATE

Hello and thank you all for your advice!

will do my best to use your advice over the course of weeks working with him.

I do have a few things that can be considered updates

1. I was mistaken he's actually 37 years old not 33 my bad.

2. the son (ill start calling him Steve) is willing to take him to a vet for a much-needed nail trim and a check-up. I let him know I would be happy to help and willing to take a day off just for the occasion. (No date is set yet)

3. Steve is comfortable handling Rascal and claims that rascal is comfortable with Steve handling him so this afternoon hopefully we can get a FULL clean done on the cage while he's out on his perch. (I plan to use vinegar water as I do for rodent and terrarium deep cleans) I don't know when the last time rascal was handled so this could go many different ways. steves knew this bird 30+ years more than me so I'm taking his word on it and ill see how it goes.

4. today I'm hoping to help get a good cleaning done in the apartment as there are still belongings from rascals previous owner and some family heirlooms I'm planning on playing some light music and or chatting with rascal as I work.

5. I have a few pictures of Rascal and his current environment but I don't want to violate any guidelines by showing dirty neglectful situations so for now no pictures of that I'm sorry. But here's a picture of his handsome face. (if you didn't read above he plucked his belly clean from a cross country trip

Thank you!


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Scott

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Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Let us hope Steve is gateway to handling and socializing Rascal! Removing Rascal from cage for deep cleaning may prove interesting. Hopefully he'll willingly return, perhaps a high-value treat such as almond or walnut will help if needed!

Definitely plucked on chest, one of the first areas to be affected. Spraying feathers with fine mist from unused "dollar store" water bottle will help a lot if he tolerates.
 
OP
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Derpology

New member
Jun 22, 2021
10
10
USA east coast
Parrots
Rascal aprox 37 yr Cockatoo
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Another nice update,

Rascal has been learning that screaming loudly is not an action that will draw my attention, however I have been responding to quieter screams that are more gentle on the ears. I reward his behavior with verbal praise and a treat.
I dont want to overwhelm him by replacing all his toys at once so I'm slowly getting him new and safer toys then the ones he came with. I worry that replacing them too soon will confuse and overwhelm him.

I have noticed that he likes to throw his food onto the floor of his cage so that later he can go looking for food. I can only assume that this is because he hasn't been offered foraging toys in the past but I've put some things together so that he can search for food. HE HAS TAKEN TO PELLETS!! I still offer him seed as he's not yet completely on a pellet diet. But I'm so happy that he likes to eat them. He makes such a mess though i feel like 99.99% falls to the floor

I've left his door open when I'm able to supervise so he can freely go to his perch. He can get really excited and bouncy wich is so adorable. Last night he was too excited when I was giving him a treat and he did manage to grab my finger but I'm fine it just barley broke skin.

He really likes to shred cardboard so I've been giving him all the carboard that's safe for him and ive turned them into toys with some older chain.

That's all for now, I think I'm going to look into getting him a new cage as I feel this one is an inappropriate size and i dont like that its a corner cage.
anyway, thank you for your help.
 

Scott

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Aug 21, 2010
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Parrots
Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
Thanks for a wonderful update, Rascal settling in nicely

Many parrots enjoy adventure of dumping whole or partially consumed pellets to the floor for later enjoyment.
 

Betrisher

Well-known member
Jun 3, 2013
4,246
61
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Parrots
Dominic: Galah(RIP: 1981-2018); The Lovies: Four Blue Masked Lovebirds; Barney and Madge (The Beaks): Alexandrines; Miss Rosetta Stone: Little Corella
I use Seedmate feeders and they're pretty good. They're expensive, but you only buy them once and they do seem to corral *most* of the food neatly. Cockies are dreadful about hurling their food around, but our local native birds are quite happy about that habit. They get a free feed! :)
 

Scott

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Super Moderator
Aug 21, 2010
31,606
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San Diego, California USA, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy
Parrots
Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.

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