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Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

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SilverGull
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Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

Post by SilverGull » Sat Sep 20, 2014 8:15 am

Please excuse the wall of text; the problem is complex and I want to get the details straight.

My ringneck, Cirrus, has been with us for about a month now. Not sure whether this bird is male or female, so I'll use xie/xir. Cirrus is aviary bred and in theory 11 months old; the breeder seemed honest, but the vet we saw yesterday was questioning it.

I've been using the "harmless presence + talking + treats" approach to taming, and also, ironically, using wild birds as models for tame behaviour. So far, though, it seems to be two steps forward, both steps back. Cirrus occasionally plays, swinging from the cage ceiling or with toys, while I'm in the room - though play often stops when I come in, eventually it will start again so long as I don't move, and walnut shells for chewing seem to be just as good a treat as sunflower seeds. Xie has also made fumbling attempts to repeat my "hello," addressing it mostly to the mirror but sometimes looking my way and seeming interested in a response. Xie tries to be as far away as possible when there are people near the cage, however, and at best will stand warily still on the highest perch while I drop treats through the bars, going to them only when I've turned and walked away. This seems like mixed messages to me, so it's difficult to decide how much distance is appropriate.

We've had some success with the regrettably necessary desensitisation to the cage door being open, which Cirrus still doesn't like even when all I've done is open it and retreat to the far side of the room, though treats placed at the door are worth getting. Hands in or too close to the cage are far, far worse. Filling the food bowls triggers an uneasy shuffling of feet; reaching into the cage for any reason always results in clambering along the back wall.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cirrus shows absolutely no interest in leaving the cage. This was a problem on Friday, as I'd noticed laboured breathing and tail bobbing, and had to chase xir with the towel to go to the vet (who found no clinical reason for the problem). The whole time we were there, Cirrus was showing far more anxiety than during the first vet visit a couple of weeks ago, which I'm partly attributing to the memories and partly to the fact that the second vet's strategy for calming frightened birds apparently includes forced head scratches... for an untame member of a species that tends towards touch aversion. What. The vet didn't miss the anxiety, however, and picked up on the fact that I'm not happy with our progress... She recommended that I consider rehoming in an aviary, which my parents have also raised as an option - it's painful to think about, by which I mean I was an emotional wreck for the rest of the day, but it's also painful to be feared by someone you love, so I'm trying to think first about what's best for Cirrus.

On our return, I opened the box too far from the cage door, and Cirrus flew uncoordinated laps around the room - but wasn't, apparently, all that concerned at finding xirself on the floor under a table, with me sitting down a few metres away. Neither of us moved until one of the chairs presented itself as a way up a minute or so later, so apparently it wasn't worth it to run from me. I want to read that as it being okay for me to be that far away, especially since xie knew I was watching but didn't seem tense, despite the vet visit and forced towelling reinforcing the idea that humans = DANGER. But I'm well aware that confusion at the new environment and the implied protection of chair legs and shadows are more likely reasons, as is the fact that we went to the vet's for a reason, that being that this bird is sick, and that much fear drains energy. I'm wary of hope making me see signs of trust that are really something else entirely.

I know that earning that trust takes time. It took a year for our magpies to be comfortable eating from my hand, and two for the first butcherbird. But it's worse for a bird who has no options. It's different, when I'm here every day even for the bad patches, and seeing the effect that has. All I can do with the wild birds is bribe them; they're always in control of how close they're willing to be, and if they're not comfortable they can choose to go somewhere else. They get to not be scared for a while. Cirrus cannot get further away than the back of the cage, no matter how much I try to respect xir body language. And that scares both of us. I'm acutely aware that, instead of offering an equal relationship of give and take, I'm now attempting to induce Stockholm Syndrome in a dependant, lonely captive who frequently tries to be further away from me than is actually possible. And I don't know how long I can handle offering love and getting fear back.

Laying this out has led me to think that forcing out of cage time might help Cirrus get that sense of controlling the distance between us, and maybe help with overall self-confidence despite the risk of making the towel scary again. Spending some time high up on the curtain rail or cupboards might impart a much-needed feeling of security. I hope.

So, question: is forcing a frightened bird out of the cage a good idea, if the plan is to help it regain a sense of control? Or would this be more damaging?

What should I be looking for, in terms of baby steps towards a better relationship, especially if I've lost my eye contact privileges after the vet visit? It was a very trying day; it will be a significant setback, because I can't expect to be forgiven any time soon.

I've spent the past month thinking everything this bird does that isn't fearful is adorable beyond measure; I don't want to give up without trying everything. But by the same token, if all I'm doing is contributing to further anxiety and loneliness (because I am not yet a suitable companion), then the compassionate thing to do is to stop. In light of that, does anyone have advice on finding a trustworthy person to take in my bird, if worse comes to worst? Especially if you know of good places, or places to avoid, in Brisbane.

Finally, do you think it's worth it to keep going, or would we both be better off if Cirrus had other parrots around and I tried again with a bird that at least isn't afraid of humans? I know that Cirrus could eventually be tamed, but a good relationship would be years in the making, and in the meantime it's breaking my heart and causing Cirrus distress.

Thankyou for reading this far. I would be glad to hear any comments or advice you have to offer.

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InTheAir
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Re: Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

Post by InTheAir » Sat Sep 20, 2014 2:52 pm

Hi there,

I'm sorry to hear things aren't going well.
My experience with my aviary raised girl, who was just weaned when I got her, was a bit like one step forward one step back. I used this method http://learningparrots.com/blog/trainin ... l-parrots/
so I mostly just entered to room to drop treats into her dish and left the room immediately at first. I was surprised at how quickly she changed her attitude towards me coming into the room.
I have a few arguments against the "hanging out not being a threat" as an initial taming technique. It doesn't give the bird any control and it doesn't have a clearly defined target behaviour. I think it is more "stage 2" for when your bird is curious and interested in getting to know you.
With the link I posted or using a clicker in a similar way, the bird can control your presence by behaviour. It soon learns that presenting the target behaviour makes you do what it wants you to. I believe someone has outlined the clicker technique on here, try a search.
I think that when my girl realised she was controlling my behaviour she had a bit of a light bulb moment, she started looking at me in a curious way and decided to try coming closer to me when I went near the cage.

I don't know if there is any way to keep a pet bird without feeling like a captor to some degree, I have a dream of a tennis court sized aviary but it will still be too small.

Did you go to an avian vet? We use Brisbane bird vet. They may know of someone who is looking for a bird, if you decide to rehome her. They have never tried to pat my irns :lol:

Good luck trying to make a decision.

SilverGull
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Re: Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

Post by SilverGull » Sat Sep 20, 2014 5:25 pm

Thanks for the reply.

Believe it or not, this was at Brisbane Bird Vet. I'm bad with names, but the first vet, a man, was good, and made me feel confident about coming back; the second was a woman, and gave head scratches until the bird stopped struggling before moving on with the exam. It was a big what the hell moment, particularly as I think she was encouraging me to get in contact with you specifically (is your name Claire?)

The thing is, I have seen some signs of curiosity - I couldn't have lost eye contact privileges if I hadn't had them in the first place. We've also had a few back-and-forth "hello" "ee-ooh" conversations, while I was half a room away, and the lower perches are apparently quite comfortable while I'm at that distance. And Cirrus cries out if left alone too long - is this normal, healthy behaviour, or looking for social contact?

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ringneck
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Re: Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

Post by ringneck » Sat Sep 20, 2014 10:05 pm

Okay, first let me commend you for being so thoughtful in regards to your ringneck's feelings. I love the fact that you're trying to think on behalf of your bird and you're trying to ease his fearfulness . Really, it's quite touching.
8)
I know that taming Cirrus, which I might add I love the name, is your goal. It does have many benefits for both you and him so I also commend you working towards this goal. That being said, taming is not an overnight thing. Did you know that Aya, who was hand fed by me still does not have that "connection" to me like Devri. Nor is she as tame as I would like her to be. It takes time and a lot of work. In fact, Aya enjoys biting me at the moment and does have some fearful and opinionated moments. We continue to work through them slowly. It's like walking up a huge building that has a million floors, but we're only talking one step at a time. So, I do know your frustration. :mrgreen:

Now, also keep in mind your bird's brain has been wired like a typical ringneck. Because of this, human handling and interactions are something feared. As of right now, Cirrus will see the world completely different than a parrot that's been hand fed. In his eyes, a human is now seen as a predator, hence the situation you are experiencing. So, the big questions is will your bird ever settle down and become tame? The answer is absolutely! In fact, I've come to see owners who have totally transformed their aviary bred ringnecks into birds that you would swear were hand fed--one owner that I know of even free flies her aviary bred ringneck. It all comes down to your dedication, the bird's personalty, and love.

As you stated, your bird is already coming around. He is trying to mimic your speech which clearly means the bird sees you as a flock member. This is great and you're onto a wonderful path. That being said, let me start answering your questions. :wink:
So, question: is forcing a frightened bird out of the cage a good idea, if the plan is to help it regain a sense of control? Or would this be more damaging?
For me personally it's an approach I would use. In fact, I find that during the taming process a little bit of stress is a good thing. I always gently introduce some stress for my birds. During taming or training I'll push them slightly outside their comfort zone and reward them. I find this works wonders for me personally. A little bit of stress is a good thing as it helps them to grow so to speak. Again, this is my method. I'm just the type of guy that loves diving in and getting the ball moving.

There are other owners who have used different methods. InTheAir gave a marvelous post and link and her method worked for her, so that's another option.

I've had owners that have handled their birds from day one and others that have used positive reinforcement and gradually worked towards taming. Some owners have even successfully tamed through laddering in a quiet room. I just recently heard of an owner who taped their fingers to avoid getting bitten and handled the wild ringneck from the get go--now the bird is tame. If you're starting to get my point here--you'll have to find a method that works for you. You might agree with some methods and disagree with another, and that's okay.

As far as being damaging I don't think so. Truthfully, I've had to restrain my birds for a variety of reasons and they never hold it against me. In fact, now they just look at me and I find it quite comical.
"What should I be looking for, in terms of baby steps towards a better relationship, especially if I've lost my eye contact privileges after the vet visit? It was a very trying day; it will be a significant setback, because I can't expect to be forgiven any time soon."
You've already made a slight impact. Your bird is starting to copy you and play in the company of your presence. This is great as the bird is starting to understand you mean no harm. The most important thing is to associate yourself as something rewarding and be consistent. Over time, the bird will become fearless in your presence.
"Finally, do you think it's worth it to keep going, or would we both be better off if Cirrus had other parrots around and I tried again with a bird that at least isn't afraid of humans? I know that Cirrus could eventually be tamed, but a good relationship would be years in the making, and in the meantime it's breaking my heart and causing Cirrus distress."
I think it's worth going on. In a few months you'll have a wonderful companion and you'll be amazed at your progress. If you give up then you'll never know....I say go for it and try. Besides, success is always sweeter in the end if it's bitter at the start. :)

Congrats, you're on to a great start with your new friend. :wink:

Best Wishes, :wink:


IMRAN-C

MissK
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Re: Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

Post by MissK » Sat Sep 20, 2014 10:31 pm

Hi. I almost hate to put in my oar because you are, it seems, local to Claire and you are in excellent company there. I do have just one or two thoughts to contribute.

*Maybe he doesn't know how to use the door. My first bird demonstrated the door of my new bird's cage and the new bird learned that way. Prior, no bribes would work. Since, he comes out for nothing at all.

*Maybe he is afraid of the small opening. My first bird had to learn over time to get comfortable being passed into the cage on the wrist. I think he was uncomfortable going into the "small space" that a doorway is. He has gone in on his own so long I don't remember how that went. (sorry)

*Sometimes people feel their bird would be better off in an aviary. While that would be best, -natural living in a large, beautiful space, I question where we find these Ringneck Utopias. If we can find one, are we certain it will be kept up, funded, etc, for the decades the bird will need it? What about the ethical question of housing birds who didn't make it as pets in a situation where they are sure to naturally multiply? What would be the result when the flock so housed outgrows the space? Is the pet bird (human raised) really suitable to "rehabilitation" to natural living? Although I have chosen to keep second hand birds and dedicated myself to ensuring they really did trade up by coming with me, I do wrestle with my conviction that they are still not well off enough and would be best served by a "natural" aviary lifestyle. It is then I ask myself the preceding questions, and I decide that the reality of aviary life is not terribly likely to play out in ideal fashion.

*I'm sorry you are feeling so discouraged, especially in such a short time. Your activity with the wild birds shows you have what it takes to comprehend and accomplish what is needed here.

*Your concern about the bird feeling trapped is, I think, quite valid. If you're able to help the bird learn to negotiate the doorway I think it would go well for you. Sinbad is never so comfortable with me as when he is in the branch on top the cage, trying to blend into the leaves of the huge plant I stuck up there. I'm certain he feels safer there, looking down on me.

*Some suggested to me that Sinbad would not come out of the cage due to being cage bound. I rejected that idea because of his short time in that cage and my house, suspecting fear and lack of skill instead. I want to feel it may be the same for your bird. If you can manage to create a very large doorway, perhaps by lifting off the front panel of the cage, I think it might go well. At least, it went well for us.

*Others suggested to wait and see. I think a good bit of patience combined with setting him up for success would be most advisable.

*Last thought, check your cage placement and size.
-MissK

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InTheAir
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Re: Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

Post by InTheAir » Sat Sep 20, 2014 11:23 pm

Yep, I'm Claire.
They saw my girl for a health check a couple days after we got her, I think they all thought I was nuts for getting such a wild bird :lol: They handled her the minimum amount necessary for the health check.
Sapphire didn't hold the handling against me at all and it didn't set our relationship back at all. I didn't touch the bird at all and stayed on the other side of the room. Feel free to question the vets on why they do certain things too, especially if you are not comfortable with it.

Did you look over that link?
Just reading over your first post again, you mentioned that Cirrus won't come to take treats when you are near the cage. I don't think that matters, I think just drop treats and back right off. I don't believe we need to get the bird to come take treats from us like is recommended by some people. I think it is quicker to set up the environment so the bird can comfortably access it's treat straight away. Here's a video of how I approached it in the beginning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZZTtxN ... 4NVHF42Q-Q

Well, everyone has different opinions on training. I wouldn't force the bird to come out, but considering Missks thoughts on it may be helpful.
Do you have a decent sized cage? Does Cirrus like browse to crunch on? Our guys love bottlebrush seed cases and stuff. Nila is a huge fan of golden cane palm fronds.

sanjays mummi
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Re: Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

Post by sanjays mummi » Sun Sep 21, 2014 10:38 am

My first thought was "only a month?", Sanjay was semi feral, and believe me a month is nothing in the great scheme of things.

AJPeter
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Re: Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

Post by AJPeter » Sun Sep 21, 2014 11:23 am

I agree with Sanjay's mummi a month is a far to short a period to make any observation after Billie was pushed out of an upstairs window and landed one the grass below she was very traumatized it took me three months to gently help her out of the cage. I sat by her and talked, ate my meals by the cage.

I would never wish to force a bird to do anyhting it does not want but some tines you have to. but it is better to have a more natual and relaxred way

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Re: Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

Post by ellieelectrons » Sun Sep 21, 2014 8:26 pm

Hi SilverGull

Just wanted to say that there are lots of methods that will and do work for getting your bird more comfortable with you. However some methods create more stress for your bird in the short term. It is my preference to use methods that help build a positive relationship between you and your bird, so that your bird is, wherever possible, associating good things with you. Because of this, I personally don't like methods that force birds to do things.

I have seen the work that Claire has done with her parent-raised IRN and the relationship there is so very strong. She used almost zero force with her bird.

I didn't know a lot when I started working with my birds and I have used some force with both of them as I was taming them and I do believe that as a result of that I do have some behaviour problems from time to time. They're pretty good birds on the whole and I do trick training with them, etc. but they don't have the same level of trust with me as I see Claire's birds do with her and mine were both handraised.

If you are in the local area, you might like to consider coming along to our companion parrot group that meets once a month on a Monday evening. Next month Claire will be speaking about positive reinforcement taming techniques.
https://www.facebook.com/suncoastparrots

Ellie.

SilverGull
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Re: Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

Post by SilverGull » Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:21 am

Thanks everyone for the advice. My plan for now is to reassess my approach and keep trying. There's a lot to take on board here, but hopefully we can make some progress and I can convince Cirrus that I mean no harm.

I appreciate everyone taking the time to share your experience, and hopefully I'll have good things to report soon.

lpmurdock831
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Re: Considering giving up my bird. Hoping for advice.

Post by lpmurdock831 » Thu Nov 06, 2014 7:49 pm

Hey SilverGull,

How are things now?

May I just say, Snow and I were at EXACTLY the point you describe here about three months ago. In fact, I was feeling pretty much the same, wondering if I was doing the right thing by him. He wouldn't come out of the cage, was terrified of me and on the odd occasion that he did come out he would hide from me on a cross-bar under the desk at the far side of the room. Now he will let me sit beside him, will take the treats I put in his dish with me sitting right there and even takes treats from my hands (when he's in the mood). It depends on the bird's personality, but more than anything I think calm persistence is the key here - which clearly you already know from your work with wild birds. Bravo! :)

I guess I just want you to know that it DOES pay off and that this stage WILL pass... it just perhaps takes longer than it does with other species.

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