Thursday, February 21, 2013

Willow Has A Home

On Sunday I adopted a Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Willow. I already have a Lesser, Haley Deja’Too, and she has been my happy place for the last six years. To the best of our knowledge, Willow is about ten years old and I’m at least her third home. This is going to be a major adjustment and I’ll try to share this adventure with anyone willing to read about it. For now I’ll just share some things I have taken into consideration.

I decided to bring Willow home on a Sunday night. I know a lot of people wonder why I didn’t do it Friday night so I had the entire weekend to help her settle in and be with her. It’s exciting to have a new family member but when it comes to cockatoos, that’s the worst possible thing I could have done. Cockatoos love stability and consistency. If I had brought this little angel home and got her relaxed then two days later left her for work, she would’ve been stressed out. Instead I wanted to have her immediately on the schedule my current flock is on.

I have been mindful not to lavish too much attention on her. Now that is HARD! She’s so cute and even cries/whines. How much is too much? That is actually easy to determine. I want to give her the amount of attention I will give her each week night after work. No more, no less. Do I want to leave work early, skip the gym, ignore the wash just one more day and nom on her beak? I sure do! But this will hurt her in the long run.

When you introduce a new bird into an existing flock you have to be careful to keep things consistent. The existing members need to have the same amount of attention as always, with just a little bit of reassurance added as they will be nervous.

It hasn’t been a week yet and my flock is already calming down. Willow is calming down as well and settling in. Please don’t let that fool you into thinking this is who she is. Oh no! The “honeymoon period” for birds is an average of two weeks. That’s how long it takes for them to relax and let their true personality out. I know that my adventure is far from over. Little discoveries come up each day and how I deal with them sets the precedence for our future. For example, when she started “barking” for my attention (and NOT using her indoor voice) I could not run over to stop her. That would reinforce the behavior for whenever she wanted to call me. I reacted by attempting to change the bark. I whistled in response. Only when she whistled back or made a more pleasing sound would I respond to by praising her. I do not respond to the bark. It is already being used much less. This is a critical time for us.

Besides the consideration of my home environment and my behavior, I had to observe Willow. She had chewed her little legs bare and around her tail prior to her adoption. There is a bump that I was lucky enough to be able to get a picture of in her tail area. I emailed our vet’s office immediately. He feels it is a feather follicle cyst. She has an appointment 3/2/13 and he will address it then. This is where having a good vet prepared and on your team becomes important! I have also observed that she only plays with toys she watches other birds play with. Where she was at there was a cockatoo with a wood toy. She chewed (only a little) on her wood toy. Right now she is only chewing on the toy Haley is working on. She also prefers to be on top of her cage, sliding up and down the bars with her head down, dragging her beak like a prisoner in a jail cell with a tin cup. This is common in a lot of cockatoos. Haley doesn’t do it but I’ve heard about it and seen it many times before. It’s a mild neurosis that I will make certain her vet is aware of. In the meantime I plan to let her play on her cage for a few hours every night so she knows she will always be allowed out and being in her cage is not permanent.

Like many cockatoos, she throws her food. This one is a first for me and I’m sure every person out there owned by a bird feels it’s about time! Willow is a good girl and just the other day I got my first hug from her.

If you are wondering why I chose to adopt Willow, it was for two reasons. I didn’t think I’d find another Lesser female to adopt and felt it was best for Haley that I chose another of “her own kind”. I knew I was adopting at least one cockatoo already. The second is simply that she chose me. Even though her cage was labeled “does not like women”, she wanted my attention and I could pick her up. No one else could get her out of her cage. She simply would just come to me each time.

This adjustment is going to be a lengthy process. I imagine it will could take a year before Willow and Haley will sit on me together. I’m patient and we have all the time in the world. We will keep you informed about our journey of love.


To see Willow in her new home click here:

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