Wednesday, May 18, 2011
"You see our new lovebird?" He asked me. "Vicious little biter. We named him Tyson! You want him?"
"Uh, no thanks." I said. "One aggressive lovebird is enough for me."
Bailey came from a rough life. We know he had at least 4-5 homes before us, probably more. At some point he ended up in the wild, having either escaped or been let 'free'. Thin and cold, he landed on a woman's shoulder down by the lake one day, probably desperate for food and water. She stuffed him in her purse to take him home, and kept him for a few days. Not knowing anything about parrots, she quickly got tired of his incredible noise and refusal to go anywhere near her. She gave him to a friend.
At this point, my mom and I had decided to get a second bird to join our beloved cockatiel. We'd decided on another tiel, when we received a phone call from this couple.
We soon named him Bailey after Bailey's Irish Cream, because we thought he'd drive us to drink. The first year was...tough. We found out he'd been abused, neglected and tossed from home to home. He had a lot of issues. He would lunge at your hands and bite deeply without any provocation. He screamed at everything nonstop. He wouldn't come out of the cage without biting, then wouldn't go into the cage without biting. He ripped everything to shreds.
We regretted the hasty decision to take him, but we had made the commitment. We fuddled our way through his issues. It took a long, long time.
We've had Bailey for four years now. He has made immense progress.
The great thing about Bailey is that he's damn smart. Once he stopped panicking about everything that had hurt him in the past, he learned easily. He learned not to bite unless provoked, to 'step up' for food. He enjoys our company and spends most of his time with us. And as long as one of us is home, he is free to roam the house.
Bailey is not a pet I recommend. He is precisely why I don't recommend parrots to anyone, because they aren't 'pets'. They are companions, much too smart for their own good and with extremely specific, high-maintenance needs. I can see the intelligence in Bailey's eyes and I know that I have to work with him, not against him, if I want us to co-exist. And he can't be rehomed - especially with his past, he would not be able to handle a change in family. He will be with me for the rest of his life .
Yes, he bites. He bites a lot actually, and you know why? Because no one taught him that biting is bad.
Forrest is a little mischief-maker, but he's not aggressive. He's been taught that it's a game to nip at fingers in the cage, and he likes to chew everything. It's just a bad habit, and with consistency, he will learn to drop it. I managed to avoid a single bite by giving him his space, showing him respect and taking the fun out of the biting game.
Here's a nifty tip: If a bird bites you, push back towards his face. It's instinct to pull away, but that just makes it a game. Pushing towards him is uncomfortable for him and forces him to let go. Doesn't usually take long before they figure out biting's no fun.
Yes, he's badly behaved inside his cage. And he doesn't like being cooped up. Outside the cage, he's a playful little brat who needs to be taught some manners, but otherwise he's a friendly, happy, cheerful guy.
They aren't called lovebirds because they're loving and sweet all the time. They're called lovebirds because they form incredibly strong attachments to the family they get - bird, people, whatever. They are sensitive, high-strung, high-maintenance animals, but it doesn't mean they're any less deserving of a family. If anything, it means they need one more, because without that consistency, they are lost.