How to make a bird love you (part 3)

Welcome to part 3 of how to make your bird love you. If you’ve already read through part 1 and part 2 but realize neither type adequately describes your parrot problem, then you’re probably hoping for this article to be a miracle cure. I know what it’s like to have a parrot suddenly lose interest in me and prefer someone else in the household instead. Sometimes this can be tolerable as the bird will still come to me and, while I may not be their favorite person, I can at least still interact with them. I’ve had other parrots who turned downright nasty toward me and try to bite my fingers off if I even got close to them. I’m sorry to say that this article will not be a miracle cure. Sometimes, a bird just has a favorite person and there’s nothing you can do about it. They’re entitled to have their preferences, just like people. But, just like people, they can sometimes be swayed back toward favoring you, or at the very least: tolerating you.

Type C:

  1. Eliminate the easiest solutions first. If you’re bird used to love you but suddenly, without warning, decided that she hated your guts instead, she may have been frightened by something that changed in her environment. Do you have any new jewelry? New nail polish? Did you wear a type of clothing outside of your “normal” (like a jacket, scarf, or dress that she’s never seen you in)? Maybe you’re wearing a new color altogether. Or a new pattern. Birds are very visual. My green cheek is infatuated with the color red and will fly to anyone who wears her favorite color. Your bird might simply be afraid of a certain color. Remove anything that’s changed recently (put the furniture back the way it was, take out her extra toy, put on clothing you’ve worn when you held her before, etc) and try to interact with her again. With any luck, things will feel totally normal again and she’ll be your lovable little monster all over again. 😉
  2. If nothing has changed recently or removing the change doesn’t work, then you’ve got some work cut out for you. You’ll want to reestablish trust with your bird before her terror/hatred of you become habituated. Get the family member that she suddenly prefers over you (or any family member that can hold her), to take her out of her cage and hold her out for you to take. Approach it just like you normally would. Try not to be afraid of her because she will sense that. If it works, reward her immediately. Cuddle with her, play with her, give her lots of treats and love for as long as she’ll have it. You want good memories to replace whatever caused the bad one. When you finally put her back into her cage, make sure you’re both in a good place mentally. You should never put her back into her cage after something bad.
  3. If she won’t come to you at all and continues wanting nothing to do with you after a few days, you need to start building up trust with her again like you would a brand new bird. Ask the family member that she prefers (if there is one) to ignore her during this process (or at least to give her less attention and to not give her any treats – you need her to associate you with those treats). Every time you walk by her cage, give her a treat. Try to encourage her to take it from your hand. Since she has a history with you, she will probably take treats this way but if she doesn’t, put them in her food bowl and work your way up to handing her a treat. If she will take the treat from hand, then continue this habit for a few days. After she’s learned the routine, encourage her to step up onto your finger for the treat. Again, because you have a history together, she’ll obviously know what stepping up is. If you’re afraid of being bitten, use gloves. Once she steps up, give her the treat. Go slow with this part of the process. You need her to learn to trust you again. Imagine it like a bank account: you’ll have to provide plenty of deposits to make up for any withdrawals. Every time she gets spooked or uncomfortable, she makes a withdrawals. Every tiny, good interaction that you have with her diminishes the chance of a withdrawal. Small deposits are better than nothing!
  4. If you have other birds, animals, or kids try to keep them out of the room while you work with her. You don’t want any distractions, anything to make her nervous, or anything to detract from you. Once she’s stepping up reliably, try to introduce your old routine slowly. If you used to let her sit on you shoulder while you read or watched TV, then do that for about five minutes. Give her treats before and after the actions. Make sure it’s a positive experience. If she starts to get negative in any way (frightened or aggressive), then calmly set her down (or go to her if she’s flown away) and offer your finger. Do not reward her with a treat until she’s stepped up for you. Do not try to console her. Do not give her a treat as any kind of “reassurance” because this will further cement her fear/aggression to you. She needs to step up before she gets the treat, that she knows that stepping is what gets her the treat, not flying away or biting.
  5. If you have a bad time, get her to point where she’ll step up again (since you have history this shouldn’t be a big deal at this stage but just in case it is, you might want to consider following the Type A plan). When she steps up, reward her and then return her to her cage. Try again tomorrow. It’s important to remember that you must remain calm. Move slowly. You’re trying to rebuild trust. Say your intentions aloud so she knows what to expect (for example: “step up” or any other commands she may know). Continue this routine, increasing the time that you have her out slowly. It might take a week, a month, or years to get her back to normal. She may never go back to the “normal” that you remember. She may never prefer you over your family member. But at least you’ll be able to hold her again. And with every deposit, she’ll grow to love you more and more. Eventually, her preference for her special person may change back to you. You have to give it time and patience. And treats. Lot of treats. 😉
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How to make a bird love you (part 2)

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When I had the idea for this article, I really didn’t expect to be so long winded. I apologize for having to break this topic down into subsets. Regaining trust from your feathered companions can be tricky, though, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t rush anything or skip essential information. So, without further adieu:

Type B:

  1. Aggressive birds can be more difficult to work with because, obviously, they’re not afraid to bite… and parrot bites hurt! For the sake of safety, never question your gut. If you’ve got a bad feeling, leave him alone. There may be better times to work with him, or times when he’s more agreeable. Try to learn his routine and his habits, it’ll help! Signs of aggression in birds: If the feathers on his neck are fluffed up, if his eyes are pining/dilating, if his beak is open, if he’s growling/barking, or if his tail feathers are spread.
  2. For those who just got the bird, skim through the steps I’ve outline for Type A parrots and see if there’s anything you can apply. Sometimes, patience and familiarity can go a long way. Let your bird settle in for a good amount of time and get used to the household routine before you try to work with him. After he’s settled in, try dropping a treat into your bird’s food bowl every time you walk past his cage). Eventually, he will look forward to seeing you. You become the sign that he gets a treat. You’re something positive that he looks forward to. Do not give him a treat if he displays signs of aggression, however. Do what you must to not get that reaction from him, even if it means slipping the treat through the food bars.
  3. After a while, he might see you and start to approach the bars, waiting for his treat. Again, watch for signs of aggression and if he displays any, then don’t reward him. If it looks like he just wants the treat, however, try to open his cage door and hand feed the reward. Do not put yourself in danger. Move slowly so he’s not frightened, and try to hold on to the smallest part of the treat so he has plenty of room to grab it without nabbing your fingers in the process. If you’re using sunflower seeds, for example, this can be tricky (and sunflower seeds can be dangerous for your bird). But a longer stem of millet would make the process easy. Alternately, you can put something he enjoys (that you’ve gotten him acquainted with) onto a spoon and delicately approach him that way. Most of my birds enjoy organic almond butter. It’s like crack to them and it’s not as potentially harmful as peanut butter. I would get a little bit on my spoon and use that.
  4. Gradually you can work your hand closer and closer. For millet, try shorter stems so your finger is within their range (it’s daunting, I know, but the goal is to get them comfortable with your fingers). For almond butter, hold the spoon closer and closer to the actual spoon part. Eventually, you can even try putting a dab of almond butter on your finger and forgo the spoon entirely. If you get bit at any time, do not blame the bird. He’s only defending himself from a perceived threat. It’s not his fault. You can exclaim loudly (like another bird might do) and then remove the reward altogether to teach him that by biting, the treat is removed. Take it back a few steps and try to work up your trust with him again slowly.
  5. When your bird is taking treats from your hand, you can try holding out your finger with your other hand holding the treat just beyond the finger. This way, the bird has to cross your finger to get the treat. Again, it’s imperative to watch for signs of aggression. If he looks intimidating, you can  move your hands (as a pair) further away (so he has to walk to you and is less threatened by you approaching him), or you can try again later. With any success, he’ll reach over your finger to get the treat, or he’ll actually step onto or across your finger for the treat. Do this several times over a period of days to get him comfortable with the presence of that finger.
  6. Finally, things are going well. He’s reaching or stepping across to get his reward. He’s ignoring your finger as a threat and has learned that hands can be good things because they bring good food. When you reach this step, coax him onto your finger. You can hold your finger close to him and the treat just out reach. Do not attempt to force him because this could make him lose trust in you. Wait for him to move onto your finger. Keep in mind that birds use their beaks as a way to steady themselves. It might be unsettling if he reaches for you with his beak, but if he isn’t showing any sign of aggression, he’s probably just going to grip your finger as a way to steady himself. Be patient.Be forgiving. Try not to be afraid. If he makes a few attempts to get your finger but never causes pain, consider it a good day and give him the reward. You might have to stretch this out over a few days before he actually climbs aboard, but that’s okay. He’s making progress!
  7. When he does climb onto your finger, reward him immediately. You might even give him lots of treats for this. He’ll realize he’s hit the jackpot when he steps up and treat your finger like the ultimate food button. It can help some birds to learn a known command, so that they know what to expect. It can be anything you like, but commonly, people will say “Step up.” With enough practice, the bird will come to know that “step up” means to step onto your finger. He’ll know exactly what you expect him do and that will lessen his fear of the unknown (because it won’t be so unknown). The first few times he steps up successfully, let him step off immediately. Practice this with him a few times everyday. Eventually, you can move your hand (with him on it) farther from his perch. Don’t take him out of his cage until he seems to feel comfortable on you and even when he’s comfortable, don’t keep him out for long. Remember, this needs to be a “baby steps” process so he can build up trust.
  8. Some additional notes: hold him below eye level. I don’t really believe in “establishing dominance” with a bird… however, if he’s sitting higher than you he might perceive himself to be the one in charge and that makes him feel like he has the right to bite you. Learn his body language. If he leans away from you at any time, obey his wishes and leave him alone. This is good because it builds trust (he learns that he has the right to not be held when he doesn’t want to) and it also tells him he can object to being held without resorting to aggression.

Alternatively:

  1. Some birds may not adjust quickly. It might take years of working with them. They may have suffered severe abuse, or perhaps they’re just stubborn. Don’t lose hope. Keep trying. If you don’t feel safe to use your hands, try training them with gloves on. Don’t frighten the bird. As usual, go slow and get them accustomed to the gloves. You can be confident with the gloves on and the bird is going to pick up on that confidence. The pair that I use are these: from Amazon. I can feel a really hard bite but none of my birds have ever broken the skin with these on.
  2. Clicker training can be a great tool for aggressive birds.
  3. Target training can also be great. I don’t use clicker or target training because I’m not afraid of bites (most of my birds are small, though, I might change my mind if I ever find myself working with a macaw!), but I’ve heard the testimonies from people who use these and they swear by each training method.

How to make a bird love you (part 1)

Full disclaimer: this method may not work for every bird because every parrot is different. Some might require more patience than others and some may simply never adjust. In my experience, however, as long as you have the patience to keep working with them, most of our feathery friends will come around. They may not want to be cuddly or affectionate with you, but they’ll at least tolerate you holding them and enjoy your presence.

First things first: ask yourself what kind of relationship you currently have with your bird.

  1. Is he frightened of people like a wild bird would be? He wasn’t hand-raised or hasn’t been socialized with people? Many pet store birds are like this. I’m going to call this Type A.
  2. Is she a rescue and you have no idea what kind of conditions she was subjected to? She’s aggressive and fearful of humans but instead of running away, she tries to tell you to leave her alone by biting, screaming, or fluffing up in a threatening manner. I’m going to label this Type B.
  3. Have you had him for a while but he suddenly doesn’t seem interested in you anymore? He tries to bite or get away from you, yet adores someone else in your household and lets them do everything you can’t? This is going to be Type C.

If you’re not sure which description fits your particular problem, try the method you think is best. If that method fails, try another one. If you’re still having trouble, please feel free to message me on any platform – Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Keep in mind, I’m not a vet. I can only give you guidance based on my personal experiences.

Type A:

  1. Since your parrot is not accustomed to people, you need to build up some trust by leaving him alone. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But you’ve just brought the little guy home and he’s already experienced a world of change. Give him time to settle in. My suggestion would be to wait a week at least. Just let him watch the household and get comfortable within the safety of his cage.
  2. Now you can start moving closer. Get a chair and put it closer to his cage. Slow movements are best here. Don’t do anything aggressively. Your objective is to respect his fear and satisfy his curiosity. He’s going to watch you and try to assess whether you’re a threat. Slow movements let him keep his eye on you better and are less likely to cause a “flight” response. Then, turn on the TV or read a book. Just sit there, close to him. You only need to do this for maybe an hour per day. Enough for him to start thinking “that monster isn’t trying to eat me.” Do this everyday for as long as it takes him to start looking around and getting comfortable with your presence. He should be preening, singing, or at least looking at things other than you. He should seem relaxed when you’re nearby before you move onto the next step.
  3. Buy some treats for your little friend. Healthy foods like fruits or vegetables are best, but if he won’t eat those, then get him some seeds (millet work great; you can cut a stalk into tinier pieces to serve as individual servings).Every time you walk by his cage, talk to him. Then open the door and drop a treat into his food bowl. Eventually, he will look forward to seeing you. You’ve become the sign that he gets a treat. You’re something positive that he looks forward to. There’s no clear sign to determine when you can move on, so I’ll throw out an arbitrary “do this for a week” because the next step will determine whether he’s ready to move on or needs to be given more time.
  4. He looks forward to seeing you, but you’re still scary. So brace yourself because this one might take some time. When you walk by his cage from now on, instead of dropping the treat into his bowl, hold it in your fingers. Make him to come to you. Some birds will be braver than others and come over right away. Others need coaxing. Start slowly. If he approaches you even by a few tiny steps, say sweet things and drop the treat into his bowl. Every day, require him to come just a little closer. Don’t give him the treat until he comes toward you. If he never approaches you, go back to step 3 and try step 4 again later.
  5. Eventually, he’s going to be taking treats from your hand. From here, you can hold one finger out with the treat in the other hand and make him step onto your finger to get the treat. It takes patience but he’ll get there eventually. Just keep bribing him. When he finally steps onto your finger to get the treat, give him the treat without moving your “perch finger” and let him step off on his own. Do not move him from the cage yet. Let him practice a few more times, getting treats along the way. He learns to be comfortable with stepping onto your finger. Eventually you can move a little and if he seems okay, take him out.

Treating Crypto in reptiles

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Disclaimer:

I’m undecided about whether I should publish this post. I believe in providing as much information about the treatment of our scaley friends as possible… but it seems like this info could be harmful. Therefore, I urge you to always consult your vet first. I will not say this works. In fact, it did not save my snake’s life. After visiting the vet myself and having many tests performed and forcing a ridiculous amount of medications onto my snake, I felt this was my last and only option… So I’m posting it online with the hope that maybe, maybe, it can save one life.

Please do not let this deter you from taking your reptile to the vet.

There can be many things that cause similar symptoms to arise in your pet and some of them can easily be treated by a professional (at little expense). Please let this be your last option, reserved only for when you’ve exhausted every other possibility.

About Crypto:

I will be using the term “crypto” as a shorthand of the infection Cryptosporidiosis. For more detailed information about this infection, please visit these links: RichmondVets and Arizona Exotic.

Crypto is dreaded among reptile enthusiasts because of it’s ability to wipe out entire collections. It is usually transferred through fecal matter and anything that comes into contact with an infected area (to include water and food bowls, hides, or other decor). The infection is difficult to detect through regular fecal tests because the crypto organism sheds only intermittently. Because of this, any new animals should always be quarantined immediately and strict hygenic processes should always practiced when caring for your reptiles.

Symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite or interest in food
  • Weight loss
  • Regurgitation (often looks like it’s covered in mucus)
  • Change in stool (it has been described as similar in appearance to cottage cheese)
  • Lethargy
  • A firm bulge or swelling in the middle of the body

The cure:

My label “the cure” is misleading. There is no cure. Many vets will resort to euthanasia to prevent loss of quality of life. But please, take your pet the vet anyway. Follow their advice. They are the experts. They can rightfully diagnose crypto in your pet. If you have other pets, you need to consider their safety as well. Quarantine your sickly animal as soon as humanly possible or you may infect the others and risk losing your entire collection.

If you’re like me, and can’t bear to part with your pet, then follow these steps only after you have discussed them with your vet.

  • Separate the reptile from the rest (which you should have already done but I’m going to reiterate my point). Put the infected animal in another room.
  • Clean the entire tank with bleach. Do not redecorate. Throw away fake plants or unnecessary decor. Do not use it for other animals. If you can’t bear to part with it, bleach those items and leave them outside in the sunlight for a few months. You have to wait for the parasite/oocysts (eggs) to die off, which can take quite a while.
  • Lay down paper towels so that the tank will be easier to change and clean. This is going to need to be as close to hospital sterile as we can get it.
  • Soak you reptile in a pedialyte (or Gatorade at the very least) solution (I used 1/3 pedialyte and 2/3 water) to allow for rehydration. You’ll probably need to start doing this daily, depending on the severity of the infection.
  • Buy what is called “hyperimmune bovine colostrum” (I purchased mine from Synertek, but that was a few years ago).
  • Quoted from the study that I supplied below as a source: you can treat the reptile with “six gastric [hyperimmune bovine colostrum] treatments of 1% snake weight at 1-week intervals each.”
  • There is a little more research available than I had years back, but what I did was this: I filled a syringe (a small one like these) with the required 1% of body weight, attached a rubber tube (aquarium tubing works well), carefully pried open the snake’s mouth (by pressing on either side of the jaw), inserted the tube to just past the snake’s neck (this is a good pic for reference; I aimed for the spot just past the person’s hand), and slowly empty the contents of the syringe. Once empty, hold the reptile’s mouth closed for a minute to prevent regurgitation.
  • Put the snake back into it’s cage on a heat source so he can digest the colostrum.

Even if your reptile shows signs of improvement, you can never reintroduce the reptile to other companions. You will always have to keep him separated from the rest. This may suppress and manage the crypto parasite, but he will always carry it.

Source:
Therapeutic efficacy of hyperimmune bovine colostrum treatment against clinical and subclinical Cryptosporidium serpentis infections in captive snakes

Treating scale rot, shell rot, or tail rot

Commonly, rot of any kind in myriad reptile species is caused by poor husbandry conditions and the stress that stems from it. Dirty water, dirty cage, poor heating, bad food, etc. The best way to treat scale rot, shell rot, tail rot, or mouth rot is to avoid it altogether.

Obviously, you wouldn’t be reading this article unless that opportunity hadn’t already passed, though.

The good news is that rot, if caught early enough, can be fixed with relative ease. By “ease,” I mean: without a trip to the vet. Now, that’s not to say a vet trip couldn’t be recommended. When in doubt, I would always suggest having the experts take a look at your beloved pet. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

Assuming that you feel the rot hasn’t reached the point of necessitating a vet appointment yet, let’s proceed:

Signs of rot –

  • Dark coloration on scales (similar in some ways to a bruise)
  • Blisters or sores
  • Abscesses or lesions
  • Dead tissue, loose scutes, or visible infections

Example of rot –

Steps to treat scale, shell, or tail rot –

  1. Remove any excess skin, scales, or scutes that you can easily remove. Do not pry or force. For turtles, take a soft bristle brush (a toothbrush works well) and clean the infected areas with soap and water. Rinse when done.
  2. Soak the animal in a Betadine and water solution for approximately 30 minutes. When mixing your Betadine, pour  just enough into the water to make the solution look like weak tea. Keep your animal from swallowing the solution. Try, also, to keep their head above water as the Betadine may cause irritation of the eyes or soft tissue in the mouth or nostrils.
  3. After 30 minutes, remove and dry the animal with a clean towel or clean paper towels. Apply dabs of Neosporin to any infected area. (Note: do not use the Neosporin that offers “pain relief” as this is bad for your reptile; the plain Neosporin is best.)
  4. Set up a quarantined, sanitary box for your pet with paper towels for bedding and new, clean bowels for water and food. This will be his hospital room for as long as the infection persists. Clean daily to avoid re-infection. Keep the environment dry (the infection thrives in moisture).
    1. If you have an aquatic animal, give them a few hours to dry out before reintroducing them to a thoroughly cleaned tank.
  5. Repeat steps daily for one week and every other day for as long as two weeks. If you see no improvement after a month, my suggestion would be to take the animal to the vet.

Mouth rot –

  1. Unless you have extensive experience with reptiles, I would not advise treating mouth rot yourself. This can potentially injure the animal, make the rot worse, or get you bit!
  2. If you’re insistent on doing it yourself, pour yourself a small solution of Betadine and water (“weak tea” colored) and, using a Q-tip, carefully clean the infected area daily.
  3. If you’re savvy enough, you may consider giving an injection of Baytril to clear up the infection. Again, this is not advised. You can mortally wound your pet if it’s done incorrectly.