#7 On Top of the World

One thing I’ve learned from having Echo is that he is a shoulder and forearm bird. If anyone picks him up, especially me or Roomie, he’ll stay on our finger or hand for a few minutes but will eventually move to one of those places. I’ve been able to get him on heads a few times but it’s become really rare nowadays.

The first time I got him on anyone’s head, it was on mine. He was still really young. Roomie and I were picking him up, passing him between us, building bonds with him. He jumped down onto the back of the couch we were sitting on and decided to climb up the back of my head. I helped him up because he was still practicing with climbing, and then he just sat up there for a few minutes.

Now, I’ve had birds on my head before, thanks to my childhood parakeet, but the ‘keet was small and barely noticeable. Echo had a lot more heft to him than I was used to so when he climbed up there, I could definitely tell he was there. It felt like my neck was springloaded and Echo was pushing down just by sitting on my head. It was fun to have him there though, and it was an interesting sight.

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This whole event lasted for maybe 5 minutes. Unfortunately for the bird, there’s not a lot to do on top of someone’s head other than chew hair. He climbed (read: slid) back down and we kept playing with him after. We both love having him on us, but anytime he decides to go up there again, it’s a rare treat.  blog-feather-small

#6 Dog Crate Don’t

Early on, I bought Echo a carrier so that I could take him to vet appointments and such. I realized though that if I was to take him to my parents’ house, he would need a home base to sit in and perch on. Regular cages that would fit his size were too expensive at the time, so I decided to improvise.

I went to PetSmart not long after this decision and had a brilliant idea to look at some portable dog crates. You know, something not too big that he can get through but small enough to carry him in it. I picked up one of the small dog crates, one meant for those toy type dogs that aren’t more than 15 lbs, and stored it in the trunk of my car.

The real test came later. Mom and Dad wanted to see the bird, so I packed him in the carrier and headed to their house. When I got there, I left him in the carrier while I grabbed the dog crate out of the trunk and set it up. I put some newspaper in the bottom so it wouldn’t get dirty and hung a towel over the back for a little bit of protection for him. With a little coaxing I got him inside and let him explore.

Not long after I put him in there, I hear my dad call to me, “He’s trying to escape.” I looked at him and sure enough, Echo was sticking his head through the crate’s bars. He was spinning his head around trying to see if he could squeeze out, thankfully to no avail. I gently poked at him to see if he would retreat, which he did, but it didn’t last. He kept at it the entire time he was in there. At certain points, he had his head all the way out to the base of his neck. I put the towel further up to try to stop the behavior but it didn’t work either. I quickly determined that this crate wasn’t going to work and I needed a proper travel cage for him.

(For a video of this behavior, click here.)

With some monetary assistance, I was able to purchase a nice travel cage for him of decent size and sturdy bar weight. My folks let me leave it at their house, since that’s where I seemed to need it the most. Thankfully, Echo likes it too now that it’s decorated with toys. As for the dog crate, I cleaned it out and donated it to the local humane society. Definitely a lesson learned. Sometimes it’s worth it to re-purpose items meant for other animals, but not when it’s meant for containing a rambunctious parrot.  blog-feather-small

 

#5 Training

Before I got Echo, I saw a lot of sources online and otherwise saying that training, especially clicker training, is really good for building a bond. I decided to do that with my future bird, and when I got Echo, I let him adjust to his new home before trying much.

I started training with Echo about a week after we brought him home. Since he was still so young, it seemed like a fairly easy transition for him. I decided to give him sunflower seeds as treats only, to make him want them more. He was reluctant to try them from my hand, so I put some in his food bowl to let him know to try it. That tactic worked and he started wanting the seeds more and more. I picked up a cheap clicker from a local pet store one night and started training with him.

Clicker training is super easy. To train a bird, or any animal, to respond to a clicker, all you have to do is click and then give them a treat. Click, treat, click treat. Repeat until the bird starts looking for the treat after you click.

Since I didn’t have an easy place to put him for training yet, I set him on the floor near me. I clicked and handed him a sunflower seed. Click, seed. Within 10 minutes repeating this process, he was clicker trained. Of all the training I’ve done with him so far, this was by far the easiest training to complete. It’s so worth it because it provides rewarding for future training and it makes him look forward to getting treats. I just can’t give him too many since they’re not as healthy for him… much to his chagrin.  blog-feather-small

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Post- clicker training mess. Vacuums are a must.

#4 Vet Me

I mentioned in post #2 that the breeder suggested to take Echo to the vet for a preliminary checkup. I picked a clinic that looked like it had the most avian experience at the time and scheduled an appointment for that coming Saturday.

Between the time I picked the bird up to the day of the appointment, I picked up a cat carrier and put it together for Echo. It was unfortunately pink, which is not a color I generally like, but it was the only one available at the time. I put newspaper in the bottom to protect against the inevitable poop too. With this, I could return the carrier I borrowed to our coworker.

When the time came to go to the appointment, I was a bit nervous about getting Echo into the carrier. I was able to pick him up with relative ease, but he fought a little bit when I put him in. I did succeed in getting him in it though, and we headed to the appointment. When we got there, I got him checked in and they led us to a double door room. Took a little info and then the fun came. I had to get him back out of the carrier.

The nurse couldn’t get him without being bit at, and the carrier was slightly broken in that one of the snap latches wouldn’t snap, so I had to screw it together. She tried to undo the top, only to be told that I had to put it together that way, so that was out. She then asked me to try, so I stuck my hand toward him. He startled and flapped out of the carrier, running around the floor for a second until he was cornered. I reached my hand to him and he stepped up to the person he knew. The nurse commented on it, saying, “Well, it’s a good thing he trusts you.” That made me happy.

The nurse pulled a scale out and set it on the floor, putting a triangular perch on top. She zeroed it out and I put Echo on the perch for a weight. Then the nurse and the vet grabbed towels and gently grabbed Echo in the towel before he could react. He squawked of course, because he wasn’t used to being bird-handled like that, but he wasn’t biting thankfully. The nurse and the vet did the exam as quickly as possible. Other than a slight defect in his toe that I noticed from the start, he was perfectly healthy.

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It’s a horrible picture detailing the mess he’s created on top of his cage in 3 days, but if you look at his foot, that back toe has a bend in it. It doesn’t seem to bother or hurt him, so there’s no need to try to fix it. That said, I’m happy that I got a healthy bird and I’m happy that he is staying that way.   blog-feather-small

#3 The First Outing

I explained a tiny bit about the first time Echo was out of his new cage, but let me explain a bit more.

We had left Echo in his new cage for about 3 days to acclimate to being with us. The first couple tries that we opened the cage door, he couldn’t quite figure out how to maneuver around the doorway and stayed in. We left him to climb out on his own but he wasn’t that great a climber yet. It was a work in progress.

The night he figured it out, Roomie and I had ordered food for delivery. We figured we’d open the door to the cage and let him practice again, but we didn’t expect he’d figure it out right then. His cage door has a shut-swing-latch mechanism, so once it’s closed, you rotate the lever to lock it. He learned that the other part of the latch was on the side of the door opening and used that to grab onto and swing out.

We immediately grabbed our phone cameras and started taking pictures. I even took a video of him to document the moment. We were congratulating him, encouraging him to keep climbing, when he spun upside down and looked out at us. It startled Roomie because she still wasn’t quite comfortable yet. He started climbing up again right as our door buzzed for our food. I caught this part on video and I remember saying, “Oh perfect.” He stayed put as we got our food, thankfully. Not long after, he climbed back around and into the cage again.

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We closed the door after that; we had enough excitement for one night. This event was the start of him getting used to us. We opened the cage each day after that, let him practice climbing more, and a couple days later he let us pick him up without issue. It worked out too, because I had to still take him to the vet for a general look-over, per the breeder. More on that soon….   blog-feather-small

#2 Happy Bird Day

Here’s a little something about me: I love birds. I’ve loved them from an early age, and it’s all thanks to my childhood budgie, Blue. My parents got him from a breeder in PA when I was 5. He was an English budgie, which is the biggest variety of budgie, which are slightly larger than parakeets. Since I grew up with him, I learned how birds behave and how to behave around them. Blue became my buddy, for sure, and for 11 & 1/2 years, we were best buds.

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After he passed, I made it my goal that, when I became an adult and was living on my own, I would get my own bird. In 2015, it finally happened. I was living in an apartment with my new roommate, a coworker I knew since 2012. I told her my goal and though she was nervous since she hadn’t been around birds before, she was open to the idea.

I started looking for budgie breeders, since that was what I knew, but unfortunately there were no breeders in my area. Unlike PA, Wisconsin didn’t have many bird breeders and even less had budgies for sale. I started resigning myself to pet shop birds, but I wasn’t keen on it just because with pet shop birds, you don’t know how they’ve been raised, whether they have standing health issues or otherwise.

I was still looking around when my roommate mentioned a recommendation from another coworker of ours. She told us of a place 1 & 1/2 hours from us that breeds parrots and lets you play with the babies. Roomie and I decided to go there on a lark one weekend in October to play with the birds. We arrived in the afternoon and excitedly went into the store.

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The woman who greeted us asked us how we were, all that, and asked what we were there for. We said we wanted to look at the babies, so she brought us to the back and asked us to wash our hands. She apologized and said that they only had 2 baby Maxies for sale, about 2 months old. They had a baby blue and gold macaw that was claimed, a somewhat antisocial Amazon, and their store mascot, a scarlet macaw named Walter. I sat down and she pulled out a baby Maxi and set it on my hand. The baby was super cute but wasn’t that interested in either of us in the end. After sitting on my hand for about 5 minutes and then a super brief stint on a nervous Roomie’s hand, Baby went onto a stand perch and played with the toys. The favorite was a purple dice attached by a chain.

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The woman was standing by and watching the exchange. When we learned of the baby macaw, she put the Maxi away and brought it out. The macaw sat on my forearm calmly, making little macaw chatter now and then. Roomie didn’t touch that one, she was too nervous at the time.

The woman brought the Maxi back out for a few and asked what we thought of it. She mentioned that of the 2 Maxies they currently had, the one she brought was the nicer one. The other Maxi apparently was more antisocial, aggressive and meaner overall, so she recommended the one we were playing with. I hadn’t planned on getting a parrot that size, let alone that day, but after some deliberation with the roomie, I decided to get the baby. The woman mentioned that Baby was still on formula and being weaned, so it would take a month or two to get it fully ready to take home. She recommended visiting as much as possible so that Baby would be acquainted with us beforehand and make the transition easier. When we left that day, I had put a reserve payment on the baby, ordered a blood test to find out the gender, and bought a cage for it.

We started thinking about names and wrote them on a dry erase board as we thought of them. Contenders, in order of thought, were: Echo, Ivy (f), Kiwi, Jade (f), Quill/Quinn (m), Clover, Pascal, and Flynn. The one that stuck out most to me was Echo, Roomie liked Pascal. Due to my connection with meteorology, I noticed a trend and put both names together: Echo Pascal. (In meteorology, a pascal and hecto-pascal are units of barometric pressure. One hecto-pascal is 100 pascal.)

The next time we went to visit was mid November. We drove the 1 & 1/2 hours again and told the woman there that we were visiting our baby. This new woman was a little hard-edged, it seemed to us. She pulled Baby out and left us alone with it, then heated some highly smelly food that permeated the store. We kept to ourselves and played with the baby, telling it Echo over and over to get it used to the name. Roomie held it again for a slightly longer time, and we got some nice pictures this time too. We played for about an hour until the woman basically kicked us out. She had to finish hand feeding the babies since they were still being weaned.

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The next time we visited was December 6th. The woman from last time was still there but she was a little more personable this time. We told her we were visiting the baby and she pulled it out for us again. We snapped some more pictures, and Roomie held baby Echo again a little bit more. When we started to leave, the woman told us, “You know this one is good to go home, right?” We were stunned, we had no idea. No one called us about it or anything. Thankfully, I had borrowed a carrier from our coworker that had recommended the place, and I had it in the trunk. I grabbed it, we warmed it up, and the woman put Echo in it. I finished payment for Echo and picked up the food they weaned their birds on, Roudybush pellets. She told us to take Echo to a vet within the first week for an initial checkup to make sure everything was ok, kind of like a verification for me that the bird was healthy. With bird in tow, we drove home.

Since we still didn’t know the gender, we started defaulting to calling him “he,” just so he wasn’t an “it.” I called them a few days later and asked about the blood test for the gender but the woman who answered didn’t find any record of my ordering it. Since I hadn’t paid for it either apparently, they asked me to come in with him so they could do it. I decided to pass and looked into different options. (It wasn’t until May when we found out that he is in fact male.)

Echo went into the new cage fairly easily and for the first couple days, we left him inside to let him adjust to his surroundings. He was still getting used to the cage when we opened the door for the first time. It took him a couple tries of opening and closing the door before he figured out how to climb out and up. And that, friends, is history. ❤   blog-feather-small

#1 Base Post

Hello there.

If you’re reading this, welcome to the blog. I decided to make this for a couple reasons. First, I love my bird and I can’t get enough of sharing him and his antics. Second, I needed a good place to archive some of the cute stories that have happened with him so far. Third, I overheard a coworker, who I don’t know much about, telling a story about her adventures with a cockatoo she rescued in China. I heard her stories and decided that I wanted to do a similar thing with my bird. I may not be in an exotic country or anything, but he’s still entertaining and I want to share.

Enjoy the blog, and I hope you get as much joy from him as I do. 🙂   blog-feather-small20160218_212403-1