Creative Solutions for Parrot Emergencies.

Students who have parrots must be prepared for the fact that sometimes, you may be called away from the house without time to prepare.

My school term has officially begun, and just one week in, it already promises to be mad. Although so far I have classes once a week (all of them in one day), I also have lessons, quartet, and orchestra to throw into the mix, as well as – apparently – two electives and two music history topics. The uni has a bad habit of tossing out spontaneous ‘be there, [insert activity here] is in the morning’ emails. This means that every now and then, I’m taken from the house for long periods of time. Sometimes I don’t have much time to plan, either.

Enter the birdie kebab. A few weeks ago, we bought an avian-safe skewer online… and thankfully, it turns out that chewing food into tiny pieces is FUN. We nearly always have some kind of veg lying about, and so, in an attempt to prevent birdie-boredom while I was out, I decided to spice things up by offering a variety of what we had in the house.

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Ptak got the skewer with slices of carrot, apple, kale, and broccoli, while the canaries and Mishka got big bowls full of the same, only chunkier. I’m definitely getting more skewers (which are blunt-ended and have a screw, so they’re perfectly suited to small pets). Mine turned out to be a big hit.

Some other quick-improvisation birds toys for the day included strips of paper (things I wanted to shred anyway, ha) bamboo rods for climbing on and chewing, and, in Ptak’s cage, handfuls of paper shreds from a machine.

I covered the seed and vegetables in his food bowl with pre-shredded paper, wove the larger strips of paper through the cage bars, and dropped a few paper-wrapped millet pieces on his floor. Before we left the house, I decided to do all the cage paper swaps and fresh water changes – this way, the birds could follow the natural schedule and sleep with the sun. Keep in mind that in Scotland, a ‘natural’ sleep schedule isn’t really an option, since, in the dead of winter, days last from about 9:00 to 15:45; in the summer, the longest days are 04:30-23:00. I find it works best for our flock to stick to the ’12-hours-sleep-per-night’ rule. Sometimes, like today, this just isn’t an option.

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The little one was redecorating.

I left at 08:15 and got home at about 21:30. I couldn’t resist peeking in at the birds. They were all fast asleep and quite adorable. The veg was demolished. Ptak had absolutely stripped his skewer. He had obviously had fun ripping off big bites and flinging them across the room. The preferred game, though, was to drop chunks of his food into his water bowl. Clearly this produced a good splash. (Water got changed immediately the next morning.)

The others were a little more conventional with their food. Charlie ate a whole chunk of apple; Pip had been at the kale and broccoli; and Mishka, a little of everything. Everyone had a little piece of millet hidden in their bowls, too, and these were lying (eaten) on the cage floors.

The next day, I felt bad about having left my flock nearly all day without interaction. Despite having made that bit of time in the morning, I knew they needed extra attention – and so went about spoiling them. They got more mixed-veggie bowls, extra seed, and plenty of attention (if wanted). Mishka had a nap with me, which she ended by pecking me in the face – um, kind of nicely. Ptak had a bath in the palm of my hand, always a favourite, and then lots of cuddles. The canaries were pretty much out of their cages all day until bedtime.

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‘Spoiling’ the birds even involved meals served (kind of) from the human’s hands.

Mishka has been going through a particularly unstable phase, filled with screaming and biting and having violent mood swings. I still think she needs a cockatiel companion. At the pet shop the other day while buying food, we saw the CUTEST cinnamon mutation cockatiel. I named him Jack. I did not come home with him.

I REALLY wanted to.

He wasn’t tamed, although before his companion was taken from the cage, the owner said he had been progressing towards it. My heart nearly broke at the thought of another bird like MIshka. To think of an untamed bird going to a family who might not have the time/patience/energy/resources to win the trust of their new avian companion… He could be relinquished to a new home or rescue, if fortunate, or perhaps relegated to a lonely life in a cage.

I was briefly tempted to purchase the cockatiel for that reason alone. Mishka needs a companion, after all, although I have long promised myself that it will happen after graduation… and that it will be a rescue adoption.

But there are a dozen reasons why we don’t need a new flock member, finance primarily amongst them. I’m also not sure I have the heart to go through the taming process again. It’s been tough with Mishka, a bit saddening – yet also uplifting, when you realise the progress she’s made. O. and I love her, but whatever pet joins us in the future, it will be tamed. Or at least well on the way.

In the meantime, I have to resist running back and buying the cinnamon mutation cockatiel.

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