When my oldest son went off to grad school, he left his parakeet Ralph behind and asked me to take care of it. I said, “Sure.” Sounds simple enough. Feed and clean cage. Done. Except not.
Ralph has a bad habit. He likes to rip out his feathers. So his breast is naked. He looks like those body builders who shave their chests. And while this may not look bad on a body builder, it looks hideous on a parakeet.
So I Googled self-mutilation in parakeets. It turned out that it’s common. One day, a parakeet is grooming his feathers and decides, “Hey, I’ll pull one of these out.” For some reason, he thinks, “This is really cool. I’ll pull a bunch out.”
According to Google, stress, boredom, and habit are the main causes. Apparently, you can buy a cone to put around the bird’s neck so they can’t puck their feathers. (A bird version of the cone of shame dogs wear after surgery.) But that sounded really stressful—to me and the bird. So I went with other treatments—keep the bird entertained and help him relearn proper grooming habits. I bought him new cage toys. I rearranged his perches and toys, so he was stimulated. And I talked to him—“Hey, Ralph, how are you doing? Please stop ripping out your feathers—it makes you grossly unattractive.”
And twice a day, I mist Ralph with distilled water. It forces him to regroom his feathers. And he hates it. Consequently, he hates me. Now when I walk into the room he turns his back to me. Though he tracks me with one eye, always giving me the evil eye. He plays ring-the-bell with my other kids. But when I try to play, he flies to the other side of the cage and refuses to acknowledge my existence. (I’m a victim of bird shunning!)
Now when I approach the cage with the misting bottle, he glares at me. And I know he’s thinking, “Open the cage door, bird torturer, and I will gore you.” (I bought him a new beak stone and his beak is now razor sharp.)
On the other hand, he now has a single feather growing out of the middle of his chest. So score one for the evil bird torturer.
|This obviously isn't a photo of Ralph (who looks just like this, minus the feathers across the chest) because my computer, which has all the photo processing software, is again at tech repair because they sent it back without fixing it. GRRR. Thanks to Wikimedia for the parakeet photo.|
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