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Anyone here in Durango, CO?

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Hi, thanks for the welcome!


I have been a companion to parrots for 20 years now. I currently have one parrot at this time, a TAG named Bodhi, the light of my life, who has been with me since 2003; he was hatched in May 2003, so he is still young.


I planned on a quiet life with my bird, nothing special, maybe adding a wonderful human significant other to our flock if the right guy showed up (and he has in the last few months, yay!). But in 2008 I decided it was very important go public with some experiences I had in the military and now I'm a public person. I had no idea so many people would be interested in what I've experienced or what I have to say about it all. I have written a book now to make a definitive statement on this, and it's in the final stages of editing before publication. For the record, I would like to not go into the subject matter here on this forum, I just want this to be for me and my bird. It's nice to have a place to just be a regular person and nothing more as well.


All this has impacted the lives of myself and my beloved birdie. I love him dearly, he is like part of my heart... yet now there is another calling in my life that I can't ignore or walk away from. It's kind of a responsibility that I both need and want to accept, and a facet of our world I have unique insights into with a real passion to educate about them in a balanced way I don't see offered by others too much.


But how do I balance this part of me, which is really busy trying to keep up with finishing my book ASAP and all the email correspondence that has come into my life by so many people that now want my attention with who I am as a companion to Bodhi?


Bodhi is welcome to make just about any and all whistles, chirps, and sounds he desires and it's fine with me - but he has developed one particular SQUAWK that just freezes any concentration, totally shutting down my ability to focus on any of the work I MUST get done each day. Like chalk on a blackboard. I hurt inside knowing he needs something from me that I just can't give right now. I have tried sooo many things to work with him on this. I put him on my shoulder to work, write and edit, and he gets so antsy and jumpy I can't concentrate. I put him down and all his sounds start to escalate until he resorts to the terrible brain-numbing "SQUAWK". I have tried many toys - he will not play with toys, seems unable to entertain himself in any degree, unless there is an almond in the shell involved, and I just can't feed him almonds constantly. I have tried building a special perch with food and water dishes to keep him close by me while I work - he just seems to not be willing to tolerate my being at the computer or on the phone and knows the SQUAWK is the one thing that will get me. I try to include him in every activity I do where he can be present and we can interact, from food preparation and cooking to brushing my teeth and doing my morning mirror stuff. I make sure he gets cuddles and attention as much as possible, but nothing I do seems to satisfy him, nothing is enough and I must admit that out of sheer exhaustion from trying to cope with him AND get my work from home work done each day, I find myself really pulling away from him and his incessant demands. This is not helping, but my exhaustion level with his behaviors gets to the place that I sometimes just want to sit down and do absolutely nothing, and that includes interacting with Bodhi. I just get into a "everything and everyone just leave me alone" place, so I can recharge my batteries a little. Then I feel terribly guilty about not giving to him at such times.


I have clients I need to work with by phone and Skype from home, and I hate having to isolate Bodhi in the bathroom on his shower perch - the one place he will give me some quiet time - while I do computer or client work just to get enough peace to focus on what needs to be done. I have to work from home, it's MY workplace! I can't afford to rent an office.


I have thought of fostering Bodhi someplace until I have the book done and published, then trying him back at home with me again. But it's entirely possible that this new life I feel I need to live is not compatible with having my bird any more. He is a wonderful, loving bird in so many ways, great personality, great socializing - good with so many people, friendly, not a biter at all. I am really concerned that life with me at this point is going to ruin the wonderful personality of this incredible bird. I tried to give him up for a few months, but it felt like part of me was missing, so he came back home. We were both overjoyed to be back together. My boyfriend loves critters and is wonderful with Bodhi also, but also sees what I'm going through with the SQUAWK thing and as much as we have tried to ignore it - not reinforce it with any attention at all, it's impossible to relax or watch a movie or have a phone conversation when the SQUAWK is happening - you have to do something with him to make him stop. If we try to have him sit with us, he will tolerate it for a short time then get restless and antsy and then we have to put him down, then comes the SQUAWK again.


So trying to figure out what to do is very very difficult. Do I love him enough to give him up to another loving home where he can get more of what he needs, maybe including the companionship of other birds? That would only be possible if I KNEW he was going to a good and loving forever home where he could bond wonderfully with the new people. The idea of not having him with me any more is terrible too, the only thing that would make it tolerable is knowing he was in a wonderful place. I don't want my new lifestyle to destroy his loving personality because I have to be busy with other work. I don't want to start him on a cycle of being rehomed several times over - as much as one tries to find that "forever home" for one's bird, you always wonder how it's working out or if it will.


I also have public appearances I need to do... which means travel and birdsitters, and I'm fussy about who I leave him with. My one good birdsitter is not available any more. I want him to have good care, not be exposed to teflon or cat or dog predators that might hurt him.


As much as it hurts my heart, and likely Bodhi's too, I am really questioning whether I should try to find him that wonderful home to go to and the possible impact and repercussions that could have on his life, or whether there is some way to try and condition out the SQUAWK acting out somehow and get us to find a comfortable level of compatibility with my current life now where we can stay together. That would be my first choice. But with the need to get the book out ASAP, there is just not the time or energy to work with this acting out behavior at this time.


If we stay together, I need about 3 good bird sitters in my area. Possibly a foster home where he can go until the book is done - and with focused work that would mean 2 or 3 months. However, I have no idea how much in demand I'll be once the book is done - I have a feeling it could be a lot. It is not going to be possible to take him with me for much of this travel... so I'm back to wondering if a new home - the best I can find for him - is the right thing to do.


Any thoughts or feedback would be welcome. It's at least a relief to share this here with people who understand the bond between a bird and their human companion.



I'd like to post a picture of Bodhi, but it just asks for a url, and I don't have that option. I'll try to figure out a way.

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Unfortunately once a parrot picks up squawking/screaming/screeching it can be a hard habit to break. You can compare that screech to a chirp, whistle, beep,a word. It's in their vocabulary. A bird doesn't know the difference between a sreech or chirp. It's one of many sounds that they can make. Think about this---if your bird chirped incessantly, do you think that there's things that you can do to stop it? They need a routine and a lot of stimulation throughout the day or they get stressed or bored. In either case they may start screaming or screeching for your attention. It could be one screech or many. In your situation, it's one. They usually find that it's very effective because it's nearly impossible for their human owners to ignore. Even if you respond by yelling at him you're giving him attention and they're getting what they want. Essentially your bird is training you. Whenever it yells at you you respond and entertain it with food, soft talking, giving treats, which encourages it to continue to scream more frequently and often louder.


A very effective way to stop the screech or scream or squawk is to deny them the reward they're waiting for. Even though it's ear piercing at times you have to ignore them whenever they scream. In your situation it may not be easy to do. Only you know your situation. Wait for him to stop and start counting. If you can get to about a minute you can go and calmly talk to them. If they start screaming again walk out of the room and ignore them until they stop. Parrots, especially African Greys, are very smart. Eventually they will realize that being quite is a more effective way to get you to come talk to them than screaming. Again, because I don't know your situation, only you can decide if this can be accomplished. Concerning what I just said, none of it applies to birds who naturally make these sounds--cockatoos, macaws and some others.


Another technique if you can't stand the noise is to use a blanket. This is far from a "stupid" idea and can be very effective if done correctly. Most birds hate blankets being placed over their cage. If your Grey starts screaming clearly say "No!" loudly one time. Wait about ten seconds and if he continues to scream place a blanket over they're cage. Walk away and ignore them for a two or three minutes and then return and remove the blanket. The ten seconds is important because your parrot can learn that if they stop screaming in the ten seconds after you've said "No" they can avoid the blanket. If you keep to this pattern a bird can actually learn very quickly that if you say "No" they need to be quiet. You can also apply it to excessive talking if it bothers you.


It may also help to teach your parrot a routine. All parrots love routines. If they know what to expect they're much more relaxed and often quieter. Try to take them out around the same time each day, keep them out for about the same period of time and put them back around the same time. Also try to feed them at the same time each day since they sometimes start screaming thinking that you might bring them food. If they know when they get food and when they don't they probably won't try screaming for it. The same goes for being let out. Screaming/screeching/squawking has to be dealt with through different methods of routines.


If you do decide to rehome him, you'll need to cut all ties with the bird and trust the new owner to institute a new way of living.

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If you are reacting in any way to the squawk then that is just making him do it all the more, you have to ignore the bad behavior and reward the good, I know it is difficult but its the only way. If you feel you cannot give him the time and attention he deserves then maybe it would be in Bodhi's best interest to find him a new forever home.

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With all kindness, gratitude and respect, much of the feedback here are things I already know as a 20 year parrot owner. The problem today is that I don't have the time to work with the behavior, it would destroy any ability to concentrate and follow-through on finishing up my book to do all the back and forth, "NO", covering and uncovering process. I love my bird dearly, but my life also has to matter and count for something, and I work from home, for many reasons, not just financial.


But what posting yesterday did do for me, and looking at the replies also did, was to remove a big layer of my own frustration and fear of rehoming him and tell me I need a fresh and radical approach to this problem. So thank you all for simply being here and "hearing" me!


So I'm going to move Bodhi's cage from the main living area to another room and make some other changes. He is obviously bored, which frustrates me cause I have provided plenty of toys of all types for him to play with that he ignores. So he needs more stimulation and more interesting interventions of other varieties. Moving the cage is a start... he will still have time in the main living area on his perches, and I am also thinking of putting up a birdie playpen in the evenings on the floor with some new objects, not necessarily traditional "toys". Larger objects that will challenge him to investigate them once he determines they aren't going to come after him (inanimate objects). I may also try some wind up toys.


I'm thinking about myself - a lifelong fear of heights that has always bothered me and prevented me from doing things I love to do. But now I'm learning, in stages, to go bouldering and climbing with the wonderful guy I have in my life now. It is stimulating and exhilarating! I'm pushing my own limits. I'm wondering how I can do something similar, within reason and safely, to relieve Bodhi's boredom.


He'll just have to muddle through when I'm writing... without my work, there is not going to be a home or someone to bring home the Harrison's bird food!



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  • 2 weeks later...

Sounds like perhaps Bodhi is just lonely for human contact. Most greys so love interacting with people. How friendly is Bodhi with other people? Perhaps you could hire a person (young/older) to come and talk/play with Bodhi in another part of your home during the day for a few hours while you work on your book. To me that would be a great solution for both of you.

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I am sure you are trying everything and are feeling frazzled on all the demands on your time in this phase of your life. You may have already tried this but when I need to concentrate sometimes I use a pair of noise canceling headphones generally used at a shooting range. As you are working through your issues with Bodhi, it may be a short term retraining issue, and give you a small respite for reducing the frustration. As for the traveling issues, you will find a viable solution as it presents itself. How old is Bodhi?

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Hi Luvparrots, Katana600,


I'm sure he is lonely in some ways, and boy, does that hurt my heart knowing it! However, I do have to work. How much more lonely would he be if I packed up and left to go to the library to work on the computer every day? I've tried this, but I prefer much more working from home and not adding travel and using gas to my workday. I am a homebody, I love working from home.


Unfortunately, I just don't have the $$ to hire someone to play with Bodhi, and this is true of bird sitters too. I am working on building a network of bird sitters where we can help each other out, with at least a little bit of success so far.


Also, I have really tried to include Bodhi in almost every aspect of my life, from eating meals to showers. Right now he is actually sitting in the same room with me and being quiet, allowing me to work on the computer this morning without distraction and I'm verbally appreciating him for this, going and giving him a kiss from time to time and a goodie here and there. Thank heaven the weather is getting warm and I can take him on some outings in his harness. The frustrating part are those days when all I do give to him just doesn't seem to be enough and I get the squawk any way. Sometimes it even seems that the more I give, the more he wants/demands.


That having been said, moving his cage to a room where I can place him in there and close the door has definitely given me a lever on letting him know that particular squawk is not okay, and there has been a marked improvement in our interactions, though there is a long way to go. But I do feel a sense of hope again. I don't like having him in the other room, and he doesn't like it either, but because of the respite it gives me, we have been enjoying much more quality time again together when I am done at the computer.


Katana600... the noise-cancelling headphones are a good idea! I'll check eBay and see what I can find. Bodhi was hatched in May 2003, so he will soon be 9 years old.


Thank you both for your messages. :)

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Guest candismalli

that is wonderful that you found a way to keep your Bodhi! As for the noise canceling headphones, you can find them in walmart by the gun/hunting supply area. My autistic daughter wears these, they are made for wearing on a shooting range. Don't feel guilty about not having him by your side every minute- if you worked outside of the home he would be alone for most of the day!

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Even if you can't afford to hire someone, it might be worth looking into befriending a teenager or a senior citizen with extra time and not enough to do. Someone that could come to your home occasionally and just hang out with Bodhi. That person might welcome the opportunity to have a part-time parrot without the worries about long-term care...

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I think we all struggle at some point to find activities for our parrots for independent play. There are some foraging type toys you can make by wrapping tidbits like pine nuts and almonds in newspaper, cupcake wrappers, coffee filters etc. that Bodhi may find intriquing. Also a thought was to find a parrot dvd or something to put on for him that may be entertaining when you have to work. As most creative people, you may have to work when the inspiration moves you but if it is possible for you to create a routine where you are unavailable for a predictable time period, that could be something he learns not to clamor for your attention and then have a reuniting with a snack or something he looks forward to sharing. For posting his picture, try using the "go advanced" and click on the paper clip to browse your computer and add a file. I wish we lived closer because I have the time and inclination to help and my guy Gilbert has the opposite problem of wanting me to leave him alone to his own thoughts and I would love to entertain Bodhi. Just letting off the pressure a little while you meet deadlines would change your outlook with your Bodhi. I agree with others that we have to give ourselves some guilt free time to do our work whether we leave to go to an office or work from home. Bodhi will adjust just fine as you work to create a solution for the benefit of each of you.

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