If we’re going to be honest, I think most of us with multiple birds would have to admit to having a favorite. Of course, we love ALL of our birds, but there might be one that has a special hold on our heart.
With me, it’s Tinky. He was originally bought for my daughter as part of an agreement (bringing up her grades in exchange for the cockatiel she’d been asking for). Several months after he arrived, she went on a three day outing with her class and Tinky took a special liking to me in her absence.One Mother’s Day not long after, my daughter presented him to me as a gift, accompanied by a handmade deed of ownership, because it was clear to her that he had chosen me. It was a very grown up and selfless act on her part.
Tinky was my inspiration for learning everything I could about parrots back in a time when information was mostly unavailable. He forgave me for all the mistakes I made in the process. He was my greatest source of comfort in bad times. I learned, and continue to learn, in his presence.
I keep the cockatiels in a separate room from the larger birds.Since DeeDee, Tinky’s male companion, is stand-offish with people anyways, he doesn’t have any objection to the close relationship I have with Tinky. DeeDee likes to perch in my lap, and enjoys being nearby, but would mostly prefer I keep my hands to myself. It’s just his personality. He steps up when necessary, and is completely handlable, but he is not much for physical affection, and so holds no grudges.
In the birdroom, where the cockatoos reside, I have to be very careful how I divide my time between them. There is always the potential for fits of jealous rage. If I am standing at Theo’s (goffins) cage telling her how pretty she is, Linus (umbrella) will remind me that, while Theo is cute, he is LOUD – in case I’d forgotten that fact. Theo is very sweet, but she’s no angel either. When I am at Linus’s cage admiring his wood crafting skills, she glares at me with squinty eyes. No sound, just evil stares. At that time, she would probably give me the middle toe, if she had one. Cockatoos, who believe that the world turns only for them, don’t like to feel undervalued.
It’s a daily juggling act of all the birds to keep everyone happy. Part of what keeps all of my birds feeling secure and willing to co-exist is the understanding of their equality where I am concerned. None of my birds get more from me than any other, including Tinky.I conceal the special affection I have for him to to keep every birdie feeling good about themselves and each other.
Birds are sentient beings, and their feelings can be hurt. When they see a clear preference for another bird, especially when it’s flaunted in front of them, it will lead them to behavioral problems. Even the quiet bird who suffers in silence is likely to deliver an “out of the blue” bite one day when he’s had enough. Unhappy birds are known to pluck. You can’t blame them for their reactions when it is continually pointed out to them that they are second best.
It’s perfectly understandable that you might feel a special bond with one bird in particular. We have preferences among the people we associate with. We just have to be certain not to exclude the others who want to share our lives to any hurtful degree.
Here are some tips on how to make all of your birds feel special:
- When you get the birds up in the morning, call to each of them by name and tell them individually how glad you are to see them. At night, say goodnight to each using their names as the lights go out. A bird’s name is very important to him. They understand its use and feel acknowledged when they hear it.
- When you interact with your bird, engage them by looking directly into their eyes when you talk. Speak enthusiastically and let them know you are happy to be in their company. It doesn’t matter what you say – you can recite the ingredients of your multi-vitamin for all they know or care. It’s all about how you say it and the connection you establish with your eyes.
- Give each bird at least 15 minutes of exclusive private time with you everyday. This may sound hard to accomplish, especially if you have a large flock, but it really isn’t. One bird can join you in the shower. Another can be on your shoulder as you do the dishes, or while you’re vacuuming. You can rotate which bird gets to join you for a trip to the corner store. Libby, my quaker, is my kitchen buddy who helps me prepare all the meals for the birds. Make a list of all the daily activities you have that can include a bird. You’ll find there are a lot. 15 minutes a day doesn’t sound like a long time, but it can make a world of difference to the bird who is insecure about her place in your heart.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.