Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Birds And Bird-brains

Amazon parrots are smart. Yes, they really are. If you are to call them bird-brained you're likely to be bited. HARD. OK, even if you don't insult them, you still need to be careful. They do tend to be feisty.

I have tried to potty train my White-fronted Amazon parrot Thuki to poop on command to make life easier for me. She has no interest in making life easier for me and refuses and, I admit, I just don't have the patience (or something) to insist.

All she wants to do is eat pizza and squawk and the the Lady Empress Supreme of the entire universe - and terrorise our little, black Toto dog.

OK, she does jap Naam, or at least repeats "WaheGURU, waheGURU, waheGURU, AAAK, waheGURU"incessantly, much to my amusement and much to the dismay of the neighbours.

Here is a true story from Joanie Doss, who had too much success teaching her Amazing Amazons
the whole potty training thing. Read this only if you want to be a bit amazed and more than a little amused.

BTW, everyone who has ever raised kids or tried to break a bad habit knows that that last line applies to us unfeathered bipeds, as well.

Potty Training

When I had three performing Amazons, I decided it was time they got potty trained. I started with my Nape TJ. I timed his poops so I knew when it was time for him to go potty. I held him over newspaper and said, "Go poop." Since it was time for him to do so, I did not have to wait very long. When he went, I would give him lots of praise. I was surprised one evening when he was in his cage and he told me, "Go poop!" I took him out and held him over some newspaper and sure enough, he had to go "poop". A few weeks later he made me laugh. TJ was watching the other birds. If Blue Front Pepper went poop TJ said, "Good Pepper goes poop." If it were Nape Maggie, he would say, "Good Maggie goes poop." He got the poop behavior down to perfection. One day Maggie and TJ were playing on the top of their cages. At that time all the birds flat top cages were the same height and close to each other so they made a long are for them to play. Maggie and TJ were playing roughly as usual. Pepper was safe in his cage trying to avoid the frisky duo. When The Boys were playing like this, I often interrupted them and ask, "Do you have to go poop?" When they play so hard they forget about telling me about going poop. As Maggie and TJ continued with their wrestling. Maggie became increasingly more aggressive. Suddenly TJ had enough. He jumped up and began running over the top of the cages to get away from Maggie. Maggie chased after him yelling, "Do you have to go poop?" Obviously he thought the only reason TJ stopped their rough housing was to go poop.

Potty training was very successful and a part of The Amazing Amazons' life. It had top priority and I stopped whatever I was doing and go to the bird that told me "Go poop". The performing season started and I felt I no longer needed plastic or paper under their T-stands as The Boys were completely potty trained. It took three performances before I realized I had created a performing nightmare.

Now it might sound good to have all the birds potty trained, but it wasn't long before I needed to untrain this behavior. The birds quickly caught on that when they told me, "Go poop" I would stop everything to take them to do it. Maggie and TJ did not perform as many tricks as Pepper. They got bored waiting for their turns. Then TJ and Maggie found a way to get the attention they wanted. When Pepper was performing, they would yell out, "Go poop". My audience were generally very young children. When they heard the birds do this they laughed and giggled so much it was hard to keep the group under control. I decided that if the birds were going to continue to perform, we had to stop the poop behavior. It was harder to untrain them then to train them in the first place.

from Living With The Amazing Amazons by Joanie Doss, reprinted with the gracious permission of the author.

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