He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

Beetle Bird

Just a quick post today. Last week, I took Chicken to the vet for her annual checkup (which all went OK). However the temperature was exceedingly hot that day (30 degrees+), so I drove home from the vets with her sat on my shoulder - and she was a very well-behaved passenger. Here she is after we stopped in a lay-by for a bit of fresh air, whilst we waited for the traffic to clear.

She's adjusted so well to being on the harness and most loud outside noises now don't freak her out. Keep an eye out for further photos/videos of her outdoor adventures over the coming months.

The Great Outdoors

Yesterday was a bit of a landmark day. I've been harness-training Chicken for a little while now and for the first time we went outside, as you can see from the little video below.

As you can imagine, harness-training a bird isn't an easy thing to do because they're not going to just let you slip the harness on like a dog would wear a collar and lead. The first few times she took big chunks out of my fingers, but she's got better every time and this morning I got her kitted-up in just a couple of minutes.

The intention is that when the lockdown is over, I'll take her out with me every so often. Like you walk your dog, I'll go out for a walk with my bird. Like so many other bird owners, I want her to have an enriched life beyond the cage. Whilst she flies around my house and is my velco-like sidekick whilst I potter around, I think she'd love to experience the outdoors, especially during the warmer summer months.

If you've got a parrot and want to go down this route, take a look at the Aviator Harness. They're slightly more pricey than regular harnesses you find in pet shops, but they're extremely well-made and more comfortable for the bird to wear as there's no metal bits remotely close to them. They include a tutorial DVD and you can also get lead-extenders so that you can free-flight train them.

As we get more adventurous and go a bit further afield, I'll post a few more videos of our travels.

Ten Reasons Why

Firstly, take a look at this:

…and now you've had a chuckle, read on. Here's ten reasons why you shouldn't own a parrot. Read More...

Introducing The Chicken

Say "Hello" to The Chicken.

If you've ever heard of the phrase Scary Cat Lady before, then I'm gradually morphing into Freaky Bird Man. In my autumn years, I'm going to surround myself with birds. I can't surround myself with an entire flock at the moment, though, but have been after a feathered friend to Oz for a while - and this is why I'm introducing The Chicken to you. She's a Galah and originates from Australia (I should add that she didn't come all the way from Australia, she was bred in the UK).

As you can see, she's quite pink and contrasts nicely with my little green friend in virtually every way. Whilst Indian Ringnecks are parakeets, she's part of the cockatoo family and is a shade smaller than an African Grey parrot but with a slightly wider wingspan. Illness notwithstanding, The Chicken should live for upwards of forty years, possibly outliving me. Before being with us, she briefly lived with another family who decided that cockatoos weren't for them.

True to the cockatoo family, she's completely bloody mad.

She's about nine months old now and has been attempting to say a few words, namely "ChickenChickenChickenChicken" and "HappyHappyHappy", although because Galahs aren't the best talkers in the world, she tends to sound a bit like a quiet dalek when she says anything. She loves to eat my ears, watch video on my phone, chew literally anything and dangle upside-down whilst screaming abuse at the dog. She's very cuddly and does a good job of impersonating a ball of candy-floss. Like all chickens, she clucks.

As I mentioned earlier, she's a contrast to Oz. They more or less get on, although at this early stage it involves climbing on top of each other's cage and shouting at each other. Oz is an old man who hasn't had to deal with another bird for about nineteen years, so I guess it's going to take him a while to adjust to having a pink-crested drama queen in the house.

Expect more pictures on Twitter (naturally).

No, He Bloody Doesn't

This is Oz. He's my little Indian Ringneck Parrokeet and he's eighteen years old.

If you look back through the dusty cobwebs of my site, you'll no doubt find a picture of Oz in his younger days. Despite his age he still looks as wonderfully green as he ever did - and I think he's still got a good few years in him yet. This is the joy of having a parrot. As life companions, he's already outlived most cats and dogs. Many ringnecks make 25. Whichever way you look at it, he's been my feathered friend for nearly half of my life.

Having a parrot isn't like having a dog or cat, for many reasons. One reason is that invariably, when I tell someone that I have a parrot, their first question is always the same:

"Does he talk?"

When posed this question, I politely respond that he doesn't.

All parrots talk is one of the great misconceptions of the animal world. Most don't. Why should they? This follows roughly the same line of logic that all humans are astronauts. Some humans aren't capable of being astronauts. Some humans don't want to be astronauts. There are also more male astronauts than female, although that's an entirely different discussion.

My parrot is a capable astronaut. He just doesn't want to be, so he makes a variety of suitable alternative noises instead. Sometimes he grumbles like an old man (no idea where he gets that from). Sometimes he makes noises that sound like flatulence (definitely don't know where he gets that from) and sometimes he just happily observes the world going by, like in this picture. Parrots, like you, have a personality and you can't force someone or something to do something it doesn't want to do. Putting a helmet on a bird doesn't make it an astronaut.

Bear in mind that should you ever want a parrot, you're making an exceedingly long-term commitment. Larger birds live longer - we're talking forty, eighty or more years in some cases. Unlike many other animals, they've not had generations of domestication and as a result the relationship you build with the bird is on an entirely different level. You're not going to train a bird to sit, stay or whatever in a few days. In fact, most things seem to take years. That's not because they're stupid and have a bird brain (another entirely different misconception), it's because that wild animal you have in your house is going to have to trust you first. Oz still surprises me by doing new things every so often. In the last six months, he thinks he's doing me a favour by pulling the stubble out of my face (ouch).

In summary, don't think of parrots as birds that talk, think of them doing a whole variety of other things. They whistle Star Wars tunes, chew your CD collection, hang upside-down from the ceiling, play football and drive buggies. Think of them as toddlers with a pair of pliers welded to their face or clowns with wings. How does that sound? Great?

If you'd like a friend with wings in your life, do your homework and find a breeder who really knows their stuff. The UK Parrot Society can help you. Or alternatively, adopt a rescued bird. Please don't go to a pet-shop.

Avian Indifference

As you might have seen by now, I've been trying to save a few quid over the course of the year. My reasons are many. The obvious one simply questions the point of spending money if you don't have to. Another reason was that I wanted to save enough money to buy my parrot a new cage. He's had his previous one since he was purchased seven years ago, so it seemed only reasonable to upgrade his accommodation.

So last week, I did just that and he now has a little parroty mansion (below).

Parrot Mansion

The cage is a vast improvement over it's predecessor. It's a more regular shape. It's a bit more spacious. It's easier to clean. It's easier for him to clamber around on and also has little play-area on the top. It's parrot-heaven, parrot-tastic and other such superlatives - if you have a normal parrot, that is.

I was hoping that this improved environment would bring him out of his shell a little bit. Those who know my parrot would class him as the "grumpy old-man" of parrots. Whilst totally tame, he doesn't play, thank-you, nor does he have a complex dietary make-up or vocabulary. He makes fart-noises (god knows where he got that from), barks, eats seeds and green fruit. The change didn't bring him out of his shell at all.

So I bought him some new toys. After all, something new to interact with might help. Or it might not. He has ignored the lot. None of this new fangled rubbish is going to change the habits of a lifetime.

So there you go. I have a grumpy old man in parrot form. One new cage, lavish food and toys later and we still have the same bird that would probably have been happy with a cardboard box and enjoys throwing my mobile-phone on the floor when he can get near it.

Filing & Clipping

In a similar style to Oz, my feathered friend, my partner has decided that she would also like to have a pet bird. As she lives in an apartment block, we've had to do a lot research to find the ideal variety. She wanted something that was extremely colourful with a good personality, but nothing that was noisy.

This pretty much rules out lovebirds, cockatiels, sun conures and many larger parrots - a macaw, apart from the obvious financial implications would have the neighbours complaining in no time.

During the course of our research, we stumbled upon many different varieties of parrot, which naturally leads on to investigating the recommendations for their care/diet/etc. I can't believe so many people advocate the filing down of a parrots beak, or the clipping of their wings. It's just plain wrong.

Parrots fly and nibble things. That's how you know it's a bird. It's part of their personality. To stop a bird from flying through wing-clipping is like removing three toes from each foot to stop a human from running. Just the mere discussion/suggestion of the subject is enough to get my blood-pressure rising.

And don't even get me started on filing beaks. Give your bird a good diet and something to chew on and this won't be an issue.

I've read all sorts of rationale for these activities:

1) Behavioural - Wing-clipping eases training and reduces aggression. Maybe this is true, but in effect you've broken the birds spirit to get it to do what you want. Hardly positive enforcement, is it?

2) Safety - Stops them from flying away or into things that are dangerous. The reverse of this is also true. If the bird can only fly down, it can't fly away to escape a predator or escape something else that's dangerous. It also suggests that the location of the bird's cage is not entirely in the safest of places.

It seems that people can justify mutilating their animal for conveniences sake. Grrr.

Anyway, my better-half has now purchased a peach-fronted conure (sometimes called a petz conure) - there's a picture of the little chap below. I've never known a bird so cheeky and relaxed, even during the car journey on the way home. She's undecided on his name as yet. I'm sure something will come to mind. Oh, and the ruffled feathers are from him being damp after a shower.

Peach Fronted Conure

Nature's Calendar

If I didn't have a diary or calendar, I'd still know that it's mid-September at the moment. This is because my front-room is filled with feathers as my parrot (*clicky*) goes through his annual moult.

I guess this must be a tad inconvenient for him. Imagine - if someone told you that you were going to be naked by the end of the month, you'd at least want to keep a spare pair of pants with you to keep your dignity....