Safe & Secure
Even birds that enjoy being handled need to feel secure first. If this security is lacking, they will not enjoy handling. It is easy for a bird to be thrown off balance by movement of its “perch” (even if that happens to be your arm) or by someone petting them. A bird might slide when stepping on to an arm or finger since it is not as firm and secure as a more stationary object like a perch or branch. This might give the bird the sensation that it is going to fall, which can be quite frightening since a bird falling from a person who is standing is the equivalent of a human falling several stories!
If Brisco’s previous person handled him with a stick, he may not understand or feel comfortable being handled any other way. Birds that have spent most of their time in a cage, on a perch, usually feel uncomfortable on an unfamiliar surface, especially one that they are unable to grip tightly or stand on with a feeling of safety.
Initially, simply be loving and patient, and see what develops; observe what the bird tells you about him and what he enjoys in life. Often, wonderful surprises result.
An example of this is my little African grey parrot, Ishtar, who I won in a raffle in 1992. She was 7 months old and had been lovingly spoiled by the breeders. Despite their feelings for her, they decided to raffle her to help the bird club. I had her examined by a veterinarian and purchased a ticket for her to ride under my seat during the 2,000 mile plane trip home.
Ishtar hated me. I told her that her previous owners had to give her up and that she was now my little girl. I said I would love to have her be my friend and to remain with me for the rest of my life.
She bit me each time I handled her. I kept being gentle and kind and let her watch me play with my other birds. I kept her partially covered cage out of heavy traffic areas and maintained an environment where she could not fall and injure herself so she would feel secure. I only said kind things to her, regardless of how she treated me. Nothing worked.
Finally, after about two months of hostility, I gave up handling her. I still talked to her lovingly every day, telling her she was beautiful and thanking her for being in my life. I told her I was sad that she did not want to be my friend. I also promised that I would find a person for her that she could really love and who would deeply love her; and, that, when I found that person, she would go home with him or her.
This continued for several months. Finally, one morning in 1993, she suddenly decided she loved and trusted me to the point that she would go limp in my hand and roll over! I was astonished that she was so trusting – and still is, 11 years later!
I believe that many birds that go to new homes feel that they have been kidnapped and are mystified by their new circumstances. Having personally adopted several older birds and assisted hundreds of people in similar adoptions, I have found that most birds – including ones that settle in relatively well – can take about a year to feel truly comfortable and integrated into their new home and, for us to earn their love and trust. With some birds, especially those that have been abused, unsocialized or neglected, it may take much longer, or they may never quite become what their new owners hoped for.
Talk To Them
Birds understand far more than people realize, and it is imperative that they be treated, and spoken to, with absolute respect, even if they seem hostile. After all, they have their own feelings about how things are and cannot help those feelings any more than we can help our own. It is unfair for us to ask more from them.
Most of us would not want to become friends with someone who continuously criticized or insulted us. Birds are the same. Like us, they are vain and love praise. Many birds become friendlier after simply being consistently praised for all their good qualities and ignored for negative ones. Always use a friendly tone of voice. Tell your bird how handsome his little eyes, beaks, toes and feathers are, how you love having him around, how cute he is when eating, how special he is and how happy you are that your bird is sharing its life with you. Tell your bird that you hope it will eventually enjoy being with you.
Remember that, whatever you say to your bird friend, you’ve got to keep your promises to him. Birds are intelligent, passionate and loving little beings, and they are often confused and heartbroken by their “abandonment.” It is up to us to help them through difficult experiences as compassionately and lovingly as possible.