Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup

Posted By: Alison G.

Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/19/16 10:50 PM

Good afternoon,

I find myself in an unusual situation, and I would like your help/advise.

Last week, my daughter (who is 22, and lives with me) noticed a cockatoo at the preschool where she teaches was being mistreated. If not outright abused, it was certainly being neglected. We discussed it, and I told her to go to the preschool director and point out this poor animal. It was being housed outdoors in a large cage, with many other birds, including several cockatiels, a few conures, even a pigeon!! It was the only large bird, had been plucking her feathers, and the most alarming thing was a broken blood feather that was still bleeding! My daughter wasn't two lines into her speech, when the guy said "just take it".

So we did! And we went straight to an avian vet (our local pet store has been very helpful.) He said our new friend is AT LEAST 25 years old. She has a plain round band like I have seen described on your site, meaning that she was imported in the early 90s. But we have no additional information. The vet said he thought she was less than 50 years old (something to do with how her feet looked). Her feather was removed, and the vet clipped her VERY overgrown nails. The local pet store (independently owned) hooked us up with someone who donated a HUGE beautiful cage to us...

Now my question... I didn't plan to own a cockatoo, because I am very aware of how much care they require. But here she is, and we have certainly improved her situation. Before I commit to her for life (unless I have already, and I'm just not ready to admit it, lol) I want to be sure I can give her all the mental stimulation she will need.

I have 4 kids, two away in college, and an 11 year old. He will not have much to do with bird care, at least not without supervision. We have a new quaker parrot (who we love and whose trust we are still earning. He was also a rescue, but is still a baby at about 6 months old.) We have 2 dogs, a boxer and a terrier, which will mean I can't let the Too out of the cage all the time. I will have to limit her outside time to a few hours a day, when the dogs are away, or there is someone watching everyone. And finally, I work during the day from about 9-4 Mon- Thurs. Can we give a cockatoo the attention it will need even if we are out of the house for about 6-7 hours/four days a week?

Again, please go easy with me, I agree with you on the plight of many new birds, and the uneducated buyers who purchase them. I did not set out to get a Cockatoo, because I DO read and I know how much work/love they need. But we could not let her languish like that either. The vet said she'd have bled out within a few weeks without care. She's a lovely thing, will sit on my arm, and has let us pet her. We are taking it slowly, I just want to make sure she has a good life, and that we can give it to her.

Any words of wisdom will be appreciated.

Posted By: hellococky

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/20/16 01:35 AM

Hi Alison, welcome! Good on you for stepping up & making a difference.
I will start by saying I am by no means an expert, but I have come into being owned by a Cockatoo in similar circumstances to you. I also never planned on having a bird let alone a noisy, dusty Cocky, but when I heard about Sam needing a home & being neglected I had to step up. I too was amazed that I soon had a donated cage luckily for me, but Sam spent his first week in a big dog crate.

I also work similar hours to you, have 2 dogs & until coming across this forum, had little knowledge of knowledge of how to 'raise' a healthy Cocky. Growing up in Australia I have been surrounded by these birds all my life, but still had no idea how best to look after them in captivity.

My advice is get reading, use the search facility to look up everything from food to feathers,toys, health problems, you name it, it's here somewhere, this place & the people who run it are amazing, I couldn't have survived the last twelve months with my sanity intact without it.

Don't stress about being gone at work. I'll admit I do still feel guilty when I leave in the morning, but I make sure Sam has some fresh treats on his Kabob (a skewer that hangs on the side of his cage) & some cardboard boxes to destroy. I also have a 'Baffle Cage' which I fill with all kinds of things like balled up paper, bits of cardboard, untreated wood & seed cones. That amuses him all day. When I get home, I bring him out of the cage & he stays out until bed time, I only put him in the cage if I have to leave the house & can't supervise him. Or now when I am in hospital for a few weeks & feeling incredibly guilty because I am relying on the kindness of neighbours to look after him, but nobody is comfortable to take him out.

I eventually got Sam to build up enough trust to come out of his cage & be handled for the first time, this took much time & patience, again list of advice from MyToos helped me do this. He now spends every hour I am home out of his cage on his play gym, these things are fantastic, they have wooden ladders & different types of frames depending on the type & allow your bird to be in the room with you amusing himself whilst you go able your business. They have castors so you can move them around. Have a look online as they come in a flatpack & you can get pretty reasonable prices if you shop around.

Look into getting him on a good diet, expose him to lots of different foods, this is easily done by letting him see you eat & offering him samples of your food, try to avoid the foods that are not healthy, if you wouldn't let your child eat it for dinner, its probably not a good idea to give it to your bird, remember their stomachs are tiny & filling up on junk isn't good for anyone. Captive birds are prone to fatty liver disease, so stick to the healthy options. Again, this site will have all the information you need, just look around for it.

Best of luck to you!
Posted By: BE2Cassie

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/20/16 02:42 AM

Adding in here to the above start right away with forage feeding. My boss is a vet and has a 20 year old grey that was going to be euthanized at birth. She hatched with severe metabolic bone disease and one deformed foot. Knowing that she didn't have the best working schedule for a parrot she told the bird this is what I will do for you. She then proceeded to offer her food only in forage modes. This girl works all day for her food, nothing is freely given. She has done extremely well over the 20 years and is a very happy bird. She now comes to work with the vet 6 days a week and has become the official greater.
Posted By: Alison G.

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/20/16 03:25 AM

Thank you both for your input. I will look into forage feeding. I also know that for every step forward, I may find myself taking one step back. Buttercup would not come out of the cage today. I will hope that she noticed that I gave her space. Looking forward to tomorrow!
Posted By: hellococky

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/20/16 04:12 AM

Yeah, I had many days when Sam wasn't interested in coming out, at one point I even panicked & thought maybe he was unwell & called the vet. The early days was like being a Mum to a new baby, constantly worrying if i was doing something wrong, upsetting him or if he was sick & going to die & it was all my fault! It was very stressful.

I now know that if I offer my arm & he doesn't hop on, it's no big deal & it's not personal. I've also learned that just like us, birds too have 'moods'. Most importantly I have learned to just stop worrying & learn from him, he is constantly teaching me how to relate to him, I just have to pay close attention to what he is 'saying'.

Another thing, watch out for that (or God forbid your children) will most likely get bitten at some point, it happens, don't take it personally, its often just more communication, but you missed the cues so she stepped it up a level...don't ever get angry at your bird if this happens & never punish her, it is mean & futile. Calmly as possible put her back in her cage & leave her be, then attend to the wound. Just see it as a learning experience & try to work out what she was 'saying' by her behaviour. Keep yourself & your loved ones safe & avoid getting bitten, don't have the bird close to your face, keep the dogs away & learn to read stress in your bird & give her the space she needs when she needs it.
Posted By: hellococky

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/20/16 08:01 AM

Another thing I noticed, you have another young bird, has your vet mentioned a quarantine period for Buttercup? I'm just thinking about her being in a cage with so many other birds, including a pigeon, under the care of people who obviously had no idea what they were doing...if your vet hasn't mentioned it, perhaps gi him/her a call & ask
Posted By: Alison G.

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/20/16 09:26 PM

You have raised several very important points. I am worried about being bitten (her beak is huge! lol) and I know that I should not react if it happens. I will be very mindful of my son's interaction with Buttercup.

As far as quarantine, I have the two birds in separate cages (obviously), and they are in different rooms, but the rooms are open to one another... is that sufficient? Or do you think I need to keep one of them in a room with the door shut? And if I do that, won't somebody be lacking in socialization? I am making sure to wash my hands in between contact with either bird. But I haven't gone so far as to change clothes or shower between contact. I guess I'm not sure what "quarantine" really means. Maybe I should call the vet...
Posted By: hellococky

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/20/16 11:57 PM

Yes, have a chat to your vet about it, they will give you the best advice as to the length of time for quarantine or in fact if it is necessary at all. Meanwhile sounds like you're doing everything necessary to prevent the spread of any nasties. As in humans, properly hand washing with soap & warm water is the best defence against the spread of disease.

Another thing, did the second hand cage get a very good scrub with appropriate sanitising agent before you put him in it? That is also important.

Yes, have a friendly chat to your son, explain how dangerous that beak can be & no matter how much your bird 'loves' you, bites can still happen. Someone here gave me some very good advice that I will never forget & often pass on to others: "there is a good reason why the pirate has a patch on his eye...that parrot he insists on carrying on his shoulder took it out!"

I got a nasty bite once because Sam was on my arm & lost his balance, he has a damaged wing so has trouble steadying himself, he bit hard into my arm as he would on a branch to steady himself, it was excruciatingly painful & bled a lot, but there was nothing I could do but put him down on his stand & give myself first aid. Another time I was playing with him, he was at face level, we were having a great time, without warning he struck forward & bit me below my eye, I still have a scar. I think he was just playing, & got too excited. I learned that regardless of the trust & how good a mood he is in, its not worth taking the chance of losing an eye! I have also been suddenly & abruptly told he doesn't want 'up' on my arm when I offered it & have copped a bruise or two, rarely drawing blood these days. These incidents are best avoided, & most can be. When first I got Sam he would go into a panic after he bit, often causing him to want to 'attack' repeatedly, then he would sit back shaking, I feel this was because he was badly treated when he bit before, he had several prior owners, none of which were very nice. I was told he was a 'psycho bird' & was 'a nasty piece of work'...well he certainly is neither of those things, now that he has someone who tries to understand him & never punishes him for any behaviour, just tries to redirect & avoid bad behaviour & encourage the good. This is important if you want to have a good relationship with any animal, not just a bird, but very important with a Cockatoo I think. It also applies to people, I work with disabled adults with behaviours of concern, it is not much different than the principles I apply at work really. Yelling & lashing out at someone who is upset & reacting does very little but accelerate an already negative response.

Posted By: Specialist Elbru

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/24/16 08:06 PM

I would like to add my voices to those thanking you for stepping up to
the challenge of adopting a neglected cockatoo. I can see that you are
aware that you do not have an easy road ahead of you, yet the journey
can defiantly be worth the hardships along the way. There is a vast
database of information stored within the archive of the Mytoos
forums. You should not be afraid to ask questions, there are many
knowledgeable people her to aid you on your journey.

PS. Do you know which species of cockatoo Buttercup is ?
Posted By: Alison G.

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/25/16 10:03 PM

She is an umbrella cockatoo and she is a complete sweetheart.

Newest question:

She loves to be held, and cuddle. I have read about "mating behavior", or over-bonding with one person, and I want to prevent any future problems (start off on the right foot). I make sure not to be the only person who handles her. But when we do hold her and cuddle her, we place a sheet or towel across our lap to protect our clothes from getting pooped on accidentally...and she likes to burrow into the towels. It's very cute, but are we conditioning her to the wrong thing by allowing this? I read on this site not to put "happy huts" or towels in her cage, and I try not to pet her below the neck to avoid confusing her. Is her burrowing fine? or should I be doing something else?

Our Buttercup. Whenever she strikes a pose, we are sure to tell her how lovely she is... Looking forward to posting some "after" photos once she begins to heal.
Posted By: Charlie

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/26/16 03:41 AM

This may help some, along with browsing the "Behavior" Forum. To me, this is very important information for anyone caring for cockatoos.

Originally Posted By: Charlie
The drive to procreate is the strongest instinctual process in these animals. There is just no denying it. Not all cockatoos in the wild will be able to become parents because nature is often stacked against that happening. In our homes, however, when it's a good home, the reproductive chain can be a very stressful and disorienting time for these birds. It is not just a "sexual event", it is a "reproductive process" that goes from mate selection to chick rearing and anything that interferes, anywhere along that process, can be very traumatic for the bird.

In the wild, conditions that lead to successful breeding may not happen very often. In that case, the bird has other things to worry about and do. There are five conditions that lead to increased hormone production that drives breeding behavior. As care takers, we need to be very aware not to stimulate these birds accidentally or through ignorance. Many times, just by understanding what is required will allow us to change OUR behavior or the bird's environment in such a way as to minimize reproductive hormone production and it's associated behaviors. The five requirements are:

A mate or perceived mate - Is that you? If so, you need to move your behavior with your bird to establish a sibling, playmate, or trainer relationship. Be active with the bird but the bird does not have to be on you. Cockatoos love to play and take to training very well.

Copulation - Do you put your hands under your birds wings? Do you pet your bird with full body strokes? Do you let your bird sit on you while you watch TV? Do you cover your bird with towels or blankets? These are all behaviors to avoid. Wild cockatoos never make bodily contact with other cockatoos except to mate. You can never mate with a cockatoo so don't lead the cockatoo to believe you can!

Nest - Once again, no blankets, towels, dark, small spaces. These are all part of nest building and should be discouraged. Nest boxes should never be allowed with pet birds.

Long daylight hours - Do you let your bird stay up late under the lights with you? Wrong. Cockatoos are wired to sleep when the sun goes down and wake up with the sun. In nature, when days start to become long it is a harbinger of spring, a signal that food and water will be more plentiful, a very good time to raise chicks! Put your bird to bed at sunset. In the long days of summer, you can also provide a dark room for sleep and put them down an hour or two before sunset.

Abundant food - In nature, cockatoos spend most early morning and evening hours flying to and foraging for food. There are probably more times than not when food is not as abundant as they would like. They have to work for it! In our homes, not only is the food abundant but much of it is fatty and sugary. It has been proven that these rich foods can increase hormone levels by 10 times normal levels. We need to provide a natural and varied diet with an abundance of greens and vegetables to minimize this effect.

I say "in nature" and refer to "wild cockatoos" quite often but, the fact is, most of our hand reared parrots are only a couple of generations removed from the wild. It will take many many more years for that change away from natural instinct to happen. Will it ever change? I doubt it. Nature is delicate and precise, when man tampers with the process the outcome is usually not good.

All cockatoos have an age that they reach "maturity" and this varies from 2-3 years for the small ones and 6-8 years for the big ones. If one disregards the information above and does things all wrong, much younger birds will begin to "feel" hormone production and suffer for it. These birds are confused and not understanding why things are happening or not happening. One will have the best chance by avoiding the five triggers above. You are not in the business of breeding cockatoos, this is your pet and companion, make his or her life all it can be by learning and applying "the facts of life".
Posted By: Alison G.

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/26/16 07:43 PM

I can see how I am possibly contributing to her confusing me as her mate. She does not like to be on the floor (she has only been in our home for 2 weeks) and seems very nervous when put down. She likes to hide in the covers. She does not know how to step up, or play. We are working on both.

I know she was likely a wild caught bird, and that she is over 25+ years old from what the vet told me. Do these hormonal concerns last a lifetime? or is there a point at which she is past her breeding years, and won't be so affected by it's influence?
Posted By: Charlie

Re: Unplanned rescue - Princess Buttercup - 01/26/16 07:53 PM

It seems reproductive behaviors go on and on but there are no numbers, that I know of. Thanks for taking her in! Just keep reading and interacting with others here, it will help. Things do usually get better and you will learn much to make both of your lives better. It takes time and it seems you are aware of this.
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