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#260823 - 11/29/17 10:11 PM 1 Month in with my Rescue U2  
Joined: Nov 2017
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Lulu's Mom Offline
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Lulu's Mom  Offline
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On November 4th, after a few months of consideration and research, my spouse and I decided to re-home a female 30+ year old umbrella cockatoo. We didn't pay a red cent (though we have done some monetary damage since then!). We are the bird's 4th or 5th home. The original owner (so far as we know) was a woman who kept her for over 20 years, developed Alzheimer's and had to be placed in an assisted living facility.
While the woman was gradually becoming less and less capable of caring for herself, Lulu was kept locked in her cage. The woman also kept 2 or 3 Doberman pinschers as pets, and they had free roam around the house and cage while things were going downhill.
Lulu. Does. Not. Like. Dogs.
Lulu was passed to her owner's children after her mom went to the care home. The children kept her for some time. We aren't sure how long she was with them, but they were not capable of caring for the poor bird so she got rehomed (again) with some coworkers.
Those coworkers were the children of the couple from whom I adopted the bird. They are both elderly folks, and the lady is a retired school teacher. A few years into Lulu's stay with them, the wife adopted the parrot of one of her friends, who developed an allergy to him and could not keep him in the house. I believe that bird is an Amazon of some sort. Lulu was apparently very, very upset about this, since she shunned the woman afterward permanently and attacked the new parrot. The husband took over as the bird's primary caregiver because she would no longer allow her mom to touch her.
Fast forward 5 years after this and the couple were having problems caring for both of the birds. From what I gathered there were also some health problems making things more difficult. So they decided to keep one and relinquish the other...
I learned from one of my coworkers that they were looking for a home for this bird back in June or July. I read up on the birds, and spoke at length with other cockatoo owners I know who keep rescued 'toos. A good friend of mine has rescued 3 'toos with histories of trauma and abuse, and she's been my anchor over the past month! I knew what I was getting into, but there are some things that you don't really know until you experience them firsthand in your own home. Being a caretaker to a bird older than you with a rocky history is one of things. Did I have a load of trepidation? You betcha. But when I heard in mid-October that they still hadn't found a home for the bird we made the decision to provide the best one that we possibly could.
When I picked her up, Lulu was lively, chatty, and inquisitive. She was bundled into her travel cage already and peeved about it. Her large cage had been dismantled and packed in prep for the move earlier that day. I gave the owners the 3rd degree with regards to questioning them about the bird's history, likes and dislikes, quirks, habits, foods, etc. The history was sparse, as you can see. Upon inspection of her leg, I saw that she was un-banded, and had come to them that way. They had never taken her to a vet, or a groomer. Her nails resembled a raptor's, and her beak was very overgrown. She also had developed scissor beak. The car ride was blessedly uneventful for the 4 hours back home. Lulu danced to the radio, munched on peanuts and dozed. That diet... the bird was being fed a mix from Wal-Mart; the kind with dyed safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, and shelled peanuts. She got grapes and apple slices, and potato chips. No pellets or any real veggies to speak of, because she wouldn't eat them, apparently. We got home late, assembled her cage and when we opened the carrier she went straight to bed.
When I unpacked the baggies with bowls and small things I saw that she had 0 toys, besides a yellow plastic chain that she holds like a safety blanket and licks obsessively. The perches were dowels, and there was nothing for her to chew on or work her beak on. It was the most Spartan cage setup for a parrot that I have ever seen. I wanted to cry just looking at it. My little ring necks have probably had more to play with in the year they have lived with me than that cockatoo has in her entire life.
Fast-forward about a month later and we've had good times, bad times, and a few incidents. Replaced the old cage with a new macaw cage. Ordered a custom cover to fit over it so we can cover the bird and help regulate sleep and wake times. New toys to beat up, shred, throw and destroy, though cereal boxes and packing boxes are the best thing ever. Forget the toys. Wood blocks are a winner, too.
Lulu went to see the avian vet, and I'm waiting for the blood panel results and DNA sexing result. Apparently 'she' has never laid an egg, her eyes are extremely dark, and her pelvis and cloaca are rather slim to be a hen's. The vet said her inclination was to say this is a male bird, but I opted for the test to be positive. Her weight is fine, around 500 grams, and I'm working hard on that diet, coating colored ZuPreem pellets in my homemade chop to get some vegetables into the bird! She seems to have taken a shine to me, which is a turnaround from her last home. I fully expected this bird to stick to my husband and possibly shun me or make me really work for that trust. It's the opposite, and now I'm having to work on ways to encourage the boys to spend time bonding while I step back. The one-person bird is not something I want to deal with! Just Monday night Lulu bit cleanly through my husband's ear and had to be toweled back into the cage. He cried, I cried, and Lulu screamed. I'm still trying to analyze what went wrong there. The bird acts aggressive with my spouse anyway, probably because he's large, loud and the primary object of my affections. I can't seem to interact with him in front of Lulu without enduring displaying (the full popcorn, crest up look) and loud screams.
Working on loud screams and modifying them in general... It's a slow process but I'm keeping up with it. If I leave her eyesight, she screams until I move to somewhere she can see me. Calling back has no effect. This is difficult. Morning and evening sessions of "I'm a biiiiirrrd! Heeeey!" style calls I can handle. That's just natural. Screaming incessantly, and in a panic when I go to the fridge, go to the restroom, go get the mail, etc are awful, and even with earplugs in it's miserable. I have cried over this because I cannot fix it. I come back to the room and the bird goes right back to playing with toys, shredding things and eating. Lulu doesn't seem to care if I pay any attention, she just wants to be able to see me. I try to soothe before the screams start, and praise words and sweet sounds, but when the yelling happens in the middle of me trying to pee... well, what are you supposed to do, eh?
Step up works well, step down is requiring incentives, which I understand and am utilizing. My largest concern is the biting, and keeping the bird off my shoulder. I only allow my green ring neck hen on my shoulder, and only when she's in a good mood! I'm a very short woman, only 5'3", and held at waist level, Lulu's head is still almost even with my shoulder. Block with an arm and there's a hard nip coming. Attempt to settle the bird on your wrist - expect your knuckles to be squeezed by that beak. Wear a sweater or jacket as protection and prepare to be boarded - that bird will just latch on to the fabric and find a way to climb up. It's absolutely infuriating. I haven't been nailed yet but I realize it's only a matter of time. Lulu was spoiled previously as far as human interaction went. Shoulder time all the time, yelling was humored, tantrums were coddled. I wasn't told of any bites beyond the occasional nip and the dreaded 'too shoe attacks (I have poly toe Skechers thank god) but I can see why you wouldn't tell a prospective adopter about that.
That's the Cliff Notes version thus far. I'm glad I'm such a stubborn, willful person. Those traits are really coming in handy now.
If any of you folks have any advice for me, I would be very glad to hear it.

#260824 - 11/30/17 12:18 AM Re: 1 Month in with my Rescue U2 [Re: Lulu's Mom]  
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You are not going to be able to "fix it" in such a short period of time. You've started off on the right foot, make that feet! A couple of questions with the screaming. Is there a spot in the house where she would be able to see you better? She is frightened right now and has chosen you as a safety person. She's been bounced around for the past few years. I'm sure she is frightened right now, fearful of another move to another strange house. When trying to establish a contact call it has to be done before the screaming starts. Years ago with Cassie I would tell her where I was going and continue to talk to her and started making our contact call, a "blip" that was easy for me and for her. It took all of us, me and my husband and son to be on board with this to make it successful. I honestly don't remember how long it took before Cassie stopped screaming, maybe 6 months or a year. From what you have written it sounds as though you are calling to her while she is screaming? Screaming has to be ignored. I know easier said than done. It is doable though. Cassie is a small too but I have had to do this with the large toos as well. The most important thing is to reinforce all quiet or inside voice vocalizations. If she's quiet even for only 30 seconds run and give her lots of praise for being so quiet. Over time you will be able to increase the time span.
As far as her relationship building with you and your husband work on it now. Both of you become important to her. If she begins to form more of a relationship with one or the other be sure to balance the interaction to attempt to avoid a mate bonding. Others will come on and share their experiences. In the meantime use the search feature on the top right of the page to look up specific topics of interest. The site has been in operation for over 15 years so lots of information available. Good luck and keep us updated on how this lucky lady is doing in your care.


Nancy & Cassie BE2
#260825 - 11/30/17 01:41 AM Re: 1 Month in with my Rescue U2 [Re: Lulu's Mom]  
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Lulu's Mom Offline
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I’m the safety person? That makes me feel so guilty for getting irritated at being yelled at from the next room! Not that I let Lulu see me irritated.
She has a warbly “Hey you!” that she yells out, and I respond to that and praise other words, like “Hello Lulu,” and “I love you.” But no matter if I repeat the call each time, after a short period of time she still begins to scream. So, it’s like the screaming is inevitable, unfortunately. At least for the near future. The house is ranch style, so she can only see the living room, dining room, and a small sliver of kitchen and hallway. It’s the best vantage point in the house, but that’s not saying much. The last house had a more open design, so the kitchen and living room were completely open, and there was a guest bath right off the living room. So I think she is likely used to all the activity being observable. I do ignore the screaming, as hard as it is! The guys also know to not coddle those temper tantrums, as it only makes things worse. I had to fuss at my hubs, because he turned around in his chair this weekend and yelled at her to “Please STOP, Lulu!” I wonder if that had something to do with the bite a few days later, because she was very riled about that. She will usually stop after five minutes, fifteen at the worst, and revert to calling. That’s when I go to her and give her a head rub, a treat, and praise. I have plenty of earplugs... in every room. It stops when she sees me for the most part, so if I’m doing something in another room, I wait until I get quiet or good vocalizations before I move to where I’m visible and praise her. The only screams I run to are the ones that are caused by fear, usually from seeing a hawk outside or a person.
I will refer my hubs to this forum, and we will work on a routine that involves him doing things she likes or feeding her fave treats. He is kind of gun shy at the moment, due to being nailed. I can’t blame him, but I told him it would make things worse if he withdrew from out of cage interactions. My stepson sits and talks to her each day, and she lets him rub her feet. He also plays music and gets her to dance and move around.
Another thing that concerned me a bit was the eagerness to get out and play one night and then her wanting to just sit on her favorite swing and watch us from her cage the next. I let her call the shots, as far as playing goes. Tonight is a perch night, but I sat by her cage and fed her people food from my plate- it’s a lie. It’s all healthy bird stuff but I put it near my food so it immediately is a premium she must have. First time she has eaten greens, bell peppers and pasta! I chalked the see-saw moods up to to adjusting to the newnes and being nervous. I wish she could be free in the wild. I think all birds should be, but with these large birds it’s really a whole new level of heartbreaking.
Thanks Nancy.

#260828 - 11/30/17 01:46 PM Re: 1 Month in with my Rescue U2 [Re: Lulu's Mom]  
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If you think about a very young child that has been removed from it's family and brought to a strange environment with only strangers around they will cling to the person that has shown kindness. Lulu is clinging to you at this point and is terrified. While being so frightened she is also grieving the loss of her family/flock. I'm sorry but this made me chuckle " I chalked the see-saw moods up to to adjusting to the newnes". Nope this is a cockatoo, bright and cheery one moment and moody the next, especially this time of the year. It's hormone season for our fine feathered ladies. Don't worry it will pass in about a month. Just bad timing on rehoming.
If your husband is timid right now have him just sit next to the cage with favorite treats for Lulu. Don't push it because she is going to pick up on his nervousness and become nervous herself. Your stepson has the right idea to start with her. He is showing her that he is fun and gives her activities and interactions. Dancing is something that we do multiple times per day at my house. I can probably sing the words to all the kids hits today with Meghan Trainer, Pink, Justin Bieber, Selina Gomez being some of our favorite dance musicians.
"But no matter if I repeat the call each time, after a short period of time she still begins to scream." The key here is to go see her for even just 5 seconds before the screaming starts and tell her she's being good, give a head rub and then go back to doing what you where doing. Someone on here told me this back 13 years ago when I first got Cassie. I did some running back and forth for awhile but in the long run I'm so glad that I did. Yes we still get a loud day from time to time, but it's rare. If she screams now it's because she sees something scary outside like a hawk or the terrible cockatoo eating baby bunny monster. There everywhere in the spring. We have managed to teach her to ask whats that when she sees something she's unsure of. When I hear her say that still I run. Sometimes I hear the terror scream and as soon as I get to her she'll say what's that.
The noise is something that we worked on for a long time. There are times that it's ok and we promote it. At night Cassie likes to sit on her boing between us while we watch tv, sometimes in the morning too. She will start to flap her wings and get the boing going in a huge circle screaming her head off. This I let her do because it gets her some exercise, gets positive attention from us(can't help but laugh) and she gets her screaming out that she has held in for so long! Tell your guys that yelling at her is going to be interpreted by her as yelling with her. It will reinforce what they don't want. Ignoring her is best when she is being loud at a time of the day you want quiet. It's going to take her awhile to be able to clue in to acceptable behavior in her new environment. Keep up the good work
Eating with her is the best way to get her eating a good diet. Once it's introduced she may continue to eat it when presented in her bowl.

Last edited by BE2Cassie; 11/30/17 01:58 PM.

Nancy & Cassie BE2
#260829 - 11/30/17 03:58 PM Re: 1 Month in with my Rescue U2 [Re: BE2Cassie]  
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So I have a feathered two-year old with the mood swings of a grumpy teenager? wink Poor love. I had hoped to bring her home around mid to late August, but things didn't work out that way. This is indeed an awful time for rehoming. So much stress.
She wanted a head rub this morning, then five minutes later tried to nail my fingers when I attempted to scratch her noggin again, in spite of having been given the "Rub me now, human," body language! Fifteen minutes later after bird time-out she was sweet again. Hormones...
I reckon I'll be getting in all of my daily steps going back and forth.
I'll ask hubs to just sit and talk to her, and feed her some food from his plate like I've been doing. He came back from an out of state business trip last night and his sudden reappearance after 2 days really set Lulu off. Nobody could console her last night. We just had to dial things down a bit earlier than usual, turn off lights, kill the TV, and cover the cage. It was about 20 minutes after I last posted, actually. She was giving the high-pitched 'air raid siren' alarm scream, along with the usual 'too scream. Totally fine until he got in. It's those situations that leave me at a total loss. Damage control becomes the focus.
He fed her breakfast this morning and changed her water; I told him it might help change her opinion of him if he was the one who provided the food for a while, and that I would back off a bit so the bird wasn't always looking to me for all its needs to be met, all the time. I read somewhere (in the multitude of behavioral and training books and sites for parrots) that having each person in the house provide a unique, valued, or fun activity or experience would help with the bonding process and aid the bird in seeing everyone as a non-threat and eventually a flock mate. We're trying. I know, and the guys know, that it's a slow process.

#260833 - 12/01/17 11:21 AM Re: 1 Month in with my Rescue U2 [Re: Lulu's Mom]  
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You really are on the right tract with her. It may seem daunting at times but all of a sudden something clicks and she and the rest of you will be over that first hurdle and on to the next! Learning her body language and facial expressions are vital to avoid bites. And yes you will learn they do have facial expressions. Watch her eyes especially, cockatoos because their eyes are so dark can be difficult to see "eye pinning" but they still are expressive. We know by Cassie's facial expression and her eyes if we should even attempt to touch her. She has a partial squint and solid stare when she's not in the best of moods. Telling you what to watch for in body language and what it means can be almost impossible because each bird is so individual. Keep an eye on her crest, flat, partial or fully opened paired with what activity, eyes looking straight ahead, to the sides, squinting, eye pinning if her eyes are light enough to see the pupil, feathers fluffed or held tight to the body, body erect or squatting, wings in tight to the body or partially to fully extended, running with head out straight in front with beak open, foot activity of toe tapping or stomping, clicking the beak and the list can just go on. There are so many things to learn with body language in a cockatoo but vital for coexisting in harmony. Don't expect to be able to over come everything, it wont happen. Cassie at 13 still screams at times for God only knows why, bites at times because we weren't paying attention to her body language or it's hormones and she shouldn't be on us and still thinks that every phone call in the house is for her regardless of which phone it is. Good luck you are doing great!


Nancy & Cassie BE2

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