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Taming Older Birds


By Ken Globus


Here's another popular myth perpetuated by conventional bird experts that no one seems to challenge:  "If  you don't get a hand-fed baby, you'll never have a truly loving pet." Well, in the interest of truth, and older birds that are shunned,  I have to go on record as saying older birds can make absolutely wonderful pets.

Many birds with tremendous potential are being avoided, ignored and even neglected because people are either afraid of them, or don't know how to deal with their behavior issues. With the right techniques, older birds, even abused birds, can become loving pets. 


A Trip to the ER

A veterinarian referred a family to me. Here's what I found out.  Their double yellow head, named Nigel, was at least 25 plus years old. The couple had inherited Nigel from the wife's mother, who had died. She had lived with Nigel more than 25 years without ever once having been able to touch him.  Every time she tried, he tried to bite her. During the year the couple had Nigel, try as they might, they couldn't even get close to him. Nigel snapped, bit, attacked, squawked and totally terrified them. When the sister bird-sat she had to wrap her hands with towels in order to change Nigel's food cups; that's how aggressively he would go after her. On one occasion, he gave poor Sis a gash so serious she had to go to the ER and get stitches.

I started Nigel's session with the usual preliminary handling where I determine how frightened and/or aggressive a bird is.  At first Nigel was extremely wild, attacking, screaming and thrashing around. But within 20 or so minutes Nigel not only stopped biting, but began to allow me to touch his head. 


Exorcising Demons

Suddenly, as if a dark veil had been lifted, you could see the expression on Nigel's face change from terror/hate into one of trust & absolute love. It was so apparent that the people, seeing that Nigel was suddenly very affectionate toward me, in an utterly unselfish act offered, "Take him. He'll be happier with you." Of course, I refused - acquiring birds is not my goal - and urged them not to give up so soon.  I assured them that if we continued working we would get them to be able to get close to Nigel.  In another 35 or 45 minutes, Nigel started looking at the husband with the same loving eyes he had cast upon me. The change was dramatic.  The couple was practically moved to tears.  


Tears & Fears

In a matter of minutes we completely turned around their relationship.  Nigel became a happy bird  - after he had lived in fear for more than 25 years. It's important to understand that Nigel is not the only example of this, just one that's on the more dramatic end of the scale.  

I have worked with many older birds - even older, abused or neglected birds -- and found them to be very responsive to this taming approach.  It usually takes a few days after a session of good follow-through to get the bird well on its way to being a happy companion.  Nigel proved one very important thing:  even when  a bird is no spring chicken, trust can be built in a very short time


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