A few months ago my husband gave me the wonderful and terrible gift of a twelve year old African Grey parrot. It belonged to a client that advised my tender-hearted honey that with a new baby in their house, the bird would have to be put down. When hubby approached me about adopting the bird, at first I was adamant – No birds in the house. No way. Never. They’re filthy. But he appealed to my pet-loving side and I finally, reluctantly, agreed to yet another animal in the house as long as it didn’t become my responsibility. It was not going to be my bird!
When the evening that he’d arranged to pick up the bird arrived, I had talked myself into believing that having an African Grey would be a Good Thing. I’d train it to say interesting things and teach it colors and shapes and it would impress my friends and guests like the trained birds you see on youtube. We’d play birdie-in-the-blanket and hide and seek, and it would all be very comfortable and amusing and completely worth it. Hah!
What moved into our home that evening was a spoiled, anxious, and vicious tyrant with the personality of the worst toddler imaginable, accompanied by enough paraphenalia to fill a toddler’s bedroom. His cage is roughly six feet square and eight feet tall, and he requires two more additional big portable perches so he can hang out in other rooms of the house when we can’t be with him in his room, now called The Aviary. Yes, he has his own room. We had to move furniture around so we’d have enough storage for his million toys, vitamins, food, litter, bowls and cage parts. Not that he was grateful in any way. Back then, to get to close to him was a good way to lose some skin, or an eye. But OK, we took on the responsibility, so we got him settled in, renamed him Coo, and tried to make the best of it.
He remains spoiled and vicious to this day. My husband, children, and my best friend have all tried to make friends with him, in the interest of peace and keeping their skin whole, but Coo is completely disinterested. If you pass too close to his cage he’ll lean out and take a nip of whatever body part is closest. If you try to hand him a treat, he’ll bite fingers instead of the food at least half the time. Heaven forbid that you’re barefoot if he happens to be walking around on the floor. I know from personal experience that a parrot bite on the toe is similiar to what it must feel like to have someone try to cut your toe off with hedge clippers. He’ll even try to get your fingers while you’re changing his food and water or opening his cage door. Although, for me he’s made an exception.
Somehow or another I’ve earned Coo’s psychotic devotion. It figures, right? That the one person in the house who didn’t want him is the one person on whom he’s pinned all his affection? Oh he’ll still go for my eye, but he does it while sitting on my shoulder and refusing to leave. If I’m in the kitchen he has to be in there, constantly trying to make love to my feet, or playing a game where he pretends to attack me and runs away. The other members of my family have learned that if Coo is on the kitchen floor they’d better be wearing shoes. If he doesn’t know where I am in the house he’ll stand in the middle of the hallway and shout “Bwahk!” over and over until I appear. Woe be unto anyone else who tries to make him stop.
I know he’s just an animal, but he has the intelligence of a young child and sometimes he seems so…malicious. You should see him when he hunches down and stares at my daughter, calling her name and saying “heh, heh, heh”. When I’m hugging my young son or my husband he’ll puff up all his feathers, spread his wings, and stare him down, rocking back and forth, hissing and looking like a raptor about to attack. Scary.
I’ve read all the books and watched several videos and no method for taming and training him works. I would never allow a biting dog to terrorize my family, so what are we to do? Are there any bird enthusiasts out there with advice or an opinion?