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"Sunshine On My Shoulder"

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"Night-Night"
by Steve of the Bird HotLine



Sunshine "Hello there. . . . I'm Sunshine, an 8 year old Sun Conure, about 10 inches long (beak to tail). I was born in Phoenix, but my family came from the Amazon. Wow, I bet their wings got tired. "I'm as cute as a button, smart as can be, know about 40 words and phrases (all in context), and I'm potty trained. I love to cuddle, have a great sense of humor, know there is a wrong way and a right way (my way) to do everything, and I'm exceedingly modest."


Putting birds to bed is easy, all you do is put them in the cage, close the door, cover the cage (so they feel secure and avoid drafts), and turn out the light.

Nothing to it. Unless, of course, the bird you are putting to bed is Sunshine. He turns the simple act of covering his cage and turning out the light into a choreographed . . .

Extravaganza

starring

Sunshine The Wonder Bird
(Heís known as the Wonder Bird because youíre always wondering,
"What will he do next?")

It all starts around five oíclock. Thatís his and the cockatielsí (Snuggles and Buttercup) bedtime. Theyíve been going to bed around five since babies. If weíre busy and forget, Snuggles is the first to let us know. He comes flying out of the bedroom, yells while he circles the living room to make sure heís got our attention, and flies back to the bedroom.

"Okay, Snugs, we got it; itís bedtime." Where he hides his time clock his beyond us, but you can be sure itís around a quarter to five.

Once we are all in the bedroom, itís time to . . .

Fix The Cages For Sleeping

The Tielsí have a stand-alone cage and Sunshineís cage is next to it on an oversized book shelf. Since all three birds enjoy hanging out on top of the Tielsí cage, we keep an extra seed dish and some snacks (usually cooked corn, sliced apples, and pancake pieces) on top of it, and keep the top of the cage covered so that the inside stays clean.

Bedtime rules according to Sunshine:

Rule One: If I remove the food and seed dish from the top of the Tielsí cage, no problem. If Sandy does . . . big problem. He tries to bite her hand. Now this is the same Sandy he loves to snuggle up to, tells her he loves her, and gives her kisses all day long if sheíd let him. But "DONíT TOUCH MY FOOD LADY! . . . Thatís my Dadís job." If Iím not around, she has to distract him or close him in his cage first. Since he can open his cage door faster than you can close it, you have to be fast.

Next itís time to remove the three floor towels used to catch all the food they drop over the side of the cage, and shake them onto one of the towels to be later taken outside to feed the wild birds. Over the years a group of blue birds, doves, quails, sparrows, bunnies, chipmunks, and a couple of squirrels have gotten the message. "See you at the Steve and Sandy's around five for a gourmet dinner of raisins, almonds, cashew pieces, corn, pancakes, apple, and seeds." They all gather and wait in the trees for the feast to begin. But first we have to merge the food together on one towel. In this case, Sunshine is an equal opportunity maniac.

Rule Two: He doesnít care which one of us cleans the towels. Let either of us get too close and he starts attacking the towel and heaven help you if your hand gets in the way. (Why it upsets him for us to merge all the food on one towel is unknown, but thatís Sunshine.) If heís on his cage and canít get to the towel, he goes for his food dish. Heíll pull it right off the bars of the cage and toss it. So, prior to cleaning the towels, we remove his food dish. Which, of course, takes us back to Rule One. (Itís okay for me to take out his dish, but Sandy . . .)

Now that the food and towels are squared away, itís time to . . .

Cover The Cages

Sunshine has no rules regarding covering the Tielsí cage. His cage, though, is another matter.

Rule Three: When you remove the daytime cover from his cage he wants to be on it. He runs toward the back as you pull it forward . . . like a treadmill. He times his running so that he actually stays in one place as the towel comes out from under him.

Once the towel is gone he immediately scoots down to the door of his cage and pretends to busy himself. What he is really doing is waiting for me to try to cover his cage with his cage-fitting cover. The moment I start to slide it over the top of the cage . . .

Rule Four: He quickly (you canít imagine how fast he can be when he wants) zips to the top of his cage making it impossible for me to cover it. He just stands there all proud of himself and laughs. (For those of you who havenít read previous articles, yes he laughsóhe mimics mine, but laughs on his own when he thinks something is funny . . . like this little joke of his.) Finally the jokeís over and he climbs on to my hand and up to my shoulder preparing for . . .

Rule Five: Once his cage is fully covered, he wants me to bunch up the top covers, so he can crawl behind the bunched up fabric and play Peek-A-Boo. Iím supposed to pretend I donít see him (his head squeezed under the covers and his body completely visible). "Whereís Sunshine?" I ask over and over againómoving from one side of the cage to the otheróand he giggles. Finally his head pops up and either I say, "Peek-a-boo" or he says, "Peekboo."

He loves it. . . . Down goes his head and the game begins again. Heíd play all night if I let him.

"Come on Sunshine, itís time for bed." I take him off the top of the cage and he desperately tries to squirm out of my hands and crawl up to my shoulder.

Rule Six: If he can get up to my shoulder heíll slip into my shirt and hide. Then he gets real quiet, as if he thinks Iíll forget heís there, and tries to go to sleep.

"Where did that Sunshine go?" I ask a couple of times, and sure enough I hear a little bird giggling somewhere around my appendix.

I bring him out and pop him into his cage, turn off the light, and close the cage door. He turns and climbs up to his little stuffed animal tied to the inside of his cage; cuddles up to it, looks up at me, and says, "Night-night."

I pull the covers down over the cage, put my face close to the fabric and whisper, "I love you Sunshine, night-night."

As I leave the room I hear all drawn out and muffled from under the covers, "Gluuub Teeeeeve." He glubs me.

And itís all worth it.

*****

Consistency and Security

The key to a happy, healthy, and contented bird buddy (besides diet) is consistency and security. Birds love repetition. Once they get into a habit they will often repeat it for life (whether good or bad). So the trick is to set up good habits from the time they are babies. Not to say you canít get them into good habits at any age, it just takes longer. At first they may reject the habit pattern you are trying to establish (like a bedtime hour). Thatís understandable when you consider you are asking them to break an existing habit.

Birds tend to look at situations after the fact and determine if all went well. If Yes, they are more apt to let you repeat it again. For instance, letís say you are trying to get a new bird to stand on your finger. If you grab him and put him on your finger, the memory will be of an unpleasant experience and it will be even more difficult the second time. If, on the other hand, you simply hold your finger in the cage for a short time, all the while talking to him in a loving voice, then remove it, the bird thinks, Hey, that was okay. So the next time you put your hand in the cage, he or she will probably ignore it.

The way a bird shows comfort is to groom him or herself, or eat. Itís a signal that all his well. Once you see that heís feeling comfortable, move a little closer until the bird seems agitated. Move your hand back a few inches, leave it there awhile, and slowly take your hand out. That wasnít too bad.

Keep this up for a few days (and remember to talk to him lovingly) until you are within easy reach of the bird, and your new buddy acts totally at ease with your hand in the cage. You may even want to try giving him or her a treat. Then when you think the time is right, gently press your finger against the birds tummy and he or she will step up on to your finger. Donít even try to bring him out of the cage yet, just hold your finger as stiff as you can so your bird feels the security of his new perch and the gentleness of your voice. After a minute or so, press the little tummy against the perch and up the bird steps. Another good experience.

When you know your bird is comfortable standing on your finger, slowly and gently bring the bird out of the cage. Tell him how proud you are of him and how much you love him.

Whatever you do, always keep one thought in mind: Your number one goal is to build trust between the two of you. Build that trust, and the skyís the limit (pun intended).

Never force an issue with your bird or smack him with your finger or take his food away. The best punishment when heís bad is to put him in his cage for ten or fifteen minutes and leave him alone in the room (after telling him heís been a bad bird). Birds want to be with the flock (and thatís you).

There is no such thing as a mean bird . . . just a frightened bird. When a bird is scared he can either fly away or fight (bite). Since youíve probably clipped his wing feathers, all thatís left when heís frightened is to bite. Every story Iíve heard that had to do with a mean bird is always about an adult bird that the people got from someone else. That means he is either frightened of his new environment, mourning the loss of his flock, or was treated badly by his previous people. In any case, heís an unhappy frightened bird that needs lots of love. Think of him that way and you will know just how to win him over.

*****


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