Friday, June 14, 2013

Jojo's First 24 Hours

He's here! Jojo the Moluccan Cockatoo is sleeping in my living room on the highest, full length hardwood perch in his powder coated, midnight black cage, occasionally nibbling on his psychedelically colored bird toy. 

Jojo is like any cockatoo; he chews, he screams, he makes a little mess. But Jojo is also shy. When we first visited Jojo it was easy to tell he was scared. Walking past his cage will earn you a quick cockatoo hisss paired with a flare of flamingo pink crest feathers. Knowing this I wanted to do my best to prevent this reaction when he came home so that our relationship can build faster. My solution? A cockatoo hut!

Getting ready for Jojo's homecoming. Clear plastic shower  curtain protecting the wall , cardboard hut, and storage containers filled with toys and food.

The day Jojo came I was ready. Prepared with near a dozen large bags of pelleted food, birdie bread, chop, seeds, nuts and goldenfeast this bird could outlive the inevitable zombie apocalypse. With such a fortitude of food and a recent shopping trip to the dollar store I was well prepared for my incoming foster bird. 

Jojo's first couple hours home. He decided he needed a little comfort and preened under the box.

Like most birds Jojo likes the highest perch to observe people and feel a little more secure. To my surprise he quickly took to the cardboard box. First sitting quietly under it, then customizing it to suit his needs by chewing off strips of his new brown paper box.

Soon after the initial chewing he started to carefully explore his new hidey-hole. Took him a total of four hours to carefully creep inside and perch in it. Once he did I heavily reinforced with an ethusiastic "Yaaay!" He celebrated as well by raising his bright crest and clicking his beak. It's so addicting to watch him react this way!  

Jojo discovers a secure place to hide!

Some of you clever folk out there might be wondering if Jojo has come out to interact with me yet. The quick answer is no, he has not yet come out of his cage. This isn't just because it's suggested to let a bird "observe his surroundings" until they are settled in, the main reason is because he doesn't willingly step up. Without a reliable step up (or target training) there is no safe way for me to get Jojo in and out of his cage without breaking his trust in me.

In the last blog post there is a photo of Jojo cuddling on a man's chest. But getting him there wasn't pretty. The process of removing Jojo from his cage required the use of a stick to scare him out, the stick did its job by startling Jojo so severely he bolted past the person trying to get him to step up and crashed onto the floor! This is a clear example of Negative Reinforcement which should never be used as the first training choice due to ethical reasons. Jojo's "cuddling" behavior is likely an end result of the phenomenon known as Learned Helplessness as Jojo had no choice but to interact whether he liked it or not.

I hope that by bringing in Jojo I have the chance to help him learn that he no longer has to be chased with sticks and that he becomes empowered to make his own choices about how he wants to be handled.

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog

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