Posted Jun 27, 2015
Perhaps Poe's famed black bird didn't have much to say, but my Bunky sure did. As an apartment dweller, I found myself wanting to share my space with not only my husband, but also another "child" for fun and entertainment. Upon learning a co-worker also maintained an active aviary, it wasn't long before I found myself toting home a beautiful blue Budgey. I was fortunate to acquire him right when it was time for this newborn to leave the comfort of his only known home.
At first, I questioned if I had done the right thing. The more I tried to handle him, the more he fought with scratching and painful biting. One wouldn't think that a 4 inch bird could draw blood or inflict tremendous pain, but think again. Every night after dinner, I would make time to try to handle Bunky, but he'd have nothing to do with it. I was so disappointed. I didn't want a living ornament. I wanted an interactive pet-friend. I tried many approaches to handling him, gloves being one of them. But, when I wore gloves, I couldn't gauge how hard I was holding him and he couldn't feel my warmth and "life force" though the gloves. Once I got the "towel technique," an accidental discovery, I was on my way.
Wrapping the Bunkster in a dish towel prevent the foot scratching and acted as a barrier so that he couldn't reach my hand to bite it. Night after night, I would sit for a couple of hours in front of TV gently stroking and talking to him. It was important to gain his trust. He had to learn that cuddling was an expression of trust and love, not confinement and cruelty. As time progressed, I used less and less towel between he and I. When I saw that all attempts to bite had successfully diminished, I used only my hand to hold him as I continuously stroked, fondled, and talked to him.
One night, I noticed he came to the edge of the door opening as I motioned to remove him for his cuddling session. Could it be that he wanted to participate? This happened repeatedly, session after session. Simultaneously, biting and scratching totally ceased. Eureka. We bonded. It was a time for trust. During one session, I slowly opened my hand, finger by finger, until Bunky was totally exposed and able to fly anywhere he wanted. But, he didn't want to fly. He just sat in my opened hand.
From that point onward, handling and teaching Bunky was a piece of cake. Using seed rewards which eventually disappeared, I taught him to kiss when I puckered, to fly onto my shoulder from his cage atop of the refrigerator with a single finger command, and to fly home to his cage after a cuddle session by simply lifting him into the air toward his cage. He'd go in and wait for me to lock the cage at night. Eventually, it got so that the cage door was open all the time and he had free run of the house. Upon arriving home from work, he'd fly down to my shoulder and greet me and often stayed there unless I changed my clothes right away. In time, I worked with repetition and taught him to make vocal sounds that mimicked the vocal inflection of words, but he never quite said all of the consonants so that exact words were distinguishable. He tried, though, and that was good enough for me.
Yes, a Budgey or a Parakeet can be quite trainable. Patience, repetition, sincerity, and love are necessary to get the job done -- most especially patience.
Bunky traveled with me everywhere. Often I'd make the weekend drive to Mom's house for the weekend. Bunky would be in his cage in the back seat, singing and talking his garbled talk all the way. Of course, everyone thought I was nuts to be toting a bird around, but the Bunkster and I had a special bond. It was through him, I realized that birds, too, had their own personalities. After his passing, I owned a succession of birds, each with their own personality. Some were defiant and independent, making them difficult to train, while others were like Bunky, happy birds just wanting to do their "bird thing."
I found owning Bunky a perfect choice for a busy, working person. He was safe while at work, didn't need to be walked or fed until I got home...no matter what time that was...and was very portable and cost effective. Birds are good starting points to see if you want to go bigger some day...maybe to furry pets. If you can't remember to feed the bird or change his cage, then you will never survive with any pets. That's how easy they are.
Bunky brought me joy for 11 years before joining other winged friend, the angels, and it was 11 years of fun, entertainment, and friendship. The Bunkster will remain my favorite bird pet....evermore!