PHOENIX RANCH: Our Parrots
At Phoenix Ranch, we raise Congo African Greys, Lesser Jardines, Greater Jardines and Cockatiels. Each species has a style that suits some people better than others, and within each species there are unique characteristics to each bird. We like prospective owners to come visit and pick out the birds they "click" with. We feel that this gives the bird a better chance of getting a "forever home."
Species Differences: In our experience, African Greys are rather sensitive birds and can be more flustered by change and new things than the Jardines. For example, it took longer for my pet Grey to adjust to riding around with me on the ranch than a Jardine. She would fly off my shoulder each time we got close to a new animal (horse, pig, cow), whereas nothing phases the Jardines. It is important to expose them to different stimuli at a young age and throughout their life. If you don't, they can become fearful and neurotic. Having said this, with patience and time these negative characteristics can be reversed.
Jardines are bold little birds with beautiful colors. I compare them to Scottie Terriers. They are so confident, they will take on the dogs and people and are not afraid to use their beaks. If they know you will pull away when they grab you, they will not respect you and continue to act this way. (They also don't trust a perch that lets them fall, which is what happens when they grab you just for balance but you pull your hand away in response.) But once they know you can call their bluff, they become absolute sweethearts and real companions. (See the paragraph on "building the bond") It's easier to take them out on walks or rides in the car because they are more curious than fearful.
Lesser Jardines have shorter legs and walk like little penguins. They don't fly well because they are built like tanks, and are content to climb and waddle around the floors. These little guys like to play with toys, often rolling on their backs with their feet in the air.
Greater Jardines are a bigger, more dignified bird. They don't seem to like to play as much, though they still like to chew wood like any other parrot. Our Greaters will fly to us and just want to hang out. They seem to have the "cool dude" attitude of Cape Parrot, but at a fraction of the price.
Here are a links to a few articles about Jardines:
Cockatiels are little birds that are great for both children and adults who don't want the damage parrots can cause. They don't bite nearly as hard, leave smaller messes and while they will chew on paper and cardboard, the woodwork is less in danger. We let our cockatiels roam a lot. They like to explore but often decide they want to hang out with us. Just like the parrots, we find them climbing up our clothes to get a better view. They like to play with jewelry and eyeglasses while they are there.
Basic Rearing Philosophy: Let the parent birds raise the babies in the nest as long as possible. This gives them the best nurturing and healthiest start nature can provide. Thus, we don't bring the babies into the house later than many other breeders---African Greys 7-8 weeks, Jardines 3-4 weeks, Cockatiels 2 weeks.
When we bring them into the house, they start off in a cardboard box that is dark like the one they came from. They are a bit wild in the beginning, but it doesn't take long for hunger and curiosity to over-ride their fears. We tuck them up in towels and hold them while we watch TV, so they get relaxed and use to household noises.
As they grow, they are put in boxes that allow them to climb out and wander around the kitchen. They learn that it is safe to explore and visit with the other residents, both human and otherwise. As they mature and feel secure enough, they wander out into the bird porch to visit with the "big birds." We enjoy watching them develop from tiny little fuzzies to confident parrots.
Building that bond: I get around the biting issue by never putting a bare hand into a cage or as an invitation to "step up" unless I know the bird is feeling mellow. If they give "that look," I wrap my hand with a towel or sleeve so they can "test bite" before stepping up. If they decide they don't want to get up and try to fly away, I throw a towel over them and bundle them up. Once the bird is safely restrained (wings not flapping, beak not grabbing you), I let them peek their heads out, talk soothingly to them as I tuck them up under my chin. As Temple Grandin notes in her book, "Animals In Translation," pressure evokes a calming response.
As the bird relaxes, I let more of the bird out, scratching their head and back. I use this technique each time I approach any bird that doesn't look like it wants to cooperate. I find that over time, the bird will be less argumentative with each successive episode, eventually learning to step up without biting.