September 1998 Magazine
It is important to be patient, gentle and considerate of your new Grey. He doesn't know you. He is in a strange place with strangers. He will undergo a brief grieving period. He has lost all that was familiar and loved - the other babies he played with and his beloved and trusted caregiver.
The adjustment - as far as food, cage and toys are concerned - should be a brief one. It will take a little longer for him to know you. We have discussed in previous articles the kind of relationship a bird has with humans - it is based on love and trust. Without these, there can be no relationship.
He may be cautious. He may be watchful. He will want to learn the lay of the land. He will need to adjust to other birds (if any) and other companion animals you may have. Because of careful early management by your thoughtfully chosen breeder, he will be inclined toward acceptance, but don't assume it. A bird is not a domesticated companion animal and his trust and love must be earned by all who wish to have a satisfactory relationship with him.
If you have other companion animals, keep them quiet or away from him for the first few days. Don't overload his sensory perception with too much confusion or noise. If you have children or grandchildren, caution them about running up to the cage, gesturing widely or using a loud voice. Birds often are frightened of children because of their sometimes abrupt activity or sudden noise.
The adjustment period should last about three weeks. Be patient. Don't rush him. He doesn't know how loved he is and how anxiously awaited he was. Hold down the excitement. Be calm. Allow him time. Let him explore the cage and become familiar with it. The toys will be new and exciting and he will want to check them out.
Don't invite the family or neighbors over to see him just yet. Let him come to know you. Be careful to avoid accidents - take your time. Try not to let any "bad" things happen. Once he knows and trusts you, he will be able to accept an accident as just that. Hold him securely. Don't let him fall or be off balance when on your hand or knee. No earthquakes! Don't push him into accepting intimate petting until he is ready.
Ask the breeder which foot is the dominant one. Ask which foot he steps up with. Use the same handling technique for the time being. Offer the same hand he is accustomed to stepping up on. You can switch later or offer your hands randomly so he doesn't become rigid in his preference for one hand over the other.
Watch his body language carefully. He may be unwilling for you to pin his toes. Some are more accepting than others. Some babies will not accept pinning from the new owner. If he is unwilling for you to pin his toes, don't do it. Make sure he is balanced and steady on your hand. Don't allow him to come out of the cage on his own. Take those few seconds to have him come out on the "up" command. If he doesn't step up promptly, pick up the two long front toes on his dominant foot, brace his weight under his foot on your forefinger and lift him straight up slowly. The other foot will come up. Be unfailing with the "up" command and always command "down" when you return him to the cage. Before commanding "down", place his tail behind the perch. He will step backward onto the perch. Never let go of one foot until the other foot is securely on the perch.
He will accept you but he must be given time to do so. He needs to become comfortable - with you and his new environment.
Remember he is just a baby and will need more sleep and more food than an adult bird. If you have a sleep cage, use it so he will have undisturbed sleep. Give him all the food he will eat. He will not get fat. He has weight to put back on after weaning. He should have food available at all times. Weigh him daily for at least the first 6 months. Record the weight. Learn what is normal for your Grey - there will be small weight changes over time. Small losses - a downward trend for three days will call for a trip to the avian vet. He should be seen by the vet immediately, if there is a large loss on any one day.
To accustom your Grey to variety in shapes, colors, sizes and textures, it is important that he be exposed to small quantities of pellets other than the base pellet you have chosen. Samples are readily available from most of the bird food companies. Put a teaspoon or so one of the sample pellets in with the base pellet. He may like one sample pellet better than another. Experiment to see which of the sample pellets he likes. There is no need to buy a large quantity - you may find he hates the sample. The pellets I recommend as a base pellet are Harrison's, Hagen's and Ziegler's.
If your new cage has an adjustable grate on the bottom of the cage, position the grate at the higher position in the beginning. If he takes a tumble, he won't have so far to fall. Some birds are paper chewers. If your bird is, leave the grate at the higher position permanently so that he doesn't have access to the waste tray.
If the cage doesn't have an adjustable grate - pad the grate with a towel or old blanket. Put a piece of newspaper over the padding. He should be familiar enough with the cage not to fall after a few days. Babies who are allowed to learn to fly are sure-footed, agile and confident. It will be unusual for them to fall.
Bathe your Grey daily. He should become accustomed to being spray bathed each morning but as long as he has time to dry before bedtime, he can be sprayed at other times. A good breeder recognizes the importance of early introduction to bathing. This typically begins when the baby is partially feathered.
Never leave your bird alone with other companion animals. Never allow the slightest physical contact with another companion animal. In any confrontation, the bird always loses....eventually. The bird is fearless - he doesn't know his life may be in grave danger. Cage or crate other companion animals when you are away if they have the free rein of the house. They should never have access to the room where the bird is caged - whether you are home or away.
Your Grey will guide you in what he is willing to accept. Be aware. Watch carefully. Follow his lead. The care you take early on will pay handsome dividends later.
Birds n Ways Note: Bobbi Brinker owns Bobbi's Tropical Treasures, has been breeding birds for 11 years. She is also the owner and administrator of the many "Connection" bird email lists on the Internet.
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