May 2002 Magazine
Let me begin with saying that Quaker parrots are thieves!! They try to steal your Hershey kisses and before you know it, they have stolen your heart instead. I know, because I am just one of many in a trail of Quaker slaves across America! This is my story...
My husband and I sat down to an evening of what we thought was mundane TV for the evening. But little did we know, we would receive a spark that would change our lives FOREVER. We were watching PBS as they were explaining the finer points of owning parrots. Everything from Greys to Budgies. They were all so fascinating, I sat there in rapt attention. I must have squealed with delight when the grey parrot caught the little ball his mama had tossed him. My husband took notice.
It was two days before Christmas of 1998 and I was hustling around trying to do some last minute housecleaning for Christmas day. My husband brought in a LARGE package. My stepson Bob was right behind him. He said for me to open it and I did. I said, why....it's a bird cage, incredulously. I took all the paper off. When I asked if he was going to buy me a bird, Bob immediately knew when to step in. He handed me a little brown box that was gently in motion!! The tears are coming to my eyes even now as I remember the scene. I opened the box and the cutest little green bird you ever saw sweetly said "step up?". And he came out quickly onto my hand and ran up my sleeve! My life has never been the same since. We named him Patrick O'brien because he looked Irish and after all, he was green.
Once everything was in place and he was safely in his cage with food and water and toys, he was not in any particular mood to be friendly. I figured he just needed a little settling in time. As I hurried around fixing and preparing, I could hear Paddy talking to himself. "Pretty Bird? Are you talkin to me? Thank you!" Since I was a first time bird owner, I decided to just give him a little time. On Christmas day, my bird loving son-in-law came in and was immediately smitten!! He opened the cage and got Paddy right out of there as quick as a wink!! Paddy was preening his mustache and having a ball! It was then that I decided that "I" was just going to have to assert myself and be the boss.
After Christmas, I began to get Paddy out of his cage and place him on a little swing I had hanging above the sink. I could not limit myself to staying in the dining room because Paddy was calling loudly. The swing worked fine. But there were times when I was boiling water or frying, etc. that I didn't want Paddy in the kitchen. Then Paddy would give out the most bloodcurdling squawk! I was getting irritated but since I was alone, I wondered what would happen if I let out a loud squawk. So I did. After awhile, Paddy began to try to imitate MY squawk. It was hilarious. So now, when he is too loud, I'll just squawk and then he will imitate me and it will be a softer aakk. After all, he doesn't want to make loud noises...he just wants my attention. I can be at the computer in the back room and he will start with his wolf whistle. I just whistle back and he is happy to know I'm still in the house.
Birds need to spend some time alone. My husband bought me a Quaker Manual that said you should not spend more time with your Quaker now, than what you would be willing to spend with it for the rest of your life. Since I am not working a job right now, I try to leave or stay in another part of the house for two to three hours everyday. That way, should I start working, he will not feel neglected and begin plucking feathers, etc. Twice a day I get him out and we play tug of war with a paper towel and try talking and singing, etc. It was "our" time.
Quakers are such inquisitive little creatures. Paddy loves to sing along with Lawrence Welk and flips his little wings to the music and sways. He learned to say pretty bird and peek a boo. He also learned to say Good Bird, but we made a mistake that we cannot remedy. You must always be in complete control of your brain when training a bird. When I would hold Paddy over the potty or a paper towel, I would say "be a good bird". Then Paddy would poop and say "gimme a kiss". So I would give him a kiss. One day my son-in-law came over again. He said to Paddy "have you been a good bird?". To which Paddy immediately pooped on his knee! Then he said "gimme a kiss". With that, Joe said "why should I give you a kiss when you just pooped on me"!! Well, what can I say....it's ingrained now! I'm walking through the bathroom and say "Be a good bird Paddy" and he does! I think I now have everyone ELSE trained to NOT tell Paddy he is a good bird. They tell him he is a Pretty Bird or they pay the consequences.
Once while in the bathroom, Paddy fell into the wastebasket full of Kleenex. I picked him up immediately and he said "thank you"!! He never learned that from me!! But he knows when to say thank you.
Paddy had lived with us for 9 months when it finally happened....We were on our way to the sink for our bath and Paddy decided he didn't want a bath. He FLEW clear through the house, over my husband's head in the recliner and into the piano room. I chased him all the way. As soon as we were back at the sink, it happened again. As he was breezing past my husband's head, he said "maybe it's time to have his wings clipped". His yearly checkup came early that first year.
When I got Paddy home, he sat on his cage and would not speak. Birds need a few days to pout. They can't fly and their toenails have been filed so they can't hold on good. They are upset. Not to worry. In a few days, they will be back to normal. I would not have a vet visit and then leave for a couple of days though. Plan it so you will be there for the pouting and reconciling time.
There were times when we would be gone from home over night. I would put extra food and treats in a little dish in his cage. He knew that we were leaving when that dish went into his cage. I would fasten his cage so he couldn't get out while we were gone because after about 6 months, he learned how to lift the cage doors. All Quakers eventually learn this.
Since I don't have any dogs, cats, etc. I let Paddy camp out on top of his cage, except if we are leaving overnight. I eventually got him a Happy Hut and hung it on the side of his cage. He now sleeps outside of his cage. He only goes in there to eat.
By the time Christmas had come around again, Paddy was well into the routine. Or should I say "we were". Paddy had learned to say quite a few things. While cleaning the house, I bumped my toe and grabbed it and started whining ow ow ow ow. Somehow, Paddy got the gist of that right away. I was down on my knees cleaning one day and Paddy said "owowowowowow". I saw Paddy hanging upside down and ran over to the cage. He immediately met me at the top of the cage!!! I was furious and elated at the same time! I went back to work and he did it AGAIN. When I told nonbird people this, they just looked at me! You have to be careful what you say to nonbird people!! One day, I was sitting on the loveseat taking a little nap. Paddy was on my right arm. When I dozed off, I dropped my arm and Paddy went tumbling down my sleeve saying "owowowowowowowowowow!"
I knew then that he had the full meaning of "OW".
Paddy is a party bird!! He seems to sense when I am having a party. Maybe it's the candelabras and the good dishes!! Anyway, he loves to mingle among the guests!! He wows the crowd with his usual verbal fare. The second Christmas here was in 2000. I was bustling around and yelling for everyone to "come in". By the time the very last guest had come, Paddy beat me to the punch!! He ran across his cage lickity split and yelled "COME IN". From then on, it was down hill all the way. He turned come in into come here. Then one day my husband wanted a cup of coffee. He told Paddy to say "Phyllis, come here". After a few weeks, he started adding "Phyllis, come here, drink, drink". So, somehow, after a period of time, we started having decaf at 5:00 every day. Paddy would always know when it was 5pm!! He would start saying "drink, drink". Husband's are a bad influence!!
Paddy was becoming a very spoiled little bird. In November of 2000, I acquired another male quaker from a lady that had him for 6 years. She was elderly and had gotten him from her daughter after a divorce. This bird had never had his wings clipped and was as "free as a bird" could be. He lived upstairs in a room of his own. I drove up to get him. He was not touchable by me. There was some serious work to be done.
After a couple of months, he would fly over to my shoulder from his cage. He then proceeded to bite me on the cheek and lip. After winter was over and the air conditioner was turned on in the computer room, I moved "Kelly" out to the dining room, across the room from Paddy. Over this last year, Kelly has mellowed out with some TLC. By June, he was climbing down off his cage onto the love seat where I was sitting. When he tried to be boss, I would just put him back on his cage for a time-out. Paddy and Kelly don't really like each other since they are both males. I have to keep them separated. Once, I dozed off, and Kelly was on one shoulder and Paddy on the other. They were having a beak fight right in front of my nose when I was jostled awake!! Kelly doesn't talk much, and he is very shy. He has said pretty bird, peek a boo, and crackers. One day I was in the computer room and I heard Paddy say "gimme a kiss" and Kelly said "SMACK!" So I know they like having someone else to talk to but they are just jealous of each other.
Once I heard them getting really loud in the dining room. Paddy said "come in, come in". I got out there in time to see the UPS man trying the doorknob!!! I hid! Good thing the door was locked. I was expecting my sister one day so I left the door open while I was getting ready. I heard the door open and close so I ran out to the living room. She was sitting on the couch. She said "I heard you say come in". I told her it must have been Paddy!!! She said "I thought you sounded a little hyper!!".
My day goes something like this....7 am. "Phyllis, Phyllis, Sweetheart, come here, come here" and this keeps up until I drag myself out of bed. If I "don't", then I've got real trouble. Paddy climbs down to the floor and walks into the bedroom and crawls up the blanket. The first time he ever did this, I just about rose 2 feet off the bed. He got on my shoulder and said "GOOD MORNING"!! Right in my ear. My husband rolled over and thought I had said good morning to HIM! We were both shocked!!
Next we sit down and have our oatmeal, after I have cooked it amid squawks and whistles. Paddy and Kelly have their own little plates at the table. Sometimes it is difficult to get Kelly over to the table. I have been tricking him the last few weeks. I gather up all of his hand bells and put them next to his plate. He LOVES those bells. He builds with them, he carries them around and he puts them one in each corner of his cage! I clip Kelly's wings, but I swear that bird could fly without feathers if he had to! He has powerful wings after 6 years of noclip. When he sees the bells, he flies the 3 feet over to the table. Paddy is always eager to dig in to "people" food. Kelly has been a little more difficult to introduce new foods to.
After breakfast, I leave them alone for awhile. I read my email, etc. Paddy calls to me. I answer. Then I clean the house. Paddy and Kelly like for me to sing to them while I dust and sweet. I wash the dishes and Paddy makes the "water" sound. Kelly hears the water and wants a bath. I get his little dish out and set it up on his playgym and he goes to town!! He LOVES taking a bath. Paddy goes and hides behind his hut so I won't give him a bath too!! At noon my husband comes home for lunch. We start all over again!! In the afternoons I try to get things done that "I" want to do. Around 4:30 I sit down for a short nap. I usually have two birds on my shoulder by the time I wake up! Then Paddy starts in with "drink, drink" So I go fix us some latte or something with whip cream on it. Paddy and Kelly eat the whipped cream and leave me the latte. We have our playtime until after the news. Then I start dinner. After dinner we just kind of hang out together and watch tv.
My schedule varies, but I always try to stick with this routine if I'm home all day. Birds like routine in some things. A lot of people say that their birds need lots of new toys. Kelly has been given a lot of toys, but his interest is only in his bells. He has hanging bells and hand bells. I showed him a little brass bell that my stepson had brought me from Kuwait and he want IT!! It was a little too heavy for him to pick up though! You just have to watch your birds to see what they are playing with. If they aren't playing with anything, then you just haven't found what they like yet. Kind of like buying for grandkids for Christmas!!
When Paddy is ready to go to his happy hut, he walks up to my chin and bumps it. I say "you wanna go nitenite?" He says "Good night!" So I take him over so he can say good night to my husband and then over to Kelly to say good night. Then I say goodnight and away he goes into his hut. Then he says "gimme a kiss" and I do and turn off most of the lights. I sit down to watch the ball game with my husband. Then Kelly quietly flutters down to my shoulder to snuggle up next to my neck. Kelly is a quaker but he thinks he a night owl!
Paddy usually goes to bed early. But if we have gone out for dinner, Paddy will be on the top of his cage when we get back ready for a handout. And it behooves me to make sure I have brought something home from the fish fry!! There'll be the devil to pay if I didn't!!
Holidays are a nightmare (not really). It's just that Paddy can't seem to understand why the kids get all the candy and he can't have any!! He tries to run down my sleeve and steal a piece. He loves to sit on my shoulder at Halloween and have the kids reach in the bowl for the candy. They say "Is that a real bird?!!" and Paddys says "Good bye!!, Goodbye!!" When anyone says "I've got to go" Paddy says "Goodbye"!! He is hilarious. This year after Christmas, Paddy and I gave our rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. I sang "Weeee......Wish you a Merry...."then I paused and Paddy sang "CHRISTMAS" . He did that 3 times and then I sang "and a happy new year". We were a hit!!
So, as you can see, my life PB (Prebird) was almost a breeze, but it wasn't nearly as rewarding. Even my husband talks gentler to ME after spending 3 years talking gentle to these loving little creatures. You get a whole new perspective on life after having known a Quaker, the Prince of Thieves.Winged Wisdom Note: Phyllis and her husband are owners of two pet Quaker Parakeets, Paddy and Kelly.
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