“A diamond in the rough” is a phrase that often comes to mind when I am interacting with Rocky, my thirteen year old, male Moluccan Cockatoo. Rocky was re-homed with me almost five years ago and it was so obvious why he lost his home. When I first brought Rocky home, I was unable to safely get him out of his cage. The word “safely” is in reference to me. A wing clip and medication didn’t stop his determination to chase me down several flights of stairs. Neither one of these forms of intended punishers worked because I was clearly dealing with behavior issues, and behavior issues showing a strong history of reinforcement.
Through time, patience, training, and observation it didn’t take long to start changing Rocky’s behavior issues. His behavior issues existed and were strong because they worked for Rocky. He wasn’t hatched acting this way. It was society and the way society is educated that taught or trained Rocky to have these behaviors. I sat and observed Rocky for several days and the training began the moment I brought him into the house.
Positive reinforcement training is a very strong and effective form of communication with any animal, and it has proven to be so, and not
surprisingly with Rocky. Nearly five years ago it was highly suggested Rocky be put to sleep. This past spring Rocky went on his first children’s program and not only did Rocky enjoy the experience, so did the children. Rocky was an effective educator showing the kids how enthusiastic he by raising his crest, waving with his wings while yelling “HI!”, and stepping up onto the arms of children.
The phrase “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure” is also one that comes to mind when interacting with Rocky. How easy it can be for society to dispose of an animal after they’ve trained it to act the way it does. The majority of these cases are so preventable and it is so heart breaking to see it continue. Seeing this continue is the main reason for why I continue to do what I do and share the information I have and learn with the public. Education is key, and quality education is priceless. Take advantage of the opportunity you have to educate the children in your area about parrots, parrots as companion animals, and their behavior, training and importance in enrichment. It is a great way to keep them socialized also. One of our key educators sits right before us….the animals with which we share our homes.
Whoever chose to leave Rocky behind, lost a true gem of a bird. He makes me laugh on a daily basis and brings joy and appreciation of his species to this household on a daily basis.
Parrots are intelligent and many studies are proving this. I strongly believe, the more intelligent the animal, the more challenging it is to keep them enriched. If they are not provided adequate enrichment, the easier and more likely behavior issues will develop. Positive reinforcement training is a very strong form of enrichment which is the reason behind why it is used in this household. “The proof is in the pudding.” is what I often say when giving a workshop or talk on parrot behavior and training. I can’t put enough emphasis on this form of interaction with our birds, or other companion animals at home or those in which we interact. Never stop searching for education, our birds depend on it. After all, their lives are in our care, they heavily rely on us.