This morning I headed out to the airport two hours in advance with plenty of time to spare to pick up my parrot. I was nervous about getting stuck in New York City rush hour traffic on the way there but luckily I got there in just over an hour. However, the extra time did not go to waste as it took nearly 40 minutes to find the cargo terminal from which I was supposed to pick up my parrot delivery.
The flight departed on time and even arrived early. An hour after its arrival the parrot carrier was already handed to me. Not bad considering I've often waited even longer just to get my luggage. I was handed the carrier and took the first peek at my new lifetime companion. The little guy was standing right at the edge by the door and got excited to get some human attention albeit from a complete stranger.
I carried him back to the car and drove directly home. Upon bringing the carrier inside, I strategized how to get the parrot out of the carrier without scaring it. I cut the wire ties which kept the door locked shut. I opened the carrier door and waited to see if little Truman would come out on his own or if I'd have to reach in for him. Surely enough within 30 seconds he made his own way out of the carrier and made his way straight for my hand. He helped himself onto my hand and sat there happily opening and closing his beak.
I knew that he'd be really thirsty after the long flight so I decided to use this as the first opportunity to teach him to drink from his water bottle. I pressed the ball of the straw up against his beak and when he realized that water flows out the end, he made a determined effort to get some water out. I didn't make him drink from it for long but I was impressed how quickly he figured out how to work the steel ball with his tongue to get the water to flow.
Truman walked around on the floor but decided to try a flight. He took off and was up to the ceiling near instantly but didn't know where to go. He bumped into the walls and ceiling a few times before crash landing. I fetched him and he stayed on my hand the rest of the time. I hand fed some pellets to him and he happily munched on them. I was surprised, however, that he neither knew what to do with an almond nor had the strength to crunch it when I shelled it for him.
After some play with his toys and checking out his tree, I put Truman into his new home to take a break. Within a few minutes he went for his water and then ate some pellets on his own.
As I await the arrival of my new Cape Parrot, I would like to outline some of my goals with the new bird. The order is ballpark of how it would go but not a rigid sorting:
-Get parrot, let it get used to me and new surroundings -Develop strong flock mate/trainer relationship bond -Encourage independent play as well as social time -Develop a daily routine that sets feeding regimes, flight time, out of cage time, and outdoor time -Desensitize to wide array of household objects while naming each object -Configure clicker as bridge and eventually a strong secondary reinforcement -Teach target training through modeling rather than trial/error if possible -Develop strongest flight recall possible (recall by visual, whistle, and name) -Minimum dependence on food for reinforcement -Develop strong alternative reinforcements -Progressive taming to allow uninhibited touch of entire body -Make minimum intrusion introduction between Kili and Cape -Maximum comfort harness training -Outdoor desensitization while wearing short harness -Begin training outdoor harnessed recall -Socialize parrot to as many people as possible both indoors and out -Differentiate social time and focused training time -Develop safe petting cue and method -Reduce beaking, biting, and nipping by ignoring -Ignore all unpleasant vocalizations and present acceptable alternative ones -Train necessary maintenance behaviors through positive reinforcement -Voluntary carrier training through empowerment -Start training full trick routine -Goal is to train each trick in the shortest and most effective manner possible -Develop visual and verbal cues for every trick -Take parrot on social outings, car drives, and airplane flights while still young -Begin implementing variable ratio reinforcement on cued behaviors -Say same words to encourage talking -Develop special (not annoying) contact call specific for this parrot -Combine flight and cued tricks -Train highly complex trick behaviors to challenge parrot -Test cognitive capabilities through challenging puzzle tricks -Provide occasional foraging opportunities in/out of cage -Continue flight training optimized toward outdoor freeflight -Perfect each trick to develop best trained parrot role model
Having extensively learned trick training on Kili and Duke, I think I will be able to train the Cape more quickly and efficiently. At the same time, I would like to experiment with alternative training methods like modeling, empowerment, and differential reinforcement. I am going to make the strongest possible effort to do all training through positive reinforcement and avoid resorting to flooding, negative reinforcement, or punishment. I do know that these methods can be effective but I am curious to accept the challenge of trying to train without them.
Here are some my goals for the trainedparrot blog:
-Provide regular updates about the Cape's progress -Post photographs/videos of every step of training the new Cape Parrot -Write step by step articles about how I train every single trick/behavior -Present my thoughts/opinions about parrot ownership and care -Develop the training blog as an alternative to costly training products -Write objectively about the good, the bad, and the ugly -Cite outside sources where applicable -Lead the parrot community by example -Make all information public and hold nothing back -Create a definitive source of parrot training knowledge from my own experience -Eventually open the blog up to additional willing writers -Turn training blog posts into a complete/organized training guide
Here is a progress update about the upcoming Cape Parrot. Originally I was supposed to get the older of the two babies. Jean expected the older one to end up bigger because it was born from a larger set of wild caught parents. However, as time progressed, it turned out that the younger baby not only caught up but grew bigger than the older one. The younger Cape comes from a domestic pair named Angie and Magnum. Jean said this baby not only turned out larger but also has a sweeter disposition. The older is now 295g but the younger is 315g. They are somewhere from one to two weeks apart. Jean has done the same extensive efforts with both parrots and I am currently the only paid buyer so I have the option of choosing either one. She taught both parrots to drink from a water bottle, eat the same pellets, and to wear an aviator harness. So based on everything Jean advised, as well as all the good things I've heard from someone else that bought a Cape Baby from the same breeding pair, I decided to go with the younger/larger Cape.
This Friday, Jean will be taking the Cape to her vet on my behalf. I asked her to get the vet checks for me because she has a very good vet and I don't like the one I worked with in my area. If the parrot checks out healthy before being shipped, I don't really see any need in duplicating the check afterwards. The visual inspection the vet did when I bought Kili I can so easily do myself now at this point. I'm quite confident in Jean as a breeder so the vet check is only precautionary. The vet will also take care of some final grooming and place an open band on the parrot's left (non-dominant) foot. Pending all results being good from the vet check, Jean should be shipping the Cape Parrot to me early Tuesday morning to avoid the Florida heat. Thursday is the back up day.
Here are more pictures that I just received from the breeder:
Saturday I went to NJ and bought not only a new cage but all the perches, toys, and supplies for the new Cape Parrot (pretty much everything short of food). Originally I was planning on buying the largest powder coated cage with 3/4" bar spacing. However, someone recommended to me to try Kings Cages (which I had never heard of) so I looked into it and found a similar powder coat cage from them for cheaper. But as I spoke to them on the phone, they recommended that I should go with an aluminum cage instead. Originally, I was expecting to spend $600 for a cage and $400 for a tree. So instead I decided to go with the aluminum cage after all but get a smaller/cheaper tree. It will be much easier to upgrade to a bigger tree than a different cage in the future.
I went to their warehouse to see the cages/trees in person because I had not seen their products in stores before and I had questions about doors and other issues. Maria from Purringparrot warned me that her Cape chewed up the plastic food bowls that came with the cage so I wanted to make sure I could get stainless steel bowls instead. Also I was a bit concerned that the aluminum playtop cage was a bit smaller than the powder coated ones I was previously considering. Unfortunately the cage still comes with the pointless cheap plastic cups but the good news is that for about $50 more, you can get a replacement kit to mount rings in place of the plastic cups to hold stainless steel food bowls. For the kind of price of the cage I think the stainless cups should come standard but at least the upgrade is possible and well worth the money. I was also concerned with the locking mechanisms on the doors because I had problems keeping my Senegal Parrot from getting out of her cage. Luckily the Kings Cages come with a very ingenuitive lock for the front door which requires several motions that would be impossible for the parrot to be able to complete from inside. It needs to be pressed down, twisted, then down again, and twisted a second time completing a 180 degree turn. Also there is a magnet on the front door to keep it closed even if the pin is unlocked. The food doors are also well locked with a pin that is completely inaccessible from inside because of a plate that blocks the parrot from reaching the control.
I got to pick out my own tree from the hundreds available. I decided to go with a smaller table top tree not only for cost saving but also to keep the parrot at eye level when I am sitting down. Many of the tabletop trees were too short but the there weren't any short enough tall trees either. Also I didn't like some trees being too covered in branches to prevent climbing space and others being too bare. After much searching though, I found the perfect tree with a lower and higher area that can be climbed. This way I can hang toys from the top and they can be played with on the bottom. I was told that the downside to a short tree is that the parrot can jump off to the floor. At first I didn't understand what the big deal was but he explained that people buy a tall tree so the bird would stay on it. I replied that to me it wouldn't matter because I'm keeping the parrot flighted and it can fly off whenever it wants anyway. I asked to have the bolt for the food bowl removed because I never feed my birds when out like this and don't want a metal thing sticking out. Once again he suggested leaving it for water but I explained that a flighted parrot can just go back to its cage for water whenever it wants it. :D
I requested a Java dowel in place of the machined wooden dowels that come with the cage so we worked out a deal to get some custom cut for the cage. While I was at it, I picked out some toys and additional perches for the cage. Before I was ready to pay, I was asked if I really need the playtop for the cage because there was also a dometop available. I had not even considered the dome top (and I usually thought the dome was cutting off space that a square top could have been). He explained to me that it would actually provide more room. And since I don't leave my parrot to play on top of the cage anyway, I did not worry about missing the playtop anyway. This worked out perfectly because the dome added some space to compensate my fear of the cage turning out smaller than others I had considered.
The prices were good and I ended up buying everything I need for the new Cape within my originally planned budget. So now I can just sit back and wait for the bird knowing I will be ready for it whenever it is ready to come home to me.
The cage came in two boxes and I had many accessories so it filled practically the entire car.
That's my brother helping me unpack the cage parts.
Assembly was actually incredibly easy.
Then I got the tree together.
All it involves is securing one bolt so it's really easy.
So here's the new dometop aluminum cage for my upcoming Brown Necked "Cape" Parrot.
For 2 out of 3 perches I replaced machine doweled with natural Java but I left one dowel in and saved the 3rd Java for later.
Here is the stainless steel cup and holder to replace the junky plastic cup.
Here are the replaced food bowl rings with stainless steel cups.
All of the additional perches and toys.
I haven't decided on a place for the tree yet but for now I'm keeping it out of the way so Kili can get used to seeing it but not go on it.
For the next few months, I'm going to be keeping Kili's cage closer to me in the living area so that when the Cape arrives, I could have a reasonable quarantine and so Kili doesn't try to go on the Cape's cage. For now I'm hiding the cage in a corner near Kili's area but not on her spot. I don't want her flying back to where her cage used to be out of habit and land on the Cape cage instead. So I will keep the Cape slightly to the side of where Kili used to be. It's really important that Kili doesn't try to claim the new cage or tree so I want her to get used to not going on them. I left all the toys and things out of the new Cape cage to further reduce any temptation for Kili to check it all out. Overall I'm quite happy with the new set up and now just anxiously await the arrival of my new addition.
Part II, the Review
Yeah, they don't do a good job of making you feel like you bought something worth the money with the cheap included things. The cage should have been $50 more but come with all of the "deluxe" features standard so you wouldn't feel like getting a cheap quality expensive cage. The good news is you can discard (or use as spares) the wooden dowels and plastic food cups and it is really easy to replace these things with natural perches and stainless cups. Many cages you are locked in using whatever they come with and cannot swap, so basically just imagine the cage as $100 more expensive but including what you would expect with it.
I calculated that the cage is 26,000 cubic inches and the dome top adds another 10,000 cubic inches. That's pretty incredible considering Kili's entire cage is just 10,000 cubic inches. That brings the cage up to 37,000 cubic inches which sounds much more fair to me on a proportional comparison between the 2 species. Senegal Parrot: approx 115g, Cape: 400g. That makes the Cape about 3.5x bigger than Senegal and the cage comes out to 3.7x bigger so it's perfect. I was really skeptical about getting the original version (pre-dometop idea) because 26,000 would mean the cape would be more crammed in the new cage than Kili is in hers and I didn't want that. I don't want the large toys and perches to make the bird too crammed but now with the extra dome, it works out just right. I didn't want the playpen much anyway. And to my surprise the dometop cage is actually a bit cheaper than the playtop one even thought the dome looks like more material and labor to make.
It comes with four feeder doors/cups which I think is overkill but I guess nicer for symmetry. I think I would have still produced just 2 feeders but larger cups than 4 small ones as it is. I usually mix everything in a single bowl for the parrot rather than separating things by bowls. Also I use a water bottle so 2 bowls is definitely enough for me. I suppose for parrots that drink from a dish, 3 bowls is better so they went with 4. I don't have to leave all the bowls in so the extra doors and capability don't really hurt.
As I do not have the bird yet, I cannot give you the bird's review but I can tell you what I think of the cage compared to the powder coat cage I have for Kili. There are many things I like but some that I dislike by comparison. I think the steel cage feels sturdier but the aluminum one is lighter and somewhat more manageable (relative to sizes). The aluminum cage is very easy to assemble, it just snaps in place. I don't think the parrot can disassemble it though because gravity, friction, and shear strength hold everything together. I think there is a high premium for the aluminum material so unfortunately the cage suffers from some poorer quality/workmanship that may go into the powder coat ones. Like I mentioned the food cups and perches for a start. Also it just doesn't appear as neatly built. I'm sure once the bird gets to either kind of cage that's all over. But it just doesn't look the quality of the price you pay for it. I think in the long term it still comes out worth it and it will last longer but it just doesn't look finely produced. For the kind of money they charge, I think they should have upped it a little bit more but made a deluxe quality cage out of the concept rather than a very expensive economy kind of cage.
You can see the poor workmanship in how certain pieces don't come perfectly together without a gap or you can see in the picture that the food bowls are crooked and not level. The feeder doors are much lower on this cage than Kili's but the jury is still out whether I like that or not. Actually I think that will probably end up a good thing because Kili rarely uses the bottom of her cage. This way the parrot can use bottom for feeding and top the way it normally would anyway. The down size to low food bowls is that there is a better chance it will poop or drop things into them. Also the food bowls (plastic and metal replacement ones) are smaller than the ones on Kili's cage but the bird is bigger.
There was one thing broken on the cage when I got it but I didn't bother exchanging cause it was an easy fix for me. On the bottom shelf, one of the screws wasn't holding because the hole for the bolt was stripped too wide and the bolt wouldn't tighten. I have my own workshop so I easily found a screw just slightly thicker that I used to secure into the stripped hole but I can imagine this being a big problem for most other people. Basically the biggest failure of the manufacturer in this case I would say is that they are selling an expensive cage but at economy quality and configuration. I don't think people would notice $50/$100 more as a major increase but would appreciate an all inclusive well built cage for the money. It is hard to match the price of the quality to the perceived value because of the expensiveness of the aluminum. It is still a good cage and I recommended but still to this day I have not come across the "perfect parrot cage" that has every feature you'd want, well made, and still reasonably priced.
Here's a list of things I noticed about it already.
Dislike: -A bit wobbly -Poorer workmanship -Plastic cups -Machined dowels -Food bowls smaller than on Kili's smaller cage
Like: -Aluminum (material, no rust, light weight) -Very big door -Latching systems (both main door and food doors) -Extra space afforded by dome option -Color and options of colors -Seed catcher loops into the inside of cage so everything should fall in -Possible to "upgrade" to stainless food bowls -Bottom shelf -Easy assembly -Size and look