Like any animal on this planet, my bird Froley poops. Since he spends a lot of his time in his cage, on his cage, or flying over his cage, a lot of that poop ends up encrusted on those bars.
As such, his cages need to be cleaned regularly.
Cleaning his cages (there are two of them) becomes a big production because his regular cage, the one he spends his waking hours in, is rather big. And given the fact that it gets full of poop and feather dust, I have to take it outside to clean it. Wrangling that massive cage through the front door is one way to exercise your arm muscles, that’s for sure.
The first thing you have to do when attempting a thorough cleaning of Froley’s cage is remove all of the toys he has hanging from the roof. Froley watches me in alarm whenever I unclasp his favorite ornaments and put them away in his toy box. If he is feeing especially anxious about their safety, he hisses at me and nips at my arms.
After clearing up the clutter of toys, I have to move Froley to whatever cage I’m not cleaning. He will be bitter about it.
I then have to squat down, grasp the cage by the underside, heave it up, and carry it outside. After that, I also gather Froley’s cage-scrubbing brush, a plastic shopping bag, and some paper towels and take them out too.
In order to wash up every inch of the cage, I have to disassemble it. There are four parts to each cage. There is the plastic bottom that comprises the lower fifth of the cage. There is the plastic tray that slides in and out of the bottom and holds Froley’s poopy papers. There is the single barred floor that rests over the tray and prevents Froley from stepping on his poopy papers. Lastly, there is the interconnected barred surfaces of his cage walls and ceiling.
Each of these parts has to be hosed down and scrubbed. Even if there is no poop clinging to a surface, I spray it with some water just to be safe. The poopy papers have to be thrown out before any watering happens, but after that, it’s seriously just a lot of scrubbing.
Once you’ve eliminated every iota of bird poop, you dry each individual part. I use paper towels, but you could probably also use a more environmentally conscious option.
Then you bring every individual piece of the bird cage back inside, piece by piece. In the safety of my home and under the supervision of Froley, I reassemble his cage. I spread out new poopy papers, hang up new toys so his museum home remains interesting (have I mentioned Froley doesn’t really play with his toys so much as he visually appreciates them?), and then I set up new food bowls.
Froley has to be enticed back into his cage because he seems to prefer it when it’s slightly dirty. He’s really one for the lived-in feel. I have to put millet and Cheerios in his bowls to have him walk in and inspect his freshly cleaned surroundings.
He eyes me grumpily and ungratefully, but deep down I know he appreciates me.
The showerhead spouts forth its stream, A dusty young cockatiel’s dream, And as mild heat fills the room Filth knows it meets its doom. Sprightly bird paces along curtain rod, Asking for a bath with a bob and a nod. He steps onto finger, outstretched wings, But will only bathe when I start to sing “Little April Shower,” a happy tune That hums of raindrops coming soon And encourages plump Froley To begin to dip and roll; he Tries to catch the water’s spray And clean collected dust away. A stanky smell wafts from his feathers But I know he feels better After boldly flapping through this shower With all his might and strength and power. Thus with the watering’s end, Froley with his regards did send A slick, wet poop to the floor To conclude his cleaning forevermore.
I have the incredible fortune to work from home. It may not pay much, but at least I can safely earn a teensy income from the relative safety of my house.
My work setup is fairly simple. I have a plastic desk (a foldout straight from a crowded Costco aisle) placed against the kitchen counter, with a decent office chair that’s a hand-me-down from my mother’s kinder classroom. My laptop takes center stage, while a decrepit desktop rests on the corner of the desk. The desktop computer is ancient enough that it does not recognize 5GHz wifi networks, but I use it for basic search engine stuff and to play background music while I work.
This cobbled-together work station was created to give me the ultimate focus while I write/edit/proofread. Granted, the fact that I’m so close to the kitchen often spurs me to get up for more cups of coffee than I should, but that’s the only distraction, I swear.
Well, it would be the only distraction, if Froley didn’t seem to disagree with the very concept of work.
Every morning, I roll out of bed, brush my teeth, and wash my face. (By “wash my face,” I mean splash some water on it and then shake it dry like a dog.)
I gather any notebooks or spare sheets of paper I might need for work, boot up my computers, and hunker down for about an hour or two.
Froley’s wake-up time is at 9 am, so at that point, I take a small break to greet my beloved birb with joyous whistles and endearing terms. I remove his polar bear bedtime blanket from his bedtime cage, rush him to his normal cage for his gigantic morning poop, and then let him have free reign of the airspace.
On a good day, Froley uses his out-time to take a second nap on my office chair, on my thigh, or on my desk itself. He’ll fluff up and start beak grinding, letting me type away to my heart’s content.
Unfortunately, more often than not, Froley is not content with merely chillaxing by my side.
No, he must have all attention on him, and anything that gets in the way of that is an abomination.
He bites at my keyboard, determined that my computer will no longer have an Escape key. He demands cuddles, nipping my fingertips or wrists until I stop what I’m doing to give him head scritches. He’ll decide that it’s the perfect time to try shattering glass and start screaming/chirping at the top of his lungs. Or he’ll hop onto my knuckles as I’m carefully trying to edit an article and start masturbating on them.
At times like these, it is impossible to work with Froley around. I have to stop whatever I’m working on, pick him up, and place him (gently) back in his cage.
Froley can’t seem to understand that I need a job to give him seeds.
Sunday night, I was playing some Minecraft with my friend Bubba. We can spend hours just goofing off there. This particular time, I was busy crafting a roller coaster while Bubba was industriously building us an underwater house. When it was 9:30 pm, I realized I had yet to put Froley to bed.
Normally, Froley has a very strict bedtime and awake-time. He gets twelve hours every day so that he doesn’t become a grumpy birb. 9 am to 9 pm.
Glancing over at Froley’s cage, I could see him staring at me with his beady eyes, indignantly asking me with a look why I hadn’t taken him to his bedtime cage yet.
I’m just kidding. He was taking a nap on his cuttlebone perch.
Side note: A cuttlebone is basically a chewable mineral supplement for birds. I bought Froley a perch specifically made to hold his cuttlebone. He uses it to take naps in his daytime cage.
I quickly told Bubba to give me a sec, pulled off my headset, and approached Froley’s cage.
“It’s bedtime, Froley,” I sang at him. “Are you ready to go mimis?”
He opened his eyes and his beak at me in displeasure.
“Do you want to go mimis with me, Froley?” I continued, ignoring his bad mood.
Froley instantly became more amenable because he knows what sleeping with me means. It means his bedtime cage gets placed right next to my bed so we can “sleep together.” He hopped onto my finger right quick after that and allowed me to take him to his bedtime cage. I then carried the whole cage to my bedroom, gently setting it down by the head of my bed. The top of Froley’s bedtime cage reached the top surface of my bed. I can look down at the cage from my pillow.
After hurriedly covering Froley’s cage with his polar bear blanket (he never sleeps without it), I went back to Minecraft. I stayed up till around midnight playing with Bubba before going to sleep. When I did go to bed, Froley hissed at me when I got under my blankets because I was making too much noise. But after we both settled in, sleep was swift and silent.
Dim light eventually filtered in through my window blinds, waking me up at around 6 am. After verifying on my phone that it was, in fact, 6:32 am, I pulled the polar bear blanket off of Froley’s cage. “Good morning, Froley,” I murmured.
He hissed at me.
I opened his cage and got him on my finger, depositing him on top of his cage. He was now eye-level with me.
Normally, Froley will fluff up on top of his cage, ready for morning naps after this initial wake-up. I’ll participate in this activity too, sleeping in for maybe two more hours.
Froley wanted to get cuddles this morning.
He pooped on top of his cage, then waddled over to the edge of it. Then he hopped onto my bed and scrambled onto my head. Then I heard him beak grinding, which meant he had decided to take his nap on my head.
After snapping a quick picture of him because he was too cute for me not to, I settled back into my pillow for those two extra hours of sleep. I got some good dreamtime while I was at it. I dreamed I was in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender and I was fighting the Boulder at the Earth Kingdom fighting arena.
At some point, Froley waddled to his cage to poop, and then clawed his way back onto my head. He is a well-trained and fastidious bird. (Some of the time.) The two of us slept more after that.
Eventually though, he decides that he is ready to greet the day. I am awoken by the sensation of Froley preening my eyelashes. He starts at the corners of my eyes, grasps an eyelash in his beak, then nibbles his way along it. It’s a gentle process, unless he happens to find an eye crusty.
Side note: Eye Crusty: (N.) Discharge and other debris that accumulates and hardens at the corner of your eye. Don’t judge me, bruh, we all get eye crusties.
Well, Froley happened to find an eye crusty, so instead of waking up to that gentle, ticklish sensation of him simply trying to preen me, I’m woken up by an eyelash being torn out by my pet bird.
Anyone who thinks owning a bird is like owning a fish is fooling themselves. There is more spark and personality in a bird than in any floppy old fish.
Side note: I am so sorry to any fish owners I am currently offending.
I got my cockatiel, Froley, because I wanted a pet that I could show affection to and who would show that affection back. And by golly, that’s what ended up happening. I have never had a pet who I love more than Froley. He is the cutest widdle bird in the whole wide world, and he’s more affectionate than I had originally hoped for.
However, getting to that point in your relationship with your pet bird can be difficult. It’s a long process, and it’s easy to feel disheartened about it. You don’t buy birds that automatically love you, especially if you’re buying it from a pet store.
Side note: Most bird help books recommend you purchase your new pet bird from a breeder, but given where you live, that isn’t always feasible. It sure wasn’t for me.
Despite that, it is possible to develop a close bond with your bird, and here are a few tips to get you started.
Side note: I have only ever owned one pet bird, and it is a cockatiel. Am I an authority? Kinda, maybe, sorta, not really.
Set up the cage before bringing them home.
It can be tempting to go on a spending splurge the day you get your new bird, buying them a cage, toys, food containers, cuttle bones etc., but you should definitely buy those things and set them up before you actually buy the bird. Your new pet is going to be super stressed as it is, arriving in this alien house that it isn’t used to. It doesn’t need to see or hear the clanging and banging of its cage being constructed. That’s like the opposite of a welcome mat.
Give your bird its space.
This was a tough one for me. As soon as I got Froley, I immediately wanted to start working on interacting with him. But you’ve got to give your birdie time to acclimate to its new surroundings. Let him or her have some space in those early days. It’s a simple piece of advice that can really help with getting your bird comfortable.
Make sure they watch you bringing food.
Birds are not dumb creatures, and they are really good at picking up visual and audio cues. As such, if you consistently bring them food in a certain manner at a certain time of day, they will learn to associate you with their yummy-yum time. And you want them to associate you with something they like. For a long time, that’s the only reason Froley really liked me. I brought him his pellets. He now knows the sound of the bag when I open it and the exact location of the tub I keep it in.
Hang out by their cage.
While you don’t want to immediately pressure your bird when you get it, you don’t want to just ignore it. If you just ignore it, it will become accustomed to being left alone. If you ever find yourself with some down time, whether you’re reading, chilling on your phone, or watching some Netflix, do it by your bird’s cage. Let them see you doing a quiet activity nearby. I used to read to Froley from my Cockatiels for Dummies book all the time. I don’t know if he appreciated it, but he did eventually learn to not be afraid of books.
Only buy a single bird.
If your bird has the option to turn to another bird for company, it will usually pick the bird over you. That’s why some pet owners purposefully purchase two birds. They want their birds to have each other for company. However, if your end objective is to share an incredibly close bond with your bird, it helps if you’re the only one they can turn to for a cuddle. I hate to sound like a cruel monster that kept Froley from other bird companions, but I know for a fact that he and I are only so close because I was the one creature who spent any amount of time with him.
Try using a treat for your first moment of physical contact.
When both you and your birdie are ready for the next step in closeness, have one of their favorite treats nearby to facilitate the contact. Froley and I started becoming closer when I tried hand-feeding him his seeds. He really seemed to like that, and it built up trust levels like you wouldn’t believe. Eventually, I used treats to coax him up onto my finger, and after that, the real treat became just hanging out with me.
Attempt to pet your bird shortly after it has molted.
When birds molt, their new feathers come out in these thin, white sheaths. These sheaths then crumble into dust revealing the new feather lying within. Normally, a bird can nibble away at their own sheaths in order to free them. However, they have a hard time reaching the ones on their head. That’s where other birds come in. Bird buddies will preen the sheaths off of their fellows’ heads for them. Without a bird buddy, that job is left undone. These sheaths are incredibly itchy for your bird, so if you want to ingratiate yourself to him or her while simultaneously worming your way into his or her affection, giving your bird scritches during this time period is ideal.
This is the most important bit of advice I can give. I’m not gonna lie, I sometimes cried at the thought that Froley didn’t seem to care much for me in those first few weeks. I had read so much about bird affection before getting him that I felt really let down when things didn’t immediately turn out that way for me. But see, birds aren’t like cats or dogs. Both cats and dogs are predator animals, bred to work alongside humans as partners. Birds are prey animals, and fearfulness keeps them alive in the wild. Trust has to be earned with them so that they can learn to rely on you for their safety.
So give your bird the time required to build that trust. It took me over a month to get close to Froley. But the wait is well worth it. When you’re cuddling with a bird, and you can actually feel its tiny skull underneath your fingertips as you give it some little scritches, there is no other feeling like it in the world. It is a tiny life form that has entirely entrusted its well-being in the palm of your hand. It’s not even a tenth of your size, but it will hop onto your shoulder without a care once you have established that bond.
Side note: I feel incredibly lucky to have Froley in my life every day, and not a morning goes by where I don’t appreciate the magnitude of how implicitly he trusts me.
Froley is a grumpy bird, and he doesn’t get along with anybody but me.
So, when you read the title of this post, and you see the word “buddies,” you might be a bit puzzled.
Just know that I’m speaking relatively.
After witnessing how awesome my relationship with Froley is, my sister decided to get some pet birds of her own. (I’m sorry, but you know it’s true, Alya.) Enter Cheese and Mochi.
Cheese is a Green-cheeked conure, and he’s a feisty little fella. He’s more curious than Froley is, to the point of putting himself in danger. He also likes to dip his beak into anything my sister is consuming, be it orange juice, a salad, a beer, or a pizza. He absolutely adores Alya. He flutters to her head when given the opportunity to be out of his cage. He doesn’t like me much, and I have no idea why. Alya thinks it’s because he can sense our closeness, and it makes him jealous.
Mochi is a different beast altogether.
Side note: Yes, my sister has a penchant for naming her pets after food…for some disturbing reason.
Mochi is an African grey parrot, and her intelligence is undeniable. She is the queen of wanton destruction and vocal exclamations. She was given to Alya secondhand, so she doesn’t exhibit such a large sense of closeness to my sister the way Cheese does. Mochi can perfectly mimic human language, and she puts this ability to frequent, if inopportune, use. She’s learned to say, “Okay, Google,” which is a bit of a problem since her cage is near the Google Home Speaker.
To be honest, Froley is not particularly close to either of these two birds. He doesn’t seek them out for company, and they don’t seem overly fond of him either.
But I like to think there’s a mutual content shared by the three of them when they’re stuck in their respective cages, side by side.
My sister swears up and down that this is a true story.
I was asleep, so I can say nothing as to its veracity.
It was early morning, and Alya and I were sleeping in the same room, different beds. I had placed Froley’s bedtime cage next to my bed so he could sleep next to me. (We enjoy each other’s company that much.)
Anyway, the faintest of light was coming through the windows. I woke up briefly to take Froley out of his cage for a bit. This is a little ritual we do every time Froley sleeps in my bedroom. It’s like a second nap.
So I opened his cage door, got him on my finger, then deposited him on the roof of his bedtime cage. Then I went back to sleep.
Sometimes, Froley will stay on the roof and sleep like the fluffy flufferton he is. Other times, he’ll amble over to my bed, hop onto my pillow, then climb on my head/neck/shoulder. When he naps there, I can hear his content beak grinding right next to my ear.
…apparently, on this particular morning, Froley elected to sleep on my shoulder. Alya woke up and saw this, thinking it was the cutest thing ever. She tried taking a picture with her cell, but before she could, Froley stepped off of my shoulder and back onto the cage.
Disappointed, she put her cell phone away and cursed her bad luck.
However, to her utter astonishment, Froley did a little poop once he was on his bedtime cage, his messiness landing squarely on the poop-sheets below. Once done with his business, he waddled back onto my shoulder.
Alya thinks Froley is a secret genius now, thanks to his good judgment, consideration, and miraculous poop skills.
Let me set the record straight. I’m not about to go off on some philosophical, metaphorical tangent about how small things can impact your life in massive ways.
I’m being much more literal here.
I got a computer mouse.
Now, some of you guys are probably wondering what the big effin’ deal is. It’s just a computer mouse, right?
I own a laptop, have owned it for about six years now. Ever since I got it, I have used the touchpad below the keyboard to navigate. Sure, my hands got cramped more often than not and my fingers awkwardly hovered over the keys, but I managed.
But I recently got another freelance job editing, so I figured I’d be a big spender for once. I went to Best Buy and got myself the cheapest-ish mouse available, called it Jerry, and then took it home. With a job like editing, I wanted a little more finesse than a touchpad. Know what I mean, jelly bean?
You guys, it’s like I forgot how to breathe. Having a mouse is addictively pleasurable. I can’t stop using it. I know material things shouldn’t amount to happiness, but I’m goddamn ecstatic.
To make a good thing even better, my boyfriend bought me a mouse pad with an image of Froley on it to celebrate.
This mouse is the best purchase EVER.
You know, now that I think about it, this is a post about how a little thing can have a massive impact on your life.
Spring is here, and with it, some Froley nuisances as well.
Firstly, spring makes Froley more amorous than usual. All he seems to want to do is masturbate.
“Oh, ha ha, that’s so funny and adorable,” you might say.
I’m telling you right now, it’s not.
I have work to do, and having Froley waddle over to my hand every five seconds looking for some lovin’ is NOT conducive to that work.
As readers of this blog already know, Froley likes to masturbate on an open palm. When I am typing on the computer, he takes my outstretched fingers for an invitation.
Have you ever tried typing up an article while a little male cockatiel is pumping away on your knuckles?
It’s distracting, to say the least.
Springtime is also when Froley starts molting.
Molting is a natural process for birds to go through. Old feathers fall out to be replaced with new ones.
Froley’s a funny ole bird though. He freaks out when he sees one of his feathers is coming loose. First he gets all skinny with fright, then he starts flapping around the living room shrieking as if it’s the end times.
And that’s only the half of it.
When his feathers grow back, they come out in these thin keratin sheaths that eventually disintegrate into powder and allow the new feathers to settle into place. While these sheaths are coming out, Froley starts feeling really itchy. He can preen and scratch himself everywhere on his body except for his head.
Which means he expects lots of head scratches from me.
So not only do I have a horny Froley trying to get himself off on my hands, I have an irritable Froley who pecks at my face if I don’t cuddle with him.
And since he’s preening so much, I have dust all over my keyboard.