I love talking to new breeds and species and in September 2014, I got the opportunity to talk to a parrotlet! Parrotlets are the smallest species of parrot. Even though they are small, they have plenty of personality!
Allison and her daughters and I had talked to their horses and cats a few times, but in September, Allison was very concerned about one of their four parrotlets, Lakota. Lakota had been plucking and chewing the feathers on her chest, back and legs for several months — to the point that she had bare, raw areas on her chest and back. [The photo on the left is of Lakota at that time.] They had taken Lakota to the vet, but Lakota was completely healthy. The vet had no explanation for Lakota’s self destructive behavior and suggested hormone shots, but Allison was very reluctant to do this.
Instead, Allison contacted me about talking to Lakota. Alison’s daughter, Calista, is Lakota’s person so I was very happy that Calista was going to be on the phone to ask the questions and hear the answers.
Allison and Calista were sitting in the car and Lakota was with them — climbing all over Callista as we talked.
As soon as I connected to Lakota she started talking. I kept having to ask Lakota to wait so I could relay the information to Callista and Allison — Lakota was talking non-stop!
Lakota said that she was upset and unhappy— her energy was very tense and angry. The problem wasn’t Callista, her food, her cage, her mate or the amount of attention she received. What she was unhappy about was Ladybird — the female parrotlet in the cage next to Lakota’s. Lakota said she had to be on guard all the time — she couldn’t relax. Lakota showed me that she was pacing all the time. Callista confirmed that Lakata did pace all the time in her cage. I asked her why she felt she had to be on guard. Lakota said that she had to protect her mate, Disco, from Ladybird. She wasn’t afraid Ladybird would hurt Disco — she was afraid that Ladybird would take Disco. Despite Lakota’s statements, she did not show me that Ladybird was being aggressive or doing anything to harm Lakota or Disco. Alison and Calista confirmed that this was true.
We asked how we could help her with this and Lakota said that she would like Ladybird to go “far away” — It was clear to me that Lakota wanted Ladybird out of the house! Allison said that the best she could do would be to put Ladybird’s cage as far away as she could in the house, so that Lakota never had to see her again. Lakota was still not happy — she said, “I want her to go away!”
I asked Lakota if she trusted her people to take care of her. Lakota said she did trust them and loved to play with Callista. I asked Lakota if she could trust her people to keep Lakota and her mate safe and protected — that it was Lakota’s people’s job to keep her and her mate safe and that Lakota could trust them to do this, now that they understood how worried she had been. It took some convincing, but finally Lakota was relieved that the responsibility for her and her mate’s safety was no longer on her little feathered shoulders — I felt a deep mental “sigh” — and she agreed to trust her people to keep her safe.
Next we asked about the feather chewing/plucking. We asked if Lakota thought she could stop doing this now that she knew she and her mate would be safe — Lakota said yes. As with all behavior changes, I needed to suggest something for Lakota to do when she gets the urge to pluck her feathers. Calista said that Lakota had toys in her cage but never played with them. I asked Lakota why she didn’t play with her toys and Lakota said she thought she wasn’t allowed to “because I have been so busy trying to keep Ladybird away.” In other words, if she played with the toys she would relax her guard and she couldn’t do that because it wasn’t safe. I reminded Lakota that her people would keep her safe now, so she could relax and play with her toys — especially when she felt like plucking her feathers. She said she would do that.
Allison and Calista also asked me to see if I could get Lakota to eat her vitamin supplement, which were always in the container at the bottom of her cage. Lakota knew where the supplement was, but wanted to know why she should eat them. Calista said it was because they wanted Lakota to be a strong bird and live a long time. Lakota said she was already a strong bird, even though she was little — but agreed to eat the vitamins and she agreed to tell her mate to eat them too.
At the end of the session, Lakota’s energy felt much better — she was relaxed and happy! Calista reported the each time I spoke to Lakota, she would pause in what she was doing and appeared to be listening. When I would start talking to Calista and Allison, Lakota would continue whatever she had been doing. They were amazed to watch her response!
[ Alison and Calista told me later that Ladybird’s mate had crossed to Spirit in the spring and Ladybird was very lonely without him. Lakota did not seem to be particularly attached to her mate, so they put Lakota’s mate in Ladybird’s cage. Ladybird was happy again. In hind sight, they realized this was the start of Lakota’s problems — Lakota began feather plucking and chewing a few weeks later. During our conversation, Allison kept saying, “That makes so much sense” — but did not explain why until later. After our conversation with Lakota, the impact of this small event became completely clear. The photo on the right is Lakota after she stopped feather plucking, following our conversation with her.]
” Lakota stopped plucking and chewing her feathers immediately after our phone call with Sky. We moved Ladybird and her mate’s cage to the other side of the house as Lakota requested. Since then Lakota has stopped pacing, regularly plays with her toys and now eats her vitamins — And even got her mate to eat his too! Lakota is one happy bird! If you have a bird with a behavior problem, it may be a simpler fix than you realize. Please call Sky — she helped us and our sweet little Lakota tremendously! ” — Allison W., CO.
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