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Miss. Gracie Bird jumped into her terrible two's several months ago. One Saturday, our son brought her over to our home. She is comfortable with us, and Bill and I have had fun babysitting for her if needed. Upon her arrival, she began greeting me with "Gracie, goes to mommies' house. Gracie goes to see Bill and mommy." She spoke in a soft, inviting voice. However, as I approached her perch to dote on her, her eyes grew defiant and she attacked her perch with her beak. "Ah. Ah. Ah."
Realizing this was her need for new independence, I moved back a few inches and said, "Yes. It is your perch. Mommy will not touch your toys." She eyed me one more time, hit her beak on the bamboo branch, and repeated her warning. Once reassured that I was not going to play with her toys, she took a quick flight around the room and settled in.
Before she turned two, we relocated her from the perch to her carry cage , where she ate her meals. With an extended hand and the command to step up, she would hop onto the back of my hand and allow me to take her to the cage.
Now she ignores the request. Her goal is to make her own decisions. So, we place the food on top of the cage, offer a hand, and then if she is reluctant to step up, I inform her that it is time to eat and she can fly to her cage. This allows her to make an informed decision. Yes, she is processing the situation and selecting her choice. At times, she elects to fly and other times she happily steps up.
She clearly understands the conversation and makes a personal choice. When she is hungry, she verbalizes "Gracie wants carrots, corn, and potato." If she is tired, she tells us with "Gracie, go night night., Gracie sleepezz." Whenever she is thirsty, she requests "Gracie, want water."
She role plays her daily routine. When my son is getting ready for work she begins. "Daddy go to work. Daddy be back. Daddy love Gracie. Gracie be okay." By the time he leaves, she is happily playing with some of her toys. She is an amazing bird.
She practices new words and phrases until she is comfortable. This week she has begun singing the ringtone of my son's cell phone and then responding with a big "Hello." No secrets can be hidden when Gracie is around.
By taking time to explain what we want her to do and allowing her choices, she has become a much happier pet. Sound strange? Those of you who reared children remember those terrible two's. The African Gray is a highly intelligent fowl from the wild. They can not be dominated or domesticated. But they can be wonderful companions.
At times, I wish Barkleah could speak. He uses his eyes and body positioning to tell me what he wants. More about that next week.