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Hello everyone,

This post is a little long. I want to give you a full picture of the situation.

I had budgies as a kid living with my parents. They were essentially a wild flock with a room in our house (just six of them though).
This time, I want my little guy to have a proper bond with me while I look for a brother for him. I also want to be able to call him if there's an emergency in the apartment, or I need to take him to the vet, etc, without him stressing excessively.

But I am finding it difficult, this time. To be honest, I have already been following advice that I have read (back as a kid and now) and feel like I'm going in circles with this little guy, and am growing increasingly concerned that he is not getting all of his needs met and it is driving me a little crazy.

I've put the topics in bold-faced type in an effort to make it more manageable.

Background: Xavier was found on a busy road and taken to the shelter; after nobody came looking for him, they allowed me to adopt him. As a kid, we'd had a little flock; this time, I don't know when a brother for Xavier Behavior will get surrendered--and he will need to trust me when anything unfamiliar happens or when I need to take him to a vet. As such, I really want to make sure we can bond. I also just want him to have a good solid relationship in his life. (I am starting to think I might have to break my usual No Buying and Selling of Animals practice and buy him a brother--which will raise a host of new questions).

This is his current status:

-Millet: Will deliberate for a while and then climb into my hand (face up) for millet, and for millet only. Is afraid of the outside/back of my hand. So when I put my fingers on the perch about 6-8 inches away from him (with millet visible on the back) and say "this is my hand, start getting used to my hand" he backs away and his irises dilate (or his pupils shrink?). As with almost everything, he did it, realized that I liked that he did something, and never did it again. I didn't change anything, but I did softly say, "Good boy!". Guess my approval was a turnoff.

-Will only just touch his toys a little bit. I have tried showing him how to ring them, climbing them with my hands, having him watch me put little nubs of millet in them...so far all he will do is peck at them and swing them with his beak (the three toys that he has accepted). I'm convinced that my trying to show him has made it uncool now. I am relieved that he will at least use his natural perches and swings when he thinks I am not looking. Took five weeks. I'm worried about mental stimulation. This is just as true when I am not home (zoom--phone).

-Will not use birdbath; originally drank instead of bathing in it; now that he recognizes the water container, he ignores the bath. I put some greens in there to get him used to them and approximate grass bathing. I have tried showing him videos of birds bathing and splashing my fingers a bit in the bath, but he hasn't tried bathing. One time he stepped into the bath and then right back out. He did not appreciate being misted with the spray bottle either.

-Ate cilantro the first day I gave it. Then somehow saw me secretly being happy he ate it, so now won't touch it to save his life. Now, will very quickly peck at the basil, dandelion greens, swiss chard that I hang all over. Not interested in shredding, bathing, or eating.

-Fruits and vegetables: I sit on floor and eat in front of him and then present (in hands, on skewers, in a dish as colorfully as possible, mixed in seed/avicake feeder, vegetables more, fruits smaller portions): red/yellow/orange peppers, mango, nectarine, strawberry, apple, orange, squash, chopped bits of broccoli/spinach. I have taken to chopping and mixing all the seed with the fruit so it will take on the taste. At least he will eat the seed around the fruit/vegetables (he shakes his head very vehemently if he touches a piece of anything fresh).
I had to stop this because giving him as much time as HE wants to eat it started attracting fruit flies. I took to keeping it in the fridge, and offering it at multiple intervals through the day (on days that I am home) and leaving just seeds (without fruit in it) for him to get himself when I am out. I made a little progress on this and then hit a wall.

-Flight:
Stage I:
When we originally got to the point of eating millet from my hand, I tried encouraging him to fly in a room (cage door left open, millet just outside). He panicked for a good half hour until I could try to leave a pathway back to the cage for him. Not using the more comfortable things to perch on around the room, clinging to trim along the walls, etc, heart pounding out of his chest, doing the "Family where are you! I need you!" chirp. When I would try to offer him a perch/cage/spray of millet to help him down he would freak out more; eyes would pin, he'd get sleeker, he'd start flying frantically in circles.
Stage II:
I resolved to try to get him more comfortable before trying flight again--but every time I'd think we were making some progress it would all go totally out the window, forcing me to start at square one with offering millet.
Because of this, three or four times he flew out in fear instead of by choice, which further ruins the WHOLE acclimating process AND creates negative associations with flight, AND makes him think I don't want him to be able to fly every day. I tried to make the most of these times by talking to him indirectly and gradually trying to show him his play perch, toys, put a grass bath up on top of his cage, etc. Didn't really get anywhere, he was too stressed.
Stage III:
Eventually I started letting him out, despite the lack of recall training and tenuous/periodically-disappearing comfort level with a millet hand--because he is a bird and he should get to fly, and because I wanted him to have positive associations with flying time. He will climb to the top of his cage. He will only fly if I play budgie sounds. I am really lucky if he will perch on the playstand at all (By the way I have to pull this up to the cage to that he can climb onto it as if he isn't a BIRD--then pull it to the other side so he can fly between the cage and the playstand. Which he mostly doesn't anyway). I am hoping that having a brother will motivate him to explore his environment, try his toys, etc. but that isn't a guarantee. And until then, what, is he not supposed to have a life??

Target Training:
He sometimes responds well to the stick, sometimes ignores it. We are at the "Baby blue, Touch!" followed by millet nub stage. Today he started climbing onto the stick to get the millet out of my hand! I'm not sure if this is becoming a step up instead of touching thing or if it's just a today thing. He likes to keep me guessing.

I don't know if he's less scared than I think, or what I'm doing to make him regress if he is indeed that scared. He does chirp and preen most of the day, and his sleep patterns are regular; he usually stretches his wings when I enter the room and will sometimes chirp with me when I sing to him (indirectly. If I look at him and smile he acts sleepy). I want him to feel comfortable in this home, to start playing with his toys and eating nutritious foods before he wastes away and dies of avian dementia, and to be settled and comfortable by the time a new brother arrives. And I have no idea how I will get him to his (RESCHEDULED) vet visit (that's right, he freaked out and missed his original appointment).

May I also ask, is there an order in which I should prioritize elements of the bonding process? I just feel like I don't really know why or what this one is thinking in real time so WANTING to be understanding really doesn't mean squat and I'm worried that he will never live a proper full life.

Thank you, and I hope this wasn't too prohibitively long!
 

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He needs time to adjust, you don't know what his life was like before he was found or how long he had been outside, he may have gone through some traumatic experiences and his current behavior may be a reflection of whatever experiences he had. In your other thread with the pictures he looks quite comfortable being out of the cage. Also he is an adult bird so he may be set in his ways, by that I mean that he is conditioned by whatever his previous training or lack of training was. If he were my bird I would first want to see him comfortable being out of the cage and coming out without being coaxed out, once comfortable I would begin to work on having him step up onto a perch. You have to be very patient and always go at his pace, it can be frustrating but pushing beyond what he is comfortable with will not yield good results. When you are not home and he is alone leave a radio or TV on for him. What room of the house is his cage in?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
He needs time to adjust, you don't know what his life was like before he was found or how long he had been outside, he may have gone through some traumatic experiences and his current behavior may be a reflection of whatever experiences he had. In your other thread with the pictures he looks quite comfortable being out of the cage. Also he is an adult bird so he may be set in his ways, by that I mean that he is conditioned by whatever his previous training or lack of training was. If he were my bird I would first want to see him comfortable being out of the cage and coming out without being coaxed out, once comfortable I would begin to work on having him step up onto a perch. You have to be very patient and always go at his pace, it can be frustrating but pushing beyond what he is comfortable with will not yield good results. When you are not home and he is alone leave a radio or TV on for him. What room of the house is his cage in?
Thanks for your response!

I'm reassured to hear that he seems comfortable in the pictures. The eye pinning always makes me wonder; also the fact that he is never ready to pay attention and backs away from me if I even breathe in his direction while he's out. He seems fine with me sitting and talking to him, feeding him in his cage but I become Satan's Mistress when he leaves it. Which I can bear and wait out, but if training is supposed to be outside--hah!

I have a birdie playlist of relaxing tunes that I leave playing when I am gone. When home, I read or sing to him, or play podcasts and radio, or videos of other budgies eating vegetables, playing with toys, taking baths, etc. I shuffle the tracks on the playlist so that it doesn't get monotonous for him. He also has a few evening goodnight songs and he puts himself to bed at the end of the final, real one.

Please know that the fact that I'm worried about him doesn't mean I haven't been patient with him or that his trauma doesn't matter to me. Some of our previous flock members were also rescues. I don't force him into anything. I offer options and wait and pretend to ignore him until he makes his choices. It isn't slow and steady--that would be about patience. It's :slowly progress, and then regress straight back to square one:. I never have any idea how he's really doing because every time he seems to be getting more comfortable he hits the reset button. I looked at the calendar; it's actually been two months. At the end of the day I can't just leave him to lead a miserable depressing life forever, especially without a brother. He's going to have serious malnutrition issues and his brain is going to atrophy.

The one time he probably felt pressure from me was when I tried to take him to his vet appointment ten days ago. I did try several times to get him to come back after he freaked and flew out, so he definitely sensed that. I mostly did this by slowly approaching with millet, slowly moving my hand back towards home, watching him fly away, not making eye contact with him for another half hour, repeating. I also tried to offer my finger for him to perch on but he was definitely not having that....so back to the totally futile millet cycle. He missed the appointment. Now I'm pretty sure he's going to miss the makeup appointment too.

He's in my bedroom; I spend most of the day in there now that he's there because they have to be where the action is.

He responds pretty badly to perches. I found this out when I tried to offer him one as a hands-free way to help himself on his first flight attempt. I've noticed since then that he is reeeally skittish about the perches even moving when I take them out to clean them. Perhaps the little stick from target training will help ease that. If not, is there something else you've found to be helpful towards that end?

Thank you for taking the time and for offering an area of focus! Much appreciated.
 

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Based on what you said about how he backs away from you when he is out makes me think that maybe he used to have someone in his prior home that would try to grab him or chase him like maybe a young kid would do. Why do you think he will have a malnutrition issue, what is he eating?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited by Moderator)
That could be. Kids whose parents didn't make sure they approached him properly perhaps.

He is offered seed, avicakes, vegetables, greens and a bit of fruit.

He is eating seed...and sometimes his tongue touches the vegetables and fruit. Then he shakes his head really vehemently. And sometimes he pecks his greens.

He is also having about 2 inches worth of millet a day.

I do think he eats some of his avicakes too, but not a whole lot.
 

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The vehement head shaking isn't a bad thing, I don't think. My two goobers do the same, and it's because it's a totally new sensation and experience. I've narrowed it down to anything that has moisture or dew on it causes them to shake their head in faux disgust, but I've come to realise it's more of a "oh my god what's this moisture feeling". Even now that they're used to veggies and mash being slightly wet, they still do the violent head shaking despite the fact they absolutely love love love mash. I think it's just a bird thing, or they just revel in making as much mess as possible.

Get yourself some pellets and see how he is with them. If he doesn't eat them whole, use a coffee grinder (brand new!) to blitz it into a dust, and you can make your own mash at home with it. I make it a consistency where it's smooth enough to coat the back of a spoon, but not too liquidy. Makes their head shaking cause less of a mess as they don't chuck big globs of mash around the room. You could even throw in some small chopped veggies in it as well. Your guy might be different, but mash goes down a treat here. They especially love pecking it off the teaspoon, I can use it to lead them around carrot on a stick style.

With the bathing thing, don't worry too much about it. I had some luck using a clear plastic container I repurposed from my local bakery after eating the apple turnovers inside. I just cut it in half and used the lid as a little bath, one of mine loves bathing but the other only uses it as a fancy drinking fountain but doesn't bother showering. Mine both hated misting as well. So I just put the clean lid out daily and let them do what they will, sometimes one bathes, sometimes they don't. It's not the end of the world if they don't. I used to obsess over worrying I was doing something wrong when I saw them not interested in bathing, but some birds just aren't interested in it.

When you give him the millet, try to use it to create a bond between the two of you. Let him associate delicious millet with eating out of your hand or something, as opposed to just putting it in his cage for him to eat alone. Also, with regards to the upcoming vet appointment, if it's important and you think there's something wrong with him, I'd personally just decide it's more important to get him seen by a vet than it is to slowly and delicately get him in a travel cage. Choosing between ensuring the health of my bird or making sure they're comfortable, I choose health every time. Even if it means I have to grab them in the cage. I've had to grab my budgie every evening for almost an entire month now, to give her much needed medicine. I went from a panicky mess to a bird grabbing pro. So with experience, you'll both get much better with the procedure, and your confidence and experience will mean you can grab the bird more efficiently with less stress.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The vehement head shaking isn't a bad thing, I don't think. My two goobers do the same, and it's because it's a totally new sensation and experience. I've narrowed it down to anything that has moisture or dew on it causes them to shake their head in faux disgust, but I've come to realise it's more of a "oh my god what's this moisture feeling". Even now that they're used to veggies and mash being slightly wet, they still do the violent head shaking despite the fact they absolutely love love love mash. I think it's just a bird thing, or they just revel in making as much mess as possible.

Get yourself some pellets and see how he is with them. If he doesn't eat them whole, use a coffee grinder (brand new!) to blitz it into a dust, and you can make your own mash at home with it. I make it a consistency where it's smooth enough to coat the back of a spoon, but not too liquidy. Makes their head shaking cause less of a mess as they don't chuck big globs of mash around the room. You could even throw in some small chopped veggies in it as well. Your guy might be different, but mash goes down a treat here. They especially love pecking it off the teaspoon, I can use it to lead them around carrot on a stick style.

With the bathing thing, don't worry too much about it. I had some luck using a clear plastic container I repurposed from my local bakery after eating the apple turnovers inside. I just cut it in half and used the lid as a little bath, one of mine loves bathing but the other only uses it as a fancy drinking fountain but doesn't bother showering. Mine both hated misting as well. So I just put the clean lid out daily and let them do what they will, sometimes one bathes, sometimes they don't. It's not the end of the world if they don't. I used to obsess over worrying I was doing something wrong when I saw them not interested in bathing, but some birds just aren't interested in it.

When you give him the millet, try to use it to create a bond between the two of you. Let him associate delicious millet with eating out of your hand or something, as opposed to just putting it in his cage for him to eat alone. Also, with regards to the upcoming vet appointment, if it's important and you think there's something wrong with him, I'd personally just decide it's more important to get him seen by a vet than it is to slowly and delicately get him in a travel cage. Choosing between ensuring the health of my bird or making sure they're comfortable, I choose health every time. Even if it means I have to grab them in the cage. I've had to grab my budgie every evening for almost an entire month now, to give her much needed medicine. I went from a panicky mess to a bird grabbing pro. So with experience, you'll both get much better with the procedure, and your confidence and experience will mean you can grab the bird more efficiently with less stress.
Haha, that is kind of what it seems like he's doing. It's kind of adorable, isn't it. You know, I think you're right on all counts--the disgust, the moisture, and the mess-making.They do have tiny little inner trolls in them after all.

He is doing alright with his avicakes--could do better but I am slightly optmistic on that front. The same goes for the pellets in his Higgins Vitaseed mix. I haven't tried sttraight-up PELLETS but I'll consider giving it a shot. Your mash description reminds me of the apple flavored Critical Care mix our bunnies used to take when they were sick. They loved it once they tried it. A little part of me is almost hoping he ends up needing to try the mash just to see him love it so much :p

You're right, bathing is less of a concern as long as he doesn't seem itchy or uncomfortable (which he doesn't). I won't sweat that one too much. If I see a good clear container I'll keep it for him and see. Some people have said a plate worked best for their budgies...might try that on the top of his cage as well.

Totally agree on millet being vital to bonding. I don't leave it out, EXCEPT in the carrier I'm trying to get him to accept and on his playstand (same reason)...during playtime. He hasn't particularly acknowledged it. Meanwhile, he does associate eat millet from the palm sides of my hands--so that's a start. I can feed him nubs of it with my fingers as well. But otherwise the outsides/backs of my hands are very scary to him. I don't know what to tell you on that one. He may or may not get over the outsides of hands thing, but I'm sure workarounds can be found over time.

The vet visit is for a health baseline. I've never taken him for an initial visit. Thankfully he flies, preens, chirps, screeches, trolls, stretches with a good energy every day; his sleeping patterns have been pretty regular, and his poops look like typical budgie poops. I am considering putting him in the previous night when he's super sleepy if he doesn't start accepting the carrier before then. I can make it up to him afterwards!

What are the names of your "goobers," as you put it? They sound pretty adorable. Does your sick budgie come and sit on your shoulder to recover after his meds?

Thank you for the tips and perspective; it really helps me focus forward. You've helped me to realize that, although he could do with more over time, he's at least alright so far.
 

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Just a foot note on bathing --

Budgies clean themselves by using the oil from their preen gland and preening their feathers to keep them clean and shiny.
You do not need to wash or bathe your budgie.

There are various things you can try. You may also find they ignore the bath for a long time and then suddenly one day will decide to try it and then like it!

I'd suggest you either put a shallow bowl with water in or on top the cage (as you indicated) or get a Lix-it Bath to attach to the cage and provide them the option of bathing every few days.

You can also try placing a few fresh basil leaves or some lettuce leaves in the water. That may interest him in the bath.

Some budgies love to rub against or roll on wet leaves.
You can hang wet romaine lettuce or kale leaves in the cage or place them in a shallow dish in or on the cage to see if Xavier likes them.

Some budgies love water and others do not show any interest in baths, showers or "bathing".
If your budgie prefers not to bathe or shower, that is just fine.

It's obvious you love your little guy and are doing everything you can for him. 💙
 

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Gotta balance your need to have him bond with you and his need to determine that you are trustworthy. I think I read in your posts that it's been 2 months. Way to early to worry yet. It sounds like you're giving him a good life. I have 4 rescues. One found in the neighborhood. He steps up and free flights reliably and will recall to my hand after a year. 6 months for the other three and two just started stepping on my hand for millet. The 4th is a little Nervous Nellie. Don't think he will ever step up. It just takes much longer with rescues than we would like but they can still be fine little pets!
 

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Awww….So preciou!! My King and Tinkerbell have yet to touch my hand, Tinkerbell looks at me like nope not today! But I know for sure they like me, they always talkin and chirping at me if I dont say nothin..I think we just need to give them time..I pray you and your little Buddy be ok😊
 
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