Everyone needs their spot- a place of solitude where you can pray, relax, recharge. A “happy place”, if you will.
Willow’s “happy place” is our second floor guest bathroom.
When we brought Willow home, Mr. Awesome and I had few options of where to put the the 2 1/2 ft. x 2 1/2 ft. x 5 ft. cage that was to be her new abode, the only truly legitimate option being a wall adjoining the guest bathroom. We thought little of it at the time, but placing her there would prove to be both a blessing and a curse.
One of the challenges that faced us initially after bringing Willow home was how we would go about getting her to step up. She had not show a great deal of aggression towards us initially, but anyone who has been around an animal with a beak that size will sympathize with the fact that we were a bit cautious in our overtures, and I prayed she wouldn’t maul us too badly. But I need not have been so concerned.
As Mr. Awesome and I made our trips in and out of the guest bathroom, we noticed a marked transformation in our new feathered charge. On the opening of the bathroom door, Willow’s eyes would light up and she craned her neck to get a better view of what, for all we could tell, appeared to be a wondrous and amazing thing in her sight. Noticing her marked interest, I offered her my hand and asked if she wanted to have a look. She stepped up eagerly.
This was a victory. Previous to this moment, most of Willow’s stepping up had been out of necessity- she flew off her cage and needed to go back, she fell, etc. But now she was stepping up willingly to do something that interested her. Thus, that wonderful moment occurred when a bird realizes human hands are useful for transportation purposes and good things happen when you step up.
As we entered the bathroom, all glowing with incandescent light, Willow looked and gawked to her heart’s content. Her intense interest in seeing different things pleased me greatly, as I believe she spent a good deal of her previous life in her cage. Eventually I was able to set her on the sink top, and she had a grand time tapping the porcelain with her beak and tugging on the hand towel hanging nearby. Her curiosity eventually led me to open the linen closet and let her have a look inside, which she found immensely interesting. I should have known I was in for trouble when I started having issues with getting her back out of said closet.
Over the course of a few days I let Willow down to have a walk around the bathroom floor. It wasn’t long before she waddled behind the toilet, and that’s when all bets were off.
When asking myself why my African grey was so awestruck by our fairly boring guest bathroom, I came to the conclusion that, with it being an interior room with no windows and lots of nooks and crannies, it probably looked like prime real estate for nesting. My theory gained further credence when I realized she would happily squat behind the trash can for as long as I was willing to let her. To a ten to fifteen-year-old parrot whose biological clock is no doubt ticking, our guest bathroom must look like paradise.
But the honeymoon couldn’t last. Considering the situation, it didn’t surprise me too much when Willow started getting very protective of her spot. After a few charges, strikes, and quickly returning her to her cage, I decided it might be best if the bathroom became off limits.
The thing about parrots though, is they’re agonizingly persistent.
It didn’t take long for Willow to start climbing down off her cage and barging in the bathroom whenever she felt like it. This makes for tricky morning routines as we try to medicate the budgies and give everyone clean water, not to mention the fact that it’s hard to do your business when you hear the click-click-click of little birdy feet outside the door and a black beak trying to chew its way in.
For a while I thought we had an adequate compromise as Mr. Awesome (aka “Daddy”) would put Willow on his shoulder as he went through the morning preparations in the bathroom, and again when they were repeated at night. A shaky truce reigned for a few weeks, but then I caved.
I started letting her roam about the bathroom again, and things seemed to be going really well for a while. She pleasantly sat behind the trashcan in her spot and didn’t seem to be harming anything. She even quelled her anger and started stepping up when asked to go back to her cage. Everything was going smoothly, until the party she had when we were away.
Prior to this incident, I had been able to distract her from chewing by strategically placing rolled up towels along the places she seemed most interested in devastating, but after her weekend rampage, I fear there is no going back. I’ve tried the rolled towel trick, but as Mr. Awesome pointed out, no matter how much we discourage her, it is very likely that she will just find something else to chew. And it makes sense. That’s just what you do when you are trying to renovate a nice nest hole.
And so the battle ensues. I love the idea of Willow having an area to enjoy away from her cage, and I had hoped the bathroom would prove to be one such place. I mean, if she has an “accident” at least the linoleum floor is easy to sanitize. But I suppose it isn’t too bad if we have to try something else. After all, it’s rather disconcerting being stared down by a cantankerous grey face every time you want to throw away a tissue.