According to Static, we have a new bird-eating monster in our house. It is what is now being known as the hated and feared postage scale of doom. Static fears the scale, and we have the problem of trying to convince her that it’s entirely benign, because we want to use it to track her weight.
For those new to living with companion parrots, one way to keep track of your bird’s health is to weigh her on a weekly basis. If you see a sudden unexplained change in weight, it might be a sign that your feathered buddy needs a quick trip to your avian vet for a check-up.
Of course the trick is convincing your bird that this is a brilliant and necessary idea.
If we want to weigh Luna, it’s relatively easy. We simply pick her up, turn on the scale, and place her there. Most of the time she’ll sit there for a bit before she decides to move off. Our biggest challenge in weighing her is getting her to hold still. Her constant Stevie Wonder head wiggling doesn’t make for a very stable reading.
In this case, her blindness is an advantage. She can’t be concerned about something she can’t see. To her, the scale is a raised extension of the table.
Still, getting a picture of Luna on the scale proved to be a little challenging. It seemed like every time we went for the camera, she started to move so the photo came out blurry, or she decided to turn the wrong way. We ended taking about 20 pictures before we finally got one that we liked.
But Static? Oh no. To her, the scale is an alarming, bird-eating monster. She doesn’t even want to get near the thing, let along get on it. Her initial reaction to the idea was to raise her crest and run away.
At her last veterinarian appointment, we couldn’t convince her to get on the scale for love nor seeds. We finally had to resort to stuffing her in an empty muffin box from the vet’s break room. Needless to say, the bird wasn’t too happy with her treatment, and we had to tape the lid shut so she couldn’t escape.
I don’t relish the thought of cramming my bird into a muffin box every time we want to get her weight. I would hate to think what might happen if someone mistook her for something edible.
Clearly, we have to convince Static that the scale isn’t a bird-eating monster.
To do that, we resorted to simple bribery. We offered her some seeds, and kept moving the treat closer and closer to the scale.
Now you’ll notice in all of this that we didn’t manage to get Static on the scale, which is the ultimate goal of this exercise. Since Static finds the scale so alarming, just getting her near it is a huge step in the right direction. Once she gets over her fear of the dreaded scale, then we’ll start working on getting her to actually stand on the thing.
In each of our training sessions, we are aiming for progress, not perfection. If we can get our birds to exhibit a behavior that is one step closer to our desired end result, then we reward that behavior. Once the girls become confident in a given task, then we raise the bar a little so that the bird gets closer to the desired result.
I should mention, to my readers who are hoping for daily posts, I had intended to write this yesterday, but I came down with an unpleasant cold over the weekend. Instead of blogging, I spent all of Sunday curled up on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, watching classic episodes of Star Trek.
Ah, The Shat was certainly gorgeous in his day, wasn’t he? Did you ever notice how whenever he got in a fight, he always managed to tear his shirt which showed off his incredibly manly chest? Too bad he now makes fun of himself in his ridiculous Priceline commercials. But I digress… This blog is supposed to be about training birds using positive reinforcement, not how studly William Shatner might have been back in the 1960′s.