Posted: September 19, 2013, 9:30 a.m. EDT
By Elizabeth Creith
When we bought Peanut, a young bare-eyed cockatoo, at Fur and Feather, we had no idea what kind of a personality we were getting. His name wasn't Peanut then – in fact, he didn't have a name, which is unusual for a used – excuse me, pre-loved – cockatoo. All was explained when we discovered that he had never, in fact, been pre-loved.
"He's a breeder,” said the man selling him. "Doesn't like to be handled.”
David, ever the optimist, not to mention a sucker for a feathered face, said, "He'll gentle down.” He then nobbled my bank card and went off to withdraw the funds to buy the bare-eyed cockatoo and a Goffin's cockatoo for the package price of $500.
Goffin's Cockatoo. iStock/Thinkstock
We discovered on the way home in the van that the Goffin's was a little snuggler, and that the seller had under-represented the bare-eyed's dislike of being handled. It was tricky to get his cage manoeuvred into the van while keeping all digits out of harm's way. His beak hadn't been trimmed in a while, and he managed to graze my thumb just once. Once was enough.
Back at the store, we barely had time to settle the Goffin's in a cage before he was whisked off to a new home. Not so the bare-eyed. He hunched on his perch looking sullen and feral. With the aid of welding gloves and a thick towel, we got his bill and nails trimmed, which made him look at least civilized. To compensate, he upped the "sullen” to a full-fledged "baleful”.
We set out to win him over. The way to a bird's heart is definitely through his stomach, and most of our cockatoos and parrots loved peanuts, so we started feeding him peanuts whenever we went near his cage.
At first he didn't even seem to see the peanuts – what he saw was the hand, because he went for it every time. I lost a few chunks of finger. On the upside, if he could make me yell and, bonus, bleed, the bird seemed to perk up. He'd put up his little crest and whistle and look positively jaunty. On the downside, I really hated yelling and bleeding, and I also didn't want to run out of fingers. I bought a pair of soft leather gardening gloves. He still bit holes, but at least the gloves didn't yell and bleed. Deprived of his little victory, he began to focus on the peanuts instead of the fingers. We began to call him Peanut.
But it was the biscotti that made the breakthrough. I like a biscotti with my coffee, and one day I offered him a small piece of one. He nibbled away at it and, when he was done, began to dance on his perch and whistle at me. I offered another. He whistled, and his little crest went up and down.
After that, whenever he saw the orange-and-yellow box of biscotti, he would dance and whistle and put up his crest. I offered him a different flavor once, but he sulked and dropped it in the bottom of his cage.
"I have standards,” he seemed to be saying. "Where are my favorite biscotti?”
Eventually we sold Peanut. I knew I would miss him, but he was going to a good home. We threw in a box of biscotti. His favorites, of course.
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