Socialize your birds, some tales: Dorene Olson

For the past 2 years I have taken ducks, geese, chickens, parrots (of course, also, my dogs and cats) and turkeys to education events, the largest being a yearly three-day event in a huge civic center where hundreds of people came through every day. 

Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 9.49.37 PMAt one event I had a booth next to the St. Louis County Police Department where they had two German Shepherds there and one was panting and pacing and crawling up its handler’s leg, the other one had diarrhea all over the booth (pewwww!) and had to be removed.

I was there with several parrots, who were very used to public interactions, but I put them up every hour for 20 minutes or so and more when needed, parrots tend to love high intensity drama but turkeys do not.

My two turkeys, who I got at right around 24 – 48 hours old, were instantly plunged into the public specter. Embarrassingly, like a fool, I could not WAIT to show them INSTANTLY to a friend of mine and ran into our neighbourhood American Legion Hall with them hidden under my shirt to show her, and she shoo-ed me out as quick as she  could as the health inspectors happened to be there right then. Oops.

They were escape artists and frequently went on neighbourhood house calls, visiting people, they met the school bus regularly, I was constantly rescuing them from wandering where they should not be. I had a very long (nearly an acre) back yard and an older African American neighbour who was not really of a pet person culture. I saw him in his back yard, ran down my back yard, and wanted to let him know that I had the girls and make sure that he was OK with that and also assured that if they were ever a problem, to contact me instantly.

As I was beginning to talk to him, the girls, still at the top of the hill, had not yet noticed that I had run away, but suddenly realized that I was at the other end of the yard, and came with HUGE FLAPPING FLYING wings and by accident due to the descent of the hill, took flight, and Cricket (Royal Palm) landed WAAAAAYYYYYY up in the top of a tree above our heads. We both just looked at her (Bleu Belle was contentedly plucking around at my feet) and all I could think of to say was:  “Are you OK with that?” He turned and looked at me and replied:  “What are you going to do about this?”.

All I could think to reply (I am an animal trainer) was to say:  “Call her to come when called … “.  We both kinda stared at each other, then I feebly tried:  “Cricket, COME!”

She stared at me, unconcerned. I held up my arm like I was a trainer of free flighted birds at Sea World (one of me good friends is one of the head Orca trainers there, he would kill me if he knew this story).  (shhhh).

I solved the problem by excusing myself from the neighbour and nonchalantly wandering back up the hill, which caused an instant fluttering of massive wings and desperate flight of poultry back to “mommy”. I walked my two girls back indoors, gave them some ears of corn to play with, and collapsed in a heap to re-evaluate Turkey Mom In The Suburbs situation.

I miss my turkeys. Bleu Belle died after a long-fought battle that avian vets across the nation and one in Australia could not cure. I have her ashes here in my new home with me, and since I have now had to move to the inner city, Cricket is living in a heaven of a home in St. Peters, MO,  with a rescue SAINT of a woman, and she has another turkey hen for a friend.

So, in closing, SOCIALIZE your birds! At some point, they may require vet care or handling, and if they are already used to it, and are compromised by being sick, it will benefit them to not be stressed by handling to complicate and add to their ails.

Take care,
Dorene, TARA Training and Behavior, LLC

www.doreneolson.com 314.956.1310

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