adjusting to new environment
I decided to wheel the cage of my hand-raised cockatiels, Tiki and Kipper, out on the deck so they could get some fresh air, vitamin D, and enjoy seeing the wild birds, something they do quite often in the warmer weather.
Lately they have been nervous when placed outside, and for good reason. They had had some recent trauma at my “regular” house in suburbs. Twice they had a hawk encounter; once on the deck, and once–amazingly enough–on the screened in porch that had open doorways (now being fitted for doors!). Fortunately the hawk had grabbed the bars of the cage, and within a few seconds, I was there to chase it away, screaming at the top of my lungs. It was scary for me as well, to see that huge hawk intending to have my pet birds for lunch!
My birds reacted in the same way as people do when they have experienced a traumatic event; the panic could rise up again when the birds were placed in the big world outside. Large birds circling high up in the sky could reawaken the memory of the hawk. And then, they would begin a repeated “alert” sound, a kind of a high-pitched screech.
It felt that today was a good day to begin retraining. Two factors were present: one–being out in the open could trigger the panic, two–we were in a different environment, one in which they had only had positive experiences when placed outside.
I placed their cage outside the sliding glass door, and continued my Qi Gong practice in the house, within a few feet of the door. Common sense and compassion were the name of the game:
- Compassion: recognizing and respecting that there was trauma, and coming from the heart in my response to them, giving them encouragement.
- Common sense: Using love and logic. Giving just enough challenge so it is doable, staying close by without hovering. As Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of my heroes, has said; “Common sense is genius dressed it its working clothes.”
At one point, Tiki, who tends to be more sensitive, began the “alert” call. I looked up and saw some crows circling overhead. I gave them reassurance; the crows left, and they relaxed a bit.
After about twenty minutes, I joined them outside, sitting in a chair for my morning meditation. I chose a silent meditation for centering and grounding; mentally pulsing the Kundalini yoga mantra, Wah-Hay-Gu-Roo, at the brow point in an even cadence while breathing long and deep. I must have been very meditative because the wild birds didn’t mind coming to the feeder that was only five feet from where I was sitting.
My birds started relaxing. They still tipped an eye skyward now and then to check the heavens for any bigger birds circling. But their sounds were relaxed, and they felt comfortable enough to eat and drink. At the end of my meditation, one of them began whistling one of the four songs they know, and I was quick enough to capture it on video.
Appropriately the song was “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”