Thinking Out Loud

Hello.I thought long and hard prior to posting this and have re-written this a total of five times now…and I’m still very unsure about posting this…but in the end, if I don’t convey my situation to someone I feel like I’m going to burst and it’s not going to help anyone, least of all my beautiful bird.So, hello.I’m new to this forum. I have a Congo African Grey. He’s getting to be 6 months old now (still a very young one). I’ve had him for 3 months now, and my time with him has been a rollercoaster filled with joy and delight, seasoned with ample amounts of dread & anxiety.I browsed through countless internet forums, just going through different discussions and chains, and I’ve landed myself here, as by far, I’ve found this one to be the most impartial when it comes to parrots and their care. I’ve read through several Q&A’s on this forum, and feel that on this forum, you, as a community, truly care about the welfare and well-being of any and all parrots, regardless of situation. Thus, why I’ve decided to approach you with my matter. My apologies for this vomiting of words.A bit of back-tracking:Growing up I always lived in a household filled with birds of different breeds and kinds (Cockatoo, Cockatiels, Budgies, Congo African Grey, different to the one I’ve got). I adored the birds we had and helped take care of them when I got a little older, and were they just the most wonderful creatures!And our CAG, he was my mother’s. He got on with all of us in the house, but no one but my mother was allowed (by the bird) to touch him. And still, I adored that bird. I talked to him, helped my mother make food for him, helped clean his cage, taught him songs, interacted with him as far as he would allow.In 2009, I, along with the rest of my family, had to move, and at that time we lived in Africa.Naturally, as CITES is strict on the import/export of this very species of bird, we had to leave him behind, to our heartbreak. 6 years later and my mother grieves over him still, and I don’t blame her. He was a wonderful creature! The rest of the birds have died due to old age (my mother mostly adopted birds instead of buying them as babies, with the exception of a couple of budgies) except the Cockatoo, who found a loving forever home.Now, steering back to the present day. I currently live in the UK.Initially, I’d like to outline that my parrot was not an impulse buy.I moved here 3 years ago, and along the line thought that I would really like a bird. But I knew nothing about birds and I was very hesitant, as I knew they can be quite a handful. So I researched. It took me 2 years from that though of “I would really like a bird” to actually make it a reality.I set my heart on an African Grey (in retrospect, I’m not surprised by my option). And now I have a beautiful, friendly African Grey. There’s nothing wrong with him. I’m simply beginning to think that I’m a very big problem in this bird’s life, and eventually, I’m afraid we’ll both end up very unhappy.Let me elaborate:I’ve been suffering from severe depression for a vast amount of years. I’ve been a self-harm victim for many years. I’ve previously attempted to commit suicide (my apologies if this strikes a nerve in anyone, I don’t write this in for sympathy…I’m sure if you carry on reading, you will understand why mentioning this is a vital piece of information).I “got better” about a year ago, and hadn’t cut myself for a year! I hadn’t had suicidal thoughts for even longer, which I found a mission impossible accomplished.This year, unfortunately, it’s all started to creep back in. Heavily. At first, I didn’t realize it entirely. I was too enthralled by the beautiful and kind creature I’d brought into my home. Now that I look 3 months back, I see that at that time, I got the parrot “to comfort me” when I felt awful on the inside. My intentions might’ve been good to start with, but I’m beginning to see that I got this parrot for the wrong reasons entirely. And it’s eating away at me.This perky little twitter is very active and very needy. He won’t “do his own thing”, although, for him, being glued to my arm 24/7 probably is “doing his own thing”. At first, it soothed me (in a sense, to be loved so much by anything at all is a truly wonderful feeling). But now, I can’t stand him. And it bothers me!I feel smothered by his constant need for affection/attention, and feel a true feeling of dread walking into my room (currently, my room is the only place I can keep him) and have found myself avoiding and making mental excuses not to go into and to stay out of the room. And it’s awful because I do genuinely care for him and would like to satisfy his need for affection/attention, but at the same time, keeping honest to myself, a velcro-bird is too much for me and it makes me very anxious (something I never thought I’d say…birds have always had the opposite effect in me…there truly is a first time for everything). Whereas I thought having a parrot keep me company would give me so much joy, and though it has, it has also triggered my self-harm binge…and in the extent of my being, I am very unhappy. In my own home, I feel trapped.And in my heart, as much as it hurts to admit, I know I can not offer him the kind of attention and affection he needs all the time, and that just, in my view isn’t fair on the parrot. And he shrieks shrill cries every time I even remotely motion towards the door…actually, it’s escalated to shrill cries every time he doesn’t get attention. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t neglect him. He’s out at least 4 hours a day, gets to fly around the room. I started clicker training him at first, but had to stop as he exhibited a non-stop baby begging behavior (which neighbors didn’t take too kindly to…). He’s stopped that now. He gets pellets and fresh fruit and veg and forages for seeds and nuts. He doesn’t like to play with toys, though he knows how to (I’ve watched him through a mirror/through the curtain his cage is behind). He likes to chew and rip up things, but he gets bored of this very quickly. He’d rather be on me (around me doesn’t suffice. He flies to my office chair if I’m sat at it and nudges me with his foot for attention. Bless his little heart!) And when he’s not begging for my attention/when I’m out of the room, he just sits there, like icing on a cake. As soon as I turn to even look at him, he rushes to catch that glimpse of attention. And I don’t blame him…I can feel my little efforts are next to nothing to feed his needs. I feel that in the long run, he might grow up to be anxious bird, much like myself…and this terrifies me! Whereas I know I have my own problems to sort out and deal with, and as guilty as I feel, I’m beginning to feel like he is a burden in my life and I really don’t think I can keep him at the cost of his and my mental well-being…and this makes me want to cry!I’ve been severely thinking about rehoming him. But I feel cruel even thinking about it. And guilty. So very guilty and ashamed! I do feel he has a good chance of finding a loving forever home as he’s very tame and affectionate, albeit demanding (although, this could be an injustice my brain is doing to this bird as I can not cope with him personally) and he is still young and hopefully, adaptable.If you’ve gotten this far with this post, thank you so much for taking the time to “listen” to the situation. I’m honestly at a cross-roads and am not sure what to think or do…I’m not sure what the right way to go about this situation is. Any advice, feedback, opinions are more than welcome. I am looking out for my bird’s best interests, and as much as it would leave a hole in my heart (exactly the size of an African Grey) to rehome him, I genuinely do think it might be the best option.As much as I love him, I feel that as a person I need to change and be happy with myself first before I can offer love and affection to this truly wonderful creature…

As much as I would like to think otherwise, I think that in the best interests of both you and the bird that you rehome him. I understand your depression as well as the ‘tricks’ that your mind will play with you regardless of what I say in relation to this as I am also severely depressed. I am currently fairly stable, but am also aware that it could change all too quickly. You are thinking in terms of both of your well beings and I know how much you care for this bird but you also need to take care of yourself. And since I think you would prefer honesty to anything else that I have to offer, I think that you will actually do both of you a service by rehomeing him.

I am so sorry for all you are going through. I understand depression & the things that go with it and I know deep down that I would be so much worse in the long run without my pets, I also know how hard it is to care for them when the depression kicks in. There have been times where I didn’t want to let Ollie out his cage because he is such hard work, I always have done though by telling myself “just half an hour” “oh he has already been out half an hour I might as well let him have another half” and so on. I’m ok now but I used to have plenty prepared for him on my better days to use on my bad days in case I really struggled to give him attention he could busy himself with other stuff in my presence instead of hassling me. I know how hard it is but sometimes you have to give yourself a good talking to and say “just because I’m feeling rubbish it isn’t going to help me by not taking care of my responsibilities” Don’t let the whole “everything would be better if…” take over. My god it IS SO SO HARD but I’ve learned not being proactive makes you feel worse in the long run because there is no sense of achievement. Sometimes you don’t see the achievement straight away but you will and that that will help you build a more positive frame of mind in the long run which in turn makes that dark cloud harder to take hold of you.When you’ve had some help and are feeling a bit better then I think you need to be asking yourself why you feel you can’t give your grey the attention that’s needed. Is there any way you can have someone to help take care of your grey on occasions? Is there any way round it that would work? another grey of the opposite sex that’s a similar age? Greys are quite hard to bond to another bird but I think if they are young enough that would be so much easier. They will then have each other for company if your not feeling up to it but of course you would still need to feed, water and clean and give them some attention but it would ease the pressure a bit.There’s loads of options, maybe rehoming is the best way for you but don’t make any rash decisions.

Excellent reply, Marie. Well thought out and with some very good points.

Thank you for your honest and helpful replies.Marie83, your answer gives me a lot of hope in knowing that giving him up isn’t the only option available. Thinking clearly has been quite difficult recently, and sometimes the simplest of answers are so hard to find. Financially, I won’t be able to afford another grey for quite a while, though that does sound like a very viable option.And planning out activities for the future, as you pointed out, for the cloudier days, is ingenious.Do you mind me asking for suggestions? He’s quick to learn and he’s quite a master at foraging (it doesn’t keep his interest for very long). Puzzles possibly? I’ve come across a lot of expensive parrot toys that I wish I could currently afford…perhaps things I could make myself?I’ve had a generous and heartwarming offer from my mother (whom I mentioned in the post) that’s lifted a great weight off my shoulders. She’s offered to take him in the case that I can not provide him with the care he needs. This, although it’s still rehoming, is a lot closer to home (albeit another country). He wouldn’t go to an unknown place and I’d be able to visit him, and I know it’d be a good home for him to have.For now, I’m glad to know there are other options and once again, thank you.

I am glad that you decided to keep him, even though I said you may be doing both of you a service by rehomeing him. I myself was more focused on the bird and how he would grieve if you did anything as well as seeing him without anyone to feed and water him. I almost didn’t reply to this post as I don’t usually make any recommendation as to getting or rehoming birds, because I know that my focus is only on the bird at the expense of the human. I will be happy to help in any way that I can, as I am fascinated by these birds and especially with the greys, I have a 15 year old Grey. All of my birds are very special to me but the Grey is without any doubt the one who has the biggest space in my heart. Grey do want a lot of attention but they are worth every second of it and mine knows and responds to my moods almost before I realize that it is changing and she helps me to stabilize and to return to a better state of mind. There is nothing quite like hearing her say 'Love you" in her sweetest voice, it just kind of melts me when she does.

My dear, although I would love to say: “Try to keep the bird. Find an alternative.” I think that the best thing for both of you will be for him to go live with your mother. I think that, right now, you need to concentrate on yourself and getting better, and trying to find a solution that will enable you to keep the bird will distract you from what should be your ONLY concern right now - which is finding a solution to your personal problems. Mind you, I am not only saying this out of concern for you but also for your bird because greys are difficult, difficult birds, they are super smart, extremely needy, time-consuming and getting another bird is not going to work out because they hardly ever bond with another bird, not even another grey (I’ve had six together at the same time and none of them bonded with another, not even a brother and sister that had lived together their entire life). It might happen but, if it does, it will take a looooong time (they would both have to be sexually mature and read to breed and that means 3 to 4 years) and, in the meantime, you are going to have two needy birds that, most likely, will be jealous of each other and if you can’t deal with one bird, imagine having the problem multiplied by three (because 2 birds are not double the work, they are 3 or 4 times the work in terms of time, planning, monitoring, etc). You are in no condition to be catering to/worrying about anybody or anything but yourself and trying to do it will not benefit the bird or you.I think that, deep inside, you know this best answer to this quandary and what will constitute he best situation for the bird but you just feel guilty about it. But you shouldn’t because, in reality, you have the perfect solution: a good home with your mother where you will be able to visit and enjoy the bird IF AND WHENEVER YOU FEEL WELL ENOUGH FOR IT. Interacting/caring for a parrot needs to be a pleasure and not an obligation. Anything else is not fair to them. And there is no reason whatsoever to feel guilty about anything because a) it’s not as if you are doing this to please yourself or because you are too lazy but because you have his wellbeing in mindb) you are sending him to the best home you know ofc) you won’t lose him and he won’t lose youd) maybe down the road, when you have gotten your problems under control, he can come back to you.

Everything that has been said since your first post here is what I keep running through m mind and are at the heart of both of my replies to you, and if these things are affecting me then I can only imagine how much more they are affecting you. I am happy to help you with your bird regardless of how you decide to proceed.

Does your bird know your mother.I had only met Rambo a couple of times before he came to me. The only transition we had was him teaching me. Because he had met me before in his home he just considered me safe and progressed from their.

Gotta be honest, I do understand about where you’re coming from, also admittedly got my parrots as a result of very suicidal depressive thoughts. Mine were older and bonded together when I got them though so as friendly as they are I’ve never found then ‘overly’ needy. The thing with your grey being so young and human bonded is that like a human child it wants desperately to be around it’s role model ‘you’. Allow him to be around you but try to build up a schedule where he has certain times of the day in his cage/away from you and certain times of the day out of the cage/with you. This can be good practise for the future as many parrots who become too used to being around their favourite person 24/7 can react badly if they have to be seperated for a few hours due to work, e.t.c. Just start off shutting him in his cage for a few minutes and then letting him back out slowly building up the in cage time- only let him out when he’s not screaming though or he may learn that screaming will get him his own way. Remember, for the first few years parrots are like sponges, they soak up as much knowledge and behaviours around them now would be the oportune time for you to try and set the blueprints for your perfect parrot.Also, I dunno whether you have or not but please don’t be afraid to go to your GP for depression, explain that you’ve felt depression for six or more months, they should hopefully prescribe you with something that will help, GPs can’t give out your information to ‘anyone’ without your consent and can’t force you to do or take anything that you don’t want to.Hope this helped.