Archie has been here for three days now, and he’s already made enormous progress. I haven’t yet tried to open the cage door because I first wanted him to get settled in, get used to us and comfortable with us, and start eating a more varied diet so I could determine what would make a good reinforcer. However, all of those things are happening much more quickly than I anticipated.
The day after he arrived, he already started eating everything else in his cage, so we’re already completely off his old pellets. Furthermore, that evening he had already started to figure out how to forage. Here’s what his cage looks like:
I don’t know if you can tell, but there’s an egg carton hanging towards the bottom of the back of the cage. It was hanging horizontally, but after he ate the pellets I’d sprinkled on top, he got frustrated because he couldn’t reach the ones I’d sprinkled inside of it. So, clever boy that he is, he solved that little problem by chewing through the hemp string that was holding it up. When it fell and deposited the pellets onto the floor of the cage, he said, “HaHA!,” and then started laughing manically. Then he climbed down to the bottom of his cage and happily munched away at his pellets.
Since then, however, as you again may or may not be able to tell in the photo, he discovered that if he chews through the carton, there are paper balls inside that are packed with Phoenix Foraging‘s UnPellet–which he has also discovered that he LOVES. He also found the UnPellet in the other foraging toys in the back of the cage, Harrison’s and TOPS pellets in the coconut, and tries to get at all the food in the carousel toy at the front of his cage, but hasn’t quite figured out how to get to it yet. And he LOVES his chop’n’freeze. He loves all of his food, actually. It’s so cute to watch him eating and laughing simultaneously. He pins his eyes and giggles to himself as if to say, “Who knew food could be this delicious and exciting?!” And his toys and swings! He loves them, too! I haven’t had to “teach” him anything; he’s done a stellar job of figuring things out on his own.
Another adorable behavior we’ve observed is running around backwards on the bottom of his cage. He seems genuinely excited that he has a relatively soft, flat surface at the bottom of his cage, and he enjoys spending a lot of time down there, not only playing and eating, but also running backwards and laughing the whole time. Since he has balance issues due to not having a tail, I can imagine that having a place where he can actually run and play without having to worry about falling is a relief and a delight.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any video to share with anyone yet. We’re trying not to be too all up in his business yet, as he’s only just now starting to warm up to Chuck, and I don’t want to push my luck even though he has demonstrated an interest in me from the first moment we met.
(I just realized I never told that story in my first blog entry. Quick tangent: when I got to his previous owner’s house to meet him for the first time, he immediately started talking to me and making kissy noises. His owner told me that he had never done that to anyone other than himself. Then after several minutes, when I got up to leave, Archie said, “Nooooooooooooo!” in this cute, shrill voice, then crouched down into a begging stance. His previous owner laughed and said he’d never seen him do that to anyone before.)
So, yes, Archie had taken a shine to me from the beginning. But affinity does not equal absolute trust, so both Chuck and I have been taking it slow with him. He was pretty scared of Chuck at first, because he’s 6’6″ and built like a tank, and I don’t think Archie had ever been around anyone that big before. I showed Chuck how to use non-threatening body language to communicate calmly with Archie, and how to recognize nervous or aggressive body language so that he could understand what Archie was communicating to him and could back off when Archie wanted him to. Because Chuck is completely awesome, he immediately caught on, and in a very short period of time we’re seeing drastic improvement. At first, Chuck couldn’t even walk by his cage without Archie flaring his crest and striking at the cage bars. But here we are, three days later, and when Chuck went to drop a pistachio in Archie’s bowl, Archie bent down and calmly took it from Chuck’s fingers of his own volition.
That’s right: he loves pistachios. He didn’t know what they were at first, but after I demonstrated eating one myself and making a big deal about how delicious it was, Archie hesitantly tried one himself. His eyes pinned, he said, “Ooooooh!”, and then he ate every last crumb. So, easily enough, we discovered our reinforcer.
So everything has fallen into place rather quickly: he’s more comfortable around us; he’s learning how to navigate his cage; he’s already got the varied diet nailed down; he’s making excellent progress on the foraging. I think in the next day or two we’re going to try our first training session, which we will hopefully be able to record so I can post it. We’ll see how it goes! I’m hoping that, since he’s already so happy in this environment, teaching him to come out of his cage won’t be such a big deal as I had originally thought. On the other hand, I’m not putting any undue expectations on him. We’ll just have to see how it goes!