Monday, 5 February 2007

my pets

I thought I would write about one of my pets. This is Jack. She is about 30 years old. I inherited her from my mum. We got her off some people who had hand raised her when she was about three years old, they were moving interstate and couldn't transport her that far. She is a sulfur crested cockatoo, and quite a character in her own right, she has a personality all of her own. When we first got her we were not sure if she was a male or a female but she was named after a friend of my dad's so the name stuck regardless of gender. She lays an egg every few years and goes a bit clucky before hand with my husband whom she loves.
Sulfur crested cockies live for over 60 years and have been known to live up to 100 years. so they are a family pet for life and are handed on through several generations. My maternal grandmother had one in Griffith N.S.W. that we reckoned was over 80 and was sent to the pioneers park there where it died after many years. This cocky had a cage with a huge hole rusted through the bottom of his cage and never attempted to go outside. We used to bob up and down in front of the cage and sing "dance cocky dance" and he would do it back to us. When I was little my cousin Joe (we were known as the terrible twins) and I used to steal the cockys wheat and plant it down the side under the water tank and when it grew we would harvest it and feed it back to him. Budding gardeners.
They have very long memories and remember if you have been kind to them or teased them and will treat you accordingly. One of my old family stories involves a cocky that my paternal grand mother kept for many years and my uncle charlie. The cocky was a great watch dog and we always knew if someone was coming because he would yell out "shut the bloody gate" anyway when my uncle came home from the pub he would always kick the cage and say "get out you bastard" the cocky was out of his cage one day and no one heard uncle Charlie come home and it chased him through the house cornered him in the bedroom and bit the top of his finger off.
Cockies are excellent mimics and talkers. Jack being a female does not talk as well as a male but she does say quite a lot of things, not all of which we understand. She coughs like me, like she did for my dad when he was alive. She calls the dogs and barks like them. She says what ya doin jack? If she runs out of seed she marches up and down her perch and motions "come here " with her head. When the kids were little and ran around the yard she used to laugh at them. And when I can't get the chooks to go back in their cage and chase them around the yard she laughs at me and calls out "look out look out". When you stand at the cage and talk to her she will listen intently but won't answer until you start to walk away because she wants you to come back. Years ago we used to let her get on our arms but she gets a bit excited and won't get off again and her claws are sharp so we don't do that any more. But she likes to be patted and scratched under the wing and her head crest. When I pull weeds out of the garden she likes to watch me expectantly and if I give the weeds to the galah or the chooks before I give her her's she will sulk and not take them from me. The next door neighbour lost a few of their ring neck doves about a year ago and they are pretty tame. One day we had the bottom of the cage open cleaning out her water bowl and one of the doves walked in and has been there ever since so she has a companion now. I'm not sure if she likes that or not as the dove is never quiet but jack usually ignores it. Cockies can be very noisy pets at times too, screeching at dusk to each other and when there are other wild cockies around but jack isnt too bad compared to some that I've heard about.
The wild ones always carry on at dusk when they are finding roosting spots for the night. I love being down at the river late in the day when they come in to roost and watching them as they wheel around and settle in after several stops and starts. They are gorgeous.
Cockies can also be very destructive birds too, in areas around Sydney in the leafy northern suburbs they have been known to eat nice cedar balconies and demolish wooden parts on houses with their big powerful beaks. They have to chew things or their beaks can grow too long and they cant eat properly. Ffarmers used to poison them because they would eat the grain and dig up newly sown seed in the paddocks. I don't know if they are still poisoned. I remember when I was young seeing flocks of many hundreds of birds, you don't see big flocks like that any more, but there are still a lot of them around. They aren't endangered . In autumn when the wild almond trees across the road from my house have fruits on them, they wake us up very early in the morning fighting over the ripe almonds. They crunch them easily with their big beaks. I have a special perch covered in calcium stuff of some sort that if supposed to grind down jack's beak as it has grown a bit long but its not long enough to be a problem for her. As well as weeds and seed mixes jack enjoys apple cores, grain bread and grain toast, milk thistles, nuts, seed pods from native trees, and a little piece of fat from cooked meat as well as a bit of chop or steak bone to chew on. But I wouldn't give them too much of that, only every now and then. The fat is supposed to be good for her beak. My grand mothers cocky used to ask for toast and tea and get it too, every morning at breakfast time, though I don't give that to jack as I'm a bit wary as to weather sugar is good for her.
We used to have a kitten that took a lot of interest in jack when it was small. and tried to get at her by climbing up the outside of the cage. Jack soon set her right by nipping her feet. Kitty learned very quickly, dont mess with jack.
I often think about her as a bit sad because she is such a beautiful specimen and she should be in the wild and breeding but I couldn't set her free as she would not know how to look after herself in the wild, not knowing about feral cats or traffic and things like that and would not last long in the wild.

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