Problems with my Moluccan Cockatoo

A year ago I got this Moluccan Cockatoo, his name is Vader and he was a rescue bird. He was taken from a meth lab and he was half dead when they found him. His mate wasn't so lucky, she was found at the bottom of the same cage, dead and rotting.

My vet determined that he had to be at least 50 years old and he was probably caught from the wild. I can only imagine the kind of abuse he went through. I just want to help give him something he never had, a safe, loving home. I have experience with rehabilitation, but primarily Amazons or smaller breeds, it did not prepare me for him. Understandably he is terrified of people and no one can blame him for it, and therein lies the problem. How do I make him like people again without hurting him physically and emotionally? He is terrified of everybody.

He ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to leave his cage. I have left it open all day and he never steps out not even to climb to the top of it. I've taken him to another room and let him walk around or sit on a perch we have and he will run back to his cage. If anybody even walks in the room he starts hissing (I've tried keeping him in both an open and closed area no difference). His hissing is like he's breathing really heavily (the vet has ruled out respiratory diseases, its a voluntary act) Then if I walk closer he gets defensive with his crest raised, wings expanded, and swaying from side to side. If I move closer he starts hyperventilating and scurries to the opposite end of the cage, keeping his defensive stance. If I or anything else reaches towards him he screams hysterically.

"Step up" has only worked a few times,but once I started to move out of his cage he would leap from my arm towards the cage usually ending with him hurting himself by landing horribly. That's only when I can get him out of his cage though. The majority of the time he will give a really nasty bite and has even hurt himself trying to get away. He got his beak stuck on a chain from his toy a couple times and both times he screamed so hysterically I was afraid he would have a heart attack and he bit me hard enough to draw blood in the process.

When I give him bathes (water very low and a luke warm gentle shower running)it is miserable. But when I stepped out to grab a towel, he started playing in it, until he saw me then he went right back into defensive mode. He does the same thing in his cage, he will climb around it and hang from the top but if he notices us peeking around the corner to watch he rushes back onto his perch and sits there staring at us. He does the same when he eats, when we walk in, he will drop the food. He will not eat around us. So the treat training cant work...

Today he fell off of his perch, which he's done before but just climbed up to his perch, this time he fell he was on his back and couldn't get back up this time. When he saw me he started freaking out and when I tried to help him I was bit again. He was covered in his poo though so I had to give him a bath, there was alot of screaming and I got bit again this time drawing blood. I know I shouldn't pull away when he tries to bite but there is only so many bites a person can take and his bites could take off a finger easy, he hasnt used that much force yet but I don't know when or if he will and that scares me when he lunges out.

I have been trying to gain his trust for a year now and have not seen any progress, nothing has changed in the slightest. He just sits there in his cage all day, silent, until someone walks into the room and he starts hissing again.(thats why we named him Vader, he sounds like Darth Vader when he does that hissing) lol Anyway I have been really thinking alot and I'm worried that I'm selfish wanting him to be here with me. He just seems so unhappy. There is a very nice sanctuary around me and they would be happy to take him. It seems like a wonderful place and I think he might be happy there but I am afraid to abandon him like everyone else in his past has.... Sorry to write so much. I am kind of at a loss here.

Anyway I am just looking for advice, maybe something else I should try to build trust or if it seems like a hopeless case. Where do we go from here? What can I do? What should I do?

Comments for Problems with my Moluccan Cockatoo

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May 24, 2011
Problems with my Moluccan Cockatoo
by: Linda

My heart goes out to you because this bird is psychically damaged meaning his mind might be gone, and he is no longer responsible for his actions. Cockatoos are birds who if abused, neglected or starved or even put into too small of a cage, will become mentally ill in a very short time.

My only advice to you is to hang in there with him. If you need to handle him to take him to the avian vet or to check out something on his body, use a large bath towel. Yes, it will freak him out, and if done correctly, will not hurt anything but his feelings. Get him into a confined space and put towel on him with object being to get it over his head. Make sure you know where beak is, and catch him behind the head by putting your pointer finger and thumb across the back of his head and holding both jaws firmly in your finger and thumb. This will take some practice, and if you do not feel comforable with it, have an Avian Vet show you how to do it, because this is how they'll have to handle him all the time.

As for the sanctuary, make sure it is as nice as you think it is. Talk with animal welfare people in the area about it, and find out what it's REALLY like for the birds. Lots of these sanctuaries have some birds for show, and it looks like they are well fed and clean. What people don't see are the ones in back rooms where they are starved and left filthy and sick until they die. Your bird might very well be one of them.

Other suggestion is to find a bird behaviorist or birdy psychiatrist by asking your avian vet for help. This person needs to have a list of references, and this definately includes an avian vet or more. Your bird is mentally ill, and please let him stay in his cage as he wishes.

To bathe him, you can use a plastic plant sprayer that has never been used. Put warm filtered water in it and start by acting like you don't even see him. Spray around the top or sides of his cage but not directly on him yet. Once he feels the gentle shower and sees you are not going to try and get him out of cage, he will eventually settle into gentle showers in this way. Stop giving him full body baths as this is scaring him to death, and birds do die of stress induced heart attacks.

Keep us posted on this, and may God be with you as you attempt to help this bird. Do not expect him to EVER be completely normal because I feel he's mentally ill from abuse and meth. Check out the sanctuary very carefully before even thinking of leaving him there. His life has been Hell, please don't make his last years more of the same.


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