We heard about Sweet Pea while we were still on vacation, in late November.
Her owners had been tragically killed in a car crash on Thanksgiving Day. The woman had bought Sweet Pea as a baby Macaw from a breeder in central Ky. 25 years ago.
When I spoke with the adult daughter of Sweet Pea's owners, naturally I asked lots of questions.
I found out that Sweet Pea's owner, we'll call her Debbie, had bottle-fed Sweet Pea as a baby macaw. -Just an interesting tidbit.
Sweet Pea has chronically plucked her feathers for 20 + years.
When we found this out from Debbie's adult daughter, we were nervous. -Could we take this on?
Yes, I do love birds, but the rescue has never had an exotic, large bird, and much-less one with a neurotic-plucking disorder. I thought on it for a couple of days. And the same question kept coming up: if we don't take her, who will?
Debbie's adult daughters had also left a message for a parrot rescue in Ohio that never got back to them (likely they're overwhelmed).
With the support of my husband and almost-8-year-old-son, we said yes to Sweet Pea!
My husband drove to Danville, Ky. to get her on December 13th, 2021. Thankfully we do have a big rescue van (a 2001 Ford Econoline), but Sweet Pea's cage still had to be laid on its side to fit. I couldn't go along with Fabricio that day because I'm on a month-long-substitute-teaching assignment (which is likely a good thing because I would've been a nervous-wreck in regards to the transitional-stress on the bird).
We were, and still are, fascinated with Sweet Pea.
When I first saw her, I smiled in awe. She seemed so big, exotic, and so out of place there in the gray, concrete-floored room off of our garage. She was only there for the first night, until we could carry her large cage inside the house. Her pupils were dilating back and forth rapidly; she was taking everything in in amazement too, so many changes in one day!
Once we got her accommodated in our small home (in the dining room), we felt very optimistic that Sweet Pea would get better and stop plucking. We even believed that she was already getting, and looking better. -We still aren't sure if this was and is just optimistic thinking, or if we're simply getting used to the way she looks, or if it's that our love for her is growing, or that she's really looking better with the optimal care we're providing... it's likely a bit of all of the above!
-Spraying/showering her with the pluck-no-more spray 3 times/daily
- Keeping the floor of her cage very clean
-Feeding her an ideal diet of: organic nuts, grains, seeds, some pellet, and some fresh, organic fruit and veggies
-Giving her plenty of daily interaction and attention
-Taking her to the avian vet one week after her arrival (we're waiting on her cultures now)
-With a UVA and UVB light on the way per the avian vet's recommendation
-We felt confident we were helping her get and feel better, so she would stop plucking.
|Sweet Pea in the vet waiting area with Fabricio consoling her|
However, over the past few days what I've learned and believe is: for an exotic bird in captivity, plucking becomes a bad habit, much like smoking cigarettes for humans.
And what we've observed with Sweet Pea is: we never see her in the act. She must pluck once she's covered at night or when we're not in the room with her (which isn't very often to be honest, as the dining room and kitchen are the busiest areas of our house).
Plucking is an undesirable act, a naughty thing, and with the intelligence of a 4 year old child, Sweet Pea knows that. Much like some ashamed smokers, she plucks in private, in hiding.
This has been a disheartening revelation for me, primarily because, now I know we're dealing with something much more complicated than just 'take great care of her and she'll get better...' as is the case with most dogs we rescue for example.
As her vet tech put it, "it's not quite that simple," as providing great care, and whah-lah. -Bummer.
But it's ok. I'm very glad we have her. We're enriching her life, and she's enriching ours (I ate buckwheat for the first time because of her)!
Looking at her is like looking into a portal to the past... to a time of her ancestral dinosaurs. Hearing her screech out at times, and make her various guttural sounds, also reminds us of the Mesozoic Age.
And hearing her say, 'ssshhh' as we cover her up at night is just precious and comical. -She has really bonded with my husband.
|Sweet Pea's first time venturing out of her cage, 11 days after her arrival, on Christmas Eve|
We're in it for the long haul with Sweet Pea, for better or for worse; and that's the commitment we make to any pet that comes through the rescue. -But with Sweet Pea, the haul will definitely be longer than with a dog per se.
In technical, simple terms to resume: we're awaiting her culture results from Dr. Mary Jane at Shively, then they'll help us put together an appropriate treatment plan for Sweet Pea (that will likely involve her wearing a cone).
#GoodVibes and Prayers are Welcome for Sweet Pea, and the rescue in general! Thank You!
Pets, In Your Heart, In Your Home, In Your Will