Read Pickles The Parrot: A Humorous Look At Life With An African Grey Online

Authors: Georgi Abbott

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Pickles The Parrot: A Humorous Look At Life With An African Grey

Pickles The Parrot

By Georgi Abbott



Smashwords Edition © Copyright 2010 Georgi


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Cover photo by Derek Armstrong

Cover/Jacket design by Tamber King




To David Hathaway

I know it’s not what you had in mind, but
it’s a start.

And to my husband, Neil

For your excitement, support and



Chapter One


Georgi Gets a Parrot


What the hell have I done?

Our new African Grey Congo Parrot, Pickles,
has just settled in his new cage in our living room. He went in
willingly enough and I quickly closed the cage door and fell in a
heap on the couch. I lay there staring at him, and he at me.
Silence, while we each pondered our new living situations.

A couple of days ago, I had contacted some
parrot breeders (Thomas & Sylvia) who had a lone African Grey,
one in a clutch and three months old. Knowing Pickles, having lived
with and being possessed by him for eight years, I now suspect he
killed and ate his siblings. All attention, at all times, must be
solely directed toward him. Having siblings would only cramp his

My husband Neil and I live in the interior of
British Columbia, Canada. Thomas and Sylvia live on Vancouver
Island. No quick trip. 4 hours drive to the ferry, a couple of
hours early to ensure passage and a two-hour ferry ride. My mother,
Zoe, lives on the coast so I over-nighted with her and she
accompanied me on the ocean voyage. Mom didn’t say much when I told
her I was getting a parrot but I don’t think she understood the

Thomas and Sylvia met us on the other side,
at the ferry terminal. It was very much like a drug deal, or even a
kidnapping, as we were ushered from the arrival area and hustled
into the side doors of a van. They looked nice enough, but they
always say that during a television interview about the neighbor
who was just arrested for murdering, dismembering and burying a
body in his back yard.

Once in the van, the exchange began. Pickles,
who had not been named yet, was removed from a small cage. He
‘stepped up’ readily and after admiring him briefly, he was handed
off to me. I had to impress these people for the deal to be
approved so I swallowed my fear of strong beaks and reached for
him. I had owned budgies and cockatiels and was under the
impression that you put your finger firmly on the bottom of the
chest to coerce a bird to step up. In all my parrot research since
then, I have discovered that’s wrong, not to mention annoying for
the bird. They must have thought I was nuts but everything went
smoothly as I chatted with Pickles, fed him some mash, wiped his
beak and even got some kisses. Having retained my lips, I was
thrilled with my little package.

A rolled up wad of cash was exchanged and mom
and I boarded the return ferry. Pickles had been inserted in a
plastic dog kennel with built-in perch and covered up. I had been
warned that fumes from the car deck could be toxic to Pickles so he
was smuggled to the upper decks. I didn’t do a very good smuggling
job since I couldn’t resist lifting the blanket to interact with
Pickles—a lot. Mom was taking a shine to him too, lifting the
blanket often to chat with him. He attracted much attention from
other ferry passengers and he was pretty cool with that. He mostly
cooed, chirped and whistled with the odd grating little screech
sound, which over the next couple of days, I learned did not
reflect a happy mood.

I over-nighted at moms again and some other
family members came to see the parrot. Pickles was enjoying the
attention and all the food treats but soon tired. By now, he had
grown to resent his small accommodations so getting him in the
kennel became more and more difficult. He’d just latch on to my
finger and refuse to step down on the perch. I finally got him
bedded and covered for the night then we arose early to beat the
heat for the four-hour drive home.

Pickles had had enough driving. Very quickly,
he latched himself to the holes in the sides of the kennel with his
beak and talons and began his insistent little screech. I felt bad
but my God! How long can one endure that sound? Pickles was
irritated, I was getting cranky as hell and the second-guessing of
myself began. It was hot and I had to be careful about opening
windows because I had read that parrots could die in drafts. What
the heck is a draft?? Any moving air at all? Just cold air? I
wasn’t sure and I wasn’t taking any chances so windows remained
closed. We both got crankier and crankier until I was sure Pickles
had stopped liking me, and I didn’t give a damn because I was ready
to ring his little neck.

But we endured, we were home and now we sat
staring at each other. The last couple of days had been such a
whirlwind, everything happened so fast. I mean, I had just been
of getting a parrot. I didn’t think I would find
one so quickly and all the research I had done the past year did
not prepare me. I was getting an anxiety attack. Along with my
exhaustion, panic set in, followed by depression. I lay down on the
couch and before I fell into a deep sleep, I drifted off thinking
about my first bird, a blue budgie named Cheery.

My parents presented me with Cheery when I
was a young girl. He was a beautiful little blue bird, both
friendly and mischievous. He liked to give little kisses and nibble
on an ear or play with my hair. His favorite thing was on family
birthdays or other occasions when cards were displayed on the TV,
he would drag them all to the edge and watch them float to the
floor. He was allowed to fly free in the house a lot and I remember
him landing smack dab in the middle of a lemon meringue pie my mom
had baked. He wasn’t happy about this at all and he let us know by
giving us the evil eye and angry chirps between cleaning sticky pie
off his feathers.

He talked a lot for a little budgie. He knew
all the names of our family of 6 and a few phrases. One year I
taught him to sing “Here Comes Santa Clause” and “Grouchy Mr.
Clemens” to the tune of “Ring Around the Rosie”. Mr. Clemens was my
dad and I thought it would be funny for my dad to hear that one
day. And it was. I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face the
first time he heard it. Cheery would sometimes get confused and
start to sing the Santa song but end up with my dad’s song,
resulting in “Here Comes Grouchy Mr. Clemens”.

Cheery was a great little guy and the
beginning of my love for birds of any kind. He flew out the door
one day when someone wasn’t paying attention and even though we put
ads in every paper, laundry mat and store, we never saw him again.
I had several budgies after that and at one point, a cockatiel but
my whole life, I dreamt of having a parrot.

I grew up with dogs, cats, birds, pet
mice—anything I could talk my parents into letting me have. I had a
fascination with frogs, toads, snakes and bugs and would sometimes
collect them and keep them in my room, much to my mother’s horror.
She found worms in my pockets when she did my laundry, jars of
slugs when she cleaned my room and it seemed I was always shoving
something in her face telling her to “Look Mom!”

She didn’t mind my pet toad but she talked me
into releasing it in the yard. He turned out to be quite friendly
and would greet us if we walked down the path or he would play with
our black Lab to pass the time. He hibernated each winter and
appeared again each spring until the neighbors removed a pile of
boulders along the fence line, where we figured he hibernated, and
he never returned the next year.

My white mouse died the day after I took him,
against my mother’s warnings, for a bicycle ride. I had him in my
handlebar carriage and mom told me the weather was too cold for him
and that he’d get sick. The next morning I found him dead in his
cage. I was devastated and sick with guilt but mom wouldn’t let me
stay home from school for a day of mourning. At lunchtime, I talked
my friend Bonnie into coming home with me so we could have a proper
funeral so we packed him in a shoebox and buried him beneath my
bedroom window. When the neighbor lady saw us and realized what we
were up to, she told us to go back to school. It’s only a mouse,
she said. I always liked this lady but that day I thought she was a
cruel old broad. A few months later, my curiosity got the best of
me and I dug up the grave but there was nothing left to find.

I would spend hours watching a spider catch
and wrap a fly in his web and I can remember watching maggots
slowly devour a dead cat every day on my way home from school.
Birds and their nests were especially interesting to me but my mom
kept me away from baby birds by telling me that once my scent was
on a baby or the nest, the mother would reject or kill the bird. I
was fascinated with anything live. And now, I had a real live

Hours later, I awoke. What a good bird, he
hadn’t made a sound while I slept. He didn’t then, and he doesn’t
to this day. This is a blessing as we like to nap on our couches,
and well, there is the odd hangover day. Even in the mornings,
Pickles remains under cover while singing and chatting to himself
until we get up. The only time he ever demands out is if we
completely forget about him. Why, what a quiet, considerate bird!
This isn’t toooooo bad, I thought.

Neil arrived home from the fly shop, which we
owned and operated at the time, and I introduced man and bird.
Pickles liked him right off the bat but we soon found out that
Pickles likes everybody right off the bat. Neil was a little
hesitant about touching him but quickly found that Pickles readily
welcomed scratches and kisses.

Then there were the cats. Three of them.
Thomas had assured me that Pickles wouldn’t be afraid of cats, as
he had spent his first 3 months with small dogs. This turned out to
be true but we had concerns about the cats being too interested in
him. They were at first. The interest quickly turned to fear the
first time Pickles displayed his wingspan. We never had a problem
between the cats and parrot but by the end of Pickles first year
with us, all 3 cats had disappeared. Probably owls, but again, I
suspect Pickles eliminated them. An empty lap meant available hands
for perching.

We pondered names but I basically dismissed
any of Neil’s suggestions except for Logan. Eventually we settled
on Pickles. When I was a little girl, the old man down the lane
nicknamed me that because I liked dill pickles. It seemed a perfect
fit for our new bird.

Things were awkward at times with Pickles
that first night. We were unsure of how to entertain him and just
holding him on our hands grew a little boring after awhile, for him
and for us. I still doubted my decision to get a parrot but the
next day removed all my doubts once and for all. I had been
overtired from the long, stressful trip and it had clouded my
judgment. Come to think of it, every pet I ever owned caused me to
have a panic attack the first day I brought them home.

Upon waking, I jumped out of bed and ran to
the living room to remove the cage cover. I was greeted with the
sweetest little face, a cluck and a coo, and I fell in love right
there and then. As I opened the door and locked it into place so
that it wouldn’t swing shut on Pickles’ little footsies, Pickles
scrambled out and propped himself on the top of the door. His head
bowed and his neck feathers ruffled, signaling he wanted a scratch.
He stepped up readily and we went to the couch to get better

It was immediately apparent that Pickles was
bursting with personality and character. He had adapted to his new
home with no apparent signs of stress and little or no fear with
new objects, sounds or movements. Pickles has never become much of
a cuddling bird, preferring to sit on a knee, hand or couch arm but
he definitely has his moments. Right from the start, you just knew
he was a confident, well-adjusted bird who could turn on the charm
with the flick of a switch. He was smart—too damn smart, with a
little streak of pure evil. A deadly combination.

Right off the bat, Pickles preferred his
human interaction to be straightforward and sensible. Just sit and
chat with some playing thrown in, such as swinging on a towel,
throwing a towel over him, playing tickle, tickle (as Pickles would
say—ticko, ticko) or having my fingers chase after him to “grab his
little chicken toes”.

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