Jasmine is an african grey parrot. She lived with us for 18 months. We met her in the pet section of a garden center, where she had been for over 6 months. My husband was looking for pots for his cacti. We ended up going to the garden center several times over a time period of about a month. While Tony was looking for pots I wandered into the pet section and saw Jazzy. Every time we went to the center I went to say hello to her and we ended up friends. She loved having her head scratched and whistled after me if I walked away from her cage. It didn’t take long before I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and of course the inevitable happened: we invited her to live with us.
She was scared of almost everything when she first came to live with us. She scratched all the time behind her neck and her feathers were very sparse in that region. She didn’t want any hand contact and absolutely didn’t want to come out of her cage. Gradually over the next weeks, by giving her loads of attention and treating her with a lot of respect, she relaxed. She turned out to be a very brave, incredibly sweet and extremely adventurous, outgoing character with tremendous intelligence.
Living with Jasmine was a real privilege. She taught us much more the meaning of respect and the art of communication. But most of all she showed us how to live each moment for itself, enjoying life to the full (and banana) and how to give a great deal of love. You can read about her antics and adventures in the posts shown below.
Jazzy continued to scratch behind her neck, but she improved greatly during the first 6 months or so that she lived with us. She gained weight, her feathers turned glossy, she became well-muscled from flying around the house, the pink colors in her tummy feathers became brighter and the red in her tail became brilliant.
We lived in an apartment and circumstances around us changed over time. Laundry detergents and fabric softeners have become increasingly perfumed, more antibacterial products are being used everywhere and in higher concentrations. Our apartment shared airflow with at least 8-15 other apartments, and these cleaning products became mixed creating even further toxic substances. Birds are much more sensitive to perfumes, cleaning agents and pollution.
Jazzy was already very compromised when we got her from the garden center, where they admitted using very strong chemicals to clean the other animal’s living quarters. She was placed close to very strong insecticides that were displayed for sale and many of the visitors to the center wear strong perfumes.
When the air quality in our apartment noticeably became worse, Jasmine started to scratch much more frequently. We bought 5 large air filters and a smaller more portable one that could be lifted off the ground. Jasmine improved dramatically when we got these.
During the summer, the problem became even worse as fumes came out of other people’s apartment windows and directly into our apartment. The shared hallway stairs were cleaned three times a week with highly concentrated perfumed antibacterial detergent; the stairwell had no proper ventilation because the windows were kept closed. We wanted to move, but were financially committed to staying where we were at the time.
Jazzy and I spent the entire summer up in the Jura foothills. She had a backpack cage and we walked miles and miles last summer so that she would get fresh air as much as possible. As the summer progressed, Jazzy grew worse and worse with scratching, until finally she started to pull out feathers and then eventually create sores on her skin with scratching.
We did all sorts of things to try to help Jasmine. She was taking medication during the last part of summer to help with the irritation. She had a full check-up and blood work and the results showed her to be a very healthy, fit young girl. The vet was quite clear that she was allergic to perfumes and cleaning agents.
We finally managed to find a place that would provide a better environment and we moved in during the last few days of September 2008. By this time it was practically impossible to distract from her scratching and picking, and the only relief we could give her was in the shower. Her skin was raw and extremely sore. She was in a lot of pain and her misery during the last couple of days she was alive prevented her from enjoying life.
It’s a very long rehabilitation for a bird who has picked its feathers and skin to that extent. The standard practice is to give the bird medicine and put a neck collar on so that the bird can’t pick. This is like putting a human in a straight jacket. And if the skin still itches, the torment would remain, even if the bird couldn’t reach those places to scratch. This discomfort would be reasonable in order to get past the feather picking, but unless the source of the problem could also be removed the scratching and feather pulling would simply resume.
Our new residence is a huge improvement in air quality from where we were, but we still connect to other living spaces in a converted farmhouse. There is a laundry room in the basement with washing machines and a dryer. The dryer releases incredibly strong fumes of fabric softener and perfumes from the laundry detergent; unfortunately these come up through our shared vents and our front door opens into a set of outdoor stairs that lead down to the laundry room. As it turns out we couldn’t have provided Jazzy with a safe living space even here.
We considered giving her to someone else, but we don’t know anyone who doesn’t use perfumes and standard cleaning agents. We tried to arrange for her to go to the United States to a friend who we knew would take care of her, but she didn’t have the correct CITES papers, and the U.S. is not accepting birds from our area of France because of the implications of bird flu. Even if we could have arranged a room in isolation with a good environment for Jazzy with someone else - well, Jazzy was all about interaction, that was life to her. She loved people and she loved being with them. To isolate her would have been cruel.
Enjoying life was what Jazzy was all about, and we couldn’t bear to watch her suffer. When she deteriorated so much that it was clear she was suffering more than she was enjoying, we decided to let her go free. It hurt, and still hurts, more than anything else in life has ever hurt, but now she flies free.
She’s still a very important part of our lives; we talk about her every day, she’s part of our banter, we’re always including snippets of things the way she said them. She still makes us laugh and smile.
I tell her story here so that those who have parrots can perhaps be more aware of possible causes if their parrot displays scratching, feather picking or even loud irritable behavior. Birds are smaller, and therefore much more sensitive than we are to these things, but we too are affected by them, and it’s worth assessing what products are routinely used in the home and the effects they may have on ourselves and those we love.
Jasmine would have been three years old in November. She passed away on October 3rd, 2008. Her life was packed with fun and joy, though she should have lived to be somewhere between 60 to a 100 years old.
She spread a lot of joy to those she met, and she met loads of people during her short life. I hope that her story can be told as much as possible so that it may spread more goodness in a world that really needs it.
Jasmine was, and still is, mascot to DweezelJazz Art.
All the articles about Jazzy and her fun times are accessible by scrolling down this page. The article titles are also shown in the list below, so if you want to look at one of them in particular, click on the article name to go right to it.
- DIY Bird
- Jasmine Hamming Around
- Jasmine Plays Football
- Jasmine On Her Play Station
- Jasmine Loves To Fly
- Jasmine and What She Does In Her Cage Part I
- Jasmine and What She Does In Her Cage Part II
- Jasmine’s Silver Bowl and Other Toys
- Jasmine Goes To The Market
- Jasmine’s Daily Grooming
- Jasmine Goes Backpacking
- Jasmine Goes Out For A Drink
- Do What You Like To Achieve Success
- Jasmine and What’s A Cage Door For?
- Jasmine Loves Attention
- Jasmine’s Model Pose
- Sugar Cube Cartoon
- Jasmine Silliness
- Jasmine’s Musical Chairs
- Jasmine Goes To Market In Her Winter Travel Cage
- Jasmine and Her Tousle With Poor Air Quality
- Jasmine’s Fancy Footwork
- Jasmine Sees Snow
- Jasmine Takes A Bath
- Sugar Cube Art
- Rain Rain Rain and More Rain in the Pays de Gex, France
- Jasmine Asks To Go For A Walk and To Take A Shower
- An Evening Walk At La Col de la Faucille, Jura, France
- Jasmine and Her Continuing Tousle With Air Quality
- Jasmine Chomping Veggies in the Kitchen
- Portrait of a Horse in Egg Tempera
- Our Sweet Jasmine
- Song For Jasmine
- Fly Free, Jazzy!
If you prefer to see all of the above posts on the same page, click the following link. The articles appear on the page in reverse time order, as is usual for blogs:
All of Jasmine's Adventures (ie. all of the above posts displayed on one page in reverse order)