Taming Older Flyers
Last Updated on Monday, 13 July 2009 01:51
With an older flyer, it might be easiest to carry him into the bathroom in his nest box. Squirrel proof the room ... make sure there are no places a mouse could squeeze through ... and provide some sure traction (towels on the bar, a robe on the back of the door, cloth shower curtains -- and it sometimes helps to use a blanket over the fixtures, to soften any possible falls). Make sure there are no places in the bathroom where he can get into the walls or floor or ceiling -- check around the heating duct or pipes, and stick a sponge into the tub spout, as well as in the sink overflow slot, and of course put the stopper down on the tub and sink and close the lid of the toilet. It's very helpful to have a towel covering things like the sink, because naturally, if a flyer has no traction, it makes them nervous. Hang a cloth shower curtain over the tub (With babies, put a comforter over the tub, and the spout/faucets, to make sure that, should the pup slip, they won't hit a very hard surface.)
Hang a robe on the back of the door, and towels on the rack. The robe is useful for those times when a flyer is out of reach, right between your shoulder blades. Just stand, and lightly brush the flyer off your back with the robe -- they usually climb aboard the robe, and thus you can collect them.
Take hand towels and drape them on the shelves; again, for the traction.
Once the bathroom is "flyer tight," then you can bring him there, box and all, and put a towel under the door, if the door is raised above the floor ... and take along the newspaper or a book to read and just sit there with him. If you want, take him out of the nest box (you can "pour" him out on to your lap, if you're concerned about getting bit), and then, just let him set the pace. The trick with an older flyer is to allow them to come to you. He will likely find a high place to sit and just observe you. Allow him to get so curious about you that he will be more willing to climb on your open outstretched palm. Once he's comfortable, just move your open palm to him, offering him a place to climb. Don't attempt to "contain" him in any way. When he goes to jump off, not only let him, but act as if it was really your idea and of course, have places for him to jump to that are secure, but accessible.
Pecans work well as bribes. Give him plenty of time and try to avoid making him feel "chased," while still making an effort for contact. Talk to him. If he'll allow, use your index finger to rub his cheeks and just under his chin. Once he knows you're not going to eat him, he will likely get curious about you. If he climbs on you, praise him lavishly, but in a quiet voice. "Baby talk" him -- we all do it with our flyers;-) He will come around, if you are patient and consistent.
Don't be too eager to get him to move about. Flyers often like to sit still on a high perch for about an hour, before they begin to explore their surroundings. Place him on your lap and go about with your reading. If he should leave and seem to "huddle" into a corner, reach down slowly and "softly" in your demeanor, and gently encourage him to climb aboard your open palm (you can use both hands, to just nudge him on, and then just lightly and loosely cover him, to bring him up to your torso). Put him on your chest, and gently stroke his eyebrow, or rub his chin and cheeks. Most flyers just adore this -- the brow is a bit easier than the chin, at first, with "adult" flyers. Just use an index finger, and the touch should be so light that the only way you know you've touched him at all is his eye will close, as your finger traces his brow. If he moves up to your shoulder, so much the better, from his point of view. Often, flyers will go to your back, out of reach. If he does, just let him, for a while. Then, reach back, and 'herd' him forward.
When you've read all you want, if he's still in the catatonic "gargoyle" stage, you can begin to gently encourage him to explore -- but don't push too hard. You can also just scoop him up, and gently stroke his brow, while he rests in your palm or on your torso. The important thing in the "bathroom sessions" is that you not make him feel "hunted down."
When he gets used to the visual surroundings, he will then begin exploring. It does help if the bathroom lights are not 100 Watts. Replace such with 40 W bulbs, if you can. And some flyers are a bit too confused by the "space" behind the "solid air" (the mirror) -- if you find he tries to jump into the mirror, just use a sheet to cover the mirror.
Or you can use a closet instead of a bathroom especially if there are too many things in that bathroom more interesting to play on instead of you. But, you will need to empty the closet till nothing is inside and put in a 40 watt bulb.
Then started an intense two week bonding process, that starts with putting the sleeping flyer into your "squirrel shirt" (any shirt you don't mind being pee'd on or chewed)! Once the wee one is safely onboard, I'd go about your day. Depending on how tame your flyer is, this might not be possible right away. Then when you feel him stirring, go into the closet. Sit on a pillow with a small water dish and a couple of pecans and pine nuts next to you. At first an older flyer may "fight" his way out of the shirt, and bolt for freedom, but there would be nowhere for him to bolt to, and since you are the tallest thing in the "room," he will be instinctually drawn to "climb" you to higher ground. Only his fear may keep him away at first.
Be as passive as possible, and let him come to you in his own time. Eventually, he will get bored, and feel safe enough to explore crawling about your person; though at first you may have to place the water and pecans between you to get him to approach. After a day or so hold your palm out with a pecan or pine nut. At first, he may snatch them up and run to the other side of the closet to eat them. But in time, he will take them to your shoulder to munch, then eventually sit on your hand.
If you have him in a cage make him take a treat from you to get out. He will learn you give out treats and that you let him out to play. Basically try to get him to associate you with things he likes or likes to do.
Depending on how much human contact your flyer has or hasn't had, your progress may vary ... the important thing is to never give up.
In An Older House
In a bathroom, use a stopper in the tub and stick a sponge into the sink overflow hole (some sinks have just a few small holes, for the overflow, in which case you're likely safe). In your bedroom, check around any heating vents/pipes, and check around window and door frames.
In an older house, a bathroom might have too many places where a flyer can get lost/hurt due to the pipes to feed all the plumbing fixtures. A closet can be easier and more effective to squirrel proof.
Things to consider in an older home, heating pipes, space behind moldings, casement windows, large door gaps, are pretty much the norm. It's usually a lot easier in the long haul to squirrel-proof one room rather than the entire house ... but be sure the little guy doesn't escape!
First off, plug up the gaps where heating pipes enter the room. If you have old cast iron register types, the pipes will have most likely long ago lost their decorative pipe grommets. These are found for cheap in most home centers such as Lowe's etc. Doors with large gaps at the bottom, can be fixed up with some weather stripping, the outdoor kind seems to hold up better. Wires can be covered with electrical conduit ... they make two kinds, plastic and metal. I use plastic, as my wee one tends to chew on wood a lot more. Any unused electrical outlets should be plugged just as with a small child. You'd be amazed where a flyer will want to fish with a paw! Some houses have old wooden casement windows and while open, there is a gap at the top between the inner and outer panes so remember not to overlook this. Not to mention that fiber and metal screens are no match for a determined flyer! To be safe, keep all windows closed while he's out and about.
Baseboard heaters have essentially three components within a room. There is the pipe which enters the room through a hole, and exits through another, there are the "fins" to help heat the air, and then there is the decorative/protective "cover" usually made out of sheet metal. The vertical cover is removable for cleaning/repairs and depending on when you had them off last might or might not come off easily. Once off, brush out all the cobwebs and take a good look around for gaps and holes (use a flashlight to make sure). Most likely they'll be only the two, where the pipe enters, and exits the room. The best things to close these are with metal pipe grommets (they make hinged types so you don't have to cut the pipe) or expanding urethane foam. With the foam, you squirt a bit into the gaps, and the foam will expand to fill the space ... then you simply "trim" the excess with a knife ... though you can still cover it with a cover "just in case."
But in the meantime for a quick fix there is always .....good old duct tape!!!! Start taping every hole you find, and then check 3 more times.
And don't forget to look up! Almost all flyers will want to be on the highest place in the room, so take a good look at the tops of curtains, shelves, bookcases for anything that might be a perch. Anything that you suspect might cause harm should be removed or secured.
NFSA HOF Kathy has been doing great with this method. Angel, her baby flyer, loved it. She put a fleece blanket in the tent, along with a small tree and various other toys. She got the tent at Target on sale for $9.99. It's 5'x 6'x 3' called Junior Dome, model # 36041. Very easy to put up. It has a floor, a door with a window. It is vented at the top with a canopy which can be left off so there is more circulation. At the top of the tent is a loop and Kathy hung a rope down from it.
Leashes are not good for animals as hyper as a flyer. Since flyers are a prey animal their natural instinct is to try to escape if confined. They can be trained to accept being held still for a short time once they trust you to not harm them. While daytime is a good time to work with them for the bonding process, it is also their time to be sleeping.
If their sleep is interrupted too much, they can get to be "grouchy" just like a person would. Being carried in a pouch or in your shirt doesn't affect their sleep habit much. Handling during the day should be kept to a couple short periods per day. They can actually get accustomed to waking up during the day for a short play time and going back to sleep.
One thing that helps is having tiny treats for them. You want something small enough that he can eat it real quick and something he likes very much. Small pieces of pecan usually work good. When you pick him up, give him a treat. If he jumps to you give him a treat. You want him to think of you as a source of goodies. Getting the goodies will teach him to trust you. If the treat is too large they may want to be left alone while they eat it or they may want to hide it.
Mosquito Net Method
Tony came up with this: The type they use in the tropics to keep bugs off make an ideal, cheap and safe temporary 'bonding' room. A nice mosquito net runs $30-50 and is essentially just a fine net, a bamboo/ratan ring, and a hook. The net is long enough to tuck under the mattress, and thus sealing the edges (there is an overlapping flap to gain entry/exit).
Put down a blanket or towels over your good blanket or sheets to catch any wee one's messes.
You can then lie on the bed and watch TV while the little guy climbs all over the net, jumping back to you, burrowing into your cloths for several hours before he tires and wants to sleep. After you're done, all that's left is a small metal hook in the ceiling as the whole affair comes down and goes into a closet.
The only drawback is that the net wouldn't stand up long to flyer teeth if he really wanted out, but since you can get one for 30 bucks, it's worth a try. And that lying on the bed, you might get tired and fall asleep before the little guy ran out of energy! LOL
Working with a shy or reclusive flyer is a challenge, but it's well worth the effort. Some adults do not like to be picked up, but can be very affectionate. They may play with you, but being "petted" might not be their favorite thing. Pups and some adults that are "only" flyers are more inclined to like "petting" and caresses. But healthy flyers are not "lap dogs", and don't hold still long! (Indeed, if an adult is too willing to be picked up and cuddled, it often indicates illness ...) It takes a good deal of time and effort, and one has to remember "flyer" psychology to succeed.
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