Sunday, November 28, 2010

Do your parrots grate on your nerves?

Not all the time, of course, or why would you keep them? But is there some action or behavior they engage in, repeatedly, that just about Drives. You. Up. The. Wall.? Don't try to hide it, I can feel you all thinking exasperated thoughts after reading that sentence, you know what I mean. I could use this post to give ways to eliminate or decrease this behavior, but instead, I will just suggest you read these articles and use this post to whine. I am, after all, only human. Not parrot, as my guys are always ready to remind me any time they feel I get "too high on the horse."

Any of you that have quakers should know the quaker alarm call. While it may not be any louder than any other quaker yell, it really gets on my nerves. Actually, any alarm call does that, perhaps because they are so urgent sounding. The quakers use theirs a lot, though, and I mean a lot. At first, I assumed this was due to actual alarm, but I am now seriously considering the idea that it is all a ruse to add excitement to the day, and make the rest of us look silly in the process.

When I first got Frank, he was very afraid of anything new(ish) or (even just possibly) unknown. Many parrots are like this, nothing very novel; I worked with him on getting used to new things, and over time he got much better. Eventually I reached my original goal of being able rotate toys daily, and bring in almost anything without his fearing it as long as I was calm about it and reassured him. Occasionally we would still hit something that scared him, and of course he would still worry when he saw something outside that looked potentially dangerous, but this was all to be expected. When I got Lola, she seemed to fear little. She didn't pay attention to much, but I didn't notice any fear behaviors.

Together, though, they periodically become great scardy-cats (or quakers.) The first time this happened, the alarm calls gradually increased in frequency, leaving me quite stumped. What on earth happened? Why were such normal events causing fear? I hadn't changed the food dish, why did they yell when I brought it in? They still loved the food, as soon as I got to the cage they recovered, peeled themselves off the back wall, and got ready to shove their head in the dish as soon as part of it entered the cage. Could I really be scaring them that much?

I started working with them again, and while a little back-of-my-mind thought that this was some sort of joke occasionally occurred, I kept going and eventually the "fear" went away. Except not for good. Many months later it returned. And was it just my imagination they were having a hard time keeping from blowing their cover by laughing at me outright?

Repeat last paragraph. And again. And again.

You get the picture. I hate to jump to conclusions, or risk anthropomorphizing in some way too much, but I am now very suspicious I am the fool in this scenario. And with that nagging thought comes a growing urge to do something drastic when they start screaming at my skirt, the same one they were playing on yesterday so happily. An urge to scream, or throw their cage outside (which, by the way, is physically impossible) or perhaps jump up and down like a lemur. However, I always resist; I let those thoughts come and let go of them as soon as I can, and take a few deep breathes. I can't say for sure why this alarm stage keeps repeating itself. I have to be patient. Understanding. Calm.

Seriously though, is it just my imagination, or are they laughing at me??

Friday, November 19, 2010

Preparing for the Holidays?

I am sure most or even all of you have by now read many articles on handling the holidays with parrots, but despite that, I intend to face you with yet another. You can never be too prepared, right? The holidays can be very stressful, with all the decor changes, lighting changes (less sun, long artificial light hours) new people coming in, favorite people going out or staying busy, hustle bustle, and noise. This is all assuming you yourself are not stressed by holidays, which naturally can worry your parrot. So much stress can be a huge burden for any parrot! Despite all that, the holidays can also be a happy time for your parrot, and a wonderful opportunity for them to come out of their shell a little (if they have one, that is) and have new experiences. Nothing beats a little environmental stimulation to combat life boredom. A few simple tips will help ensure your holidays are a happy time for your parrot, so here are three things to consider for a better holiday season!

Problem: Thanks to human nature and impressive ad campaigns, many people firmly associate happy holidays with heavy artificial scents. This is not only very un-healthy for your parrot over the long term (meaning you may not be able to see damage immediately, but like pain, damage is not always visible, and that should not lessen it any) but can be immediately lethal in the worst cases, it all depends on the individual parrot. And new evidence is starting to emerge showing these artificial fragrances are not much safer for people. There is no one regulating what goes into them in the U.S. (Other countries are stricter), and they do not have to disclose ingredients to anyone. A few labs have studied the ingredients and found many known carcinogens and toxins that ARE strictly regulated by the government, as breathing even small amounts is known to be very hazardous to your health. Talk about a major loophole! With all that risk, why use them?

Solution: Try opening the window just an inch or so for five minutes; even that short amount of time can really freshen things up! If you want homey scents, try the real thing- fresh evergreen branches, oranges studded with cloves, and cinnamon and apple slices simmering on the stove.

Problem: Visitors, whether over night or just dropping in, are a regular thing for many people throughout the holiday season, Without knowledge or experience with parrots, close encounters between visitors and your feathered companion can quickly turn nasty for both parties. Most people do know, however, that sharing food is a great way to make friends with any animal, but what foods are dangerous for parrots is not nearly as widely shared. Late nights and loud (or even moderately quiet) parties can cause a lot for stress for some parrots, particularly those only regularly handled by one person. And if the guests arrive wearing heavy perfume or other fragrance, that is another burden on your parrot's system.

Solution: Talk to your parrot about what will be happening. Even with the busy schedule, take time each day to focus totally on him or her, or each of them in turn with more than one, and let them know what will be going on. Know your bird(s).

If you have a bird room or keep your parrots in a room other than where the guests will be, the best idea is to keep that room off limits. If your parrot really likes people and is trustworthy, you can bring them out to visit. You would definitely want to make sure that you are there to supervise the whole time, and that you explain some basic parrot handling rules before hand, such as how to hold your hand, what not to do, whether to pet or not, and why sticking your face in theirs or pulling their tail is not recommended. A friend of mine that I thought was so wonderful with all animals, very quiet and nice, for some reason thought it hilarious to pull my tiel's tale. So cover the basics even when you are sure it is not necessary. If there is a group of people, I would not recommend bringing your parrot out at all unless they have shown themselves to enjoy such situations and be very trustworthy, as things can get out of hand quickly.

If your parrots' cages are in the main part of the house where visitors will be, I highly recommend getting them accustomed to another cage (such as a sleep cage) in another part of the house. This way, you can control what is happening, and if the party is going on past your parrots' bedtime, they can be removed. I would not leave them in the party area unless you have explained to everyone there not to stick anything in the cage, and not to share food or drink with them. This is assuming, of course, that your parrots love being around people. If they are stressed by such goings on, you would of course want to remove them from the beginning. And to bring up the fragrances again, if any of your guests wear heavy fragrances, I would move them to another room regardless.

One or two visitors that can be trusted to follow parrot handling rules are a blessing, though, don't forget that! Our parrots can often get stuck in the same routine, seeing just the same people day in and day out. Even as fascinating and wonderful as I am sure you all are, everyone likes to see a new face once in a while! For parrots that are scared of new people, this can be a good time to adjust them to seeing someone else, even if all they do is stand in the door way and whisper hi.

Problem: Stress. Stress. And more stress. For many people, the holidays simple spell out stress. Time to clean, cook, shop, decorate, act nice, wrap presents, send cards, go to parties/engagements/performances, visit family, have family visit, and deal with neighbors that call with dog complaints on Christmas eve night (had to throw that one in there for my family.) Say it with me: S-T-R-E-S-S. As you all can guess, your parrots pick up on this immediately, and their behavior will show it, just adding to your (one more time now) stress.

Solution: Besides a day at the spa or permanently banning the holidays from crossing your threshold, there are ways to help with your, and therefore your parrot's, stress. In fact, your parrot may be one answer to your stress, and instead of giving tips on making schedules, managing time, setting priorities and any other advice people usually get, that is the one I am going to focus on. Whatever else your schedule includes, make sure it includes special one-on-one time with your bird. If necessary, take time to close your eyes and breathe deeply for a minute or two before this, so you really can focus on your parrot and reassure them. If you parrot likes being held, just hold them for a few minutes. If not, just sit near and talk to them. The "blinking game" is a great way to relax. Just make eye contact with your parrot, and then slowly close your eyes and open them again, your parrot should respond to this by blinking on his own, but it can take a few tries for him to get the idea. Mine even initiate the blinking game now.

After some calming, mind clearing, and reaffirming one-on-one time, think of ways to include your parrot in your activities. Baking is not safe with parrots in the kitchen, but prep work, as well as list making for groceries or anything else, is. Writing Christmas cards can also seem more pleasant with your parrot, providing you keep them on their gym with their own letters (little treats and toys wrapped in paper.) If you need an authoritative opinion on what the best present for your boss really is, look no further than your parrot. I am sure they will agree (as soon as you convince them a chewed up shirt and half eaten egg carton are not good ideas,) that nuts are a great present!

Most importantly, if there are going to be any big changes, explain them to your parrot well in advance. If you can manage it at all, keep up whatever base schedule and favorite activities you and your parrot have now. That will not only keep them happy, but it will help keep you happy, as well.

Hope your holidays are happy!

Claudia on her well-chewed Christmas swing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


All of my birds love clapping, or snapping, or knocking, or even tongue clicking, for that matter. However, Yo-yo and Frank are definitely the clapping fools in this family! I love seeing not just how they react to the clapping, but also how they imitate it.

Yo-yo imitates all clapping-type noises, and like most birds, loves knocking since it means he has an excuse to shout "Hey Yo-yo!" Clapping is by far his favorite, though. I always train my tiels to show off, or spread eagle, on cue by clapping and praising them whenever they do it naturally. Pretty soon, just starting to clap will get them to spread those wings! Yo-yo loves the clapping almost (almost) as much as the praise, and claps along with me by snapping his beak. If he wants me to ask him to show off, he will often start his clapping ahead of time, along with his "Look at me! Aren't I just soooo sleek and handsome?" suave dance.

(If you look closely his beak is partly open, mid-clap)

Frank is the Original Mr. Snappy. He loves any kind of snapping/clapping noise, and while the sounds he makes for each different type of clap (snap knock click) is different, unless you know what each one is, it would be hard to say which was which. What is particularly cute about Frank, though, is the silly motions he has for each sound!

Frank's directions for best noise emphasis:
Clapping- open and close your beak with great repetition while hopping from one foot to the other, turning part way around, and then later around again, occasionally putting one foot to your beak and tapping it, all the while continuing the opening and closing of your beak.
Snapping- rock your head up and down violently in time to your snapping, adding a spin or both-feet hop now and again, just to show how accomplished you are.
Knocking- while keeping your beak open, bang it on any object nearby, be it a bed post, sofa cushion, or perhaps someone's hand (mine) or head (Lola's) or even your own foot if all else fails, as the nails can make a nice clicking sound if you hit them hard enough.
Tongue Clicking- stretch your neck and raise your head way into the air, hold it, and start snapping your beak! Tail swishing highly recommended.

(Again hard to tell, but before he stopped to pose for the camera he was clicking with me)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tilly's Story

~Written by Anna~

We have several wonderful re-home stories in our family. I will tell you the one that is most memorable for me.
An older gentleman was being moved into a nursing home. He had fallen and broken his hip. His family would not take Tilly, his peach faced love bird, so he placed an ad in the paper looking for a new home for her. When my Aunt and Uncle went to go and look at Tilly she was sitting on the gentleman's lap playing with him. He was tossing a little bead and she would fetch it back to him. He cried over Tilly and my Uncle and Aunt promised to provide a good home for Tilly. You could tell he really loved her.

When she first came home, Tilly flew around cheeping, as though she were looking for her former owner. Once the old man got settled, he would call sometimes and they would put him on speaker phone. Tilly would fly over and cheep at him and he spoke to her. After he started calling, she perked up.

It was an adjustment to come to a new home for Tilly because she had to be caged part of the time living with my Aunt and Uncle. They had to teach her to play with toys and entertain herself for a few hours each day.

During the four years which my aunt and uncle had Tilly, she was a very confident and sociable bird. She loved everyone and would fly to greet them. They installed a door between the entrance hall and the rest of the house so Tilly could be free flighted. This way even if she did get into the entrance hall, the outside door would always already be shut. She would often play fetch with anyone who would toss her a little colored bead.

There was , however, one thing that Tilly did not like: red hats! She would chew out any visitor who came over wearing a red hat. My family were 49er fans, so around football season everyone joked about checking their hats at the door so as not to upset Tilly. In some ways she was like living with another person, just one who spoke a different language than we did.

My Aunt got the address of the nursing home where the elderly gentleman went, and once a week she would go in with pictures of Tilly and tell him about her. Tilly's owner passed away about a year after they got Tilly. He said that knowing Tilly had such a good home made it easier for him to go. Tilly died about 5 years ago after developing a cancerous tumor.

Tilly was a friendly and loving lovebird because she had been taken care of by a great owner in her first home. My Aunt and Uncle not only got a fabulous pet, but they made a new friend as well. So many people want big birds because they can talk. Tilly was able to get across exactly what she wanted to say without ever speaking a word.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Yo-yo, as you can see, just couldn't wait. I must have a thing about food lately; it seems that has been a large part of my recent posts! Hopefully you all aren't tired of it yet, as here is another one!

As any bird can tell you, breakfast is a very important meal. In fact, any bird will tell you any meal is a very important meal, including those that aren't usually practiced, such as after-lunch-before-mid-afternoon-snack. Or Winnie the Pooh's favorite elevenses. Back to the original subject, though, breakfast here varies, but often I share it with the parrots. Here is a play-by-play of a recent (very popular) breakfast. As usual, it is all organic, with some of the veggies coming from a local farm, some being frozen.

First, I heated up my pan and added half a teaspoon or so of olive oil.

Once it was hot, I added chopped yellow zucchini.

Once the zucchini had gotten pretty soft, but not too done, I added
some frozen broccoli.

Once the broccoli was nearly done, I added the pre-cooked
(but cold) garbanzo beans.

And last but not least, when it was all cooked, I added several stalks of chopped
celery, stirred that in, and served. I always add the celery last because I
love the texture difference it adds to leave it uncooked and fresh.

Before giving the birds their portion, I added a few healthy topping such as alfalfa powder and flax oil. Sorry, no pics of the tails up moment, but I assure you, there was a verrrry long one!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Donate to your favorite 501(c)(3)!

Many of you, such as those on the Busy Beaks email list, will already know this, but I thought I would post it here as well. From now through November 30, if you have your order drop shipped to a certified 501(c)(3) avian rescue, Busy Beaks will match your order up to $100! And if you aren't sure what they want, you can give them a gift certificate, which Busy Beaks will double up to $100 dollars when they redeem it. Not bad, right? And rescues really need all the help they can get. I have a very very few in my sidebar, but there are many more; find one you like, whether near you or not, and why not give them a present this year, too? Many have wish lists on their site, and I am sure they would not mind your contacting them to ask what they would like, as well. I think wood toys (too many to link to!), though, are universally appreciated! I imagine shredders and preeners, such as the starbird fuzzy wuzzy, are also loved; most rescues have many pluckers, and those kinds of toys can help distract them from their feather destruction.

Link to newsletter
Busy Beaks Bird Toys

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween!

We certainly did. As you can see, I carved my pumpkin as a ghostly attack parrot!

As it was a very nice day, some of the parrots also came outside with me, and although they weren't interested in eating much with all to see outside, Claudia couldn't resist some raw pumpkin. I always save the "innards" from my pumpkin carving. The seeds I toast for both me and the birds to enjoy, and I used some of the pumpkin scrapings and seed membrane to make a lovely pudding bread, which was extremely tasty, and shared (and approved) by all. The rest of the pumpkin I am drying for later use.

I rinse the seeds and try to pull of any remaining bits of the pumpkin membrane. I then dry them well, mix them with a teensy bit (1/2 teaspoon or less) of olive oil. I don't add any salt until after they have toasted and I have separated out the birds portion.

The pudding bread I made by mixing some of the pumpkin with sundry other items, such as applesauce, 100% fruit jam (apricot), freeze dried pineapple, and rice and coconut flour.I topped it with some sunflowers seeds, as you can see, as much for me as for the birds. I think it turned out quite well! I just love anything made with winter squash.