Friday, December 30, 2011

Reflection for the New Year

I do not often write too much about myself specifically on this blog. I am a rather private person, quite frankly. But these past few years have been rather hard for all of us here. My health deterioted drastically, and my MCS became much worse. I had to move around several times, but never had a very healthy place for myself to live. Each place I got worse in, and had to move on to another in a continual downward cycle. Often I was unable to walk, and for 8 months I could not even hold my head up on my own. For a while I lived in a stripped, cleaned, and remodeled Airstream. It has been hard. I was without many of the things people in this country take for granted, and I am not even including my health in that statement. In the Airstream I did not have indoor plumbing and no hot water unless I boiled it myself. Although it is hard for people with no experience with MCS to imagine, our modern world is full of chemicals, many of which could have easily killed me, very quickly. I did not live like that by choice. I was not able to be around very much, even things like magazines were a problem. I could only see a very, very few people, countable on one hand, the only members of my family able or willing to get fully unscented and non-toxic, so to speak. Obviously, even for a somewhat loner like myself with a wonderful flock of parrots, a dog, and with access to the internet (most of the time....), that isolation takes a  a serious tole. It does not help that I am not very good at translating internet aquaintances into real friends, a fact which makes one feel even more isolated. Combine that with having a severe illness (I have no memory of ever being without pain, but these last few years have been trying even for me) and constantly having to watch for something that can end it all in a few minutes leads to one nasty stew.


There were many things I gained from all that. Living in the Airstream in many ways could almost feel like a privilege. On the edge of the woods, with a wild field in front and beside me, I felt almost part of the landscape, and the local wildlife seemed to accept me as such. Windows in airstreams are low enough that when an animal is right outside, they really are right next to you. And I was fortunate to live in an area with abundant wildlife, from black bears, coyotes, and foxes, to eagles, osprey, and owls, song birds of all types, insect life of incredible variety, deer, the most adorbale bob white families, and all manner of smaller mammals. On top of that, being someone that already valued simplicity and disliked waste, I found it a useful experience to live without so much. It really is possible. 

Throughout most of this I had my parrots with me. I was fortunate enough to have some wonderful family members to help me look after them when I was unable to give them all, or even any, of their care. No, they were not kept in the standards I hold, but they did get my very basics (good food, toys, etc), and we stayed together. Although there were periods some had to be moved into smaller cages, they were in their big cages for much of the time, even in the airstream, which had little else besides cages! Through all this, I was rather amazed, although I felt like we had a good bond before, just how much of a flock we became. It truly shows how incredible parrots are. They all become so conscious of one another, and even more so of me. I am including Gwen in this statement, as my cat stayed with my sister through these many transitions. Even Chester, who formerly hated birds, particularly the little ones, has become rather attached to them, protective. They all talk to each other alot. We all got through it together.

This time last year I was testing a new place to live, and stayed there for 2 months, hopeful that it would work out, although in the end it did not. It was a long way away, and the trip was horrendous, so I am very glad I survived. My parrots were unable to be with me then, so they stayed, again, with my darling sister. Being away from them was quite hard, and according to my sis, they were none to happy with the situation, either. Fortunately, she is quite patient and understood their pain.

I say this all now in my new house. My new safe house. My new safe house in the mountains, with plenty of fresh air surrounding me. I have a beautiful view, and lovely yard, and am surrounded on three sides by woods with a huge and absolutely storybook perfect cow pasture in front. My closest neighbors are extremely nice, into animal rescue, and totally unscented. All of my parrots are here with me, and loving their new life. I cannot believe I made it, and I feel so fortunate. Obviously, my plans for the best possible captive parrot environment (in a home, I mean) are huge. They are slow going, but we will ge there. But more importantly, after being here several months, I am already so much better, and with my new treatment and program, hope to be far better very soon. I can do so much more, and really give my parrots what I want them to have. For one thing, they all have room to fly here, even Miss Claudia!

Since coming here I have adopted a starving English Shepherd puppy. And against my initial better judgement (which turned out to be false, for once) a wonderful African Grey, whom I will introduce soon. I hope to start fostering again soon as well. In fact, one of the people who worked on the house, before I came here, is rather desperate for me to take their cockatoo. My MCS is getting better, and I hope to be going places and seeing people more. And I just cannot say thanks enough for all of this, and most importantly, for my parrots and dear Gwen. I would not be here without them, and although they seem content enough just being with me, I feel obliged to make it up to them as well as I can. Being part of a such a flock (and who knew there could be such a close band of such a group of misfits from different continents and animal kingdoms?) is truly amazing.

So, here's to 2012. I hope the rest of you have as much good luck in this next year as I have had in this one!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Holidays!

My tree! I use a dead tree branch due to my sensitivity to fir/pine trees,
but I think it is sooo pretty!

There are a million and one things that can be dangerous to your parrots during the Holidays, and another million that can be upsetting to them. Plus, if your parrots are anything like mine, they are already planning a million ways to cause trouble over the Holidays. In the first category are fragrances, perfume, and candles, to cooking incidents with non-stick cookware, to toxic plants, like poinsettias, to toxic decorations (many vinyl trees still have lead) and a whole host of other things to think about. In the second category, there is the stress of all the changes in the appearance of the house, possible cage moves, parties, people visiting, changes in schedule, and the prospect of being shunned after destroying someones brand new 32 HD flat screen tv by chewing through the cord and knocking the whole item off the table in the ensuing scramble. In the last category, I am sure some of things your parrots may be considering are-- 1. sneaking a large amount unhealthy food and becoming deathly ill at approximately two in the morning on Christmas Eve, 2. telling your Great Aunt Polly exactly what they think of her name and her dietary habits (cracker, anyone?), and 3.  screaming non-stop through your family meal. Oh, and there was that incident with the tv, too. Not to mention knocking several ornaments off the tree.

So now, if you have somehow survived that diatribe of disturbing events and implications without  hyperventilating, passing out, eating far too much of your chosen item (my mom prefers chocolate) becoming hysterical and ranting all over the house, or perhaps having a heart attack, I commend you. Personally, I have always had quiet Christmases, but I know that is not the case for many people.

In the end, remember that this is a time to have fun. It will end soon, so enjoy it, and encourage your parrots to enjoy it in their own way. If you are new to birds, start some new traditions involving them, such as watching holiday specials together, learning Jingle Bells, or taking them with you in their carrier to see the Christmas lights, provided you do not open your windows and let in all the gas fumes and cold air. I see nothing wrong with letting your parrots have treats on the holidays that they would never have the rest of the year, although  I firmly believe some things like cookies and anything fried should never be offered. Obviously keep anything toxic well away from them, because those items are not only dangerous but also are often quiet coveted.

I have my dog biscuit dough chilling in the fridge, and have been saving a bag of Avian Organics bird bannock for their Christmas morning feast. Miss Kipp-kipp will be getting some new catnip toys I will make. I am hoping to get some things hung in the ceiling for them this weekend, as well, so they can finally have hanging gym fun here. So, in the end, (despite the loss of your new tv,) I hope everyone has as wonderful a Holiday as I hope too, whichever holiday(s) they celebrate!

P.S. I could not think of a really good topic for the Holiday post, and so queried my family for ideas. As you can see, I got nothing. Unless you count the exasperated suggestion that I tell everyone to go find/buy/adopt some ekkies, both male and female, and hang them around the house as they match the traditional holiday decor so perfectly. Mmmmm, not quite what I was looking for.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Serve Your Food Waste

Waste is a huge problem in our world, and an even bigger problem in America. It has become so commonplace to throw away that it no longer even seems like waste to many of us, as we gaily find virtue in tossing grandmothers favorite afghan in the trash pile, blithely thinking about how much better a new violet throw will look rather than that old lavender one. As troubling as that is (or should be) food waste is at least as troubling to me. There is often just as much energy involved in producing the magical appearance of that food on the shelf or produce pyramid (yes, vegetables also take a lot of energy to grow, from the water use, to the tractor, to the pesticides/herbicides, to the transportation) not to mention the fact that I cannot but help think of the starving people in my own, or your own, community that would love to eat that slightly blemished apple. Food waste seems so small at the time, just a bit here and there, but taken all together, it really adds up, and I mean that from a waste-not point of view, as well as a want-not when speaking of the money waste. Soooo, end of moral, what does this have to do with parrots? Quite a bit, I think.

For example, if you buy organic vegetables, or low-pesticide-residue produce for yourself, but do not care to eat the peel, why not give that part to your parrot? My guys love peels, from cucumber, to squash ends, to the winter squash shell leftover after I bake one. Just leave a bit more of the flesh on that you might otherwise have, and let them go to town! And just so you know, winter squash peel is edible. I know. I quite like the caramelized peel myself, and the parrots have no issue with any hardness factor I might find discomforting. I save the root end of celery and lettuce for them, the tough stems of greens and broccoli, even parsley stems are well loved.

In fact, many of these types of food waste are actually more beloved by my parrots than the finer parts we generally prefer. Aside from my little Aussies, green stems are liked better than the greens themselves (although none of mine will turn down fresh greens on a skewer) and Frank and Lola will do just about anything for a romaine root. Squash stems are loved by all, even the Aussies, not only do you have sweet crisp squash, but you also have that wonderful stem to gnaw on! 

Fruit should not be left out of the parrot compost pile. Melon rinds are great edible toys, as are strawberry tops. Apple peel is very popular, and as we all know form our mothers, the peel is the healthiest part! I will occasionally give mine citrus peel to gnaw on, and that is a very well loved foot toy. Or, should your bird be a quaker,  a highly coveted nest decor item, which makes that hard to achieve fresh, clean, but lived in look well within even the reach of even the most artistically uninspired quakers reach. And no, orange peel does not mold easily, at all, it just dries up even in the hot humid south, but I do take it out after a day or two.

The outside waste is not the only thing parrots will enjoy. While many seeds and pits are toxic, some are not. Both squash and melon seeds, along with all the gloopy gunk that comes out with them, are highly coveted here. I simply scoop out and serve, just as is. Cucumber and squash seeds, should you not require them for your recipe, are likewise well received here.

I cannot help you with that beef you cooked and then forgot, or the bread that molded on the shelf, (although if you are interested in saving money and wasting less it would not hurt to check your pantry and fridge often) but at the very least, you can save money on your parrot food bill and make less waste in that department! For those of you that compost.... well, this post might not be of use to you. But for the many that do not have a compost, hopefully your parrot will enjoy some of your food waste. Obviously, having this so-called food waste requires you to be partaking of the produce yourself, but that is another story. And not one for this blog, so have no fear, fresh food haters!

Seriously, though, try some flippy floppy peels, or a stem end with your parrots. They might really like the novelty! And as long as the food is organic or low-pesticide, I say let them have it!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thought about where your wood parts come from lately?

Parrots destroy wood. Some of them are picky, it is true, but for the majority of them, wood is a thing to be, according to Chester, annihilated. Sure, many are picky about what type of wood they like, what thickness, cut across the grain or with it (hint- across the grain is your best bet) but then why would you ever assume your parrots would be happy to destroy just any old wood? However, my original sentence remains- parrots destroy wood. 

But where does that wood come from?

The hardwood pieces so frequently seen on toys are mass produced from wood gathered from all across North America. Granted, maple and birch are in a fairly plentiful supply, but that does not mean good practices are used to harvest them. Despite all logic, loggers do not always take care to leave young trees and/or replant trees for future gathering. Because of the huge number of wood pieces being produced by the large companies that supply most toy makers, and because they make no mention of sustainability on their website, I assumed they did not worry a bit about where their wood came from. So I called one of the largest of these companies, and after a long conversation with a very friendly man who tried quite hard to skirt my questions, I finally (just barely, he really did not want to answer) was able to get that presumption confirmed. 

So, does this mean I think you should stop using all those lovely chippable beads and stars? No, that is not realistic for most people, and that is ok. However I do think everyone should look into truly sustainable options for their wood chippers, to replace at least part of their toys and parts. And lucky for you, there are several great options available that might even have you, and your little feathered beaver, forgetting that mass produced wood parts ever existed in your house!

Of course the first wood that comes to many peoples minds when they think about sustainable options is java wood, or coffee tree wood. When the coffee trees are past production age, instead of being burned, they are taken, cleaned, and carefully selected for bird toys, perches, and playgyms. This is  a good thing, but I will be honest and say I did not look very heavily into this option. I consider part of being sustainable being fairtrade, and none of the vendors I could find mentioned this. 

I decided instead to focus on options that are close to home, so not only I can talk directly to them, but you can as well. All of these wonderful vendors are always happy to answer questions, talk about what you are looking for, or even customize items for you. They all also have sustainable wood, and while that may not be the only wood they use, I know  they would be happy to make you a boatload of toys strictly with this green option should you ask.

Danita, of Things for Wings, is always very careful about her toy parts, and takes safety as well as sustainability seriously. She sells a wide variety of toy parts, and her natural shredders are some of the only ones I will use, although that is for another post! She has gorgeous perches and platforms (so cute!) that are both sustainable, as well as her incredible toys. Really, really, incredible toys, both custom and pre-designed. So pretty. And in response to my wood query, her own words-
At Things for Wings, we take pride in sourcing the most beautiful, natural and sustainable woods available. The bulk of our wood parts for parrot toy making are hand harvested, with no damage to the eco-system in the areas where it is gathered. Our interesting, barky varieties of wood come from the western US and Canada. The suppliers we deal with, harvest primarily from naturally fallen trees.
Untreated, completely natural; these woods include willow, elm, mulberry, dogwood, apple, yucca, cholla and birch. The drying processes practiced by our suppliers, ensures a properly aged wood product; ready for toy building by us and for our clients. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing trees and thrives in many countries. We carry this highly sustainable wood as another natural toy making part. Canada is a world leader is practicing sustainable forestry; for that reason, we take pride in dealing with our Canadian suppliers. In addition to the various woods mentioned, we also use untreated Canadian pine.

 A great place for pine toys is Shelly at Avian Antics and Avian Antics Boutique. They have both highly chip-able slats as well as thicker cut pine. They also have very fun toys made with their pine as well as various other toy parts. I do not have a very large bird, but I have heard from reliable sources with Greenwings that they have wonderful thick cut pine that can stand-up, if briefly, to that formidable beak. About their wood-
We have about 5 acres of Pine trees.  2-3 years ago we harvested a number of these trees, had them milled locally to our specifications and we use this wood when making our bird toys. When we harvest we replant.  We currently have enough milled wood to last several years.  We will harvest again in 2012, as the milling and drying process takes about 2 years.

 And if you want the ultimate in sustainable wood toys you can do no better than the lovely Susan at Olivers Garden. I assure you, once you have seen her website, you will never be able to look at those plain big box store toys again. And if you contact her with what your bird likes, she will be more than happy to help you find something suitable, as she simply has a gift with knowing what birds will like. Many of her toy designs are not listed online, so I really do recommend contacting her before ordering. On the subject of wood, though, almost all of her wood is sustainable, both pine and hardwood. She does have a few pieces of mass produced wood left, mostly birch pieces, so do ask. It is not much, though, and she is trying to phase it out. Also, I should mention, Susan is careful about safety and all of their wood pieces are un-sprayed.
I buy most of my wood for a local landowner that thins his woodlots.  It then goes to a local mill.  I now employ an older couple that do most of my pieces since I can't keep up anymore.  My apple and dogwood come from my yard (I've planted many-my husband didn't know I was going to cut them all down as they mature) and a few neighbours.  Every spring I thin them out.  

 So there you have it! No excuse to avoid replacing at least part of your bird toy orders with more sustainable options.

Monday, November 7, 2011

If you could no longer keep your parrot, would she become a rescue?

I am a sure all of you have been told, or have told someone, that adopting a bird means assigning yourself a job or frustration, irritation, and perhaps heartache. After all, birds in  need of new homes are *almost* all terribly,  how shall I put this, messed up? Right? Sure, there are a very very few that are not, but for the most part, a bird needing a new home is a bird with lots of baggage. Perhaps they cannot ever be turned around. Just think of what they have been through, living out their life in a home besides your own!

Ok, so maybe that was a bit heavy on sarcasm. What can I say, it is a strong streak in my personality. However, I think you do get the point. If not, here is another way to look at it.

At some point, most of us will have to find a new home for our larger parrots, if not our smaller ones, as well. They can live a very, very long time, and may very well outlive us. This is ignoring any other life circumstances that may force us to consider the unthinkable, as you never know what life will throw at you. However, the point is, if you needed to find one or all of your parrots a new home, would you want the potential new caretakers to consider your birds as rescues that must be full of baggage? Perhaps they prefer a different diet for their parrots, or prefer a different type of toy. Do you think your birds are going to cause a lot of trouble for their new home? Or do you think they will adjust to the new life and new people, and continue on being their sweet (or not so sweet  as the case may be) little selves?

Perhaps you know someone else that has a parrot, or many parrots. If they could no longer keep them, would you consider their parrots to be rescues, full of baggage?

Parrots are very, very resilient animals and that should never be forgotten. It can be discussed innumerable times how cockatoos are so sensitive, and ekkies always pluck, and conures are nippy, and the little guys, budgies, tiels, etc., do not like change (and please do not think I agree with all these stereotypes) but the bottom line is that parrots, all species and sizes, really can have quite a lot thrown at them and still come out on top. A little time and a little understanding, nothing major, goes a long way. Being perfect has nothing to do with it. All parrot caretakers make mistakes and will do something not to be, ehem, behaviorally admired at some point. Just relax, take a deep breath, apologize (I mean that now!) and move on. Start over from the beginning if need be, but just relax. Like people, parrots get it. And they know if you are truly trying to listen and respond accordingly.

Even from the very worst situations, parrots can rebound and amaze you no end. You got a parrot because they are such amazing creatures, so please, don't take that same credit away from those that need a new home. They really are the same as your own.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Life with a mechanically inclined quaker

I have to leave the quaker cage doors hooked with locks. From the inside, Frank cannot undo these locks, but apparently he can from the outside. When I went to lock them up with their dinner, I discovered the lock to their front door was missing. After searching, I found it, locked, on Ava and Linus's cage. To be more specific, it was locking their door shut. Mmmm, ok. They were not in it at the time, guess he wanted to keep it that way!

The oldest pic of Frank I can currently find on my computer! 
I remember it as one of the first, not sure if it was the actual first, though.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Never incite the scorn of a food-displeased Budgie

I was not feeling great this morning, so I took the liberty of giving myself a break and gave the birds some dry mix. This dry mix is one I make myself, and should not properly be called a mix, considering I keep most of the components separate so I can dish out the appropriate things to each bird. My dry smorgasbord, as it were, options include my seed (or grain, which is more accurate) mix, which is millet, puffed amaranth, quinoa, oats, and a few other things, plus various types of dry noodles (brown rice, quinoa, kamut, etc) dry individual larger grains (purple corn is popular) special seeds (milk thistle, sunflower, pumpkin...) dried veggies and fruits, special treats (Avian Organics Veggie Bars, Papaya Crisps, and Green Granola currently) and more. Very varied, as you can see. They do not get all that at one meal, of course. I also use parts of my smorgasbord as treats or for training, and add an item or two with my other meals. When I am giving a meal just of dry mix, as this morning, it usually includes some of the basic grain/seed mix, and several of the other items. My birds overall appreciate the variety and enjoy their shelf stable items as a contrast to all the fresh food.

Keep in mind I do not feed dry mix meals all the time, it is something I do when I am feeling particularly bad, as I was this morning. By taking the easy route, I give myself time to re-charge without getting burnt out. The dry mix meals are still quite healthy (I even have cooked and dried beans, so complete protein!) and as most people with parrots know, dry mix meals of some kind are usually quite popular. I do not think there is anything wrong with skipping the fresh food at a meal every now and again if you are particularly busy, tired, or sick. After all, for parrots living out in the great outdoors, meals are hardly devised by a nutritionist to be balanced and varied, optimum for each individual. They often eat just one, or just a few kinds of food while it is in season, and switch to another when the first runs out. They are not always at an "all you can eat health food buffet." Therefore, the occasional dry mix meal is fine.

All that said (and re-said and re-said and re-said, bored yet?), Ava was not pleased. No, not pleased at all. A sprinkling of dry treats throughout the day and with a fresh meal is fine, but all on their own? Puh-lease.

By dinner time, not only was the food still there, but Ava was giving me one of her stares, the one I call the "gentle reprimand gaze." If not attended to, it is later followed by the "disdain glare," and the "scornful air." I try my best to avoid those.

I have learned my lesson. I still do not feel well, but I have a pot of some Avian Organics mash cooking (with lots of extra dried raw kale and cilantro flakes added at the end, they love them and so easy!) along with butternut squash and peas. Hopefully Her Highness will accept my apologies for the lazy breakfast and graciously allow me back in her favor. She really is quite good about that.

And finally, a few quick pics of the Aussies from yesterday-

Miss Patty loves the view. 
I think it is funny how the reflection in the window 
makes it look as if there is a building out there....
nope, just trees and grass.

Sleepy time for Ava. Whatever they tell you about a 
goodnight sleep, Ava feels a good afternoon nap is 
equally important.

Miss Patty and Linus, hanging out.

Yo-yo, who is only in one picture since he spent most
if the time on me. In this pic he is asking to come to me.
In a minute he will fly over.

Fluffy Linus!!

Pretty Miss Patty. She is really showing her age, 
and her bald spots on her face just keep inching bigger and bigger, 
but she is just as sweet and nearly as active as ever.
And she certainly keeps Yo-yo on his toes!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Amazon Companionship Study

I find this study on young amazon parrots very interesting. You must be a member to read the full text, but the abstract is more than enough to give any parrot (or other bird) keeper plenty of food for thought. Whether parrots should be kept in pairs for their own happiness, whether parrots kept in pairs have fewer behavior problems, whether paired parrots are better/worse companions, etc., are all issues that anyone keeping parrots for very long at all has come across, very likely in the form of a heated argument or at the very least a strongly voiced opinion, one that often verges on or fully embraces a warpath. All that debate comes with good reason, as there are legitimate points on both sides. However, I am not going to try to hide the fact that I think parrots are happier and better off if they can be kept with a compatible friend or mate!

Please, though, if you are thinking about going out and getting a friend for any of your parrots, from a budgie to a macaw, remember that like people, birds will not get along with every bird. They pick their friends as well as their mates. Also, if you parrot has been kept without any other bird for a long time, or was raised away from other birds, they may not recognize other parrots of even the same species as potential friends at all. The Amazon parrots in this study were parent raised (and note that they were being handled regularly by humans, and seeming to enjoy doing such), which makes a huge difference as they not only know they are parrots and know how to interact with other parrots. This is not to say, though, that it is impossible to get a friend for a single parrot! Even if they are not allowed to play together, just having another parrot in the room can be very rewarding for parrots. Parrots in the wild will not eat alone, sleep alone, or do anything else alone! With another parrot (I admit I think same species or compatible species from the same geographic area and/or similar size is best) they will have someone to be with all the time.

Studies like this are important because they show what could be possible if you applied knowledge to raise better parrots from the beginning, in this case keeping them in pairs from the start, instead of trying to fix problems later after they occur.

If a person has an untamed pair of parrots, either a small or large species, and much prefers tame cuddly parrots, they will be fully convinced the only good companion parrots are kept singly. On the other hand, many people have mated pairs of parrots, again from the very small to the very large, that are still wonderful and tame and very interested in people (and sometimes still enjoying scritches as well), so naturally they will have a very different view of things. My point? I try very hard not to put out statements based solely on my own experience. Most people only have experience in their own home with one parrot of a species, possibly two or three of that species. That really is very little to go on, and while individual experiences taken along with individual circumstances can be, collectively, very important and extremely useful, each piece on its own is not nearly so valuable, and can be very misleading. That makes studies like this, as rare as they are, even more important as a tool to cut through that cloud. The parrots are raised and kept under the same conditions, making comparisons possible that give the rest of us something to go on, and apply in our own homes.

And to reiterate, please go read this article! It is not very long, so really, please read it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

This just about sums it up

Ann Brooks, Paying Forward

Please go to the above link and read it. Please. Instead of boring you with re-typing what she has just said in my own words for this blog post, even if it does need to be shouted from the rooftops, I will quote-

  • One way we can help parrots is to encourage adoption.  Let’s inform people that all companion birds deserve to have a succession of good homes.  Someday your bird will likely need one or more new homes too, and you’ll want those to be good ones.   Let’s promote adoption as the norm, not just something for the “rescues.”
  • Another way we can help parrots is to teach people that birds are resilient, regardless of their past.  Nature has built them to be adaptable in order to survive. Phoenix Landing rarely uses the word rescue because this word conjures up a sense of abuse, neglect, harm, and baggage.  Most of the birds that come to us are from loving homes where it is just no longer possible for them to care for a bird; but even true rescue birds are likely to adapt if given an opportunity to thrive.  I have yet to meet a parrot that was not adoptable, there is usually an appropriate family for each and every one.
Really, I mean it, please go to the above link on the Phoenix Landing blog. And if you have not seen it already here is the Phoenix Landing website.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Well Hello Folks!

Hope everyone is doing ok through this hurricane season! I left coastal NE Va and went west to the mountains to my new house to escape Hurricane Irene, but as there is no internet hooked up there yet I have been totally cut off, so to speak, until I got back last night. Fortunately, my guys are all great travelers, hopping right in their carriers just ready to go, so the trips went well, very little stress overall. They did seem to approve of the new house as well, or what they saw of it. The first-floor/basement is not ready for them yet so they just stayed in their travel carriers upstairs. Hopefully it will be ready soon, though. I am very excited planning it all! Plenty of room for everyone.

To end this post, I will change the subject quite suddenly to share a funny (although at the time it was rather nerve-racking) story about Gwen and the birds. As I said, the birds were staying upstairs in my bedroom in their travel cages. I occasionally have the ekkies out around Gwen, as she knows her stop/come/drop/leave commands very well, and has not showed any aggression towards them. She is actually quite afraid of them when they are out, and surprisingly seems to view them when locked up as a true part of her family. However, I never, ever, ever have her out with the smaller birds. In the past she has showed aggression towards them (does seem to regard them as family now, though), but more than that, they could fit in her mouth and I do not take chances with predators and prey!

Anyway, getting back to the story after all that background, I had all the birds in their travel cages, and Gwen was also in there, asleep on my bed. I was outside in the main room. The birds were doing their normal daily vocalizations, but over time I have learned the difference between a very excited "something-is-wrong" call (not meaning the alarm call- that is totally different) and their normal "I love screaming to the heavens" calls. As soon as I hear the "something might be wrong/off" calls I always go check, as I did yesterday morning. I have talked in the past about the wonderful ability Yo-yo has to escape cages and he had once again been at work, getting out of what I was sure he would not. This part would normally have been very upsetting, considering that Gwen was in the room with them, particularly considering Yo-yo was in the process of letting Ava and Linus out and Miss Patty was following close behind. However, Gwen was clearly not in the mood for birdie chase, and shot out of the door like a rocket as soon as I opened it. My mother was there with me, and she collected the shivering Gwen in the hall, before putting her down so Gwen could run downstairs to hide. Really, I had no idea she was so upset by the prospect of loose birds! I know I joke about the long held plan my Aussies have to take over the world, lead by Yo-yo, but I had no idea she took me seriously!

I still do not have any good pics of the new house/bird area yet, but hopefully soon I will have some!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


How much fruit, or rather, how much sugar, to feed parrots is a matter of great contention. Some say it is a natural part of their diet, there are those that like only certain kinds of fruit, many feel moderation is the key, others are adamant it is just useless sugar water, and some do not say much at all. I think it is really a rather complicated subject, however it may at first appear, and in some ways all of the above people (particularly those that refrain from entering heated fruit arguments) are right.

Fruit is a natural part of all wild parrot diets. Fruit is the edible (although if it is poisonous it would be a one-time affair) product formed from the flower of a tree or plant. This means that many things we call vegetables, nuts, or grains are actually fruits, such as oats, millet, squash, almonds, and most things besides greens and root vegetables. If, for the purpose of simplicity, I exclude all those and leave fruits as meaning anything that is not a tree-nut but yet grows on a tree or climbing vine, I could still say that fruit is a natural part of most parrot diets. However, there is a big problem with that statement- the fruits we commonly consume and have available to feed our parrots are not found in nature, and have been bred to be as sweet as possible, chock full of sucrose and fructose.

Many animals, including ourselves, are ingrained with a desire to eat sweet things. Historically, this desire served us well, and continues to be useful to other animals- sugars were not easy to come by but would provide an easy source of quick energy. Most wild fruits are not as sweet as those found in the supermarkets of today. Figs are often thought of as a very natural food for many species of parrots. This is true, but wild figs are not nearly as sweet as domesticated fogs, being high in raffinose, a fiber-like sugar (also found in high concentrations in the cabbage family, like broccolli) and I once read their taste is comparable to compressed straw. Sounds lovely!

If you were to plant an apple seed, you would have no idea whether the apples on that tree would taste anything like the apple the seed came from, or whether they would even be edible. If you want to grow a specific type of apple, you must graft part of an already existing apple tree of that variety to an apple tree root. Sweet apple trees, or sweet varieties of wild cousins of apples, are actually quite rare. Whenever one grows, it becomes something of a fruit tree celebrity with all the animals in the area .Still, most of the wild apples they eat will not be very sweet at all. The case of man domesticating fruits and breeding them to be ever sweeter is true in most cases. Even some berries have undergone this process, like strawberries. 

On top of the fact that our food is often far sweeter than food available in the wild, our parrots need far less- even flighted parrots are getting very little exercise in comparison with their wild counterparts. Just about the only fruits you can get that are not (in my opinion) ridiculously sweet are berries, besides some varieties of strawberries, and a few of the apple varieties, like granny smith. The tropical fruits are still quite healthy, even if sweeter than the originals. However, if you are trying to lower the sugar intake of your parrot, be aware that some vegetables, like carrots, are actually extremely high in sugar, as high or higher than some fruits.

My philosophy on fruits and sugar? It varies per bird. I never feed any of the highest sugar/lowest nutrients, like most apples, grapes, etc. I do not feed bananas because of my latex allergy, but I am very interested in feeding some of the cousins of bananas, those that are starchy but much lower in sugar. The ekkies, because they seem to do better with it, get higher amounts of fruit, and the cockatiels and budgies get some berries. The quakers get almost no fruit, or high sugar veggies, because Frank starts acting funny (i.e. high) after too much sugar! I always include berries in my parrot diets, as I feel they are closest to a natural food, and are full of incredible nutrition, being the little superfoods they are. I tend to feed seasonally, though, so what fruit they get besides that depends on what is available. 

I already have lots of wild berries around my new house. I would really like to plant some apple trees from seed, though, in hopes I would get some non-sweet apples in several years. I think I will do that and see what comes up! At the very least it will mean nice apple branches to chew on, right?

Note- If this post seems dis-jointed, blame the Spotsylvania fault. I was in the middle of typing philosophy when it threw its temper-tantrum, and my attention span does not allow for interruption when writing!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The birds?

Quite well, thank you. It has been a long summer working with Claudia's health issues, but she finally seems to be mending after her illness. Ava is as sweet as ever and not showing her age a bit, Linus is still adorable but insecure, and Chester loves rocking out the eardrums of the world. Frank is still occasionally indistinguishable for all his fluffed feathers, Lola is still sweet and down-to-earth but becoming quite the little old lady, and Yo-yo is busy in his own version of the oval office. That just leaves Miss Patty, who after several months being egg-less, recently (as in last night) laid yet another. Why? A singular, and yet  for her totally predictable, reason- I re-did not just their cage but their whole set-up. Nothing like a huge change to get her ready to lay eggs, ignoring the fact that a big change is suppossed to dampen egg thoughts in parrots. She really makes me wonder sometimes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Not only do I have a house, but the move is imminent! Yay! We are all celebrating. And not only is it going to be a much better environment for me, but it will be great for the birds! Third (or fourth with this one) exclamation point in a row!

I am hoping to move sometime in the next couple of weeks. The house had to be fixed up quite a lot to be safe for me, and while most of the big stuff will be done before I get there, there will be quite a lot of work still to be done. For one, all the walls have to be plastered (with clay or  lime plaster, no additives) or painted (with milk paint, no additives) which is quite a task, but one that is very safe to do around the birds and myself. The basement/ground level still has to be tiled, as well. All that is beside the point, however, since the all fellow parrot nuts are likely to be interested in are the new parrot accommodations, and those, I think, will be very nice! I have been debating how to set them all up, and while I think I have settled on a plan I like, I know it will change again, particularly since it also depends on how the birds themselves settle in.

I am planning to use the entire basement/ground level (it has big windows in the front), minus the large laundry room, for the parrots. So that includes a room that is roughly 12 by 13, and a large open area. The large open area has a main part, a large rectangle, that is about 14 by 24, plus a smaller section that I am really not sure of the measurements on... maybe 8 by 10? So, I am thinking of putting all the cages in the one room, and just using them as sleep/rest cages. Then, depending on how it works out, I think I will separate the smaller section of the large area with mesh, and use that as a small bird flight room, and have the whole larger area as a big bird flight room. That way they can really go to town foraging, since I would have a much larger area to disperse their dishes/skewers/random food holders across!

Obviously, my birds would not be confined to those areas, though, but I am sure most of you know the whole play gym throughout the house routine, so I will not go into that. However, I am hoping no to have to wait too long to screen in the front little porch, so they can use that to get some sun! However, my plans to make an aviary out back are hardly worth mentioning, since they are still so far back in the planning stages.

For those of you wondering about foster birds, though, don't worry- I have a separate building (my airstream) to quarantine them in, plus an outdoor shower for rinsing/changing!

I think I am going to be looking for advice on several matters pertaining to this whole thing very soon- particularly once I get pictures. I have some now, but I don't think they are very nice, being pre- shots, before all the renovation and cleaning.

And so, with that said, I am hoping to get back to blogging and everything else, and get my life back on track!

View from the front door.

I am told the view is better in the winter/fall, but I think it is quite nice now! Perhaps a little pruning on that lovely rose bush, though...... the rosebush is where the landscaping of the former owner began and ended, 
so plenty of work there. Good thing I love gardening- I am planning to do it mostly in native plants.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Easter!

To everyone that celebrates it, I hope you had a wonderful Easter! And hopefully neither you nor your birds got sick on either eggs or candy! Particularly the candy in the birds' case, as any candy is too much for a parrot. And for the egg issue, while I usually limit my birds' egg consumption to one or two appropriate-for-the-parrot-size servings a week, whether that is alone, or spread out in a treat like birdie bread, (see this Easter post from a few years ago) I think Easter is one time when a bit extra egg won't hurt! I keep thinking it would be a wonderful foraging experience to give the larger parrots a whole egg and let them crack it themselves, but I don't want to give them that much egg...

And just for the fun of it, go check out the American Bird Conservancy's bird of the week here!

A cute egg picture, one of Yo-yo and Patty's, from a few years ago.

And while everyone is thinking (if briefly) about eggs, a quick update on the Aussie hormones in this house: Miss Patty laid one egg a couple of weeks ago without too much trouble, and non since, and no effort to follow that lone egg with another in the foreseeable future! And to add that final wonderful cherry on top, all of my tiels have lost their hormones somewhere in the spring rains, and are back to their usual sweet, friendly, quiet (for a parrot) selves!! Yay! Even better, they are all best friends again, snuggling together, their brief rivalry a thing of the past.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

By Request: Miss Gwen

Who is not, and please don't even suggest such a thought in her hearing, a bird. No love lost between her and anything with feathers, far from it. Gwen is a dog, a large chihuahua or possible chihuahua mix, and she feels that anything other than herself or other small dogs is not worth the space it takes up on this Earth. Oh, except for any people that might want to give her attention, or even better, food. She doesn't mind that too terribly, either. She can be quite noisy, it is true, but aside from that and her bizarre love of clothing (you really have to see it to believe,as I certainly would never have) she doesn't fit too many of the many terrible chi stereotypes. As I said, she permits people to be in her presence, and will graciously make the rounds to accept praise from each in turn, as long as she is sure none of them poses any danger to me. Admittedly, she doesn't really care for people, other than myself, in that time-honored way of dogs, but she is quite polite, and extremely loyal to me, so really, what more could I ask?

Gwen's story, in brief, is that she is an ex-backyard breeder dropped off at the local animal control, where I adopted her. She was guessed to be around 6 years old at that time, but whether that age is really accurate is not known, and I can't say I care all that much. She is loud, sleeps all the time she is not loud, and is a (nearly) devout vegetarian (her own decision, not mine) with a voracious appetite which results in her frequently eating things that are better left outside the body. When not sleeping or eating things, but sometimes while she is loud, she is full of endless energy, is obsessed with springtime, and is extremely smart. She is also extremely protective of me, and while polite towards people, has no problem chasing off other creatures, like, say, rottweilers or very large lab/German shepherd mixes. Fortunately, she is very quick on her feet, and easily convinces the other animal she is clearly rabid, but I still disagree with her on the wisdom of these moves. And last, but not least, she is very bonded to me, and makes sure I am always ok, and so very sweet about it, too. Except, perhaps, when she is very tired and is pretty sure I am going to be fine soon.

And on the clothes issue, that is quite funny after you get used to it. I got her in the winter, and immediately noticed that she gets cold extremely easily, so of course I knitted her a wool sweater. It quickly became clear, though, that Gwen not only has nothing against clothes, but really loves them in a way prior to this I thought only existed in Disney movies. And to think at one time I questioned whether I would want to deal with suiting up a greyhound, my "dream" dog, in the winter!

 Gwen, the very wise business guru, will take your questions now.
(But she thinks you should already know the answers)

Gwen vs. Black Cup With Treat Under It

 I know it is in here!

 Just gotta get my mouth open a liiittle wider.....

'Nother one? Pretty Please?

P.S. This post is brought to you by me (and Gwen. Mostly Gwen), per request from Hungry Bird.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Local Food Choices are Widening!

We had our last taste of "new" winter yesterday- snow! I say new because even an inch or two of snow was formerly an occasion down here, and now we have snow (not a lot, but still) at the end of March! When will we all get serious about climate change? I mean really. Anyway, despite the chill now in the air (just a bit over a week ago it was in the 70s,which seems closer to normal to me, instead of today's 45) spring is here. The daffodils are out all over the place, in all the shades of the sun, the violets are peaking from under the magnolia, the fruit trees are out in all their legendary glory of pink and white, and the trees in the woods are rushing all their energy into the leaf buds on the tips of their branches; first small barely noticeable and now just beginning to unfurl. While birds are present year round here, their spring exuberance makes their numbers seem to grow far beyond any migration. They seem to be everywhere, always busy, and the flicker reminds us hourly that this part of Virginia, in particular, is his. The air often has that unmistakable odor of the grey and brown waking up, starting to become green. The same delightful scent, by the way, that is already bring on my allergies. Ignoring that, (and learning to ignore that is an ongoing process) it is a lovely time of year!

This Ode to Spring does actually have a correlation with parrots, and a very important one at that! With warm weather comes farmers markets, and farmers markets are the best place to find local, hopefully organic or even better, unsprayed, produce. Not only can you support local farmers by buying their produce, you will be getting food that is far healthier than that which is in the store, as it is fresh. Fruits and veggies loose their nutrients rapidly after being picked, and since many foods, particularly fruits and tomatoes, are picked green to ripen on the way to the store, they will never have the important enzymes available in food picked when ripe. And besides the health reasons to get the freshest (and hopefully organic) food, I also think it is lots of fun to watch the seasons change in the food available, and to get a sampling of all the different foods so you can run home and try to find recipes to use them in. And don't worry if you aren't quite known as a fabulous chef- even simple salads are raised to new heights with fresh ( both literally and figuratively) flavors!

Your parrots will also appreciate the fresh foods. I find my parrots are picky about how "old" their food is, and a parrot that may have formerly shunned a store-bought food like, say, kale, will not be able to resist when it is fresh and crisp, just picked that morning, and hung from the side of the cage or on a skewer. Really, it can make all the difference. And if it doesn't for your parrot, well, don't blame me, please!

Another wonderful edible that makes an appearance in spring is flowers, for either your parrot or you! Obviously, make sure they are not only safe for consumption and not poisonous (trees and flowers), but also 100% free from all pesticides or any other chemical residue (this means anything picked beside a road, for instance, probably isn't a good idea.) Fresh flowers are a great foraging treat for my parrots, some, like Claudia and Frank, devour them, while some just like shredding them to little pieces, and throwing all those little pieces to the wind. I haven't quite decided whether the latter is just same-old same-old parrot behavior, or some form of parrot perfuming.

And finally, just in case anyone needs any inspiration in the food and recipe category (or even if you don't), I am going to link to my review of the always fabulous Phoenix Landing Cookbook. It really is wonderful. I think it is a great human cookbook to, but then, I have a different diet than much of the U.S. public! Even factoring that, I think anyone will find recipes for both their parrots and themselves in it, so I highly recommend it!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Stainless Steel

I am sure most people who have "been in parrots" very long have heard about the dangers many metals pose to birds, and that stainless steel is the safest, some would only truly safe, metal available. Good stainless steel will last a very, very long time, and should not rust easily, if at all. Along with stainless steel, nickel plated hardware and aluminum hardware can also be safe, depending on your parrot and climate. Most people also know that galvanized metal, aka zinc coated metal, is not safe.

Despite that, most manufactures of bird toys, perches, dishes, etc, still use unsafe metals in their products, and therefore, those unsafe metals end up in your bird's cage. Why? Cost. You have to be willing to pay for stainless steel, and though good stainless steel could easily last the lifetime or at least half the lifetime of your parrot, it does cost more. Even nickel plating, although cheaper than stainless steel, costs more than galvanized.

There is hope, though, for those of you that purchase all or most of your products, toys in particular, pre-made. A few bird toy companies are trying to walk the middle line, and use nickel plated hardware. Nickel is the main ingredient in stainless steel, and nickel plated hardware is also safe as long as all the nickel plating is in tact and has not chipped off. However, I find that nickel plated hardware rusts rather quickly for me regardless of whether my birds ever touch it, due to the high humidity in the southern climate. Be careful, though, galvanized metal is very shiny before it oxidizes, and many of the larger companies will use nickel plated quicklinks, but will allow the toy base, so well covered when you buy the toy, to be made from galvanized metal. And as soon as chomper tears away a few of those toy parts, he is left with that lovely base to chew on. Of course, this is ignoring that the galvanized metal does oxidize and start flaking, defeating the need for your parrot to remove the toy parts to get to the zinc. Contacting the company is the only way to know for sure. Also as a note, if the response you get from the company is rude, and they often are when you seem to be implying they aren't using the very best simply by questioning what they do use, I recommend avoiding purchasing even safe products from them. Completely up to you though. I just don't like rude people.

Aluminum is also new on the market, and so far seems to be thought as safe as stainless steel, although I would not trust it with a big metal chewer. However, I have not seen anyone making anything with aluminum hardware save for some quick links you can buy separately, so that really doesn't help you much.

Bird toys made exclusively with stainless steel, or stainless steel and nickel plating, are not as hard to find now as they used to be, though. Often, these stores will also customize their toys to include only stainless steel if that is what you prefer. Oliver's Garden, Nalani Toys, and Grey Feather Toys are three stores that are both fragrance and chemical free and use only safe metals, mostly stainless steel as well as some nickel plated. There is also the much larger ScooterZ company, that uses almost exclusively stainless steel. For safe perches, The Bird Safe Store is good for wooden ones, and My Safe Bird Store has both the old standard comfy perches, as well as some new boings I am really intrigued to try.

I decided several years ago that when any of my cages needed replacing I would replace them with stainless steel, both for the bird's safety and because it is far less wasteful than buying several cages over the bird's lifetime. However, please be aware if you are thinking of going this route that stainless steel quality varies greatly, so you really want to do plenty of research before putting down that kind of money!

I really think no bird should have any zinc hardware in, or on, their cage, as zinc toxicity in worst cases can lead to death. Obviously, it is expense to replace, but I think getting rid of it should be the definite goal. What metal you replace it with, whether it is stainless steel or nickel plated, or even aluminum, is completely up to you, as you know your parrot best.

My Aussies (budgies, tiels) do fine with nickel plated, as they never touch it, but I much prefer (quality) stainless steel as it will not rust so quickly, if at all. Their cage is not stainless steel, but I have noticed Linus starting to chew on his some, though, so I am getting a bit nervous. My ekkies have only stainless steel hardware, but their cages are not stainless steel, and neither does any chewing or anything even remotely like it on their cages. Chester, however, needs a new one, at a very in-opportune time, so I am trying to decide what to do about that. The quakers have only stainless steel, and are in a stainless steel cage, which is exactly what they need given their destructive tendencies!

Living in the south, and the coastal south at that, I am able to find stainless steel hardware very easily at most hardware stores. That is were I get many of my quick links, washes, nuts, bolts, etc, as well as some more unusual finds that are extremely useful! You can also find all of this online, either from a bird or hardware store, depending on the object in question, if you are not able to fine it locally.

In the above pic, you can see a small sampling, or what I grabbed out of my hardware box for the pic, of some stainless steel items found at the local hardware store. And yes, the washers are stainless steel, but they are quite beat up, and this made them reflect the flash to appear white. Odd, but in person they are shiny silver, with many, many scratches. The two objects in the top of the pic, the U-shaped ones, are an awesome find. Just attach to the cage with a knotted rope end in each "U"; instant "junglewalk"!

Above is a simple incredible, if massive, bird toy. I am simply in love with it! It is a 3' long piece of 1/4" threaded rod. Stainless steel, cheap, and one of the best toys ever. I am sorry I don't have a pic of it un-filled, but I didn't feel like taking it out just for the pic, so this is the best you get. As you can see, Claudia (for this is her cage) can chew on this toy from all manner of places, and chew on it from all manner of places she does! Bottom perch, swing, perch right beside my head and not in pic, and just hanging from the roof or side of cage. I had to get all of my mish-mash of acrylic pieces to fill it up! I also strung some lovely foraging pieces on it, wood with holes, loofa slices, etc, so it works wonderfully as a foraging toy, as well. Claudia has to stretch all the way across from the back of the cage, sometimes doing a split, to chew out the treats!

This pic is just to show you how I attached the rod to the cage, and how I kept the pieces on it. I find a simple nuts works fine with my ekkies (a wing nut they could un screw) but if your bird can and has a particularly fetish for removing nuts, obviously this would not work!

And finally, my very favorite stainless steel purchase- skewers. Not from a hardware store, but from a bird store, these simple things are one of the most useful and best investments you can make. I recommend everyone get at least one. You can use them to serve dinner, skewering veggies and fruits whole, or even put cups, or cups made from hollowed shelled veggie like small pumpkins, cucumbers, or peppers, and fill those cups with mash. They make one of the safest toys available when filled with toy parts of your bird's preference. In short, they are simply indispensable. That said, make sure you get a good kind. The only type I can truly and whole-heartedly recommend are the Expandable Habitats ones. I put my skewers through a lot of work, inside, outside, and lots of sticky fresh foods, and these just don't rust, not even discolor! Yes, they cost a bit more, but they are worth every penny. Another fact that seems not so widely circulated is that they do make the skinny1/8" skewers that are perfect for food, so their is no reason to keep using other types that are not as safe. I have tried other types, and found them to discolor or even rust. That said, I am now trying the Scooter Z skewers, and will see how they fair over the long run. So far, so good, but they haven't been through a southern summer yet, so I will wait and see, and will be sure to post if I decide they really are as good, or close enough to be truly safe given the price difference.

The empty skewers. The Expandible Habitats one is on the left; it is a 1/4" one I use for toy parts. You can either attach a quicklink to the loop and hang it that way, or hang it with the ball at the top as it is meant to be used. The ball method was originally developed to prevent large parrots from unscrewing it from the cage, and I imagine it works quite well! The ScooterZ skewer is on the right. It has a very different hanging mechanism.  I do not like it. It doesn't seem to like me. Just isn't as user friendly, you might say.

Now the skewers filled! These were taken out of Claudia's cage. The large red fish is a sample I got from Oliver's Garden, seems to be just the kind of wood she likes, very soft but with crunch!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oh No, Hormones!

Yes folks, we are nearing that time of year again, a time when life as we know it is turned on its end and we feel our sanity seeping away, as eggs, frustration, and unbelievable volume mesh into one chaotic color wheel. Or that is what I was thinking this morning in bed, as Linus started his day-long deluge just moments before the sun came up. I am not talking a bit of happy-to-see-the-day singing, no, that is usual, and consists of a few loud calls, some beeps and tweets, and lots of (very pleasant) whistling. Who could complain about that? No, this is different- just one loud, high pitched call that will continue intermittently (but seemingly non-stop) throughout the day. This, my friends, is Spring.

Please, though, do not get the wrong idea- Linus is perhaps the best prepared, but he is certainly not the only one getting ready for the 20th. Frank and Lola are louder, more exuberant, seemingly bursting with joy, even if their expression of said joy doesn't always give me the same warm fuzzy feeling inside. Yo-yo and Miss Patty are clearly thinking nest-wise, although no sign of serious egg production quite yet. It was only about a month ago Miss Patty laid an egg (just one, she doesn't often lay more now as they tire her so) so I am hoping they will see the food abundance and decide to be fashionably late. I will take any time I can get before more egg stress! After the calling comes the aggression. Yo-yo is already started to get riled up with Linus, and, a true first, I noticed him picking on Miss Patty yesterday in a most un-pleasant manner. As of yet, they are still mostly friends, but the beginnings of another serious family feud are clearly underfoot. I can hardly wait.

Still, there is always the positive in a flock as large as mine- Claudia and Chester get hormonal in the fall instead of the Spring, as they are driven more by their inner calendar to give them the time of year to breed (fall is spring in Indonesia) rather than the changing of the season here, as is common with ekkies more so than many other species. And while that does mean I get hormone surges twice a year instead of once, I find it easier to deal with the hormones of part of my flock if the other part is still same-old same-old. Plus, Chester and Claudia are, in parrot terms, fairly mild hormones-wise. Chester is louder, Claudia starts digging on her cage floor considering the feasibility of laying a clutch, and both want more food and a bit more time alone in their cage destroying every toy in sight. Oddly enough, they also get along a lot less, so play-dates are shorter. That is really about it, though, so I don't know how I got so incredibly lucky!

For those of you that have been keeping tally, you might have noticed I have yet to mention one parrot: little Ava, the queen bee. Her "Spring Fling" is marked by a lot of napping. She is right in the middle of hormone heaven, where everything is a constant contest and every move is watched for hidden meaning. She really doesn't get into all this stress, and even if the very early morning until late at night scream fest didn't disrupt her beauty sleep, there really is only way one to get through it- sleep!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Claudia, Claudia, and Cookies

Just a note about the large funky-looking toy in the last post- Claudia has demolished the colored slats on it! Interestingly to note, she went immediately for the natural slats, tested several, made a few dents, but then tried the colored ones and just didn't look back! She has since tried the natural ones again a few times, but they are a different kind of wood and she just doesn't seem to get into them. I got the slats as a free gift during a sale from here; now to get them un-dyed! I can get that from the couple that makes them, but she is recovering from surgery so there is currently a 3-4 week wait. Worth it, after seeing Claudia go for this wood!

In another story about Claudia (hasn't she been busy this week?) she has once again shown that however "slow" she may be compared to my other birds and indeed other ekkies, she is still, as the saying goes "not stupid!" Few of us are, really, but that is another subject....

I regularly rotate the foraging toys Claudia has in her cage. Several of those foraging toys are these. This week, I put one of those toys in her cage; one that looks like this one:

(Just as a note, NEVER give this toy to smaller parrots that can fit their head in the track where the rings slide. They can hang themselves)

I know Claudia has not seen this toy in at least two and a half years. Still, when I hung it up, with the treat already in it, it took her under 8 seconds from "launch" to get the treat out. No messing around! She went straight from her perch, across the ceiling of her cage and, hanging upside down since I don't make my foraging toys easy to get to, she immediately grabbed the bottom ring, turned until it dropped, and then repeated with the top ring. She must have even remembered what position the handles are in when the notch is lined up so it will drop, since mine sticks (clean, just doesn't meet right or something) and you have to tug (or push if you are operating bat-like) it at that moment to get it to drop. She wasted no time, no mistakes, absolutely flawless, and all from memory! Now I can't say that competes with an elephant's memory yet, but ask me in another 50 years!

As my final story, I will answer the question I am sure you are all wondering, or if you aren't, you may start wondering now: what exactly was in that snack rack that Claudia wanted so badly? It was the parrots' new obsession, the thing they will currently defend to death from any number of creatures, including all the eagles, ospreys, hawks, owls, coyotes (you get the picture) outside. Seriously.

They are lovely pink mish-mash cookies!

My own invention, and I am ever so proud of them! I have never made anything so well and universally liked! I desperately wanted a pic of Linus, or at least Ava, eating these, to show that even they adore them, but they weren't co-operating. I did try for a while, really! No luck, so just take my word for it.

Unfortunately, I did not measure a thing, which is how I usually cook and even bake. I thought it would be like my usual "creations"- liked some, but not something you need to remember how to make ex-act-ly-as-it-was. So as soon as I realized what a gold mine I had hit upon, I sat down to try and remember what and how much I put in. Fortunately I have a pretty good picture memory, but since much of the stuff was added in little piles, not even each ingredient all together in one big pile, it was hard. Still, I think I am pretty close, and I will definitely be measuring next time, so I can work towards getting the exact measurements for perfection! And in case anyone is interested in trying for themselves, here is the recipe as I think it was!

Oh, and just to add the extra caramel sauce (or whatever your favorite topping is) these cookies smell absolutely beyond fantastic!! Seriously. Really. Good. They left the kitchen perfumed for the rest of the day, and now, after a few days in the fridge, they still smell amazing every time I open the container!

- I made this recipe to use up a couple different kinds of dried foods I had. They were dehydrated low-temperature, so essentially raw before cooking, at least.
- I tore my mango into pieces roughly 1/4' square, perhaps a bit bigger at times, and the sweet potato I crushed, so size varied.
- ALL ingredients are guesstimates, and your guess is as good as mine as to whether the actual amount was that, or a bit more or less.
- the rice flakes are similiar to oatmeal, but drier, but oatmeal would make a fine substitute
- The dough should be similar to oatmeal cookie dough, but barely sticky at all, and if anything, er on the drier side. Hopefully the last mixing step won't be needed in the future!

Pink Mish-Mash Cookies!
- 3/4 c chopped dried mango
- 1/2 c dried sweet potato
- slightly packed 1/2 c goji berries
- 2 cups pure no sugar cranberry juice

- 1/2 cup minced broccoli stem
- 1/2 c coconut
- a tablespoon at least dried ground ginger

-3/4 cup flour, half corn, half rice
- heaping c of rice flakes

- red palm oil from sustainable sources that do not endanger people, forests, or orangutans (I get mine form Tropical Traditions) OR other oil for coating pans

Mix together the mango, sweet potato, and goji berries. Bring the cranberry juice to a boil and pour over fruit (it should nearly cover it). Cover fruit and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

After fruit has reconstituted, add the broccoli, coconut, and ginger and mix. Add dried ingredients and mix well. Adjust dry or liquid as needed and mix again.

Coat pans very well with oil. Make dough into patties about 1/3" thick and 3" across, or any diameter you like as long as they are all the same. Bake until they are ever so slightly brown and look fairly dry, or drier anyway. For 3" cookies, this was aorund 12-15 minutes in my oven. Allow to cool slightly on pan before transferring to rack to cool completely.

Enjoy the wonderful, wonderful aroma in your kitchen!

Monday, February 28, 2011

First Attempt at Eating Pics

Spring toys! So pretty. I don't often have dyed wood.
The beads were sent dyed by mistake and the slats were a free gift.
As you can see, I utilize pieces from old toys often; the bases of the smaller toys are pre-chewed.

As per my discovery in a previous post of my addiction to bird bath pics, I am working on taking a wider variety of pic types to break from my previous affinity. To start, here is a quick sampling of (not great quality) eating pics.

Chester and Claudia, practicing to be Hanging Parrots for Halloween.
Yes, they start practicing early, just in case they miscalculated the number
of days left to go.

Chester and Claudia enjoying a more sedentary form
of foraging in one of their toy buckets.

Frank, enjoying a very rare bit of fruit, a cherry.
He gets sugar highs quickly,
so anything with a lot of sugar is quite limited for him.

Ava and Yo-yo enjoying a piece of millet.
And just so you appreciate my sacrifices to capture these
mediocre photos, I had to stand on a chair to get this one,
even with my natural height. It turns out when you hold
a camera above your head in what you are nearly positive
is the right direction... it usually isn't.

Yo-yo, enjoying some mash.
He is so good at sharing, notice how he has
so graciously allowed the wall, the cage, and,
un-pictured, me to enjoy some of his food with him.

Yummy goji berry, Yo-yo loves them.

I sometimes feel I am doing New Orleans a disservice
by keeping Yo-yo from them-
just imagine how his fling would help the Mardi Gras parade!