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.