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.