Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chester- the Good, the Bad, the Unknown

Awww, Chester on a good day. My little buddy!

Chester is my little buddy. So sweet, so empathetic, rather cautious but always eager to see what's up and hang out with me. On the other hand, sometimes Chester has bad days. Days were he does not wish to cooperative on any level, and should he actually decide to, say, step-up, you should put him down as soon as possible. From experience, I can safely say he will NOT be satisfied on your hand for much longer than 3.5 seconds. His Maori yell, as I call it, is usually used extensively during these days, most often accompanied by beak charging and/or banging. Sometimes these bad days last for weeks or even a month or two. Sometimes not. Hard to say.

I would like to point out, though, that both of my ekkies are extremely polite about biting. Chester screams, beak bangs, even beak bangs with his beak open, and occasionally does a quick dose of beak pressure, but I have only once, ONCE! ever been actually bitten. That would be the day Clementine came home. Clearly  he knew something was up, though he obviously had not been anyway near her at that point- and I have to wonder is he thinks he overreacted, since he is know friends with her. Anyway. Chester really amazes me with how polite he is. If he does not want you, he will lean so far back he hangs upside down from his perch, or fly off with such force and speed he inevitably rams into something (not good), but he just does not favor biting.

I am not complaining- who likes being bitten? As is only polite on my part, I do my best to avoid irritating him any further than he already is with..... well, whatever it is that irritates him during these times. This means during his bad days I may never pick him up (though I always give the option), instead I just offer the occasionally treat (sometimes even that he does not want) and open his cage door so he can come out to play on his cage if he so chooses. Talk to him, but not too close. Just let him be, and give him what I can.

When Chester is having a good day, he can be very sweet. Not to everyone, but to me and a few other select people he has learned over time to trust. After many weeks of not sweet, he has become sweet again this December. I am thinking of it as an early Christmas gift. So nice to have back my friendly feathered beaver! And as a last note, speaking of feathers: his improve each year- month by month there are ups and downs, but year by year they are better and better. He is quite green now, and I am still holding out hope for a fully green boy in the future, at least for part of the year. Already many of these pictures look fully green, since it his just his lower belly where down still shows. So he is what I call "Facebook fully-feathered." And that is better than nothing!

Chester: a bird with a mission.
To the top!

The view! Ah, the view!
Such a lovely place to fluff and relax.
My work is done.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dr. Guess-Who-Clementine!

Guess who you should not ask to help
with Christmas cards?

Clementine is doing very well, now a year since I adopted her. Her diet was about average when I got her, but she has slowly become a much better eater, not just with new foods but with new ways of preparing them and, therefore, new food textures. She no longer shuns mushy food, which has greatly increased her sweet potato, cooked mash, and squash intake! She was fairly well adjusted when I got her, and has remained so. Very rarely, or rather never, is she in a bad mood, and shows her age less than Lola and Miss Patty. Yes, she has some joint inflammation and a bit of plucking under one of her wings, but quite good really. All in all, Clementine is still just as fabulous as ever. My sanity, eh, not so much. Clementine is a talented mimic. Really talented. So talented, in fact, that she has become my resident household ghost.

In general, she leaves actual talking to the other parrots. No, Clementine specializes in those subtle noises that generally accompany having someone else in the house- distance voices that are incredibly realistic, cars driving up, doors creaking, even people walking around. She will do this if you are standing next to her, or if you are in the next room or upstairs, so she is certainly not a closet talker  She just has a deep appreciate for the subtle. One that might, in fact, drive me insane as I check the door for the 5th time thinking it is Gwen whining to come in. Or jump once again when she uses her most human of voices at a moment you are least expecting. I think she likes making me jump. She must. Because while I cannot fully describe why her ghost talking is so much more, well, rattling, than any of my other parrots- trust me, it is. And she practices a lot. So she is only getting better.

Really, what was wrong with a simple, loud and clear, hello? Or the telephone ringing? Or even the dogs barking,as Alasdair is doing outside in the above picture. Nice, loud, simple noises. Conversations like frank. Basic stuff.

Jokes aside, to (for once) be perfectly honest, Clementine's noises get very little reaction from me, hardly any, aside from the door checking, which rarely works any more. They do make me notice, but usually when I am not in the room, and only because of how good they are, rather than because I think robbers have actually broken into the basement- my dogs are way to bark happy to miss an event like that, it is all they live for, that and dinner anyway. And I do not think looking up from my knitting counts as enough of a reaction, either. So I think she has just developed a fascination with sounding as good as she can for her own interest, rather than mine. Although it does thoroughly confuse the occasional guest I get, which is very frustrating for them, not being as sedate as I am when it comes to odd noises from parrots. But then, I enjoy that quite a bit too, so I guess we are just both terrible.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

A little late.......

The chickens are grateful for the compost. 
Accidentally got them in this photo, but you have to look hard.
(lower middle-left, bits of white)
(ok, so they are hidden well- does not change their love for compost!)

If you visit, Kipperkites will steal your stuff 
(like the hat she is on) for her naps.
She will pretty much ignore you otherwise. 
Except to try and steal your food if she is awake.

The dogs can only nap after you leave, though.
They are always so excited to have new people.
You would think I just ignored them all the time,
for how excited they are over guests.
It leaves them exhausted when the guests depart.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Lean-n-Greens

So after those last two violin-music-ending-with-big-crescendo posts, I move on to the Ambassadors of Cuteness, the quakers. Alternately, they are my fighter pilots, but as they have been very polite lately I will let them be the former today. Frank even serenaded me with a lovely song while I cleaned his cage yesterday-although the lyrics were not entirely translatable being more like mumbling to music. Cute, though!

Miss Lola is doing pretty well. Yes, she is showing her age, but she has not lost her personality, just some of her energy and more of her feathers. Overall though she is doing well. Still adorable. And very protective of Frank. As you can see, she does not even like the paparazzi getting to him without her protection. Or possibly she just likes being in every shot, hard to say.

She is always happy to see me or anyone else, and comes to the front of the cage, or to the closest point on whatever cage top or gym she is on, to see you. Her favorite "game" has always been kissing and nodding. Which, for those of you perhaps not familiar with this, means you move your head exactly like a bobble doll, simultaneously turning it from side to side as well as making little kissing noises. And Miss Lola is exceedingly good at getting almost anyone to join her in this little dance. Possibly the attraction for her is that she makes a bunch of humans look really ridiculous. Again hard to say.

I have also been looking after my Mom's Nanday occasionally, which works out quite well since he is good friends with the quakers. He also considerably raises the volume in the room, even taking in to account the quakers normal raucous playing. But he is a sweet fellow, and only Chester really minds having him here to visit. But Chester is like that.

So overall, all is well with the South American parrots!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Linus is a new man! (er, parrot)

When I got Linus back several years ago, he had liver damage, his preen gland was malfunctioning, and he had started plucking. He also was extremely anxious. Since then, he has improved, thanks in no small part to his adopted mother Ava, but he still was a very anxious fellow. Rarely did he look relaxed- if ever I saw a parrot with an anxiety disorder, it was him. After Ava passed away this past Spring, I moved Linus into my bedroom, away from the other parrots. That helped, certainly, since I was with him a fair amount, he was in a very calm environment, but more importantly (as I did spend a lot of time with him in the bird room, too) he was with me when I was relaxing and/or sleeping, and relaxation is catchy. A bit like yawning, I suppose. But still he was extremely jumpy almost all the time.

(Just a note, this picture was not taken when he was upset-
that would not be the time to shove a camera in his face.
It does show how I often found him, though.)

This summer I did another round of herbal treatments for his liver, and this time, instead of just helping his liver, they also almost totally stopped the anxiety. Really,  about a two weeks in I noticed some improvement, and a week later it was very obvious to everyone. His panic attack moments are quite rare now, and he is now showing more of his personality, playing, eating better, and demanding attention! Instead of thrashing around when I put the food dish in (even though he has outside access doors and was in other ways semi-tame) he would just wait for me to finish, and dive in. No more slamming into the bars when the door to the room opened. And plenty of time spent relaxed, with his cheek feathers fluffed out, his crest at "half mast", and singing softly. Or loudly. He does love making noise. Seriously a lot of noise.

Now, when he is afraid of something, or wary, instead of becoming what can only be described as hysterical, he visibly makes a decision to abort, by leaning back, backing away slowly, or as a last resort flying off, or even occasionally stand his ground and hiss.

I am really amazed at his progress, up until now I just wondered if he would ever be relaxed and happy, let alone really tame. I suppose his amygdala (part of the brain that handles stress response) finally decided he was healthy enough to calm down! I have felt rather guilty about him for quite a long time, since he came back in fact; as it would be for any parrot caretaker, it was upsetting for me not to be able to help him more. I could rarely even take him to another room, or even outside in a carrier, something he did very much seem to enjoy, as he loves sitting in the sun. I really had to catch him on a very good day to do much with him. And living with that can be hard, you have to remind yourself often you are not a failure, and just keep trying everyday. While Linus might have seemed like a"difficult" parrot, much too hard for a first time caretaker, in actuality, anxiety aside, he was quite easy to tame and make friends with. That is why I say what you need most when taking on a rehome is patience and some good parrot books to help you through, not necessarily a degree in parrot wrangling. 

He is even brave enough to admit his well-loved 
cage cover is bright pink with monkey faces. 

And after all that, I now have a little buddy- happy, calm, and a (sometimes annoying) attention hog!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Miss Claudia with a bit less

Two things: one, don't worry, the white rope is much to big to choke her,
and Two, Claudia loves her platform from 
Things for Wings you see in the background! It has really helped her chronic foot issues.

When I adopted Miss Claudia she was fully feathered, and beautifully so. Since her case of asper 2 years ago, though, which started an intense bout of plucking, her plumage has taken quite a beating. At times she has had all of her feathers save for those on her neck, which she keeps bare, and at times she has been much closer to nude. Right now she is somewhere in the middle. it is a bit harder than, say, Chester, who goes through similar ups and downs (he is doing fairly well now, incidentally) as he started plucking long before I got him. Despite her current appearance, though, I really feel pretty good about Claudia right now, mostly because she seems to feel really good herself!

Claudia has never been very healthy, and was quite thin when I got her, having been force weaned and not in a home that noticed the problem, rather, they just assumed she was boring and stand-offish. Likely owing to those problems, while she is confident in many ways, she is also quite a fragile bird, so it takes quite a long time after an "incident" or illness to get her back on track: playing, foraging, exploring and flying- even eating enough on her own. So I admit I was always a bit worried she was a "good candidate", if there is such a thing, for plucking or feather destruction, and just hoped I could prevent it. Not that I thought about that too often, since a happy and healthy Claudia could easily be confused with a caique on growth hormones that fell in a paint pot. Seriously. Compare that to when she is not doing well, and just sits, or sits and begs, very little else. And with an apparently weak immune system, she can get sick rather easily.

This past Spring, she was doing pretty well, then this summer she took a down turn, and late summer starting plucking again. However, I think the plucking may have stopped again now, or at least very much slowed, but more importantly, she is eating well, everything and a lot of it, and is playful, friendly, game for just about anything, and back to her toy-destructive self. So I am thrilled!

One of the ways I encourage her to get back to playing is through foraging. I know she likes simple chippable items and things easily shredded, at least when she is in the mood to play. Right now, I could hang a toy on the moon and she would fly up there just to show it who is boss. When she is not interested, though, I make sure all of her toys are as enticing as I can, and place them almost in her way by her favorite perching spots. I also make sure all of them have a way to hide or place treats in/on them. Once she is reliably getting the treats, I starting hiding them in the toys more thoroughly, making them harder to reach. Eventually, as is the case now, she remembers how much fun destroying a toy "just because" is, and will go to town destroying them, even dropping some of the treat in the process. In fact, just taking out one of the treat containers is enough to get her to go to her toys and start destroying. And as anyone with parrots can tell you, very little is as satisfactory as coming into the room to find piles of wood chips and shreds of toys lining the cage bottom!

Currently, Claudia's favorite toy, for foraging and otherwise, is this coconut head by Planet Pleasures. You can slip nuts in the holes the ropes come out of, although by now several of the holes have no ropes in them, or even coconut fiber around them to dig through. Pretty soon, there will be nothing but a shell left!

Oh, and just to note, I did finish my to-do list from the other day! Yay!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why, hello, how are you?

Sometimes it is good to take a break, I am not sure why this is so, but it is. At least for me anyway. I am happy to see that this blog is still getting plenty of traffic, despite my absence, and I like to think it is helping someone with their parrot-related problem! I am doing better and better in my new house, health-wise and in general, a little over a year since I moved here and finally got a place that was "safe" MCS-wise for me. The parrots are likewise doing well, with any luck updates will follow, as are the dogs and cat. Also the four chickens I got last spring, that may or may not have been posted about on here before. I got them because I love chickens, and because I wanted a source of really good eggs, but it turns out if you name your chickens and give them the run of the yard to do as they please all day, they will come when you call and enjoy being petted and held, but will not be overly eager to start laying eggs. I remain hopeful.

Since I was sick this past week with a fever (with some virus I must have contracted from the mail man, since I had not seen anyone else, rather irritating) I decided this morning, as I was feeling much better, to make myself and the birds some pancakes. I love dense cakes/breads, filled with fruit or veggies and spices, and pancakes are no different, so these had chopped apple, grated carrot, oatmeal, raisins and pumpkin seeds added to the regular batter, along with a touch of clove, nutmeg and ginger. They were delicious, in my opinion anyway, a fact with which the birds mostly definitely concur! There are no pictures to prove this, however, since it was very early in the morning and as I am not a dedicated photographer like Natacha, I was not getting the camera out. Sad but true- my tea was calling, not my camera.

So now I am off to get back to work knitting for an upcoming art fair, and hopefully to finish my list of to-dos for the day: washing Gwen, re-doing Clementine's cage with fresh perches, and making up a new batch of dry mix, as well as mash for the next several days. Including the knitting that must be done, there is only a 70% chance I will finish this list. So I need to get going!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Clean Up!

The EWG has released their Toxic Cleaners Hall of Fame list, which I thought worth posting here. I suppose to some it can seem as though you should not use anything around your parrot, but really, you should just not use anything that is toxic to both of you. And yes, that does still leave an awful lot you can use!

Go HERE for the list, with info on a variety of cleaners, laundry detergents, and air fresheners.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Foraging Bite

Today's work! The dry mix foraging bundles for the week. Brown thick paper for the big birds, brown tissue paper for the tiels, and white paper for the quakers. They are all filled withe appropriate amount and mix of my dry stuff- grain mix, big birds dry mix, seeds, nuts, etc. Just put one somewhere in the cage, and it is not only an "instant" meal but great foraging.

As you can see, I start with a rectangular piece of paper, (although this one was a bit too fat and not quite long enough to be optimum).....

then fold in the two long sides, before twisting the ends tightly around......

and wrapping them to one side and loosely knotting.


Foraging with fresh food is a bit harder, but it does not need to be. For example, why not get several of these mugs from My Safe Bird Store.

(Go HERE for the mugs)

or for large parrots/those not safe with plastic, these mini stainless steel pails from The Bird Safe Store.
(Go HERE for pails)

Distribute your fresh food, be it mash or whatever, among the mungs, and hang them, just alone by themselves with a hook on the handle, around the cage. Easy! Fill 3, 4, 5, however many, and just hang wherever, from the middle of the top bars, on the side bars, from a toy, top to bottom, all over. Start slow, and keep moving them to harder places to reach. Trust me, your parrots will figure it out, they do not need everything handed to them! It may take encouragement in the beginning, but it will be wonderful when they get the hang of it, just like we feel better after we take control of our own life and start doing things more for ourselves, moving around, exploring. And climbing all over for each little bit, hanging upside down, going to the cage bottom, that is all foraging, not to mention a bit of exercise. Plus, it is really not any harder than dishing the food all in to one or two dishes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Every now and then something out of the ordinary happens here. Actually, out of the ordinary happens all the time as I am not sure exactly what "ordinary" should be, so I have no idea why I said that. Still, one thing I certainly was not expecting yesterday was to find a tiny baby skink in Claudia's cage. No pictures, as those little guys scurry fast and he would have been long gone by the time I got the camera. This little fellow was only about an inch long, very adorable, and apparently no bother to Claudia. Should there be any budding ant issue on the horizon, I have a feeling he will not only be the first to notice it, but he may also make sure he is the last to notice- by eating them all before the rest of us see them. I briefly considered what negative side affects there could be from having a skink running around the floor of the bird room, and not coming up with anything immediate, combined with the fact he was very small and who knows where just a few seconds after I saw him, I decided not to worry about it.

I borrowed this picture from online here. Gorgeous fellows there are, five-lined skink. Just picture this guy, but all tiny!

Friday, July 6, 2012


Oh, to be back! Been a while. I lost internet about 2 weeks ago after a severe sudden thunderstorm (ever been caught covered in soap mid-shower during a thunderstorm? Awkward. Definitely.) And then on Friday I lost power after those severe storms. Thankfully most of the food I eat is not overly perishable (fresh vegetables and fruits) and the neighbors, while a good hike away, have a generator so I could get water. The parrot room is on the first floor/basement (split level house) so that stayed cooler, and I covered the large front windows with quilts. Needless to say, they were not too happy about the seemingly endless solar eclipse. The strong winds did blow down tons of pine cones along with trees, though, so they did get to have, and are still having, a real pine cone fiesta! Little bits of pine cone everywhere, they do make great toys. These had little pine nuts in them, too, for an extra treat.

So for several days the parrots had nothing but their dry mix and some cut up apple and squash. Thankfully, my freezer was so full of the parrot food I recently made, plus some frozen bottles of water I leave to help it work less, that that food was still ok even after several days, unlike that in the fridge. Again needless to say, they were really very bored with dry mix by today, so I made up their fresh mash, slightly leaner on the veggie side after spoilage, granted, but still good, as well as some delicious spice/fruit pone.

Appetizing, right? Better than it looks, I think. My mash base, with shredded summer squash, shredded yellow beet, and mashed sweet potato, plus powdered greens, flax meal, and a bit of powdered hibiscus for some added flavor, and a tablespoon or so of applesauce to help it stick together.

Basic bird bread, made like corn pone. I started with the water from cooking the sweet potato- I steam/boil them with just 1" water in the bottom of the pot, some bottom layer boiled, the rest steamed. Then I mixed that with some blueberry juice, a bit of red palm oil to prevent sticking, clove and ginger, and blackberry and apple powder. I mixed that with some oatmeal and sorghum flour, and was good to go!

I have not been totally lazy in my absence from the blog even before the internet went out, though. I finally got my business up and running online, yay! A new website as well as Etsy store. I also got my first custom order, and it was one I was not expecting at all, certainly not this early on, but one which I was thrilled to receive- female Black Capped Vireo on a pink baby blanket. After all, I love a good challenge, and making a female Black Capped Vireo certainly qualifies as such. I am thrilled with the way it turned out, true to size, with some shin oak leaves I added on as that is what Black Capped Vireos most often nest in.

And as further excitement, the millions of wild blackberries really started ripening, so both the parrots and myself have been enjoying them no end! My parrots are pretty good eaters, but I find that even with parrots I could normally never entice to eat a frozen or fresh store bought blackberry will go crazy for fresh picked. The same seems to be true for so many foods. Parrots, I think, are natural born foodies. Granted, some will be stubborn even if you let them pick the food themselves, but for one that will eat something besides seeds or pellets, often having something really fresh, maybe even still dripping after you wash it, can really change their minds. Another plug for growing it yourself! And for parrots, you could grow a single plant in a pot in the windowsill, since they really do not eat that much, obviously.

So now, I am off to the internet to get caught up on all the happenings!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Operation Mash in the Details

Since Suzanne asked several very good questions in a comment on my last post, so I decided just to answer them here!

Her comment:
"I have never made mash before so I have a few questions...
How much water to mash mix do you use when cooking?
About how long should it cook for?
How much mash do you feed the birds a day? My smallest bird is a green cheek Conure, my largest is a Green wing Macaw.
Do you feed any pellet or seed or does the mash replace all of that?"

I do not measure the water for my mash anymore. Since I soak everything first, it takes much less water than is recommended on the package. By now, I just have a feel for how much water I need, covering the legume/grain mix by about 1-1.5" of water. The first time you cook it, start there, but monitor it and add more as needed. Bring the mixture to a boil, and keep it at a steady simmer until done. I bring it to a boil with the lid on, of course, and cook it with the lid cracked. If near the end it has a lot of water, I may take the lid off and bring it to a boil to get rid of the water. On the other hand, if it seems hard near the end, I may put the lid on fully to steam it a bit more. If you seem to have a lot of extra water when you are near done, you can try boiling it off, which will get rid of some of the water, although will give you a slightly mushier texture- which many birds prefer, anyway! Never worry about having too much water, since you can always strain the extra as you would pasta. I have done that in the past, works very well, so if you are nervous about it, take that route.

Cooking Time
I would say that mine is done in about 40 minutes, but I do not time it. I check after about 25-30 minutes, to know how close I am and when to add the quinoa. Test the largest legume you have, which in my case is chickpeas. They are done when they still have texture, but smash easily and are no longer white in the center, but light tan. Try smashing one after 10-15 minutes of cooking time if you want a comparison. They can take extra cooking, although I would not feed any under-cooked legumes, so if you are unsure, err on the side of caution and give it a few more minutes.

Amount to Feed
The amount to feed will vary not just depending on size but also your individual bird's activity level. My ekkies get about a 1/4 cup at a meal, while Linus, my single tiel, gets about 1.5 teaspoons. Feed a bit more than you think they will eat, and see how much is left at the end of the day, including that which is tossed. Gradually decrease (or increase, if needed) until you are feeding a few small crumbles more than they will eat. This way, you are not wasting any, and you know they are getting as much as they need. As a bonus, this puts more value on the food, so far less is tossed, and you know they are getting all that you are feeding, and not just picking out some of it.

What Else is Fed
I feed mash as one meal a day, although you can certainly feed it as both meals. Since mine is just one meal, the other meal is dry mix, fresh foods, and perhaps some special treats like birdie bread, etc. If your parrots are picky about the mash, try putting the whole thing, veggies as well as legume/grain base in the food processor until it is quite fine.

Anything that can grow a plant is a seed. This includes grains, legumes, things like sunflower, safflower, canary seed, and nuts. Yes, all of those are seeds, and not all are that high in fat. So actually, the grain/legume base could count as part of a "seed mix".I personally would never knock fattier seeds out of the diet completely. If you feed mash twice a day, they would already be getting the grain portion of seed mixes, but all parrots, just like people, still benefit from the nutrients in things like human-grade sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, canary seeds, nuts, and so on. How much of those you offer as treats will depend both on species and an individual parrot's needs. Since I feed mash once a day, I have a basic grain/seed mix, and a larger grain/seed/dried fruit/veggie mix. The cockatiels get more dry mix than the ekkies, who get very little. I leave sunflower seeds, hemp seed, nuts, etc, separate, and feed those as treats or in foraging toys, so I can more easily monitor how much each parrot gets.

I do not feed pellets to my parrots. There, I said it! I found through personal experience that my particular parrots, though they improved initially with pellets as part of the diet, do far better getting a very nutritious whole food diet. If you are unable to prepare, or your parrot will not eat, a good diet, I say include pellets, by all means. Keep in mind, though, that if you do not include pellets, it is a good idea to give a *small* amount of egg every week as a B12 boost (modern soil is often depleted of nutrients even in organics, so any B12 is very minimal), and you need to be able to get them outside for Vit. D. Vitamin D is stored in the liver for 20-30 days, so you do have some lee-way on how often they get out during cooler months. Try to get them out as much as possible whenever you can. There are also supplements with Vit D for parrots you could try during the winter, but do not go overboard. Here is another post you might be interested in, along with those two I just linked to, about pellets and vitamins.

Hope that helps, and feel free to ask any more questions you may have! I also highly recommend you check out the Feeding Feathers yahoo group for more information (read the files) as much of my mash is based on that, with a few changes.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Operation Mash

Today, folks. Today is the day. The day to make my bird mash base. It takes preparation. It takes stamina. It takes a tolerance of hot, humid conditions in the kitchen. It takes planning. And it will make your kitchen look like a disaster area.

Also, it gives me several months worth of cooked grain/legume mash base, so I can just take a container out of the freezer, add all the fresh produce I have, any supplements, and go! I consider it worth it, most definitely.

17 quarts from this batch!

I was inspired this time to get some pictures for you. Not the best, but my camera has an issue with randomly deciding it is out of battery, even when it is not, and today was one of those days. So not the best pictures. And no, there are no pictures of the whole disaster area. Sorry, but I do not want a picture of my cute little *clean* kitchen preserved on the internet as a terrible mess. Just picture pots and mixing bowls full of water, grains, and legumes all over, with strainers and spoons, other MASSIVE bowls to mix the cooked mash in, water spilled everywhere, rebel amaranth coating every surface, and one large boiling dutch oven. Yep, that about covers it.

Just a small sampling of some of the mix, pre-cooking.

A plus of mash base making day? The house smells soooo good! I love the smell, fresh, earthy, the quinoa a bit spicy almost. And if you add oat groats, it is just taken to the next level. Seriously. Oat groats smell so good cooking, sweet and yummy, liked baked goods! If you like your house to smell like "Fresh Waterfall at Sundown 32 Degrees from the Equator Exactly 20 Minutes after a Rain Storm" or "Cucumber Dancing the Tango with Hybrid Melon while Rose and Lavender look on Jealously" you might not be impressed. But I personally think it smells wonderful. Unless you burn it. Then not so much.

Also, please do not get discouraged by the massive size of this undertaking for me. I have many parrots, I like to make a lot at once. For those of you with fewer parrots, you can make considerably less and still have a couple months worth.

Quinoa and Amaranth soaking. I assure you the foam is 
perfectly normal and not a result of strange bad grains. 

The ingredients:
- amaranth                                                        
- quinoa
- kamut
- barley (hull-less, not pearled)
- black rice
- long grain brown rice

- mung beans
- split peas
- garbanzo beans
- lentils

-However it looks in the pictures, I can assure you that there are not, in fact, more legumes than grains. Actually, excluding the quinoa and amaranth, there is a 2 parts grains to one part legumes (so 1 cup legumes to every 2 cups grains); I do not include the quinoa and amaranth in my measurements, since they have all the amino acids.
- I really cannot remember specific amounts of each grain and legume, except that I use very very little rice, since it is so starchy and not as healthy. In fact, I rarely use brown rice in my mash.
- I always include a bit of black rice in my mash, though it is still starchy. As you should know from the press blueberries and blackberries receive, that dark purple/black colour is an indication of the very, very high levels of antioxidants it contains. I love purple corn, black quinoa, black rice, etc, for this reason.
- Notice I have a very short list of legumes. I stick to the most digestible legumes: mung beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, peas, and adzuki beans. These contain the fewest anti-nutrient toxins and are the safest to use.
- You can use any grains you like and that you have on hand. I mix it up every time, although never any wheat berries, since Chester is allergic to them. He seems to do fine with things like Barley and Kamut (gluten containing, closely related to wheat), no noticeable difference in the times he gets those and when I have made gluten-free mash. Many parrots, however, are fine with wheatberries, as are the rest of mine.

The soaking water from black rice can be rather alarming
the first time you see it. However, it is normal.

- The night before I plan to cook my base, or the morning before, I measure out all my grains and legumes and put them to soak in as much water as I can fit in the container with them- which should explain my references to bowls, pots, and water above. Basically, I am getting them to start sprouting, and in the process, release many of their anti-nutrients and toxins into the water. Before cooking, I strain them and rinse very, very well with clean water.
- Owing to the industrial scale at which I make my mash, I take an equal measure from each bowl or pot, rinse, and cook it in batches in my (cheery yellow!) dutch oven. I first put all grains and legumes save for the quinoa and amaranth. Once the other grains and legumes are mostly cooked, I add the quinoa and amaranth.  They normally take very little time to cook, and take just a few minutes after sprouting.
- A benefit of soaking: everything takes very little time to cook, even the garbanzo beans, and needs far less water! Saves energy, time, and pot space, three very important benefits in this endeavor.
- Once each pot is cooked, I empty it into one of my super huge massive mixing bowls and add the next batch to the pot to cook.
- Once the cooked mash has cooled some, I packaged it in quart freezer containers.

After cooking

To Use:
- Each quart container lasts me from 5 days to a week.
- I take a quart container out of the freezer when I have about a day left of my current mash, so it can defrost in the fridge.
- Once defrosted, I mix the grain/legume base with an equal or slightly greater amount of chopped or minced (depending on preference) fresh produce. I do not include fruit, as any fruit is served separately. I always include one or two types of dark leafy greens, often my greens powder, something dark orange like sweet potato or squash, and whatever else fresh produce is in season/I have. I change the type of produce around each week, so while each mash does not have a huge variety, they do get variety in their diet as a whole over time.
- I also add some Omega 3 source, such as hemp or flax oil, or flax meal. Other supplements may include various spices, some form of sea vegetation like kelp, alfalfa powder, etc. I never include other supplements (vitamins, etc) unless needed, and then I just add the correct dose to each bird's dish. Even with the kelp, alfalfa I use sparingly, as a little goes a  very long way.

Please Remember!
While this diet is based on the quite large amount of research I have done, it is also based on what I have found to work for my parrots, my specific parrots' special needs, and I suppose what you could call my (educated) opinion- since that is all there really is in regards to parrot diets, anyway.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

If you have questions about behavior problems.....

You might want to ask Lara Joseph! I really love the post she did today helping out a woman that wrote her about her trouble with her young macaw. Anyone that has even glanced at any of my other posts knows that I could go on and on and on and on for ages about behavior and training. I know you just read that sentence and  changed the word "behavior" to "absolutely anything in the world" but that is not true! Besides which, I am talking about behavior now, and will not be going on and on, since I think Lara said it all perfectly. And if you have a parrot, or are thinking about getting a parrot, or have had multiple parrots for many many years, I highly recommend you head over to Lara's blog and read not just today's incredible post, but also the rest of her blog!

And just in case you somehow missed all the links I peppered that short paragraph with, I will give you one more chance to get there-

Sunday, May 27, 2012

One-line Problems? So Passe

I am sure everyone has heard about the dreaded hormones with parrots. Most of you will even have researched about the dreaded hormone issue. Many of you have likely personally experienced the dreaded hormone issue. The question is, should any "angry", "antsy", "annoying" or "not-my-sweet-little-cuddle-bunches-darling-prince-sparkles-love-of-my-life" behavior automatically be considered hormones?

Firstly, branding behavior as hormones can be just as much a problem as branding behavior, as, oh say, just a broken parrot. Why? Because once a behavior is branded (i.e, one-lined), it is often considered consciously or not to be solved, when there may actually be both a reason for the behavior and something that can be done about it.- although that will usually involve changing your own behavior, so consider yourself forewarned.

Take this as an example:
Let's say you got an adorable male amazon, perhaps even an adorable double yellow headed male amazon as a baby. You have had him for a of couple years, and little Joe is now becoming a mature parrot, about the age hormones can start to be a problem. One day he bites you, totally out of the blue, and is no longer very cooperative about getting out of his cage. He starts yelling a lot soon after, and tearing around his cage like a madman (or bird) so you know at this point that the problem is hormones, so famously a problem in the "hot three" amazon males, and you will have to give him lots of toys and wait it out, being patient with him, moderating his daylight hours, etc., right?

Well how about another look at this story:
Since you brought Joe home as an adorable little baby, he has let you do anything with him. You never really trained him to step-up, and always just reached in and stuck you hand under his feet whenever you wanted to get him out; you used the same method to move him from any area to another. Joe is a sweet guy, and seems to love doing just about anything. Occasionally he is not quite as willing as other times, but you know he loves being with you as much as you love being with him, so you get him to do whatever you want anyway- like get out of his cage when he is busy playing, because you want to take him in the shower with you.

Everything is going so well, and you so adore little Joe, that as the years go by, you do not notice the subtle signals Joe is giving you that he would rather not be [essentially] forced to mold his schedule to yours, or that he might rather finish playing before coming out, or perhaps is tired of having most or all of his choices made for him- which is something most humans dislike, as well. First he just leans back when you go to pick him up, or grips his perch more, then he tries moving away from your hand, looking away from your hand, trying everything he can to tell you politely that he is not interested, perhaps even "play attacking" your hand. You mean well, that is quite true, and Joe I am sure knows this, but he cannot seem to get through to you that he would like a two-way relationship!

Joe finally reaches the point that he is so irritated with you that he bites your hand as he sees it coming in to get him again. And this time, you respond! You take your hand out, and go away! Yay! Joe is so happy to have a communication method now, and knows that biting will work although nothing else does. So he starts biting to communicate his messages, and you needless to say are not able to get him out of the cage very often. Being in the cage more, however, is no fun, so Joe gets "cage fever" and starts screaming more, and seems so antsy inside his cage, tired of the same little box.

The Point?
This example is made up, but actually fairly common. Yes, it is full of behavior branding, but that is to get the point across- very difficult to tell a story from the parrot's hypothetical point of view without it! Not all parrots will become raging balls of hormones when they mature. But pretty much, they will all change. Joe may or may not become a raging ball of hormones at some point, but in this story, he is not so much hormonal as he is simply an adult trying to state his rights and decide on his place in the world.

From a behavior standpoint, even with what you are sure are hormones (like a female laying eggs and building nests, or a male feeding everything) you need to resist the urge to brand the behavior. Look at the behavior as you would any other, as there are often still things you can do to make life easier and more pleasant for all. Formal training of some kind will always help. It redirects their attention to something else, something rewarding, and allows you to interact with them in a safe way- you can even train parrots that are not safe to let out of the cage. Things like target training, or taking an object and dropping it in a bucket, etc, are all trainable with bars in between you and your parrot.

Most importantly, while every one needs to be aware of how hormones can affect your parrot, and therefore your life, and aware of the fact that all parrots will change in some way as they become an adult, you should not let that knowledge prevent you from finding solutions to the problem currently at hand.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sunny day, chasing the clouds away...........

 Give them a bath if it is hot, even on humid days it is quite cooling.
Trust me, I am from the humid south. It is. However, if you 
see any signs of discomfort, get them inside immediately!! 

Getting outside is important for parrots- they really need the Vit. D. In fact, for some species like African Greys, getting outside regularly can be the difference between seizures and all the trouble with calcium deficiencies, and a happy, healthy parrot. Vit D plays an integral role in healthy body functioning; you need vit D. to properly absorb calcium (so not enough vit. D means not enough calcium), which affects magnesium, and phosphorous, etc. etc. Vit. D is also is an important hormone, which helps boost your mood and do all the wonderful things those happy hormones do. Further, as it naturally is not good for bacteria and other nasties, it can help external skin issues. If you do not have enough vit. D, you cannot expect a healthy, happy, stable parrot. In basic layman's terms, sunshine is even better than it feels!

Clementine, your thoughts?

Wait......... ugh....
 just a minute........
 getting .... umm......this..... feather......

You can get vit. D from pellets and other fortified foods, but there is some debate over how well the body can use those synthetic sources; personally, I think you need some form of Vit. D, but the best form, if you can get it, is naturally from the sun. As someone that does not feed pellets, I make sure to get my parrots outside year round. In the winter, this is not overly often, but since I am in the south, there are usually a few days a month when the weather is in the upper 40s/50s, sunny and not really windy so they can go out. They rest of the year I try to get them out all the time, several times a week if possible. Vit. D can be stored in the liver for 20-30 days, so there is some leeway on this.

Claudia says:

What do you think? Should I peroxide???

Yes, I do hope to have an aviary soon, but up until now, I have done this just like most folks have to: with carriers and harnesses. If your parrot is not harness trained, no worries, a carrier is fine. If your parrot will not go in a carrier, you have a huge problem, one that would need a post of its own, and you need to address that problem. What if there was an emergency, not to mention vet visits; all parrots should accept carriers with little fuss, and it is not that hard to train should you have a phobic one; Barbara Heidenrich has a lot of advice on this.

Chester says:

Ummmm..., nah, I like the red.

Lastly, a warning- NEVER take a parrot outside unless in a safe and secure carrier or in a proper harness; falconers use jesses, those are not safe with parrots!!! Even well clipped birds, can, will, and have gotten away; all it takes is one good bit of wind, and they can be surprised in to taking off, and once off, as they are unable to fly, they will be unable to come back to you.


I don't know why I like this picture.......
must be all the shades of green!

So make some time, get a carrier, and get out in the sun! Good for you as well, and with some good reading material and a nice drink (I like lemonade and ice tea, what 'bout you?) what could be better? Just watch for hawks!