Monday, March 26, 2012

Powder Up!

With the approval of Chester-the-sun-loving-jester

I love fruit and vegetable powders, which, for those who do not know, are fruit or vegetables that are dried and then ground to a fine powder. If food is dried at a low enough temperature, it can still be considered raw, but even food dried at "higher" temperatures is still hardly cooked. It is incredibly, incredibly versatile. Does your bird really like toast and little else? Sprinkle a small bit of powder on the toast! Because the powder is so concentrated, even a tiny amount packs a powerful punch. It makes it extremely easy to add nutrients to anything, which is particularly important for birds that do not have a varied diet. For instance, if a parrot eats any plain cooked grain, or plain baked items, you can add the powder to them while you work on getting them to eat actual fruits and vegetables. You can get garbanzo bean flour, coconut flour, quinoa flour, etc, mix in some of the powder, an egg, and maybe some mashed banana or pumpkin and have a very healthy treat! It will be quite dense, though, so please, don't let your parrot get overweight!

I love making greens powder. I have a small dehydrator  and simply fill it up with whatever greens I have on hand, drying them at a very low temperature for around 30 hours ( I put it in one day and turn it off next, but usually it goes longer than 24, you want them really crisp) to preserve all the nutrients. Right now it is a mix of kale and collards; I remove the stems, as they stay hard and make crumbling the final product much more difficult! Besides, those are happily eaten raw, so nothing goes to waste.

If you do not have a dehydrator, you can dry greens without one. Many people dry them just with the air, and I have done this myself in the past. For a smaller amount it is a great way to go; I have so many birds now I just need to do huge batches! You can go fancy and get one of these, but you could also just get a large cookie sheet, lay the greens on that, and leave them somewhere safe such as on top of the fridge, until they are nice and dry. And yes, I am sure mold is possible, but I formerly lived in the very humid south (supposedly the mountains are better, although still the south) where chopped vegetables smelled in half an hour and steel often rusted in a couple of months.... and I have never seen moldy greens. Air drying has been used for who knows how long for various green foods (think bundles of herbs hanging form the rafters) so the odds are in your favor, at the very least. Why not try it and see? Once the greens are quite dry, I just take them out, and crumble by hand or with a small coffee grinder if I want a finer product. And there you have it, a very easy method to add greens to anything!

Some powder I also buy. Avian Organics, for one, has some lovely organic powders- blackberry, blueberry, carrot, and apple. Obviously, blackberries and blueberries have lots of antioxidants with not too much sugar, and carrots lots nutrition and vit. A (although much more sugar!) but her apple powder is also quite good, being made only with the peel of the apple, where most of the nutrition is. If your parrots are anything like mine, they eat the apple and leave the peel (same for anything, even fresh corn is peeled) which makes this powder quite useful!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


You can see his story here. I brought him to the new house since I could so easily keep him separate from all the others here, since I really really missed him. He was happy at my parents, but seemed as happy to be here as I was to have him. I am glad for that.

He died yesterday, March 17 at 4:20 in the afternoon. He started having seizures Thursday evening, which progressed to severe vertigo and vestibular issues. He only really wanted to be held by me the last couple of days, cupped in my hands as he was unable, too dizzy and weak, to sit up or balance on his own. On Friday I put two small toys with him which he did try to play with briefly with a little of his old spirit. He would give me some kisses when I was holding him, but by yesterday he was too tired for much of that. He was still sweet, still responded to me. I was holding him when he died. I had been holding him for a couple of hours. He was calmer, and in less pain than he had been. He seemed better and a bit stronger that afternoon, trying a bit pitifully to perch on my finger while leaning on my hand. I am glad, at least, for that.

I do not know when he was born. But he was at least eight. I think, in my poor human opinion, that he had a good life, at least after he came to me. It was his time to go, but he will be missed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Please and Thank You

With help from Linus

What qualifies as a well-behaved parrot is always going to vary from person to person. And how to achieve whatever your definition of a well-behaved parrot is will also vary widely. I am not going to get in to that fray in this post, after all, I intend this to be a short(ish) one. So instead, I will focus on a simple way to get a little closer to that goal.

And just a note, this post applies only to parrots that in general very much appreciate interacting with humans and will actively seek it out from you or another human. It does not apply to those that have not learned to love human companionship yet, and especially not to those that are distrustful of humans.

Whenever you go to interact in any way with your parrot, stop first and see what they are doing, ie, their behavior. If you want to encourage that behavior, such as playing alone, then go ahead and greet your parrot and continue with whatever you planned to do. More important than ignoring the bad is praising the good. Even for birds that have no glaring issues this is extremely important. How else will they know what you want? Even more than talking and doing tricks, a parrot that plays well on its own, is not overly loud, is friendly, and eats a varied diet is highly desired. So why just praise the talking and tricks? Praise the little stuff, since a parrot that does not wave on cue can still live in harmony with you, but a parrot that does not play? Not so much.

Going further, whenever I can, I will ask for a behavior before giving attention or food. In fact, many of you likely already do this by asking your parrot to step-up. Any time you request a simple behavior which they already can do before giving them what they want, ie attention, is a step in the right direction. Not only does this empower your parrot by allowing them the opportunity to shine (or not, if they choose), but it also gets both you and your parrot in the training mode. If you have a parrot that does not really like new toys, and you get them to beak a toy before picking them up, then the toy soon becomes associated with you and fun. Just as important, the idea that certain behaviors are rewarded is instilled at the same time, so if you choose several little things you can do throughout the day, your parrot will not only learn them, but also be on the lookout for new ones.

And last bit of advice on this subject? If you ask for said behavior (assuming they do indeed know the behavior), like step-up or as per my example beak the toy, and it is not given, you need to walk away. Really. Just walk away. I know you want to play with them, but you will send mixed messages by going ahead with that now. Once a behavior is asked for, if the request is refused, then giving in will weaken that request greatly. If you are consistent, you will very quickly find the only time you are refused is when your parrot genuinely does not want to play. And that means you now have two-way communication. In the words of that infamous ad campaign....... priceless.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Annual Spring Post

It is a beautiful day outside. Inside, I am suffering from something very much like the flu. Oh well. At the risk of revealing my cat-like tendencies, if you have to lie around, a sunny spot certainly is nice. Just ask Gwen. Not Kipper the cat though. Oddly enough, she rarely goes for the sunny spots.

I really love winter, not that we had one here this year. Despite my allergies, I also enjoy the coming of Spring- I think I just appreciate the world, period! I am terribly excited, though, because the nearby farm (beyond organic, they use absolutely nothing, no sprays, etc) I visit to get much of my food said that next week a whole bounty will begin coming in- a huge variety of greens and lettuces first, then radishes, broccoli, and the whole list. A nice change from the winter greens, squash, cabbage, and potatoes!

I cannot get the birds outside today, but they have gone out all winter (any nice day in the 50s and they are running for their carriers) and as soon as I feel better, I will get them out again. It is quite a marathon, though, I must admit, getting so many outside each day.

Instead of a real post, here are some pictures of early spring here. Forsythia, leaf buds (hard to see in the pics unless you click on them, but little yellow pompoms and red filigree), a bird's nest, grass, and the green fuzzies in the driveway.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I suppose you could say Clementine is fitting right in here in this house of opinion. Actually, she is pushing the limits, or just breaking them down, stirring us all up! Several of my parrots talk regularly in context, and while Frank may have the best mastery of the English language, he is by no means alone. My parrots and I have regular conversations, or at least commentaries, and while even mild Miss Claudia has adopted some of my sarcastic streak, we are all generally polite towards one another. Ok, yes, Chester does yell at the little birds more than absolutely necessary, but other than that, it is fairly friendly. Clementine, though, is more the "shake it up" type. I have yet to hear any of the foul language, trash talk, and insults I was told she knew, and for that I am very grateful, and happy since it implies, at least, she has yet to get angry enough for a screaming tirade. However, I do not appreciate the negative peer pressure she was putting on my Mom when I was busy elsewhere, asking her repeatedly if she wanted a cigarette. And I think she even has me beat with her bluntness. When I came into the room after my bath with my hair in a less than perfect wet hair mess I did not think it strictly necessary for her to ask me "What's with your hair??"

Claudia, quite frankly, was shocked.


Alasdair (English Shepherd) is feeling quite a lot better now after his rough start in his first home. He is starting to gain both weight and muscle mass, so I am hopeful he may actually get to a reasonable size. He is not a year old yet, and is certainly, finally, acting his age, ie, he gets into everything. His toys are everywhere his blankets are everywhere, and the play fighting has left many scars in my clothing- although he is finally responding somewhat to the training for that one. This morning he tried eating the bottle lid along with his pills. A couple of days ago he discovered a tennis ball inside the house (tennis balls are, in my opinion, outside toys only) and caused a very frantic minute that was quite like something out of one of those almost painful physical comedy sitcoms, as the ball, and the large blundering dog, bounced through the house in all the wrong places. I had no idea how much glass was in here, I guess I had just been seeing right through it all.

And here Alasdair had raided the bird area for what was intended to be a new play tube for Yo-yo and the rest of the Aussies. They love playing hide and seek with each other, but I have a feeling he was not invited.

I was soooo excited last week when I won a recipe contest held by Avian Organics- with the very generous prize being a $100 gift basket from them! Yay!!! My birds love their products, and I love that they are healthy and that I can safely be around them and feed them to my parrots- no peanuts, soy, or wheat, period. My recipe is now on their website, here, and I was thrilled to see Yo-yo's picture in their march newsletter. He is quite proud himself, too, I might add, if a little bashful at the idea. And in case anyone else has a recipe for the Avian Organics fruit powders, they are now offering a $25 store credit for any they choose to put on their website.

Now I just have to wait until it gets here!

I am so excited by the variety as well as the huge numbers of wildlife, particularly birds, that are quite well established here. Even more amazing, they are seemingly not at all afraid of people, I suppose it has been a long time since anyone has bothered them, or even lived here. I was thrilled one morning to see four flickers feeding right outside the french doors, although I only got a clear picture of one (the video will not load). Oh, and the seeming rubbish behind him is actually leftover building materials (wood and siding bits) holding down plastic tarps to hopefully kill the current plants and give me a bit of an area to garden in. I am leaving most of the yard natural, it already has some lovely grasses, wild flowers, and shrubs, and clearly is serving the "locals" well.