Thursday, October 12, 2017

It's Pumpkin Season!

Pumpkins and pumpkin seeds are truly a superfood.  High in vitamin A, providing calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and other wonderful healthy nutrients, makes them a winner for your parrot's diet.

Check your grocery store or local farmers market for the smaller edible pumpkins as a whole foraging food for larger birds.  Bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes if your bird prefers cooked softer foods, and after completely cooling, let your bird's fun begin.  You can also cut the top off and remove all the pumpkin seeds (use the seeds later) for less mess if you prefer.

Larger pumpkins can be cut open, seeds removed, baked for about 45 minutes, then cut into smaller sizes and placed in freezer bags for lots of future foraging fun.  You may also cut the pumpkin into chunks before baking as well.

The pumpkin pieces or chunks can also be smashed in a food processor or blender and added to your favorite bird bread recipe or added to your bird's chop.

Pumpkins seeds can be prepared by rinsing well to remove the stringy gooey pumpkin pulp, pat the seeds dry with a paper towel, or spread seeds on the towel or paper plate and air dry.  Then place the pumpkin seeds on a large cookie sheet or cake pan (REMEMBER: DO NOT US NON-STICK PANS THAT MIGHT CONTAIN TEFLON).  You can lightly spray the cookie sheet or pan first with some non-stick cooking spray to help keep the seeds from sticking to the pan.  Preheat your oven to 250-300 degrees and bake the seeds for about 40 minutes.  Ovens can vary so keep on eye on the seeds to be sure they do not burn.  It helps to stir the seeds around about every 10 minutes as well to prevent sticking.  

You can serve the seeds to your bird as soon as they have cooled, as well as placing some or all in freezer bags or containers and freeze for later use.  Pumpkin seeds make great nutritional treats all by themselves.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Spicy Scents of Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year.  The rich colors of the trees and the spicy scent of the air.

I love bringing the outdoor crisp smells into my own home.  However living with birds makes me choose safety first.

Scented candles, potpourri, scented pine cones, table top and plug-in air fresheners, and so on and so on, all make a quick easy addition to the scent of fall in your home.


Those store bought goodies are not usually good for or safe to have around your bird.  Many of these ready-make items use some essential oils and these can be toxic to your bird.

Don't fret though, because it's so easy to make your own personal fall fragrances that are safe for your birds, other pets, or anyone with breathing issues or asthma.

It doesn't take much time either and can be quite fun to create what makes you smile in the morning.  Gather together some fresh or bottled spices and let your imagination swirl.

Standard fall spices include ground cinnamon or cinnamon sticks, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, and nutmeg.  Those make a good base to start with, then add anything your heart enjoys such as orange slices, lemon slices, or apples, and such.
When you have the right mix, use a small warming pot such as used for potpourri, or even a small size coffee pot that has a warm setting, or even just a small size sauce pot (NO TEFLON), add some water to your mixture and enjoy.  NOTE:  Never leave your warming pot unattended and especially a pot on the stove to prevent burning and safety issues.

As the liquid mix of water, spices and fruits warm, they emit the cozy feeling of fall that can last for hours or all day depending on how strong your scents are and how long you leave the warmer on.

Another quick idea is to create an arrangement by inserting cloves into oranges, sprinkle pine cones with spices, add cinnamon sticks, and set among fresh cut pine branches.

Enjoy experimenting with the different scents and amounts you like, and find what you love best.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Being Ready for any Emergency

I wasn't going to do another post right now about weather preparedness, but as hurricane season bears down on so many people, can we really be reminded too often?

Several times a year it is good to do a quick checkup of your emergency carriers or travel cages to be sure they are clean and ready to go.  Don't forget to rotate emergency supplies you have stored in your evacuation carriers/cages as needed so no expiration dates get too close.  Keeping a list of emergency supplies inside your carrier makes it easy to make sure everything is ready.

Setting calendar reminders to include checkups throughout the year works great for many of us.  A minimum of twice a year probably works for some.  If you don't have a way to remind yourself conveniently, then make it a habit when the time changes and you reset your clocks and change those smoke detector batteries, check and evaluate your emergency bird supplies at the same time.

For more information on what to include in your emergency kit, please check out our web site at the link below.

Emergency Preparedness

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What is a Pin Feather?

We call them "pin" feathers because they look like tiny spiky pins (especially when on the head) on our birds.  Baby birds have loads of them, but even an adult bird who is going through a heavy molt can have that spiky look too.

Pin feathers are simply new feathers coming in.  Pin feathers have a sheath of keratin surrounding them which helps support and protect the new feather as it grows.  Depending on the type of feathers growing, they can be quite sensitive sometimes and your bird may not want you to touch them when they are first coming in.  If they are a new wing or tail feather, they are often referred to as blood feathers, and they are usually the most tender when first coming in.  They do have a blood supply which nourishes the feather as it grows and if accidentally broken or damaged, your bird may bleed profusely, so you always want to take and help your bird protect these larger incoming feathers.  Once the feather begins to grow out and mature, the blood supply will begin to recede and when the feather is fully formed, the tenderness is also gone.

Many birds enjoy you gently rubbing pin feathers on the head and cheek area to help them remove the feather sheath so the feather can open completely.  Warm baths also sometimes help the feather sheaths soften and come off more easily.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

It is all about the Beak!

Parrot Beaks can be small or large, dark or light, or even yellow or orange

A parrot's beak is a very fascinating part of what makes a parrot a parrot.  Parrots use their beaks to help them climb, to open the smallest seeds, or the hardest nuts, to preen their feathers, to clean their toes, to feed their mates, to feed their own baby parrots, to give their humans gentle kisses, and of course to nip or bite at something they fear or something that simply makes them irritated.

When climbing a beak almost becomes a parrot's third foot as they can use their powerful beak to hoist themselves up to their play gyms and cages, or even to just hang by their beak as they swing from their toys.  Have you ever watched a parrot climb a ladder?  The beak makes climbing around so much easier for them.  They often use their beaks to help steady the finger or hand that reaches out to them as the first part of stepping up.  

Those powerful beaks can be used to gently open the smallest seed to get at the wonderful nutrition inside.  Ever watched a parrot close up picking up a seed, moving it around with their foot and their beak to get it situated in just the right spot for opening? Then using the foot, beak, and tongue, in unison they pry open the hull for the goodness inside.  Or, just watch one of the big parrots rotating a big walnut to just the right place before cracking that hard nut as if it were made of the thinnest of shells.  Then picking out the meat of the walnut with the tips of their beaks to make sure every little nugget of nutmeat is devoured.

Watch closely as your bird preens its feathers using the beak as a precision tool made for preening.  Taking each feather with great care and running it through the beak removing all dust and debris for perfect feather condition.  No matter if it is the tiny downy feathers that must be gingerly removed or the longest of the long tail feathers, that beak is the perfect tool for parrot preening and sharing the job with another feathered friend can be great fun too. 

If you have ever been lucky enough to watch parrot parents feeding their young, it is the most touching of all.  Although the parent beaks are huge compared to the tiny little babies, they are able to deliver food to their babies with the greatest of ease with no harm at all to the babies.  The parents also use their beaks to gently nudge the babies into the perfect position under their adult feathers to keep them as warm as needed.  To watch the gentleness of an adult parrot with its young is wondrous indeed.

But you may ask, what is this remarkable parrot beak made of?  A beak consists of keratin which is the same material an animal's antlers are made of as well as your own fingernails.  Just like your fingernails, a parrot's beak is continually growing.  However, unlike a fingernail, a bird's beak also contains blood vessels and nerve endings. 

Therefore a bird's beak is very sensitive to touch and also to
injury.  Some birds love to have their beaks gently rubbed by their favorite person, and some tend to be beak shy because the beak is so sensitive.  A parrot's beak continues to grow all throughout a bird's life and in nature, birds are busy wearing the extra growth down with natural tree branches and foraging for their food.  If you have a pet bird, you need to provide lots of wooden toys of different textures, both soft and hard wood, and possibly other materials, to help prevent overgrowth of the beak.  So you see that wooden bird toy your bird buzz saws through, is as much a necessity for your parrot as any nutritious foods you provide for a healthy bird.  Bird beaks can be gently filed down if needed, but should only be shaped or trimmed by someone who knows what they are doing as the beak can be damaged permanently by inexperienced groomers.  Beaks should never be cut by anyone other than a vet or experienced bird groomer as excessive bleeding can occur if cut too short.  

If your bird's beak overgrows even with lots of toys and chew items, you may need to have your bird checked thoroughly by your avian vet to be sure there is not a health reason for the overgrowth.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Keep your Friends Safe this 4th of July

Upcoming 4th of July Independence Day celebrations can be exciting, fun, and filled with activities.  Don't forget though your feathered and furred friends who may not love all the people and sounds of the celebration.  The pops and bangs of fireworks can be quite unnerving to some of our furred and feathered friends.

The booming sounds of neighborhood fireworks make some of my birds nervous.  The Cockatiels tend to bet a little flighty, and a few tend to get unusually quiet, sitting very still and unsure about all the festivities.  My little rescued Yorkie dog gets nervous and quite yappy at all the loud pops and sizzles and extra family and friends visiting for the holiday.

To ease any anxiety among the birds, I partially or fully cover the cage of any birds that get very upset which tends to make mine feel more protected and they do settle down better.  I include special treats in everyone's dish in the hope that getting a special treat helps distract them from the goings on.  I'm lucky that my birds are in their own bird sun room so it's easy to keep visitors out of their room.  If you bird is usually where people gather, you may want to consider moving the cage into a quiet bedroom until after the fireworks and visitors are gone.  If the cage is too big to move, a sleep cage or even a travel carrier can work just as well.

A little planning ahead of time for the feathered and furred family members will help make your July 4th event a fun celebration for all.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

4 Things You Should Know about Parrots

1.  Parrots bite.  Yes, they can, and yes they often will.  Bites can vary from a little love nip because you were not paying enough attention, to a harder bite that bruises because, well you were still not paying attention to the body language, to the really bad bite that causes bleeding and much pain.  The level 3 bite is almost always from fear or hormonal aggression which is why you must never forget the golden rule of living with a parrot, ALWAYS pay attention to the body language of a parrot.  If you do get a bite, never blame the parrot because you didn't pay attention.

2.  Parrots make noise.   Sometimes quite a lot of it.  It's important to realize "noise" is a personal thing.  Some people find a budgie chattering or a cockatiel whistling quite annoying.  I once had a person tell me their zebra finch was driving them crazy with all the noise it made.  Other people find a conure screaming quite annoying.  Then there is the top of the mountain noise level people who finally break at the cockatoo ear shattering shrill yells, or the megaphone macaw squawks.   Personally, I'm a level 3 person because to me my sun conure screaming is a hum compared to one of my Amazons imitating a cockatoo screaming.  Not even my macaw is that annoying.

3.  Parrots make messes.  Really big messes.  They are very good at it.  It's in their DNA.  Flinging fruit around the rainforest just comes naturally.  Totally destroying that $50 toy in one day, well every parrot needs to keep their beak in shape and sometimes destroy things just because they can.  Even if a bird is born and raised to live with us, that wild bird personality is alive and well.  They just can't help themselves, they must fling food, toys, and whatever else they can grab and fling.  To not be messy would be quite boring for them.   After all, a parrot's natural foraging instinct is a goal of getting to the center of things and not caring where the outer layers end up.

4.  Parrots are picky.  They are picky about what foods they like, what colors they like or hate, picky about what toys they will play with, and definitely picky about what people they like and don't like.  Just because they loved a certain food or toy last week, doesn't mean it's still okay this week.

Patience is your friend when living with a parrot.  They challenge us to help them enjoy a healthy diet, use their awesome intelligence in play and foraging, and encourage trust and love to help avoid the bite.  If you love a parrot, then you are a pretty cool person.  If you are loved by a parrot, then you are a very cool person.