Thursday, April 28, 2016

Organic, Natural, Holistic, Gourmet, Human Grade, Confused?

The labeling of bird food products can be over the top confusing for many of us.

Here are the label Buzz words 

Organic, that's supposed to be the best right?

All Natural, well of course I want natural foods because unnatural sounds, well, unnatural right?

Holistic, now that sounds like something I need for my bird to help stay healthy right?

Gourmet, that sounds yummy and nutritious and top-of-the-line right?

Human Grade Ingredients, oh my, if it's not human grade then whatever is it?

So let's break down these magical common words on labels and what they really mean for our birds.

Organic or Certified Organic:
Organic refers to the way ingredients are grown, harvested, and processed. Organic ingredients must be free of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes, and cannot be processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or genetic engineering.

If a bird food is 100% organic, the bird food may display the USDA Organic seal.

If a bird food is at least 95% content organic, the bird food may also display the USDA Organic seal.

If a bird food is at least 70% content organic, then “Made with Organic Ingredients” can be used on their label, but they cannot use the USDA Organic Seal anywhere on the product.

If a bird food is made up of less than 70% organic ingredients, then only those organic ingredients may be listed as organic on the ingredients listing, and no mention of ‘organic’ anywhere else on the product; the organic seal cannot be anywhere on the packaging.

All Natural:
To be considered all natural the bird food's ingredients must be derived solely from plant, animal, or mined sources (your guess is as good as mine on that last one).  However once gathered, the manufacturer can put the food through any type of manufacturing process that the company wants to, as long as they don't add anything synthetic to the food unless of course it's necessary to add it because it's being processed.  Right, like that's not really confusing.  So some all natural foods may not be quite as all natural as we would like. 

However the FDA does give us a little bit of a definition of natural: "For the most part, 'natural' can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the products."

Sadly as far as bird foods go, there is no real legal definition for holistic foods.  So you need to thoroughly read the labels to find out what holistic means for that particular food.  What most of us want in Holistic bird food is a food with natural ingredients, no added chemicals or artificial anything, no antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, or dyes.  

I would want to see an ingredient listing of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy safe plant herbs, with no processed by-products.  It's okay if it contains some enhanced vitamins and minerals, but overall should have great ingredients and be good for my bird.

Human Grade Ingredients:
Means the bird food must be of a high enough quality to be consumed by humans and approved by the government  powers that oversee.

To truly contain All Human Grade ingredients the food would have to meet both requirements from the USDA for pet food, and the FDA for human food.  Although it can be done, there are probably not many bird food manufacturers able to fully meet these requirements.  Only bird food made in human grade facilities, subject to the inspections and approval necessary to have human grade status by the government, can be legally considered 100 percent human grade.

FDA labeling guidelines say: "Products labeled as premium or gourmet are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients, nor are they held up to any higher nutritional standards than are any other complete and balanced products."

So what that really means is that 'Gourmet' is a fancy word that sounds really healthy and super important, but doesn't guarantee the food actually is.  Thoroughly reading the ingredient listing will tell you how 'Gourmet' it truly is.

One last label distinction that is showing up more often is the use of Non-GMO on labels.  Non-GMO means "non-genetically modified organisms".  GMOs are created in laboratories by genetic modification/engineering techniques.  Doesn't sound very good, and it probably isn't, but I'm not getting into that debate in this article.  Some bird food manufacturers are now getting approval by the government to add this to their labels and I think that's a plus for all of us trying hard to feed the healthiest foods to our birds.


Best advice is to always read the complete ingredients on every label.  Not every bird needs the same food ingredients so look for what is best for your particular bird.  Although higher priced doesn't always mean higher quality, it often can be, and as they say, sometimes you get what you pay for.  

Introducing your bird to fresh, cooked, as well as packaged foods, often makes for the healthiest diet, and lots of fun time foraging through it all.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Don't Let Moths Drive You Crazy

Those Pesky Moths

There are two basic categories of household moths, the ones who invade your closet and chew holes in your clothing, and the ones that come from grain foods such as bird seed, as well as many other foods you bring home from the grocery store.  Have you ever walked down an aisle at a grocery store and spotted some moths flying around?  I have, as they can be found also in flour, corn meals, and such, and are not always brought home in the bird seed (although it usually is).

Bird seed is harvested and cleaned by the bird food manufacturers using machinery to sift and clean the food before packaging.  This does help catch and remove pests/bugs in the seed mix, and some companies do a better job than others. Since the food is going to be eaten by your bird, there are no pesticides used, so quite naturally there are going to be some bugs every once in a while no matter who the company is.  Shrink wrapping does help, but does not guarantee you will never see a moth.  

When the weather gets really warm, those little moth larvae seem to hatch out at an alarming rate and appear everywhere.  Freezing your bird seed for at least 48 hours as soon as you purchase it will help kill some of the pests in the seed mix.  Don't forget to do this also with wild bird seed if feed the outside birds as wild bird seed mixes are usually not cleaned thoroughly at all.  Keeping the seed in the freezer and only taking out what you need each week helps.  Keep the food in a sealed bag or plastic container during the week as you use it.
If you do have a moth outbreak, don't panic, simply control it to eliminate it with a few easy steps.

First, go on the hunt to vacuum as many moths as you can find.  Then thoroughly check your ceilings.  Yes those sneaky moths lay their larvae on the ceiling and you will find tiny while larvae or small worms (yes I know yuck) hanging out ready to hatch and start the cycle all over again.  Vacuum them off the ceiling wherever you find them.  Vacuuming may be a daily chore for a while until you can get things under control.  

The moth pest traps you can purchase from stores like the Nature Chest, do in fact attract and catch the adult flying moths.  They use a pheromone that attracts the moths into a sticky trap.  These moth traps are completely safe to use around your birds but you will want to make sure your bird cannot reach the sticky trap because they are really really sticky.

Do not make the mistake of thinking one little trap is going to handle a multitude of moths.  If you have a lot of moths to eradicate, you may need to place traps in several locations and check daily.  If the trap is not catching anything, then move it to a different location.  Depending on how many moths are flying around your home, the traps can fill within a month, or may last up to 6 months.

I have heard of the use of homemade moth-repelling sachets made up of some of the following: bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, eucalyptus leaves, lavender, pepper corns, or dried lemon peel.  I believe these remedies would work better for closet moths, more than preventing or chasing away kitchen/aviary type moths.  However, they would make your home smell really good.

Just remember moths and other bugs found in seed mixes are high in protein, so if your bird eats one, it's okay, and no they don't bite, and yes they are annoying.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Protecting Floors from the Poop

Choose your Flooring

If you have hardwood floors, protecting the finish is very important.  Using an abrasive cleaner or scrubbing too hard, may damage the finish and even the wood itself.

Tile or concrete floors can be very hard to clean, especially if the poop has been left for a while and now seems to be permanently 'stuck'.

Carpeting can become stained and can be very hard to clean and brought back to it's original no stained look.  Some poops seem to have a permanent dye in them.

Although vinyl or linoleum flooring may be a little easier to clean off the dried-on poop, it is still may take a lot of scrubbing; not fun at all.

Here are a few ideas that might be helpful.

1. Place newspapers under the cage and play area and anywhere the poop might go.  For some messy birds, this might be a pretty wide area.

2.  If you don't like the look of printed newspaper, you can also go to your local newspaper's business location and ask for plain white paper.  Sometimes they will give it freely, or they might charge a small fee for this printing paper.  It may come in flat sheets, or in big rolls, and will probably last quite a while.  Just cut to the size you need, and then throw away as needed.

3.  If you do not like something that hides your nice pretty flooring, you can also purchase the large chair mats at office supply stores. They do usually have little grippies on the underside so be sure they don't damage your flooring defeating the whole purpose of using them.  They are made of tough material and are usually clear in color and much easier to spray with bird poop cleaner and wipe away, or mop with safe cleaning solutions.  They can also be cut with a little muscle, to fit the shape you need.

4.  If you need something with a smooth underside so as to not mar your floor, you can also purchase clear rubber or plastic runners in the carpet section of most big box stores.  They usually come in rolls and can be easily cut into the sizes you need.  Pretty easy to clean, and can be thrown out and replaced as needed.

5.  Check your local carpet stores for remnants that you can cut and use.  Often they will give them to you as they can't be used by the store any longer.  Sizes may vary a lot, so you may have to take what you can get, and shape to your area.  If you don't have to spend any money to get them, they are easy to throw out as needed and replaced with new squares or scrap pieces.

6.  Flat sheets can also be used to protect flooring.  Check out local thrift stores for less expensive pricing.  Lay flat, put cage or play area on top, and then when need wash sheet, or throw away and replace. With sheets you can go solid color, or liven up the area with the stylish print and color you and your bird like.

Hopefully, one or more of these ideas will help you keep the mess to an easier size job to clean, help protect your floor, and deal with the challenge of bird poop, scattered food particles, and other debris of Birdland. 

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Gardening for Parrots

If you are lucky enough to live where warm weather is springing upon you, you may already be planning some gardening.   If not, hopefully you will be enjoying the warmth of spring soon. Don't forget to include some vegetables and fruits in your garden for your birds.  Nothing beats fresh organic home-grown food for your bird.  

You don't need a large garden plot to garden for your parrot, a big flower pot, bucket, or plastic storage tub will all work just fine.  Add some drainage holes if necessary, and some good garden soil to get things started.  Plant some seeds or get a few plants already started, and let your green thumb and imagination shine.  

Visit our Pinterest Board "Gardening For Parrots" for some great plant suggestions and container gardening ideas.  

Click Here to Visit

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Spring Cleaning 101

Spring is a great time to thoroughly clean your Bird's Cage

Here are a few tips to help you out.

Tip 1 - Remember to remove bird from cage to fun play area with lots of things
 to keep your bird occupied before beginning. Some birds simply do not like 
anyone messing with their stuff.

Respect the bird if you value fingers and such.

Tip 2 - Remove all bird toys and perches from cage prior to cleaning. This is a 
great time to thoroughly inspect all toys for wear and tear and throw out anything
 that might not still be safe. Check for strings, shredded cloth or rope, bird poop that
can't be cleaned away, chewed wood that has any sharp places, and so on.

When in doubt, throw it out.

Tip 3 - Wooden and trimming perches can be soaked  in a sink or bathtub in gentle
 dish detergent and water but be sure to thoroughly rinse and dry before returning
 to the cage. Rope and Sisal or other material perches can be brushed with a stiff 
bristle brush to help remove dried on poop, or food.  Although some people may
 gasp, both wood and rope or cotton perches  can be run through a dishwasher cycle
 once brushed, to better clean.  Make sure they are dry before returning to cage.
 Throw out any perches that look like they might trap tiny toes or toenails.  Good
 time to add new perches and throw out the old, using different sizes for foot exercise.

Tip 4 - Cages can be washed with vinegar  and water, or a mixture of gentle dish 
detergent and water.  Always rinse well after cleaning.  Our bird store also carries 
products specifically made to clean cages, perches, and toys, that are bird safe.
 NEVER use cleaners such as  Mr. Clean, Lysol, Soft Scrub, Windex, 409, etc. to clean
 anything your bird can come in contact with.  Almost all household cleaners 
can be deadly to your bird. Bleach is not recommended for cleaning as it is toxic if 
inhaled by your bird  (or you for that matter), is very caustic to cage finishes, and
can burn skin if splashed accidentally.  If your cage is small enough, try putting it 
in the shower or bath tub  for cleaning.  Be sure to put down a towel or bath mat 
to prevent scratching tub or shower finishes.  You can also roll larger cages
outdoors and use a garden hose to clean.  If using a power washer, you will
probably need to set to a low pressure setting to prevent paint damage to cage.

Tip 5 - Once everything is nice and clean, add a couple of new toys as a reward before returning your bird to his or her home.  After all, your bird is going to now you 
 have been messing with his or her stuff, and new toys may help soothe things
 over for you.