Friday, January 25, 2019

Being Ready for Winter Weather

As I anticipate the possibility of snow and ice that our local weather forecasters have predicted for our area, I remind myself that all winter weather emergencies should be prepared for way-way before necessary.  No one wants to be that person standing in long lines trying to grab the last of the emergency items needed.

Living in the south, a few inches of snow and the least bit of ice can pretty much shut down everything.  Only the very brave (or very dumb) are usually willing to venture out onto the icy roads with all the crazy drivers slipping, sliding, and spinning around often making a bad situation even worse.

Here is a list of some items you might want to always have on hand just in case you are snowed in for a few days.  Not to mention being prepared for the possibility of dealing with a power outage due to icy power lines or falling tree limbs.

Here are some emergency items I always have on hand for my birds:

  • Extra Seed, pellets, dried fruit/veggie foods that don't have to be refrigerated
  • Emergency Avian First Aid Kit
  • Emergency Carrier 
  • Warm blanket or quilt to cover the cage or carrier
  • Tear up toys for stressed or bored birds 

Other items good to have on hand include:
  • a flashlight & extra batteries
  • warm blankets or quilts for the humans
  • bottled water for both my birds and myself
  • hot snap hand warmers (optional) but kind of nice for the human and they can be placed under carriers for extra warmth.
Many people keep extra bird food in their freezer and rotate it out as needed so they always have some extra on hand for emergencies.  A very good idea.

If you lose power you will need that flashlight, but make sure the light from the flashlight does not frighten your bird as it will be an unknown moving object to your bird.   

If your only source of heat is electric and a power outage occurs, placing a blanket or quilt over your bird's cage can help keep your bird's environment warmer for a while.  Placing your bird in a carrier is a smaller space to keep your bird warm in.

If you find you do need to use a carrier for your bird for both safety and warmth, that really nice tear up bird toy may help keep your bird occupied, calmer, and busy while in the carrier.

VERY IMPORTANT! - Never use Kerosene heaters around birds as the fumes can be toxic and can kill your bird.

My personal research on the use of propane or butane heaters is a little confusing as it seems split 50/50 on yay or nay.  Many avian experts say do not use either propane or butane heaters around birds.  However, some bird owners say they have used them with no ill effects on their birds.  One source I found stated that butane is not a highly toxic gas and can be stored inside your home.  Whether that means you can also use it safely in your home with birds, is an unknown definite to me and I personally tend to err on the side of unknown safety, means no safety.

It is, however a known fact that propane or butane heaters used without adequate combustion or ventilation can give off excessive carbon monoxide which is an odorless, poisonous gas, deadly to birds, and even humans. Early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning in humans are similar to flu-like symptoms, including a headache, dizziness, and nausea.  For birds sadly there would be no warning to let you know there is a problem.  

If you do have to use one of the above sources of heat in a prolonged severe emergency, please be sure to ventilate the area to help protect your bird as well as yourself.  I encourage everyone to do their own research into these methods of supplemental heating as well as gas burning fireplaces before any emergency occurs.

A gas burning fireplace has been considered unsafe by many in the bird world but some of the newer gas burning fireplaces may have extra precautions of safety built into them.  Again, I encourage everyone to research and even contact the manufacturer of your particular brand for more information and safety precautions.   

If you are having to use a wood burning fireplace for heat, make sure your room is well vented and no smoke is coming into the room where your bird is.  Before winter sets in it is a good idea to make sure your fireplace is clean and free of creosote and any leftover nesting materials by birds who may have set up housekeeping in the chimney over the summer.  

Creosote is a residue that accumulates in your chimney from wood burning and can be extremely flammable.  Read more about creosote here:  Wood Burning and Creosote Information

Stay warm, stay safe, and stay inside if you can.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Halloween Holiday Heath Alert

October Halloween Safety Tips

There are still some residential neighborhoods and areas that have giggling happy Trick-or-Treaters show up at their front doors.  Or maybe you have some little Trick or Treaters who enjoy Trunk-or-Treating at supervised locations or gatherings bringing home some sweet treats. 

If you do still get a few of those tricky visitors, be sure to keep your bird safely away from open doors, scary costumes, and boisterous children (and sometimes even adults).

Sometimes I hear comments that chocolate must not be really toxic to birds because their bird ate a chocolate chip cookie, or some other chocolate treat and was fine.

I cringe when I hear these comments as yes, chocolate really IS toxic.  However not all chocolate is equal.  The dark cocoa found in Dark Chocolate Squares, Bittersweet, and Baker's chocolates are the most toxic and many people do not realize they contain caffeine which is also bad for your bird.

Chocolate in any form should not be fed to birds. Yes, Bittersweet, Baker's and Dark Chocolates are more toxic than Milk Chocolate, but are you willing to take the chance that your bird has no problem?

It's not just chocolate treats either.  Those yummy sugary candies are no-nos too.  One candy corn may be a great sugar treat for a child, but that's a whole lot of sugar for a bird, especially a small one.

Also, there is a artificial sugar substitute used sometimes in sugar-free sweets that is deadly to your dog.  The name is xylitol and it may be found in candies, gums, and other sugar-free items.  I'm of the opinion that if something is deadly to my dog, then it's not something I want my birds to have either. 

So keep the people treats for the people, and if you want your bird to share in the Halloween fun, pick up a few birdie treats, or even better, bake up some healthy bird treats of your own.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

It's Spring Again!

Do you have the Spring Cleaning bug?  

I think Spring is a great time to thoroughly clean your Bird's Home and surrounding birdie areas.

I'd like to share a few tips (and Bird Rules) I find useful.

Tip 1 - Remember to remove bird from cage to fun play area with lots of toys and treats to keep your bird occupied before beginning cleaning project. 

As many of us know, some birds simply do not like anyone messing with their stuff.  So keeping them occupied elsewhere, hopefully, may keep them from noticing what you are up to.

Tip 1 Bird Rule:  Always respect the bird and his or her personal "things" 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.

Tip 2 Bird Rule:   When in doubt, throw it out.

Tip 3 - Wooden and trimming perches such as concrete, sand, and such, can be soaked in a sink or bathtub in gentle dish detergent and water.  Be sure to thoroughly rinse and air dry before returning to your bird's cage or play area. Perches made of Rope and Sisal, or other such materials, 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 gentle dishwasher cycle after brushing to better clean them.  Again, make sure they are completely dry before returning to your bird.  Throw out any perches that look like they might trap tiny toes or toenails, as well as any wood that looks splintered and possibly a foot hazard.  It may be time to add new perches and throw out the old, using different sizes for foot exercise.

Tip 3 Bird Rule:  Perches that are not completely dry, can cause foot problems so taking the time to be sure they are dry is well worth it.

Tip 4 - Cages and play areas 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 bathtub 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 want to set to a low-pressure setting to prevent paint damage to the cage.

Tip 4 Bird Rule:   Remember birds have very sensitive respiratory systems so if your cleaner smells strong to you, then is more than likely is not a good idea to use it around your bird.

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 know you have been messing with his or her stuff no matter how stealthy you think you have been, and new toys may help soothe things over for you.

Tip 5 Bird Rule:  Now you can better enjoy your Spring and your Bird's new clean area.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Is an Army of Ants Invading Your Space?

The ants seem to be moving in early this year at my house.  So I thought I would share a few suggestions on ways to help control ants in a natural safe bird-friendly way.

Here are a few ideas on naturally controlling ant invasions and a few stronger suggestions if necessary

Unless you are an ant lover, you probably would prefer to see no ants in your bird room or anywhere else in your home.  In fact, you probably also prefer not to have them hanging around your home on the outside either.

There are many articles online to help you identify which species of ant you are trying to rid yourself of.  However, I prefer to focus on how to get rid of them.  Getting rid of ants naturally is the way to go if you have birds, other pets, or even small children in the home.
There are commercial ant baits that do work, but I prefer not to use them around my birds, cats, and my little dog.  My birds and cats are very inquisitive creatures that love to check out anything new in the room so safety is very important to me.  Birds are quite capable of cracking open ant baits to see what is inside, and I find my cats love to bat the ant baits around the room to see how far they will slide.

 One easy way to help prevent ants from climbing up your bird's cage is to put all cage legs in a small container of water.  Ants do not like water, they do not swim.  However, you will need to check daily to be sure there is still water in the bowls.  Although this helps keep the ants out of the cage, it doesn't get rid of them.  It is, however, a quick fix to keep ants out of your bird's cage.

Idea #1: Mix a soapy water solution in a spray bottle.  Doesn't take much liquid soap or dish detergent.  Spray the ants.  This will kill them almost instantly.  The soapy water mixture also eliminates scent trails of the ants helping with newcomers.  You can also spray this mixture on your bird's cage legs (but not on your bird) and around baseboards of the room as well.  You may need to repeat daily if you have a lot of ants invading.

Idea #2: Mix a solution of 50/50 vinegar and water, and with a spray bottle, spray the ants.  This will kill them and vinegar is not harmful to your birds or other animals (of course don't spray it on your bird or other pets).  Doesn't especially smell good, but it does work.  Vinegar and water is also a great cleaning and disinfecting solution for cleaning your bird's cage too. Just rinse after cleaning.

Idea #3:  Cucumber peels repeal ants, so you can chop up some big cucumber slices and spread around the bird cage tray.  You will need to do this fresh daily as your bird if able, may decide to taste or enjoy the cucumbers as well.  Cucumbers are fine for your bird and most love the cucumber seeds as well.  However, you don't want your bird eating day old stale cucumbers.

Idea #4: Mix up a solution of water with some lemon juice and spray around the room corners or baseboard.  Ants don't seem to like lemons very much either.  Your room will probably also smell lemony good.  Clean and reapply as often as needed.

Idea #5: You can sprinkle cornmeal around the corners and baseboards of the room to keep ants out as well.  Or sprinkle a circle around your bird's cage.  Cornmeal is safe for pets and children, but not so attractive sprinkled all over your floor.  Cornmeal seems to work well outside the home, especially poured on top of ant beds or mounds.  If using outside, you will need to repeat after any rain.

Idea #6: I'm sure everyone has seen or heard of the spray bottle of Bird Mite Spray you can buy at many pet stores.

I personally do not recommend ever spraying your bird with this yucky stuff.  If your bird has mites, lice, or anything else these sprays claim to take care of, your bird needs to go to the avian vet.  Your bird does not need this chemical sprayed on him or her.  

So why do I even mention this product then you ask?  Because this Bird Mite Spray stuff kills ants.  Kills them quick and is actually safe to spray on your bird's cage, trays, papers, or all around the floor.  Just remember to not spray directly on your bird.  It does have to be repeated every day or two to stay active.

I also recommend a product called Control Bug Spray.  It is safe to use around your birds and other pets, but should never be sprayed directly on them, nor should it be sprayed freely in the air if they are in the room.  I recommend you remove the birds, then spray around the floor or baseboard or cabinet area, air out a bit, and safely return the birds and other pets to the area.  For more information:  Click for information on Control Bug Spray

A note about using Diatomaceous Earth as a deterrent.  

Yes, Diatomaceous Earth does kill ants, slugs, roaches, grasshopper, earwigs, and fleas.  However, the dust can be an irritant to birds, children, pets, or anyone with asthma or other breathing issues.  I prefer not to use this inside the home.  It can be safely used around the outside of the home with good results.  For more information:  Click to learn more about Diatomaceous Earth

Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help you with your ant problem this summer. 

For more information please check out our Pinterest Board "Bug and Pest Control Naturally 

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Egg Laying Females without Mates

My Bird keeps laying eggs without a mate.

Is that normal?

Yes, laying eggs without a mate does happen.  Some birds such as Love Birds, Budgies, and Cockatiels, in particular may lay eggs several times a year.  Usually it's not a serious issue for them, but there are a few things you can try that might help break the hormonal breeding cycle.  Laying too many eggs can deplete calcium and can become a health issue for some birds.
Some of the triggers for breeding include longer days, warmer days, abundance of food, and nesting areas as determined by your bird.
So in attempting to break the cycle, try putting your bird to bed very early so the days are short for her.  That means covering her cage "completely" with a dark cover and making sure her cage is located in a very quite room for sleeping.  You may have to shorten her days for several weeks to break the cycle.
If she has a favorite toy she feeds, or a sleeping hut or bed, she thinks of as "nesty" spot, or even a favorite food dish she likes to sit in,  it would be a good idea to remove these.  In fact you should really consider removing all of her current bird toys and replacing them with different ones as well as moving her perches around and even food dishes.  You are then helping to distract her from the breeding cycle.  Provide lots of interactive busy foraging type toys, and it may also be helpful to move her cage from one side of the room to the other for a new non-breeding environment.
If your bird is sweet and cuddly, don't cuddle for a while.  Snuggling, petting, and such, can also encourage breeding hormones.  So stick to little feather scratches around the cheeks and such and stay away from any snuggles that she might incorrectly interpret as love is in the air.  If she tries to feed you, carefully replace her in the cage until she is distracted.  
Most birds have an internal number of eggs they will lay and if you keep removing the eggs as soon as she lays them, she may keep laying in an attempt to reach her number.  Sometimes leaving the eggs for her to sit on or roll around, will allow her to reach the number she thinks she needs, and her laying may stop.  Letting her sit on them for a week or two is fine, and often the bird will loose interest after a while and desert her eggs which is the perfect time to then remove them.  Smaller birds lay their eggs every day or every other day until their clutch is complete.  So if your bird has not laid an egg in several days, you can then guess her egg quota, and just let her sit a while.
Make sure she is getting all the calcium she needs during this time.  Providing cuttlebone, a calcium supplement, or calcium enriched bird pellets will usually provide the calcium she will need.  If at any time however, she lays a soft shelled egg, she will need to see her veterinarian as soon as possible.  Soft shelled eggs can be a sign of a serious  calcium deficiency or other health issue not allowing her to absorb calcium in her diet.
Egg binding is another serious medical condition and requires veterinarian care quickly.  Egg binding is when the bird is unable to pass an egg because of it's size, her health, or other issue, and she will need assistance of a specialist to help her pass the egg.  Soft shelled eggs that do not pass or rupture inside the bird, or egg binding, can lead to infection or internal organ damage, and even death.  If your bird looks like she is straining, or is sitting all puffed up and not eating and moving around, call your vet for assistance.  Better to be safe than sorry.
I hope this helps give you some ideas on how to safely help a bird that is laying eggs without a mate.  

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Be Ready for any Spring Weather Emergencies

A little planning can save valuable minutes in an emergency.

Although any time of year can have weather-related emergencies, spring often brings tornados, floods, severe thunderstorms, lightning strikes, power outages, or early hurricanes, for many parts of the US.

This weekend in February is our Severe Weather Preparedness free tax weekend so I thought it a good time to also give a little reminder to check your emergency kits for any needed updates or additions.  If you don't already have an emergency bag or kit of some kind, then definitely it's time to get things organized for the "just in case" situation.

Being prepared ahead of time can be key to avoiding a lot of worries, and can help keep both you and your bird safe during any weather emergency.

Severe weather can often cause power outages so it's always good to have some extra non-perishable bird food on hand for such an event.  Include a few bottles of water, as well as some paper towels, and a bird first aid kit.  If you don't have a smartphone with a flashlight app, you can include a flashlight with extra batteries.  Make sure to have either a carrier or small travel cage and a thick towel or cover.  Having some fresh fruit on hand can provide some quick energy nutrition as well as providing a distraction for an upset bird.

If your bird is frightened by thunderstorms, placing your bird in a carrier or smaller cage and covering, can provide the security feeling your bird may need.  Placing your bird in the carrier or cage before the weather gets bad, can be especially helpful, as during the storm you may be dealing with a very stressed or panicked bird who might try and fly away, or bite in fear.

A carrier can be a lifesaver for your bird if you need to move quickly to an interior room in your home, to a storm shelter, or even evacuate during dangerous weather events.  Emergency items can be stored year-round inside the carrier so everything is always ready when you need it.

Some birds may relate carriers to not so good events such as vet visits.  Begin early to teach your bird that his or her carrier can be a cool place to hang out.  Make the carrier available to your bird often throughout the year with treats and favorite toys inside.  Bird treats and foot toys that your bird can go into the carrier and retrieve can be good training.

It's always a very good idea to have a towel stored with your carrier supplies in the event your bird never learns to like the carrier, as it can be used a quick wrap to move your bird from cage to carrier.  Don't worry about removing the towel, just deposit bird and towel into the carrier.  Birds pick up quickly on human emotion and if you are nervous or stressed by the weather even, then even the bird that is a sweetheart, may be nippier than usual and avoiding the bite will benefit both you and your bird.  The towel in the carrier may also provide a snuggle place or even an object to nip at instead of you.

Let us know if there is a must-have for your severe weather emergency kit.

Links to additional information:

US Tornado Climatology

CDC Prepare to Spring Weather

Why is the US a Hotbed for Severe Storms

Red Cross Severe Weather Common in Spring

Friday, February 09, 2018

Celebrate National Pizza Day


Pizza is not just for humans.  Birds love pizza too.  You just need to prepare it a little differently sometimes.

You can easily start with a frozen pizza crust to bake, or a small ready-made whole wheat pizza crust, rice cake, or a large flour tortilla for the base of your pizza.

Add some of your bird's favorites such as minced or shredded carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, apple, bell peppers (any color or combination of colors), spinach, and so on.

Begin your pizza layering with a thin layer of one of the following on your pizza to help hold all the food together on the crust, rice cake or tortilla:

Organic Peanut butter or Almond Butter; a layer of sweet potato baby food, or mixed vegetables baby food (found in small size jars in your local grocery store). 

Then layer on top any and all veggies and fruits your bird enjoys.

(I personally prefer not to use any cheese as some birds are not able to digest easily, and remember no onions, avocados, or chocolate for your bird's pizza.)

You can also sprinkle some wheat germ or wheatgrass powder on top for extra nutrition.

Place on non-stick non-teflon cookie sheet and bake in 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes to soften veggies.  (If you are using frozen raw pizza dough crust, bake per directions on package)

Cool before serving to your bird.