Why Patience is Essential When Introducing New Stuff to Your Bird

 
As the weather is warming up not a day goes by when we don’t have somebody coming into the Birdie Boutique, e-mailing us or calling us to find out what size flight suit or harness their bird could wear. “It’s warm out and I want to take my bird outside how soon can I get it”? And therein lies the rub.

We talk about making toys interesting so our birds will engage them. We spend countless hours wondering why the new perch or ladder seems to be scaring the dickens out of them. Heaven help us if we want to try a new bird food that might be a tad more nutritious. So we experiment through trial and error over days and sometimes weeks as we figure out how to overcome the hurdles involved in introducing something new to a customer’s feathered companions.

We humans have our schedules and with our busy schedules fun time is usually pretty limited so we want it now. Birds, on the other hand are creatures of habit. We urge you to change everything in your bird’s cage at the very least, once a month to keep things interestig. Socializing your bird with other people in and out of your household will help to make them less skittish. BUT birds have their limits and intimate changes like the introduction of a flight suit or harness or water bottle to replace the water dish may take some time – a few hours or days or even a week or two.

Take a flight harness for instance. You are somewhat curtailing the use of your birds wings, which is about the most counterintuitive thing you can do to a bird. So if you expect to open the flight harness package, fit your bird and expect to go outside right then, you’re setting yourself up, and your bird – for failure.

I use the term “intimate changes” intentionally because birds don’t like things that interfere with the complex feather systems. The same would hold true of introducing a Lixit water bottle. Although they’ve been proven to be effective for more than 20 years, just because you put in the cage, what if your bird doesn’t figure it out immediately while you’re away for the weekend.This can lead to dehydration without them having been acclimated to use it first.

As a third example, you may want to travel with your bird this summer and put some sort of travel carrier in the car. So there you are trying to get an early start on the open road and you find out there’s no way in hell your bird is going to get in that new carrier just because you want to take a trip this week. To overcome any of these changes it’s important to have a strategy and utilize patience.

Here’s some start up strategies for these three issues. Beginning with the harness or flight suit, the first thing you want to do when you get it out of the package is to simply put it in your birds field of vision. Your bird assumes objects out of the ordinary could be potential threats, so let it see it for day or two or three. The next step before trying to get them to wear something is to take the harness (or flight suit) and to lightly drag it across your birds body so they get a feel for what it is. make it friendly Do this for two or three days before you attempt to put it on. You’ll find you’ll have much less resistance by using this method when you finally decide to dress your bird.

We can’t emphasize enough acclimating your bird to the travel carrier, especially before you need it. Generally speaking once a bird realizes that the travel carrier means they get to remain with you and not be left at home cooped up in the cage all alone, they may be happy to go along for the ride and soon look forward to it. Just like the harness, if you buy a new travel carrier simply place it in your birds feel of vision for a few days before asking them to enter. Once they begin to realize it’s not a harmful object it’ll be easier to shag their little butts inside. If you plan on traveling with your bird over great distances a few practice runs in the family jalopy is a good practice to make sure your bird doesn’t get carsick. You’ll also thank yourself for having the foresight to do this should an emergency arise such as a God forbid, fire, hurricane or power failure forces you to evacuate in a short amount of time.

Lixit water bottles are the best investments you can make for a captive bird. They all but ensure your bird will have a consistent source of clean and bacteria free water. Once again introducing something new into the cage does not guarantee your birds going to embrace it immediately. That’s why we don’t want you to hang them in the cage and split town immediately, because it may take a day or two for your bird to figure out there’s a new source for water. Placing a new Lixit water bottle directly over an existing water dish for the first couple of days will usually signal your bird that they can get water from both places. Once you see the level of water in your new water bottle consistently go down for couple of days you’ll know you are good-to-go and that your bird “get’s it” We just want you to be certain your bird has made the correlation, before you vanish for a day or two.

Squawk at you next week

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written by Mitch Rezman CMO
Windy City Parrot, Inc
Simply Everything for Exotic Birds – Since 1993

Our Tribute to Birds in the Military

WWII open cockpit pilot dropping carrier pigeon
 
Pigeons have been used to communicate over distances since the time of Julius Caesar.
The Persians (now Iran), and even the Greeks used homing pigeons to “broadcast” news about who won the Olympics.
Homing pigeons were considered highly prestigious way back in 18th century France until the French Revolution which changed things so anybody who wanted one, could have a pigeon.

During the Franco Prussian war, Parisians used hot air balloons to deploy flocks of homing pigeons out of their city to countryside and vice versa. With the advent of micro photography in the 19th century pigeons could carry as many as 30,000 messages by a single bird.

Read moreOur Tribute to Birds in the Military

Bird Cage Lighting Questions

Abstract photo of flying scarlet macaw parrot. Out of focus
 
I am trying to figure out the best lighting option for my birds. I recently bought the Prevue Hampton breeding cage from you and I have two pairs of lineolated parakeets in the cages.
I am uncertain how to tell if the lights you offer are both UVA and UVB or not. I’m thinking of a floor lamp but I’m also not sure if one floor lamp will be able to get light into both cages. Can you offer any input? Thanks!

Blue Crown Conure Food Higgins Sunburst Gourmet for Conures 3 lb

2 blue crown conures
 Blue Crown Conure Bird Food
 Hi:
 
I wanted to confirm I have a Blue Crown Conure and I have been ordering the following food for her, and wanted to confirm its the right food, as there is one for a Parrot and one for a Conure. The name of the food is: 
Higgins Sunburst Gourmet Bird Food – Parrot 3 lb 
 
Does it matter if I get the one that says Conure or should I stick to the one that says Parrot on the packaging.
 
Thanks
Sonal

Hi Sonal
 
I included the ingredient panel from the conure blend below but if you look at the ingredients for the parrot blend you’ll find that they are almost identical. The key difference is the size of the pieces in the blends with the parrot blend having the larger pieces.
 
This is because usually the bigger birds especially with zygodactyl feet (meaning having two toes pointing forward and two backward) like to hold their food with 1 foot while eating. If your Conure does in fact like to hold larger chunks of food you might want to change over to the parrot blend
 
If that’s not an issue for your bird we will tell you what we recommend to many people seeking to change bird food – don’t try to fix what’s not broken. Higgins Sunburst Gourmet for Conures is a great blend and if your Blue Crown Conure is enjoying it I wouldn’t change a thing
 
Parrot left – Conure right
 
Higgins Sunburst Gourmet Bird Food - Conure & Parrot
 

Sunburst is now available in 4 species specific sizes: Macaw, Parrot, Conure and Cockatiel. Sunburst Cockatiel is ideal for Cockatiels, small conures, lovebirds, parrotlets, budgies, etc. Sunburst Parrot has more shelled nuts and fruits. Sunburst Macaw is a larger, chunkier blend with larger nuts and new ingredients like mango slices and dehydrated apple rings. All the new Sunbursts are fortified with DHA Omega 3 and digestive probiotics. Sunburst does not contain artificial colors or chemical preservatives. 

Ingredients:Safflower, White Millet, Oat Groats, Wheat, Buckwheat, Sunflower Seeds, Maize Flakes, Raisins, Pea Flakes, Cashew Pieces, Cracked Corn, Flaxseed, Hemp Seed, Red Millet, Carrot Flakes, Banana Pieces, Apricot Dices, Almond Slices, Cantaloupe Seed, Coconut Chips, Shelled Peanuts, Walnut Pieces, Papaya Dices, Pineapple Dices, Ground Corn, Brown Rice, Soybean Meal, Ground Wheat, Oat meal, Sucrose, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dicalcium Phosphate, Dried Egg Product, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Cranberry Pomace, Apple Fiber, Blueberry Fiber, Celery, Beets, Parsley, Lettuce, Watercress, Spinach, DL-Methionine, L-Lysine, Brewer’s Dried Yeast, Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), Potassium Chloride, Yeast Extract, L-Ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, Folic Acid, Biotin, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Zinc Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K), Calcium Iodate, Sodium selenite, Cobalt Carbonate, Dried Bacillus subtilis Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus coagulans fermentation product, Natural flavors, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis – Crude Protein (Min.)….11%, Crude Fat (Min)….16%, Crude Fiber (Min)….10.5%, Moisture (Max)….10.5%

From Higgins: We buy peanuts only from established farmers that are required to test for aflatoxins and molds before we purchase our higher grade peanuts in shell. We also perform our own periodic tastings in addition to this. 

Formerly know as Sunburst D’lite, now reformulated into a new mixture and new packaging.

The Great Albino Cockatiel Rescue Caper

 
Albino cockatiel

Our (currently) nameless
white feathered friend

It’s not uncommon for us to get a call starting with the words “Hi, I just found a Cockatiel,” which was the precise nature of a phone call yesterday. Thanks to all of you we’ve been very busy these days, so jumping in a car driving across Chicago to rescue a bird is very time-consuming.
 
As luck would have it the caller indicated that the wayward bird stuck in her bushes was two blocks away across from a bar called the Lockdown (great food and beer but lousy head banger music – unless you are into head banger music) so I grabbed a (no longer made) Flying South backpack bird carrier and marched north on Western Ave to track down our devious escapee.
 
The woman on the phone was clearly the woman standing on the front steps of a very nice building looking at the “white bird” in the bushes. We originally thought it might have been a cockatoo because she described as a white bird but it was lovely little Albino Cockatiel just hanging out in the middle of some bushes clearly scared as the dickens.
 
We get the little bird back to the Birdie Boutique were we have to find a place to keep its little butt so we can get on with our work day after we spent some time uploading its picture to Facebook and Parrotalert 911 and posting to neighborhood sites.

During its capture and now having handled it through the subsequent move from the rescue backpack to its new temporary surroundings it’s clear this bird has been someone’s pet because it”s not really biting hard and turned out to be quite finger tame.

The new resident took up its new working domicile on top of the microwave which is in top of the refrigerator – providing a birds eye view

small bird bird cage by Prevue pet
Mitch Rezman with Tommy a 3 1/2-year-old parrot falcon on left gloved hand

Me with Tommy a 3 1/2-year-old Peregrine falcon
(fastest animal on the planet)
With a full feeder dish full of Volkman Cockatiel Seed and fresh water our new guest chowed down for what must have been about 30 minutes. We expected it to be pretty tired from his adventures so far and go to sleep but it remained alert and attentive through all of our moves.

We took it home and set it up on the kitchen table just as you see it in the picture above. Plenty of light in the kitchen and solitude in the evening so it could get a good nights sleep. During the course of the evening we learned that not only did it have the ability but it wasn’t a bad little flyer. it was also a stark reminder to keep the tall step stool close to aid in retrieval from the top of the kitchen cabinets.

This morning Catherine took the car with her new all-white feathered friend in the cage to work.

With the backdrop of the kitchen cabinet retrieval, Catherine was reaching out to her many Facebook bird groups seeking input on the wing clipping issue. which brings us to why there’s a picture of me and a falcon in this Cockatiel tail.

We’re proud of our new affiliation with the International Heritage Conservancy. Spending time learning the centuries old sport/art of falconry has given me an entirely new outlook on the flight (abilty) of birds.

Something we will cover in future topics but for now suffice it to say I’m learning how we impart knowledge to a raptor that when he’s a half a mile up and a mile away flying towards prey

custom-made wooden bird carrier

20-year-old custom-made
all wood bird carrier
   
Prevue 123 birdcage with albino cockatiel

Un furnished birdcage seriously
needs lots of toys and accessories
at almost 200 miles an hour, the bird must have absolute clarity of mission. If this for no other reason after watching it time & again I’ve gone over to the anti-wing clipping side of the argument.

That said when it was time to have “the wing clipping conversation” this afternoon I stated my opposition to Catherine. The reality is the flipside – we could keep the little guy cooped up all day so it wouldn’t fly around the shop (and our home) or we could keep it grounded which would really give it a little more freedom because we would be more comfortable letting it out of the cage.

The compromise was to just remove a couple of inches of its primaries (flight feathers) which as it turns out allows it to maintain horizontal flight (keeping it from crashing into the ground when it takes off) but lift is problematic so the step stools can be put away – for now.

On to the next three housing challenges. First the blue and black “rescue” birdcage (above right) is much too small for daily Cockatiel habitation. We addressed that problem the Prevue 123 (pictured left).

The second problem was after two weeks with no days off was time to go down to our campground in Indiana which led to the third problem, IF we were going to take it down to Indiana with us, the blue black cage was too small for daily living but too big for travel so we pulled out our favorite small bird wooden carrier (pictured above right) to carry him to and from. Hoie breeder bird cage with base cabinet
Hoei all aluminum breeder birdcage with base cabinet discontinued in 2007
   
custom made all wood bird play stand for small birds Bringing a bird cage into an 8 foot wide trailer even with a 3 foot bump out poses a real space challenge. We solved this with the Hoei breeder cage pictured above.

Unfortunately it’s no longer available which is why we held onto this one. It has a narrow footprint and the all aluminum construction is well-suited for an indoor and outdoor environment as we like to put it on the porch as weather permits.

Which brings us to the last piece of a puzzle. Having a bird cage for your bird is a given when the bird is out of the cage and you want to go into another

room in your home (or trailer) it’s best to have some sort of play stand providing your bird with a comfortable place to be while sharing your company. Or just put him on the back of the chair which your bird may or may not begin to chew up and or poop on.
 
So to recap, we rescued all of 3 ounces of feathers a week before Memorial Day weekend which means it’ll probably be with us for the next week or two. In preparation of this relatively short stay for those of you keeping track we’ve now put into play five pieces of equipment not to mention several pounds of bird food, millet, bird toys and accessories that we feel are the barest necessities to take care of a bird as simple as a Cockatiel.
 
Cockatiel on isolated white background
 
I wrote this for those of you thinking of acquiring a pet bird and all the others we hope understand that even a Cockatiel is a quarter-century commitment to one of God’s living breathing creatures blessed with the ability to fly.
 
Buy probiotics for birds

Can I Travel with My Bird Safely?

Let’s review the basics. Why do we keep birds in cages? Because if we didn’t, they would fly away.
 
The weather is getting warm which causes humans to make travel plans. We love our birds, we want them to travel with us. We love our birds, we want them to experience the out-of-doors, something we regretfully deprive them of the majority of their lives.
cockatoo chews out of hard plastic bird carrier

Whaaaat?
There are four ways to look at traveling with your bird. 1) You just want to take your bird outside for a few hours or visit somewhere close. 2) It’s time for a getaway weekend and there’s no way you’re going to leave your feathered bundle of joy at home 3) It’s time to cash in those airline reward miles. 4) Road trip!
Oh, you want to take your bird outside in a fabric backpack? What could possibly go wrong with that? There’s no way your bird could chew out of something fabric and you would never notice your backpack losing 10 ounces of featherweight, right? Never underestimate your birds desire, ability and speed to escape from unfamiliar surroundings. Please use your best judgment when using a fabric carrier, you’ve been warned.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s a bird on a plane. The rules here are murky. If you plan on traveling with your bird on an airline we suggest you call the airline and get all of the requirements. Then hang up call back and talk to somebody else to see if they give you the same set of requirements. Find links to air travel websites here

When going through security, be prepared to take your bird out of the carrier for inspection. We can’t promise this will happen but we’ve had customers tell us it’s happened to them. We have a rigid plastic carrier that will fit under the seat of most airliners. We also offer a more purse like carrier that was used by one of our customers to bring her Amazon from the Amazon to the US. You can find her experience chronicled here.

There are two sides to traveling with your bird. The trip and the destination. Let’s start with the trip. In that any trip in or on any sort of vehicle whether it be a bicycle, automobile, motorcycle or motor home your bird has to deal with something called “inertia”.
 
I like riding very fast motorcycles. On my really really fast motorcycle I have a backrest so when I accelerate rapidly, I’m not pushed to the back seat which would make driving a bit problematic. When I break or decelerate, because my hands are on the handlebars I’m able to use my arms to resist catapulting myself forward (and yes I have played the role of human catapult off a motorcycle but that’s another story).
Prevue pop up portable bird play area
You can take your kid to the Park….
In most every carrier I see, birds are asked to stand on a bird perch that goes side to side. So if your bird is in say, an automobile facing forward, every time you accelerate and brake your bird must grab that perch as tight as his muscles allow so he isn’t forced backward (or forward when breaking). This puts an unusual amount of physical and mental stress on your bird.
 
For this reason we recommend installing a U or L shaped soft rope perch in any travel cage. Think public transportation. If you’ve ever had occasion to ride a bus there are grabs and poles along the top portion of the bus that you can hold onto for offsetting inertia.
Booda rope perch and U-shaped shown in hard plastic bird carrier

Booda’sare comfy on a birds feet for long periods of time. The bird will sit in the middle of the “U” and the vertical sides allow them to grab a higher point which will help counteract the acceleration and deceleration of the vehicle they are in
By allowing your bird to sit at the bottom of the “U”, when they sense a change of speed (inertia) they can raise 1 foot and grab the vertical portion of the “U” with the other foot remaining at the bottom thereby helping them offset the inertia.
 
If you have an SUV or minivan it’s best to secure the travel cage to an area on the floor. If you have a sedan and the travel cage is going to be placed on a back seat, keeping it in place with the seat belt is a no-brainer. Knowing to place a spacer between the back of his seat and the carrier so they can’t chew your Corinthian leather, is why you read this newsletter.
Speaking of inertia, make sure that if you have toys in the cage and you’ll be traveling by motor vehicle, the toys are placed so they don’t bang into your birds with every stop and turn.
 
If your mode of travel is road trip and you plan on driving past sundown, it’s important to cover the cage before the bright flickering of on coming vehicle headlights become a nervous distraction. Birds don’t like that.
 
Fast food is a staple of road warriors. Keeping your bird fed and watered while in motion can be a bit of a challenge. Counterintuitive as it may be, birds do in fact get car sick. How do you know if your bird will get car sick? Take him or her for a practice run or two before you learn how such a small body can spew that much birdie vomit just at the moment you’ve reached the point of no return on your road trip.
We’ve read bird car sickness remedies ad nauseam (pun intended). As far as we’re concerned, you’re on your own with any of the remedies that you find on the web or Facebook. We are old-school so we recommend if you find you do have a bird that gets carsick, it’s best not to feed them 6 to 12 hours before prolonged travel allowing them to travel on an empty crop. Problem solved.
 
For hydration, place a single large ice cube in the travel cage dish. It keeps water sloshing to a minimum and your bird will enjoy running their tongue across the cold ice.
Prevue pop up playground for birds shown partially open
…or you can take the park to your FID.
Whether your destination be a condominium, log cabin or tent in the woods. It is important that the travel cage has some toys, just like at home and a cover for nighttime. Your bird might be a great traveler. We have a customer that travels with four or five macaws in big wire dog crates. One of the blue and Golds, hangs upside down from the roof of his crate for 1400 miles chattering to himself the entire way.
 
Other birds might not be as comfortable with the ride and/or the destination. When you get to wherever you’re going, it’s important to spend some time with your bird at least in the the same room talking to help reassure him that you – (and the rest the flock are not abandoning him or her).
Prevue pop up playground for birds
So what’s the best type of carrier to use? It’s like determining the right size bird cage. It’s based upon your relationship with your bird. Opaque plastic or even fully clear see-through plastic carriers are fine for use with category 1, short trips with smaller birds. Or by necessary category 2, airline travel.
 
Birds are about superhuman eyesight (literally) and lung function/capacity. Keeping birds in even partial darkness and without 360 degree ventilation is stressful.

African Grey Plucking Solutions

These are the two products I recommend.

AviCalm

http://goo.gl/vtkw8

Featheriffic

http://goo.gl/eVkrg

Add to wet foods (veggies, fruit, oatmeal, cereal, eggs, anything it can stick to.

This link takes you to the Blog article about the Privacy/leaves, toys conversation we had.

http://goo.gl/tx5kg

This is our BLOG with LOTS of bird care articles.

http://www.birdandparrot.info/blog.asp

This is another articles library we host.

http://goo.gl/AmDDf

You can go here to locate an Avian Vet in your area

http://aav.org/search/

This is a good site to ask an Avian Vet a question

http://goo.gl/LtBvP

Here is a Behaviorist that also does phone consultations

www.thepoliteparrot.com

I wish you the best.

Catherine Tobsing
Windy City Parrot Birdie Boutique

How do you select a healthy, happy parakeet?

two parakeets kissing
 

Your article about the bird canopy was great and taught me a lot. Now I need to know exactly what kind of artificial greenery can be used which Maisie can’t eat and, possibly, poison herself and, 

 
My best friend wants to buy a parakeet and hopes I will help. How do you select a healthy, happy parakeet?

 
Thank you for the kind words about last weeks newsletter. To be clear when we talk about the “canopy” we’re talking about using bird toys and accessories to fill in negative space the upper one third of the cage.
 
These items present both foraging opportunities and serve as privacy barriers. We have seen bird people over the years use artificial plants in aviaries but usually with many of the smallest of birds like finches, canaries and parakeets. 
 
The artificial plants should be plastic making them easy to clean yet bushy. The bushiness allows birds to take refuge and to get a little privacy perhaps avoiding the pursuit of an overzealous mate to be.
 
Addressing the issue of selecting a happy healthy parakeet. I like to remind people that one of the best defenses nature gave birds is their ability to hide illness. It’s not uncommon to have a pet parakeet that just keels over dead one day for no apparent reason. The bird was sick but nobody could ever tell
 
In nature the display of illness is the display of weakness. Perhaps because of the overall fragility of birds nature gave them the ability to hide illness and not show weakness a wonderful survival trait.
 
Sorry I had to take you around the block for this but the point is that it’s very difficult to simply look at a bird and tell that’s healthy or not. Whether you go to a pet shop or breeding facility it’s most likely parakeets will be displayed in a small flock.
 
What you want to look for are those that are the most active and inquisitive and if you’re real lucky if one jumps on your hand or finger take it home immediately.
 
Mitch Rezman
Windy City Parrot

 

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