Your Bird & Holiday Stress – How to Reduce it

“She was not quite what you would call refined.
She was not quite what you would call unrefined.
She was the kind of person that keeps a parrot.”
Mark Twain
Admit it. If you’re into birds, you may be considered a little bit “off”. We put up with the mess, the feathers, the noise and the unpredictable behavior but we can’t live without our feathered companions. Catherine asked just last night (while she was scratching Popcorn until her knuckles began to get cramped) “what does this small white bundle of feathers bring to the table?”
She asked it with a smile on her face and I knew it was rhetorical. Every weekday morning Popcorn and I have routine. I wake up and let her out of the cage. She then follows me around the apartment like an Air Force escort helping me do things like make the bed and get dressed which is always easier with a Cockatiel on top of a mangled set of blankets or on your shoulder while you try to put on a shirt.
2 baby African grey Parrots with Santa hats and scarves
If she gets in my way I shoo her off. Her new thing is to fly to the top of the door crown moldings (we have 9 1/2 foot ceilings so she has lots of room to fly). Last week when my friend Joe was over, Popcorn was walking on the table where we were about to eat. I gently grabbed her entire body with my hand and then lofted her like a slow softball pitch.
I knew she would lose 6 inches to a foot of altitude than flap flap flap right to the top of her cage. I could see the smile in Joe’s face and he said it “that is so freaking cool” (he didn’t use the word freaking). Popcorn is like this beam of positive energy in the household. She’s full of 100% absolute goodness and is always cheerful – unless of course on rare occasions we need to leave her alone during the day for a few hours. Which brings me to today’s subject.
Your bird is stressed regardless of the level of care. How I know this if I don’t know you or your bird? Do you own a birdcage? Why do you need to birdcage? Because if you open the door of the birdcage and you open the door to your house, your bird will fly away (if his or her wings are not clipped). Your bird does not want to live in said birdcage. Your bird wants to fly around look for food and chat with other birds. Keeping a bird in a cage is not the life nature intended for birds.
I lost my bird or I found a parrot are 2 problems w/ interchangeable solutions - think, don't panic & have a plan
Yes we sell bird supplies. So do dozens of other websites and stores. I can’t speak for any other organization. Our mission is to be an advocate for the birds. We do our best to help educate people in creating the best environment for a given bird species without having the Amazon rain forest at our disposal.
To further stress your bird out most of you reading this live in North America (hello to our friends around the world) which has a different light cycle than your bird instinctively anticipates being from generally equatorial areas of the planet.
I can rattle off a dozen more stress points but the one many of you are about to face is the Christmas holidays. If you have family coming over they may have some shrieking kids or small dogs. Putting on your best bird caregiver hat, you lock your bird up for safety in another room. Stress point. On the flip side you may be making a trip to Aunt Martha’s leaving the bird home alone. Stress point.
cockatiel wearing flight helmet on papaer airplane about to be launched by hand
your options may be limited – stress point
The holidays are unavoidable and much like many of you, I love to see them come and I love to see them go. Your bird doesn’t understand Christmas and darkness and alone time.The best we can do is to provide an adequate stimulating environment within the birds cage.
You may even want to consider giving your bird a chill pill in the form of a supplement like AviCalm. Better yet what I’m advocating is to take a proactive role by ensuring your bird’s cage is filled with the appropriate amount of enrichment paraphernalia. In the wild your bird spends the majority of its time searching for food. At home food is 20 inches away. Not very stimulating.
One of Catherine’s favorite sayings is “bigger bird, bigger brain” Bigger birds are functioning at a two or three-year-old human toddler level albeit like that of an autistic child. He or she wants to be doing something while you’re noodling on that new tablet you got for Christmas. This is why we are rapidly expanding our line of interactive toys for both large and small birds.
11/21/2014 Update
All the synchronicity you have with your bird(s) goes to hell in a hand basket around the holidays if you get company. As much is you want your bird to be part of the holidays think about the realities. If people in your home for very short periods are not used to looking for a bird that matches an area rug walking on the floor, your bird can easily get stepped on.
Maybe not this parrot
Every decoration that you put up for the holidays screams in bird speak “I’m new and interesting come and see what I’m all about” everything from the Christmas tree itself and the tinsel foil to the multiple electrical cords the wrapping paper, the scotch tape adhesives – when you really think about it, the holidays are a major amplification of the potential for tragedy with your bird.
Holiday activity can mean strange people and strange materials in the house. Can be information overload to caged bird. Some birds handle it well, some do not. If you see your bird getting agitated consider a simple solution like moving the cage into a “quiet” room with a family member checking on it regularly to remind them they are not alone.
I know you’re Jonesing to get that petrified fruitcake wrapped up so I’ll let you go. I just want to remind you that you are your birds flock and keeper so it’s on you to understand and serve their needs the best you can.
A video explaining how interactive toys can help solve feather plucking and screaming in parrots that would have otherwise little to do in the birdcage to keep them active mentally
written by mitch rezman
approved by mitch rezman
your zygodactyl footnote

Sex and the Single Bird

There’s two sides to this conversation. there’s the “your bird needs to have some sort of sexual satisfaction in their life” and there’s the “what sex is your bird”?
Let’s start with bird sexing.
About 20 to 25% of parrots are classified as sexually dimorphic. This means you can tell them apart by their color. Male Eclectus parrots are green and females are red. Male Indian and African Ringnecks, when mature have a neck ring, females have no ring.
You can determine the sex of certain species of finches by their actions when separated from the flock. Female lovebirds will shred paper into feather like strips and tuck the paper under their feathers, male birds just turn the paper to confetti.
Malel and female Eclectus Parrots allopreening
In general as budgies approach a year old the cere, or the fleshy region just above the beak turns blue for males and a brownish or pinkish color for females. But what if your bird is among the 75% of monomorphic birds where both the male and female appeared to be identical?
We can’t tell male and female birds apart by looking at their genitalia because it’s inverted (about 3% of birds actually have a penis). Males and females alike open up and bring together their cloacas, a basic single opening through which all the birds’ various bodily emissions pass, in order to have sex.
For many years, the only way you could determine the sex of a bird was to go to a veterinarian and have the bird surgically sexed. The veterinarian would use a laparoscope through a small incision in the abdomen and identify the sex organs. Today science has made great strides. For less than 20 bucks you can mail a drop of blood to a “who’s your daddy” DNA testing lab and find out the results in about a week via mail. If you’re interested you can order a test kit here.
On the”your bird needs to have some sort of sexual satisfaction in their life” side of the equation we have to understand that birds, not unlike humans and most species have the instinctive need to reproduce. We bring these birds into our homes, mutilate their wings (by clipping their feathers), put them in 10 square-foot jails and wonder why they get aggressive or begin to self mutilate. Yes I know there’s lots of exceptions but rescues are overflowing with birds whose companions lacked an understanding of their needs.
We had a Facebook fan reach out to us couple of weeks ago and she was distraught because she had one male and three female budgies but no eggs. Apparently she felt she was better off with more females when in fact she created a love triangle/square jealousy something and simply needed to remove two of the females to allow the one female and one male do their thing.
What brought this entire discussion to mind was being home one evening with Popcorn, our little cockatiel. She’s fully flighted and flits around our apartment with very tall ceilings looking for things to keep herself occupied. In between ground (floor) foraging activity, she will fly to one of us seeking some petting. One day we noticed not long after stroking her from head to tail, she raised her rear end into the air and made little cooing sounds clearly indicating “female” sexual display. We knew right then that she was a female, without the DNA testing. We knew what brought this on. It was petting her a bit more aggressively along the length of her body. She is now restricted to head scritching only, which she still adores, to avoid her going into a broody mood and thus start laying infertile eggs. Sometimes this action is hard to stop and they will deplete calcium from their bodies causing egg binding and even death.
When you pet your bird below the neck, stroking its soft and supple feathered body, in the birds mind you have begun – foreplay. Some of us aren’t able to pet our birds. We tell people to think of parrots as autistic three-year-old children in feather suits that speak a different language. And this will never change.
With or without prompting, your bird is still going to have “needs”, and as much as this may shock you it’s very important for the birds will being that you help deal with the situation. Before you send the kids out of the room and you cover your husband’s eyes, the solution could be as simple as this.
Bird Foot Toy

The balls give them something to rub up against – and leave it at that. Balls also make great foot toys for bigger birds. They can be quite entertaining and easy to keep a couple on the play top area of the cage or the floor of the cage.
I have abbreviated this information because I know not all of us have a lot of time to study and engage all of our hobbies and passions but I do hope this was informative. I will be more than happy to carry on the discussion right here on the blog, or on our Facebook fan page..
Mitch Rezman
Windy City Parrot

Why is Knowing About Bird Perches is So Important?

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First some housekeeping
Short list of holiday pet bird threats
Chrysanthemum English Ivy Holly
Poinsettia Mistletoe Yew
Chocolate Electric Wires Scented Candles
Potpourri Room Fresheners Boiling Water
Frying Food Open Toilets Rhubarb
Holiday Decorations Half Filled Beverage Glasses Second-hand Cigarette smoke
Are you prepared for a holiday bird emergency?
What’s Your local Emergency Vet Contact Info?
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435
Enough said

Suggested perch diameter sizing cheat sizing cheat sheet Click here

Why is knowing about perches so important if you’re a bird keeper? Birds are on their feet 24/7. Understanding the perch/foot dynamic will help ensure a high quality of life for you bird(s) especially because with birds we think of companionship in terms of decades. If you have a parrot you should know the term zygodactyl foot – a bird’s foot having the first and fourth toes of each foot directed backward and the second and third forward

It’s OK for a perch to be a little smaller or larger in diameter than “recommended sizes” you’ll read about on the web. Basically don’t install a perch too large that a bird’s foot can’t grab comfortably (except for manicure perches) and/or may cause a bird to fall. Conversely too small a diameter may allow a birds foot to wrap all the way around causing the front nails to and cause pain or injury to it’s rear toes (because of the zygodactyl thing) Got it?
Hahns Macaw on Sand Blasted Manzanita
Hardwoods – Most cages come with at least one hardwood dowel perch. An additional hardwood should be introduced such as Dragonwood or Manzanita Perches. These woods offer not only durability but usually have uneven surfaces with knurls and knots. The varying diameter of these branches cause the birds feet to constantly adjust, thus providing needed foot exercise.

Rope can be in the form of a perch you attach to your cage like Booda soft rope perches. It can also be just rope. You can attach rope with a simple knot (never tie knots in chain please) Rope is soft on a birds feet and also gives them something to tear up with their beaks

Concrete, Sand, Terra-Cotta commonly called grooming perches can help your feathered friends nails and beak stay trimmed. Your bird will scrape it’s beak on a grooming perch much like rubbing a knife blade against a sharpening stone. Grooming perches are not meant to be slept on as the constant abrasion will do harm to their feet over time. It’s best to put grooming perches near food dishes. Birds are active while eating and the constant foot motion will wear down clothing sticking nail points. Birds will also like to remove particulate from their beaks and scraping beaks on grooming perches will help keep them in optimal shape.
When sizing grooming perches, the feet should not completely wrap around the perch so nails are dragged over the rough surface to keep them from getting sharp. Some perches are actually made of concrete but we prefer Hagen and Prevue grooming perches for their bird foot friendly abrasive surface. They won’t necessarily let you skip nail trimming but can keep points blunt

PVC is found in everything from the dash of your car to vinyl windows and no wonder. It’s resistant to scratches, temperature change and will take just about any abuse. a perfect material for parrots! It’s also pretty easy to clean because of the non-porous surface. The drawback to the smooth surface of PVC is that a bird may literally slip off. It’s not uncommon to get a new PVC accessory and see this occur which can be cured by simply rubbing emery or small grit sand paper along the length of the perch. PVC is popular for shower perches
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
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