Practice Makes Perfect When It Comes to Bird Towel Restraint

Mastering the art of safe and non invasive restraint techniques for your companion bird is essential for proper grooming and emergency first aid procedures.
One of the most primary lessons in our Parrot Life Seminars is a demonstration on proper towel restraint for various species of birds. It’s also one of the crucial items avian caretakers need to know in the event of an emergency or for grooming and general health assessment. In previous post we’ve discussed how HARI fledglings are desensitized to towel by teaching them towel cradling.

Fledglings learn very quickly that their towel is “OK” which makes grooming or emergency handling a less stressful situation. Well, what about parrots that were not towel trained…that can be challenging for the both the bird and the novice handler. In the same manner we practice fire drills or other emergency procedures at home or at work, we do recommend that you practice towel restraint with birds long before an actual emergency arises. With regular practice on a method that is non invasive, your feathered buddy will soon learn that this is “OK” too! If you are uncomfortable at first, ask your avian veterinarian or an experienced bird friend to assist.

So let’s begin this first lesson in a step by step guideline for Towel Restraint, but first take a moment to understand the cautionary statement about preparing your bird for a towel restraint!
CAUTION: Care must be taken never to apply pressure on the body of the bird. The bird’s air sacs are found throughout the body. Many handlers fail to realize that compressing the lower body (above the hips) can be suffocating to the bird!
If the bird shows signs of hypoventilation (rapid breathing and signs of overheating), then release the bird immediately to resume at a later time. Overweight and inactive birds have lower tolerance to restraint and stress. The towel will restrict movement of your bird if it is tucked properly.
TIPS: overweight birds or birds unaccustomed to handling can be sprayed with water prior to towel restraint. This cools the body temperature and actually eases the “wrap” process.

1. Assemble your tools :
Towels: choose a towel material that does not slip or one that does not shred or unthread easily, as nails tend to get caught in the loops and lose threads.

For All Size Birds
Gel Pad ( A Gel-type Seat cushion is perfect as it protects the bird’s shoulder region when he’s lying on his back on the counter)

Spray mist bottle with room temperature water
Large Bird
Advisable for 2 people

2 Large towels (3 X the size of the bird with wings expanded)
Velcro strap for larger bird restraint
Small Bird
2 Hand size towel-

Small Velcro strap

2. Place the Gel Pad Cushion on counter top for padding. You can use a large towel if you don’t have a cushion.
3. Place Open Velcro strip on the pad about where the bird middle section would be once he’s on the Gel Pad. It doesn’t have to be perfectly placed-but rather ready.

What are the 3 most important things to teach your bird?

Thank you for once again allowing us into your inbox. Because I add motorcycling and swimming to my weeklyactivities in the summer months, I end up with a little less time for blogging and newsletter writing. I’m sure after this long harsh winter you want to enjoy the summer sun too. That said we’ll keep these things a little shorter and hope we will continue to be your go to coaches for caged bird care. It’s essential for anyone who has an exotic bird to take the time to practice the trifecta of essential bird training. 

  1. Stick training
  2. Toweling
  3. Travel carrier rehearsal
Stick training
Using a “stick” which could be anything from a conventional perch to a broom or mop handle is useful in two specific applications. The first is getting a biter to “step up” onto anything other than your hand thus avoiding the bite. Biting birds can take up an entire post so for this discussion we’ll focus on the second reason.
Let’s assume you have a great relationship with your bird. It’s flighted or mildly clipped (and perhaps can fly horizontally). “Stepping up” to yours or any family member’s hand is a slam dunk. So why would you need your bird not to be afraid of “the stick”?
Hypothetical: Your bird is calmly preening on its play stand in your family room. An asteroid slams into the house next door OR the neighbor kid hits a grand slam, into your patio door. The strike doesn’t break the glass but startles your bird who then flap’s their wings frantically and somehow ends up behind your entertainment center, refrigerator, sectional sofa – take your pick.
The dilemma becomes – you can’t get your “hand” any closer than 12 inches to your “hand trained” bird. This is not the time to introduce a “scary stick”. This is the time you want that perch, broom handle or mop to be friendly and familiar. Something that your bird who is 12 inches away from your hand gladly steps up to and climbing into it, making rescue easy while reducing the chance of injury.
“My bird hates toweling” is not an excuse for a few hundred grams of feathers and hollow bones to avoid a necessary and inevitable procedure. Toweling is essential for anything from nail trimming to wing clipping, removing a blood feather or a simple weekly exam. Your vet is going to towel your bird for simple wellness visits so why make the experience traumatic?
Small birds like Parakeets and Cockatiels can be “toweled” with a paper towel sheet. Larger species will need a fabric towel, preferably one that doesn’t catch toenails easily like looped terry cloth. The point is, if you wait until a time when your bird needs to be restrained, the familiarity or lack thereof with said towel will make a huge difference in your quality of life at that moment. Find a towel and get your bird familiar with it. Keep it clean and accessible for when you need it most.
Travel carrier rehearsal
Your bird, budgies included, can live anywhere from a quarter to a full century. During those decades, let me ask you if the following may occur?
  1. A trip to the vet
  2. Bringing your bird to a bird club meeting
  3. Take your bird to work
  4. Go on vacation with your bird
  5. An earthquake
  6. A power outage
  7. A fire
  8. Flooding
  9. Painting a room
Let me ask you, do you want to fight with your bird as the floodwaters rise, the walls come tumbling down, the house chills because it has no power, you need to get to work on time? (disaster is a big buffet) There will be a time in your bird’s life that they need to get from point A to point B. Your bird’s travel carrier should be friendly and familiar. Something that they easily and calmly enter. 
Speaking of traveling with your bird, it’s a good practice to not only stick train, towel train and place your bird in its carrier on a regular basis, but to prepare your bird for terrestrial vehicular travel. Speaking of which I’ve seen painfully long threads on Facebook talking about all sorts of solutions for birds who get car sick.
I’ve never seen a bird get car sick and it really goes against the grain (in my mind) for an animal that can fly but apparently it does in fact happen. It’s amazing how many homeopathic remedies people have found. I’ve even seen veterinarians write about the subject saying “make sure the bird has eaten and has had plenty of water to help them remain calm”.
In that I have found no studies that defined the proper amount of things like “ginger” any given species of bird can tolerate, I’ll offer you this simple solution. If your bird does get car sick and regurgitates while being transported in a two or four wheeled vehicle, simply withhold food for 4 to 6 hours prior to travel. Your bird won’t starve but it will have an empty crop which means there will be nothing to regurgitate, thus avoiding the trauma for your feathered companion.
written by Mitch Rezman
approved by Catherine Tobsing

Has Wing Clipping Damaged Your Bird’s Feet?

Lately I have been villainized, accused of being self righteous and generally disdained by all the people who feel clipping their bird’s wings is the right thing to do. So I proudly wear the Scarlet (Macaw) letter “F” (for Flighted) on my chest. 
But I think we have done, thanks to Denise, a fine job of stating the benefits of wing clipping. And while the fight between the Hardfeathers and the Macaws rages on I’d like to bring some clarity to the situation.
Our corporate mission is “to be an advocate for the birds”. We want to make sure your bird is healthy whether it’s wings are clipped or not. I’d like to move from the debate for a moment and talk about caged bird foot care for birds that have clipped wings. 
If a bird’s wings are clipped, it’s grounded. It basically does not fly. That means your bird is on its feet literally 24/7. Which begs the question, “when was the last time you closely examined your bird’s feet?”
The case could be made that this is another transparent attempt to argue against wing clipping but while I was mulling over the importance of bird foot care especially with birds who have clipped wings, I received this comment in a recent blog post Bird Parasites, Cage Litter & the Great Wing Clipping Debate which speaks for itself 
Sandra – Date 5/21/2014
Dear Mitch, I could have lost my 50 year old gorgeous double yellow-headed male amazon due to a groomer’s error. She knew him for quite a while and knew his wings had NEVER been clipped. After she clipped his nails (I rarely have this done anymore with new nail perches/along with rope perches); she unconsciously clipped his wings as she was conversing with customers. 
I came to find out that she clips all her customer’s bird’s wings. She is a high-end bird store owner and health adviser. Julius began to fall off his perch. The groomer told me to lower the perches and pad the bottom of the cage — that it was probably getting close to “his time” and that he was having mini-strokes. She said that perhaps the trip to have his nails clipped had been too much for him. Sort of a long drive. She also suggested I take him to a vet to have him put down! After a few more days of horrendous sobbing, I took him to the vet to have him put down. 
I had to have a driver. I had him in his travel cage on the console saying my good-bye’s. At a stop Julius grabbed onto the wire side. I saw the bottom of his foot. It was raw and ripped up!!! (I would never have been able to see them otherwise.) The vet and I figured out that he had lost his ability to balance after his wings were clipped and it took all his strength to a hang onto a perch and he injured the bottom of is feet. It just got worse and worse. How painful that must have been! The vet gave me medicines which helped his feet and pain. She also said that his health was excellent. But, I had called her before the trip and she said that it sounded like mini strokes and that she’s humanely euthanize him when I got there. Imagine if I had not seen his foot. She wouldn’t have either as she avoided being bitten (A serious biter). 
I kept a low perch as he hated being on the padded cage bottom…that was for the falls mostly. And as his wings grew back (thank goodness they did as they were clipped way too short!) his falls were less and less. After his gorgeous wings returned to full size, he never fell again. I am so glad you have addressed bird foot health. Share this is you want to. I also have a clingy goffin, Ozzie, that will return to me flying outside, but we have hawks around. If I don’t give him enough attention, it shows up on his plucked belly. He was rehomed 5 times because he bite everyone and refused to come out of his cage. 
Well, he’s very well trained now (9 tricks that he loves to do–he’s even on YouTube playing a child’s piano and drum). Now he only bites everyone but me! Someone damaged him along the way. Julius is a damaged re-home too. After months, I used to be able to snuggle with him like a kitten, clip his nails, take him anywhere. And, he also bit everyone, but me–flying attacks were not out-of-order for him. Since the adoption of Ozzie, he bites me now if he steps up on my hand; deeply. He’s extremely jealous. I must always use a stick to move him. I’ve tried relocating them to separate rooms. Julius has to see him or he gets very upset. 
Even at the groomer’s, we had to keep them within sight of each other. The two birds love/hate each other. On occasion, they’ve landed on each other’s cages. No injuries. Threatening moves, but I somehow feel that they would not go out of their way to hurt each other. Taking no chances. But one day when I was gone, Ozzie found out how to open his cage and flew over to Julius’s cage. He figured out how to open Julius’s cage. There they were both sitting next to each other on top of Julius’s cage like two peas in a pod. What am I doing wrong! Both are so madly in love with me. I keep explaining to them there is no way I’m going to lay an egg.
Thank you for that Sandra – Feet check goes on the weekly care to do list. Point made ’nuff said.
So I thought we’d have a little fun exploring things you might not know about your bird’s feet. There are several categories of bird feet including webbed and unwebbed. The four most common of bird’s feet configurations are classified as anisodactyl, zygodactyl, tridactyl, & didactyl 
For this discussion we will focus on zygodactyl – two toes in front (2, 3) and two in back (1, 4) – the outermost front toe (4) is reversed. Many birds that perch like woodpeckers, owls, cockatoo’s, ospreys and most parrots, have zygodactyl feet. Interestingly woodpeckers can rotate the outer digit (4) to the side creating an ectropodactyl arrangement. Owls, ospreys and turacos can move the outer toe (4) back and forth
In this picture of the African gray (above) I would be very concerned about the size of this piece of wood or perch with a too small diameter. The toes should not wrap all the way around. One problem to look for when your bird stands on a perch that is too small, is the front toes 2 & 3 could accidentally injure the rear toes 1 & 4. For more about parrot foot maintenance read this
The fun part about exploring is you never know where it’s going to take you. I found this really cool graphic of a pigeon’s skeleton.
1. Skull, 2. Cervical vertebrae, 3. Furcula, 4. Coracoid, 5. Uncinate process, 6. Keel, 7. Patella, 8. Tarsometatarsus, 9. Digits, 10. Tibiotarsus (10 and 11), 11. Tibiotarsus (10 and 11), 12. Femur, 13. Ischium (innominate bone), 14. Pubi (innominate bone), 15. Illium (innominate bone), 16. Caudal vertebrae, 17. Pygostyle, 18. Synsacrum, 19. Scapula, 20. Lumbar vertebrae, 21. Humerus, 22. Ulna, 23. Radius, 24. Carpus, 25. Metacarpus, 26. Digits, 27. Alula.
I’d like to point out the two bones (right and left) labeled number 8, the Tarsometatarsus, it’s what a calf is to us. What’s interesting is it’s only found in the lower leg of birds and certain non-avian dinosaurs. Evolution formed the Tarsometatarsus by fusing several bones in other types of animals (we humans have two in our calf area, the Tibia and Fibula). 
Although you see no ankle, bird’s knees (7. Patella) are much higher up in the leg usually hidden by feathers.
written by Mitch Rezman
approved by Catherine Tobsing

Bird Parasites, Cage Litter & the Great Wing Clipping Debate

How do you know if your bird has mites? Excessive scratching could be the first clue, but but that could also be attributed to dry skin. The simplest method is to take a piece of white computer paper and hold it under your bird’s main perch. Then tap, tap, tap hard on the perch with something like a wooden spoon. If you see small red dot “crawly things” on the paper, those would be mites. If you’re in doubt a visit to the vet would be in order.
Parrot lice will look like tiny brownish insects that are visible crawling throughout your bird feathers. Sometimes lice are so small you will not be able to see them with your naked eye. Once again excessive scratching may be the first indicator
There are treatments out there in the form of “dust” with instructions that the dust be applied “under the wings and tail but avoid the head and face”. Good luck with the squirming bird. We recommend Dyna-Mite from Mango Pet. It will not only kill the lice but will make your bird feel better in the process. This soothing formula is a natural, non-toxic, non-irritating hypoallergenic blend of aloe, organic oils, diatomeceous earth and only non toxic organics. It kills mites and lice by physical action and not by chemicals, so no harm can come to birds or humans.
Can you get lice from your bird? Fortunately bird lice are exclusive to birds and will not invade human hair. That said lice can still be a repository of the number of diseases and can make for nasty itchy bites on humans.
Unless you really have a handle on this parasite situation we suggest that you don’t touch your bird a lot until the parasites are gone or you’ve met with your veterinarian.
 We get requests for bedding and litter to place on the bottom of bird cages on a regular basis. We don’t recommend using litter in bird cages because
  • it retains odors and bacteria
  • it makes it harder to monitor your birds poop
  • it traps moisture in the birdcage which will promote rust in a bird cage with a metal pan.
Newspaper is cheap and plentiful. It is perfectly bird safe since Congress mandated that all ink use of the United States be safe for our children thus our birds.
You know that I am a proponent for keeping birds flighted But in fairness we presented the arguments for wing clipping last week. I posted articles for and against wing clipping our Facebook fan page. What I’m not hearing in the discussion is those parts of a bird that it spends 99.99% on – their feet! Why aren’t we talking bird foot health?
Here’s a sampling of our Facebook Fan Page of comments and wing clipping:
Annelie Johansson 
There is NO benefits with clipped wings. If u cant handle a pet that fly—do not buy it. I had many parrots parrotlets and African greys, and I have never clipped their wings and I never will.
Dodi McClellan Nolly 
Sorry, that’s just ignorance on your part. Birds will fly into windows and mirrors a quite a good speed and can break their necks. They can also end up in a pot of boiling water on your stove. There are all sorts of dangers from not clipping. If you love your bird you will keep your bird safe
Sean David Raney 
If i wanted something that wouldn’t fly I would have a dog. Don’t buy or adopt something and change its body to fit your lack of time or training skill. These birds are meant to fly. It is our job/duty to train them to do it safely. If we do not know how then we get lessons from trainers like we would any other pet. We take them out harnessed so they are safe when out. We do recall training with them. These birds take a lot of time and patience. We make sure our birds do not have unsupervised direct access to the outside. If you cant to this then you are better off with a goldfish.
Windy Moore 
That’s why years ago my late husband and I took our cockatoo and cockatiel to our avian vet for wing clipping. He always did a beautiful job.
Kay King
We have ten birds at this time, all flighted. We have configured our home with flight paths and doors in mind. We put sheer curtains in doorways to prevent access to outside doors. We are VERY careful with the birds whenever anyone is around. If the birds are in the kitchen (usually during breakfast prep – NOT cooking!) the back door remains double dead-bolted. I have clipped wings on the budgies when they are first taken in and prone to panic flying into walls and furniture. But as soon as this initial panic is over the wings are allowed to grow out and they are given flight time EVERY day. Flight is necessary for emotional, mental and physical well being. A flighted bird is more relaxed and confident because it knows it can fly from danger. Having birds is not for everyone. It takes far more work and sacrifice to give a bird proper care than most other pets.
Joseph Mccourt
I have done mine for years because I take him out every day the weather permits. It is amazing how fast they look like hell because of the way they grow back. This bird here can take flight any time it wants. I have taken the entire bottom portion off except for three on the tip and still had to chase him three blocks, and had to climb a tree to get him down. This is after several years of walking him up the boardwalk and beach. You bring one home, know the responsibilities you are taking on.
written by Mitch Rezman
approved by Catherine Tobsing

Upsides to Wing Clipping & EZ Pellet Conversion

Welcome to Sunday Birdie Brunch.
Everyone who knows me knows I am an advocate of keeping birds flighted. Strong headed as I am I realize that there’s two sides to every story so I asked Denise Wamsley to provide her input on the benefits of clipping bird’s wings. Denise – you’re on.
“Hi everyone.
If your flighted bird is startled, it’s first instinct is to fly–and that’s how you lose it. (A (properly) trimmed bird can still fly, just horizontally and down…)
Or it’s just flying around when company arrives, front door is open, your bird flies out. Every spring, an incredible number of lost cockatiels (usually small birds), is reported. Breaks my heart. Never found, either.

Pellet Alternatives – Cage Cleaning & Cage Sharing Tips

I thought it was appropriate while introducing one of our newest divided cages to talk about the best uses for a divided birdcage. As luck would have it the following question came across my digital desk.
from: Kristen
AE PC-4226D divided Dual Pyay top Cage\
AE PC-4226D – Currently awaiting fresh inventory
I have an Umbrella cockatoo and a Conure and we’d like to combine their enclosures. Is the left side of this divided cage AE PC-4226D (above) large enough for an umbrella cockatoo? Thanks for the info.
Hi Kristen
what is your motivation for placing the birds in the same cage? My concern is the Cockatoo biting the toe off the conure when no one’s around and the conure is left to bleed out. Unless they’ve been housed together for a while it’s generally not recommended to share the same enclosure.
In direct answer to your question, the size of the cage is directly related to the human’s lifestyle – if the bird is going to be in the cage for 6 – 8 hours a day, it’s much too small for a U2 – if it’s only used for sleeping it would be fine
Hi Mitch,
Thank you for your note. 
Our birds are in cages next to each other at present. Our cockatoo’s cage is large but needs replacing, and I was just pondering the thought of combining the cages (but not housing the birds together without a dividing barrier). They are both entertained by being near each other, but I would obviously never let them alone together. With this kind of cage, can they actually reach the other through the divider? (I noticed you have an larger divided parrot cage – HQ 36432, which I’m assuming would probably be the right size for the cockatoo, but if it is possible to grab/bite the conure through the divider, that wouldn’t work – can you advise about this? )
Both birds are out of the cage a lot – I work from home and have three homeschooling kids, so they get a lot of attention.
Thanks for the information, and best wishes,
That said, cage size is a non issue. The problem is two fold – all divided cages use dividers just like cage walls, The foot biting often occurs at night and is reactionary due to darkness. You can introduce a plastic barrier as well but that’s miserable to clean.
The other possible issue is an Umbrella Cockatoo and a Conure (you don”t say what kind and sizes varies greatly with Conures) have fairly different needs in terms of toys, perches and accessories – this is something you may have worked out but it is a consideration.
Hope that helps.
We feel caged bird keeping best practices should be to use a cage like this for a pair of small to medium-sized birds like 
Senegals, small Conures or Caiques whether they are breeding or not. Much like human couples, separation is not always a bad thing.
Every circumstance is different. I’ve been witness to cage mate combinations I never dreamed would work (Triton Cockatoo – Umbrella Cockatoo (U12) and a Congo African Grey – for 7 years) BUT more often than not, 2 birds in a cage will cause stress to one or both birds regardless of sexual combinations. Stress is another trigger which can manifest itself in physical illness, Nuff said.
AE Cage Sale Thru 5/24/14
I can’t decide if having access to Google 24/7 is making us smarter or dumber? The last century when I was growing up I learned like many of us that salted peanuts tasted great but it wasn’t until I was well into my teens that I found out that they got the salt on the peanut that was inside the shell, by soaking the entire peanut shell in a salty brine solution that passed through the shell and magically gave the hidden parts, the delicious salty flavor.
How does this relate to anything about birds especially that you should not give birds salted anything? What got me thinking about this was reviewing some listings in the Lafeber’s category. I think Lafeber’s is an under-understood and under-appreciated source of bird nutrition.
We carry a lot of bird seed blends. Sometimes I like to focus the individual manufacturer taking the time to point out facts about their products that are not always fully understood. Like Avi-Cakes that are 50% pellets. Hulled grains, seeds, and fruit in the case of Fruit Delight Avi-Cakes, are blended with pellets. 
15% Off Your 1st Order
Have you thought about or failed in converting your bird to pellets? When was the last time your bird got excited about a bowl full of pellets? Pellets offer complete nutrition but not much in the way of taste or texture. Have you ever considered Classic Nutri-Berries for Parrots? They are nutritionally balanced like pellets, just not ground up. Both pellets and Nutri-Berries contain seeds and grains. When manufacturing pellets, they are finely ground into powder before being formed into a pellet. Most of the seeds and grains in Nutri-Berries are kept whole because Dr. Lafeber discovered how to nutritionally balance them like pellets without grinding. 
Let’s focus on the words “Hulled grains, seed” which make Lafeber’s uniquely more nutritious, and here’s why. I’ll quote from their website “The secret is hulling. By hulling the seeds and grains and then coating them with stabilized vitamins, chelated minerals and amino acids, your bird receives premium nutrition. Plus unground seeds and grains provide the benefit of whole foods like parrots have in the wild.”
All those hulls under your bird’s cage (that do nothing but add to the joy of caged bird keeping 🙂 are covered with all the “fortified vitamins” found in many seed formulations. Those are all the vitamins and minerals your bird is not getting because they spend most of their time eating, removing the hulls. Which is why we always recommend a supplemental multivitamin for any caged bird on an all seed diet – get it?
What other benefits does your bird get when eating Lafeber’s products? To quote their website “Fun foraging with whole seeds and grains. Meals should be exciting, not boring. With Nutri-Berries your bird enjoys the crunching of seeds and grains, biting into whole seeds and playing with the round shape. All this is a vital part healthy foraging”.
To make the decision easy for you to try Avi-Cakes or Nutriberries for the first time or to stock up because you know they will never last long enough to go out of date, we’ve lowered all the prices!
Buy LaFeber's Nuti-Berries for Birds & Parrots
It’s spring and it is the time you drag the birdcage out to the backyard, fire up the pressure washer to remove last winter’s worth of poop, food particulate, powder coating – wait. You thought you were doing the right thing. Cut it out!
If you’re reading this on a mobile device like a tablet or smart phone, I’d like you to walk over in stand in front of your birdcage. Look at the four corners of your birdcage. Also look at the horizontal cross members that the vertical bars are going through (or welded to). Notice they are much wider than the “bars” of your birdcage. Depending upon the age of your cage the vertical “bars” may pass through many drilled holes in the horizontal structural components or may terminate with welds on the top and the bottom of said horizontal pieces. The bars of your birdcage are solid metal. The cage “corners” and “horizontal members” are hollow
You may or may not have noticed while assembling your cage, very small holes on these wider structural components of your birdcage. The small holes are used to hang components of the birdcage while in the powder coating portion of birdcage manufacturing. The small holes double as “weep” holes allowing water to escape from the interior of these HOLLOW components of your birdcage.
Huh? The corners and horizontal structural components of your bird cage are HOLLOW meaning when you use the pressure washer – garden hose – shower head, to clean your birdcage, you are soaking these hollow portions which have no powder coating on the interior of them thus accelerating the rate of oxidization better known as RUST.
Powder coating “bonds” with metal. Rust easily breaks this bond. To ensure the maximum life of your birdcage, we suggest you get a steamer. It allows you to clean your cage without moving your cage. You can easily clean and sanitize not only the cage but all the bird toys and accessories, all in the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee.
You’re welcome.
Comments encouraged below.
Buy bird cage steam cleaners
written by Mitch Rezman
approved by Catherine Tobsing Sunday Feathered Funnies – Enjoy!
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