Bird Cage Portal's PET BIRD BUZZ Blog - All Things Considered about Pet Birds and Pet Bird Supplies
A blog dedicated to the companion birds in your life!
Pet Bird BUZZ shares our thoughts and experiences of living with pet birds for over 25 years, along with comments about bird cages, bird supplies and accessories offered at BIRD CAGE PORTAL. Pet Bird BUZZ is all about having a great relationship with pet birds and providing them with the best envirnoment and a great life!
This article is near and dear to my heart, and I suspect after reading it you will agree this is a pet peeve that has been silently ripping your soul, too. How many of us have had birds for a couple of years now? How many of us are new bird owners? Whatever category you fall into, I’m sure that you have noticed by now how birds are changing, or have changed your life. The fact that your once immaculate carpet now crunches underfoot from strewn bird food from your feathered companion is a testament to the fact that you have, indeed, gone bird crazy.
People that aren’t "bird people" just don’t get it. To outsiders, birds are just animals that scream, fling food, poop, and generally create a bad headache and mess. I’m sure we have all experienced that blank look that you get when you proudly announced you just brought your latest little bundle of feathered joy home. That kind of "what on earth did you do?" look of befuddlement and amazement. Oh yes, you know the look I am talking about. I’m sure the look was followed up with the question of "why"? Or, if you have particularly nice friends, a more "oh, that’s nice" type of response may have followed.
Now, inevitably, you’ve introduced your friends to your new roommate, right? Maybe you did it in a nice beat around the bush "do you want to have dinner at my place" type deal. You proudly introduce parrot to human, and vice versa. You point out the cleanliness of the brand new cage (although we all know that won’t last long), and how smart your bird is for waving on command. Then, IT happens. Oh, you know what I am talking about. This is the part where your friend, caught in cute little animal mode, crouches in front of the cage and starts muttering those cringe inducing words. “Does Polly want a cracker"? "Is Polly a good birdie?" "Can you say Pretty Birdie? Polly want a cracker?”
Of course, your new avian companion is too intelligent to stoop to such level to reply to such questioning, and continues to sit on the perch ... mute and unmoving. Your friend turns to you and shrugs, and then asks that one question that every bird owner knows comes next ... “Does it talk?” You may sigh, shrug, and fruitlessly try to explain that yes, the pretty bird (whose name is not Polly) does indeed talk, but has a funky voice that can be hard to understand. No, the bird will not talk on demand. If you want to see a bird talk on command, go to Youtube. Otherwise, just please appreciate the bird for what it is and let’s get back to dinner.
If my birds could verbalize like humans, I am sure one of the first things they would ask is “why does everyone refer to me as Polly?” I’ve been half tempted to teach them to say “no cracker, thanks” just to see the reaction of the person posing such a question. I don’t know where that whole phrase started, but as a bird owner it sure grates on my nerves. It’s right up there with the whole trying to explain the "parrot thing" to people. You know the conversation, it normally goes something like:
“You have birds?”
“Yes, I have (insert amount of birds here)”
“WOW that’s cool! What kind is it?”
“Is that a type of parrot?”
“Yes”. (By now, the person is looking somewhat pleased with themselves that they identified a real live parrot).
“What kind of parrot?”
“An.. amazon?” (haven’t we been here before?)
“I mean, what color?”
“Green and blue.”
“Oh- so it’s a PIRATE parrot!”
“*sigh* no, not exactly. Those are macaws and they have long tails….” (watch as the person slowly loses interest in the conversation)
“So it’s not a pirate parrot? What about those margarita parrots, are those macaws too?”
“Yes, those are macaws too.”
“Oh. I really like those birds.”
Of course, you know how the conversation continues from there. Further segways into the so-called "pirate parrots", what pirate owned what parrot, why an amazon isn’t the same thing as a macaw, and doesn’t whatsthatbrand (you know, the one that uses a macaw in their advertising) make a good vodka.
Perhaps nothing irks me more as a bird owner then my intelligent animal being dummied down to a simple dog-like species that will do tricks for a cracker. (I mean, of course, my caiques just might jump through hoops for a cracker, but that’s not the point). Perhaps it’s the tone of voice used when people start melting into that "polly want a cracker" ooze of utter stupidity. Like they have such low expectations for the animal, because it’s just a bird. Lets reiterate the point: it’s a bird. Parrots are one of the most intelligent creatures we keep as pets today. Their capacity for understanding and learning is right up there with dolphins and other highly intelligent and respected animals. If Polly could talk back, Polly would tell you that a) his name is not Polly and b) he doesn’t want a cracker, he wants a foot massage and a glass of your finest sparkling water.
Or not. But hey, Polly isn’t the one doing the talking, is he?
Do you fear the arrival of Spring? For bird owners it can be a challenging time as some of our beloved feathered companions can turned into hormonal monsters. In this case Spring doesn't invoke thoughts of fresh flowers, new life, blue skies, and fickle weather. Instead, we cower in terror at the thought of Spring ... rather thinking of band-aids, gauze, ice packs, oozing wounds, and vicious beaks. Generally speaking, springtime is hormonal time for birds that have reached a sexually mature age. This is also referred to as nesting behavior and is a normal pattern of behavior for our avian companions. This pattern of behavior (while ranging from annoying to downright frightening) can be dealt with in a loving manner. By taking the right precautions you may even be able to minimize the effects of some hormonal behavior.
Signs to look for when dealing with a hormonal parrot include:
Excessive "love" regurgitation. Make sure you are aware of the differences between sick bird regurgitation and hormonal regurgitation.
Nest making. Some birds will use anything they can get their beaks on to form a nest. Be aware of such behavior and remove any possible material that may be percieved as a good nesting item from the bird's environment.
Masturbation. This one is pretty self explanatory.
Feather picking. Yes, it can be a hormonal thing. This most commonly occurs in female birds. Females will pick what is known as a "brood patch" on their chest. If they were to nest the patch of skin would have direct contact with the eggs which would heat them more effectively.
... and the list goes on.
What can you do to dampen hormonal behaviors or just make living with your parrot a bit more bearable during these trying times? Several factors should be considered in determining whether or not your birds new behaviors are hormone related. Many things can affect your bird, such as duration of light exposure, types of toys offered,and foods provided to your avian friends can impact their behavior. Some things may even be encouraging hormonal behavior. Typically, light is one of the first environmental factors we take into consideration. As the Spring days lengthen your birds schedule is thrown out of whack. Longer days tells your bird that now is the time for their body to start acting in a certain way that will eventually lead to the laying of eggs. Is your bird exposed to 10 or more hours of light a day? How many hours a day does your bird sleep? Increasing the amount of sleeping time during the spring months and regulating the amount of light your bird gets can help lessen certain hormonal behaviors. Light can be adjusted somewhat by not exposing your bird to light too late in the evening. Shorten their day so they receive about 10 hours of light. One way to help accomplish that is to use a cage cover which are made to completely cover the cage. Using a cover along with turning lights out at the appropriate time should help reduce the hormonal surges.
As I said earlier, make sure your bird does not have anything in its environment that can be percieved as nesting material. For some birds, this can be a cardboard box or perhaps even the paper used in the bottom on the cage. Birds will sometimes try to hide under paper, thus concealing themselves such as being in a nestbox would accomplish. If you find this to be an issue (and a cage grate is not available) you might consider using a single piece of cage liner such as Cage Catchers (replacing it daily), as this thinner paper (with one waxed side for moisture control) may be more difficult for the bird to hide under than newspaper. For other birds, shredding paper is an activity that stimulates hormonal reaction. In this case, it may be best to keep a cage grate in place to prevent access to the paper. Of course, otherwise wonderful cage accessories like Snugglies, Tents and Hideaways provide an inviting place for a bird interested in reproducing. So removing these accessories from hormonal birds is a good idea. Taking steps like these mentioned may reduce nesting urges.
Can food impact your birds behaviors? You bet it can! Certain seasonal foods can encourage behaviors. Take sprouts for example. While they are chock full of nutrition, they are also a Spring item that can stir hormones. Why? Sprouts occur when seeds are fresh, have access to enough moisture, air, and sun that they can sprout. This occurs in Spring when trees are budding. Other foods that can encourage hormones are:
Seed mixtures that contain hemp.
Excessive amounts of warm, cooked foodstuffs.
Increased amount of carbohydrates.
Taking the right precautions can help prevent the full onslaught of hormonal behaviors.... and hopefully reduce a need to increase your stock of band-aids!
We, as bird owners, are always in need of those 'last minute' supplies for our feathered friends. Not all shops cater to the needs of avians, however, and when we do find the occasional store that advertises as being "for the birds" we sometimes find that the shop is less then satisfactory. How to find a good store that you feel confident in buying from? There are two common shopping choices ... online or a "brick and mortar" store. When it comes to the brick and mortar type, here is a general guideline: When you enter a bird store assess the general physical aspects of the store. Then carefully observe the way the employees relate to parrots and customers’ alike.
A Comfortable Ambience
Some of the best shops I have been in are the ones that exude friendliness toward both birds and customers. Many of these same stores have dedicated customers that come in just to visit, or even help socialize the baby birds from time to time. Some stores even encourage such an atmosphere by placing chairs around the area, and bringing the birds out on stands to interact with the customers. In one I have witnessed some of the regular customers enthusiastically helping a store "newbie" make a toy selection, or recommend a certain brand of food. These are not only good social experiences for parrots and humans alike, but good learning experience for both parties as well. When I have a friend that is interested in getting into bird keeping, I take them on a field trip to my favorite local store where they can interact with the birds and gain knowledge from the staff.
The Store Environment
The physical environment of a good store is one that is clean and has good lighting, as well as a comfortable temperature and humidity level. Cleaning that is done as a part of the daily routine is essential. Do not expect a store to be immaculate at all times because, of course, birds are messy creatures. A good shop strives to stay on top of the stores condition on a regular basis. If you are worried about the cleanliness of the shop, visit several times a day staggering your visits so you can observe the environment at different times. Do you see anyone cleaning? Are those hulls on the floor recent, or have they been there since 2 p.m. yesterday?
A good representation of a quality store is to look at the bird's cages. Are the cages clean, do the birds have access to fresh food and water? Do they have toys to play with, and a couple of perches? Are cages stacked upon on another in a haphazard manner in attempt to save room? (Quality manufactured stacking cages are acceptable). Another thing to examine is what kind of clientele the shop has. Does the shop just sell avian supplies, or do they offer boarding services, physically sell birds, or both? If the shop sells and boards birds then make sure to note if the boarding birds and store birds are in a separate area. What about the babies that are still on a hand feeding regimen? Where are they kept? It is a good practice for hand feeding babies to be away from traffic and not allowed to be handled by the public.
One of the best things about a quality bird store, in my mind, is the staff. You can walk into the shop and get educated opinions and advice from the staff about a number of avian subjects. Bird owners, much like their birds, enjoy "flocking" together (pardon the pun, couldn’t resist!) and sharing stories, joys, triumphs, and heartbreak with other bird owners. A knowledgeable store employee can assist with the purchase of items for your bird, recommend veterinary, grooming, or even boarding services. Not only is a knowledgeable store employee a benefit to the shop and customers, a well- ersed store employee is a benefit to the community. An employee that can educate customers on a regular basis is doing a good service and potentially improving the lives of many birds living at home. Unfortunately, many people are still stuck with outdated avian information, and supplying them a source of new and updated information can increase the quality of their animal's life.
If you are lucky enough to have several stores in your area, take time to visit them all and pick the one that best suits your needs. You will be investing a lot of time and money into the shop, with the purchase of bird, cage, or even just regular items such as enrichment and toys and you want to ensure your money is going towards a facility that you can support and recommend to others.
Take Advantage of Online Bird Stores, too!
Shopping locally offers advantages, but what about those of us who do not have a local source, or perhaps are needing a more cost-effective way to obtain our bird supplies. That is where shopping online proves advantageous. The best online bird stores offer a huge array of essential bird supplies and wonderful accessories, some of which are not available through your local sources. And they can often save a bird lover money. These stores, while not able to provide face-to-face interaction, do provide years of experience and more products than most brick and mortar store can inventory. The best stores have knowledgeable and willing owners that will spend as much time with you as needed to be sure that you acquire the right products for your bird(s).
What should you consider if you are interested in opening your home to an adopted bird? Do you know how to find a good avian rescue to adopt a feathered friend? As the popularity of pet birds soar, so does the number of displaced birds each year. In many cases those birds are looking for loving, lifetime homes. If you are thinking of adopting a bird, I suggest answering these questions first:
Why am I interested in adopting a bird?
Do I have the funds to adopt a bird, provide adequate food, supplies, and potential vet care?
Do I have room in my house for a bird ... or another one?
Do I have ample room in my house to quarantine a new bird, if I have others?
How will my other bird(s) react? Can I handle increased noise in my household?
Do I have time to spend with a companion parrot, or another one?
If you said "yes" to all of the above, then great! You are ready to visit a local rescue organization to find a parrot companion.
How To Begin The Search
At first the venues for finding that companion can seem overwhelming. Craigslist, Kijjiijii, Hoobly, and your local classified papers are just one place to turn if you are interested in the private adoption of a parrot. Be careful when pursuing these venues, as there are many scams out there. These scams most often offer birds at a "good price" (usually in the range of $400 or less) and boast of the birds having paperwork, being up to date with their veterinary needs, and beg to take the bird into a good home. Most of these scams reveal that funds from you are needed in advance to ship the bird to you. If you come across such a listing; run, don't walk, the other way!
Begin by calling your trusted avian vet or if this is your first bird set up an introductory visit with an avian vet for counsel. Because your vet deals with exotics on a regular basis, chances are they will know of a bird (or animal) currently seeking a new home. Contact them and inquire about any potential adoptees. If you vet doesn't know of a bird that needs a home they may in the near future. Leave your contact information and request they contact you if they hear of a bird that needs a home.
The next step would be to research any avian rescues in your area. Doing a simple web query can point you in the right direction. Pick a rescue as close to you as possible because many rescues require that the adopting family be within 100 miles or less of the organization's home. If you find one (or more) rescues in your area all and inquire about the birds they currently have available. Ask questions about the organization itself. For example:
How long have they been in operation?
Are they a nonprofit organization? If no, are they currently applying for nonprofit status?
What are their adoption qualifications?
Would they be willing to let you tour the facility where the birds are housed?
Do they have an avian veterinarian on staff, or on a consult basis, to care for the birds medical needs? What is the vets name? Is the vet qualified or certified to work with exotics?
There are many questions to ask. Use your judgement in selecting the questions you feel need to be asked. Insist on visiting the facility (or foster home, in some cases) where the bird is currently kept so you can see the current conditions of the bird. Sadly, some organizations that parade as rescues are really nothing more then hoarding situations. Fortunately, this is not the norm but is certainly something to be aware of.
Picking the "Right" Bird
If you have found an organization you feel comfortable working with, the next step is to review the birds available. Organizations usually have several (or more) birds that are currently available for adoption. Examine the species and make a list of traits you want in your companion. Visit all the birds currently available. If you feel drawn to a specific bird, visit it multiple times. Does it have the traits you desire in a pet? If the answer is yes, then you can begin to move to the next step, the pre-adoption phase.
Most organizations require a home visit prior to agreeing to adopt out the bird. They want to insure the bird is going to an avian friendly home that can properly care for an exotic. Some organizations require more then one home visit: a home visit prior to the adoption, and one or more visits after the adoption process has started and the bird is in your residence. Depending on the organization, each adoption process will be handled differently. When adopting my birds, I was first required to foster them for a period of time before signing the adoption papers. After I signed, the papers were held for a period of time, after which they were sent to me as confirmation that the birds were legally mine. This was to ensure that the were a good fit in my household. If anything was to arise, I had a "grace period" in which I could return the birds to the organization if I determined that it just would not work out.
Depending on the rescue, each can have varying degrees of requirements which you must abide by to adopt a bird through them. These requirements can be anything from living within a certain driving distance from the organization, to being a cat free household, to having your household be teflon free. Some organizations are more strict in their requirements then others. Can you agree with the adoption requirements set forth by the rescue you have chosen?
If you have found a rescue organization you feel you can work with, congratulations! The number of displaced birds is growing each year and secondhand birds need the "forever" homes, too. We applaud your efforts in bringing an older bird into your home.
Listed below are some resources to aid you in the search for your avian companion.
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