Thursday, 19 January 2012

Company is coming!

Today I thought I'd just share a video I took last weekend.  For the football fans out there, we all know it's play offs.  My partner is a HUGE football fan, Patriots all the way.  So naturally, last Saturday was a big day in our house and we pulled out all the stops.  Mr. Engineer figured he'd take football day to the next level, so he built some stadium seating which is currently taking up half of my living room.  This lets us invite a crowd on important game days, and stays up for the duration of play offs and naturally, super bowl.  Anyone who was following knows Pat's had a HUGE victory over Denver so things were a little rowdy here.

I was running all over getting food and chatting with the girls in the kitchen, and I think Willow felt a little left out. Elwood, our peachface love bird was quite happy himself.  Everyone's pretty used to his little chirps and beeps, which mostly get drowned out by the buzz of a big game.  Then came our fluffy white diva, and everyone's attention was diverted from the game.  Willow LOVES men, and what you'll find with a large portion of the big parrots is they tend to choose a gender preference.  Needless to say, she wasn't overly interested in the hen party happening in my kitchen.  So I decided to take her up for a visit, and for me this was endlessly entertaining.  She just adored visiting all of the new men, and her exuberant, bigger than life atti-'too-ed really shone through.  Not sure how "entertaining" our guests found it, so I thought I'd share a real life video of life with these majestic birds.  Bear in mind, this is one of her happier moments, NOT a tantrum.  If this is her in a good mood, just imagine what happens when things aren't quite going her way...

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Toy Making - Safely Dying

Hello All,

So today I'm going to share with you my experience of how to safely dye for our birds.  The method I used was food coloring, and although some would recommend using Kool-Aid, I am not totally accepting of this method.  My reasoning behind that, is koolaid flavors otherwise inedible substances.   This causes the bird to recognize things like Popsicle sticks, beads and rope as food.  I am not the only one who sees the potential dangers, so I opted for the food coloring method.  Now for the fun stuff!

Ok, so first things first.  Did you get that shopping list on my previous post?  Great! Now I want you to add something on this list, it's very very important.  Gloves.  It took me nearly a week to get the stain out of my nails.  Be forewarned.

My first mistake was in my water-to-dye ratio.  At first, I filled several bowls with water and added maybe 10 drops of coloring in each.  I also added some vinegar to help the color fast to the material.  The vinegar seemed to work wonders later on, but initially I just didn't have enough color.  Another thing I found, it's rather difficult with a paintbrush.

The beads did turn out quite nicely though!

So here's what I ended up doing.  First off, I nixed the bowls.  I traded them in for these shallow desert plates so I would be able to let the items in question sit and absorb the dye.  This proved to be much more effective, once in increased the dye concentrate.  So using just enough water to fill the dish, you're going to want a cap full of vinegar, and about 20 drops of dye.

*Note* - Don't fret for your dishes!  It washes out without a worry, and a layer of paper towel saved me from a big clean up.  Not to mention Willow had a BLAST tearing it up when all was said and done.

For the Popsicle sticks, I found this was the best way to stack them.  It allowed them to dry,  didn't let the ink run and kept me stay organized (a personal issue of mine... organization.)

The bowls worked well for organizing my dowels.

I had some pretty awesome success dying my twine and hemp rope!

Now just a a few tips and tricks and warnings!  I'll put them all point form here for easy reference.

  • For the sake of your fingers, invest in some latex gloves.
  • Don't be shy with your dye!  When in doubt, add more.  You really don't need much water.
  • Vinegar helps!  Just a cap full will do ya.
  • Yellow really didn't work for me.
  • Red and Yellow, in theory makes orange but I couldn't quite get it.  I'm sure it IS possible.
  • Blue and Red, my purple look like horse poop.  This being one of my favorite colors, I was pretty bummed out.  Waking up was like Christmas morning!  All the colors were so vibrant, ESPECIALLY my purple.  So give it a chance!  (I'm kicking myself, as I didn't think to photograph the finished product)

Have FUN!  Send me pictures! Share your thoughts :)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

More on Toy Making later - Today, Special Guest!

Ladies and Gentlemen - I give you "Willow"!

Well, technically I don't give you Willow - We were just given Willow.  This parrot has been addressed as a "she" her whole life, but DNA sexing has never been done.  Something we do intend to see through when we have her blood work checked for health purposes.  Willow is a nine year old Goffin's Cockatoo, who was handraised in a pet shop and purchased by her owners.  She had been with them ever since. 

After a 5 hour trip (both ways) we've got her safely at home, and comfortably preening on the top of her cage.  Odd fact about cockatoos, one which I don't pretend to understand, but they like to preen while holding a small article in their wing, or back etc.  She's no exception to this rule, it seems to be some sort of game with which she tests her dexterity and balance.  Most of the time, when she drops it, she does manage to catch it again, unless we're close enough to fetch it for her.  She's been amusing herself in this fashion for a little while now.  It seems we won't have any bonding issues (her and I at least), as she was slightly protective of me when her owners were there, and let me do a full physical exam when we got her home.  So far (and only with me - Poor Mr. Man) she seems to be your typical "love sponge", which is a little sad because her previous home really didn't have the time for her.

Willow was homed with us for much too common a reason.  She is what we call a "screamer", now within five minutes it's pretty simple to conclude WHY she screams.  Her cage is too small, she has very few toys which were never replaced, her diet consists of a "parrot mix" that has a couple pellet like kibbles, sunflower seeds, peanuts and various other seeds.  This lacks a balanced diet, something we will have to work on.  Something I observed in my little inspection is that she has began plucking her feathers.  They are thinned out underneath the wings, by the legs, behind the neck and specifically around her face (Where there are some pin feathers regrowing).  These sorts of behavioral problems are caused by a lack of stimulation, and can be doubled with poor nutrition.

Willow came with her cage, and for that I am thankful.  Not for financial reasons, not because I hate shopping, and not because I love the cage.  To be honest, it's far too small, the paint is chipping in places and I see indication of some rust hither and thither.  This means I absolutely must replace said cage, as ingested paint and exposure to rust can cause a plethora of medical complications.  However, whenever a bird moves it's the most stressful thing they can endure.  This gives her a familiar area for now, and we can start hunting down a larger cage.  The trick with Goffins, they will use each and every square inch available to them, so we're hunting down and extra large macaw cage.  She came with two hanging toys, one of which only has a couple hard plastic beads (everything else has long since been chewed).  It is very obvious to us that she has had these toys many years, so we're going to work on introducing new things.  An important note is that this should be done slowly, as parrots are naturally very suspicious of the unfamiliar.  More on the toys we create in my next blog!  For now, we are giving her the "pieces" her toys will be made of, to inspect each individually.  Little pieces of twine, cardboard rings, wooden beads, metal loops, small dowel and popsicle sticks.  My theory behind this, is that allowing her to be familiar with each piece will make the over all toy a little less scary.  This also keeps her beak picking at things other then her beautiful plumage.  I'd like to keep that in tact.

So, here was my blurb about rescuing a parrot.  I will keep this updated, and hopefully those of you considering or doing the same will find some useful tidbits.  Keep up the good work!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Toy Making - Part One

Many people find the cost of buying a parrot overwhelming.  If you go to a breeder, you're looking at spending several hundred for a small bird, such as a conure.  When you get into the larger species, such as cockatoos, macaws or amazons, you will be anywhere from $1,200 to $2,500 for a hand raised baby.  Then you have to option of looking at classifieds, or going through a rescue.  Even then, these guys (usually) aren't free, and then there's the cage.  How big should the cage be?  The bigger the better, and trust me they will use every square inch.  These can cost anywhere from $500 all the way to several thousand dollars.  A large macaw or 'too will require massive cages, and the way they are constructed is very important.  The metals must not contain zinc, and the bars must be strong enough to endure their powerful beaks.  Now, you're looking at food.  All seed diets are a thing of the past, and have been linked to many issues.  These include, but are not limited to, fatty liver disease, a slow in the growth of feathers, and malnutrition can lead to behavioral issues.  You must buy a high quality pellet diet, which has been formulated to provide balanced nutrition.  Vitamin supplements, fresh fruits and vegetables and grains which you must cook and prepare for your parrot.  That's right, you have to cook for these guys.   Every day!  And don't forget, your new friend will need a check up and health care, which will run several hundred more.  This is does not mark the end of your shopping list.

Toys.  Toys, toys and more toys!  These can range anywhere from $10-$80, each.  Your bird will also require a variety of perches made from different materials and textures.  This is important, so that your beloved pet is able to properly exercise their feet, beaks and imagination.  An important note on the subject, you must provide your bird with new toys constantly.  Without them, they become bored, loud and on occasion, self destructive.  This frustration will make life with them very unpleasant.  So how can your average person afford the very expensive upkeep of these beautiful animals?  Well, lets start with the toys!

Making them yourself can be fun, inventive, relatively simple and very affordable.  It is important to remember though, safety first.  Some babies toys can be safe for the smaller guys, but plastic can be dangerous for the larger parrots.  It is their instinct to destroy and forage, so that beautiful $50 wood toy with the colorful beads, thick natural rope, bells and whistles can quickly be reduced to a tooth pick by a busy bird.  So lets talk about materials.  You must make sure you are using untreated wood, natural in color unless you can otherwise ensure the dye used is safe and chemical free.  Popsicle sticks are a safe bet, clothes pins are great if you remove the spring (Ingestion of small metal objects can be fatal for your bird), untreated rafetta (straw like substance), plain wooden beads (can be found at bird supply stores or craft shops), twine, stainless steel wire, toilet paper rolls... the list goes on, but just make sure it has no toxic inks or treatments.  Many of these things can be found at craft shops, or dollar stores.  Dying them at home is relatively simple, inexpensive and it can be a lot of fun!  Using food coloring is a simple way, some use kool-aid but the sweet flavor can cause the bird to ingest the wood which can be dangerous.  So for the purposes of our birds, we use food coloring.  So, here's a shopping list to get you started:

  • Dowels
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Toilet/Paper towel rools
  • Raffetta
  • Plain Wooden Beads
  • Twine
  • Stainless steel wire
  • Rope dog toys
  • Wiffle Balls
  • Plain Rawhide Chews
  • Uncooked pastas, the more interesting the shape, the better!
  • Wooden Buttons
  • Wooden Spools
  • Food coloring
  • Vinegar, which when added to your dye solution will increase the quality of your color.
In our next article, we'll go over how to dye these things to get you started on your way towards making your own colorful, interactive and fun toys!  Totally safe, natural and best of all affordable.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

In the Beginning

Well, lets start with a big old welcome!  Here marks the very beginning of my very first blog, and with a little luck I hope to provide some insight on life with our feathered friends.  Yes, this is a blog for parrot lovers, those who live with them, and those who can't live without them.  I am a young professional in the animal industry.  Certified dog trainer, I have been apprenticing and working with animals professionally since March 2010.  It's been a life long obsession, and I am passionate about the proper care of all pets, everywhere.  I have worked in shelters, instructed classes, partaken in a pilot project for psychiatric service animals, participated in behavioral assessments, and work with some of the best trainers in the Canadian industry.  I am a junior, and by no means do I wish to fool anyone.  Having completed my course, and now thoroughly enjoying my role as an instructor, I wish to pursue my true passion.  The love of parrots.

Next week, my wonderful fiance will be joining me on a rescue mission.  We're traveling five hours to go take in our first large parrot, a 7-8 year old Goffin's Cockatoo whose name will someday (soon?) be determined!  We aren't just taking in another pet, no sir, one cannot call these beautiful creatures "pets".  This is the point I hope to make with my blogging, now and in the future.  To follow will be information I have gathered in my years of research, related to the ownership of large birds such as Cockatoos, Macaws and the ever so intelligent African Grey and many more!  This choice is nothing like choosing to own a dog, or cat.  It isn't a hamster who will be easily amused with some pine shavings and a wheel.  They don't go in a litter box, you can't train them not to chew and "quiet time" will never again be on your terms.  You aren't just accepting responsibility for a decade, or even two.  This is a lifetime commitment, and if it is made to be anything less you will damage your loving pet worse than the most crippling divorce.  Too many parrots jump from home, to home, to shelter, to home and back again.  This can result in a plethora of issues.  Screaming, biting, and the most horrifying of all, self mutilation.  You are adopting a toddler, who will never grow older, some species can shake your neighbors windows just talking about the sheer joy of life, they can deliver a powerful bite that lands you in the ER.  Their dietary needs are more complex then our own, no longer will you be able to skip cooking and just do take out.  Vacation? Ha.  Describe the pet I just mentioned above to a potential sitter, and see how many takers you have.  "Would you mind watching this wild animal, with the intelligence of a three year old, tantrums of a two year old, and energy of a jack russell terrier?  I hope your neighbors don't mind when you turn your stereo up full blast... because it might be twice as loud.  Oh no, no.  It can't be stopped, this baby screams for the sheer JOY of being alive.  You don't mind though... right?"

Now I should really get to the heart of this blog.  Our purpose, the mission statement... etc. etc. etc.  The first thing I would like to say.  I am an avid fan, and true believer in the website

This blog will be absolutely DEDICATED to the life and love of parrots.  To understand my mandate, please read that website forwards and backwards.  If you are considering life with one of these beautiful creatures, if you live with one, if you know someone who does, if it has ever even crossed your mind, you should read this site.  It is from there that I have adopted my beliefs.  It was an inspiration for my professional career, and now I am going on to study an in depth Parrot Behavior Modification course.  That's right folks, my lifetime ambition is to be a Parrot Behaviorist and help other people in other madhouses nationwide.  How do we plan on doing that?  Well it's pretty simple.  I am a positive reinforcement trainer.  In following articles I will begin to provide you with the basics.  Why Should I Teach My Parrot? What Should I Teach My Parrot? When should I Teach Them? And MOST importantly, how.  I am not in this for profit, I do not believe in perpetuating the sale of parrots in the pet industry.  Bottom line, I am not selling anything.  I will never pay for a pet bird, so never ask me if I'd be interested.  More on this at  We will include detailed articles, step by step "How to's", and the most fun of all... VIDEOS!  Oh yes, many many videos to come.  How to make toys, invent games, teach tricks and all the reasons... why, why, why!

So buckle in, sit tight, and I promise to be back in a couple days.