March 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
You know how I feel about stainless steel… can’t get enough of it! But with the demise of Grey Feather Toys, an old favorite of ours, it’s been difficult to find other companies that make great clangy, noisy toys with 100% stainless steel (and of course, ones that allow for customization, since we’re not big fans of plastics either). That void was filled when Avian Stainless opened up shop. Actually, I shouldn’t say that they “filled a void” left by GFT– they carved their entirely own, unique space into the market. They’re not new anymore, and I’ve mentioned them on the blog before, but I don’t think I’ve taken the chance to talk about how much I love their toys just yet. Owned by the some wonderful people behind Avian Organics, one of my most trusted brands of healthy, organic parrot food, they put the same thought into each toy as they do their food products. Like their foods, these toys are truly top of the line. Not only are they hand-crafted by a professional welder himself, but they are only made with the best quality stainless steel in totally innovative designs that put safety first. This is clear in their awesome, awesome toys.
I recently placed a small order for one toy each for Lola and Sabrina. Lucky Lola girl got this beautiful toy, the Crosswinds, with the a few custom tweaks of no plastics and full welding. This is an awesome toy. First, it’s totally fun for Lola: there are four noisy bells for her to clang and ring and bang, which she gets a kick out of, but more than that, it’s built with safety in mind. The two crossbars are welded together which are in turn welded to the upright bar.
What’s more, even the eye at the top– where a quick link can be threaded– is fully welded to the toy. For a bird like Lola who can easily ply open most o-rings, this is such a crucial detail, and it’s so great that Avian Stainless does this! Also notice the thin, cylindrical rods above each bell. These rods cover up the stainless steel chain from which each bell hangs. I love this feature, which Avian Stainless was the very first on the market to design and implement. They keep little nails or the tips of beaks from the chance of being caught in the chain, plus they add even more noisy fun. It’s so smart because some owners don’t like to use chain for safety reasons, but need something more substantial than rope, that will stand up to big beak for a long time. The addition of these rods slipped over the chain makes these toys both safe as well as built to last.
Little Sabrina got this adorable toy, the Puzzle Bell. It’s a single bell, more fit for a smaller parrot, but it has the addition of a beautifully shined and designed puzzle piece as its clapper. I have no idea how they get their puzzle pieces to shine like this! There are these really cool, pretty designs on the surface of the puzzle piece that reflect light in all different directions and truly make it sparkle. It makes a very pretty noise. Of course, the chain is also covered by Avian Stainless’s signature rods, which is important for a little one like Sabrina who tends to have long little nails that can easily get caught in things.
Like I said, I only ordered the girls one toy each… but Avian Stainless very generously included even more for us! We are very, very lucky to be one of the first recipients of the Square Dance toy as testers. (I’m posting a bit late!) Wow, I can’t say enough of this toy! It’s a big one, but it’s not so big that it overwhelms Lola. Even though the overall size is large, the bells are the same size as the ones on both the Crosswinds and the Puzzle Bell above, so it’s not too big for her to be able to play with or manipulate. But boy does it make a lot of noise! It’s a very neat, complex toy with square cross barsfor the added fun of tugging each bell on its opposing sides. There are even added washers for more noise and fun. Lola was a little nervous around it for about a day but has since warmed up to it once she realized what a racket she could make with it!
Finally, we got one last wonderful surprise, which was one of the refillable foot toy skewers that Avian Stainless was testing out a short while back. These are really, really neat: they’re stainless steel shovels with stainless steel balls at the end that can be unscrewed, turning them into skewers! They’re great foot toys for medium to larger parrots. They ultimately decided to go with non-removable balls at the ends of the skewers for safety reasons, but I was the lucky recipient of this test design, strictly for out-of-cage, supervised play only. As you can see, Lola is very suspicious of hers and is sure that it is an alien, but I’ll report back when she begins to think otherwise.
Thanks to Avian Stainless for these wonderful, high quality toys and especially for letting us test some of them out for you. We highly recommend these toys! (On a related note, as always, none of the reviews on my blog are solicited in any way nor do I receive compensation for them.)
February 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
Setting up a cage well is a real art. I find it very difficult to do, increasingly so the larger your bird is and the less space you have. Whenever I am visiting my mom’s house and have to change the setup of Lola’s temporary cage, the King’s aluminum cage, I always struggle with fixing it up nicely for her because it’s only 33 x 25. (I will admit, Sabrina is pretty easy to deal with because she has quite a bit of space and is so tiny.) But fixing up a cage for a medium to large bird is a totally different story!
Where do you start? In my opinion, the easiest place to start is with the food bowls. For many people, this is the most natural place to start because it is the one part of the cage of which they don’t control the placement, because they use feeder doors. I don’t use feeder doors with attached bowls, but I still think this is the best place to begin, simply because I know that I like to keep the food bowls relatively close to the side doors (in case I ever have to travel, I can have somebody else feed Lola safely), and you’ll know that wherever there is a food bowl, you’ll need at least one perch nearby. That always helps to get me started. I try to change whether they are directly on the door or near by it, level with it, a bit higher, or a bit lower, but mostly they are a relatively constant.
Once the food bowls are in place, you can start placing a few perches. You’ll need one near the bowl, obviously, and I tend to avoid putting perches above food bowls because then you increase the likelihood of clean food or water getting soiled. I did make an exception this time by putting a very wide platform perch above a food bowl because I think it’s wide enough that the bowl getting soiled is not a danger. I’m still testing it out, but hopefully it will work!
After a few perches have found their place, I find the other stuff tends to naturally follow. There are usually a few things we all like to keep in the cage– for Lola, for example, I like to use one cotton rope perch and at least one swing. So those usually go in next, and I try to configure everything so that each perch is reach-able from at least one other without having to climb the cage bars much. I also like to make sure there is a large variety of textures, sizes, and heights. I’ll always include several natural wood perches: some with bark, some without, some curvier, some harder, some softer; a pedicure perch; a platform or two; and a cotton perch. I don’t use dowels, ever– I know that some people feel they are “okay” as long as there are other choices, but why bother with just “okay” when you can do way better with natural wood? The uniformity of dowels simply isn’t comfortable or healthy for parrots’ feet. I know some people also like to have at least one perch that spans the length of width of the cage. I choose not to have one like this because I think it limits placement of other things, but that’s a personal preference.
Once I feel like there is a solid network of perches, that’s when toys and other accessories can get placed. I like to make sure there are a very good variety of toys– a single toy often falls into multiple categories, but I like to make sure that each of these core “functions” is fulfilled: noise-making, foraging, natural wood coins or chunky pine, snap-able wood beads, natural textures like coconut or vine. Some people also include snuggly toys or plastic toys depending on their birds’ preferences. Lola also adores her foot toys, so a good foot toy bucket is a necessity as well.
And that’s all there is to it! Now of course, easier said than done– and every time I rearrange the cage, I am constantly tweaking it for the next several days. That’s okay. Some setups are more successful than others, which is why I always take photos so that I can reinstate the “good” ones after cycling through a few others. This past week I did a new setup for Lola. It’s actually not one of my favorites and I have tweaked it several times since I took these original photos, but Lola really likes the perches I chose, so I’m only making minimal changes for now. Here’s what it looks like.
In my opinion it’s a bit busy, although I have spaced out and lowered some of the perches since taking this photo. Then again I’ve also added a few more toys, so not sure how it all comes out to balance.
On the left, there are two out of Lola’s three food bowls, both place on or near the side door. So that’s where I began with this setup. In between the two, I placed a curvy grapevine wood perch from the Birdsafe Store so that she could get between the two. On the left is a forked sandblasted manzanita perch from Things for Wings. On the right is a safety pumice perch, and in the front winding all over is her cotton rope perch. Up above, you’ll see the wide platform perch I was alluding to earlier.
I love this perch! Aside from the fact that I can put it above a food bowl because it blocks Lola from soiling it, she really adores it. It is made by Kris Porter but sold by Things for Wings and I highly recommend it. As you can see, Lola has already gone to town on it and has been stripping it away and smearing her blueberries on it, but she really enjoys being on it. I have been wrapping up little treats in unbleached cupcake liners and putting them in the foraging holes and she loves to look in each hole to see what surprises there may be.
Here’s the other side, where you’ll see the opposite end of the cotton rope perch snaking down. That perch was from the now-closed Grey Feather Toys and I am still upset about it. I still can’t find a cotton rope perch with a stainless steel interior that I like as much. On the right of it, you can barely make it out, but there is a cute little side-mounted foraging pot too hidden under the cork bark perch from I Got a Woody. That’s another little spot that Lola loves to check for treats. The cork bark perch at that funky angle proved to be a big hit with Lola, so it reprised its role in this setup. On the right of it is a lovely, chunky willow bark perch, also from Things for Wings. That funny looking pale colored perch near the top right is a new one for us; it’s the Nu Perch sold by the Parrot Wizard store. I’m always happy to see perches being made with stainless steel hardware so I thought I’d give this one a try as well. It’s interesting in that I assume it is made of a uniform dowel, but they actually cut it and shape it so that it is no longer uniform and is quite varied in shape and diameter. The result is a very nice looking perch that appears to be very comfortable and healthy for our parrots. Lola really likes hers so far, except that she has already taken a big chunk out of the end. Down below you’ll see a sandblasted manzanita corner perch (flanking a third food/water bowl), as well as a Manu mineral perch.
In the center back of the cage you’ll notice another awesome foraging perch, this one also from Things for Wings. I love this one: it’s also a platform, but it has lots of chunky willow bark on the bottom side for stripping, and there are several pod cups hanging below for more opportunities to hide treats! You’ve probably noticed by now a recurring theme in my cage setups– a multitude of places in which to hide treats. I love having dozens of different foraging opportunities for Lola because it keeps her busy. She will go around and check all of these hiding spots, multiple times a day, because she never knows where she might find something. This is such a great thing to do to keep your parrot active and stimulated, even while in the cage, especially if you work all day or if you have a perch potato. Encouraging Lola to forage is of the utmost importance to me for her physical and mental health.
Finally, you probably noticed this awesome swing front and center. It’s homemade! Well, sort of. The very cool, refillable stainless steel base is made by Scooter Z, an awesome chunky willow wood perch from Things for Wings, and fantastic pine wood pieces and cork-stuffed blocks from Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys. Actually, my sister very kindly made this for Lola. She loves it and has been very busy chipping away at the wood pieces!
Other things included… there’s an awesome grapevines wood perch on the front door that Lola loves to perch on, as well as several toys from Things for Wings, I Got a Woody, Oliver’s Garden, Parrot’s Treasure, and more. You can be sure that the uglier ones are homemade by me. I have actually changed and added a few since posting these photos so there is a bit more variety now. I am also getting some new Avian Stainless toys so I am very excited about that!
So that’s how Lola’s cage is now, but it never stays in one iteration for too long. Just as how the seasons change in the wild, I like to change her cage often and keep her guessing. I change out toys weekly and perches every so often, and do a full cage restructuring every 2-4 months. :) Hope this helps you set up your cages in an enriching and stimulating way as well!
January 29, 2014 § 1 Comment
Lola thought she would share her beauty routine with you all
First, of course, involves a bath. Sometimes Lola will settle for a bath in her water bowl, but she much prefers a nice spa bath. You know, so that she can really spread her wings and relax after a long day of foraging! (For some reason, I’m having trouble embedding the video, but you can click the link above.)
Post-bath, you simply must preen. It does wonders for your feathers.
You’ve really got to get every spot. Even behind the shoulders!
All the way down low, too.
Can’t forget those pretty little feet!
Both left and right, every birdy.
Now, of course, all that’s left to do is relax and dry off!
January 16, 2014 § 2 Comments
2014 has only just begun and it already feels like a whirlwind! Goodness, sometimes life can really get in the way. :) Anyway, just a few random updates here with no particular threading holding everything together.
First up, Lola has brand new all-time favorite foot toys! The wonderful Kris Porter of Parrot Enrichment designed some amazing and enticing foot toys, exclusive to Things for Wings. They are awesome! They are perfect for a smaller in shell almond (I usually buy Lola these chunky big kahuna ones because they are much more challenging, but these holes are only 3/4″ I believe, so only smaller ones will fit). I lodged a few inside the foraging holes and let her work away. They drive her nuts because she can’t get the almond out without actually breaking into the wood. It’s one of the few foraging toys that combines both visibility of the treat but also more of a challenge. I have trouble with increasing the difficulty rate of a lot of Lola’s foraging because for her, once it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. But these give her visual confirmation of a reward, and also make her work much harder for it than a lot of my more simple foraging toys.
On the topic of Things for Wings, we’ve gotten two awesome packages from them in the past month or two, but keep forgetting to take photos. I did snap one of her gorgeous Sunflower Basket, which is both a toy and a forager and a perching area all in one! I’m wondering if it will fit in her cage. I’m planning on rearranging the whole cage soon, though, and will definitely be adding a lot of our new perches (like the Fantastic Foraging Perch or the chunky willow bark foraging perch!) so I will have photos soon. Sabrina also got some cute little toys.
What’s that? More toys? Well, I couldn’t resist placing an order with Oliver’s Garden before they shut down for new year renovations. This one was just a small one but we got some awesome goodies– Lola’s beloved crabby toy, an awesome new lobster toy that has stainless steel hardware to be side-mounted, as well as an awesome hitching post perch for Sabrina and a tiny maple candy toy too. To fit in with Sabrina’s all natural oasis, I switched out the colorful beads below the perches with some natural ones, but it still looks gorgeous. I’m thinking of using it as a foraging platform for her and putting some natural materials in it and maybe some sprinkles of seed or crumplets for her to pick at. I love that she will be able to perch on the small, natural wood perches on the side.
In other news, here’s a photo of a big batch of mixed veggies I made the other day. It had a mix of fresh and dry ingredients: sweet pea shoots, broccoli, kale, bok choy, watercress, coconut, pomegranate, red peppers, carrots, mulberries, mango, goji berries, figs, laver (seaweed), corn, peas, sesame seed, dandelion, and alfalfa. I think that’s everything. For some reason it was still very wet and my attempt to freeze it didn’t pan out well but I’ll keep trying.
January 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
Happy New Year everybody! I hope 2014 is off to a healthy and happy start for you. I thought I’d kick off the new year with some cute Hahn’s Macaw paraphernalia. The first one is actually the other half of my mom’s Christmas present. (I posted about the first half, an adorable parrot pillow, here.) I commissioned an awesome artist named Abril Martinez to create an image of Karat from one of my favorite photos of her, and she did an awesome job. I then had it turned into an iPhone case!
I love it and think it came out perfectly. More importantly my mom was totally thrilled with it. I ordered it from CaseApp and was very happy with the quality and service. Isn’t she cute?
When I was visiting my parents over the holidays, I also noticed that my mom had a really adorable new plate with two adorable Hahn’s Macaws on it. The coolest part is, she painted it herself freehand and from memory. I think it turned out great too Unfortunately, I inherited no such artistic talent. Might have to ask her to do one with my girls on it!
December 30, 2013 § 6 Comments
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this recently, so I figured it would be useful for everybody to have all of this information in one central location. If you’ve already done the research about Young Living essential oils and have decided to give it a go, then this is how to get started. (If you’d like to learn more, I’ve written two introductory posts here: Essential Oils and Parrots on what essential oils are, why you should only use Young Living, and why you might want to use them with parrots; and My First Diffusing Experience on how I got started, the oils and diffuser I initially chose, and its effects on my flock.)
First, you’ll need to decide whether you just want to purchase YLEOs, or if you want to become a “distributor.” A lot of people think that being a distributor must mean that it carries the obligation to, well, distribute. It does not. In fact, being a distributor carries few obligations at all. I believe that the only obligation is to keep your account active, which means placing an order once a year. You have no obligations to recruit or to sell or to advertise, or anything like that. However, if you do decide to become a distributor, you enjoy wholesale prices on all YL products, which is a cool 24% off! I personally think this is a fantastic deal and recommend everybody to sign up as a distributor. The savings truly adds up, and you’ll make the price of the Starter Kit back in no time.
Next, you’ll need to pick your starter kit. There are a few different options, all of which you can read about and compare here on the Young Living website. I personally went with the very Basic Starter Kit, which is the bare minimum. I believe it’s $40, and it comes with several samples of a good variety of essential oils. That said, however, there are more expensive kits (up to $150) that actually represent better values and even come with a diffuser. I knew that I wanted a particular model and not the one that came with the more expensive kits, which is why I went with the Basic Starter Kit. I have heard good things about the Premium Starter Kit from several people though, as it comes with a wide variety of oils and a diffuser, so you can get started right out of the box.
Finally, you’ll need to actually register here with Young Living. You’ll need a referral code in order to do so. My code is 1304850, but in the interest of full disclosure, I do supposedly make a small commission for referring people. So, please feel free to use my code, or anybody else’s if that makes you uncomfortable. (I don’t do this for the commission!)
And that’s it! It’s a very quick and easy process, and the discount is quite significant. I’ve earned back my initial $40 investment through the discount at least a few times over now. As always, please be sure to do your own research and make your own educated decision. I personally feel that these are safe and beneficial to use with my flock but some parrots might react differently.
December 24, 2013 § 3 Comments
We are so, so grateful for this beautiful orb swing that was made for little Sabrina! We feel very blessed. Peggy from Nature’s Bird Perch and Toys very kindly custom made this orb with Sabrina in mind and I think she is just going to love it. It’s made from natural grapevines with the bark still on, and it is very soft, thin, and peel-able, perfect even for the tiniest of beaks. Even though the perch diameters are small, however, this orb is HUGE! Despite Sabrina’s relatively large cage, I am wondering how I will get it to fit. But I’ll make it happen! It’ll require a major overhaul of her cage setup but I think she is going to love it.
The orb is very three-dimensional and has perches going every which way. She is going to have a blast climbing in and out and all around it. If you’ve never checked out Peggy’s website, you absolutely have to. She makes some of the most creative and unusual pieces for parrots that I have ever seen, from toys to tabletop stands to massive, beautiful, castle-like play gyms. We also used to have one of her awesome little playground-style jungle gyms (complete a swing set, monkey bars, and more), but one day clumsy me stepped backwards onto it, fell over, and broke it. :( That’s what you get for being clumsy. Anyway, we are totally in love with this orb and are even more pleased that Peggy very kindly used all stainless steel hardware on it for us. When we have more space, we are going to have to purchase a parrot parrotdise of all of Peggy’s different creations and collections!
Peggy even included these adorable little toys, perfectly sized for Brina. I have a feeling Lola is going to be jealous. :)