Things for Wings Goodies

April 30, 2011 § 12 Comments

My Things for Wings perch sale order arrived!!  I am so pleased with my goodies.  I admit that what is pictured below is not everything, but I think I have enough of a reputation as a hoarder as it is, so I won’t give anybody any more photographic evidence to support that accusation.  At the top left is Lola’s beautiful Pretty Noisy toy, which Danita was nice enough to customize with a stainless steel bell for extra noisiness.  It is soo dainty and gorgeous– Danita hand-painted (using bird-sfae dye, of course) these gorgeous leaves onto it all in green.  The coil of rope is all my new favorite stringing material, the slim paper cord.  I actually got this as a free sample on one of my former orders and loved it so much that I had to buy more.  It’s super thin (1/8″), especially compared to other paper cords I’ve used, but very strong and so much easier on the hands when it comes to tying lots and lots of knots!  You can also unroll it to make a wonderful shreddable toy for the small or medium guys.  Finally, there’s a selection of some of the perches I purchased: two chunky willow perches, an ocotillo perch, an elm perch, and a cholla perch.

Things for Wings perches, a toy, and some paper cord

I adore Things for Wings and strongly recommend them!  They truly go above and beyond with customer service– any store that I’ve shopped at can attest to the fact that I am not an easy customer (in fact, I am a very annoying and picky one!).  But Danita always accommodates my whimsies and requests with a smile, like the stainless steel bell I wanted.  She also drives across the border to Washington state every single week, just to decrease the costs of shipping for her American customers.  If that’s not awesome customer service, I don’t know what is!  I love the store’s focus on natural items and really wonderful, natural, and barky woods.  Hurry up and get in your perch orders now, though, because they are being discontinued!  These awesome perches not only have amazingly fun and chewable bark, but they also have 100% stainless steel hardware too!

Charles is in love with the awesome Grey Feather Toys custom rope perch!

P.S. For those of you who expressed interest in the awesome Grey Feather Toys rope perches in my last post, they truly are awesome BUT just know that they are NOT on the website; you have to email Rebecca Wells as they are a custom item (meaning you can choose the exact length).  Evidently Charles agrees with all of you that said they are gorgeous as he is having a bit of a love affair with his 🙂

Using Rope Toys and Perches (Plus, a Review!)

April 28, 2011 § 14 Comments

Using natural cotton rope in cages is something that I often go back and forth on.  Even though there are certain toys I would never purchase — ones with very long, dangling strands of cotton rope marketed as “preening” toys — I have purchased many toys that use cotton rope as the base, only to realize after the fact that perhaps this too could be a safety hazard.  I was looking at some of my older photos recently and found this one:

Lola perched next to a former toy, now reduced to cotton rope

I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, wow, could that dead toy have been a safety hazard? After all, there are three or four strands of cotton rope right there, each about four or five inches long.  Am I lucky that Lola didn’t strangle herself, or lose a toe?  I have no idea.  Regardless, lately, I have been a lot more cognizant of purchasing toys made with cotton rope, and I do make a point of avoiding it.  It’s easy enough to find safe alternatives, and since I make most of Lola’s toys anyway, it’s not really an issue.

I felt good about my decision, especially after reading this great but very sad post on the Phoenix Landing blog about fabric causing blockages in a lory’s body and leading to his very death.  In the blog post, titled “Yet Another Cautionary Tale,” their vet notes that for parrots “that like to pick on thread or fabric,” even very tiny pieces, “a mass can form that plugs the bird’s stomach.”  So not only are there strangulation and toe-catching issues, but even ingestion ones from just tiny pieces of fabric, cotton, or whatever the culprit.

And if you scan the online parrot forums and communities, banning cotton rope toys is actually a relatively common thing to do.  (I say that because I do admit that many of my no-no’s are ultra paranoid and definitely do not represent the norm, but for once this is not just me!)  Many, many parrot owners will specify that they do not want their toys strung on any sort of cotton rope nor do they allow any cotton rope toys in cage.  There are even some parrot toy stores that don’t use any cotton rope at all now as well.

It has always seemed strange to me, then, that most parrot owners do not feel this way about cotton rope perches.  After all, don’t they pose a lot of the same dangers as those cotton toys that most parrot owners would regard as dangerous?  Whether in toy or perch form, toe-snagging threads can easily come loose and pose a safety risk to a parrot.  I know many of us are very diligent at inspecting all perches for loose threads daily, but what about when we are at work and aren’t there to see our parrot chew up a rope perch into many loose threads, only to get a toe stuck a few minutes later?  There are so many safety risks that can happen in the span of a few minutes, or even seconds.  Is there a reason why so many parrot owners seem to feel differently about cotton rope in toys as opposed to cotton rope perches?

Lola on a Mother Pluckin' Bird Toys cotton rope perch

Although not for cotton rope safety reasons, I actually stopped using cotton rope perches in my cages a long while ago, when I realized that all of them have galvanized wires inside of them.  Thankfully, however, Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys now has a great selection of cotton rope perches with stainless steel wire inside of them!  Ironically, I purchased a whole bunch and they arrived around the same time that I decided to stop using cotton rope toys in cages.  Although I did test them out, I realized that they really do have all of the same safety risks, and wasn’t sure I felt comfortable using them.  That, coupled with the fact that Lola loves to chew on this blissful and soft cotton rope, made me have flashbacks about that poor lory.  (All that aside, these are excellent and super high quality rope perches and if you do feel comfortable using them in cage, they are fantastic!)  So, I attached a few outside of their cages, and left it at that.

Charles on his very favorite custom-made swing from Grey Feather Toys

Even more recently, I was rearranging cages, and then realized: wait a minute!  Charles’s very favorite swing of all time, his custom-made sleepy swing from Grey Feather Toys, has cotton rope.  Why have I never even thought twice about letting him have this swing in cage?  It made me realize something very special about the way that Grey Feather Toys wraps their swings and boings.

On their website, they advertise that “Most swings are made by tucking the wire within the center of the rope. Grey Feather Toys completely wraps the stainless steel wire base with natural rope giving you almost a triple wrap.”  I will be honest — I used to think this was a silly marketing ploy that really didn’t make a difference.  In fact, I have read this on other boing and swing makers’ sites — that it doesn’t make a quality difference at all.  But there is one really important implication of this process: they use smaller diameter rope.  Smaller diameter rope means a much tighter weave that the thicker diameters simply can’t have.  Even on their thicker diameter rope swings that I have, the actual diameter of the rope is probably only about 3/8″ or maybe 1/2″.  Therefore, the threads of the ropes that they use are incredibly unlikely to come loose.  Plus, they wrap them incredibly tightly and secure them with tight knots as well.

I realized that of all of my Grey Feather Toys swings (and I have a lot), I have scrubbed them, cleaned them, run them under hot water, let the bids chew them up, etcetera– and I have never had a single thread even begin to come loose on a Grey Feather Toys swing.  They are wrapped so tightly and the threads themselves are so tight that it simply isn’t an issue.  Charles and Sabrina gnaw their swing every night– they rub their mash-covered beaks on it and I have to take it out and scrub it, very harshly, every morning– and it still looks new.

Charles on his custom rope perch from Grey Feather Toys

You know what happened next– I contacted the company about making some custom rope perches with stainless steel wire inside.  Rebecca Wells, a woman with the patience of a saint, was nice enough to oblige me!  I am so happy with these extremely high quality, durable, and most importantly, safe rope perches.  I haven’t put them inside the cages just yet because the flock just had their cages rearranged, but I won’t have to think twice about the safety of doing so in the future.  Not only do they feature their typical tightly woven rope, but Grey Feather Toys also welds the stainless steel wire to the connectors inside the perch to hold the rope in place because of their no glue policy!  Because of the welding, they do have to use a very stiff wire, making the perch somewhat difficult to bend (on par with the Mother Pluckin’ rope perches), but they are also extremely sturdy.  Lola can land on the budgie-sized perches and they don’t give at all under her weight.

A thick custom rope perch for Lola

A close-up of the tight weave on Lola's rope perch

Of course, I purchased Lola-sized ones as well, and they are so well made.  As you can see, the cotton rope is woven so tightly that I am confident that there won’t be loose threads.  Of course, I will continue to monitor all cotton rope items daily for any safety hazards, just in case.  But I am so happy with the excellent quality and safety of these rope perches, and I am glad that I can worry about one less thing.  Yay!

Anyway, back to the original subject: what do you guys think?  I am actually very interested to know who feels cotton rope is safe or unsafe, who makes a distinction between cotton toys vs. cotton perches, and why?

A Gift from Totally Organics!

April 26, 2011 § 13 Comments

I came home to an unidentified package, yesterday, and was VERY pleased upon opening it!  Gudrun, the owner of Totally Organics, was nice enough to send me a free sample of their new, smaller-size pellet, the Crumplet! And it wasn’t just a few ounces… it was this massive bag, along with a pound of the Totally Organics Napoleon’s Seed Mix, because she knows that my little guys just love it!  Thank you so much, Gudrun!!

My lovely gift from Totally Organics!

As some of you might know, I believe that Totally Organics makes the best pellet on the market.  You won’t find any artificial colors or flavors, any preservatives, any synthetic vitamins, or even any corn or soy in these high quality pellets.  They are 100% organic, and their healthy combination of vitamins and minerals comes from natural sources– alfalfa for natural Vitamin K rather than menadione, or carrot powder for beta carotene rather than synthetic Vitamin A.  Even Charles, my budgie, loved and used to be able to eat these excellent quality pellets in the normal size, because they are nice and crumbly.  You see, TOPs doesn’t cook or bake their pellets, but rather cold presses them, so that there is minimal nutrient loss in the process.  When he had his beak accident, however, he was no longer able to chew them because they are too big for the poor guy.  That is why I was so excited for these little Crumplets — they are the perfect size for him!

The normal size TOPs next to the Crumplets for a size comparison

According to their labels, the two of them share the same formula and excellent ingredients list.  There were, however, a few visual differences.  First is, obviously, size — the Crumplets are much easier to manage for the little ones, and much less likely to be picked up and dropped all over the cage, resulting in a lot of waste.  The little ones, at least in this package, also seemed to be more green in color.  The difference isn’t all that clear in the photo, but the smaller ones definitely have more of a deep green coloration.  Finally, they also smell much more vegetable-y (leafy green-y, to be exact), if that makes sense.

I served a small amount to Charles, to let him be the actual judge, and he happily chomped them down!!  He really loved his TOPs before, and I’m glad that he can finally have them again, in a more beak-friendly size.  Of course, Sabrina followed suit and happily gobbled them up as soon as she saw Charles eating them.  Yay!

Charles, Sabrina, and I highly recommend these pellets for the little guys.  Delicious!!  Thank you, Gudrun!!

Keeping Lola Busy: DIY Toys

April 24, 2011 § 6 Comments

I am often asked what a Cape Parrot’s favorite types of toys are, or how destructive they are.  Those are easy questions for me: wood, and very.  Lola is a busy little termite with feathers.  I very quickly learned that if I don’t intend to go bankrupt, I need to buy bulk toy parts and make most of her toys myself, because the types of toys that I would buy for her would typically cost about $25-$30 each.  So, I bought some toy bases, some stringing materials, and a ton of toy parts, and got to work!

Lola is a tricky one though: she is very picky and very exacting with what she likes and dislikes.  Her absolute favorite toy parts are 5/8″ to 3/4″ hardwood beads.  Any smaller and it just gets ridiculous with how fast she goes through them, any larger and she won’t touch them.  Next on her list are natural wood coins, preferably medium to very hard, with lots of bark.  She won’t touch these if they are sliced any thicker than 3/8″. Finally, at the bottom of the list are slices of pine.  Because she is a true stinker, she really isn’t the biggest fan of pine, even when it is sliced nice and thin just for her.  She really relishes hard woods, and pine is too soft for her.  It doesn’t snap and crunch quite enough for her liking.

So, with all of her preferences and quirks in mind, here is how I keep my Lola busy: one week’s worth of toys.

The rolling pin toy

My classic, go to, super simple and not so aesthetically pleasing toy is the rolling pin toy.  These rolling pin toy bases from California Bird Nerds make toy making a breeze.  I have a ton of them in both the small and medium size, and when I am feeling uncreative, it is my go to toy base for a quick and easy toy that I know Lola will love.  The one photographed above has a mixture of 3/4″ wood beads, natural wood slices, and pine slats, strung on heavy hemp rope.  I always try to keep the strands relatively short– usually no more than 5″ long– so that even after she chews up all of the toy parts, the leftover stringing material doesn’t pose a safety hazard.

Another go to toy, with a built in hole for foraging

Another simple toy with my new favorite toy base from Things for Wings

Here are two more super simple toys I created.  The first one has a nice foraging hole in it, the perfect size for an in shell almond, and plenty to chew and destroy.  The second two use my new favorite toy base from Things for Wings: the leather dome toy base!  It’s super simple, but I was getting tired of the constant rolling pin toys I was making and these are a nice change.  Plus, the leather is very durable and provides another texture for Lola to chew.  I really love these toy bases, especially because you can create different sized toys with them.  When I use heavy hemp rope, each hole only fits on strand, but with Paulie Rope I can fit in two strands per hole, making for double the fun for Lola!

One new foraging toy for Lola

Another home made foraging toy for Lola

I was feeling inspired this weekend, and even made some new toy styles, two types of foraging toys on a stainless steel skewer base.  The one on top has one large rectangular forager with multiple holes.  You can just barely see in the photo, but I tie leather strings in the entrance so that they hold the treats in there, as well as make it a bit more challenging for Lola to get them out.  There are foraging holes on both ends of that toy.  In the bottom two photos are another foraging toy, this time with three smaller foraging blocks.  I like to wrap up treats in mini cupcake liners or white paper cups and wedge them in the holes for Lola to pick out.  Sometimes I will mix it up and put a toy in there instead so that it keeps her guessing.

So, six toys total, plus one more not pictured (it was more of the same), along with about 150 foot toys this weekend– that will keep Lola busy for one week.  Then next Saturday I will spend the weekend doing more of the same. 🙂  It’s a lot of work, but my little Lola is worth it.

Finally, Stainless Steel Ring Holders!

April 23, 2011 § 12 Comments

First I just want to say, THANK GOODNESS I am finally done importing entries!  A lot of them, obviously, were never moved, but I think that I got all of the most informative ones over.  Now I can finally write some new ones!

Some of you might remember back in January when I was very dismayed to find that the King’s Cages stainless steel bowls and ring holders that I used were not actually stainless steel– the bowls were, but the ring holders were actually chrome-plated, and mine had just begun to rust.  I was especially disappointed because I had contacted the company directly asking what they were made of, and I had been told at least twice that they were stainless.  It wasn’t until I called and told them about the rust that they finally admitted that they were chrome-plated.  I have over twenty of these bowls and ring holders; needless to say I was not happy.

It’s quite astounding to me how little options there are for stainless steel food bowls and crocks on the market.  I use exclusively stainless steel bowls because I feel that they are the most sanitary and safe, but almost every single stainless steel bowl comes with a non-stainless ring holder.  The only company that makes 100% stainless steel bowls and ring holders is Expandable Habitats, but their line is rather limited.  They only come in two sizes: 24 and 46 oz.  I do use and love their 46 oz bowl (and it even comes with a lifetime guarantee), but it is huge and too deep even for Lola, so it is really a bathing / dunking water bowl for her only.  Their 24 oz bowl, though more appropriately sized, is more deep than she prefers for food, especially her mash for some reason.  And then, of course, there is the fact that both of these are much too large for the budgies.

I began contacting various cage makers and other people in the parrot industry and finally even local stainless steel welders and whatnot when I realized how difficult it would be to find somebody willing to take on this custom project.  I had some very nice companies try and make a custom ring holder for me to fit my existing bowls, but always turn me down.  Apparently, it is very difficult to bend stainless steel, especially in a tiny perfect circle as was necessary for the small 5 oz bowls I wanted for the budgies.  But I finally found somebody willing to do it!

Custom 100% stainless steel ring holders built to fit my existing bowls (some extras, not currently in use)

The bad news: After only making a few of them, the company told me that they would NOT be willing to make anymore of these after they finished what I’d originally asked for.  They were actually quite a pain to make evidently and were not worth the trouble for the money, despite the fact that I paid an arm and a leg for them.

The good news: They are PERFECT!  They are 100% 304 grade stainless steel, custom-built to fit into the King’s bowls that I already have.  The best part is, they even fit the little notches on the sides of the bowls so that they will lock into place and cannot be dumped by mischievous parrots.  I purchased a whole bunch for Lola and the budgies, and even some special ones to fit into the aluminum cages.

Then I decided that new bowls meant that I should rearrange cages! 😀

Charles and Sabrina's new cage setup

This is Charles and Sabrina’s new cage setup.  They’re roommates on nights and weekends for now, but I might give them a trial run during the week. They’ve been doing very well together, plus Sabrina likes Charles’s cage so much more than her own.

A look inside on the right and left

There are two “feeding stations,” each with two of their beautiful new stainless steel bowls and ring holders.  They’re close enough together that the two of them won’t fight over who gets what bowl, as long as they have the same thing in them.  Then a ton of great natural wood perches with different configurations, and of course a ton of toys.

Charles and Sabrina on the upper level of their cage

Up top is my very favorite perch: a very branchy and gnarly sandblasted grapevine wood perch that is so great for their feet!  There’s a single water bowl, placed high up so as not to get soiled.  I’ve learned that it is wise to put the less messy, less shreddable, or all stainless/plastic toys up top with them so that they don’t shred a ton of balsa or paper into their food and/or water down below.

Lola's newly rearranged cage

Lola also got a cage rearrangement in honor of her new bowls and ring holders, although I am not sure if I am 100% happy with it right now.  I will probably move a few things around during the course of the week (and add more toys).

All in all, I’m so happy that I can finally say that every single metal item in their cages are 100% stainless steel, ring holders included!

Shower Time with Lola

April 23, 2011 § 6 Comments

Unlike my very stubborn budgies, Lola is a true LOVER of water.  She would hop in the shower with me every single day if I’d let her, but she relishes a good bath any which way: showers, sink baths, large bowls, the acrylic bath house, a spray bottle, her own water bowl!  I’ve yet to find a method of bathing that she doesn’t absolutely love.  She fluffs up, spreads her wings, and will run back and forth under the water (or if in a bowl, she will waddle in and out and in and out– it’s hilarious), loving every second of it!!  Her baths have been known to on for as long as ten to fifteen minutes, until she is squeaky clean (and absolutely soaked!).

That said, though, I’ve always had trouble with finding a sturdy enough shower perch that stays up under her weight, especially when wet!!  I’ve tried the classic kinds that have one perch (typically it swivels back and forth so that it doesn’t take up too much space) held up by two to four suction cups.  Those NEVER cut it, and always slipped, freaking her out and causing my premature grey hairs.  I finally found this one while looking for one that supported both ends of the perch– this one was exactly what I needed!  So, I took a chance and ordered it.

Lola on her new Feathersmart shower perch

I have to say, I LOVE this shower perch!!  It completely met and exceeded my expectations!!  First of all, and most importantly, it is VERY sturdy.  It does not budge one bit, even when she is absolutely soaked, as you can see.  And it’s surprisingly big, so it provides enough room for her to be able to do her little rain dance (or to accomodate multiple parrots, if you have a larger flock).  I’d imagine it’d be sturdy enough for even an Amazon or a Cockatoo.  Second, I love that the perch is textured so that it is VERY easy to grip, even when it’s completely wet and should be slippery!  It has great texture that Lola actually really likes to rub her face on as well, I’ve found.  And finally, it comes standard with stainless steel screws– now that’s my kind of perch!!

Sweet and Sopping Lola

Lola and I are very pleased with this perch and highly recommend it.  It is made by Feathersmart, but we ordered it from the Persnickety Parrot, and are pleased to report excellent customer service, very fast shipping, and even a lovely free gift!

[This entry has been imported, with some edits, from my previous blog.]

What I Love About Cape Parrots

April 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Over on Avian Avenue, a thread was recently started that asked what Cape “Parronts” enjoy about living with their Cape Parrots.  I thought I would post my response about Lola in particular here and add a few notes.

My beautiful Lola with a floofy!

Let me count the ways…

I love that Lola is very GENTLE. Having grown up with a Hahn’s Macaw, I know the damage that a powerful beak can do — and she was a measly 125 grams. I was, at first, incredibly intimidated at the thought of a bigger beak in my life, but I kept reading about Cape Parrots, these “gentle giants.” Across the board, every breeder has agreed that even Cape parents and wild caught Capes are incredibly gentle birds. Lola fits this perfectly. I have seen what her beak can do, but she has never, ever bitten or even lunged at me. She plays with and preens my fingers very gently, even when hanging from them by her beak!

I love that Lola is very INDEPENDENT. Again, I adore that little Hahn’sie, but there is no better example of a velcro bird!!! I knew that as a very busy person with a job and many things to take care of, I could not deal with having a bird that was like cling wrap to me. Lola is very good about entertaining herself; she LOVES to play; she could pass hours with a good foot toy. But she is also a snugglebug when she wants to be and loves nothing more than some good lovin’ from mom.

I love that Lola is very QUIET!!! She is a very low volume bird. Even her chatter is in a very soft and sweet voice. She only times she has ever screamed — and it’s not really a scream, but more of a high pitched call — have been for specific reasons (a hawk outside, food now please, etc. 🙂 ).

I love that Lola LOVES HER TOYS. She really makes me feel like my money is well spent 😀 She plays with her toys with plenty of gusto, and really relishes every single bead, piece of wood, or foot toy. I will admit that she is a very, very expensive bird to keep busy, especially at the rate at which she goes through things, but it is sheer joy watching her!!

I love that Lola is incredibly SWEET. She loves my family, my S.O., my friends, my neighbors, my budgies, etc. I do not have to worry about her taking somebody’s eye out or leaving a dent in their arm if they try to get her to step-up. She is very friendly, but even in cases where she is not quite ready to step-up she would much rather leave a fearful situation by flying away than attack or lunge.

I love that Lola has a MIND OF HER OWN 😛 Lately she has been giving me the commands– when I walk away she’ll say, “Come here!!” or when I’m not exactly on time with dinner she calls out to me, “Yummy yummy?? Yummy YUMMY!!!” She’s a real stinker.

Living with Lola is a joy and I have no regrets with her.  This is not to say, however, that she is an “easy” parrot or that you should run out and buy the first Cape you see.  Although Lola does fit the profile of the typical Cape in a lot of ways, I know many Capes who are aggressive, lunge, bite, have favorite family members, are one person birds, or have other behavioral problems.  There is no such thing as a “pefect” parrot and the only way to figure out what is the best fit for you is to research, research, research.  It took me several (about six) months of pure research and meeting various types of parrots before I could even pick a species, then another few months to look for rescues/adoptions or to find a quality breeder, and then many more months of waiting for my little girl to hatch.

Please be responsible in your choice to bring home a parrot.  Expect the unexpected and be ready to love unconditionally.

[This entry has been imported, with some edits, from my previous blog.]

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