Homemade, Organic “Nutri-Berry”-Type Recipe

June 30, 2011 § 10 Comments

I have been wanting to create an organic and healthier version of the Nutri-Berry for a long while now.  They look very tasty and fun for birds to eat, but the ingredient list contains a few things I’d rather not feed, so I’ve always stayed away from them.  I did some searches online for some recipes and have tried some in the past that required egg whites and baking, but those recipes never seemed to work very well as they don’t yield the softer texture that seems so appealing about the actual Nutri-Berry to so many parrots.  I finally found a very unique one that used molasses and no baking, and was intrigued.  I gathered all of my ingredients this weekend and finally got to work!  The molasses content isn’t overwhelming but it does make them pretty sweet; these snacks will be used as treats only among my flock, but they look pretty delectable if I may say so myself!  I threw together the ingredients at random so feel free to add, subtract, or substitute as you please.  I didn’t measure anything but used varying amounts… there are probably equal amounts of each puffed grain, but not quite as much in the way of sunflower seeds or cranberries as there are other ingredients.

The dry ingredients, minus the pellets

Ingredients (All Organic):

  • Puffed Brown Rice
  • Puffed Buckwheat
  • Puffed Barley
  • Puffed Triticale
  • Flax Seed
  • Sesame Seed
  • Sunflower Seed (shelled)
  • Pumpkin Seed (shelled)
  • Unsweetened Cranberries
  • Unsweetened Papaya
  • Unsweetened Mango
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Totally Organics Pellets (Crumplet Size)
  • Molasses
  • Coconut Oil


Directions:

First I took any of the larger ingredients– papaya, mango, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seed– and chopped them in the food processor until they were uniform in size, and nice and small for the treats.  I left the rest in tact, but they can also be run through the food processor for smaller birds.  I then combined all ingredients except for the molasses and coconut oil in a large, non-reactive mixing bowl– see the photograph above.  (The first time around I forgot to add the pellets, but they were added shortly after I added the molasses.)

Next I poured some molasses into a small saucepan.  I’m not sure of exactly how much I used, but it was probably around 1/3 of a cup (there was also plenty of molasses left in the saucepan when I was done).  I put it on the stove over medium heat waiting for it to bubble.  In the mean time, I lined a few trays with waxed paper, and lightly coated a spatula with coconut oil to use for mixing.  When the molasses began to bubble, I quickly poured it over the dry ingredients and vigorously mixed them until there was just enough molasses to cat all of the ingredients and make them just sticky enough to form.

I then lightly coated my own hands with coconut oil and began to form them into little balls.  It took a few rounds to get it down correctly.  Too much oil and the balls don’t hold together, but not enough and the ingredients just stick to your hands.  You also have to re-coat your hands after every few treats (I ended up re-coating after every third treat).  As I’m sure you can guess… this is a very messy endeavor!  Be prepared to be coated in lots of oil and molasses and stickiness by the time you are done.

The finished product!

Some of them aren’t quite as nicely shaped as others, but I think they came out quite well!  My recipe made nearly three trays of treats.  Lola had just eaten and wasn’t hungry when I offered her one so unfortunately I have no idea if they’re any good or not just yet, but hopefully they will be a big hit.  I tasted one and it was quite good, kind of like a sticky trail mix treat.

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Cascading Palm Nuts for Lola

June 25, 2011 § 5 Comments

Still chugging away at the Pellet Project, of course, but I thought I’d take a brief break to post some lovely photos of these beautiful, plump, and fresh Canary Island Date Palm Nuts from the Cozy Nestbox!  I took advantage of a recent sale of theirs and ordered some beautiful, fresh palm nuts for Lola.  She goes absolutely crazy for these, especially when they are still on the stalks!  I took a large stalk and tied it to the top of her cage, right next to her boing. She feasted on them all day long and was very, very pleased!  She’s become quite skilled at cracking them right open to get to the inner parts.  She didn’t even want to come out of her cage a few times!

One of my sisters saw these in her cage and asked what they were.  I told her that they were palm nuts and they were one of Lola’s absolute favorite things to chew up and play with.  She plucked one right off the stalk and put it in her mouth– her reaction was priceless!!  She ran to the bathroom to spit it out.  She said it tasted chalky and was completely stuck in her two front teeth!!

Luckily for Lola, it seems she won’t have any competition when it comes to the palm nuts 🙂

The Pellet Project: Totally Organics Pellets

June 23, 2011 § 7 Comments

I’ve finally completed the very first pellet included in the Pellet Project, my glossary of pellet ingredients!  The first up is Totally Organics Pellets (TOPs).  You can read all about the individual ingredients on the glossary.  This entry will serve as a brief way of putting it all together and an analysis of the ingredients in conjunction with each other.  I am following the color coding on the Pellet Project page.

* * * * *

Certified Organic Ingredients: Rice, hulled millet, barley, alfalfa leaf, sunflower seed hulled, sesame seeds unhulled, quinoa whole, buckwheat hulled, dandelion leaf powder, carrot powder, spinach leaf powder, purple dulse, kelp, rose hips powder, rose hips crushed, orange peel powder, lemon peel powder, rosemary whole leaf, cayenne ground, crushed red chili peppers, nettle leaf.

Guaranteed Analysis: Protein min 13%, Crude Fiber min 12%, Fat min 7%

* * * * *

As the vast majority of green ingredients shows, Totally Organics Pellets have quite the impressive ingredients list.  Unlike the majority of pellets that are a concoction of wheat/corn/soy along with synthetic vitamins and preservatives, TOPs opts to use much healthier base ingredients derived from whole grains and seeds.  The rice is brown rice, and it even contains a number of healthful leafy green such as alfalfa, dandelion, and spinach. It also contains a number of healthy herbs associated with a number of healing properties, as well as antimicrobial ingredients that act as natural preservatives, and finally, appetite stimulants.  It has low levels of both protein and fat, which are often key problems with pellets in various species.

One of the most common complaints lodged against TOPs is that they do not add any vitamins.  A close analysis of the ingredients, however, would show that TOPs includes all vitamins (A, the B complex, C, D, E, and K) and rather than in the synthetic form, in the natural form, meaning that they cannot be overdosed on or lead to vitamin toxicity.

Finally, Totally Organics contains 100% organic and human grade ingredients indicating a high quality product, and they are cold-pressed rather than baked or heated to minimize nutrient loss.  The company also stresses on the packaging that TOPs are only a part of a healthy diet and that a variety of other foods are necessary for health.

The Pellet Project: A Glossary of Pellet Ingredients

June 23, 2011 § 8 Comments

One of the most common questions I read on forums is, “Is this brand of pellet any good?”  Regardless of the brand, the answers will usually run the gamut from “My vet highly recommends them,” to “That pellet killed my bird,” to ” The protein levels are way too high,” to “It’s the only pellet my bird will eat and therefore the best.”  Of course the opinions and advice of others are important (in fact, it’s the whole purpose of forums in general), but I would love to see more bird owners capable of making informed decisions about their parrots’ food on their own.  I always try to offer an objective analysis of the pellet by posting the ingredients list and nutritional analysis, then commenting on the quality and types of ingredients and the overall formulation.  It’s astounding to me how many people never bother to read the ingredients at all, but purchase a food solely based on the recommendation of a friend.  That said, reading the ingredients can be quite an ordeal in and of itself, and figuring out what exactly that scientific-sounding, chemical concoction is, isn’t always easy.  I hope that this glossary of ingredients will help parrot owners to be able to make a sound decision on their own.

Since it will obviously take me a while to get through every single pellet ingredient, this will be a living, breathing document that I will update constantly over time as I get through pellet by pellet.  I have created a separate page for it here, and I will update it as well as post to the blog every new pellet added.  I was thinking of doing a separate entry on each type of pellet individually, providing an analysis of each pellet on its own, but I would rather that parrot owners make their own decisions about the overall formulation with this glossary on individual ingredients to help them.  I will, however, include in each ingredients’ description, which pellets contain it.  Each ingredient will be given a category based on the role it typically plays: base ingredient (most pellets have grain bases but some include other vegetables or legumes), preservative or color/flavor additive, and finally vitamin (both synthetic and natural).  I will then describe it in terms of why it’s added to pellets, any safety concerns, or any other items of note for parrot owners.  I will post any updates to the blog, as well as keep a running list of all of the types of pellets accounted for at the bottom of the page itself.

The first pellet will be Totally Organics and hopefully will be all done tomorrow! 🙂

And Even More Goodies…

June 21, 2011 § 6 Comments

The sale purchases continue!  Here are two more recent orders by Grey Feather Toys and California Bird Nerds, both of which I highly recommend of course.

Amazing toys and more from Grey Feather Toys

We all know what a huge fan of Grey Feather Toys I am, and the combination of their products plus a sale is often disastrous for me.  This time was no exception.  I finally took the plunge and ordered the Sterling Twirl (bottom left), a huge stainless steel toy base!  It has six large holes for toy making and hangs from a welded o-ring (I asked for the chain to be removed).  It’s one of their “forever toys” and holding it in person I understand how it earned that name– this thing is solid!  I am sure that Lola and I will get a lot of use out of this fantastic toy base.  I also ordered a second stainless steel toy, the Colossal Spoon, which really is just that.  Lola loves banging things around her cage and making noise, so I know she’ll enjoy this one.  The colorful little ball in the center is called the Baby Possession, and it’s probably Charles’s favorite toy.  He really seems to enjoy pink, so, I think he’ll like this one.  He has one in pink and purple as well but Sabrina, being Sabrina, tends to hoard it.

I also ordered a Jumbo Boing– WOW!  This boing is huge and so heavy duty!  I haven’t decided whether I will use it in or out of cage because of its size, but I am so pleased with the construction and the very tightly wound rope.  As I’ve said before, I truly think Grey Feather Toys does an exceptional job with their cotton rope products.  I ordered a second ring swing for Lola (this time with complimentary green and orange beads!) and a second custom rope perch with stainless steel wire as well.  Finally, I purchased one of the natural wood toys with plenty of hardwood for Lola to snap (I try to mix it up every once in a while since most of the toys I make for her tend to look the same), and some very cool wood shapes with lots of ridges and notches in them.

Fantastic toy parts from California Bird Nerds

I also stocked up on a few essential toy parts from California Bird Nerds.  I purchased a spool of heavy hemp rope– I’ve gone through two or three already!  I really like working with hemp rope because it is extremely easy on the fingers, much more so than poly rope, leather, paper rope, and pretty much anything else.  Lola also seems to like to chew on it, as do the budgies.  I also purchased some very cute thin, ridged dowels that Lola will have a blast snapping, and some hardwood stars too.  Finally, I purchased more of those rolling pin toy bases, an absolute favorite around here!  But unlike than the normal ones, I asked Ann to put eye hooks in both ends of the rolling pin so that I can secure the rolling pins with quick links at both ends.  I am going to use these toy bases to make toys for their travel cages so that they have toys to play with, but they can do so safely and I don’t have to worry about a toy swinging and hitting them in the car if it’s a bumpy ride.

Wood Galore from Things for Wings

June 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

Well, we all know what a sucker I am for a sale.  And boy was this a good one at Things for Wings.  I may have gone a little overboard.  I’m okay with that.  At least I know Lola will be kept busy for a good, long while!  She absolutely loves her wood and I couldn’t pass up on such a great deal to stock up.  I also got some wonderful toys as a gift for my mother’s Hahn’s Macaw, Karat.  I think that all of my choices will be big hits.  I also have to say that I am very shocked and impressed by how quickly this package came!  Despite being located in Canada, the owner drives across the U.S.-Canada border every week just to ship her U.S. orders and keep shipping costs down for her customers.  My order was shipped on Wednesday and arrived on Friday if I am not mistaken.  Quite impressive!

Several "Slim Slab Stack" toys in various sizes and woods

First, I purchased several of the Limited Edition toys made by Pet Products By Nature.  Lola is absolutely obsessed with these beautiful, pristine, natural woods, and since they are much more difficult to come by now, I purchased quite a few.  Most of them are the “Super Slim Slab Stacks” which are much smaller in size than the others, and they are sliced very thinly, which I know Lola will love!!  I purchased a few in ocotillo, pecan, willow, and elm wood.  I also purchased two of the full-sized ones in ocotillo and they are ENORMOUS!  One of the wood slices is a foot long!  I am so excited to give these to Lola.  They are strung on veggie tanned leather, but I will probably take them apart and add in separators like wood beads for more fun, or put them on skewers or something.  I know that these will be a big hit!

Toy parts galore!

Actually only a small sample of what I actually purchased is photographed.  Basically there’s a lot more of everything above.  There are some wonderful grapevine wood chunks (Lola looooves to chew on these, plus they last longer than ten seconds, which I love!), plenty of those adorable pine “Slickety Sticks” with fun ridges and very thinly sliced, and several of the ocotillo, willow, and cottonwood toy bases.  I am going to make some amazing toys with all of these beautiful parts!  Danita was also kind enough to throw in a free toy kit as well!

Two toys for Karat

Finally, I purchased two very adorable and yucca-filled toys for Karat, the Hahn’s.  She doesn’t play with toys much at all, but makes a special exception once in a while for some yucca and occasionally some crunchy vine.  I am hoping that the snuggly fleece toy with yucca will attract her, as will the adorable “Cantaloupe” toy with yucca, bagels, seagrass, and vine!  My mother and I rearranged her cage yesterday and added in the snuggly yucca toy, so we’ll see.

I am so thrilled with all of these goodies and can’t wait to get toy making!  I still have a few other sale orders to post about in the mean time though.  More to follow!

Fresh and Clean Soaps!

June 19, 2011 § 6 Comments

I am very impressed with Quaking Canopy Soap Co. and for the first time I can say I absolutely love soap!  Quaking Canopy goat milk soaps, at least.  I have never gotten excited about soaps before.  In fact, I’m one of those people that really dreads buying soaps because I hate scents, I have sensitive skin, I am into buying chemical and usually fragrance-free products for both my and the birds’ sake, and I also try to be as sustainable as possible.  A lot of soaps contain petroleum products (well, dish soaps, but it’s still a pain– Dawn, for example, is a petrol-based soap) and if it’s not petrol then it’s palm oil, which is rapidly causing the habitat destruction of orangutans and general deforestation.  So as you can see, I am nitpicky and neurotic to the maximum.  I use organic, fair trade, all natural baby soaps for most of my needs because they are super gentle and generally the least offensive to my nose.

Well, I really needed to buy a gift for an older couple I don’t know very well, but I wanted it to be thoughtful, which makes it difficult.  Quaking Canopy was participating in a sale on Avian Avenue, so I decided to check them out.  Usually, I think that soap is a pretty lame gift that I hate getting myself, but the woman really loves soaps.  I was a bit hesitant because I thought that would really make the gift solely for her rather than both of them, but I checked out the website anyway and lo and behold, Quaking Canopy also has shaving soap and a great shaving bristle brush!  I thought it would make a lovely gift for the both of them, so I ordered some adorable soaps (in the shape of goats, no less), some lotion, and the shaving soap and brush set.

My gift order from Quaking Canopy Soap Co.

Free Samples!

I thought I’d be done at that point, but the order arrived so quickly (less than 48 hours!) that I was even more pleased than I already was.  It even came with free samples!!  Expecting to hate them all, I smelled the Clean Linen soap and LOVED it.  The scent was light, clean, and very fresh– not overpowering, artificial, or flowery at all.  I also loved the Honey Almond Oatmeal and the Bamboo Vanilla Sugar Cane.  I got curious and began thinking about an order for myself…

But I realized I should probably inquire about ingredients and whatnot due to my sensitive skin as well as the fact that they were not fragrance free.  I exchanged several emails with the owner, Amanda, about her ingredients, the sources for her ingredients, scents, sustainability, and more– and I am so impressed!  Not only did she actually answer all of my crazy questions, but she makes a serious commitment to sustainability and responsibly sources all of her materials.  She pays more to use sustainably forested palm oil, and even supports a sustainable goat farm by purchasing their goat milk as well.  All of her scents use only high quality essential oils, and everything is hand made by her, so she knows exactly what goes in.

I simply had to place a second order for myself and I am so happy with my selections.  Another favorite scent is the Day at the Beach, which came as a sample on my order.  I think I might be a regular customer from now on!  Thank you to Quaking Canopy for making sustainable, fresh, and lovely soaps with delicate scents and safe ingredients that I can feel confident using myself and around my birds!

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