Well-Loved Pine Toys

July 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

Lola really isn’t the biggest fan of pine wood at all.  It figures, of course, because it is far and away the least expensive type of wood to provide for her and probably the easiest to find and the most abundant.  I swear she knows which toys are the most expensive and destroys those the most quickly and with the most gusto…  Anyway, I think Oliver’s Garden must have some secret alien pine source because Lola LOVES it!!  She loves it just as much as the more expensive other woods with fancy bark or crunchy textures; she simply adores it despite the fact that it is, still, plain old pine.  I don’t blame her.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Oliver’s Garden pine simply has the most incredible and fragrant smell.  I can’t get over it.  It smells so lovely opening up a package from them!

the "Plain Jane" toy

Lola having fun with her "Plain Jane" toy

Perhaps you remember the Plain Jane toy I posted about in another entry a short while ago.  It was actually a lovely free gift from our last order with Oliver’s Garden.  Well, Lola LOVES it.  It’s a beautiful (and of course fragrant) little fish with beak-enticing ridges, and of course, a mind-boggling acrylic eye bead!  Lola went nuts trying to extract that silly bead.  She was successful, of course, but it did take her a long while and she nearly went mad in the process.  It was a multi-day endeavor for her (maybe even a week-long one!), which is quite unusual for her.

There’s a short video of her fiddling with it before dropping it… I never said she was graceful!

What's left of poor "Plain Jane"

Well, that’s what Plain Jane looks like today, unfortunately.  No more eyes, almost no more ridges, almost nothing but a poor hunk of pine.  Still fragrant though!  Looks like we’ll have to purchase more of these!  I love finding good, simple toys that will keep Lola busy (and last more than a day).

Another lovely Oliver's Garden toy

Here’s another toy that was included in that last order.  It’s basically the classic Oliver’s Garden “Chunky Monkey” toy– lots of thinly sliced pine with wonderful ridges in the shapes to make it more fun for parrots to chew and destroy.  Usually it comes on a wooden base, but this time around it came on a very cool, reusable stainless steel toy base!  I couldn’t get a good shot of it earlier because, well, it was loaded with wood, but now that Lola’s had a day or two with it, the base itself is much easier to see.

The stainless steel toy base

There’s the nifty base, and there’s a second one below for double the fun!  Lola felt the need to sneak her big old beak in as well.  I think that I will have a great time loading and re-loading this base for a long while, especially at the rate that Lola goes through toys.  All of the rings and things on it are fully welded as well.  Luckily I have a ton of wood and other fun toy parts to reload this base many, many times!  I love reusable toys and especially durable toy bases.

All in all, we are big fans of Oliver’s Garden, as I’m sure you could tell.  Lola gives their toys, wood, and perches her seal of approval!

Sittin’ Pretty

July 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lola recently finished a molt and was taking care of the very last traces of feather casings and things like that to keep those feather looking just perfect!!  Isn’t the a cutie?

In other news, the Pellet Project is still chugging along; I’m nearly done with Hagen Tropican but the next few weeks are looking very busy.  The budgies officially have a new cage in the works but that won’t be here any time soon.  Charles and Sabrina still aren’t the best of friends but I’m crossing my fingers that it’s more of a space issue than anything else and that the new cage will help! 🙂

The Easy Sprout v. the bioSnacky

July 26, 2011 § 7 Comments

I decided to sprout some of my sprouting mix of choice, Totally Organics All in One Seed Mix, in both the bioSnacky glass sprouting jar and the Easy Sprout sprouter to see if there were any discernible differences in how the two operate or the end product of either.  Here’s how the process looked:

Day One, PM: Just after the initial soak. No differences.

Day Two, AM: Both are just beginning to grow their tails.

Day Two, PM: Both show short sprouts just beginning to grow, but the Easy Sprout has progressed slightly further.

Day Three, AM:Both jars have ready to serve sprouts, but the Easy Sprout has sprouted longer tails and is ready to be moved into the refrigerator.

Day Three, PM: With an extra twelve hours while the Easy Sprout was being refrigerated, the bioSnacky has mostly caught up in progress.

All in all, the Easy Sprout proved to be a more efficient sprouter, possibly because the design produces a more humid and favorable environment for the sprouts to grow in.  Both sprouters kept the sprouts smelling fresh and clean and both sprouters also showed a high success rate with the sprouts (meaning that nearly all of the seeds and grains in them actually sprouted, including most of the millet).

That said I do like both of them very much and the bioSnacky definitely wins points for being far easier to clean and to keep sanitary. I think that I will keep both of them around and use the bioSnacky for my seeds and grains and the Easy Sprout for the legumes, which tend to sprout more slowly. Perhaps the speediness of the Easy Sprout will help the legumes to sprout just as quickly as my seeds and grains in the bioSnacky!

The bioSnacky Glass Sprouting Jar

July 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

One of my dear friends over on Avian Avenue sent me the most incredible package this past week and I’ve subsequently gained fifty pounds.  Everything in it is so delectable!!  She put together a beautiful bundle of hand-picked treats from her city that she felt would represent “slices of Montreal,” but she also chose items that she specifically remembered I’d mentioned I liked, like salted caramels, strawberry jam, and anything chocolate!  I am so impressed by her generosity and her great taste!!  I adore everything and the maple lollies are almost too cute to eat, but I am simply blown away by these delicious puff pastry pretzels.  They’re just delicious– the perfect flaky texture with just a hint of sweetness.  Very dangerous!

"Slices of Montreal"

I loved getting something in the mail that, for once, wasn’t for the birds but rather for me! 🙂  But of course, it included a little something for the birds as well.  She was nice enough to send along a lovely bioSnacky glass sprouting jar as well, a sprouter I had read about online but was unable to find here in the U.S.  It’s a glass jar that is used for sprouting but it comes with this great mesh top for drainage but it also has a little stand on the side so that you can keep it upside down but at an angle!

The bioSnacky Sprouting Jar with some quinoa, radish, and lentil sprouts

I put it to the test with a lovely accompanying packet of quinoa, radish, and lentil seeds to sprout.  I was very happy to see that they started sprouting almost immediately after their soak!  They were ready to serve in record time, and the budgies in particular loved them.  I’m not sure if it’s the sprouter or the seeds but I’m very pleased with both.  The sprouter has such a simple design, but I like it– a lot more than I thought I would.  It’s extremely easy to use, there aren’t a bunch of parts to keep track of, and best of all, the main chamber is glass!  I’m a total plastic-phobe so that in and of itself was enough to attract me.  I find it far easier to clean and sanitize.  I love it so much that I already want a second!

the Easy Sprout Sprouter

Up until now, my sprouter of choice has been the Easy Sprout Sprouter, made by Sproutamo.  It consists of two plastic chambers– the smaller and slightly shorter one fits inside of the other and allows the sprouts to be just slightly suspended over the bottom of the chamber for optimal humidity.  It’s far easier to find in the U.S. than the bioSnacky sprouting jar, plus it works well.  (I can’t be bothered with cheese cloths or anything more complicated.)  But I’m not crazy about the design or the fact that it is plastic.  I find that it’s necessary to be extremely diligent about washing and disinfecting it– although I wash mine thoroughly each and every time I use it, I noticed that there were little pockets of bacteria and other things beginning to grow in it, especially around the rim of the inner chamber as well as the bottom drainage area of the inner chamber.  Disinfection is necessary with a plastic sprouter, at least in my experience.  I’ve actually tossed one of mine because of the bacteria issue.

the bioSnacky and the Easy Sprout put to the test

I do love my new bioSnacky sprouting jar, but I am going to put it to the test and see how my two sprouters compare under the same conditions.  Today I started a new batch in both of them of Totally Organics All in One seeds– same bag, same water, same time, same everything.  I will be taking photos of the two along the way.  We’ll see how they both fare!

An Anti-Junk Food Bird

July 21, 2011 § 5 Comments

My sister offered Lola a potato chip the other day and Lola took one bite and spit it out, then turned her back on it!  Had I been there I would have protested before it could have happened– but I heard all of this secondhand from my dear sisters.  After they told me, they said, “Watch, she won’t even eat a graham cracker!” and again, before I could object, they offered it up to her, she took a lick, and she turned away.  I couldn’t help but beam a little.  I raised my little girl to dislike junk food!

I didn’t think a lot about it afterward until yesterday, when a friend of mine posted an excellent article on parrot diet and nutrition.  I always like reading about diet in general, but this article in particular made a very interesting argument– that parrots probably have the innate ability to know what types of nutrients they need in their diet (as evidenced in studies on both rats and human children), but that things like added sugars, fat, and salts can “pervert the appetite,” a phrase I had not heard before.  I think it is a very fitting one.

I think most birds parents allow their birds the occasional junk food treat– a small bit of cake or a muffin, for example, or a cheeto, or some pizza.  “Everything in moderation,” after all, right?  My family is very much like this with their Hahn’s, Karat– she goes crazy for the occasional bite of a doughnut or really, anything she shouldn’t be eating.  Well, I have always been one of those crazy overbearing bird parents who has never allowed her birds to have junk food of any sort.  Never ever.  Neither the budgies nor Lola have ever had a single junk food item.  And after reading the article above, I don’t quite feel so much like a “Food Nazi” (as I’ve been called by my family) as I do proud: Lola’s appetite has never been perverted by tasting any sort of processed snack or sugary baked good, and she simply doesn’t have an appetite for it.

This also reinforces for me why parrots should not be eating any pellet or nugget or other type of food mix that contains added sugars (and you’d be surprised by how many do, even “reputable” ones).  Added sugars are by no means necessary to the diet, and in fact can be quite detrimental.

Of course, none of my flock were rehomed to me; they all arrived as babies, so it has been easy for me to control their diet and shape their tastes, so to speak.  But I think that this is an important observation for any bird owner.  The article further states that just as eating sugar will lead us to crave sugar, the converse is also true: if we convert ourselves to a healthier diet, we will crave healthier foods, and reject the more sugary or fattening ones.  So it is never too late to start making positive changes to your parrot’s diet– or your own!

Summer Sunbathing

July 19, 2011 § 3 Comments

Everybody has been having a blast getting outside so much lately.  I am a big believer in the benefits of natural sunlight.  Although I think that getting a balanced diet is crucial as is good full spectrum lighting for vision purposes, through my research, I don’t feel that either of these two can provide dependable or completely safe sources of Vitamin D3.  A good friend of mine shared something extremely fascinating to me that her avian veterinarian recently commented to her: that there is a significant difference in the bone density of parrots he sees living in northern, colder climates v. those in sunnier climates.  This reinforces two things for me: first, that we really cannot depend on pellets or full spectrum lighting as sources of Vitamin D3, and second, that natural sunlight is crucial to health (and especially bone development).  During the summer in particular, I really relish the opportunity to get them outside as much as possible– lately the goal has been everyday!

Lola enjoying the sunlight on her feathers

Lola in particular seems to really adore it.  She is a laid back sunbather and will relax and enjoy the warmth of the sun on her feathers.  When she gets warm, she’ll dunk her head in her water bowl and let me know that she’s ready to be sprayed down.  She loves having a good soaking!

Karat gleaming in the natural sunlight

Karat also loves spray showers and was such a ham.  I was rotating between Lola, Karat, and the budgies, and every time I walked away from her with the spray bottle she followed me around in her cage until I came back around to spray her.  She used to hate spray bottles all together so she’s come a long way!

Lola and Karat in their matching carriers

Aren’t they cuties? 🙂  I love getting them outside in the sun.  We’ll be taking advantage of the warm days as much as possible!

Sucrose (Sugar) in Pellets v. in Fruits

July 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

In light of my labeling sucrose as a red (unhealthy / undesirable) ingredient in the Pellet Project, I received an excellent question the other day: doesn’t sucrose naturally occur in most fruits that we eat and feed our parrots?  Being the smart aleck that I am, I replied, of course not; sucrose is table sugar whereas fructose is fruit sugar.  Being the dumb … aleck that I am, I was, of course, wrong!  Well, technically table sugar is the common name for sucrose, but that does not mean that it does not naturally occur in fruits.  Actually, some of the healthiest fruits that we feed our parrots– mangoes, for example– are extremely high in sucrose.  So does that mean that it is good for our parrots?

I had to call in help to answer this one and consulted a friend who is a nutrition scientist to get a professional opinion because, alas, google was failing me.  In layman’s terms, as I understand it, the difference between the sucrose found in fruit v. the sucrose found in pellets or any food with added sucrose is actually how the sucrose is metabolized. 

Sucrose added to a pellet or food will be broken down by enzymes in the body relatively quickly.  In the large intestine, sucrose will be broken down into glucose and fructose, and released into the bloodstream. (The rapidity of it is often what causes spikes in blood sugar for people: you need insulin to accept it into your muscle or fat cells and use it as energy.) The broken down sucrose can either be converted into energy or be stored as fat. More often than not, when it is absorbed into the bloodstream so rapidly, it is stored as fat, especially when other sources of energy are available (such as the other carbohydrate components of a pellet… wheat, corn, soy, etc.). This is where elevated triglycerides come into play.

Sucrose in fruits, however, doesn’t come in the form of just pure sucrose– fruit contains fiber which the digestive system can’t break down, so it can really slow down the metabolization of sucrose, and the rate at which it will enter the bloodstream. So, the risk of a spike in blood sugar is less likely (although individuals with diabetes or other conditions should obviously be careful and consult a professional about diet), and fruit sucrose is less likely to be converted into triglycerides or contribute to other problems associated with added sucrose in foods.

It’s not that fruit sucrose is good for you, but that it is a safer or maybe healthier way to consume sucrose because it slows down the digestion, plus the fiber and other vitamin/mineral content of fruit has its own beneficial properties. In a pellet, the added sucrose really serves no purpose in terms of health benefits and is only added for taste, but can cause additional problems. In general, added sucrose to any food is not the healthiest for a body, parrot or person.

So, there you have it: despite the sucrose in fruits, sucrose is still something we don’t want added to pellets, or any sugar in general really, since we now know that if we are giving them healthy servings of fresh fruits and veggies daily, they are likely getting their fair share of sweetness as is.

Thanks to my friend for raising this question and reminding me that there is always more to read and to learn, and thanks to my nutrition scientist friend for her great explanation!

I don’t have much else for today so I will leave you with a cute photo of Charles, enjoying his Oliver’s Garden “Soapbox” platform perch!

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