Lola’s Foraging Feeder

August 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

The majority of Lola’s diet is fed in two square meals: one fresh, raw meal in the morning, and one cooked meal in the evening.  I have yet to figure out a good way to get her to forage for these meals without creating a dire mess, so unfortunately I have resigned myself to the fact that these meals will simply be free fed.  But she also gets dry food or bird bread in her cage, however, during the day, just in case (since I do work full time).  Although she does have several foraging toys that she enjoys, I have mostly used them simply for treats rather than for actual food, and her dry mixes typically just get plopped into another bowl in her cage like any other meal.  I’ve recently decided that I am going to make a strong effort to stop allowing her to free feed during the day, in between her two big meals.  The problem is, I’m lazy and not very creative, but I figured I could at least do something with a few foraging toy parts and a skewer.

Ta-da! Lola's Foraging Feeder, Version 1.0

It’s not pretty, but keep in mind that I made this in approximately sixty seconds.  I looked through my toy parts and realized that I had some great things lying around that weren’t getting any use.  So I threw together a plastic foraging cup, a natural wicker ball, and a cute little woven box on a stainless steel skewer.  It’s super basic for now because Lola isn’t exactly an expert forager, but it’s very functional and it works!  I put an Avian Organics Mini Truffle in the plastic cup (but in the future everything that goes in the plastic cup will be wrapped in a mini cupcake wrapper or some other paper liner– I have a plastic phobia), an in shell almond inside the wicker ball, and a square of Avian Organics Bird Bannock in the woven box.

Lola had a great time with it.  She basically went easiest to hardest with it– first she extracted the Mini Truffle and gobbled it, then she went after the almond.  She’s actually not a shredder at all and isn’t very interested in naturals, so a high value treat inside of one is really the only thing that will get her to play with them.  In terms of strength or power, I know that Lola could rip up that little wicker ball in seconds, but for some reason she doesn’t like to break them really, so she tries to extract the almond while doing the least damage possible.  It makes it actually quite the challenge for her… plus it means I can reuse the wicker balls!  The woven box on the bottom actually had her quite confused though.  I had to open it up and show her what was inside of it a few times before she realized that she should attempt to open it up.  (She’s very visually motivated, I suppose.  Out of sight, out of mind!)  Eventually, she got to it!  The best thing is, she really did have to work for her food, and it kept her busy for quite a long time.

I have a ton of different toy parts that I think would work well for this and will keep things interesting for her.  I can definitely make the plastic cup a bit more challenging by putting something over the top that she has to move to get to the treat inside, and I’ve been eying some large leather shapes to do just that.  I am also thinking about incorporating some wood beads, perhaps, in the cup, so that she has to get those out of the way as well before she gets to the food.

I also plan on using different boxes on the bottom.  Because the one I used is woven with really small strands, it’s actually quite difficult to destroy– it almost feels more like fabric material than a shreddable toy part.  So, Lola had to actually remove the cover to get at the bread inside.  I don’t mind that, but I’d like her to have the option of both destroying the box and opening the lid.  I noticed that Things for Wings has some lovely looking palm boxes that appear to be the same size and shape, and should be more easily destroyed.  They also have a cylindrical version called the Pandan Box that looks especially crunchy and fun!  We will definitely be stocking up on both of these on our next order to keep Lola’s foraging interesting and fun.

I’m optimistic about this toy as her new feeder, rather than free feeding in a bowl.  I could use the box or the plastic foraging cup for a dry mix as well.  It really has a lot of possibilities and will keep her working!


Today’s Breakfast and More on Sprouting

August 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

I finally tracked down a second bioSnacky glass sprouting jar!  After endless searching for a U.S. vendor to no avail, I contacted several Canadian vendors.  The lovely and very helpful people at Nature’s Fare were nice enough to special order it for me.  The best part is, they had a shipping special and only charged me $5 for shipping from Canada!  I am very pleased with my purchase.  I thought I’d probably end up spending more on shipping than on the actual jar itself, but the total cost was quite reasonable.  For any U.S. residents looking for one, I strongly recommended emailing them.  They were very professional and also very quick!

I’ve been experimenting with a new sprouting mix lately as well.  I am loving the “Amber Waves of Grain” mix from Sprout People.  It’s a really clean and varied mix with super high sprout-ability for me, containing wheat, rye, barley, triticale, oats, spelt, kamut, quinoa, sesame, millet, and amaranth.  I have to say; somehow their millet is really, really beautiful.  It seems to be nicer and more plump than the millet I’ve seen in other mixes, at the health food store, etc.  The budgies in particular are loving it!  I’ve been mixing the “Amber Waves of Grain” mix with a little bit of the “Oats and Groats” mix, which has hulless oats and buckwheat groats, because all of mine love buckwheat so much.  It’s a big hit!  I am thinking of actually making this my base sprouting mix from now on.

Lola's Breakfast: a Papaya and Raspberry Salad

For breakfast today, Lola had the mix, soaked (hadn’t quite gotten to the sprouting stage, although it’s still going), as part of a beautiful papaya and raspberry salad.  I was too lazy to make a more varied mash this morning, so I went with something more simple instead.  It’s a huge hit!  She always loves her papaya.  I like to give it to her in larger chunks because she loves to sink her beak into it and really chew it up.  She is also enjoying the crunchy fresh kale and chard.  She’ll never finish the whole bowl, but I was a little overzealous since the papaya looked so nice.

Unfortunately, my barley grass didn’t survive.  I forgot to water it one day and the poor grass yellowed and even grew moldy.  I suppose I will have to try again!  Poor Charles misses his fresh grass right now.  Maybe I’ll just stick to wheat grass until I perfect my technique.

I also wanted to give a huge thanks to everybody for your advice and support about Sabrina.  The response was overwhelming and supportive via comments, messages, and emails, and I really appreciate it.  From what I gather, it seems that her behavior is relatively typical of female budgies and Charles and I are just wusses.  I am going to try offering some chamomile tea or chamomile flowers, though, to see if perhaps they might have a calming effect on her feisty personality.  I have some of the new Pura Vida mix from Avian Organics on order, so perhaps she will enjoy that.

Sabrina, Sabrina

August 18, 2011 § 17 Comments

I admit that I have, on occasion, entertained the idea of relinquishing Sabrina.  Translate: I’ve thought about rehoming Sabrina.

There, I said it.

Have I made an plans to do it or am I actually going to do it?  No, probably not, or at least not at the current time.  I’m definitely committed to trying my best to make it work.  But I needed to get this off my chest.

Rehoming is not something I take lightly, at all.  I definitely think of myself as my birds’ forever homes, and brought them home with the attention of keeping them forever.  They’re more than pets to me; they mean the world to me.  But I do understand that there are many valid reasons to rehome a parrot.  I have always thought that for me personally, it would only happen under one circumstance: both that the parrot was causing a serious upset of a violent nature in my household or flock, and that I could find the parrot a better or more suitable home than that with me.  Both parts of the equation are very important to me, since I don’t take the adoption or bringing home of a parrot lightly, either.  If I made the decision to bring him or her home, I made the decision to give it all I’ve got to making it work.  I know that parrots don’t take rehoming easily and that the bonds, trust, and relationships broken aren’t easy on such a sentient creature.  So it would very seriously not have to be working for us, and I would have to have a clear alternative that would be better for both my flock and the parrot in question.

With Sabrina, I would say that with her recent developments, we definitely have the first condition fulfilled.  She has posed a serious threat to Charles in the past two weeks.  Her chasing him and pulling his tail has escalated into full on beak fighting, pouncing on him, biting toes and feet, and other very aggressive behaviors.  I don’t allow them out of the cage together anymore, but the problem is that even when I allow her out, she immediately goes to his cage and starts provoking him through the bars.  The other difficulty is that she absolutely hates me now for trying to break up her squabbles, and completely runs from me.  She used to be very good about stepping up, but now it is literally a thirty minute ordeal when I need to get her back into the cage.  On the one hand I feel that it is so utterly important for her to get out of cage time, but on the other, I really can’t do that as often as I’d like to if she is going to literally make me chase her around the room from high to low for half an hour.  It’s good exercise for me, perhaps, but sometimes I have other things to tend to and can’t afford to leave her scrambling about the room by herself– especially considering that she has discovered that she can fit through the cage bars on Lola’s cage and likes to terrorize Lola, too.  (Talk about a kamikaze budgie.)  So she’s getting less out of cage time now, and neither of us are happy about that.

Then there’s the other half of the equation– finding her a better home.  I’m just not sure about that half right now.  I’m a big advocate for budgies.  I adore them and I always try to treat them with the same dignity and loving adoration that I treat my Cape Parrot, despite the wide difference in price tag.  But would most people spend the money on a welded swing to protect Sabrina’s toe nails– a swing that cost the equivalent of a pair of budgies at the pet store?  I’m not sure.  She gets freshly chopped veggies and sprouts every morning, as well as a freshly cooked meal nightly.  All of it is organic, and I even tie up a big, organic leaf of chard or kale or broccolini in her cage as well because she likes to eat and climb at the same time.  She wastes a lot of it, but she has a lot of fun in the process.  She throws food up to four feet away and she screeches like a banshee.  Finally, she bites indiscriminately and has a beak like a razor blade.  She’s a whole lot of budgie and a whole lot of effort.

I have considered finding someone or somewhere with an aviary setting for budgies only, where she could be with other budgies and join a flock and just be a bird.  But I’m not sure that that would necessarily be what she wants.  She is kind of a menace to other birds and she also needs an inordinate amount of toys to keep her busy.  I have never seen a budgie destroy like she can.  She saws through willow wood!!  She is also an avid metal chewer and I wouldn’t trust her with anything but stainless steel.

So therein lies my dilemma.  If I really, sincerely thought she’d be happier somewhere else– well, it’d be hard, but I would strongly consider rehoming her.  But I won’t let her go to just anybody, anywhere.  I’m also hoping that maybe, just maybe, we can turn it around.  I’m sincerely hoping that the new cage helps.  I guess I should finally write an official entry on it one of these days.

Why am I writing about this?  I guess on the one hand, it is somewhat cathartic for me.  But more importantly, I don’t feel that I talk about the “downs” of parrot ownership enough.  I love bragging about my birds.  I’m definitely guilty of that.  They are gargantuan sources of joy and even learning in my life.  But not everything is peachy keen, not even for my small flock of three.

We’ll see.

Adorable Lola and Random Notes

August 14, 2011 § 6 Comments

This is going to be a completely random post as I don’t have anything to elaborate on really but rather just several shorter tidbits to share.

First, my darling Lola.  After her recent molt, she’s all pin feathers now, and is loving getting some scratches and some preening!  I keep it at the head and neck for her, especially because she can take care of the rest of her body herself.  I have read about and met many birds who are complete grumps when they are molting, but Lola just wants some love.  She is too cute to be true.

Something random that I had forgotten to follow up on before: I actually tried out using a water bottle with her and I hated it.  I used the Lixit Quick Fill bottle made of BPA-free plastic.  I loved it, except for the spring attachment.  Aside from the few traumatic stories I’ve read about birds that access it from outside of the cage and get their toe nails or beaks stuck, it’s also made of galvanized wire, a big no-no in my home.  I tried a number of different remedies to attach it safely to the cage otherwise and nothing worked all that well.  (I even tried using the galvanized spring attachment in an effort to see how I could best replicate it and I found that even that didn’t work very well.)  Aside from that I found it hard to clean, and Lola played with it and tried to destroy the valve more than she drank from it.  Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I’ve decided to stick with frequently changed water bowls until I figure out something better.

In other news, my barley grass is growing quite well!  It’s not coming in quite as thickly as my wheatgrass normally does, but that’s probably my fault.  It is currently sitting by the window, where it is getting a very sad amount of sun because we’ve had some horrible storms and generally poor weather as of late.  I was really looking forward to one last month of sun to get the birds outside, but I guess that might not be happening.  Maybe we’ll have another mild fall, though, and I can take them for walks.

On the budgie cage front, I’ve decided to go with the 24″ width just to give them a bit more space.  I realized that 24″ x 18″, though not ideal, isn’t really that bad.  Charles’s current cage is 27″ x 18″ and it gives him plenty of space, so hopefully he won’t notice the 3″ loss too much.  I’ve actually opted for an acrylic barrier between the two now, though, because of Sabrina’s increased aggression, sadly.  I don’t trust her with only bars in between her and Charles rather than a full barrier.

New, Fun Sprouts and Grasses

August 12, 2011 § 8 Comments

I recently placed my first order with Sprout People, a really neat sprouting site with a HUGE selection of seeds, grasses, and sprouting accessories!  I just loved their selection and read a few positive reviews from some friends, so I decided to give it a go.  I like that they offer many different quantities of items as well as sampler packs.  I really didn’t want pounds and pounds of sprouting seeds, but I did want a good variety, so the sampler packs allowed me to try a bunch of different things without taking over my cupboard space.  I stuck mostly with things I know my guys like for now, but I also bought a few cool goodies that I am very excited to try.

My first order from Sprout People

I ordered two of the grain sprout samplers, which come with buckwheat and hulless oats, kamut, quinoa, wheat, and a mix called amber waves of grain, containing eleven different types of grains.  I purchased one pound of almonds to sprout for Lola, which I am sure she will love and adore.  I also ordered a “Lil’ Critter Grass Kit” which comes with everything I need to create three small trays of wheat grass, perfectly sized to fit inside the budgie cages!  The growing medium is already cut to size, so it’s perfect for lazy ones like me who don’t want to deal with the mess of soil.  I’ve never used a growing medium before, so I will admit that I’m a bit skeptical, but I’ll put it to the test.  Finally, I also decided to try the grass sampler, which comes with wheat grass, barley grass, rye grass, oat grass, and Kat Grass, or a mixture containing wheat, oats, rye, barley, and flax.  I’m so excited to try these different types of grasses!  I already have my first little tray of barley grass going…

Very young barley grass

I’m really excited to see how the budgies like it.  They are completely obsessed with wheat grass, so hopefully the barley will be a hit, although I’ve read that it’s not nearly as sweet or as palatable as wheat grass is to humans.  They tend to devour anything that’s leafy and green, though, so I’m not too worried.  I also love that it is so healthy for them, and that grasses are a huge part of their natural diet in the wild.  I’m moving towards feeding more and more fresh food and sprouts especially with my flock with the more research I do.  Eventually, I’d like to purchase a dehydrator so that even their dried foods will be processed as little as possible.

On a somewhat related note, both of the two Easy Sprouters that I have left both developed some nasty bacteria and discoloration this week and I had to toss them.  I considered scrubbing and disinfecting them thoroughly but I know it’ll just be back at some length of time.  I’m a little bit disappointed, and I only have my one glass bioSnacky left right now.  I’m relentlessly hunting down another but they are tough to come by.  I might just get a few regular glass jars in the mean time, if nothing comes up soon.  I might purchase another Easy Sprouter or two, but I’m considering just sticking with glass from now on.

Beautiful, Safe Swings and Toys

August 8, 2011 § 2 Comments

Perhaps you remember Charles’s “sleepy swing,” a custom swing that Grey Feather Toys was nice enough to custom make for him to replace a former swing with galvanized wire and other unsafe metals.  It’s an adorable swing, and it’s absolutely perfect for him to sleep on, and best of all, it’s made with 100% stainless steel metals.  It’s such a favorite that I purchased a second as a replacement, but since separating Charles and Sabrina it’s now just one for each of them.

Charles's original "sleepy swing"

Sabrina, being the feisty little thing that she is, loves to play on, under, and around this swing– she loves to swing, hang, and flail from it as wildly as she possibly can.  That was all fine and good with me, until, of course, she got her little toes stuck in the chain.  I had read about birds getting their toes stuck in chains before, but it had never happened here.  I suppose I always thought that as long as it was properly sized and in short lengths, it wouldn’t be a problem.  And this is not to say that I’m banishing all chain from their cages, but I suppose now for items that they use as vigorously or as often as Sabrina does her swing, I think I feel much safer with non-chain alternatives.  I am so thankful that I was there to catch her get stuck and to free her!

I contacted Grey Feather Toys about some sort of non-chain alternative, because it would really break my heart if they couldn’t have their beloved sleepy swings.  Of course, Rebecca Wells came to my rescue once more!  She replaced the chain with thick, stainless steel wire, completely welded to the base as well as to the quick link up top.  The result is sturdy, safe, and adorable!  I purchased two, of course, one for each of my lovely littles.  They adore their new swings just as much as the old ones… and I can feel much better about knowing that there is no chain for their little toes to get stuck in.

Charles and Sabrina's new custom swings

I also purchased another small cotton rope perch with stainless steel wire inside for them, and it came with adorable teal beads at each end.  It looks very fresh and cool in the cage.  Sabrina got a new small boing too, with adorable purple beads, although I probably won’t use it until their new cage comes.  I couldn’t neglect Lola either, of course!  Rebecca was kind enough to let us have a sneak peak of a very cool new toy that she has just designed.  It’s a large version of the ever popular Tweedle toy– a BIG favorite here among the budgies!!  I was so excited about this new toy as I have always wanted one for Lola, actually.  It uses the same base as the Super MegaFone, so it’s perfectly sized for Lola’s very animated habits of play.  I tweaked it a teensy bit but I love how fun and safe it is!  It comes standard with all welded o-rings and I made sure that it only used very large, very durable plastic beads so that there was no chance that Lola could chip or ingest any of the plastic.

The Large Tweedle

I feel safe with this amount of chain first of all because Lola won’t be spending all of her time playing with this one toy like Sabrina does with her swing, but also because much of the chain is covered and it’s not the sort of toy that Lola is likely to be climbing all over.  I’ve been supervising her play and she actually has the most fun moving the beads up and down rather than making noise with it, something I’m very thankful for!

Budgie Cage Update

August 6, 2011 § 11 Comments

Much to my chagrin, Charles and Sabrina are determined not to get along.  They tolerate each other for short periods of time, but they simply cannot be in the same cage anymore.  I am still not sure if this is due to a lack of space or if they truly just do not like each other, but it’s a little disheartening, especially since I have a beautiful new cage for them in the works.  Originally it was going to be 36″ wide by 20″ deep, as I thought this would be a nice size flight-style cage for the two of them to share.  But now that they aren’t getting along, I am thinking of putting a divider in the middle, meaning that each of them will only get 18″ x 20″ of space… very much on the small side in my opinion.  I’m not sure what to do.  Any opinions?  Do you think this is too small?  My real hope is that once the big cage comes, it’ll be enough space that they will leave each other alone and I won’t have to use the divider, but I’m not sure.  I’m thinking of increasing the depth from 20″ to 24″ but space is very limited here, and I’m not sure if that will really work.

Not much else is going on otherwise– August is a busy, busy month here, and it looks like September will be even busier!

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