December 29, 2011 § 7 Comments
We’re a tad late, but Happy Holidays to all of you, for whatever you celebrate, be it Christmas, Hannukah, the Winter Solstice, etcetera. 🙂 We’ve been having a wonderful and very relaxing holiday season over here visiting my parents. As I mentioned in my last entry, lucky little Charles and Sabrina received two brand new “temporary” cages for Christmas, to use while we are visiting. They are really adorable and are working out well for them. Unfortunately I forgot to bring extra perches and things so we’re a little bit short on perches, but luckily I did bring plenty of Christmas toys, so they do have quite a few adorable ornaments. Without further ado, here are the photos!
Aren’t they cute? You might recognize them as I had one of them before, from I’m not sure where actually, but I accidentally broke it (dropped the base and cracked it) a while back now. As temporary cages, the size is adequate: they are about 24″ wide by 14″ deep. (I do really wish they were deeper, but what can you do?) They do pretty much get an entire room to themselves for most of the day, though, so I don’t think they mind terribly. I really like these cages, however, because they were made in Italy with strict safety standards and are really well made. I also think that they’re just adorable.
They have powder-coated wire and a translucent blue acrylic base. I really like that there is no grate (I’m not a grate person), just a tray, and that everything is very easy to clean. The wire part detaches from the base as well for further ease of cleaning. Another very convenient feature is that a single page of newspaper fits almost perfectly in the bottom! So easy to line and change.
One of my favorite features of this cage is that it has side doors on both sides of the cage… which is really nice for setting up and arranging things, and also nice for the birds, as a lot of the time I will put perches outside so that they can come and go as they please. Sabrina loves to have a platform perch put right outside of a side door so that she can relax on her little “balcony.”
Charles has all of his usual comforts, but is really enjoying this little Christmas tree. It is so cute!! He usually doesn’t bother much with vine or wicker things, but the beads and seagrass are really enticing him. I was shocked that he wasn’t scared of this toy at all, either. He still hasn’t warmed up to the silly little snowman head yet, but perhaps by next year.
Sabrina doesn’t like moving (or change in general really) so she’s been a little surly with me, but she has taken solace in retail therapy… just take a look at the poor Christmas Shopping bag! She’s worn it down. There’s a massive hole in the front of it. I’ve figured out her method: she dumps everything out of it (and probably laughs to herself while she watches me pick it all back up and try to stuff it back in), then climbs inside the bag and destroys it from within. It’s actually quite amusing to watch; her whole entire body fits inside this bag. Only her little tail sticks out!
Anyway, there they are, shiny and lovely, and doing their jobs well. I am very pleased that they have adorable, matching new cages that I can feel safe putting them in while we are away from home. Coming up next, I took some updated photos of Lola’s aluminum cage and will writing an updated review of it now that I’ve had it for a longer while. Stay tuned!
December 20, 2011 § 2 Comments
Just a quick update to say that we are spending a lovely two weeks up north with my family. The drive, as usual, was long and very boring, but we made it! We also came home to a lovely surprise: my mother bought Charles and Sabrina new cages. She knows how I feel about most cages, and in particular once made in China, so she hunted down these really lovely Italian cages from a wholesaler friend of hers that are made and manufactured in Italy. They are really cute and very well-made. They aren’t huge, but as temporary cages they do the job nicely, and Charles and Sabrina seem to be enjoying themselves. I will take some photos later!
In other news, I finally decided to replenish our stock of wood beads here. They ran out a while ago, but rather than being a good bird mom and purchasing more as soon as I saw they were getting low, I got lazy and started buying all of Lola’s toys. Then my bank account cried and begged for mercy, and I realized I had to start making them again.
Well, that’s all for now. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, if you celebrate, and Happy Holidays to all!!
December 12, 2011 § 2 Comments
We love a Things for Wings package any day, but our most recent one was extra special thanks to a very dear friend! Our wonderful box not only contained beautiful custom toys galore as well as a gorgeous grapevine wood perch, but it also held a lovely gift, all the way from Hong Kong!
I was so surprised and so tickled… how adorable is it? It’s a little Lego budgie! I put it together last night. (It was actually pretty difficult because the pieces were so tiny! Even when fully assembled, it’s no bigger than two inches in any direction.) Our friend Carmen from Hong Kong found the kit and it reminded her of Charles, so she was nice enough to send it to us. Thank you so much!! What a thoughtful and adorable gift!!
Aside from our adorable new friend, we also received oodles of other wonderful gifts from Danita at Things for Wings. Her creativity never ceases to amaze me! I ordered three custom toys for the little ones, and I love and adore all three of them. I love that I can just give her a list of things they like, and she turns it into something enriching yet beautiful. They are all so fun and full of great textures.
The first one is a lovely mixture of palm, seagrass, vine, leather, and really adorable beads in blue and purple for Charles and Sabrina. I haven’t decided who will receive this one yet, but I know that it will be a treasured one! The second one is a horizontal style toy with palm, plastic beads, an adorable plastic mug with a face, vine, seagrass, and loofah. This one is definitely for Sabrina. She is going to love all of the textures and the loofah of course as well.
And here’s the third one, which I have to admit is my favorite. It is SO cute! It’s an adorable little palm shredder cap that has three strings of fun beads inside strung on hemp and leather, and around it are three adorable loofah pods and palm shredders strung on seagrass. It’s a shredding delight, but it also has nice beak-able beads and textures. This one’s for Charles for sure. He is going to love it! I was really impressed by the creativity behind these toys, especially considering that Danita has made a million custom toys for us now. She never runs out of new ideas!
Lola’s been absolutely ravenous lately, and I’ve been absolutely swamped, so I always ordered her a whole bunch of toys to hold us over until I have more time to get workin’ again. She received three more of her beautiful custom toys from our last order: two of the Lola’s Toy and one of the Hardwood Hullaballoo. I can’t get over how well-made and absolutely packed these toys are! And, I will admit, they are much nicer than anything I could make. I wanted to get her a little something special too, though, so she received one more variation on this same theme, but this time in a horizontal version. Love it of course, as always! This should keep us well-stocked, at least for a short while.
Finally, I couldn’t resist another beautiful perch. These are really top notch. They have nice, thick diameters and lots of knobs and variation, but they aren’t super heavy and they don’t sag when you attach them to the cage bars. It’s hard to find nice varied perches for the bigger birds that actually stay up, but these are really great (and beautiful to boot!).
Thanks to Danita for another wonderful order and to Carmen for the thoughtful gift! We are so lucky to have such great friends.
December 8, 2011 § 2 Comments
This entry is the second installation in a short series on what it means to have an ethical and safe bird store policy. To read the introduction and part one, click here.
The second aspect of my policy is safety in terms of spreading avian diseases. While this sounds harmless enough, it actually limits the market quite a bit, far more than part one. When people ask me why I do not shop with a certain vendor, this is usually the most common reason, and most people always say that they hadn’t even thought to ask. There are so, so many vendors that are not bird-free. This one is always such an interesting one to me because so many people seem hyper-cognizant of disease– to the point where they won’t even take their parrots to the vet for fear of it– yet they are reckless in terms of where they shop and the risk of exposure to other parrots. We should never forget that a ton of bird store owners are also bird owners. They love and own birds, and that’s what inspired them to open their own stores. That’s okay. In fact, like I said in the last installment, if you don’t know anything about parrots, you shouldn’t be in the parrot product business. I love knowing that the person who designed and made a product for my parrots is a fellow parrot lover.
But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. If you are a parrot lover, you know that the spread of avian disease is a huge risk and problem. I personally believe that it is the responsibility of a parrot lover to ensure that she does all that she can to protect not only her own parrots but also the parrots of others. This means creating bird products in a separate air space from your own birds and doing all that you can to make sure that there is no cross contamination between your products and your own birds.
Is this system perfect? Unless you’re changing your clothes and showering every time you go to and from work as well, of course not. But this is definitely the safer and more prudent thing to do. The likelihood of bird germs or feather dust remaining on your clothing is far less after you’ve traveled from your home to a different place than it is if you just move from one room to another in your own home (or worse yet, the same room!). I am always surprised when I see just how many bird store owners don’t even think about this. I’ve emailed vendors before about where they make their toys and having a bird-free space, and have gotten responses back that these owners not only make them in the same room as their birds, but even let their birds test out the products and play on them prior to sending them out. It’s really quite scary to me.
Are there any home-based stores that I support? Yes, actually. There are a select few that you might have noticed. But aside from the fact that I am incredibly careful about the products I receive from them– in fact, I actually quarantine a lot of them, and of course do a full disinfection– the home-based stores I choose to support are also incredibly careful themselves. These are not the kind of people who have a bird on their arm while they’re wielding a saw to make your bird toy (unsafe in two ways!). But they have their bird toy rooms in a separate part of the home, with carefully closed doors, heavy duty air purifiers, and everything covered in plastic bins. They are careful to change their own clothes and very aware of the risk of cross contamination. There is still a level of risk, but it is minimized through certain measures.
Some bird store owners don’t even bother to do that, and that really bothers me. Like I said, if you are in parrots, you know that the risk of spreading disease is huge, and I feel that it is each parrot owner’s responsibility to decrease this risk. To knowingly propagate the spread of avian disease is irresponsible, unsafe, and unethical. Some owners might say that they know that their own birds are healthy– but how can we know really? No matter what we do to avoid it– great diet, healthy habits, air purifiers, vet checks– our birds can still get sick, and because they are so good at hiding it, we might not notice it right away. Are you as a shop owner going to cancel all of your recent orders because you just realized your parrot got sick, disappoint all of your customers, and return a lot of cash flow? Probably not. Would you even tell your customers if one of your birds was sick and risk hurting the reputation of your business? Probably not.
I so strongly urge all of us as parrot owners to be more cognizant of where we shop and where the products we purchase are made. I know that there is a lot of trust on forums or of public figures in the bird industry, but remember, even the “best” bird owner’s birds can get sick from time to time. Always ask first before you buy, assess the level of risk that you are personally comfortable with, and save yourself potential regret in the future.
December 6, 2011 § 3 Comments
It’s big. It’s ominous. It creaks as it sways, side by side, like a ghost in the night– one moment so horrifyingly visible; the next, just a nightmare. But you know it hasn’t gone away. No, its presence still looms over you, waiting to lunge when you least expect it. It’ll swallow you up in a second if you’re not careful!! That’s right… it’s the SCARY SWING!!!
That’s what Sabrina would say, anyway. I had this adorable swing custom made for her because she is ravaging my not-very-inexpensive Grey Feather Toys custom swings, and while I am a sucker and keep caving in and purchasing her new ones (she’s on her third), I needed something else that might work intermittently. I contacted Big Beaks Bird Toys to create Sabrina her own miniature version of the Roller Coaster Swing that Lola has and loves so much, but with some cozy fleece and supreme cotton rope so that it doubled as a snuggly and preen-able toy for Sabrina. Personally, I think it’s adorable, plus it’s made with beautiful natural branches. Sabrina, on the other hand, is fairly certain that it’s trying to consume her alive.
She hates it so much, in fact, that she actually thought it was more important to keep an eye on it to make sure it didn’t come after her than it was to pester Charles, and they actually cohabitated peacefully for over an hour today! That’s probably a record since they’ve split. She even shared her very coveted swing (ironically, the very one she’s working to destroy, which created the need for the new scary swing in the first place). Aren’t they a good looking couple?
Charles was actually brave enough to try out this new contraption though, and judging by the lengthy nap he decided to take on it, I think he found it quite comfortable and conducive to sleep. At least one of them appreciates me. He looked pretty darn sweet in there. Now if only Sabrina would give it a try!
In related news, I think that at Sabrina’s next vet appointment, I might finally have her DNA sexed. I want to know once and for all if she’s a boy or a girl. She exhibits all of the behaviors of a female, but her cere still does have a substantial amount of blue on it. If I had to guess I’d obviously say female, but my mother really and truly thinks that she should be named Sebastian again. I guess I’ll find out in January or February…
December 4, 2011 § 6 Comments
Having an ethical and safe bird store policy has been on my mind quite a bit lately. This is something that is ever-present on my mind, and is one of the most important things to me as a bird owner. I’m sure that if you own a parrot, you’ve at one point or another lamented some of the terrible products on the market: sandpaper perch covers, obviously unsafe toys, zinc-plated metals, pellets or foods loaded with sugar and other artificial ingredients. Why do these products still exist? Well, one aspect of it is definitely ignorance, because there are plenty of people who simply don’t know that these can be unsafe and harmful. But a second reason is because we as consumers so often allow companies to get away with producing and selling these, and even indirectly support these practices by buying other products that they sell.
That’s where the ethical and safe bird store policy comes into play. If you’re a regular reader, you might have noticed that there seem to be a select few stores that I support, and a heck of a lot of stores that I do not. You might wonder why: well, there’s a good reason. Every once in a rare while it might be simply that they don’t carry anything I’m interested in, but more often than not, it’s because they break one of my rules of having an ethical and safe bird store policy. I get a ton of emails and messages regularly from people asking me if I know anything about X company or if there is a reason why I haven’t shopped there, and the answers are always very easy for me when I think about the three aspects of my policy: first, safety and ethics in terms of materials used and types of products; second, safety in terms of spreading avian diseases; and third, ethics in terms of business practices. I’ll elaborate on each one in a short, three part series, this being the first part.
The first one, which is probably the one that most people think of and probably already are aware of, is safety and ethics in terms of materials used and types of products. This one’s a no-brainer: if a store sells an unsafe product, I won’t shop there. Your first reaction might be, “But Coco, you have a different idea of unsafe than the rest of us; yours is pretty extreme!” Sure, that’s true– I don’t even use nickel-plated metals with my birds– but I don’t expect every store to do that. I’m aware that there is a difference between what is generally considered safe v. what I feel comfortable offering my flock in particular. Rather, I’m looking for stores that are at least aware of the fact that zinc-plated metals are poisonous to birds, and go out of their way to find toys or hardware that use nickel, chrome, or stainless steel.
Similarly, I won’t shop at a store that sells sandpaper perch covers, period. I’ve written to stores that do before, expressing my disappointment. The responses are always a bit of a shock. One of them said, basically, that they were well aware that these were dangerous products, but that they made them a lot of money and therefore they wouldn’t stop selling them. Despicable. Immediately crossed that store off my list. Another response I’ve gotten (and have gotten in relation to other items too, such as a budgie cage being marketed for a large macaw) was that they simply had no idea that they were dangerous because they didn’t know anything about parrots. Well, if you don’t know anything about parrots, what in the world are you doing in the parrot product business?
Some people have the attitude that it’s okay to shop at stores that carry unsafe products, as long as they are not purchasing those products in particular. I’m definitely on the more extreme side, but for me, this isn’t acceptable either. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we vote with our dollars. Every dollar that we spend sends out a message: “Great store! I support you! Keep doing what you are doing!” You might not be purchasing the unsafe products in particular, but you are still supporting a company that sells unsafe products. This is one of the many reasons why cage shopping is such a nightmare for me. Even though there are some companies who do actually make pretty decent cages design-wise that I would purchase, some of their other models on their product lines are downright unsafe, and I won’t support that.
You might say that it’s easy for me to say that we vote with our dollars because I don’t have a shortage of them. To that, I have a few responses. First, I’m a private school teacher, meaning that I make less than the average public school teacher, who most people agree are already severely underpaid. So no, I don’t have money coming out of the wazoo, but I am simply very frugal with what I spend and try to make my dollars count. Second, buying better products doesn’t always have to mean more expensive products. There are a ton of great products out there that are also very inexpensive. Sure, there are a lot of really expensive ones too, but those are luxuries and not necessities. Perhaps the one great exception to this is caging, but the nice thing about cages is that if you buy them right, the should last forever. Third, spending a little bit more for a better product now is an investment in your bird’s health and future. Yes, that toy with the galvanized wire is probably much less expensive than the one with stainless steel, but the vet appointment and treatment you’ll have to pay for when your bird gets heavy metal poisoning will far outweigh the cost of the stainless steel toy, I promise you that.
I hope that this entry and the next few in the series get people thinking about where they shop and the safety of those products– all of the products, not only the ones that they purchase. In the next installation, I will write about safety in terms of spreading avian diseases.
December 2, 2011 § 3 Comments
That’s right… toys that are not only delightfully Christmas-themed, but also promote foraging! They are adorable, but they’re also going to work quite well as I try to keep up the foraging spirit in Lola’s cage. She’s been doing quite well with her different foraging feeders, working for all of her food as of late. These new toys should help her keep it up while also decorating her cage for the holidays! They are made by Parrot’s Treasure, and I’ve really come to like their toys a lot. The people at Parrot’s Treasure seem to really know what birds like and they design their toys with birds and safety in mind: they are simple, un-dyed, no frills type toys, but they are truly irresistible. They have quite a range of toys as well, some that are very quickly easily destroyed, and others that are built to last. I ordered a little bit of each.
Although not Christmas-themed, the huge toy on the top left is the Whale Rattle, a very cool toy made from chunky 1-3/4″ pine wood. This toy is thick! It will definitely stand up to Lola’s beak, and will serve as a perfect long term foraging toy that I can load with pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and other small treats. There are also two other hanging toys, this time both Christmas-y: a reindeer and a candy cane. These are both adorable. The little shapes are so festive and I love that they are sanded down so nicely and smoothly. They were definitely made with care.
Lola has already begun to show her reindeer some love by biting off the leather strips that hold together its heart-adorned hoofs! (And yes– that’s her new grapevine wood perch!! Huge hit already!!) I haven’t even loaded the toys up with treats, but she adores them as is. What I love about these is that they aren’t just the simple pine shapes with holes, but they are also decorated with chewy leather strips and crunchy hardwood pieces. Lola adores every aspect of these toys.
I also absolutely adore these tiny Christmas foot toys. On the left is an adorable hardwood snowman with tons of different shapes to crunch and snap. On top are two Christmas trees with leather “ornaments.” Lola’s latest craze is chewing on and snapping leather strips, no matter how thick. I came home one day to all of her toys strung on leather slaughtered and laying lifelessly on the floor of her cage! I had to re-string them all with something a little bit tougher. But I know she will love destroying the leather on these little trees. Finally on the right is an adorable pine Christmas tree that I can stuff with treats, but it’s also decorated with a hardwood trunk and discs.
Finally, I also purchased some of the foot toys that Lola was absolutely obsessed with on our last order: the Fun Pops and the Yum Yums. I never thought that a little scrap of pine wood could entertain her so much. She is obsessed with the curvy shapes and corners of these yum yums!!! I don’t even have to put treats in them: she just chips away. The Fun Pops are probably her biggest favorite though. The combination of soft pine plus hardwood stems and move-able parts… it drives her insane. She goes through these in seconds. The last toy in the center is one we’re trying for the first time: a rattle! It’s made up of all hard wood so perhaps it will entertain her for more than just a few moments… but with that big beak, you never know!