Beautiful Girls

January 30, 2012 § 5 Comments

Just a quick update today with some photos of my two beautiful girls.  Lola’s feathers have been looking particularly beautiful as of late and her coral is so rich and vibrant, in particular on her pretty little wings.

Pretty little Bri had a delicate little floofy on her beak the other day! It couldn’t have been more picturesque had I placed it there myself. And trust me, she’d never let me anywhere near her face to do that.

I think the second photo much more accurately captures her personality.

In other news, the flock received beautiful brand new cage covers this weekend that are beyond lovely!! I will post photos and details tomorrow because I have to wait until I put them to bed tonight to take pictures. They’re so lovely!!

Curves, Nooks, and Crannies

January 27, 2012 § 7 Comments

We all know it: I have a weird obsession with perches.  My excuse is that they are, of course, vital to the health of our parrots’ feet, and variation in size and texture is so important.  I like to keep an overabundance of perches, so that not only is there variation in the cage, but also so that there is variation when I change the cage around.  What I mean by this is that I like for there to be, say, five different types of perches in the cage at any given time.  But I also like to be able to switch these perches out completely when I rearrange the cages so that way my birds experience different types of perches, not the same ones with a different placement.  Hence, whenever I see a beautiful perch, I don’t feel guilty about purchasing it.

I do keep an inventory, however, of the perches I have, and lately I’ve been disappointed by how many boring, straight perches there are.  Thus, I’ve always been obsessed with perches, but my latest obsession is non-straight perches.  And it’s always surprising to me how uncommon they are.  Of course, my stainless steel hardware-only rule does already rule out the vast majority of perch suppliers out there, but my curvy-perch-only rule now narrows it down to only a small handful of vendors.  But I have enough straight perches and don’t think I’ll need more for a good, long time.  Curvy it is!

beautiful, curvy perches!

I have managed to pick up a few beautiful perches here and there, but it’s usually one special one at a time.  I really wanted a nice big stockpile of beautiful, varied perches, so I called up the very wonderful Donna from Exotic Wood Dreams.  Donna and her husband make the absolute most beautiful tree stands and hanging gyms I’ve ever seen, and with access to so much lovely wood for all of their gyms, they also make some gorgeous perches.  (Definitely check out their website for some ideas of the kinds of beauties they create, but note that they take phone orders only.  You must call to place an order.)

Although usually I’m the kind of person that wants to see my perches before I buy them, Donna really knows what she’s doing and picks them well.  She asks all the right questions: size, diameter, shape, number of branches, type of bird or birds, and she knows exactly what you have in mind once she’s done.  This time around, however, I actually gave her pretty free reign: I said I wanted a box of ten grapevine wood perches and I gave her a range of sizes, because she already knows my birds.  And when I opened up my box, I couldn’t have been more pleased!

smaller perches for the budgies

There are six beautiful perches of all different sizes for the little ones.  There is a range of single and multi-branched perches with different size spreads, but they are all beautiful.  I absolutely love grapevine wood, and it’s one of my absolute favorite woods for my smaller birds especially.  I love that with grapevine wood, you can have variation all in one perch.  There are so many curves, nooks, and crannies in this wood that the diameter and shape can range so much in a single branch.  Charles and Sabrina love it, too, because they find great little nooks to rub their heads against and break up those itchy pinnies.

larger grapevine wood perches

There were also four bigger, beautiful perches for Lola.  These four perches have nice and chunky branches for her big feet and they have such beautiful curves and variation to them.  The two on the right have thinner branches at the ends that Lola is going to absolutely love chewing up– she’s BIG on gnawing on grapevine wood, and it actually lasts slightly longer than pretty much any other wood under her beak.

I’m very very happy with these perches and I can’t wait to get them into their cages!  I just know they are all going to love them.  Yay for beautiful, varied, and curvy perches!

Charles and Sabrina Being Civil!

January 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

My picky little two loved the bread!!!  Charles completely pigged out on it, and Sabrina obliged and munched on it as well.  I think this not-quite-recipe is going to be a keeper.  Next time, I might add some more “wet” ingredients to make it a little less dry, but overall I think it was a pretty good combination.  The bread must have put them in a good mood, because they were actually willing to tolerate each other today, and even go so far as to share a boing!

I won’t go so far as to say they were happy together, but they definitely weren’t angry.  I’m pretty excited, as I recently decided to go ahead and get a new divider with stainless steel bars instead of their current acrylic one.  I won’t install it right away– we’ll probably do trial runs on the weekends to see if they can handle actually being able to get at each other between the bars– but I’m hoping that we can slowly work on rekindling their relationship (or at least getting them to tolerate each other’s presence for more than an hour or two).  The new divider should be here in a week or two.

In other news, I’ve graduated from chopping vegetables daily for my fresh food mixes to chopping vegetables about twice weekly instead, and keeping the extras in the fridge, which seems to be working well.  Today’s vegetable mix contained seven different kinds of leafy greens (regular kale, lacinato kale, watercress, broccolini, parsley, collard greens, and bok choy), fresh ginger, yellow squash, cauliflower, green, red, orange, and yellow sweet peppers, carrots, and possibly some other veggies I’m forgetting.  It was my first time adding fresh ginger to the mix and it smelled divine!!  The mix looks really beautiful and colorful.  I hope Lola likes it.  I’ll be serving it up tomorrow, along with my first attempt at my thawed fruit mix, and of course freshly sprouted seeds and grains.  I hope it doesn’t all become too mushy because of the fruit.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Budgie Bread Experiment

January 23, 2012 § 6 Comments

My budgies are generally great eaters, but they are quite picky about some things: they only like their greens fresh and whole, hung as entire leaves in their cage (they will not eat them chopped, frozen, steamed, cooked, or any other way); they only like baby carrots fresh and whole, wedged in between the bars of their cage (they will not eat full-sized carrots, which I never figured out, since they are technically the same thing, nor do they like carrots steamed, cooked, or even skewered); they only like Good Stuff bird bread.  Now, I am happy to oblige them, as long as they are eating well, but unfortunately, Good Stuff went out of business several months (has it already been a year?) ago.  Thankfully, I found out soon enough to buy all of the bird bread I could and froze it all, which lasted us quite a while.  But my stash had to run out sooner or later.  And it did.  And the budgies have not been happy.

Although Lola absolutely adores Avian Organics bird breads, all of which are fantastic combinations with excellent ingredients lists, the budgies are more picky about their grains: I think they don’t particularly like kamut, for whatever reason, and it’s a staple in all of the Avian Organics bread mixes.  They also don’t care for larger seeds like pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, so a lot of the goodies in their mixes go uneaten by the little ones.  So, I set out to create my own bread mix that they’d eat.  I based it loosely on the Good Stuff ingredients list, but also made a few changes, substitutions, and additions that I thought might help to entice my little ones that much more.

my order from Fields of Grain

When I finally decided on an ingredients list of my own, however, I realized that the ingredients were not so easy to find!  I went to several different supermarkets and two health food stores in my neighborhood looking for the different types of flours I’d decided on, and the only one they had was organic spelt flour, much to my surprise.  So I purchased the spelt flour, and had to resort to going online for the rest of them.  It was my first type buying any “grocery” type item online, but I found a great site called Fields of Grain.  Not only did they carry everything I was looking for, but they also specialize in a lot of certified organic products, non-GMO products, and products grown in the USA and Canada only.  Finally, everything was also very affordable, which is always a big plus.

From them I purchased organic corn flour, organic quinoa flour, organic garbanzo bean flour, and organic millet flour.  My order was processed extremely quickly, and they were kind enough to include a free package of organic brown lentils as well!  If you’re ever looking for odd flours or grain products that you can’t find locally, I highly recommend them.

my assortment of five flours

As soon as my flours arrived, I got to work.  I ended up using all four flours as well as the spelt flour.  I’m not a big fan of using corn products, but I know that the budgies really adore it and it’s a big plus in terms of taste for them, so since it was organic and non-GMO, I used just a little to entice them.  They’re also crazy about millet and quinoa, which I feel are healthier grains, so I used those both as well.  Finally, the garbanzo bean and spelt flours were both ingredients in the Good Stuff bread, plus they are healthy additions, so in those went too.

In case you are wondering, this isn’t in recipe form because I don’t really have a recipe.  I pretty much eyeballed everything, and as you will see from the photos below, it was all very un-scientific and random.  Experiment with what your birds like!  I like to think of it as “custom” bird bread.

the rest of the dry ingredients

Next I added the rest of my dry ingredients (all are organic).  Of course it needed some aluminum-free baking powder, and some spices (like cinnamon, mmm!).  I added some of the wonderful dried veggies from the Avian Organics “Cazuela” mix, which includes green peas, carrots, red chili peppers, dandelion, and alfalfa leaf.  I also tossed in some Totally Organics Napoleon Seed mix, a combination of oat groats, millet, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and buckwheat, because I know that they enjoy picking those out.  I may have added extra ground flax, but I can’t remember. I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I can’t tell from the photo…

the wet ingredients added: fresh fruits, fresh veggies, and an egg

As for the wet ingredients, I took a different approach from my usual.  Typically, I chop up a ton of greens and throw them in, but I realized that for the budgies, they really don’t need the greens seeing as how they eat them so readily and so much of them on their own.  (It’s really Lola that’s slightly more reluctant about the healthy stuff, but that’s another story.)  Instead, I really wanted to get a lot more of the Vitamin A-rich fruits and veggies into them that they miss out on because they aren’t huge on eating those, and some fruit as well.  So, I very finely chopped some red, orange, and yellow sweet peppers, some fresh papaya, and even half of a banana, and threw all of those in.  I added some sweet potato baby food (organic and non-fortified with nothing added), and finally, a beautiful, large, farm fresh, organic egg.

mix it all up!

Next I mixed it all up: because I used so many juicy fruits, I didn’t have to add any water, juice, or other liquids.  I like to use wet fruits and veggies because unlike juice, they contain all of the fiber, and a lot more health benefits than, say, water.  When everything was combined I was a bit worried as it looks nothing like what the usual Good Stuff bird bread mix looked like, but I did make some changes, and it actually still smelled like the Good Stuff mix, so I was happy with it.

spread evenly in the pan

I lightly greased the pan with some organic, virgin coconut oil, evenly spread the mix out, and into the oven it went!  I debated adding some hemp seed oil to the mix, but I figured that I could also add it after the fact on top and let it saturate the bread.  I’ve read conflicting opinions on whether or not hemp seed oil loses all or most of its nutritive properties when cooked or heated, so I’ll play it safe and add it after cooking, just in case.

fresh out of the oven

It baked until a skewer pushed into the center came out clean and it looked fully cooked.  It baked into a beautiful, brown with red and orange hues, thanks to the papaya, sweet potato, and peppers.  It smells great, actually, and it’s currently sitting on the counter top, cooling.  Once it has rested and fully cooled, I will cut it up into individual-sized little squares, set aside enough to last 2-3 days, bag the rest, and freeze it.  Every few days I remove a few squares from the freezer and let them defrost in the refrigerator, that way I don’t have to use the microwave and “cook” the bread a second time, unnecessarily nuking more nutrients out of the bread.

I have no idea if the budgies will like it or not, or if it’s close enough to their original favorite recipe for them to be willing even to try it.  I really hope so!  This is, I believe, the first time I’ve made bird bread from scratch rather than from a mix, and I’m pretty proud of my efforts.  Hopefully I will be able to share some photos of them enjoying it.  But if I don’t, you know what that means… back to the drawing board!

An Ethical and Safe Bird Store Policy, Part Three

January 20, 2012 § 3 Comments

This entry is the third and final 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 on materials used and types of products sold, click here.  To read part two on the prevention of the spread of avian disease, click here.

The third aspect of my policy is ethics in terms of integrity and business practicesTo be honest, I’m a little bit surprised and disappointed that I even have to write about this topic.  A year or two ago, it probably wouldn’t have gotten its own entry.  But more and more I see unscrupulous business practices happening, and there are many types.

But what is integrity?  It can be defined as a firm adherence to a code of moral or artistic values.  I think that both moral and artistic play a role when it comes to being a bird store owner.  There are things that should be done simply on a moral ground and there are things that should be done out of respect for another’s artistic license and intellectual property.

I’ll begin with the moral side.  A lot of what I discussed in parts one and two, in fact, fall under this moral category.  A store that has a sense of moral integrity is a store that makes a commitment to selling only safe products and selling them in a bird-safe way, minimizing the risk of spreading avian diseases.

Since I’ve already discussed those ideas in full, I will move on to the artistic side of integrity.  One of the most common violations I see lately is in terms of intellectual property and copycat products and toys.  If you read this blog, you know that I (and so many other bird owners) really prize original, unique, and innovative products, especially in a market where so many toy designs are just more of the same.  I love vendors that take pride in their work and dedicate themselves to creating very unique and personal products, inspired by their own flocks, their job or life experiences, or even their own natural surroundings and geographic location.  Thus, it is so disappointing to me when I see vendors deliberately copying each other’s toys.

With a lot of bird toys, there is only so much that you can call your “own,” and I understand that.  Can you really claim that you came up with the idea of stringing certain toy parts on a certain type of rope?  Probably not.  It’s easy to think of several toys from several vendors that all look quite similar.  But I think that there can be very clear violations.  If a vendor has a particular “style” or a particular toy that is extremely unique on the market, and it is something hand made, that’s when it saddens me to see that vendors do not have the integrity not to steal another person’s designs.  So many wonderful vendors are hobby-based toymakers who really pour themselves into making bird toys not for profit, but rather for a genuine love of birds.  And to me, it is easy to tell which vendors these are based on the wonderfully unique and innovative designs they create: there is so much joy and livelihood and personality in each and every single toy.  To steal or to copy another’s unique toy creation is to steal the very joy, livelihood, and personality that is imbued in each design.

Personally, I always choose to support the original creators of each toy design out of respect for their intellectual property and creativity, and out of a sense of integrity.  I hope that others will support creativity and innovation, and choose to do the same as well.

Wet Bird! And a New Fruit Salad

January 19, 2012 § 7 Comments

Lola took a highly coveted human shower today.  She absolutely loves getting in the shower (rather than taking baths in her bowls, which she also enjoys).  She sits underneath the shower head, soaking it up, closing her eyes, shaking it out, etc.  It is too cute. She gets completely and utterly soaked!  I wish I could get a video without destroying my camera, but alas, that won’t happen.  Afterwards, she likes to dry off by flying around like crazy and refusing to let me take any clear photos of her.

"What, mom?? Will you get the stupid camera out of my face?"

In other news, today, for the first time, I made a big batch of fruit salad and actually froze it. I feed my guys a lot of veggies and fruits daily, but usually I chop up only what I can serve that day (or what will stay good in the refrigerator for 2-3 days) because I’d never been very successful with freezing then defrosting– everything always turns into a disgusting mush.  I went a little fruit-happy, however, at the supermarket recently, and there was no way I was going to finish all of my fruit before it went bad, so I decided to try my hand at a frozen fruit salad.  Here it is!

It contains fresh, organic papaya, two types of mango, pear, apple, pineapple, and kiwi.  I also threw in a bunch of mixed berries afterwards: blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries.  There are also lemon slices in there, which I added (along with freshly squeezed lemon juice) to keep the apples and pears from browning.  There are three or four additional containers, all of which went into the freezer.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll defrost one and open it up and it’ll be a disgusting pile of mush, and a big waste.  That would be a little depressing, but you live and learn.  Maybe if that happens, I can mash it all up and put it into a batch of bird bread, or something.  Hmm…

The New Foraging Blocks

January 13, 2012 § 3 Comments

No surprises here… the new foraging blocks are big hits!  Lola in particular is loving the new designs and has already gotten to work on chipping to her heart’s content.  I tried the medium-sized foraging block with her this morning and stuffed it with some fresh, organic carrot, broccolini, and sweet orange peppers.  She was so excited that it was pretty impossible to get clear photos, but I did my best!

Lola peeping out from behind her new block

fast at work, extracting a sweet pepper

She also loved the little foot toy!!  I think she might have liked it even moreso than the medium sized block.  In the larger hole I stuffed a sweet pepper, and some carrot slivers in the slats.  She kept wrestling with it, chewing on it, tossing it off her platform perch, then going back down to retrieve it.  The thinner slats are really easy for her to destroy and she had a blast chipping away at it.  I doubt it’ll still be recognizable by the end of the day.

The little ones are slightly more camera shy, but I also caught them nibbling on their veggies too.  I’ve found that Sabrina in particular likes to climb on her block and finds that all of the slats and ridges make nice places to perch.  Charles is too dignified for all that.  He wouldn’t pose for a photo with his block, but politely munched on it later.  Theirs were stuffed with some fresh carrot tops and a stalk of broccolini as well.

the new extra small foraging block

Sabrina's odd eating contortions

Another very cool aspect about these blocks is that they all come with a very heavy duty stainless steel eye screw, which you can remove from the block and save after the block is destroyed.  Kris Porter sells her blocks with or without the eye screw, so if you hold onto yours, you can save fifty cents per block on all future orders.  She even pre-drills the hole in them if you opt for no eye screw so that it is easy to add them yourself!

I absolutely love these blocks, and they are even more fun for birds with the added ridges and slivers.  Lola has already pretty much destroyed her original small one and had a great time doing it.  She’s also eaten a lot more veggies in the process!  A lot of the veggies just get destroyed, but I think she’s enjoying the fact that there is the fun of destroying the wood, and then a built in snack reward at the same time.  The presentation is so unique and I love that I can make eating healthy more fun with these.  My entire flock highly recommends them for birdies of all sizes!

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