February 28, 2015 § Leave a comment
It must be that time of the year, because I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about nippy and hormonal cape parrots. It hasn’t quite hit Lola yet, but one of the things I’ve done to prepare myself and others for when that time does arrive is to train her to use a hand-protecting step up perch. I think this is really key for when hormones do strike– and even better if you can get started well before they do, so that your parrot is trained to step up immediately by the time hormone season rolls around.
The right type of step-up perch is necessary. I chose one that is simple with no distractions, but also amply protects the hands so that you can safely transport your parrot into or out of the cage during those difficult times when you your parrot doesn’t want to be handled otherwise. It’s simply made of two dowels and a stainless steel screw, along with a small sheet of clear acrylic that protects your hand. It’s called the Buddy Perch and you can buy it at 4Z Birds, but I’m sure that if you’re crafty you can also make one yourself. (That being said, I was really pleased with the excellent customer service I received from 4Z Birds and highly recommend them! They were really fantastic to work with and put a lot of care into their products.) I’ve seen others that use coconut shells and natural perches, and a plastic one as well on the market.
Funnily enough, Lola, who is normally not afraid of any new perches or toys, was absolutely terrified of this thing when I first took it out! It took a few weeks of persistent training and many an in-shell almond for her to realize that it’s her friend, not foe. At first, the most I could do was get her just to touch it with the tip of her beak. But we went at her pace and she learned very quickly. I made sure to train her to step up whether it’s me or anybody else holding the perch. She is a little more hesitant with strangers, but she knows that stepping up = reward. It took less than a month for her to get really comfortable with it, and we practice consistently, even though hormones haven’t hit. That way, when they do come around, we’ll be ready.
I think having your parrot trained to use a step up stick can also help in a lot of others ways. For example, if you ever want or need to travel and require a bird sitter, it can be difficult for the bird sitter to allow out of cage time or even retrieve your parrot if they accidentally sneak out of the cage while changing bowls or cleaning. But now that Lola’s trained to step up for anybody anywhere, I know that there will be no problem with getting her back in the cage safely and keeping everybody’s fingers in tact in the process. I definitely recommend training your parrots to use step-up perches as well. It’s great for some peace of mind and I’m sure it will come in handy when we find ourselves dealing with hormones!
July 17, 2012 § 3 Comments
Well, I was really hoping to get better photos of the budgies’ setup before posting, but I seem to be having very bad luck with my digital camera as of late and cannot find it anywhere, so I guess that’s not happening. Again, the lighting is very funky in these photos and they are just generally unflattering, but they will simply have to do for now.
Like Lola, the budgies got a brand new cage setup recently but the biggest news is that they have graduated from the solid acrylic divider in between them to stainless steel bars!! This was a huge and exciting step for them and for me. I noticed that they’d both seemed much more chilled out and calm recently (perhaps diffusing the essential oils has been helping? Nothing else has changed!) and decided to pilot the barred divider for a few hours in the afternoon while I was home. Well, they’ve been doing so great with it that I no longer switch it out when I leave. They have access to each other through the bars at all times now and I’ve yet to witness a single spat between them. I’m so happy with them!! Hopefully in a few weeks or months, we can eliminate the divider all together– that’s the dream, at least.
Until then, however, we’re making do with the bars and with two of everything. Usually I tend not to do such similar setups for both of them, but everything kind of fell into place this way while I was arranging their cages, so I went with it. They seem pretty happy so far.
Here it is with the door open. On the door, as you can see, they each have their own adorable skywalk platform perch from Oliver’s Garden. I just love these perches and can’t say enough good things about them for birds of all sizes. Lola has a beautiful one with beads in it, and the littles just love perching up front on their skywalks and crawling between the center cut holes!
We’ll take a look at Sabrina’s side first. She has her lovely welded sleepy swing (a custom item from Grey Feather Toys) up on top, which both she and Charles would be completely lost with that. You can barely see it but in the back there is a cute little fleece covered platform perch. Towards the left is a boing, also from GFT, and another snuggly type of swing from Big Beaks Bird Toys. Perches include a nicely branched sandblasted manzanita one in the back and a cageput one towards the front, and plenty of toys including Kris Porter’s fantastic foraging block, lots of custom toys from Things for Wings, and some great jingly stainless steel ones from GFT too.
Down below, she has a tiny safety pumice perch in purple in the back, two more natural wood perches, both of grapevine wood, some more toys, and some more food bowls. I’ve since added one more perch towards the back there, pretty low to the ground as well. So far, her favorite spots are on her platform perch on the door, the cageput perch up top (where she and Charles sit across from each other and chit chat), and the sandblasted manzanita perch towards the back, where she can chew up and destroy a lovely seagrass toy.
On to Charles’s side… he looks quite tubby in the photo! Up top he has a very similar arrangement. His custom sleepy swing, a fleece-covered platform perch in the back (this time in blue), a lovely boing with a foraging block, and some great toys. In the back there is a sandblasted manzanita perch and a manu mineral perch on the right in front of a food bowl. It’s out of focus, but way in front on the right side there’s also a fluffy swing for him with a natural perch.
And zooming out, there are two great grapevine wood perches in the front on both the left and right sides, and a branchy dragonwood perch towards the bottom. Like Sabrina, I’ve also added one more perch in the back for him towards the bottom. He has some great toys– one of his favorite toys of all time is the little leather horse with seagrass legs from Grey Feather Toys, and he also loves his custom toys from Things for Wings.
So far the setup has been working out really well for them– they’re using all of the different levels of their cage and they have a nice variety of surfaces on which to perch. I’ve also attempted to arrange everything such that no perch or toy is getting soiled regularly, and so far, so good! It’s always tricky with a more vertical space like theirs is. Hopefully, one day, they won’t need the divider at all, and I can get a lot more creative with their cage arrangements with the more open space. Until then, this setup will do!
March 2, 2012 § 4 Comments
Yesterday, I diffused a new Young Living essential oil, Peace & Calming, for the first time. Wow. What an effect! Again, almost immediately, all three of my birds this time responded very positively to the new scent wafting through the air. Charles and Sabrina again had the most dramatic reactions. Both of them were immediately calmed by the essential oil, and their noisy chatter turned into very pleasant, soft, higher-pitched chirps. Sabrina actually stopped trying to attack Charles through the acrylic divider in their cage, and the two of them sat across from each other making lovey-dovey eyes. It was unbelievable! Lola, too, actually responded to this oil. Usually in the afternoon when I come home from work, she is hyperactive and anxious to get out of her cage. But as soon as I started diffusing, she stopped her squeaking and begging, and sat on the platform perch in front of her cage and just soaked it in. She seemed utterly at peace and actually okay with the fact that I was home and she was in her cage.
In the spirit of disseminating practical advice for using essential oils with birds, I’ll talk about some of the more logistical things. Since I last wrote about essential oils, I have worked my way up to full thirty minute diffusion sessions once daily with my birds. Because tomorrow is Saturday, I will probably try more than one diffusion session in a day for the first time. Conservative estimates generally consider three thirty-minute sessions a day to be safe (again, keeping to a schedule of either three days on, one day off; or five days on, two days off).
I had been diffusing Joy for about one week when I decided to switch. There was still a small amount of Joy essential oil diluted with water in my diffuser, however, and I could have poured it into a glass bottle for keeping for further use. This is okay to do so long as the smell of the essential oil is still strong; once the scent degrades, so do the beneficial effects. Unfortunately, I did not have any receptacles handy and decided to pour out the extra Joy mixture. I am not sure how much longer the mixture would have lasted, but I wanted to try a new oil. I suppose I should invest in a few glass jars for the future. But I poured it out and rinsed out the bowl of my diffuser, and switched to a few drops of Peace & Calming instead. We will probably continue using this oil for another week or so, or until the mixture is completely diffused (since I am diffusing for longer amounts of time, it might be used up more quickly).
Since we’re on the topic of peace and calming, I figured I’d also throw in a photo of these very adorable little fleece-covered platform perches I recently had custom made from a chinchilla shop actually. They are regular pine wood platform perches with stainless steel hardware, only they have little envelope-style covers made to fit over them so that the birds have a snug and cozy place to rest their feet. There’s one for each. I hope they like them!
February 24, 2012 § 5 Comments
… was nothing short of surreal. I can’t even begin to describe how sublime an experience it was. It was like nothing else. Let’s back up. Yesterday I received all my wonderful essential oil equipment and couldn’t have been more excited. I mentioned in this post why I’m interested in diffusing (please read it if you are considering using essential oils; there are many safety precautions to take!), but it was much more theoretical and only discussed the why and the what. In this post, I aim to address the how: I’ve read so much fantastic information about why essential oils are great and what they can do to help our parrots and ourselves, but I’ve found considerably less concrete advice on what exactly to do when it comes to diffusing. Which diffuser? Which oils or blends? How much? How long? How often? It’s all of these little things that are so vitally important that I hope to address here and in future posts. That said, I am by no means an expert; quite the contrary! I hope that anybody reading this will also do their own research and decide what is best for their own flock.
I’ll start with diffusers. There are several different kinds, but at the recommendation of Dr. Shelton and other essential oil (EO) users, the best kinds to use with parrots in particular are water-based and not air-based diffusers. Air-based diffusers release the EOs directly into the air in a more potent concentration, whereas water-based diffusers dilute the EOs, which in my opinion is probably particularly important in the beginning. When you are just starting out with EOs, it is important to monitor your parrots very carefully for any discomfort or unusual behavior and reactions. (If you notice any discomfort or unusual behavior or reactions, it is important to stop diffusing immediately and ventilate the area.) It is also important to make sure that the diffuser you choose does not heat the EOs at all, as this can damage their healing properties and benefits. Young Living actually sells various diffusers on their site, but Dr. Shelton and many other people I consulted in my research highly recommended a different ultrasonic diffuser by Plant Extracts International. This diffuser is not only water-based but it also has three different volume settings that allow you to control the output (which, again, is so important in the beginning: I started out at low) and it is virtually silent. It also has colored lights which can be turned off if desired. I wasn’t crazy about the looks of this diffuser because it looks like a spaceship or a crock pot, and there’s one Young Living diffuser in particular that is far more aesthetically pleasing, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by it when it arrived in the mail. The photo doesn’t really show this quite well, but it’s very compact! I thought it was going to be rather large (I really was thinking crock pot), but it’s a very small and pleasant size that isn’t imposing in a room by any means. Once you have your diffuser, you need your oils. Again, as I covered in my last post, you absolutely cannot purchase any old EOs and use them in your diffusers. Poor quality EOs can actually be deadly to birds, so please be very careful. In my research, Young Living essential oils are the absolute safest to use around parrots. But, purchasing them isn’t as easy as it seems. Young Living works through distributors rather than directly to customers. Thus, you can either choose to purchase through somebody you know who has an account with Young Living, or you can enroll with Young Living yourself. As much as I would love for you all to purchase through me so that I could make money off of your purchases, that simply wouldn’t be fair. I strongly recommend that anybody interested in EOs enroll with Young Living as an independent distributor, as I have. At first I absolutely did not want the responsibility of being a “distributor,” but it’s really far less complicated than it seems. All that being a distributor means is that you purchase an enrollment kit (which can be as little as $40), and then as long as you spend $50 per year (which trust me, you will), you get wholesale prices on all Young Living products. Wholesale prices are a whopping 24% off, so you’ll earn your money back very quickly, plus the $40 kit comes with two YLEOs and a $40 coupon for a diffuser (among other things). To be honest, I’m not sure why anybody wouldn’t become a distributor! You have no obligation to sell whatsoever (as I’ve chosen not to sell). To enroll, however, you do need a member referral number. You can use mine, which is 1304850. As far as I understand I don’t think I receive anything for referring people but I will obviously disclose if I do. (I hope I’ve gotten across the message, however, that I’m not in this for any sort of compensation.)
So, once you enroll, you must choose which oils to start out with, unless you have a solid four figures to drop on a full set of all of the oils. I’m going to assume that most of us don’t and have to be a little bit more choosy. As you can see from the photo above, I purchased the two EOs that came with my $40 enrollment kit: Lavender and Peppermint, along with five other EOs: one single oil, Copaiba; and four blends of oils, Joy, Peace & Calming, Thieves, and Valor. I’ll briefly outline why I chose each one.
- Copaiba is an excellent anti-inflammatory. I’ve read about it used to prevent swelling and pain, and used with tumors. According to Young Living, it also aids in digestion and supports the body’s response to injury and irritation.
- Joy, as its name implies, is an uplifting blend that raises mood. It is said to help shake grief and depression and can also be worn as a perfume. It has a lovely scent and I’d read so many people raving about it that I simply had to try it.
- Peace & Calming is another very uplifting blend, but it is more targeted towards promoting relaxation and providing a sense of calm. It supports emotional well-being and can help to lift tension and anxiety. It also helps promote restful sleep. I immediately thought of Sabrina when I read about this blend. Her feisty spirit could use some peace and calming!
- Thieves was probably the most highly touted of all of the EOs I read about. It has some incredible properties, according to some reports, including that it may be antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, etc. It also supports the immune system and general good health. Many people swear by it and use it to clean cages, carpets, dishes, etc.
- Valor was not one that immediately jumped out at me as something I needed among my flock, but again, I had read so many positive reviews of the effects of valor that I was swayed. Valor is said to help energy alignment in the body to increase feelings of strength, courage, and self-esteem. It enhances one’s internal resources and has helped with many nervous birds.
There are many, many other great oils to use. Two others that come highly touted are orange and lemon, which are actually quite inexpensive, but I didn’t want to go too overboard. Eventually, depending on how these work out for us, I hope to purchase those, as well as other very popular ones such as Trauma Life, Purification, ImmuPower, PanAway, Geranium, and others. Once you have your oils and you have your diffuser, you can finally get started! I chose to begin with Joy, simply because I’d heard so many positive reviews of it and I figured all of our moods could use some uplifting after Sabrina’s scary episode earlier this week. It is very important to start slowly and carefully with EOs. Once you fill your diffuser with one cup of distilled or purified bottled water and a few drops of your chosen oil, you should absolutely be present in the room and very carefully watching and observing your parrots. I chose to diffuse Joy at the lowest volume for only five minutes about three to five feet away from my birds. It’s difficult to describe the immediate calming effects Joy had on my budgies. Anybody that has a pair or more knows what they are like: they are incredibly active, busy, pleasantly noisy little birds. Sabrina in particular is the feistiest little budgie I have ever seen. They are always hopping from perch to perch, playing with this toy and that, never sitting still. As soon as I turned on the diffuser– which they were oddly not afraid of at all (they are typically quite fearful of foreign objects)– they both propped themselves up on their perches and were transfixed by the diffuser. They became so utterly calm. Then, the weirdest thing happened: they both started to look up, as if looking at the sky, and just had the absolute most peaceful look on their faces that I have ever seen. Seriously. It was beyond bizarre. They aren’t even that peaceful when they are sleeping. Sabrina tucked one of her little footsies up and just looked like she was in Heaven. Charles began preening away. They just seemed so happy! As soon as I turned it off after our short five minute session, the both of them came to the front of the cage and just stared at me and the diffuser, as if to say, “Why did you turn it off?!” Lola, who is always a zen bird, didn’t have any immediately noticeable changes, but she seemed pleasantly un-phased by the new, uplifting scent in the room. I’m wondering if she will respond to other oils differently. Honestly, I didn’t think that diffusing would have such immediate effects, but I have never seen my two little ones act like that. In any case, after diffusing, I had a minor freak out when I realized I had no idea what to do with the left over water and oil mixture left in my diffuser and I called a friend of mine who so graciously answered my panicked questions. (I was worried that I left it in the diffuser in the same room, it’d give them a sensory overload.) So for anybody new to this as I am, you can leave the oil mixture in your diffuser and save it for next time. As long as you can still smell the scent of the oil the next time you diffuse, it will have its beneficial effects. Eventually, the quality will degrade, at which point you can dispose of any leftover if you have yet to already diffuse it all. (It is, however, important to clean your diffuser with mild soap and water at least once a month.) From here on out I will continue our brief diffusing sessions, adding five minutes every time, so today will be ten minutes. As long as all goes well, tomorrow will be fifteen. From what I’ve read, it is generally considered safe to eventually build up to having three 15-30 minute diffusing sessions for five straight days, then two days off; or three straight days with one day off. That’s all for today, but hopefully I will be able to continue writing about our experiences diffusing with more practical advice for fellow parrot owners. But again, please be sure to do your own research and to understand all of the benefits and risks involved. I am by no means an expert and I am simply synthesizing the advice and experience of others, and very much learning as I go.
February 22, 2012 § 22 Comments
In the past several months I’d been slowly hearing and reading about more and more people touting the health benefits and healing properties of essential oils for their parrots. My gut reaction was: no! Anything scented is something that I don’t want near my parrots at all, ever. I’m pretty extreme in that regard: not only have I ruled out air fresheners, candles, incense, scented sprays, and similar products in my home, but I myself no longer wear perfume or scented cosmetic products either. But when I’d read that a holistic avian veterinarian also promoted the use of essential oils along with some of my most trusted and knowledgeable parrot owning friends, I decided to do some more research.
What I learned was very fascinating. Yes, it’s true– in general, most scented items like the ones listed above are indeed harmful for our birds. But, some (very few actually) extremely high quality and high grade essential oils can actually be incredibly beneficial. I’ve learned so much over the past few months that it’s difficult to compile it all; in writing this post, I changed my “starting point” three times. But finally I’ve chosen somewhere to start: at the beginning, with the essential oils themselves.
What exactly are essential oils? At their most basic, they are aromatic, volatile liquids found in plants, and as their name suggests, they are vital for a plant to grow and live. One website calls them “living energy” and a friend of mine describes them as the life blood of a plant: just like we wouldn’t survive if we didn’t have blood, a plant wouldn’t survive without its essential oils. They support various life processes and regulate plant functions. Different oils have many different properties, from healing to purifying to protecting. Many are antibacterial and antifungal. Research shows that they may have been used as early as 4,500 BC, and the Ancient Egyptians used them for treating illnesses as well as for religious ceremonies and rituals.
They sound pretty incredible– but there is one big caveat. Essential oils come in many different grades, and can be easily adulterated with different chemical and synthetic additives in order to make them cheaper to produce for companies. These essential oils are the reason why the vast majority of parrot owners have always been told that essential oils are a big no-no: these essential oils are actually harmful and toxic to parrots. Over 90% of essential oils on the market are not of therapeutic grade quality, and even of those that are therapeutic grade, there are differing levels of quality. This is why it is incredibly important only to buy certain brands of essential oils.
In my research, only two companies are producing oils that are therapeutic grade and high enough quality (with the testing to prove it) to use around parrots. The most highly recommended one that I have come across is Young Living, who create pure, unadulterated, therapeutic grade essential oils. They begin with the soil: their plants are only grown on virgin land that has never been treated with pesticides or other harsh chemicals. Once plants are harvested, they are distilled using a gentle steam-extraction technique that leaves their chemical composition and healing properties in tact. Every single batch of oils produced is then completely analyzed for purity before being sold, ensuring the highest possible quality. And unlike any other company, their spectrometry testing is actually available for each oil. Many big believers and users of essential oils swear by Young Living and only use their oils, exclusively.
But why use them in the first place? I don’t normally need to “heal” anything in my flock, since (knock on wood) we are lucky enough to be in good health. (Ironically, we had an emergency situation with Sabrina this week, but the vet has been taking great care of her. Otherwise, we’ve all been in great health as of late.) For a few months I wasn’t interested in essential oils, simply because I thought they were more medicinal than anything else. But when I began reading several reports of essential oils not only healing birds but helping birds’ moods and behavior and hormones, I became fascinated. I’ve read testimonials of essential oils helping to calm hormonal birds, helping birds overcome the loss of mate or a friend, helping to increase birds’ appetites, helping to reduce screaming, and more. Even more alluring to me were the many reports I’d read that essential oils also helped the parrot owners themselves: they felt less stress, more calm, more happy, and more at peace when using certain essential oils. Parrot owners could also safely wear “perfumes” again in the form of essential oils. But perhaps the most interesting facet of my research on essential oils was that almost all of these reported changes were instant: I saw many people purchase their diffusers and oils and report positive experiences within days!
After several months of deliberation and discussion with many essential oil users (thank you to all of you who answered my barrages of questions!) and essential oil producers, I finally decided that we would also try diffusing and using essential oils. Although we are all healthy, I would love to see if perhaps some oil blends like Peace & Calming can help to calm down Sabrina a bit, or perhaps encourage her to get along with Charles a bit better. I’m also interested in Thieves, which many swear by for its cleansing abilities as well as its immune system support. It’s supposedly an all natural antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial essential oil that is 100% safe and non-toxic to use around birds. I finally took the plunge and purchased a diffuser, a model recommended by a holistic vet, along with a few oils to begin with.
I’m taking things very slowly at first while I am still getting started, but hopefully I will have more to report soon. My diffuser should arrive here on Thursday, and my fancy shmancy oils should be here soon after. Once those arrive, I’ll post more about how to choose a diffuser and some benefits of different oils and oil blends. This isn’t an inexpensive investment, but I truly believe that the rewards will be great.
For anybody interested in using essential oils with their parrots, don’t take my word for it: visit Dr. Melissa Shelton’s website on essential oils and animals, or visit the excellent Essential Bird group website. Read more about Young Living Essential Oils in particular or to get started. (If you do decide to get started, let me know if you need a referral number as they work through distributors and referrals.) A little research never hurt!
November 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
Oh, these two… they’re enough to drive me batty! I’ll start with Sabrina. Last week, I received a wonderful order from Kathie at My Safe Bird Store with some staples, some great toy parts for foraging (on sale!), and some little pedicure perches for Sabrina. Sabrina’s nails are getting long and sharp, and because she’s so tiny, it’s more of a safety hazard for her than for a larger bird because her nails can so easily get stuck in cotton rope or even stainless steel chain. But, she doesn’t trust me enough to let me cut her nails. I could grab her and just do it as quickly as possible, as I have in the past, but she’s actually beginning to trust me right now and I don’t want to ruin the little I have going for us. (Charles is a good, sweet boy and lets me do it myself.) So, I purchased a safety pumice perch for her because they’re effective and in my opinion, the safest type of grooming perch. (For those of you who have agreed with me in the past that the larger ones look… well, questionable, you’ll be happy to know that the little ones don’t at all. They’re so tiny and thin that they’re almost cute!)
I put the little purple perch in her cage last week on Tuesday or Wednesday, and of course, she was completely terrified of it. Absolutely wouldn’t go near it– wouldn’t even go near that part of the cage. It was right next to one of her food bowls and she stalked and pounced on the food bowl from the opposite side and kept an eye on that evil perch all the while. I thought she’d give it up after a day or two, but by Saturday, she still wasn’t going near it.
Finally, I decided I’d hang her veggies above the perch, so that she had to step on it if she wanted her coveted leafy greens (they’re about the highest value treat you can give her or Charles, funnily enough!). I took a nice, thick bundle of organic pea shoots and tied them to the cage bars right above the perch. She was hilarious. For half an hour, she sat across from the perch, staring at those greens and thinking of how she could possibly get to them. Finally, she decided climbing up to the ceiling and then backing downward and eating the greens upside down was the best course of action, all to avoid this perch.
Eventually, I am happy to say, she did finally step on it, and– it didn’t kill her! She still isn’t crazy about it, but at least now she knows that it’s not some sort of evil contraption bent on destruction. Plus, she got to enjoy her delicious, fresh, healthy greens in a more comfortable position.
Some of you might notice the chubby fellow in the background. Why yes, that is Charles, who doesn’t seem to understand that there’s a divider in between him and the coveted pea shoots. Of course, he had his own very large bushel of them in his side of the cage as well, but that didn’t seem to make a difference. You always want what you can’t have, it seems!
On another note, I think the acrylic divider is actually working out quite well. They seem to like being able to see each other and also seem to like each other more while the divider is there. I very frequently come home to really adorable little scenes like this:
It breaks my heart to see them yearning to get to each other!! Of course, the other day when I actually tried removing the divider to see how they would act towards each other, they were good for all of 10 minutes. Then they started clobbering each other once more. I am hopeful, however, that the divider is helping them to learn to coexist and to learn how to have their own spaces. I’m hoping that in time, I can begin removing the divider maybe for half an hour everyday… and building up from there. I am constantly catching them trying to “communicate” through the divider in non-aggressive ways, so perhaps this is the beginning of something. Let’s hope!