December 3, 2016 § 5 Comments
Hello, parrot people! It’s been too long. But Lola and I are doing well, and so much has changed for us since we last wrote. We are now proud residents of sunny California, where we have been enjoying the year-round beautiful weather, and many more days outside soaking up vitamin D. Lola and I made an epic cross-country road trip together, where we got to see many, many parts of the U.S. we’d never seen before. In less happy news, Lola came very close to getting a new sister and flock mate, another female cape parrot. She was a much, much older and retired breeder, but unfortunately she passed away at home just a week before we planned to adopt her. We all agreed it was for the best that she passed away in comfortable, familiar surroundings. And we are still waiting for our perfect adult female cape companion for Lola.
I am even more sad to say that this fall, Scott Lewis of Old World Aviaries passed away. Scott was truly a giant in the cape parrot and general aviculture community. He was a wonderful man who had extensive expertise and was always willing to share it and help out. When I was first researching what parrot species would suit me, I found videos of the most charming parrot online, Thor, who I learned was a cape parrot from none other than Scott Lewis. His website provided a wealth of information, and when I emailed him letting him know that I was interested in learning more, he immediately offered his help and knowledge with absolutely no expectation that I would be a customer of his. When I eventually chose another breeder, whom he happened to know, he had only the most wonderful things to say about her and told me I had made a great choice. And he and I continued to discuss cape parrots, their classification, their diets, their habits, and their all-around wonderfulness for many years after that. He was a kind man who genuinely loved parrots and spreading that love. Rest in peace, Scott. You are already sorely missed.
I thought I’d share Lola’s latest cage setup, which we are still perfecting for optimal perch placement. The front panel’s lower area is pretty empty at the moment but I can’t seem to find a spot that won’t get soiled daily. So we’re still experimenting. Also, apologies for terrible photos. These were taken in the early morning, and although the room was sun drenched and lovely, the photos look quite dim due to the back lighting.
I often get messages asking if I still recommend Expandable Habitats, and the answer is an effusive yes! Lola’s cage is still going strong and is every bit as sturdy as the day it came home. They’re a big investment, but it’s a lot of peace of mind to never have to worry about checking all of the bars for chipped paint or rust, or worrying that there is something toxic that could hurt her.
Starting with the left side, there’s a food bowl on her main door, along with a fun natural and shreddable toy. (There’s also a flagstone platform perch to the left of the bowl, but it’s not visible in this photo.) Just behind that toy is a safety pumice perch, and above that is a chunky willow wood perch with lots of delicious bark (and Lola sitting on top of it, playing with her acrylic ball foraging toy).
On the side door of the left panel of the cage is another food bowl, and next to it a fantastic foraging perch. I love these perches– lots of ridges for chewing but also holes drilled throughout for stuffing with food (I like stuffing them with stalks of carrots or cucumbers or zucchini, or in shell nuts). On the back wall there is a cardboard box holder in acrylic for more foraging fun. And all the way up in the corner is a hard-to-get treat pot.
Lola’s got her soft and fuzzy swing hanging on this side, as well as another fantastic foraging block toy, hanging from the ceiling. (We’re big on foraging!) And on the right of this photo but the center of the cage is a lovely cotton boing with a great Avian Stainless bell toy that makes tons of noise hanging in the middle.
Around the center of the back panel is a platform perch, I believe in elm– Things for Wings always has so many beautiful types of wood for platforms. To the right of that is hard to see, but it’s an acrylic drawer foraging toy with two side-by-side drawers that pull and slide. And next to that is another really beautiful platform perch, this one with built-in toys on one and and lots of cork drilled into the sides. That one definitely keeps her busy. Up above you can see one balsa Christmas tree toy, which is hiding a second holiday toy behind it, a mini snowman’s head, both from Tweety Pie’s Bird Toys. Lola has made short work of the santa one. On the right, one of her favorite double-ended ribbon wood perches, still an old stand by. Next to it is a second cardboard box foraging toy with an acrylic holder.
Below that layer is another with (on the left) a great toy packed with balsa and cork, a very prized cajeput perch that I’d been hoarding (sadly, it’s my last), and an Avian Stainless pepper toy. In the corner is Lola’s trusty stainless steel toy bucket chock full of stray toy parts and foot toys, straddled by a sandblasted manzanita corner perch. And up front here, another food bowl.
And that’s it! So far, so good with perch placement of the existing perches. We like to rotate toys and also make sure there’s a variety of types and textures in there. So many toy companies have come and gone the past few years, but we are thankful for all of the wonderful toymakers who have provided Lola with so much enrichment and fun.
January 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
Nothing like a snow day to get in some extra snuggle time with your little loves! Juno didn’t actually bring all that much snow to our area, but I understand that some areas of New England really got dumped on. I hope everybody is staying safe and warm. Lola and I are taking today to get in lots of quality time. I also thought it would be nice to make some time for the blog! I changed Lola’s cage setup recently for the new year, and we’ve had a week or two already to test it out. She and I both approve. It’s a little different from our normal setups in that we usually have certain places we like certain perches to be, but I decided to change it up and see what happened.
I know I’ve said this before, but I’ve really gotten Lola to truly maximize her cage space by adding foraging opportunities at all different levels. I know so many people that say their birds never go in the lower half of the cage or favor certain spots. You can help encourage them to be more active and utilize their space by making sure they get rewarded when they do! Lola never knows she’ll find down in her toy bucket, or her foraging pot. So she makes sure to wander over and check them both out regularly. Take a look:
Here’s the full view, door open. There’s a bit of a “bald spot” in the back– I had to take out a foraging toy for cleaning, but normally there’d also be a clear acrylic drawer foraging toy in the lower back between the cotton rope perch and the sandblasted manzanita corner perch. We’ll take a tour from left to right.
Here’s the door, which is simple but has a few perching spots for Lola. On the left is a natural cork bark perch from I Got a Woody Bird Toys, along with one of their fantastic basswood and cork toys (or, what’s left of it), and at the bottom on the right is a treasured cajeput perch. Yes, I may have hoarded a few of them over the years.
Moving towards the left, there are two stainless steel ring bowl holders (the cage is empty right now because I was changing water and cleaning, etc.). The center top perch is one of the Fantastic Foraging Perches from Things for Wings. Lola loves this perch. The sides are totally torn up as she makes her way through it. I like to stuff treats or even veggies in the foraging holes. Try threading a whole skinny carrot or even a leafy green (broccolini can work nicely) through them. There’s another Things for Wings toy above that, and to the right is her favorite Avian Stainless toy, the Crosswinds.
Moving downwards, on the far left is an awesome side-mounted toy from I Got a Woody, and Lola’s trusty double-bolted ribbon wood perch from the Birdsafe Store in the middle. Normally, I always put this one high up as a roosting perch, but I’m actually finding it works nicely in that spot. The area below the side door is always kind of a weird place because you can’t really hang toys on the door or else they get in the way when you’re opening and closing them, but this perch allowed me to put the foraging pot in the middle, and gives Lola some room to move around easily. Finally, on the right is an Eco Perch from Polly’s. I like that it helps to keep Lola’s nails trim, but is not at all abrasive.
Here’s the center back (and Lola!). You can see the Eco Perch on the left, but in the foreground is Lola’s snuggly supreme cotton rope swing from Big Beaks. Behind it in the back is her awesome Skywalk perch from Oliver’s Garden. I’m not sure you can tell from the photo, but it’s a really, really cool hardwood platform perch with embedded beads, and a “trap door” of sorts in the center. Hanging above it in the back is a garland toy packed with fantastic parts from I Got a Woody. Snaking from the lower center to the upper right is our favorite cotton rope perch from Grey Feather Toys. We are still sad that we can’t get another, but this one is really holding up beautifully. Like I said above, normally there would be an acrylic foraging toy in the center back, but I pulled it out to give it a good wash.
And finally, bringing us to our last view, the right side. There’s the last stainless steel ring holder, and the big toy in the foreground is a really cool Things for Wings toy. It was actually supposed to be a holiday toy, but I requested it un-dyed. It’s big and packed full of toy parts, but most of them are soft shreddables– this would be a great toy even for the little guys who aren’t intimidated by size. It used to have a few more vine balls, but Lola has since torn them off trying to seek out the treats I sneak into them! The green perch is a Safety Pumice Perch which also helps to keep her nails trim, and the toy on the far right is another cool side-mounted foraging toy from I Got a Woody. Lola loves to rummage through it for almonds or other goodies.
Moving down a level, her faithful stainless steel toy bucket is mounted to the side, full of lots of foot toys and abandoned toy parts, flanked by a natural wood perch. I think it’s sandblasted manzanita, as is the corner perch. Hanging in between it is another great Things for Wings toy.
And that’s the current configuration! I’m happy to report that so far, her droppings seem to miss whatever’s below them due to placement. The only one that really gets soiled is the foraging platform, because of its width. So it gets cleaned a lot. Toys get rotated and changed weekly. I like to make sure to change where the foraging opportunities are so that she has to keep guessing. I have this awesome basket toy from Things for Wings (I think it’s called the Cornucopia) which is full of nooks and crannies for treat hiding. That one’s getting rotated in next. The fantastic foraging block might also make an appearance soon. Who knows what else?
February 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
Setting up a cage well is a real art. I find it very difficult to do, increasingly so the larger your bird is and the less space you have. Whenever I am visiting my mom’s house and have to change the setup of Lola’s temporary cage, the King’s aluminum cage, I always struggle with fixing it up nicely for her because it’s only 33 x 25. (I will admit, Sabrina is pretty easy to deal with because she has quite a bit of space and is so tiny.) But fixing up a cage for a medium to large bird is a totally different story!
Where do you start? In my opinion, the easiest place to start is with the food bowls. For many people, this is the most natural place to start because it is the one part of the cage of which they don’t control the placement, because they use feeder doors. I don’t use feeder doors with attached bowls, but I still think this is the best place to begin, simply because I know that I like to keep the food bowls relatively close to the side doors (in case I ever have to travel, I can have somebody else feed Lola safely), and you’ll know that wherever there is a food bowl, you’ll need at least one perch nearby. That always helps to get me started. I try to change whether they are directly on the door or near by it, level with it, a bit higher, or a bit lower, but mostly they are a relatively constant.
Once the food bowls are in place, you can start placing a few perches. You’ll need one near the bowl, obviously, and I tend to avoid putting perches above food bowls because then you increase the likelihood of clean food or water getting soiled. I did make an exception this time by putting a very wide platform perch above a food bowl because I think it’s wide enough that the bowl getting soiled is not a danger. I’m still testing it out, but hopefully it will work!
After a few perches have found their place, I find the other stuff tends to naturally follow. There are usually a few things we all like to keep in the cage– for Lola, for example, I like to use one cotton rope perch and at least one swing. So those usually go in next, and I try to configure everything so that each perch is reach-able from at least one other without having to climb the cage bars much. I also like to make sure there is a large variety of textures, sizes, and heights. I’ll always include several natural wood perches: some with bark, some without, some curvier, some harder, some softer; a pedicure perch; a platform or two; and a cotton perch. I don’t use dowels, ever– I know that some people feel they are “okay” as long as there are other choices, but why bother with just “okay” when you can do way better with natural wood? The uniformity of dowels simply isn’t comfortable or healthy for parrots’ feet. I know some people also like to have at least one perch that spans the length of width of the cage. I choose not to have one like this because I think it limits placement of other things, but that’s a personal preference.
Once I feel like there is a solid network of perches, that’s when toys and other accessories can get placed. I like to make sure there are a very good variety of toys– a single toy often falls into multiple categories, but I like to make sure that each of these core “functions” is fulfilled: noise-making, foraging, natural wood coins or chunky pine, snap-able wood beads, natural textures like coconut or vine. Some people also include snuggly toys or plastic toys depending on their birds’ preferences. Lola also adores her foot toys, so a good foot toy bucket is a necessity as well.
And that’s all there is to it! Now of course, easier said than done– and every time I rearrange the cage, I am constantly tweaking it for the next several days. That’s okay. Some setups are more successful than others, which is why I always take photos so that I can reinstate the “good” ones after cycling through a few others. This past week I did a new setup for Lola. It’s actually not one of my favorites and I have tweaked it several times since I took these original photos, but Lola really likes the perches I chose, so I’m only making minimal changes for now. Here’s what it looks like.
In my opinion it’s a bit busy, although I have spaced out and lowered some of the perches since taking this photo. Then again I’ve also added a few more toys, so not sure how it all comes out to balance.
On the left, there are two out of Lola’s three food bowls, both place on or near the side door. So that’s where I began with this setup. In between the two, I placed a curvy grapevine wood perch from the Birdsafe Store so that she could get between the two. On the left is a forked sandblasted manzanita perch from Things for Wings. On the right is a safety pumice perch, and in the front winding all over is her cotton rope perch. Up above, you’ll see the wide platform perch I was alluding to earlier.
I love this perch! Aside from the fact that I can put it above a food bowl because it blocks Lola from soiling it, she really adores it. It is made by Kris Porter but sold by Things for Wings and I highly recommend it. As you can see, Lola has already gone to town on it and has been stripping it away and smearing her blueberries on it, but she really enjoys being on it. I have been wrapping up little treats in unbleached cupcake liners and putting them in the foraging holes and she loves to look in each hole to see what surprises there may be.
Here’s the other side, where you’ll see the opposite end of the cotton rope perch snaking down. That perch was from the now-closed Grey Feather Toys and I am still upset about it. I still can’t find a cotton rope perch with a stainless steel interior that I like as much. On the right of it, you can barely make it out, but there is a cute little side-mounted foraging pot too hidden under the cork bark perch from I Got a Woody. That’s another little spot that Lola loves to check for treats. The cork bark perch at that funky angle proved to be a big hit with Lola, so it reprised its role in this setup. On the right of it is a lovely, chunky willow bark perch, also from Things for Wings. That funny looking pale colored perch near the top right is a new one for us; it’s the Nu Perch sold by the Parrot Wizard store. I’m always happy to see perches being made with stainless steel hardware so I thought I’d give this one a try as well. It’s interesting in that I assume it is made of a uniform dowel, but they actually cut it and shape it so that it is no longer uniform and is quite varied in shape and diameter. The result is a very nice looking perch that appears to be very comfortable and healthy for our parrots. Lola really likes hers so far, except that she has already taken a big chunk out of the end. Down below you’ll see a sandblasted manzanita corner perch (flanking a third food/water bowl), as well as a Manu mineral perch.
In the center back of the cage you’ll notice another awesome foraging perch, this one also from Things for Wings. I love this one: it’s also a platform, but it has lots of chunky willow bark on the bottom side for stripping, and there are several pod cups hanging below for more opportunities to hide treats! You’ve probably noticed by now a recurring theme in my cage setups– a multitude of places in which to hide treats. I love having dozens of different foraging opportunities for Lola because it keeps her busy. She will go around and check all of these hiding spots, multiple times a day, because she never knows where she might find something. This is such a great thing to do to keep your parrot active and stimulated, even while in the cage, especially if you work all day or if you have a perch potato. Encouraging Lola to forage is of the utmost importance to me for her physical and mental health.
Finally, you probably noticed this awesome swing front and center. It’s homemade! Well, sort of. The very cool, refillable stainless steel base is made by Scooter Z, an awesome chunky willow wood perch from Things for Wings, and fantastic pine wood pieces and cork-stuffed blocks from Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys. Actually, my sister very kindly made this for Lola. She loves it and has been very busy chipping away at the wood pieces!
Other things included… there’s an awesome grapevines wood perch on the front door that Lola loves to perch on, as well as several toys from Things for Wings, I Got a Woody, Oliver’s Garden, Parrot’s Treasure, and more. You can be sure that the uglier ones are homemade by me. I have actually changed and added a few since posting these photos so there is a bit more variety now. I am also getting some new Avian Stainless toys so I am very excited about that!
So that’s how Lola’s cage is now, but it never stays in one iteration for too long. Just as how the seasons change in the wild, I like to change her cage often and keep her guessing. I change out toys weekly and perches every so often, and do a full cage restructuring every 2-4 months. 🙂 Hope this helps you set up your cages in an enriching and stimulating way as well!
November 9, 2013 § 3 Comments
I have to tell you, getting my S.O. to watch the enrichment DVD from my last post with me was about the smartest thing I’ve ever done. We were rearranging Lola’s cage yesterday (which he insisted so that we can “make sure she is fully enriched!!”) and he basically took over the operation! I was only there to put washers in place and screw on a few wing nuts. Actually, he did a really great job. He configured some things in new ways that I hadn’t thought to before, and Lola really seems to be enjoying it.
I couldn’t get a very good photo of the whole thing because of the way the room is– this is about the best I could do. But it’s the whole picture, with Lola on the top left in the photo.
So here it is with the door open. The first thing you see is that there’s her trusty double-sided ribbonwood perch from the Birdsafe Store right on the door, and a cute little flagstone porch at the bottom from Bird on the Rocks. Her foot toy bucket is next to it, on the left. (Unfortunately, the company that made this awesome stainless steel bucket– Grey Feather Toys– is no longer in business, it seems. It’s really a bummer because it was one of our absolute favorites.)
On the upper left, there’s an awesome grapevine wood perch that you can’t see too well here, but Lola loves, and a mini side-mounted foraging pot, both from Things for Wings. The stainless steel toy in the back there is a MegaFone, also from GFT and no longer available, and the toy that Lola is playing with in the photo is one of Kris Porter’s fantastic foraging blocks. The big wooden slab toy with the coins is from I Got a Woody.
Here’s a better view of that mini foraging pot. Isn’t it cute? Right in front of that, the little stubby perch is an awesome willow step from the Little Perch Company— she is obsessed with ripping the chunky bark off of these. I actually originally purchased them for Sabrina but it turns out Lola likes them a lot more. Below that is a pretty beat up Things for Wings toy that she loves, as usual, and then a gorgeous sandblasted manzanita forked perch also from Things for Wings.
In the center there’s her absolute favorite supreme cotton rope swing from Big Beaks Bird Toys, a perennial favorite. Sadly, it’s blocking a great Avian Stainless noisy toy, the Major Tude. Behind all that is one of those extremely cool shelf-style cork perches from I Got a Woody. I was going to stick it in the like a normal shelf perch, but my S.O. insisted that we angle it so that she had to climb it. I was skeptical that it would be wide enough for her to be able to do so, or that my clumsy bird would be able to make her way up, but I let him try it. To my surprise, Lola absolutely loved it!! She spent a good while on the perch climbing, inspecting, and chewing it up.
Below that is a rope perch, the last one we have left from GFT 😦 We are really sad about that. But the S.O. took it and wound it in a cool way so that it goes from the center back of the cage all the way up to the front, right-hand side of the cage, almost like stair case. I think Lola likes this mode of transportation from one side to the other. It also means that I can hang more toys in the center area of the cage and she can actually reach them!
Here’s the right side. You can see that the rope perch goes all the way up, and there are several skewered toys around it. First is just a simple pandan box on a skewer, which is one of the ways I get Lola to forage for some of her food. Behind that towards the back is the Basswood Stairway to Heaven from I Got a Woody, which I skewered. You can barely see the last skewered toy I just realized– you can kind of see a wood chunk on the far right– but that’s an ugly foraging toy I made for Lola. In that back corner area there are two food bowls (one you can’t really see, but it’s on the left of the pumice perch), and of course the very noticeable pumice perch. The look of those perches still cracks me up, but hey, they get the job done. Down below, there’s a big beautiful Things for Wings Toy, cornered by a lovely sandblasted manzanita perch and a Manu Mineral perch on the left.
One last angle so that you can see the acrylic foraging toy in the corner. I absolutely love these toys, made by Parrot Island Inc. I am very conscious of using food-safe plastics for foraging toys, but the vast majority of foraging toys on the market are all made with polycarbonate, which has BPA. Parrot Island Inc.’s toys are all made with acrylic, which is food safe. They are also incredibly thick and durable and very well made! I highly recommend them. You can also see another adorable little foraging pot on the right, and then a cool natural wood perch that actual swivels and can be configured to point at any angle! That’s from Expandable Habitats. I had forgotten about that perch for a while but it’s great for those hard to reach spots when a straight perch just won’t do.
And there it is! I think he did an awesome job of designing it. There’s a great mix of natural wood perches, from sandblasted manzanita to grapevine wood to cork to willow to ash, a pumice perch, a flagstone perch, a soft cotton rope perch, and platforms as well. There are snappy wood toys, foraging toys, skewered toys, softer cork toys, noisy toys, shreddable toys, pretty toys, and ugly toys. There’s a nice swing and even a crooked perching surface. Lola seems extremely pleased with the new look herself, which is of course what matters most.
May 29, 2012 § 1 Comment
Yes, we’re alive and well! Hello all, and my apologies for not having written. We’ve been exceedingly busy but hope to have some more free time in the summer months.
Yet another of life’s turns has required that I dismantle both the budgies’ and Lola’s Expandable Habitats cages this week, quite a nuisance and tough job for one (very petite) person to do solo. But while taking these behemoths apart, I discovered one more reason why these cages are such fantastic investments and came to love them even more than I already did. I am lucky that I can’t call any of my birds very mechanical– Lola can tackle some moderately difficult foraging toys, but she’s never been able to unscrew something or open her cage doors on her own. It’s truly one of my fears that she’ll learn to start taking apart her cage, and one day, while I’m not home, she’ll remove one too many screws and the whole thing will collapse on her. That’s probably irrational– it seems that even the most mechanical birds are more interesting in escaping their cages than dismantling them– but it’s still a possibility.
Well, I was very pleasantly surprised while taking apart the Expandable Habitats cage that those things simply don’t collapse! Every single panel that I unscrewed stood completely straight up until the very last screw was removed– I could have removed seven out of the eight screws holding it up and it was still standing tall without collapsing in on itself. Even when I had removed three out of the four “walls,” the fourth still stood until its very last screw was removed. I was really amazed at how sturdy every single piece was. I’ve taken apart several other kinds of cages before, and none were built so sturdily or so well as this. It was really remarkable and made me feel a lot better about the prospect of Lola developing any mechanical skills. I still hope she doesn’t, but at least I know that if she does, the cage will never collapse in on her and harm her.
In other news, the flock is still enjoying diffusing our essential oils! I get a lot of comments and questions about these and I do try to answer all of them so feel free to keep them coming. I did want to disclose that I recently discovered that I do, in fact, receive a “commission” for those of you who use my Referral Number in registering with Young Living and then purchase products. I didn’t realize this prior to receiving a random check in the mail — only then did I understand what was going on, so I apologize if anybody feels misled. That said, I am absolutely not in it for the money and it doesn’t matter to me whether you register under my number or not; I am simply interested in sharing my experience with essential oils and spreading knowledge. If you register under me, great! If you don’t, great! Feel free to ask me questions either way.