August 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
Lola was such a good girl this summer, and as a reward, August is the month of spoiling her silly! She’s gotten a number of packages full of awesome, enriching, and fun new toys. The first up is an awesome order from both Avian Stainless and Avian Organics, two fantastic sister stores that focus on providing the very best, highest quality stainless steel toys and organic parrot food respectively. I know I’ve written about both of these stores before, but I am constantly impressed with every order I receive from them. Avian Stainless in particular takes a long time to develop and test their toys to ensure that no detail is spared: their toys use super high quality stainless steel, there are no sharp edges or points anywhere, and finished products are beautifully polished and shined.
I’m always excited when they announce a new product, but I was particularly excited about this one. Usually, their toys are bells or noise-makers (which I love!), but ever since they discontinued their very cool double skewer I was hoping they’d develop a new refillable type of stainless steel toy base. This is just what the doctor ordered! It’s called the Do the Twist, and it’s a great stainless steel spiral base with a welded o-ring at the top for hanging, and holes that allow you to add your own toy parts.
This toy base actually reminded me a lot of an old toy base that used to be made by Grey Feather Toys, which unfortunately is no longer in business. They had a similar type of toy base that they called the Sterling Twirl. I wanted to see how the two toy bases compared. Although the basic idea and shape of the toys are similar, there are several key differences between the two toys that make them appropriate for different types of birds and for different uses.
The key difference between the two is that the Do the Twist is like a smaller, lighter, sleeker version of the Sterling Twirl. I love the Sterling Twirl– it is made of extremely thick, heavy duty stainless steel– but for this reason, it is a very heavy and huge toy. Aside from the fact that it takes up a ton of room, particularly when it’s loaded with toy parts, it is also so heavy that I was nervous about it knocking Lola out or something if she was playing or swinging very rowdily in her cage. That’s why I love using it as an awesome out of cage toy for Lola’s play areas, but not so much in the cage. The Do the Twist, on the other hand, is made of a much thinner bar of stainless steel that has been perfectly sanded and rounded to prevent any sharp edges, and its smaller size makes it much more appropriate for use inside the cage. The stainless steel is thin and pliable enough that the toy actually has some bounce to it, and is a fraction of the weight of the Sterling Twirl. Even loaded up with parts, I would still feel comfortable putting it in the cage. I’ve yet to actually have a chance to deck it out, but I’m sure that when I do, it’ll be a big hit!
I also made sure to restock some of Lola’s favorite bird breads from Avian Organics. She loves all of their breads, so I like to buy a variety and freeze them. I like that they contain no regular wheat and instead use healthier flours. I also like to throw in lots of fresh veggies or other add-ins when I cook them. The finished product, once baked and cooled, also freezes beautifully!
Last, but not least, I also picked up two of her beloved mashes. The Quick Serve might be her favorite flavor ever, but the Mayan Gourmet Mash is another popular mix here.
A huge thanks to Avian Organics and Avian Stainless for another great order and for such great products! Everything about these stores is top notch, including excellent customer service. Unfortunately, Doris, the wonderful owner recently suffered an injury and the stores are temporarily closed for the time being, but I hope she heals quickly– for her own sake as well as for all of her customers!
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.
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!
July 12, 2012 § 6 Comments
Well, summer is in full swing and yet things haven’t slowed down one bit here! We’ve had a very busy past month or so what with lots of traveling and temporary stays and a recent move as well. We’re juggling some unique challenges with our new home, but the cages, at least, are finally all set up and things are starting to feel somewhat normal here. While we’re still easing into our surroundings, I thought I’d share Lola’s latest cage setup. I’m not quite sure if it’s perfect just yet but I’ll be moving things around and tweaking positions as necessary while I observe her.
There it is! And there she is too. That’s what it looks like with the door closed, but let’s go ahead and peek inside… I apologize for the poor quality photos. There’s ample light in the room but for some reason, my camera insisted on using the flash. I’ve also never been a great photographer.
Here it is opened up! On the door, there’s a really neat grapevine perch from Things for Wings, along with an acrylic foraging chest with great drawers that slide from side to side rather than opening from the front (they’re a bit more challenging). It’s one of my favorite foraging toys (and it’s made from a food safe plastic!), and it’s from Parrot Island Inc.
Looking a little bit closer, on the far left up top there’s the Oliver’s Garden Skywalk platform perch with beads (a favorite of Lola’s), along with a great comfy cotton rope perch, a custom item from Grey Feather Toys. Behind that is her favorite snuggly swing, made from supreme cotton rope by Big Beaks Bird Toys, and below that are some different natural wood perches, her stainless steel toy bucket, and her MegaFone. On the left there’s a corner style sandblasted manzanita perch. What you see in front on the skewer is an ugly home made foraging toy that she likes to fish dry foods out of. I have a second one that I’m going to install somewhere else as well (she forages for a lot of her food now, which is great). There’s also a water bowl somewhere over there, but I’m not sure if it’s visible.
Okay, and on the right side we have some more fun. Behind the big natural wood toy (another ugly homemade creation) is a bamboo perch, flanked by two great stainless steel toys. I situated those two toys in those places because they are above food and water bowls, and I don’t want Lola chipping her wood into her food or water. There are a few other perches: more sandblasted manzanita, manu minerals, and some other natural wood, along with a neat corkscrew from Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys loaded with almond-stuffed wood blocks and, I believe, one more ugly homemade toy.
I know it’s not quite easy on the eyes, but we’re waiting on a nice big box from Things for Wings with what I’m sure will be beautiful toys, so for the time being Lola has to make do with my thrown-together creations. So far, she doesn’t seem to mind too much.
In other news, she’s been talking up a storm and absolutely loves singing and dancing. It’s beyond cute. If I’m on the computer or preoccupied with something, she’ll start bopping her head and singing to herself. The budgies are also doing well. I don’t want to jinx it, but they’ve been living together harmoniously for the past few days! They have a divider between them, but rather than a solid acrylic one, it’s stainless steel barred, and they haven’t been bothering each other at all. I’m crossing my fingers that soon, they won’t even need a divider and they can share the entire space. Setting up their cage with the divider can be a challenge. I’ll post photos of that next time 🙂
March 20, 2012 § 10 Comments
I tend to go into detail in my entries about why I purchase the products I do purchase, but there are, obviously, a myriad of parrot products I do not purchase. There are, in fact, a lot more products that I won’t purchase than products I will, and I am very frequently asked what I think about certain products if I have yet to write about them on the blog. Why don’t I make these types of questions and answers public? It is not my intention at all to discredit or defame any vendor publicly, and I’m not trying to put anyone out of business; rather, I’m trying to do just the opposite: showcase those vendors who I think are creating top notch, unique, safe, and enriching products. I also know that many people do not quite share all of my same standards or paranoias about food, toys, or toy parts, so just because something isn’t right for Charles, Lola, or Sabrina doesn’t mean it won’t be right for somebody else’s flock.
There are, however, a few things that I’m a big believer in: shopping bird-free, for example, is a big concern of mine, as is using stainless steel. Another concern of mine is using safe plastics, in particular with food-related products or foraging toys. I get this question extremely often, and I figured that it was worth addressing publicly, because safe plastics don’t fall under any one brand but rather are simply one of the many materials used in bird toys by almost every company.
Whether or not you feel comfortable giving your birds plastic toys is very often an individual owner’s decision, and definitely requires knowing your bird. I know that Lola, for example, has way too strong a beak to be able to play with plastics safely, and she tends to harbor little pieces of plastic in her mouth for long periods of time. Thus, plastics are a complete NO for her, unless they are very large pieces of extremely hard plastic beads (like marbella beads) that she absolutely cannot chip or destroy. But generally, I simply say no plastic toys for her. On the other hand, both Charles and Sabrina can play with plastic beads in a completely safe way. They can beak and beat and batter them and never chip them even a little, so plastic beads are completely fine as toy parts for them.
But there is a different consideration that I would argue should be ruled out for every bird owner, whether or not your parrot can play with plastics safely. This consideration is using unsafe plastics in food service applications. Unlike plastic beads or toy parts whose safety can vary depending on bird size, power, and style of play, using unsafe plastics in food service applications is dangerous for all birds, regardless of size, strength, or habits.
As we all know, there are many, many different types of plastic, and I’m sure most of you are used to looking at the bottom of a plastic dish or tupperware to see if it is microwave safe or not. Well, this relates to safe and unsafe plastics. More recently, I’ll bet, you became aware of a substance called Bisphenol A, or BPA, in plastic water bottles or baby bottles. Nowadays, it’s pretty much impossible to sell a water bottle that contains BPA, because consumers have realized that BPA is a chemical that is present in many plastics, that leaches into water after repeated use and washing. Some countries have labeled it a toxic chemical, and scientific studies show links between BPA and hormone-like properties, cancer, thyroid problems, neurological problems, obesity, and other scary problems. Plastics that contain BPA, such as polycarbonate, should not be used in water bottles or food service applications, especially with hot food or water, as these leach the chemical at a more rapid rate.
Most people purchasing new water bottles or baby bottles know this, but what about bird food and water dishes? If you use plastic dishes, have you checked to make sure that they are indeed BPA-free? Probably even more common are plastic foraging toys, which are hugely popular. But every time you put food in one of those cool plastic foraging toys, and especially the more you wash it, it breaks down the plastic and more and more BPA is leached out onto the food, which is then consumed by your bird.
I’m well aware that many people will think to themselves, “Oh, but I’ve been using those for ages, and my birds are perfectly fine!” Well, many generations of human babies were also raised on bottles made with BPA, and obviously we don’t have an entire generation of people who passed away without explanation. But we do have studies that show that BPA can lower fertility rates and cause neurological problems in children, among other negative effects. It can even manipulate hormones and cause issues with reproductive behaviors. Your bird won’t drop dead from BPA, but he or she might be extra hormonal, or suffer neurological consequences.
The good news is, there are safe alternatives! One of the safest plastics for use with food is acrylic. But don’t be fooled: polycarbonate and acrylic are two very different plastics, even though they look virtually the same. In fact, I’ve seen many bird toy websites that mislabel toys as acrylic when they are actually polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a huge source of BPA, whereas acrylic is completely BPA-free. MOST foraging toys on market are actually made of polycarbonate, but there are a select few that are made from acrylic. Don’t necessarily go by what it says on any website: if you are unsure, call the company and ask if their toys are made from polycarbonate or acrylic. There is a vast difference.
This toy, for example, is a set of acrylic foraging drawers. I am sure you have seen many polycarbonate models on the market, but this is the only acrylic version that I’ve been able to find. It is made in house at Parrot Island Inc. and is a great toy that I highly recommend. They actually make many different setups as well: two drawers, four drawers, six drawers, drawers that pull out front to back, drawers that pull out side to side, etc. These toys are more expensive than the more common polycarbonate versions because acrylic is a higher quality plastic, plus these are made at a much lower volume. But, they are worth every penny in terms of safety.
Here’s another acrylic foraging toy that exists on the market, this one by Grey Feather Toys. It comes in two sizes, 2.5″ or 4.5″, the larger 4.5″ model shown above next to Lola. I feel completely safe using these acrylic foraging toys: not only is it extremely strong like polycarbonate, but it is far safer and contains absolutely no BPA that will leach into your parrots’ food or water.
There are definitely other acrylic toys out there on the market, but be sure to do your research, and do not assume that anything is acrylic. Polycarbonate and acrylic look very much the same, so ask the manufacturer if you are unsure. In a similar vein, double check any plastic food or water dishes you use with your birds, as well as water bottles. You do not want this chemical interrupting any of your parrots bodily functions or systems. (Glass, on the other hand, is completely BPA-free.)
Although there is much more to say about safe plastics in general or other unsafe plastics (don’t even get me started on soft vinyl), this is one of the most important issues with plastics that I have, and I hope that I can spread awareness about BPA in plastics. There are so many great alternatives out there now that there is no reason to use plastics that contain BPA in food or water bowls or foraging toys.
October 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
I forgot to post this small order I made with Grey Feather Toys. Just a few staples around here and then some other goodies 🙂 This order was entirely for the budgies as we gear up for their new cage! With them in particular, because of those teeny tiny nails that seem to be able to get stuck in anything, I’m very weary of using any natural cotton ropes with them in cage. The only company’s products I’ll use is Grey Feather Toys because of the incredibly tight weave on their rope items.
I ordered two more of the excellent quality, fully welded stainless steel trapeze swings for the budgies as back ups. It turns out that Sabrina really likes untying the knots where the ropes come together and are beaded– so she’s quickly tearing hers apart, and really needed the new one. I have to keep a close eye on that little girl! Charles also got a second one, if only for back up while I’m cleaning his current one. Each of them got another shorter rope perch for the new cage, and finally I purchased a few toys. The Fuddy Duddy is for Sabrina– I think she will enjoy preening the very soft supreme cotton rope, and I can probably squeeze things into the wiffle balls as foraging material for her. The horse toy is for Charles– it’s probably his favorite toy of all time. And the little treat bucket is for Sabrina, because Charles already has his own.
As always, service was prompt and professional! I love that Grey Feather Toys makes a commitment to using only stainless steel.
August 8, 2011 § 2 Comments
Perhaps you remember Charles’s “sleepy swing,” a custom swing that Grey Feather Toys was nice enough to custom make for him to replace a former swing with galvanized wire and other unsafe metals. It’s an adorable swing, and it’s absolutely perfect for him to sleep on, and best of all, it’s made with 100% stainless steel metals. It’s such a favorite that I purchased a second as a replacement, but since separating Charles and Sabrina it’s now just one for each of them.
Sabrina, being the feisty little thing that she is, loves to play on, under, and around this swing– she loves to swing, hang, and flail from it as wildly as she possibly can. That was all fine and good with me, until, of course, she got her little toes stuck in the chain. I had read about birds getting their toes stuck in chains before, but it had never happened here. I suppose I always thought that as long as it was properly sized and in short lengths, it wouldn’t be a problem. And this is not to say that I’m banishing all chain from their cages, but I suppose now for items that they use as vigorously or as often as Sabrina does her swing, I think I feel much safer with non-chain alternatives. I am so thankful that I was there to catch her get stuck and to free her!
I contacted Grey Feather Toys about some sort of non-chain alternative, because it would really break my heart if they couldn’t have their beloved sleepy swings. Of course, Rebecca Wells came to my rescue once more! She replaced the chain with thick, stainless steel wire, completely welded to the base as well as to the quick link up top. The result is sturdy, safe, and adorable! I purchased two, of course, one for each of my lovely littles. They adore their new swings just as much as the old ones… and I can feel much better about knowing that there is no chain for their little toes to get stuck in.
I also purchased another small cotton rope perch with stainless steel wire inside for them, and it came with adorable teal beads at each end. It looks very fresh and cool in the cage. Sabrina got a new small boing too, with adorable purple beads, although I probably won’t use it until their new cage comes. I couldn’t neglect Lola either, of course! Rebecca was kind enough to let us have a sneak peak of a very cool new toy that she has just designed. It’s a large version of the ever popular Tweedle toy– a BIG favorite here among the budgies!! I was so excited about this new toy as I have always wanted one for Lola, actually. It uses the same base as the Super MegaFone, so it’s perfectly sized for Lola’s very animated habits of play. I tweaked it a teensy bit but I love how fun and safe it is! It comes standard with all welded o-rings and I made sure that it only used very large, very durable plastic beads so that there was no chance that Lola could chip or ingest any of the plastic.
I feel safe with this amount of chain first of all because Lola won’t be spending all of her time playing with this one toy like Sabrina does with her swing, but also because much of the chain is covered and it’s not the sort of toy that Lola is likely to be climbing all over. I’ve been supervising her play and she actually has the most fun moving the beads up and down rather than making noise with it, something I’m very thankful for!