How Much is the Bird on the Wingdow?

December 3, 2014 § 1 Comment

Sorry, but she’s not for sale! ūüôā

In other news, I finally sat down and made a good four¬†homemade toys for Lola! ¬†I haven’t done that in months so I was pretty proud. ¬†I even refilled the Avian Stainless Do the Twist toy base! ¬†Goodness, I don’t envy toymakers at all. ¬†My toys aren’t nearly as cute and they sure left my fingers sore!

refilling the do the twist toy base

I refilled the Avian Stainless toy base similarly to last time, with lots and lots of wood. ¬†I used hardwood beads, chunky monkey pine squares from Oliver’s Garden, pine chunks with embedded corks from Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys, and lots of natural wood coins (great stuff like ocotillo, willow, and yucca) from Things for Wings.

some not that cute homemade toys

I also made four other toys, the two above and two (really plain looking) rolling pin toy base toys which didn’t merit photos. ¬†I used the same types of woods as above. ¬†They’re plain but hey, they keep Lola busy!


Well, We’ve Done the Twist!

August 24, 2014 § 2 Comments

I had a few requests to see the Avian Stainless Do the Twist toy loaded up and actually in use, and I’ll be honest; I haven’t made any homemade toys in a long time– so this was the perfect opportunity. I decided to load it up with some good, all natural wood! I used a combination of small wood beads in three shapes: spools, round beads, and beehive beads, along with two awesome types of wood parts from Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys: the avian tiny wafers and the avian small cork stuffers. They’re all strung together on thin leather cord.

a loaded up do the twist toy

Not too shabby, right? The toy has a total of four holes which is kind of the perfect number– four is not so many that your fingers are left tender and sore from having to tie quite so many knots, but it’s also enough that you can load the toy up with tons of fun parts. On the top and bottom hole, I only did one string of toys each, but on the middle two holes, I added double strands of toys for even more wood chipping activity. If you use thin enough cord, you can probably load 3 or maybe even 4 strands into each hole– and in that way, you can really make a huge toy!

lola took right to it!

So what did Lola think? She gives it two wings up! She immediately started chipping away. This base makes a big toy, but again, it’s not so heavy that I feel that it poses any sort of danger. She’s still working at it now! I went with an all wood iteration of this toy, but the possibilities are endless. And because it has four toy holes, there is tons of room for plenty of variety.

lola says every bird needs a do the twist!

Seeing Lola going at the fully loaded toy reinforces that this is a great buy. I love that even after she destroys all of the toy parts, the base will be ready for for reinvention as a brand new toy. I definitely recommend it to anybody who likes to main their own toys. And because it’s made from high quality and safe stainless steel, it’s going to last a long, long time. Even better!

All About Cage Setups

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.

the entire cage

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.

the left side

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.

the foraging platform perch

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.

the right side

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.

another cool foraging 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.

a homemade swing

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‚Ķ 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. ¬†ūüôā ¬†Hope this helps you set up your cages in an enriching and stimulating way as well!

Implementing Parrot Enrichment: No-Brainer Foraging

November 11, 2013 § 7 Comments

A few posts ago, I summarized a few excellent articles and a DVD on parrot enrichment. ¬†(You can read that post here.) ¬†Although I included examples in that post, I thought it would be helpful to show how I’ve since integrated what I’ve learned about parrot enrichment into my girls’ lives. ¬†I personally felt that the biggest takeaway from my research was just how important foraging is: it covers four out of the five major categories (occupational, physical, sensory, and nutritional) and is a natural behavior that all birds exhibit in the wild. ¬†So I have begun integrating as many foraging opportunities as possible for my two, making sure to switch them up and to keep them guessing.

There is a myriad of excellent information about foraging on the web, and tons of sites with fantastic ideas. ¬†My ideas draw from many of them, and are only a drop in the bucket compared to just how many brilliant ideas there are out there. ¬†But I try to focus on natural materials, and easier foraging opportunities. ¬†My parrots are beginning foragers, and foraging is a particular challenge with a bird as tiny as Sabrina is, so these are the few foraging tips that I’ve decided to implement for right now. ¬†Those with more advanced parrots will probably not find this entry particularly illuminating, but if you are getting started with foraging or just looking for different, easy tips to expand your foraging repertoire, I hope this helps!

Lola’s food bowl covered with kraft paper

Lola sticking her head under the paper instead

Some of the easiest foraging toys involve simply adding paper. ¬†The first thing I’ve started doing with Lola is simply putting some paper on top of her food bowls, and securing it with a little masking tape. ¬†I use natural Kraft paper and Japanese washi tape. ¬†(As a side note, I find Japanese washi tape particularly useful because it is reusable, and also because you can find it in about a billion colors and prints and patterns! ¬†To go with my natural theme, I use natural tones [browns, tans, dark leafy greens] and a wood grain washi tape.) ¬†It costs next to nothing and it takes about two seconds, so there’s no excuse not to do it– except that Lola absolutely doesn’t get it. ¬†For some reason, she doesn’t understand what in the world she is supposed to do. ¬†I can lift up the paper a million times to show her the food underneath it, but once I re-secure the paper, she stares at me like, “Well?? ¬†Where’s my food? ¬†What am I supposed to do with this?” ¬†She even walked on top of the paper across the bowl and looked under the bowl as if the food was hiding from her. ¬†Silly bird. ¬†I’ll keep trying ūüôā ¬†This is something I really want her to learn how to do because it’s one of the only ways I can think of to combine her fresh foods plus foraging.

more easy paper ideas

In fact, there’s an entire world of foraging ideas out there that just use paper. ¬†An assortment of some of the things I use is photographed above: mini kraft paper boxes, tiny tiny kraft paper bags, slightly larger kraft paper bags, one of my rolls of washi tape, and natural mini cupcake liners. ¬†The possibilities are endless. ¬†For an incredibly easy fix, wrap treats, squares of bird bread, or anything else in cupcake liners or dixie cups. ¬†If I hand Lola any nut wrapped up in a cupcake liner or a dixie cup, she knows exactly what to do, and she wastes no time getting to it. ¬†

miniature (2.5″ x 4″) kraft paper bags

Lola foraging with her paper bag almond treat

Another thing I absolutely love are these tiny little 2.5″ x 4″ kraft paper bags. ¬†They perfectly fit most in shell nuts and are adorable! ¬†I wrapped one up and secured it with some thin leather cord, and Lola loved it. ¬†The paper is actually a little bit thicker than most kraft paper bags, so it makes for a good treat wrapper. ¬†My good friend at Avian Avenue made a post about these bags and I have been obsessed ever since. ¬†(Actually, a lot of these ideas are things that she came up with first!! ¬†She is a truly inspirational parrot owner and has endless ideas for foraging toys and enrichment. ¬†The paper wrapped toy below is an original of hers, and I only found out about washi tape because of her as well.)

I buy all sizes of kraft paper bags now, and they are so versatile and easy to use. ¬†With a slightly larger bag, you can fill it up with any assortment of treats or foot toys or anything else and just hang it up in the cage. ¬†It’s like a parrot pinata and by changing the contents with each bag, you’ll keep your parrot guessing. ¬†(And again, it’s something that takes about 5 seconds and costs very little!)

diy paper wrapped foraging toy materials

step two: tie knots between each treat

the finished product!

But you don’t only have to use kraft paper bags as bags. ¬†I have some larger ones around 9″ long and I will cut them in half (so that they’re two detached sheets rather than a bag) and use them to create this paper wrapped foraging toy. ¬†In each section, there’s a treat: in this one, an almond, a hazelnut, and a dried cranberry. ¬†I am going to hang this up in Lola’s cage and she’ll have to forage her way to treat-dom. ¬†You can make even longer or shorter versions of it, or put anything you can dream up in each pocket.

a ton of different foraging ideas

Those paper boxes are also great. ¬†I put them together and poke holes through to skewer them (see the toy on the right in the above photo), but I am also going to try to side mount one with some stainless steel hardware. ¬†Above the cardboard box in the photo is a little wooden treat box that opens. ¬†There’s another super simple idea. ¬†You can find little wooden treat boxes or cups like this at most craft stores, or you can buy them online. ¬†I purchased this one from Things for Wings, where Danita is kind enough to drill holes through them, or add some stainless steel hardware to make a side-mounted foraging cup like Lola has in her cage. ¬†And on top of that there is a vine ball, which has endless possibilities (more on vine balls below).

In the center of the above photo is actually a deconstructed toy that I skewered. ¬†It’s actually a Planet Pleasures two that’s much larger (has two of those coconut feeders) and comes on a long piece of metal chain. ¬†I’m not a big fan of chain and I don’t use any non-stainless steel metals, plus the toy was ginormous, so I took the toy apart and made a smaller, skewered version. ¬†I actually really love the parts to this toy because aside from being made from great natural materials (just bamboo and coconut shells), it’s an awesome foraging feeder that requires Lola to stick her head in the coconut hole, but the upper coconut piece actually moves along the skewer and can be lifted up, so that there is no chance of her getting her head stuck. ¬†With a lot of the foraging toys out there that consist of a wood, bamboo, coconut, plastic, etc. base with a hole in it, you must be very careful to make sure that it is properly sized for your parrot and that your parrot won’t get his or her head stuck in it while busy foraging. ¬†This one bears no such risk and I think it’s a great toy. ¬†Plus the bowl is very generously sized, and is a great alternative to just putting a seed mix or pellets in a normal bowl everyday.

Finally, on the left in the photo up above is another toy that I deconstructed and made my own. ¬†I actually don’t know the name of this toy or the brand, but in store it comes with a bunch of dyed parts and other things stuffed inside the cardboard peanut base and attached to it elsewhere. ¬†I took all of that stuff off and skewered the cardboard peanut. ¬†I’m going to stuff it with some paper and other materials, and use it as a treat cage.

One more awesome foraging material: skewers! ¬†Skewers are so easy to use, and they’re reusable, and they make the perfect safe toy base for any size bird. ¬†Unlike rope or cord or chain, there’s no chance of a skewer getting tangled around your bird’s neck or toes, and they are great for toys or simply for skewering fresh veggies or food.

Lola and her cornucopia toy

Now back to vine balls. ¬†Vine balls area amazing. ¬†Strangely, I didn’t know this until I ordered this very cool toy from Things for Wings called the Cornucopia. ¬†Lola has always been such a wood chipper and has never really taken to shredding, so I had really stopped buying toys with vine balls or using them on my DIY toys. ¬†I’m not sure what possessed me to buy this toy– probably how cute it is– but it’s awesome. ¬†It’s a whole bunch of delectable parts in a basket (which is yet another great foraging toy part), which Lola loved to begin with, but she truly went nuts for it when I finally thought of putting treats inside the vine balls. ¬†Not only did it turn her on to a new toy part to play with, but it also got her exploring a lot more. ¬†I would put treats in some of the vine balls on some days, other vine balls on other days, and sometimes nothing, but every single day, she checked the entire toy without fail. ¬†And the more I introduced vine balls in other toys, she did the same thing. ¬†One of the best things about foraging is that when your parrot learns that there could be treats lurking in anything, they are way more willing to try new toys and to dive right in, and they are willing to go to different parts of the cage to explore and find them!

vine ball foraging toy

For example, once she learned that vine balls could contain treats, she would seek them out wherever she could.  I threw together this ugly skewered vine ball and wood toy in about 10 seconds, and it kept her busy for hours.  She could chip away at the wood and she could break for snack time, all from one spot.

a skewered plastic cup, vine ball, and natural box

Here’s another easy peasy foraging toy using a vine ball. ¬†This one’s also got a plastic cup and a little foraging box too, but it was still a breeze to make. ¬†With plastic cups nowadays I will usually wrap the treat in paper first (like one of those mini paper bags or mini cupcake liners), unless I know the plastic is food safe.

natural foraging materials

Those little boxes are really great resources as well.  A lot of bird toy stores carry little boxes or containers in all shapes and sizes, made out of great shreddable material.  These are just a few examples.

foraging toys made from natural shreddables

Stick them on a skewer, and suddenly you have a new toy! ¬†Lola loves this one in particular for some reason, and it’s really funny to watch her stick her whole head and half her body into this toy to fish out one measly sunflower seed. ¬†She pretty much always has some variation of this toy in her cage, and she forages for all sorts of dry foods out of it.

Similarly, natural baskets make great foraging toys.  You can skewer them, hang them, or side mount them, and throw some stuff in there.  Alternatively they also make great foot toy buckets.

shreddable bags

In the same vein, little shreddable bags also make great foraging toys, in particular for the little guys. ¬†I often find it challenging to create foraging opportunities for Sabrina, but this is one of her favorites. ¬†If I stick natural items or treats or anything into a little shopping bag like this one, Sabrina will go in and fish it right out. ¬†She loves these little bags and has gone through a ton of them. ¬†This one in particular is from Things for Wings. ¬†Be careful about the handles when using them and make sure they are either too small for your bird to get his head through, or large enough for him to get his whole body through. ¬†If they are somewhere in between, I’d snip the handles.

soft balsa wood toys

Soft woods make awesome foraging toys. ¬†Just like the balsa wood toy on the right from I Got a Woody, I often take all sorts of soft wood and push little treats into them to embed them in the wood. ¬†It will get your bird foraging but it’ll also help get them started destroying their toys and playing more. ¬†I do this with yucca and cork as well, as they are both very soft and great for embedding sunflower seeds or pine nuts. ¬†Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys carries corks in all sizes, but they also carry jumbo size ones I haven’t seen anywhere else that make awesome foot toys. ¬†Loofah is another cool toy part that also makes a great foraging base.

an extra small fantastic foraging block

Soft woods are great for embedded treats, but hard woods can do the trick too! ¬†The wooden block toy above is an awesome (and actually very cost effective toy) from Kris Porter called the Fantastic Foraging Block. ¬†(They also happen to be on sale right now!) ¬†As you can see above, you can stick hole veggies in the holes (like I did with the carrot tops), or you can put pieces of them in the slats (like I did with the actual carrot). ¬†Another great choice is are the wood toys from Parrot’s Treasure. ¬†I’m sure if you were handy with a drill, you could also make some awesome ones on your own.

DIY foraging toy 1

DIY foraging toy 2

DIY foraging toy 3

Don’t get me wrong– I’m absolutely not handy with a drill. ¬†But if you’re like me, you can still buy the parts for cheap and with a little patience, turn them into really cool toys! ¬†Here are three toys that I’m extra proud of. ¬†The one on top has a longer channel in it and three big hole openings, but you can make them more challenging by tying leather cord in them like I did so that the treats don’t just fall out and require some manipulation. ¬†Below that, the middle toy has a ton of fun wood to chew and destroy, but also holes embedded in the center blocks for treats. ¬†And finally, the one below it has two long foraging tubes that also have leather strips in front of the holes to make them more challenging. ¬†Notice that all three of them are based on my trusty stainless steel skewers as well!

DIY bridge / ladder swing

detail shot of the foraging blocks on the swing

My masterpiece is the DIY bridge / ladder swing above, which also marked my official retirement from DIY toys. ¬†(Just kidding. ¬†Sort of. ¬†I don’t take anything ambitious on anymore, at least.) ¬†But this is a really cool project, and I even managed to slip some foraging opportunities in there for Lola while she’s hanging out and swinging.

But there’s so much more. ¬†I recently mentioned the acrylic drawer toys from Parrot Island Inc. ¬†Still love ’em! ¬†They do admittedly require more of an upfront investment, but they are so well made that I am sure they’ll last forever. ¬†Another easy toy to make yourself: a measuring cup or stainless steel spoon toy. ¬†You can use what you already have, or buy a cheap set from the store. ¬†I also recently purchased some paper straws, which I’ve seen really cool toys made out of. ¬†I haven’t gotten them yet but will post some ideas once I receive them and figure out how to make something. ¬†Another thing I’m working on is creating foraging trays for my guys, both Lola and Sabrina. ¬†They’ll be wooden trays and I’ll fill them up with wood pieces, fresh branches and leaves, and other foraging material, and hidden will be some seeds, nuts, etc. that they will forage for. ¬†It’s a similar idea to creating a foraging food mix rather than just a dry food mix, which I’ve seen some manufacturers actually create now. ¬†I first learned about it here (a really cool link!).

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, until my guys advance to more difficult foraging tasks. ¬†I hope this has given you some ideas. ¬†For me, the key thing is to keep them guessing and keep changing it up! ¬†You might have noticed that Lola has about a billion different types of “bowls” in her cage: three food bowls, two foraging bowls, a coconut cup (will post about that soon), skewered boxes that serve as food bowls, acrylic drawers, a stainless steel toy bucket, etc. ¬†(Yes, Sabrina has a ton too.) ¬†They’re never all full at once, but she knows that I might put food or treats in any of them on any given day, so she checks them all. ¬†This keeps her busy and hunting around for food– foraging! ¬†It’s all about keeping her mind and body busy, and keeping her enriched. ¬†

For way more ideas and inspirational articles, definitely take a look at the following: Desi Milpacher’s article on foraging toys¬†and¬†Kris Porter’s two awesome enrichment books.

Sabrina Loves Hemp (Rope!)

October 14, 2013 § 3 Comments

I’m trying to keep my promise on updating, so here’s one about Sabrina. ¬†Sabrina’s all natural cage quest is going slower than imagined, but we’ll get there eventually. ¬†I have a few things hopefully coming in the upcoming weeks that should help it along. ¬†I’m not happy with how it looks overall right now, but I did want to share one cool swing that Sabrina just loves and loves. ¬†I had this custom made several months ago now, but never got to posting about it in my hiatus.

Let’s start with some background. ¬†Sabrina’s tiny little toe nails ¬†grow on the quicker side, and nail trimming is a serious issue for us. ¬†In order to get them down to a safer length, I have to grab her (which is in and of itself impossible and extremely stressful for both of us), and hold her while I clip. ¬†As most of you know, she is not hand tame and this is pretty much the most traumatic experience ever for her. ¬†She also has a beak like a razor and I come away with completely scarred hands. ¬†I have taken her to a vet to get them done, but it’s still just as stressful for her, plus there’s the added stress of getting her in the travel cage. ¬†Basically, either way she is very upset and it worsens our already fragile relationship. ¬†Her nails aren’t so long that they are causing problems with gripping or health or anything like that; they are just long enough to get stuck in cotton rope . ¬†But she absolutely loves her boings and cotton rope perches, and I didn’t want to take them all away. ¬†However, they became supervision-only toys because she could easily get her little toes stuck in them. ¬†I needed a safe solution for her that would be just as soft and comfortable for her, but didn’t pose the risks that the long strands of the cotton rope did.

Sabrina and her custom hemp orbit!

The lovely Michelle at Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys was kind enough to entertain an entire collection of custom requests from me. ¬†After literally months of research into all sorts of rope alternatives and safe sources of them (that’s the hard part– finding un-oiled, safe ropes), I finally found a company that made organic, un-oiled, totally raw and chemical-free hemp rope. ¬†I had this company send a spool over to MPBT, where they turned it into a line of amazing perches, swings, and boings for Sabrina! ¬†They did such a fantastic job with everything, and not only does Sabrina love it all, but it’s such a great and safe material for her tiny little toes. ¬†The hemp rope doesn’t loosen into the long solid strands that cotton rope does, so her toes don’t get caught in it. ¬†It’s soft and comfy on her feet, but at the same time is durable and I can feel safe leaving it in her cage unsupervised. ¬†Sabrina is pictured on her custom orbit (it’s their small orbit swing, but with an extra ring to make it more like an atom), but she’s also enjoying a beautiful boing and several rope perches with and without stainless steel wire.

It’s only off in the corner of the photo, but in the top left you can also see Sabrina’s favorite new toy. ¬†It’s a miniature-sized, all natural version of the Candy Stack Corky Toy from Things for Wings, and she is just obsessed! ¬†It usually takes her a while to warm up to new things, but this one was an instant hit.

Now this part has nothing to do with Sabrina, but i just thought I’d share these funny photos of Lola stealing my apple. ¬†I went apple picking this weekend and got some beautiful (and pesticide-free!) apples, and she can’t get enough! ¬†ūüôā

Lola’s New Setup

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.

In case it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten who Lola is, here she is checking out her new surroundings!

a full frontal view of her new setup

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 ūüôā

Using Rope Toys and Perches (Plus, a Review!)

April 28, 2011 § 14 Comments

Using natural cotton rope in cages is something that I often go back and forth on.¬† Even though there are certain toys I would never purchase — ones with very long, dangling strands of cotton rope marketed as “preening” toys — I have purchased many toys that use cotton rope as the base, only to realize after the fact that perhaps this too could be a safety hazard.¬† I was looking at some of my older photos recently and found this one:

Lola perched next to a former toy, now reduced to cotton rope

I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, wow, could that dead toy have been a safety hazard? After all, there are three or four strands of cotton rope right there, each about four or five inches long.¬† Am I lucky that Lola didn’t strangle herself, or lose a toe?¬† I have no idea.¬† Regardless, lately, I have been a lot more cognizant of purchasing toys made with cotton rope, and I do make a point of avoiding it.¬† It’s easy enough to find safe alternatives, and since I make most of Lola’s toys anyway, it’s not really an issue.

I felt good about my decision, especially after reading this great but very sad post on the Phoenix Landing blog about fabric causing blockages in a lory’s body and leading to his very death.¬† In the blog post, titled “Yet Another Cautionary Tale,” their vet notes that for parrots “that like to pick on thread or fabric,” even very tiny pieces, “a mass can form that plugs the bird’s stomach.”¬† So not only are there strangulation and toe-catching issues, but even ingestion ones from just tiny pieces of fabric, cotton, or whatever the culprit.

And if you scan the online parrot forums and communities, banning cotton rope toys is actually a relatively common thing to do.¬† (I say that because I do admit that many of my no-no’s are ultra paranoid and definitely do not represent the norm, but for once this is not just me!)¬† Many, many parrot owners will specify that they do not want their toys strung on any sort of cotton rope nor do they allow any cotton rope toys in cage.¬† There are even some parrot toy stores that don’t use any cotton rope at all now as well.

It has always seemed strange to me, then, that most parrot owners do not feel this way about cotton rope perches.¬† After all, don’t they pose a lot of the same dangers as those cotton toys that most parrot owners would regard as dangerous?¬† Whether in toy or perch form, toe-snagging threads can easily come loose and pose a safety risk to a parrot.¬† I know many of us are very diligent at inspecting all perches for loose threads daily, but what about when we are at work and aren’t there to see our parrot chew up a rope perch into many loose threads, only to get a toe stuck a few minutes later?¬† There are so many safety risks that can happen in the span of a few minutes, or even seconds.¬† Is there a reason why so many parrot owners seem to feel differently about cotton rope in toys as opposed to cotton rope perches?

Lola on a Mother Pluckin' Bird Toys cotton rope perch

Although not for cotton rope safety reasons, I actually stopped using cotton rope perches in my cages a long while ago, when I realized that all of them have galvanized wires inside of them.¬† Thankfully, however, Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys now has a great selection of cotton rope perches with stainless steel wire inside of them!¬† Ironically, I purchased a whole bunch and they arrived around the same time that I decided to stop using cotton rope toys in cages.¬† Although I did test them out, I realized that they really do have all of the same safety risks, and wasn’t sure I felt comfortable using them.¬† That, coupled with the fact that Lola loves to chew on this blissful and soft cotton rope, made me have flashbacks about that poor lory.¬† (All that aside, these are excellent and super high quality rope perches and if you do feel comfortable using them in cage, they are fantastic!)¬† So, I attached a few outside of their cages, and left it at that.

Charles on his very favorite custom-made swing from Grey Feather Toys

Even more recently, I was rearranging cages, and then realized: wait a minute!¬† Charles’s very favorite swing of all time, his custom-made sleepy swing from Grey Feather Toys, has cotton rope.¬† Why have I never even thought twice about letting him have this swing in cage?¬† It made me realize something very special about the way that Grey Feather Toys wraps their swings and boings.

On their website, they advertise that “Most swings are made by tucking the wire within the center of the rope. Grey Feather Toys completely wraps the stainless steel wire base with natural rope giving you almost a triple wrap.”¬† I will be honest — I used to think this was a silly marketing ploy that really didn’t make a difference.¬† In fact, I have read this on other boing and swing makers’ sites — that it doesn’t make a quality difference at all.¬† But there is one really important implication of this process: they use smaller diameter rope.¬† Smaller diameter rope means a much tighter weave that the thicker diameters simply can’t have.¬† Even on their thicker diameter rope swings that I have, the actual diameter of the rope is probably only about 3/8″ or maybe 1/2″.¬† Therefore, the threads of the ropes that they use are incredibly unlikely to come loose.¬† Plus, they wrap them incredibly tightly and secure them with tight knots as well.

I realized that of all of my Grey Feather Toys swings (and I have a lot), I have scrubbed them, cleaned them, run them under hot water, let the bids chew them up, etcetera– and I have never had a single thread even begin to come loose on a Grey Feather Toys swing.¬† They are wrapped so tightly and the threads themselves are so tight that it simply isn’t an issue.¬† Charles and Sabrina gnaw their swing every night– they rub their mash-covered beaks on it and I have to take it out and scrub it, very harshly, every morning– and it still looks new.

Charles on his custom rope perch from Grey Feather Toys

You know what happened next– I contacted the company about making some custom rope perches with stainless steel wire inside.¬† Rebecca Wells, a woman with the patience of a saint, was nice enough to oblige me!¬† I am so happy with these extremely high quality, durable, and most importantly, safe rope perches.¬† I haven’t put them inside the cages just yet because the flock just had their cages rearranged, but I won’t have to think twice about the safety of doing so in the future.¬† Not only do they feature their typical tightly woven rope, but Grey Feather Toys also welds the stainless steel wire to the connectors inside the perch to hold the rope in place because of their no glue policy!¬† Because of the welding, they do have to use a very stiff wire, making the perch somewhat difficult to bend (on par with the Mother Pluckin’ rope perches), but they are also extremely sturdy.¬† Lola can land on the budgie-sized perches and they don’t give at all under her weight.

A thick custom rope perch for Lola

A close-up of the tight weave on Lola's rope perch

Of course, I purchased Lola-sized ones as well, and they are so well made.¬† As you can see, the cotton rope is woven so tightly that I am confident that there won’t be loose threads.¬† Of course, I will continue to monitor all cotton rope items daily for any safety hazards, just in case.¬† But I am so happy with the excellent quality and safety of these rope perches, and I am glad that I can worry about one less thing.¬† Yay!

Anyway, back to the original subject: what do you guys think?  I am actually very interested to know who feels cotton rope is safe or unsafe, who makes a distinction between cotton toys vs. cotton perches, and why?

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