New Year, New Setup

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:

the whole cage

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.

the door

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.

the left side of the cage

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.

the center back view

bonus photo of lola

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.

the right side

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?

How Much is the Bird on the Wingdow?

December 3, 2014 § 1 Comment

Sorry, but she’s not for sale! 🙂

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!

Lola Turns Four!

April 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Four years ago today, my lovely little Lola girl hatched! She might be an April Fool’s Day baby but it’s no joke how much I love her. She is my perfect little girl and truly a dream parrot!! My eternal gratitude to the wonderful Maggie Tarleton of Wing Nuts Aviary for raising my beautiful Lola. Here are a few snaps of her from this morning.

And here’s another photo of her on her brand new beautiful birch perch, from I Got a Woody! They very kindly surprised us with this beauty and another huge, chunky willow bark perch this week as a thank you for helping them revamp their website. (I have some web experience and volunteered to help out.) If you haven’t checked out their new site yet, you should! Maybe I’m biased, but I think it’s looking pretty good 🙂 Oh, and even better, they’re having a pretty fantastic 15% off sale right now if you enter the code “Spring1415” at checkout. I picked up some goodies for Lola, Sabrina, and even Karat too!

Actually, it’s a good time to shop, because a few of our favorite stores are holding sales. Off the top of my head I know Avian Organics (celebrating their eighth year!) is having an awesome one as is Oliver’s Garden. Happy Shopping!!

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… 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!

Some Random New Things in the New Year

January 16, 2014 § 2 Comments

2014 has only just begun and it already feels like a whirlwind!  Goodness, sometimes life can really get in the way.  🙂  Anyway, just a few random updates here with no particular threading holding everything together.

fantastic foraging foot toys!

not the greatest photo, but lola working on her almond

First up, Lola has brand new all-time favorite foot toys!  The wonderful Kris Porter of Parrot Enrichment designed some amazing and enticing foot toys, exclusive to Things for Wings.  They are awesome!  They are perfect for a smaller in shell almond (I usually buy Lola these chunky big kahuna ones because they are much more challenging, but these holes are only 3/4″ I believe, so only smaller ones will fit).  I lodged a few inside the foraging holes and let her work away.  They drive her nuts because she can’t get the almond out without actually breaking into the wood.  It’s one of the few foraging toys that combines both visibility of the treat but also more of a challenge.  I have trouble with increasing the difficulty rate of a lot of Lola’s foraging because for her, once it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.  But these give her visual confirmation of a reward, and also make her work much harder for it than a lot of my more simple foraging toys.

lola’s sunflower basket

On the topic of Things for Wings, we’ve gotten two awesome packages from them in the past month or two, but keep forgetting to take photos.  I did snap one of her gorgeous Sunflower Basket, which is both a toy and a forager and a perching area all in one!  I’m wondering if it will fit in her cage.  I’m planning on rearranging the whole cage soon, though, and will definitely be adding a lot of our new perches (like the Fantastic Foraging Perch or the chunky willow bark foraging perch!) so I will have photos soon.  Sabrina also got some cute little toys.

nautical goodies from oliver’s garden

What’s that?  More toys?  Well, I couldn’t resist placing an order with Oliver’s Garden before they shut down for new year renovations.  This one was just a small one but we got some awesome goodies– Lola’s beloved crabby toy, an awesome new lobster toy that has stainless steel hardware to be side-mounted, as well as an awesome hitching post perch for Sabrina and a tiny maple candy toy too.  To fit in with Sabrina’s all natural oasis, I switched out the colorful beads below the perches with some natural ones, but it still looks gorgeous.  I’m thinking of using it as a foraging platform for her and putting some natural materials in it and maybe some sprinkles of seed or crumplets for her to pick at.  I love that she will be able to perch on the small, natural wood perches on the side.

veggies and more!

In other news, here’s a photo of a big batch of mixed veggies I made the other day.  It had a mix of fresh and dry ingredients: sweet pea shoots, broccoli, kale, bok choy, watercress, coconut, pomegranate, red peppers, carrots, mulberries, mango, goji berries, figs, laver (seaweed), corn, peas, sesame seed, dandelion, and alfalfa.  I think that’s everything.  For some reason it was still very wet and my attempt to freeze it didn’t pan out well but I’ll keep trying.

The Budgies’ New Setup, Too

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.

the entire cage

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.

open sesame

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!

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 🙂

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