July 24, 2011 § 1 Comment
One of my dear friends over on Avian Avenue sent me the most incredible package this past week and I’ve subsequently gained fifty pounds. Everything in it is so delectable!! She put together a beautiful bundle of hand-picked treats from her city that she felt would represent “slices of Montreal,” but she also chose items that she specifically remembered I’d mentioned I liked, like salted caramels, strawberry jam, and anything chocolate! I am so impressed by her generosity and her great taste!! I adore everything and the maple lollies are almost too cute to eat, but I am simply blown away by these delicious puff pastry pretzels. They’re just delicious– the perfect flaky texture with just a hint of sweetness. Very dangerous!
I loved getting something in the mail that, for once, wasn’t for the birds but rather for me! 🙂 But of course, it included a little something for the birds as well. She was nice enough to send along a lovely bioSnacky glass sprouting jar as well, a sprouter I had read about online but was unable to find here in the U.S. It’s a glass jar that is used for sprouting but it comes with this great mesh top for drainage but it also has a little stand on the side so that you can keep it upside down but at an angle!
I put it to the test with a lovely accompanying packet of quinoa, radish, and lentil seeds to sprout. I was very happy to see that they started sprouting almost immediately after their soak! They were ready to serve in record time, and the budgies in particular loved them. I’m not sure if it’s the sprouter or the seeds but I’m very pleased with both. The sprouter has such a simple design, but I like it– a lot more than I thought I would. It’s extremely easy to use, there aren’t a bunch of parts to keep track of, and best of all, the main chamber is glass! I’m a total plastic-phobe so that in and of itself was enough to attract me. I find it far easier to clean and sanitize. I love it so much that I already want a second!
Up until now, my sprouter of choice has been the Easy Sprout Sprouter, made by Sproutamo. It consists of two plastic chambers– the smaller and slightly shorter one fits inside of the other and allows the sprouts to be just slightly suspended over the bottom of the chamber for optimal humidity. It’s far easier to find in the U.S. than the bioSnacky sprouting jar, plus it works well. (I can’t be bothered with cheese cloths or anything more complicated.) But I’m not crazy about the design or the fact that it is plastic. I find that it’s necessary to be extremely diligent about washing and disinfecting it– although I wash mine thoroughly each and every time I use it, I noticed that there were little pockets of bacteria and other things beginning to grow in it, especially around the rim of the inner chamber as well as the bottom drainage area of the inner chamber. Disinfection is necessary with a plastic sprouter, at least in my experience. I’ve actually tossed one of mine because of the bacteria issue.
I do love my new bioSnacky sprouting jar, but I am going to put it to the test and see how my two sprouters compare under the same conditions. Today I started a new batch in both of them of Totally Organics All in One seeds– same bag, same water, same time, same everything. I will be taking photos of the two along the way. We’ll see how they both fare!
July 12, 2011 § 1 Comment
Finally… the very last of my many sale orders. This one is from Avian Organics. I am sure you can’t tell but I do actually try to avoid shopping from Canadian vendors when I can help it. Nothing against Canada, just, the shipping is so expensive compared to most domestic vendors. But there are simply some small businesses in Canada creating such unique, safe, and quality bird products that I’d be doing my parrots a serious disservice not to shop from them. I really don’t think there are any domestic vendors that match up to several of them… Oliver’s Garden and Things for Wings, of course, come to mind. Avian Organics is another one of them. There is not a single American company creating a full range of foods with the quality and standards of Avian Organics, especially not with the recent closing of Good Stuff Parrot Food this past year. Avian Organics is currently the only parrot food vendor on the market that makes an entire range of foods with a commitment to 100% organic and human grade parrot foods made without any preservatives, additives, fillers, low grade ingredients, or allergens such as peanuts, corn, or soy. (Totally Organics does follow these standards as well but they don’t have an entire range; only the pellet and sprout mixes really. I use and like both very much though.) What’s more is that Avian Organics makes absolutely delicious items and seems to really know how to entice parrots (and people)! Their mixes are such big hits with my guys that you’d think I starved them!
When I do order from them, I really try to stock up to get the most out of my shipping. So despite my very small flock, I ordered quite a bit this time around. This order included (although several items had custom tweaks to them):
- Sweet Potato Sticks
- Cupid Cookies
- Country Cookies
- Jumbo Truffles
- Pacific Shores Gourmet Seed (2)
- Pacific Deluxe Parrot Mix (2)
- Avian Vitality Sprouts
- Mango Medley
- Andean Ambrosia
- Quick Serve (2)
To top off an already large order, the owner, Doris, was nice enough to send a free sample of Mini Truffles and beautiful in shell walnuts, and I won a draw for a Loro Explorador toy with some Mango Ginger Minis! I am so excited for these delicious items. Lola has already tried the Mini and Jumbo Truffles (these are brand new items at Avian Organics) and she loves both! I was surprised that she could handle the Jumbo Truffles because they are quite large but I guess I underestimate that big beak of hers. She also loves the in shell walnuts. They’re quite a challenge for her but they’re also quite the reward.
Another new item for me (albeit not to the store) is the Avian Vitality Sprouts. I was so excited to get these. When I opened the bag, the first thing I noticed was the fresh and spicy aroma! I think it might be the fenugreek. It’s the only thing in the ingredients I’ve yet to come across. I started sprouting immediately and I am so happy with the results! As you can see from the photo, everything looks quite small in the bag. I was so pleased when I started soaking them and they nearly tripled in volume! They really soaked up the water rapidly and I ended up with a lot more than I’d bargained for. I took some photos of the progress:
I was really surprised by how quickly they sprouted. They really did not take much longer at all than my normal seed and grain sprouts. I always avoid sprouting legumes because I have this strange mistaken belief that they take much longer to sprout and I am paranoid about bacteria, but these grew their tails rapidly! I picked out some of the sprouts with at least a 1/4″ tail to serve with dinner. Dinner tonight was some delicious Quick Serve, the absolute favorite of all the cooking mixes in this household across all three of my birds. They go crazy for it, and it smells so good!! I have been tempted to eat it myself, many a time. It has a delicious apple, cinnamon, and coconut aroma. After it cooled I added a few choice sprouts on top.
It went over quite well with all three of my little ones. Lola in particular gobbled up the green peas and the garbanzo bean sprouts first thing!! They will get some more for breakfast with some other choice veggies. I’m so happy with these delicious and healthy Avian Organics items!
June 30, 2011 § 10 Comments
I have been wanting to create an organic and healthier version of the Nutri-Berry for a long while now. They look very tasty and fun for birds to eat, but the ingredient list contains a few things I’d rather not feed, so I’ve always stayed away from them. I did some searches online for some recipes and have tried some in the past that required egg whites and baking, but those recipes never seemed to work very well as they don’t yield the softer texture that seems so appealing about the actual Nutri-Berry to so many parrots. I finally found a very unique one that used molasses and no baking, and was intrigued. I gathered all of my ingredients this weekend and finally got to work! The molasses content isn’t overwhelming but it does make them pretty sweet; these snacks will be used as treats only among my flock, but they look pretty delectable if I may say so myself! I threw together the ingredients at random so feel free to add, subtract, or substitute as you please. I didn’t measure anything but used varying amounts… there are probably equal amounts of each puffed grain, but not quite as much in the way of sunflower seeds or cranberries as there are other ingredients.
Ingredients (All Organic):
- Puffed Brown Rice
- Puffed Buckwheat
- Puffed Barley
- Puffed Triticale
- Flax Seed
- Sesame Seed
- Sunflower Seed (shelled)
- Pumpkin Seed (shelled)
- Unsweetened Cranberries
- Unsweetened Papaya
- Unsweetened Mango
- Totally Organics Pellets (Crumplet Size)
- Coconut Oil
First I took any of the larger ingredients– papaya, mango, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seed– and chopped them in the food processor until they were uniform in size, and nice and small for the treats. I left the rest in tact, but they can also be run through the food processor for smaller birds. I then combined all ingredients except for the molasses and coconut oil in a large, non-reactive mixing bowl– see the photograph above. (The first time around I forgot to add the pellets, but they were added shortly after I added the molasses.)
Next I poured some molasses into a small saucepan. I’m not sure of exactly how much I used, but it was probably around 1/3 of a cup (there was also plenty of molasses left in the saucepan when I was done). I put it on the stove over medium heat waiting for it to bubble. In the mean time, I lined a few trays with waxed paper, and lightly coated a spatula with coconut oil to use for mixing. When the molasses began to bubble, I quickly poured it over the dry ingredients and vigorously mixed them until there was just enough molasses to cat all of the ingredients and make them just sticky enough to form.
I then lightly coated my own hands with coconut oil and began to form them into little balls. It took a few rounds to get it down correctly. Too much oil and the balls don’t hold together, but not enough and the ingredients just stick to your hands. You also have to re-coat your hands after every few treats (I ended up re-coating after every third treat). As I’m sure you can guess… this is a very messy endeavor! Be prepared to be coated in lots of oil and molasses and stickiness by the time you are done.
Some of them aren’t quite as nicely shaped as others, but I think they came out quite well! My recipe made nearly three trays of treats. Lola had just eaten and wasn’t hungry when I offered her one so unfortunately I have no idea if they’re any good or not just yet, but hopefully they will be a big hit. I tasted one and it was quite good, kind of like a sticky trail mix treat.
June 3, 2011 § 8 Comments
Probably the most baffling and intimidating part of being a parrot owner for me is feeding my parrots. There is so little research on what our parrots are actually eating in the wild, and even less so on what are the necessary or appropriate nutritional profiles of their meals. With some parrots, you can find basic information– Cape Parrots, for example, normally feed almost exclusively off of the fruit of the yellowwood tree (although due to habitat destruction they now also feed off of pecan trees, plum trees, and some other crops, but this is not believed to be an ideal diet and may also be one of the contributing factors to the widespread PBFD outbreaks among the wild populations). Budgies, of course, feed mostly off of grasses, sprouted or germinated seeds, and the occasional wheat crop; Hyacinth Macaws predominantly feed off of two species of palm nuts. But what is the nutritional content of these foods, and what kinds of protein and fat and sugar levels are we looking at? That information is nearly impossible to find, which makes it exceedingly difficult to design an appropriate diet in captivity, being that we have no access to their natural diets nor to the nutritional makeup of them.
For me, this is the number one argument against any pellet-based or majority pellet diet. (No, I don’t believe in seed-based either; that’s an entirely different story.) I don’t care what it says on the package– formulated specifically for macaws, or formulated with lower protein levels for birds prone to gout– the fact of the matter is, if our wildlife conservationists and avian nutrition researchers cannot figure out exactly what type of nutritional profile is appropriate for a bird in the wild let alone a bird in captivity, then corporate pet food manufacturers certainly can’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single formula pellet in different sizes or species-specific pellet; there is no be all end all recipe.
Besides, if you look at the vast majority of pellets on the market, you’ll see that the main ingredients are corn, soy, and wheat, then a bunch of synthetic vitamins. These companies fool bird owners into thinking that they are providing a “complete diet” because they’ve injected an artificial multivitamin into their pellet. Well, let’s apply this logic to our own bodies: if we ate corn on the cob and pasta everyday as the majority of our diet for the rest of our lives but took a daily “complete” multivitamin… what kind of state of health do you think we’d be in? Not so good. Not so good at all.
What about the fact that I switched my bird to almost exclusively pellets and his feathers have never looked better? Well, in the short term, pellets can dramatically increase health. If you switched your parrot from a seed diet to a pellet diet, of course you’d probably see a dramatic change. Why? Well let’s apply the same logic to our own bodies. If we ate fatty nuts and seeds all day, exclusively, for an extended period of time, then began taking a multivitamin and some corn and wheat, wouldn’t you expect to see some great changes? The increase in diversity of diet alone would help, as would the decreased fat and oil content, and the synthetic vitamins would surely help in the short term. Notice that the pellet manufacturers that make claims about nutrition will only show photos of “six months later!” or studies that have been conducted in the short term.
It’s the long term, however, that I’m worried about. Over time, those synthetic vitamins can build up and cause potential problems with vitamin toxicity, and the daily diet of simply corn/soy/wheat will take its toll. There are several long term studies that show that in small birds, namely budgies, cockatiels, parrotlets, and even lovebirds, a long term all pellet or majority pellet diet is incredibly tough on their liver and leads to gout and other problems. I suspect– and obviously this is simply my own theory, not backed by any evidence or experimentation– that the only reason we hear about these problems only in small birds is because their life spans are short enough that we have actually been able to do these types of studies. I would venture to guess that we’d see these problems arise in most species of parrots, if we had the ability to see how they affect the health of the longer lived parrots as well.
Do I think that pellets, then, are inherently bad? Well, it’s complicated. I do believe that if you feed a high quality pellet, then pellets can very well be a part of a complete and healthy diet. But that statement is complicated, because I honestly feel that there are very few high quality pellets on the market. To me, a high quality pellet is at minimum human grade– which knocks out nearly all of them, including Zupreem and Roudybush despite their reputations as superior for whatever reason. These pellets all contain menadione, a synthetic form of Vitamin K that I feel is very dangerous (you can read more about it here), and otherwise they are all simply some concoction of corn/soy/wheat/synthetic vitamins, which to me does not sound healthful by any means. The only three human grade pellets are Harrison’s, Goldn’obles, and Totally Organics. But are they high quality? I feel somewhat unsure about Harrison’s since it is also mostly corn, soy, and wheat, as well as peanuts which I choose not to feed; I feel similarly about Goldn’obles, which contain corn and soy, and also two sources of added sugar if I am not mistaken. (Somebody I know, in fact, tasted them and said they do indeed taste rather sweet.)
I feel the absolute safest using Totally Organics and it is currently the only pellet I’d feed my flock. The ingredients list is spectacular and I do not feel unsure about a single ingredient on it. Even still, my flock’s pellet intake is only about 10-20% of their daily diet, and we often have entirely pellet-free days when I am able to be home to keep their food offerings fresh. I am often asked, which pellet would I feed if TOPs went off the market? Well, the answer would probably be none, to be honest. I do not feel that it is right as a parrot owner to “settle” when I know that I could do better.
So, that’s my take on pellets, finally all written up in one entry. I know that the natural follow up question is, well, what is the other 80-90% of their diet? (And no, it is not seed.) That, however, I will have to tackle another day. But I’ll leave you with a hint.
April 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
I was so pleased to open up my sprouter this morning and find perfect, fresh sprouts! Usually I don’t have enough time to actually get past the soaking part, or if I do then I oversprout them past their nutritional prime– but today I got it just right. The majority of the seeds have just 1/4″ tails. They’re gorgeous!!
A lot of people defend a mostly seed, or seed-based diet by arguing that it can’t be all that bad if it’s what parrots eat in the wild. Well, for most parrots, this is blatantly untrue. Most parrots that eat seeds in the wild forage for them in the ground, where they are embedded in the soil. What does this mean? Well, soil not only carries moisture but also a TON of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The seeds that a parrot would eat in the wild are never dry seed mixes but rather seeds that have already begun germinating through the moisture and nutrient content of the soil. (Germination is the first step of sprouting.) Thus, the seeds that parrots eat in the wild are much lower in fat and much higher in nutritional value as they are truly an “alive” food.
Furthermore, even if parrots were eating dry seed mixes in the wild (which they aren’t), that doesn’t mean that we should mimic that at home anyway– also keep in mind that parrots in the wild forage and fly all day long, burning off all of that extra fat and energy. They’re subject to the elements and need all of the extra nutritional value they can get. This is not to say that dry seed deserves no place in a captive parrot’s diet– I think that a small amount is perfectly acceptable. But for my guys it never amounts to more than a maximum of maybe 15-20% of their daily diet (and usually a lot less). We can do so much better with fresh, live, germinated and sprouted seeds, and I believe I owe it to my parrots to do that. To me, sprouts are probably the best we can do for our captive birds– I think they are more nutritious than dry seeds, pellets, cooked foods, or anything else.
Lola and Charles happily munched away at their breakfasts this morning. Along with the lovely sprouts, I chopped up some sweet red, orange, and yellow peppers, kale, swiss chard, cooked sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. And I sprinkled some bee pollen on top! We had a lovely array of red, orange, yellow, green, and white. Colorful, stimulating to the senses, delicious, and packed with nutrition!
[This entry has been imported, with some edits, from my previous blog.]