December 3, 2016 § 5 Comments
Hello, parrot people! It’s been too long. But Lola and I are doing well, and so much has changed for us since we last wrote. We are now proud residents of sunny California, where we have been enjoying the year-round beautiful weather, and many more days outside soaking up vitamin D. Lola and I made an epic cross-country road trip together, where we got to see many, many parts of the U.S. we’d never seen before. In less happy news, Lola came very close to getting a new sister and flock mate, another female cape parrot. She was a much, much older and retired breeder, but unfortunately she passed away at home just a week before we planned to adopt her. We all agreed it was for the best that she passed away in comfortable, familiar surroundings. And we are still waiting for our perfect adult female cape companion for Lola.
I am even more sad to say that this fall, Scott Lewis of Old World Aviaries passed away. Scott was truly a giant in the cape parrot and general aviculture community. He was a wonderful man who had extensive expertise and was always willing to share it and help out. When I was first researching what parrot species would suit me, I found videos of the most charming parrot online, Thor, who I learned was a cape parrot from none other than Scott Lewis. His website provided a wealth of information, and when I emailed him letting him know that I was interested in learning more, he immediately offered his help and knowledge with absolutely no expectation that I would be a customer of his. When I eventually chose another breeder, whom he happened to know, he had only the most wonderful things to say about her and told me I had made a great choice. And he and I continued to discuss cape parrots, their classification, their diets, their habits, and their all-around wonderfulness for many years after that. He was a kind man who genuinely loved parrots and spreading that love. Rest in peace, Scott. You are already sorely missed.
I thought I’d share Lola’s latest cage setup, which we are still perfecting for optimal perch placement. The front panel’s lower area is pretty empty at the moment but I can’t seem to find a spot that won’t get soiled daily. So we’re still experimenting. Also, apologies for terrible photos. These were taken in the early morning, and although the room was sun drenched and lovely, the photos look quite dim due to the back lighting.
I often get messages asking if I still recommend Expandable Habitats, and the answer is an effusive yes! Lola’s cage is still going strong and is every bit as sturdy as the day it came home. They’re a big investment, but it’s a lot of peace of mind to never have to worry about checking all of the bars for chipped paint or rust, or worrying that there is something toxic that could hurt her.
Starting with the left side, there’s a food bowl on her main door, along with a fun natural and shreddable toy. (There’s also a flagstone platform perch to the left of the bowl, but it’s not visible in this photo.) Just behind that toy is a safety pumice perch, and above that is a chunky willow wood perch with lots of delicious bark (and Lola sitting on top of it, playing with her acrylic ball foraging toy).
On the side door of the left panel of the cage is another food bowl, and next to it a fantastic foraging perch. I love these perches– lots of ridges for chewing but also holes drilled throughout for stuffing with food (I like stuffing them with stalks of carrots or cucumbers or zucchini, or in shell nuts). On the back wall there is a cardboard box holder in acrylic for more foraging fun. And all the way up in the corner is a hard-to-get treat pot.
Lola’s got her soft and fuzzy swing hanging on this side, as well as another fantastic foraging block toy, hanging from the ceiling. (We’re big on foraging!) And on the right of this photo but the center of the cage is a lovely cotton boing with a great Avian Stainless bell toy that makes tons of noise hanging in the middle.
Around the center of the back panel is a platform perch, I believe in elm– Things for Wings always has so many beautiful types of wood for platforms. To the right of that is hard to see, but it’s an acrylic drawer foraging toy with two side-by-side drawers that pull and slide. And next to that is another really beautiful platform perch, this one with built-in toys on one and and lots of cork drilled into the sides. That one definitely keeps her busy. Up above you can see one balsa Christmas tree toy, which is hiding a second holiday toy behind it, a mini snowman’s head, both from Tweety Pie’s Bird Toys. Lola has made short work of the santa one. On the right, one of her favorite double-ended ribbon wood perches, still an old stand by. Next to it is a second cardboard box foraging toy with an acrylic holder.
Below that layer is another with (on the left) a great toy packed with balsa and cork, a very prized cajeput perch that I’d been hoarding (sadly, it’s my last), and an Avian Stainless pepper toy. In the corner is Lola’s trusty stainless steel toy bucket chock full of stray toy parts and foot toys, straddled by a sandblasted manzanita corner perch. And up front here, another food bowl.
And that’s it! So far, so good with perch placement of the existing perches. We like to rotate toys and also make sure there’s a variety of types and textures in there. So many toy companies have come and gone the past few years, but we are thankful for all of the wonderful toymakers who have provided Lola with so much enrichment and fun.
January 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
Nothing like a snow day to get in some extra snuggle time with your little loves! Juno didn’t actually bring all that much snow to our area, but I understand that some areas of New England really got dumped on. I hope everybody is staying safe and warm. Lola and I are taking today to get in lots of quality time. I also thought it would be nice to make some time for the blog! I changed Lola’s cage setup recently for the new year, and we’ve had a week or two already to test it out. She and I both approve. It’s a little different from our normal setups in that we usually have certain places we like certain perches to be, but I decided to change it up and see what happened.
I know I’ve said this before, but I’ve really gotten Lola to truly maximize her cage space by adding foraging opportunities at all different levels. I know so many people that say their birds never go in the lower half of the cage or favor certain spots. You can help encourage them to be more active and utilize their space by making sure they get rewarded when they do! Lola never knows she’ll find down in her toy bucket, or her foraging pot. So she makes sure to wander over and check them both out regularly. Take a look:
Here’s the full view, door open. There’s a bit of a “bald spot” in the back– I had to take out a foraging toy for cleaning, but normally there’d also be a clear acrylic drawer foraging toy in the lower back between the cotton rope perch and the sandblasted manzanita corner perch. We’ll take a tour from left to right.
Here’s the door, which is simple but has a few perching spots for Lola. On the left is a natural cork bark perch from I Got a Woody Bird Toys, along with one of their fantastic basswood and cork toys (or, what’s left of it), and at the bottom on the right is a treasured cajeput perch. Yes, I may have hoarded a few of them over the years.
Moving towards the left, there are two stainless steel ring bowl holders (the cage is empty right now because I was changing water and cleaning, etc.). The center top perch is one of the Fantastic Foraging Perches from Things for Wings. Lola loves this perch. The sides are totally torn up as she makes her way through it. I like to stuff treats or even veggies in the foraging holes. Try threading a whole skinny carrot or even a leafy green (broccolini can work nicely) through them. There’s another Things for Wings toy above that, and to the right is her favorite Avian Stainless toy, the Crosswinds.
Moving downwards, on the far left is an awesome side-mounted toy from I Got a Woody, and Lola’s trusty double-bolted ribbon wood perch from the Birdsafe Store in the middle. Normally, I always put this one high up as a roosting perch, but I’m actually finding it works nicely in that spot. The area below the side door is always kind of a weird place because you can’t really hang toys on the door or else they get in the way when you’re opening and closing them, but this perch allowed me to put the foraging pot in the middle, and gives Lola some room to move around easily. Finally, on the right is an Eco Perch from Polly’s. I like that it helps to keep Lola’s nails trim, but is not at all abrasive.
Here’s the center back (and Lola!). You can see the Eco Perch on the left, but in the foreground is Lola’s snuggly supreme cotton rope swing from Big Beaks. Behind it in the back is her awesome Skywalk perch from Oliver’s Garden. I’m not sure you can tell from the photo, but it’s a really, really cool hardwood platform perch with embedded beads, and a “trap door” of sorts in the center. Hanging above it in the back is a garland toy packed with fantastic parts from I Got a Woody. Snaking from the lower center to the upper right is our favorite cotton rope perch from Grey Feather Toys. We are still sad that we can’t get another, but this one is really holding up beautifully. Like I said above, normally there would be an acrylic foraging toy in the center back, but I pulled it out to give it a good wash.
And finally, bringing us to our last view, the right side. There’s the last stainless steel ring holder, and the big toy in the foreground is a really cool Things for Wings toy. It was actually supposed to be a holiday toy, but I requested it un-dyed. It’s big and packed full of toy parts, but most of them are soft shreddables– this would be a great toy even for the little guys who aren’t intimidated by size. It used to have a few more vine balls, but Lola has since torn them off trying to seek out the treats I sneak into them! The green perch is a Safety Pumice Perch which also helps to keep her nails trim, and the toy on the far right is another cool side-mounted foraging toy from I Got a Woody. Lola loves to rummage through it for almonds or other goodies.
Moving down a level, her faithful stainless steel toy bucket is mounted to the side, full of lots of foot toys and abandoned toy parts, flanked by a natural wood perch. I think it’s sandblasted manzanita, as is the corner perch. Hanging in between it is another great Things for Wings toy.
And that’s the current configuration! I’m happy to report that so far, her droppings seem to miss whatever’s below them due to placement. The only one that really gets soiled is the foraging platform, because of its width. So it gets cleaned a lot. Toys get rotated and changed weekly. I like to make sure to change where the foraging opportunities are so that she has to keep guessing. I have this awesome basket toy from Things for Wings (I think it’s called the Cornucopia) which is full of nooks and crannies for treat hiding. That one’s getting rotated in next. The fantastic foraging block might also make an appearance soon. Who knows what else?
November 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s officially “acceptable” to start decorating for my very favorite holiday of the year: Christmas! I love getting Lola’s cage decked out with festive decor and ornaments and garlands. Of course, it’s slightly more difficult with my “all natural” color scheme, but thankfully the ladies at I Got a Woody were up to the challenge! I asked them to design a custom toy for Lola– some sort of Christmas tree with a few parameters, but mostly I left the details up to their creative license. I absolutely love how it turned out! There may not be color, but I think it captures the spirit of the season quite well. Unfortunately, my photo really doesn’t do it justice, but it’s lovely.
To create the shape of a Christmas tree, they used four carefully carved balsa chunks that mimic the boughs and branches of a real tree, and embedded little ornaments into the branches– cute little hardwood beads. They make great foraging opportunities and always entice Lola. The tree is also decorated with chain garlands hanging from the different levels, and there is a real natural wood trunk at the bottom (not visible in the photo). Beneath the tree are extra fun presents, in the form of chunky corks and hardwood beads. It’s even topped off with a pretty wicker star! What’s more, it’s all strung on a stainless steel skewer, so when Lola’s all done destroying it, I can refill the base and turn it into an entirely new toy. This toy came out perfectly. I couldn’t be more pleased.
I purchased another Christmas toy, but without the color– it doesn’t quite look like Santa’s Belly without the distinctive red, but I still think the toy is awesome. It has two wicker baskets that hide lots of treats within, like basswood, turned corks, natural cork bark, and more. Of course, there’s lots to chew both above and below as well! I wonder how long it will take Lola to realize that it’s the perfect spot to hide an in shell almond.
A few other toys also incorporated the foraging opportunities of baskets, but in the form of side-mounted toys instead. They both come equipped with stainless steel mounts, which I love because they can be installed exactly where you want them (as opposed to only where there’s a horizontal cross bar). I especially like to install foraging toys at lower levels of the cage, where Lola might not necessarily visit without something to attract her there. The possibility of a treat hiding in one of her baskets always does the trick. The smaller basket on the left is open on top, but has cork, wicker, and beads flowing from it, whereas the basket on the right has a balsa “cover” that hides the goodies within.
These garland toys are huge and packed with so many toy parts. The first one, Twigs and Berries, really has a ton: basswood slats with bark, willow chunks, natural cork bark, tons of hardwood beads, shredders, paper, and probably more. It’s a really good size and will definitely last at least a little longer than Lola’s average toy. The next toy included a few custom twists, like larger vine balls (which are also great for foraging!), and includes balsa with embedded beads, cardboard, and even more beads. The garland toys can be hung at both their ends, either side to side, up and down, diagonally, or even hanging from the ceiling like a swing.
The last two toys are surefire hits. On the left is the Isis. I made the mistake last time of only getting the small version, which Lola quickly turned into toothpicks in no time. She couldn’t get enough of fishing the turned corks out of the thin, crunchy pine. So this time, we got the large. But perhaps I didn’t quite learn the lesson because I only ordered the Mini Sanitarium. (Yes, there’s and even bigger version!) This one has huge jumbo corks and basswood triangles. We’ll see how it fares under her beak!
The last addition to the order was one of the basswood platform perches. Oh my goodness, I had no idea how MASSIVE it is! It’s like a serving platter! I think it’s a bit too big for the inside of Lola’s cage, so I’ll have to figure out where it can go. Perhaps it’ll be her new balcony?
That ‘s it all together. We are so happy with this awesome order and are ready to get decorating!
September 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
Installment three of spoiling Lola silly… you didn’t think we were over just yet, did you? This awesome bundle of fun comes from I Got a Woody Bird Toys, whose toys Lola just can’t get enough of! This time around, I decided to try out a whole bunch of brand new toys of theirs that Lola hasn’t seen before, but also stock up on all of her favorite skewer clusters. I love that they have so many toys that encourage some form of foraging as well as so many different types of toys.
For example, some of my favorite types of toys are side-mounted toys, but they aren’t nearly as common as hanging toys. I like side-mounted toys because they don’t have to be hung from the top of the cage or a horizontal bar; you can put them anywhere and exactly where you like. They also serve a wonderful purpose in travel cages. I don’t like to put any hanging toys in travel cages because with the stop and go motion in a car, it’s so easy for a hanging and swinging toy to suddenly become a danger or a hazard for a parrot, knocking him off the perch or even doing more harm than that. I Got a Woody has recently started creating a lovely collection of side-mounted toys, and some of them even come with the option of stainless steel hardware, which is my favorite type of side-mounted toy as it is the most secure.
Here’s a side view of the hardware in the first toy, the Devil’s Knot. This toy has a whole bunch of arms loaded with fun parts, but the base is half of a wooden chunk with stainless steel hardware. It’s such a great side-mounted toy that you can put anywhere in the cage. Lola is absolutely nuts about these mahogany toy parts, but there are very few toys that incorporate them. This one is in her cage and she’s already picked apart several of the mahogany pieces.
The second toy in the original picture above is another awesome side-mounted toy called the Tequila. This one is a perfect candidate for a travel cage, which is exactly where it will go. What I like is that there are no swinging arms or parts that might pose a danger in a moving vehicle, but there’s still tons of fun and foraging packed in.
Next up, I chose two new hanging toys for Lola, the Twisted Sister as well as the Lucinda. Below those are three of Lola’s favorite skewer clusters, which incorporate an awesome foraging foot toy as well as beads and bark. Lola is a huge fan of those already, but I know she’s going to love these two new toys as well. The Twisted Sister has tons of thin, chippable basswood slats that even have bark on them, and sandwiched between them are wonderful morsels of cork bark. What bird could resist so much bark and chipping fun?
I had to take a close up of the Lucinda to show you how much is packed in there. There’s cork bark, cork bark stuffed with beads, basswood stuffed with miniature pine cones, barky curly things, thin natural wood coins with bark, seagrass, and shreddable paper! This toy has so much fun stuff packed in plus so many little nooks and crannies hiding beads and mini pine cones– I can’t wait to give it to Lola. There’s so much going on here.
There’s no way I can name them all, but Lola also got a ton of different skewer cluster pieces and foot toys. They combine her precious mahogany, lots of tasty cork bark, some pine, some basswood, some more cork, some snappy beads, and probably more that I’m forgetting. On the bottom left are also some awesome basswood and cork pieces that the lovely ladies at I Got a Woody threw in as a gift.
They’re all awesome, but this is a new foot toy I was particularly excited about– the Vesta. It’s a piece of cork bark stuffed with more cork and then finished off with even more cork and wood beads on the end! If your birds like cork, I think this one is a must-have. Cork within cork surrounded by cork 🙂
Finally, I finished off the order with three HUMONGOUS foot toys! I knew they’d be big but I didn’t quite realize just what I was getting Lola into. I think they’re a bit too big for her to hold on her own, but I’ve put two in her foot toy pail and she seems to be enjoying them while the pail supports their hefty weight. In the future though, I think these foot toys belong in the talons of the big guys, like a big Greenwing or Hyacinth Macaw, or large Cockatoo.
All in all I don’t think we did too shabby. Lola is already enjoying several of these awesome toys. Since the ladies at I Got a Woody are so darned creative and always thinking up awesome new creations, I’m sure it won’t be long until we have an entire batch of more brand new toys to try out! Thanks ladies!
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.
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!
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.
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!
August 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
Lola was such a good girl this summer, and as a reward, August is the month of spoiling her silly! She’s gotten a number of packages full of awesome, enriching, and fun new toys. The first up is an awesome order from both Avian Stainless and Avian Organics, two fantastic sister stores that focus on providing the very best, highest quality stainless steel toys and organic parrot food respectively. I know I’ve written about both of these stores before, but I am constantly impressed with every order I receive from them. Avian Stainless in particular takes a long time to develop and test their toys to ensure that no detail is spared: their toys use super high quality stainless steel, there are no sharp edges or points anywhere, and finished products are beautifully polished and shined.
I’m always excited when they announce a new product, but I was particularly excited about this one. Usually, their toys are bells or noise-makers (which I love!), but ever since they discontinued their very cool double skewer I was hoping they’d develop a new refillable type of stainless steel toy base. This is just what the doctor ordered! It’s called the Do the Twist, and it’s a great stainless steel spiral base with a welded o-ring at the top for hanging, and holes that allow you to add your own toy parts.
This toy base actually reminded me a lot of an old toy base that used to be made by Grey Feather Toys, which unfortunately is no longer in business. They had a similar type of toy base that they called the Sterling Twirl. I wanted to see how the two toy bases compared. Although the basic idea and shape of the toys are similar, there are several key differences between the two toys that make them appropriate for different types of birds and for different uses.
The key difference between the two is that the Do the Twist is like a smaller, lighter, sleeker version of the Sterling Twirl. I love the Sterling Twirl– it is made of extremely thick, heavy duty stainless steel– but for this reason, it is a very heavy and huge toy. Aside from the fact that it takes up a ton of room, particularly when it’s loaded with toy parts, it is also so heavy that I was nervous about it knocking Lola out or something if she was playing or swinging very rowdily in her cage. That’s why I love using it as an awesome out of cage toy for Lola’s play areas, but not so much in the cage. The Do the Twist, on the other hand, is made of a much thinner bar of stainless steel that has been perfectly sanded and rounded to prevent any sharp edges, and its smaller size makes it much more appropriate for use inside the cage. The stainless steel is thin and pliable enough that the toy actually has some bounce to it, and is a fraction of the weight of the Sterling Twirl. Even loaded up with parts, I would still feel comfortable putting it in the cage. I’ve yet to actually have a chance to deck it out, but I’m sure that when I do, it’ll be a big hit!
I also made sure to restock some of Lola’s favorite bird breads from Avian Organics. She loves all of their breads, so I like to buy a variety and freeze them. I like that they contain no regular wheat and instead use healthier flours. I also like to throw in lots of fresh veggies or other add-ins when I cook them. The finished product, once baked and cooled, also freezes beautifully!
Last, but not least, I also picked up two of her beloved mashes. The Quick Serve might be her favorite flavor ever, but the Mayan Gourmet Mash is another popular mix here.
A huge thanks to Avian Organics and Avian Stainless for another great order and for such great products! Everything about these stores is top notch, including excellent customer service. Unfortunately, Doris, the wonderful owner recently suffered an injury and the stores are temporarily closed for the time being, but I hope she heals quickly– for her own sake as well as for all of her customers!
March 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
You know how I feel about stainless steel… can’t get enough of it! But with the demise of Grey Feather Toys, an old favorite of ours, it’s been difficult to find other companies that make great clangy, noisy toys with 100% stainless steel (and of course, ones that allow for customization, since we’re not big fans of plastics either). That void was filled when Avian Stainless opened up shop. Actually, I shouldn’t say that they “filled a void” left by GFT– they carved their entirely own, unique space into the market. They’re not new anymore, and I’ve mentioned them on the blog before, but I don’t think I’ve taken the chance to talk about how much I love their toys just yet. Owned by the some wonderful people behind Avian Organics, one of my most trusted brands of healthy, organic parrot food, they put the same thought into each toy as they do their food products. Like their foods, these toys are truly top of the line. Not only are they hand-crafted by a professional welder himself, but they are only made with the best quality stainless steel in totally innovative designs that put safety first. This is clear in their awesome, awesome toys.
I recently placed a small order for one toy each for Lola and Sabrina. Lucky Lola girl got this beautiful toy, the Crosswinds, with the a few custom tweaks of no plastics and full welding. This is an awesome toy. First, it’s totally fun for Lola: there are four noisy bells for her to clang and ring and bang, which she gets a kick out of, but more than that, it’s built with safety in mind. The two crossbars are welded together which are in turn welded to the upright bar.
What’s more, even the eye at the top– where a quick link can be threaded– is fully welded to the toy. For a bird like Lola who can easily ply open most o-rings, this is such a crucial detail, and it’s so great that Avian Stainless does this! Also notice the thin, cylindrical rods above each bell. These rods cover up the stainless steel chain from which each bell hangs. I love this feature, which Avian Stainless was the very first on the market to design and implement. They keep little nails or the tips of beaks from the chance of being caught in the chain, plus they add even more noisy fun. It’s so smart because some owners don’t like to use chain for safety reasons, but need something more substantial than rope, that will stand up to big beak for a long time. The addition of these rods slipped over the chain makes these toys both safe as well as built to last.
Little Sabrina got this adorable toy, the Puzzle Bell. It’s a single bell, more fit for a smaller parrot, but it has the addition of a beautifully shined and designed puzzle piece as its clapper. I have no idea how they get their puzzle pieces to shine like this! There are these really cool, pretty designs on the surface of the puzzle piece that reflect light in all different directions and truly make it sparkle. It makes a very pretty noise. Of course, the chain is also covered by Avian Stainless’s signature rods, which is important for a little one like Sabrina who tends to have long little nails that can easily get caught in things.
Like I said, I only ordered the girls one toy each… but Avian Stainless very generously included even more for us! We are very, very lucky to be one of the first recipients of the Square Dance toy as testers. (I’m posting a bit late!) Wow, I can’t say enough of this toy! It’s a big one, but it’s not so big that it overwhelms Lola. Even though the overall size is large, the bells are the same size as the ones on both the Crosswinds and the Puzzle Bell above, so it’s not too big for her to be able to play with or manipulate. But boy does it make a lot of noise! It’s a very neat, complex toy with square cross barsfor the added fun of tugging each bell on its opposing sides. There are even added washers for more noise and fun. Lola was a little nervous around it for about a day but has since warmed up to it once she realized what a racket she could make with it!
Finally, we got one last wonderful surprise, which was one of the refillable foot toy skewers that Avian Stainless was testing out a short while back. These are really, really neat: they’re stainless steel shovels with stainless steel balls at the end that can be unscrewed, turning them into skewers! They’re great foot toys for medium to larger parrots. They ultimately decided to go with non-removable balls at the ends of the skewers for safety reasons, but I was the lucky recipient of this test design, strictly for out-of-cage, supervised play only. As you can see, Lola is very suspicious of hers and is sure that it is an alien, but I’ll report back when she begins to think otherwise.
Thanks to Avian Stainless for these wonderful, high quality toys and especially for letting us test some of them out for you. We highly recommend these toys! (On a related note, as always, none of the reviews on my blog are solicited in any way nor do I receive compensation for them.)