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!


A Whole Lot of Woody

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.

side-mounted 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.

a side view of the devil’s knot toy

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.

two hanging toys and some skewer clusters

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?

close up of the Lucinda

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.

a lot of skewer clusters and foot toys!

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.

the vesta foot toy

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 ūüôā

humongous foot toys!

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!

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!

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.

Using Safe Plastics with Food

March 20, 2012 § 10 Comments

I tend to go into detail in my entries about why I purchase the products I do purchase, but there are, obviously, a myriad of parrot products I do not purchase. ¬†There are, in fact, a lot more products that I won’t purchase than products I will, and I am very frequently asked what I think about certain products if I have yet to write about them on the blog. ¬†Why don’t I make these types of questions and answers public? ¬†It is not my intention at all to discredit or defame any vendor publicly, and I’m not trying to put anyone out of business; rather, I’m trying to do just the opposite: showcase those vendors who I think are creating top notch, unique, safe, and enriching products. ¬†I also know that many people do not quite share all of my same standards or paranoias about food, toys, or toy parts, so just because something isn’t right for Charles, Lola, or Sabrina doesn’t mean it won’t be right for somebody else’s flock.

There are, however, a few things that I’m a big believer in: shopping bird-free, for example, is a big concern of mine, as is using stainless steel. ¬†Another concern of mine is using safe plastics, in particular with food-related products or foraging toys. ¬†I get this question extremely often, and I figured that it was worth addressing publicly, because safe plastics don’t fall under any one brand but rather are simply one of the many materials used in bird toys by almost every company.

Whether or not you feel comfortable giving your birds plastic toys is very often an individual owner’s decision, and definitely requires knowing your bird. ¬†I know that Lola, for example, has way too strong a beak to be able to play with plastics safely, and she tends to harbor little pieces of plastic in her mouth for long periods of time. ¬†Thus, plastics are a complete NO for her, unless they are very large pieces of extremely hard plastic beads (like marbella beads) that she absolutely cannot chip or destroy. ¬†But generally, I simply say no plastic toys for her. ¬†On the other hand, both Charles and Sabrina can play with plastic beads in a completely safe way. ¬†They can beak and beat and batter them and never chip them even a little, so plastic beads are completely fine as toy parts for them.

But there is a different consideration that I would argue should be ruled out for every bird owner, whether or not your parrot can play with plastics safely.  This consideration is using unsafe plastics in food service applications.  Unlike plastic beads or toy parts whose safety can vary depending on bird size, power, and style of play, using unsafe plastics in food service applications is dangerous for all birds, regardless of size, strength, or habits.

As we all know, there are many, many different types of plastic, and I’m sure most of you are used to looking at the bottom of a plastic dish or tupperware to see if it is microwave safe or not. ¬†Well, this relates to safe and unsafe plastics. ¬†More recently, I’ll bet, you became aware of a substance called Bisphenol A, or BPA, in plastic water bottles or baby bottles. ¬†Nowadays, it’s pretty much impossible to sell a water bottle that contains BPA, because consumers have realized that BPA is a chemical that is present in many plastics, that leaches into water after repeated use and washing. ¬†Some countries have labeled it a toxic chemical, and scientific studies show links between BPA and hormone-like properties, cancer, thyroid problems, neurological problems, obesity, and other scary problems. ¬†Plastics that contain BPA, such as polycarbonate, should not be used in water bottles or food service applications, especially with hot food or water, as these leach the chemical at a more rapid rate.

Most people purchasing new water bottles or baby bottles know this, but what about bird food and water dishes?  If you use plastic dishes, have you checked to make sure that they are indeed BPA-free?  Probably even more common are plastic foraging toys, which are hugely popular.  But every time you put food in one of those cool plastic foraging toys, and especially the more you wash it, it breaks down the plastic and more and more BPA is leached out onto the food, which is then consumed by your bird.

I’m well aware that many people will think to themselves, “Oh, but I’ve been using those for ages, and my birds are perfectly fine!” ¬†Well, many generations of human babies were also raised on bottles made with BPA, and obviously we don’t have an entire generation of people who passed away without explanation. ¬†But we do have studies that show that BPA can lower fertility rates and cause neurological problems in children, among other negative effects. ¬†It can even manipulate hormones and cause issues with reproductive behaviors. ¬†Your bird won’t drop dead from BPA, but he or she might be extra hormonal, or suffer neurological consequences.

The good news is, there are safe alternatives! ¬†One of the safest plastics for use with food is acrylic. ¬†But don’t be fooled: polycarbonate and acrylic are two very different plastics, even though they look virtually the same. ¬†In fact, I’ve seen many bird toy websites that mislabel toys as acrylic when they are actually polycarbonate. ¬†Polycarbonate is a huge source of BPA, whereas acrylic is completely BPA-free. ¬†MOST foraging toys on market are actually made of polycarbonate, but there are a select few that are made from acrylic. ¬†Don’t necessarily go by what it says on any website: if you are unsure, call the company and ask if their toys are made from polycarbonate or acrylic. ¬†There is a vast difference.

an acrylic (not polycarbonate) foraging toy

This toy, for example, is a set of acrylic foraging drawers. ¬†I am sure you have seen many polycarbonate models on the market, but this is the only acrylic version that I’ve been able to find. ¬†It is made in house at Parrot Island Inc. and is a great toy that I highly recommend. ¬†They actually make many different setups as well: two drawers, four drawers, six drawers, drawers that pull out front to back, drawers that pull out side to side, etc. ¬†These toys are more expensive than the more common polycarbonate versions because acrylic is a higher quality plastic, plus these are made at a much lower volume. ¬†But, they are worth every penny in terms of safety.

another acrylic foraging toy

Here’s another acrylic foraging toy that exists on the market, this one by Grey Feather Toys. ¬†It comes in two sizes, 2.5″ or 4.5″, the larger 4.5″ model shown above next to Lola. ¬†I feel completely safe using these acrylic foraging toys: not only is it extremely strong like polycarbonate, but it is far safer and contains absolutely no BPA that will leach into your parrots’ food or water.

There are definitely other acrylic toys out there on the market, but be sure to do your research, and do not assume that anything is acrylic.  Polycarbonate and acrylic look very much the same, so ask the manufacturer if you are unsure.  In a similar vein, double check any plastic food or water dishes you use with your birds, as well as water bottles.  You do not want this chemical interrupting any of your parrots bodily functions or systems.  (Glass, on the other hand, is completely BPA-free.)

Although there is much more to say about safe plastics in general or other unsafe plastics (don’t even get me started on soft vinyl), this is one of the most important issues with plastics that I have, and I hope that I can spread awareness about BPA in plastics. ¬†There are so many great alternatives out there now that there is no reason to use plastics that contain BPA in food or water bowls or foraging toys.

Sun in February

February 17, 2012 § 4 Comments

We’ve had such an incredibly mild winter this year that I’ve actually been pretty consistently getting the flock outside for natural sunlight about once or twice a week. ¬†It’s pretty incredibly considering that this time last year it was in the 20’s and 30’s, and two years ago we had “snowpocalypse” and schools and government jobs were shut down for nine straight days. ¬†Sun in February! ¬†I can’t believe it.

Lola catching some rays outside

Having read a few interesting studies about weaker bones and lower bone density of parrots who live in colder climates due to a lack of sunlight exposure, I am naturally very concerned with getting my parrots enough Vitamin D3. ¬†I’m not a big believer in the ability of synthetic sources to provide adequate amounts of or even adequate quality Vitamin D3 (and all sources of Vitamin D3 in all of the current pellets on the market that I’ve seen are indeed synthetic supplements), so my only options are limited to a few natural food sources (egg yolks, for example, are one source) and natural sunlight. ¬†(I am also not a big believer in full spectrum lighting having the ability to provide Vitamin D3 — I believe it is necessary, yes, but for completely different reasons.) ¬†But most research shows that by far, natural sunlight is the very best source and most efficient source of Vitamin D3, so I prize any time I can get my parrots outside under the sun. ¬†Lola and Sabrina actually adore it. ¬†Charles couldn’t care less, but I drag him outside for his own good anyway.

On a related note, another great food source for Vitamin D3 is fatty fish, like salmon. ¬†(Actually, it’s an exceedingly far richer source of it than egg yolks.) ¬†As a vegetarian, salmon really never enters my household, but I was recently chatting with a very trusted parrot food expert and fellow bird owner and decided to purchase some sustainably wild caught salmon to bake or grill for my flock. ¬†I think it will be an odd experience for me to be handling and cooking it, but the health of my birds is worth it. ¬†I can’t count on mild winters every year, so I’d like to make sure that I have ways of getting them their vitamins through natural sources year round.

Lola finally checking out the bridge swing!

checking it out from all different angles

In other news, Lola has finally decided to stop completely ignoring the painstaking creation that my hands bled to beget! ¬†(The budgies are still pretending it doesn’t exist.) ¬†She humored me by playing on it for a good twenty minutes yesterday. ¬†I felt relieved and vindicated. ¬†I think she actually kind of liked it!

close-up of the foraging blocks

These photos are for Ming, who asked for close-ups of the foraging blocks. ¬†There are two styles, weird trapezoids and triangles, and they have either a side foraging hole or a top foraging hole. ¬†They’re made of white pine wood. ¬†Hope this is what you were looking for!

DIY Bridge-Style Swing

February 14, 2012 § 6 Comments

I must admit that I am quite proud of this endeavor. ¬†I’ve never been too much of a do-it-yourself-er, mainly because I don’t have the time to dedicate to it. ¬†For example, this latest project has literally been in the works for months. ¬†I posted about it in early November, and even back then I said that I’d been taking way too long in making it. ¬†You might remember the huge bridge-style swing base that I had lying around, waiting to be turned into something amazing.

Lola and the bridge swing base

Well, it’s finally turned into that something amazing! ¬†And I think that this has to be my greatest DIY project yet. ¬†I’m really happy with the finished result. ¬†All in all, it didn’t even take that long. ¬†Putting the whole thing together took approximately two and a half hours in total, which was much less than I’d anticipated. ¬†Working with the sisal rope, however, wasn’t exactly fun: my hands were literally bleeding by the end of it. ¬†But hey, what we wouldn’t do to make our birds happy, right?

As I wrote in the previous post, this swing was inspired by the absolutely beautiful triangle, square, and bridge swings by Les Jouets Rosie, who make the most creative and gorgeous swings on the market. ¬†All credit for design and idea goes to them; they are the original creators of these beautiful swings. ¬†Mine is not even close to as aesthetically pleasing, but I’m proud to be able to say it was wrought by my own hands. ¬†Their swings are so carefully made and so time-consuming that the company hasn’t been selling them for the past several months (maybe even year?) now, and I couldn’t get my hands on one anyway. ¬†So I decided to attempt it myself, especially because there were a few things that I wanted to change about the swing anyway. ¬†I have a strange aversion to dowels and absolutely hate them, so that was the first thing I wanted to get rid of. ¬†To go along with the natural wood base, I also wanted it to be made entirely of natural wood toy parts. ¬†Sure, I sacrificed a lot of the pretty factor, but I’m okay with the result.

step one: making the base more interesting

The very first step was to work with the base. ¬†I added sisal rope in between the “rungs” of the bridge, along with some barky willow wood chunks, in order to provide some more enrichment at the ground level. ¬†These strings also make the bridge a lot easier for my little budgies to navigate, since the rungs and each section are a bit too large for the budgies’ little feet. ¬†I’ve left the center section empty for now, but I might add some strings to it later as well depending on how the birds take to them.

close-up of the sisal ropes

I even took the time to teach myself how to make these very fancy Flemish knots to make the swing more decorative and beautiful!

two strings packed with parts: half-way done!

Here’s the swing at the half-way point. ¬†Step two was to start building up the supporting rope (or the suspension) of the bridge. ¬†I decided on a combination of hardwood honeycomb beads, pine wood foraging blocks, cottonwood, willow, and birch coins, fragrant pine wood pieces, and elm and yucca wood sticks, all strung together on the sisal.

the finished product!

from another angle

And there it is! ¬†I hung it up where the Roller Coaster swing used to be and attached the highway from the Crawler to the bridge. ¬†I’ll probably hang a toy in the center eventually but I want to see how they navigate it first as is. ¬†I’m pretty excited! ¬†It combines a lot of irresistible chews with four foraging blocks as well. ¬†I haven’t gotten a chance to let Lola or the budgies explore yet, but I’ll take some more photos when they do. ¬†Yay! ¬†I think I can safely say that this is my best project ever!

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