That Cozy Feeling?

angry-parrot-500x406I get a lot of readers who write inquiries to me on a pretty regular basis.  If I don’t know the answer, then I will find someone who will.  I love being stumped by a situation or problem and then learning something new along the way.  I think that’s a humans lot in life, constantly learning and getting better.  The world of aviculture is continually evolving and things that once were “THE BE ALL END ALL” items and ideas, have actually become outdated and antiquated.  It’s okay, that’s life, as long as we get better and not bitter.

“Our new bird is extremely cage aggressive and won’t let us come near their cage, but is fine when they are away from their cage.” is a line I have seen in many a message and email.  My first question is, does your bird have a birdie hut/tent/cozy/snuggie of any kind? Nine times out of ten, the answer is, “yes”.  I fostered a Lovebird years ago who had snuggie tent is her cage, it made her the meanest bird that I think I have ever seen.  She quickly got the nickname “devil bird” from friends that would come over and visit.  At the time I thought her little birdie hut was adorable and didn’t have the faintest idea that could be the root of her “evil” behavior.

willowCleo, our newest grey came with a snuggie tube sort of thing, and she was what?  You guessed it, cage AGGRESSIVE!  You couldn’t stick your hand in to get her if your tried. When her cage came into the house I immediately knew we were going to have trouble. I got rid of that thing as quick as someone would hold open the garbage can lid.  Within a couple of hours, her demeanor and body language began to relax.  Granted, she was still territorial but she would allow you to touch her cage doors and change her water dish or even adjust toys. Within three or four days her aggression was almost gone.

So, why will my bird snuggie tent cause this behavior?  Simple, nesting behavior.  Birds do not have sleeping bags or a tent in the wild.  They are “cavity nesters” and dark enclosed spaced give them that little tinge of hormones that say “let’s have babies”. Giving a bird any sort of nesting material, which would be a warm, dark enclosed space says “let’s get territorial because there will eventually be eggs here and they must be protected”.  As bird owners dealing with mood shifts and other external factors, why give them something that could potentially be mood altering and also extremely dangerous.  

tent.birdieBird snuggie tents are made of fabric, personally I don’t like anything fabric because it is incredibly hard to clean and keep sterile.  Not to mention those little pieces of fabric that after being chewed on can be ingested causing a crop impaction. It could also become a danger by strangling your little companion and even possibly getting a foot caught and breaking it.  A few years ago a reader’s sweet Sun Conure got her foot stuck and pulled out a toe and bled to death while she was at work, what a horrible thing to come home to.   

I know that as parrot owners we want to make the best environment and make it the most comfortable for our little feathered companions, but when it really comes down to brass tacks, why give them something they wouldn’t get in the wild?  Why put your bird in danger for That Cozy Feeling?  

Copyright – 2015 – Parrot Earth – That Cozy Feeling

 

Mister Rogers’ Shoes

mrrogers_imageThis time of year makes me think about shoes.  Yes, you read that right, shoes.  I begin to think about the opening sequence of Mister Rogers’ neighborhood and how he had his outdoor sweater, and outdoor shoes. To some Fred may have been a snappy dresser, this may have also been the behavior of someone who is germaphobic or has an extreme case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder other wise known as OCD. Maybe he was just a very clean man, I guess the real reason will remain a mystery.  But there is a lesson here.

Spring time brings about a lot of amazing things in the world. Trees fill in, flowers start to bloom, bees and other insects appear and the wild birds begin to have babies.  It’s a beautiful natural circle. The list of projects builds and the weather is just lovely enough to get most of them done.  While this is going on, sometimes what you bring in from the outdoor world is left on the bottom of your priority list, or on the bottom of your shoe.  

If you are like 80% of garden or yard people, you use fertilizer on your grass, shrubs flowers etc. This section does NOT include Organic garden or yard people, instead this is for the consumer who believes in Miracle Grow or other commercial fertilizers.  Both can work and they have different results, but ultimately it’s your decision.  It’s not my job to tell you what to do, instead warn you about what you are tracking in your house after you spray your lawn or garden.  There are also Pesticides when you step into the Weed n Feed variety of fertilizers, which are a two for one shot.  Fertilizing and killing those pesky lions that aren’t really so dandy (dandelions) unwanted insects and other nuisance weeds.  The chemicals alone in those mixtures would stump some of the best science minds not to mention

pesticide“Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system. Of those same pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds.” ~ eartheasy.com

Spring also brings out household insects which we have to spray the outer perimeter of the house with an insect killer.  It works effectively, but again, you have to follow the directions of when you can interact with the areas that have been sprayed and how long it takes to dry.  Not all products are created equal, DO YOUR RESEARCH and if you have a gnawing feeling in your gut about it, DONT USE IT.

Parrots and other birds are already susceptible and vulnerable to so many environmental hazards, imagine what these things could do to them.  Bottom line, you have to be Extra careful.  When we are out doing yard work, we have our yard shoes and clothing separate from the rest of the house.  We take them off, and wash them the minute we walk in the doorway.  The last thing you want is your parrot or other animals playing or ingesting these chemicals. Even if you garden organically, you don’t want to track in some of the items used in Organic fertilizers being ingested by your feathered companion.  The bottom line with your household animals, you can never be too careful.  

cockatoo grassAnother reminder, if you have your birds outside playing in your grass or flowers, make sure they aren’t in any danger.  Many chemicals are still on your plants and grass anywhere from a month to a year, so you never know how safe your yard truly is.  Not to mention on your yard furniture, decks and walkways.  

Sometimes the goal for having that perfect yard is the finish line, but you seem to forget about the steps you have to go through to get there and essentially you forget all about Mister Rogers’ Shoes.

Copyright – 2015 – Parrot Earth – Mister Rogers’ Shoes

The Birds, No Seriously The Birds!

Over the past few years, I have been asked to add a little more personal flair to the blog.  My readers have been curious about daily life around the Parrot Earth house and I decided that in 2015 I would give up the goods and open up a bit more.

house.2As some of you know we had just moved into a new house, it’s was a long time to get here, but none the less here we are. I am very proud of all that we have accomplished and we have a beautiful home to show for it.  However, “with the sweets comes the sours”.  A couple of months into residency at Greywood House (yes we named the house, how back east) we had a leak in the roof that leaked down an upstairs wall and puddled in the basement ceiling.  Now let me tell you, I was not please, especially since we got a “roof certification” which we were told that the roof would last a minimum of five years before needing any work.  Well come to find out a roof certification is not worth the paper it’s really printed on (for you future home buyers).  It’s just a piece of paper for the bank so the financing on the the loan will go through. That was lesson number one.  Fast forward two and a half months to another leak, this time upstairs coming out of the smoke detector (thankfully it notified us through the alarm company, otherwise we would have not known until morning) and eventually a hole in the ceiling while trying to find the leak.  holeYep, I said a hole in our lovely new ceiling, which has since been patched and only took a month to find someone to do it.  Not the dreams that most new homeowners want realized. “Why is your roof leaking?”, you may be asking yourself… well let’s talk irony shall we? As you are reading this you know Parrot Earth and the work that I strive to do for parrots. I even try to do my part for wild birds and feed them in the back yard with feeders here and there.  Let’s not to forget to mention the hummingbird population, because who doesn’t love those little guys? Two words spring to mind when answering the question of what is doing damage to our roof. Simply put, it’s THE BIRDS!

I got the little flicker here.

I got the little flicker here.

Yes, you read that correctly BIRDS and one in particular, described on internet sites as “The Glorious Northern Flicker Woodpecker” was the culprit.  In the Pacific Northwest there are these trees that I do not particularly care for and are called pine trees, and yes I am aware I live in the wrong state not to like pine trees, let’s move on shall we?  They inhabit almost every nook and cranny and are quite messy.  Interesting enough, our property is surrounded by them and their lovely little needles that they drop EVERYWHERE gather in the valleys of our new home’s roof and attract birds.  Birds, more importantly the newly renamed “The Little Flicker” comes along and look for bugs. Their sharp little beaks punch holes in the roof like a precision drill, therefore bringing the Seattle drizzle right into your living room.  After days upon days of research, we made the decision to try measures that would be both affordable and gentle to the environment.

To buy your own Maybe or Mavis, click here.

To buy your own Maybe or Mavis, click here.

Welcome Mavis and Maybel, our decoy owls.  Mavis is solar-powered and her head moves every minute, or with every little gust of wind. After pulling them out of the boxes our dogs, Sheldon and Baron were terrified of the decoys.  I took that as a good sign, considering they didn’t know what an owl was.

So, on the roof they went and it appears that birds in the general vicinity have taken a leave to a couple of houses down.  There was a recommendation that they be moved every so often, so they don’t start to blend in the with the scenery.  We also tied Irritape to the roof, which is a loose era decent streamer looking thing that spooks birds if they come near it, because it changes color and looks like it moving.  Irritape doesn’t last as long as you would like it to in a windstorm.  In fact it whips around and snaps, of which you will no doubt find the pieces in your yard, but at least they are pretty.  Another thing that worked AMAZINGLY well while we were coming together with our game plan was a suggestion from my mother-in-law. Mylar balloons from the local dollar store.  Blue, red and silver were the variety we bought and tied them to just about anything that we could.  They moved enough and had a reflective surface that frightened off any potential roof damaging little Flickers.  

I am not pictured here.

I am not pictured here.

We consulted a roofing specialists in our area and were going to replace the valleys on the house with metal flashings, so the needles no longer gather. After time and budgeting, we were able to add the flashing to the valleys of the roof ourselves, which ended up saving us about $1000 and that was music to my ears.  Streaming wind socks of different shapes and sizes were also added to the roof as a deterrent.  

Also my bird buddy Irena Schultz suggested that we provide food for the little Flickers in the form of suet feeders placed here and there on the property, which I gladly did.  I try not to be mad at the little flicker for doing what nature has programmed him to do, however the costs weren’t helping my forgiving attitude, nor my naturalistic outlook.  

It’s been two months since “The Glorious Northern Flicker” seemed to go on his merry way.  Was it the solar owls on the roof, was it the irritape?  Could it have been the mylar balloons?  Possibly the windsocks or the metal flashing?  Or was it all of it.  I can honestly laugh about the situation now, kind of.  We went through some sleepless nights during that time and I went through a lot of hours on the internet and phone talking to experts on what could be done. Let’s not forget the bottles of vodka, but that’s off the record.  But hey…  At least no birds were harmed in this learning experience. Hopefully someone can use some of these tips before they incur thousands of dollars of damage! But really, who thought it would have been The Birds, No Seriously The Birds!

Copyright – 2015 – Parrot Earth – The Birds, No Seriously The Birds!!

With the Sweets, Comes the Sours.

Click here for pinning african grey.

As parrot owners we all have one thing in common, parrots bite.  There is no way to get around it. You can’t put it on a plate and make it pretty to serve to the unsuspecting or unknowing, it’s just a harsh fact of owning these beautiful creatures.  They bite, and when they do, it sucks.

Dexter my Timneh grey who I have had the longest in our little flock usually bites me once a year.  Is it an episode in terror that he has been planning?  Nope.  It’s usually around spring fever time when all parrots go a little wonky.  It’s the one time of year that you have to pick your battles and walk away.  Sometimes it’s not the easiest to walk away from and your feelings get hurt.

photo (2)Cooper, who I refer to as Cujo of my household, has his moods.  He can be pig-headed, cage aggressive, cunning and a down rain pain in the old keister.  However, I try not to lose faith in him.  He makes it extremely difficult to love him sometimes, but when he lets his walls down, your heart literally melts in your chest.  There are months that go by where his beak does not shred my skin like paper, there are months where he steps up without launching at my hand like a junkyard dog going after a trespasser and there are months when Cooper lets his true personality shine.  That’s when I tend to relax and lose focus.  Cooper is just being Cooper, and that’s when it happens.  WHAM!  I understand that he has not been premeditating the strike like the planning of a bank job, it’s just that I haven’t watched his body language, and his trigger points that indicate the attack is coming.  Of course when this happens, it hurts.  It bothers me to the core.  I feel horrible, not only for my physical wounds, but for the gauge to my ego.  I feel as if all the work that we have done is just tossed and out the window.  When any of the other birds nip me, it does not affect me the same way.  Of course the same intent and aggression is not there.

I've had this plaque for 24 years.

I’ve had this plaque for 26 years.

Birds are naturally prey animals and innately suspicious creatures.  They have their defense mechanisms, just like any other animal out there.  So biting may be the way that they communicate to you that they aren’t happy with the way things are going and want to say “No, I don’t want to go” or “I don’t want to come out of my cage”.  A friend of mine and I were chatting about a bite wound and he asked “well your birds talk, can’t they simply say no I don’t want to go” and I responded, “yes they understand certain things, but english is not their first language”.  If you think about it, it’s true they mimic, understand and can formulate their own sentences, but that’s not every bird.  Some birds don’t even talk at all; so how are they going to communicate?  Physically. Our first reaction to physical threat is fight or flight, our adrenal system takes over and usually doesn’t allow for “talking it out” until the brain has made the decision of which path it is going. Fight avenue or flight drive.

Click here for Parrot Problem Solver.

Click here for Parrot Problem Solver.

For those of you out there with a bird that bites, educate yourself and the “why” will make itself known.  Birds usually don’t bite for no reason and some with severe aggression issues have been conditioned that way.  There is always a cause and effect in any behavioral scenario and it’s up to you to find the root. Try and tell yourself it’s nothing personal, lord knows I try to tell myself that very thing.  

With every beautiful thing there is always a counter balance, the yin to the yang.  With parrots and their beautiful magnificence, there has to be the other side of the spectrum. When your parrot bites you, shake it off and breathe,  it’s nothing personal.  And remember, “With the sweets comes the sours”.

Copyright – 2015 – Parrot Earth – With the Sweets, Comes the Sours

 

 

2014 in a Nutshell.

I got reflection here.

I got reflection here.

Every year about this time, I like to do reflection time.  I love to focus on errors in the past year and see if maybe I learned anything from those errors, therefore making me a more rounded person.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  Yeah, sometimes it takes a few times slamming your hand in the metaphorical car door before you get the idea.

house.2

I figured the double rainbow was a sign.

This year has been one of happiness and stress.  We spent over a year looking for the perfect home, not just a house that would “work” but a house that we could make a home for our entire family (cats, birds and dogs).  If you have never house hunted before, let me just explain the amount of stress that one incurs.  The constant hustle and bustle of firstly finding said house, then the competition to buy said house can be utterly horrific. There are constant ups and downs, the excitement of getting the offer accepted is like winning big at the casino.  However the realization that there may potentially be over $100,000 in repairs is enough to make you feel like Mike Tyson just punched you in the gut.  Yep, we had that happen and we were smart enough to walk away and wait for the house that was truly indeed “ours”. In the end we ended up with an acre of land and the birds have their own room.  My husband and I also got separate bathrooms and offices, which I truly believe is the key to a happy marriage.

I wrote some great articles and even had some published overseas in various publications.  I did some freelance writing here and there which made me grin from ear to ear.  There is nothing quite like putting it all out there on the page and it be appreciated by the reader.

PEOutdoor.BannerParrot Earth grew on Facebook “Likes” and blog subscribers, not to mention daily views and emails thanking me for starting the website and blog, which of course, at times brought tears to my eyes.  It’s nice to know that what I am doing with birds is making a difference.

This year has also been a learning experience for people running rescues and people working in them.  One rescue in particular was written about by a guest writer who later asked to be anonymous, it was such an amazingly emotional story, it had to be broken up into a series of three chapters. 2 3 There was another article “When Parrot Adoptions Go Wrong” written about a rescue who “repossessed” a bird that was allegedly being neglected in the house she was adopted into. This brought on a legal battle that is currently going on and charges of assault and theft.  However the bird was relinquished back to the rescue and had various infections and was very ill from the alleged abuse. This story is still unfolding and I will try to keep you updated as much as it develops.

Myself and Barbara Heidenreich

Myself and Barbara Heidenreich

I got the chance to get to know some of my hero’s and “movers and shakers” in the bird world and I happy to say that some have become good friends.  

I also learned some things about myself this year, especially being active in the avian community.  It is incredibly important that going into any diverse niche group of people, you have the ability to develop survival skills and a thick skin.  There can be some venom spewed and those keyboard vipers (as I like to call them) can really force you into a retreat.  It really can get to a person.  social-media-bullying-390x285Personally I have seen a lot of great aviculturists go into retirement over being bullied via social media and the internet (yeah, that thing that was supposed to bring us all together).  In fact I lost an amazing writer over the scrutiny of social media and it’s a damned shame.

Friends have come and gone this year, over various things, I believe that people are meant to come into our lives for a reason, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It stings at first, but accepting the fact is almost inevitable.

My charity foundation raised another $12,000 for local charities and that is something I will scream from the rooftops. There is one thing to do what you love, but when you can do everything that you love it’s the best feeling in the world.

I got my scathing email of the year from someone who didn’t appreciate me expressing my opinion on MY BLOG, because I don’t like to let my parrots run all over my house and chew on baseboards or kitchen cupboards or my new furniture.  I politely responded with an appreciation for taking the time to contact me, for the occasional four letter word(I’ll let you use your imagination), misspelled word, grammar and a link to the poisonous ingredient fact sheets for varnish, paint and other toxic household chemicals.  Surprisingly,I never received a response.

This kid is still learning....

This kid is still learning….

Overall 2014 has been a year of successes, wisdom, more gray hair and understanding of myself.  I don’t have to be the best and most knowledgeable parrot owner in the world, but try my best. I also don’t have to be the best writer either, just the best writer I can be.  “When you know better, you do better”.  I also don’t always(I’m working on it) have to be the “last word person” because 95% percent of the time, you can’t change anything by having the last word, you’re just sucking up more oxygen (and I learned the last word person usually has a problem with control and self-esteem).

I know I have been a bit vague about what 2015 holds….

Parrot Earth is expanding into rescue work and foster placement.  I believe that writing about parrots is good but I want to do more.   Very soon the applications go in for our 501 (c)(3) and the next chapter begins. Thank you for supporting another year with my baby “Parrot Earth” and my crazy journey in aviculture, keep reading and we will see you next year.

Happy New Year!

Copyright – Parrot Earth – 2014 – 2014 in a Nutshell