Florida

I am in Naples, Florida and bird sitting. I'm having a lot of fun. I've discovered I really like this area of Florida. This week, after I'm done bird sitting, my cousin and I will be going to the Fort Lauderdale and Miami area. In addition to bird sitting, I'm checking out colleges while I'm here.

Remember that first post about dream birds when I said that I wasn't sure I could handle a cockatoo? Well, I can. At least the smaller ones. One of the birds I'm taking care of is a Goffin's cockatoo. She is very sweet and not as loud as I imagined, though she is quite loud. It's really been a leaning experience being here and handling her.

I'm also taking care of four lovebirds. I thought any trouble I would have would come from the cockatoo. I was wrong. The only trouble I've had with any of the birds is one of the lovebirds. She is sitting on eggs right now and is understandably protective of her eggs. She has bit me five times since being here, three times she has drawn blood.

Overall though, I'm having a blast and enjoying the Florida weather (it's been raining at home) and going to the beach. Pictures to come later.

Blu's Bird Toys Order

A couple of weeks ago, I placed an order at Blu's Bird Toys. I had been dying to order stuff from them for ages, but just hadn't done it. They recently had a 9th Anniversary Sale with free shipping (I love free shipping, by the way) and 10% off the entire purchase. I decided to go ahead and order stuff.


The big thing I wanted to order, a Jolly Ball, was, and still is, out of stock. So I got a few toys (one for each bird) and toy making parts.



The first toy is for Lenore. It is the Tiny Balsa-n-Spools toy. Lenore loves balsa wood. He attacks any balsa wood he sees. We discovered this when my mom and little brother were working on a pinewood derby car for Cub Scouts. Lenore walked over to where the car and extra materials were, discovered a discarded piece of balsa, ran across the table back to me, and proceeded to destroy his prize.


The second toy is for Digby. It's all shreddable material, which she should love. It's slightly bigger than I expected. I haven't decided if I'll put it in her cage or outside of it.


The third and final toy is for Sydney. She gets a beaded millet holder. Normally, I don't give my birds sprays of millet in the cage, and so this is somewhat of an odd thing for me to buy. But, Sydney won't play with toys, and that makes me sad. My hope is that by giving her millet in what is basically a toy, she might be encouraged to play with her other toys.


I also got lots of toy making stuff. I got beads, wood, tiny baskets, cotton rope, poly rope, raffia, and seagrass, as well as a few other things.

The order also came with a couple of freebies. One of the freebies is a little basket filled with various beads and whatnot. The other freebie is a tape measure. I'm actually pretty excited about the tape measure. Why? Because it retracts! And it's pink! My current tape measure is hideously colored. It's yellow and red, and while that makes it easy to spot, it's ugly. It also isn't retractable.



I'm happy with everything I got and will definitely order from there again.

Florida Bound

I am sorry I haven't updated my blog in a week. I haven't had much to write about and I was getting ready to go to Florida. I'm currently at the airport waiting for my flight.

I'm really excited about this trip to Florida. I'm going to birdsit for a member on Avian Avenue. She has a cockatoo and four lovebirds. I'll also be checking out some colleges while I'm down there. One of my cousins is also coming down to be with me.

While I'm in Florida, my mom is taking care of my birds. I'm going to miss them. I'll be gone for twelve days.

I've got another post ready to go, I just have to add pictures to it. It'll probably be this evening before I can do it.

Who Said That?

I had just walked in the house after getting home from going out to eat. All of the sudden, I heard a quiet "squawk-squawk", with the second squawk being a higher pitch and a tiny bit longer. It was quiet for a couple seconds, then came back. The pattern repeated several times. It was a strange sound to be coming from any of my birds, but I checked them all anyway.

It obviously wasn't Lenore. It was much too quiet and the wrong pitch for him. The most likely of the other two birds was Sydney, but it seemed too quiet for her too. It seemed to be the wrong pitch for Digby for the amount of volume that would be required for me to hear when she is in my bedroom in the basement.

But, since the only bird I could complete rule out was Lenore, I stood in the hallway between the door for the stairs going down to the basement and the door for the room that Sydney was in. I listened carefully, trying to figure out which direction it was coming from. When I heard it again, I realised that, no, it was neither of them.

The only other thing I could figure out was that it was a bird outside. But the sound was so obviously a parrot sound. Had somebody's bird got outside? So, I stepped outside, worrying a little that it might actually be a lost pet. I heard nothing. I thought perhaps the bird had already moved on.

I went back in the house and was greeted by the sound again. My little brother informed me the fan was squeaking. I dismissed him; it didn't sound like a squeaky fan. After going outside once again, I came back in, giving up. I went into the living room and sat down with my computer. But then I heard it again! Louder this time, and much less psittacine sounding. It sounded like it was coming from the fan. I stopped the fan's oscillating and the sound stopped.

Sprouts

I don't know how many times I've tried to convince Digby and Lenore to eat sprouts. The best I've been able to do is get Digby to eat quinoa sprouts. Lenore ignores all of them.

A few days ago, I decided to try sprouts again. It has been a couple months since I last tried. I did my usual sprouting mix of quinoa, mung beans, adzuki beans, and lentils. I also added a couple new seeds--rice and Kamut. Currently, the quinoa, mung, and lentils have nice size sprouts between 1/4" and a 1/2". The rice and Kamut have tiny sprouts. Most of the adzuki have yet to sprout at all.

I went ahead and gave all three of the birds some sprouts tonight. I picked out the adzuki beans since they aren't ready to feed. I handed Lenore a lentil sprout while he was out and he started devouring it. So, I put some more sprouts in his dish and put him in his cage for the night and he chowed down on his sprouts. I put some in Digby's dish as well, and she ate some too, though she picked through it and only ate the quinoa. I also gave Sydney a little. She hasn't tried them yet.

I guess I'll be happy with just having one sprout eater for now. If Lenore will eat them, then I just have to feed both Digby and Lenore together and Digby will probably eat them as well.

"Digby's the Mean One, Right?"

Let's get something straight. Digby is not mean. I am so sick of people saying, "Oh, she's the mean one, right?" I'm left with a confused look whenever they say this. My dear, sweet Digby is not mean. She is, however, shy and a bit picky about things. If you try to do something she doesn't want you to, she will warn you. If you don't listen to the warning, she will bite you.

Digby is very clear when she gives a warning. I don't think a bird could get much clearer than opening the mouth and growling. If she does this, do not mess with her anymore, at least for several minutes. Chances are she will not let you touch her anywhere other than her tail, she will probably not let you scratch her neck, and she WILL NOT step up onto your finger. These are Digby's primary rules: (1) Don't touch me unless you first ask me and I give permission, (2) Don't point your finger at me unless you tell me what you are doing, and (3) I will not step up onto your bare skin or your finger.

Everybody in my family knows these rules. They all know that she would rather bite than to step up onto a finger. They all know that she is very picky about who pets her and how. These are not a product of her being mean. These are because she is shy and sometimes grouchy. Even I don't mess with her when she's in a bad mood.

Seriously, does this look like a mean bird to you?




Do you have a plan for your pets if there is ever an emergency?

I feel it is important to have such a plan should an evacuation be needed or if there is ever a natural disaster. Having a plan for an evacuation will more than likely also be a plan that can be used in other circumstances. Years ago, I thought the only people who needed evacuation plans were those who lived in areas prone to hurricanes and similar things. However, disasters can happen anywhere and an evacuation can be necessary for anybody. I learned my lesson in 2007 when a train derailed very close to my house. Because the train was carrying hazardous materials, an evacuation was necessary. Since then, I've made an effort to be at least somewhat prepared.

The first part of an emergency plan is figuring out a way to transport pets if the need arises. In my case, all three of the birds have travel cages. I have a carrier for the guinea pigs. Our three little dogs all have crates that can be easily carried. We have carriers for the cats as well. The big dogs have crates too, however, they would be difficult to use for emergency transport, but they are okay being without a crate. The travel cages and carriers are kept in easily accessible areas. Right now, I do not have designated carries for my turtles or bearded dragon, however it would be very easy to find something for them in an emergency.

The second part is food. This is where dry food for all the pets comes in handy. It would be difficult to keep fresh food on hand and ready to go if there's an emergency. For the birds, I make sure I never run out of seeds or pellets. The same is true for the guinea pigs and the turtles and their pellets. I have some freeze-dried crickets set aside for my bearded dragon. Dog and cat food is easy as well; both the dog food and the cat food is located by the door.

The next thing is a plan in case the electricity goes out. Unless it is winter or in the middle of the summer, the mammals and birds will be fine--they don't rely on anything like that to keep them alive. The reptiles are harder as they are cold blooded and need heat. I keep Hot Hands for using in an emergency. These things warm up once you open them and stay warm for hours.

The final thing is to make sure to have any paperwork that might be needed ready to go. This includes vet records, emergency vet contacts, any medications needed, and general information on each animal. Personally, I have a binder that has all of the information I could need on my pets, excluding the dogs and cats. For the dogs and cats, we have a folder for all of their information. The information that is kept on hand needs to be kept up to date. I'm also in the process of making electronic back-ups to save online.

Pam and Digby

Digby has become very curious about Pam lately, and Pam is just as curious about her.


Just a second after I got this picture, Pam put her nose on Digby's foot and Digby put her beak on Pam's nose. Both of them spooked and Pam ran into her house and Digby flew off.

A Stroke of Genius

Okay, so remember my post from yesterday, the one about the sweet potato-quinoa mix? Remember how I said it wasn't really a stroke of genius, just a good idea?

I WAS WRONG. It was a stroke of genius. Want proof?


That, my friends, is not Lenore's dish. He is the only bird who eats all his food most of the time. It is not Digby's dish either, even though she sometimes eats most of her food.

This is one of Sydney's dishes. Earlier in the day, it had the same sweet potato-quinoa mix that I blogged about yesterday, with some seed added. Sydney, a.k.a. a big time seed junkie, ate almost all of her food, leaving just a couple of half eaten pieces of Kamut and a lentil. This means she ate not only the seeds I mixed in, but she also ate all the quinoa. She ate all the collard greens, all the green bell pepper, all the squash, all the jalapeno pepper, and all the sweet potato. She ate almost all the Kamut. She even ate nearly all of the lentils, which Digby and Lenore have been leaving behind.

I am so excited about this! Sydney has refused so many foods. But for some reason, she ate this brand new food today and she ate all of it! *Does a happy dance.*

Dream Birds, Revisited

Remember this post, the one where I listed four birds that I would love to have? After some more thought and reading, I think I now have a better idea of what I want. So, here's the dream bird list revisited.

#1 is (still) an African grey. This isn't going to change. This is still my number one dream bird, the bird I know I will someday have.

The rest of the list has changed completely. Yes, I would still love to have a quaker, a cockatiel, and a white bellied caique, but I've decided that those aren't my what I envision my dream flock consisting of. So...

#'s 2 through 7, in no particular order at all, are any of the six commonly kept species of the Poicephalus genus (not including the Niam-Niam, Yellow Fronted, or Rüppell's). I want a brown-headed, a Senegal, a Meyer's, a Jardine, a Cape, or a red-bellied; right now, I don't know which one. I mentioned in that previous dream bird post that I was "this close" to getting a brown-headed parrot. Ever since I had that opportunity, I can't stop thinking about any of the Poicephalus parrots. I read about them a lot and I'm having trouble liking just one of them.

I don't plan on getting another bird until after I get my bachelor's degree. I'm pretty sure it will be a poicephalus. I just don't know which one.

A Little Bummed

I'm going to New Jersey and New York with a few friends in August. I'm pretty excited about going. I've been wanting to do a road trip for a while. My best friend and I are going up to New Jersey and meeting with a couple of friends from school. We'll be going to Six Flags and a couple other places, and we'll be spending a day in New York. We might also make a detour to Washington, DC on our way up there.

I'm not big into shopping, but my friend is. So, while we're in NYC, we'll be shopping (boring...) and there is one store I want to go to. That store is Fauna. Fauna is a pet store that has a ton of bird stuff and saltwater fish stuff (my two loves when it comes to animals). HungryBird did a virtual tour on her blog back in March and I've wanted to go ever since. I causally mentioned this store yesterday and my dear friend looked at me like crazy. *sigh* She just doesn't understand.

A New Bird Food

I don't often blog about the various foods I make for the birds. I tend to do a post when I buy a new food, but not usually when I make something. But, today, I'm sharing a food I made because I'm pretty darn proud of it.

It started on Thursday when I made some quinoa with veggies and lentils for the birds. Lenore loved it, as usual, but for some reason, Digby didn't want to touch it. I was a bit confused as she almost always eats quinoa foods. So, I added seeds to hers to try to get her to eat it. It worked a little--she picked out the seeds and ate some of the other stuff in the process, but she was still not eating it for some reason.

Yesterday I bought a sweet potato for the birds. I've given them sweet potato only once or twice previously and they hated it, but I decided to try it again. Last night as I was getting ready to give them the last of the quinoa, I had a stroke of genius (okay, maybe it wasn't a stroke of genius, but I hadn't previously thought of it). Why don't I cook the sweet potato and mix it in with the quinoa? There could be no bad outcome as I already expected Digby to refuse to eat the food anyway.

I popped to sweet potato in the microwave to cook it. When it finished cooking, I sliced off about a fourth of it. I mashed it, mixed it with the quinoa dish, sprinkled some seed and pellets in it, and dumped a bunch of cayenne pepper in it. I was expecting rejection from both the birds, but especially Digby.

I put Digby's dish in her cage and she immediately went to it. She started to reach in with her beak in preparation to chow down without looking, but at the last moment, she caught sight of the food. She froze. She looked at it carefully before slowly lowering her beak to pick out a seed. I sighed, knowing she was only going to eat the seeds. I left the room for a couple of hours. When I came back, I found Digby's dish almost completely empty! All that was left were the pellets. I was so happy that she ate it! Lenore ate most of his as well.

Today I had to make some more bird food. I made more quinoa and added some Kamut, collard greens, about a third of a green bell pepper, a jalapeno pepper, some yellow squash, and some lentils. I took the remain three-fourths of the sweet potato and mashed it and mixed the new quinoa mix in it.

(Excuse the crappy picture...I'm horrible at food photography)
I am quite happy about this. It's something totally new for the birds and they love it.
"It Will Only Grow the Size of its Tank": This statement is a lie. Do not believe it. I don't care who tells it to you, but it is a lie. Most people who say it aren't saying it as a lie, but are misinformed about proper husbandry and diet.

I hear this a lot with fish and reptiles. "Oh, just put the oscar in a 10 gallon aquarium and he won't get big." Or, "You can keep an iguana in a 55 gallon aquarium just fine because they won't grow to big for the tank you keep them in." When I worked at Petsmart, customers would ask me if this were true. I would tell them no.

The fact is the amount an animal will grow is not controlled by the size of its environment. It is controlled by genetics and the nutrients and such available in the environment, not the size of the environment. The stress of being in a small enclosure WILL limit an animal's growing potential, but this is not something you really want. The animal will be stressed and unhappy. It will probably live a shorter life.

With fish, the water quality also comes into play. If you keep a goldfish in a bowl with no filtration, the water will be nasty. Goldfish produce a lot of waste. Even with daily water changes, the water will have some ammonia and nitrates in it almost all the time. This is unhealthy for the fish and stresses the fish, making it slow non-essential body processes. However, I'll point out that a goldfish in a bowl that has daily water changes has a better chance of living a longer life and getting bigger.

Fish also secrete growth hormone inhibitors. In a small tank, these inhibitors build up faster and the fish's body production of growth hormone is inhibited and growth slows or stop. In a larger environment, the fish isn't exposed to the growth hormone inhibitors as much as it is in a small environment.

There are several reasons that a fish might stop growing that would cause people to blame it on the size of the aquarium. The first is the growth hormone inhibitors that I mentioned. The second is underfeeding. The people who tend to think they can keep big fish in a small aquarium to keep the size down are usually new fishkeepers who haven't done enough research. They also tend to underfeed their fish, leaving the fish malnourished. The third reason is the water quality, which I alluded to with the goldfish in the bowl. Ammonia and nitrates will build up; both are poisonous to fish. There are several other things that come into play when a fish is growing.

As for reptiles, it really comes down to husbandry. This includes not only the enclosure, but also the diet and the environment they are kept in. Diet is a really big part of what determines a reptile's growth, as it does for any animal. Given only enough food to survive, but not grow and thrive, growth will slow a lot. However, given enough food to thrive, the reptile will continue to grow even in a small enclosure. Like with fish, people who believe that they can control an animal's size by giving it a small home are often inexperienced and uninformed or misinformed about diet and proper husbandry as well.

With any animal, growth potential is controlled by genetics. In humans, if you have two tall parents, their children will be tall as well, provided they are healthy throughout their growing years and don't have any disorders or anything that inhibits growth. However, if two tall parents have a child and the child is malnourished, the child will not grow to his or her full potential.

Though we humans like to think we have control over so many natural things, we don't really have as much control as we believe. Simply putting a fish or reptile in a small aquarium does not change genetics and magically make the fish or reptile grow smaller; the animal is simply not growing to its full potential and is not thriving. We can, however, somewhat shape the size through years and generations of breeding, but it will not happen just by providing a small environment.

Lots of New Bird Stuff

In the past week I've been making a lot of bird stuff. It started with the storms that came through here the week before last and knocked off some branches from our apple tree. I decided I'd make perches since the birds, especially Sydney, need more perches.

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So far, I've only given some to Sydney. She really likes them. Which is awesome because she hardly likes anything.

Then the broken branches gave the inspiration to make a hanging playgym-thing for Digby. I thought the idea was a good one, but was fairly sure she'd be afraid of it. She's not. She loves it! I'm planning on adding a couple toys to it as well.

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I also have been wanting an orbit or atom or oddball or something like that. I saw a post on Avian Avenue about making one with instructions. I borrowed the idea, using the directions, but I used jute instead of cotton rope. None of the birds have gotten a chance to use it yet.

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From the orbit, I got the idea to make a swing for Sydney. I think this is my favourite thing I made. She hates it, of course, but it's staying in her cage because I really like it. Sydney will just have to deal with it.

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After I finished my orbit, I decided to make a quick, simple toy. It is just very simple and will probably be destroyed within two or three days when I give it to Lenore.

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I also have one more thing in the works. It's pretty big and I'm really excited about it. Now, if I could just find the drill bit I need...

My Little Mimic

I know a lot of lovebirds don't talk or mimic, but Digby is well on her way to doing just that. She barks when the dogs bark. It is high pitched and a bit squeaky, but it is obvious that is what she is doing. She's done this for a couple of months, and I just can't get a video of her doing it. It is super cute when she does it though.

There is also a word that she says. At least, I'm pretty convinced it's a word she's trying to say. It's a two syllable sound with the emphasis on the second syllable. I think she's trying to say "Digby". She will sometimes do this sound whenever we say her name.

She also sometimes just plain copies sounds or noises. She can't do it perfectly, but she tries. Often, she gets the infliction perfectly, but the sound itself isn't quite right. Last week, Shadow was intently staring at Digby's cage so I said, "Get!" Immediately after I said, Digby made this short noise that sounded like she was trying to say "get". Last night, we were watching a bird video on YouTube, and she copied a noise that the bird made. Tonight, I was making a kissy noise at her and she was making a similar noise back at me.

I really think she is trying to talk and mimic sounds. I need to get a video of her doing these things, but of course she doesn't do them whenever I have a camera ready.