New Dog and Cat Food

This past weekend, we went to a pet store to get cat food. What should have been a run-in-grab-food stop turned into a much longer stop, partly because of an African grey and partly because we stopped to talk to a pet food representative.

I usually avoid talking to pet food reps. Most dog and cat food on the market isn't food I will feed. I'm very selective about what food my pets get, so I won't talk to pet food reps as a general rule. But I was quite happy to talk to this one.

The representative was for a company called "Nature's Variety" and she was telling people about their "Instinct" line. The Instinct food is a frozen raw diet. For dogs and cats, a raw diet is superior to other diets, at least in my opinion. A raw diet means giving dog or cat raw meat and bones (not cooked bones), and possibly some fresh fruits and vegetables. Given that cats are obligate carnivores, and dogs are carnivores (there is debate as to whether they are true carnivores or omnivores, I side with the carnivore side), feeding a diet high in meat is pretty important. The Instinct foods are 95% meat, organs, and bone, and 5% fruits and vegetables, with absolutely no grains. 

After talking to the pet food rep, we bought a trail size bag of the frozen chicken. In addition to the chicken, they also have bison, venison, rabbit, lamb, and beef. The frozen, raw foods are for both dogs and cats, no different food. There is also a kibble, which doesn't have quite as much meat and more fruits and vegetables, but is still grain free. There is a canned version as well, which is the same 95% meat, 5% fruit and veggie ratio as the frozen food. The company also has another line of foods called "Prarie", which has grains, but only a few, and none of the ones I avoid in dog and cat foods. It looks pretty good too.

Now, all of this is fine and good on the nutrition side of things, but if the dogs and cats won't eat it, it's worthless. So far, we've only given some to Ellie the cockapoo with food allergies and/or intolerances, and Delilah the cat who is spoiled. Delilah wouldn't eat any unless I mixed her canned food in with it. Ellie, though, quite liked it.

Met an African Grey

I met my first African grey today. I had seen greys before, but I've never gotten the opportunity to hold or interact with one. Now I want one more than ever.

We had gone to a different pet store than usual today because we were in a different part of town. Before we got to the cat food, we got stopped by a pet food representative (watch for a different post about that...probably tomorrow...I'm pretty excited). While we were talking to her, my nephew and little brother decided to go look at the ferrets. A few minutes later, my mom and I were still talking to the pet food rep, and my nephew and brother come back. My nephew excitedly tells me there is an African grey back there and he got to hold her.

So after we finished talking to the pet food rep, we got the cat food and then went to the birds. The store employees had the grey out on a playstand and were misting her. She didn't like it too much, and so she was kind of irritated when we got over there. We stayed there for a few minutes talking to her and to the employee who was with her. This grey is a Congo African grey. She was five months old. She is already mimicking noises, and it sort of sounded like she was starting to try to say words. After she calmed down a little, I got to pet her and hold her.

The employee stepped her up from the playstand and then I offered her my hand. Before I could even tell her to step up, she was coming right to me. I held her and just looked at her. My heart melted. She was so cute, so calm, so willing to go to a complete stranger. She made cute little noises. I passed her off to my mom and she went to her just as willing.

This meeting reaffirmed the fact that I want a grey, but it did more than just that. Up until meeting this grey, I wanted to get two more birds (not now, but in the future)--a brown-headed parrot or a Meyer's and a grey. But after seeing, holding, and interacting with that grey today, I think I've decided that I just want one more bird, an African grey. I'm not saying that wouldn't like a poicephalus of some sort, but I want the grey more and feel that I would be content and happy to just have a grey and my lovebirds.
Digby and Lenore finally got a cage this week. I had had a cage picked out for them, one I really liked (the Marvelous Veranda cage), but I ended up having to use the money I had set aside for a cage to pay my horse's board this month. I went back to searching on Craigslist for a cage.

I found one last Thursday. It was $30, but not as long as I wanted. It has the same footprint as Sydney's cage. It's actually very similar to Sydney's cage--both cages are roughly 24"x22"x27", but with different tops. Sydney's cage is flat on top, Digby and Lenore's cage has a rounded top, but both cages open on the top. I decided that a cage that was a little narrower than I wanted was better than none (I really want a cage at least 30" wide).

As silly as it sounds, I used pocket change to pay for this cage. I had a jar that was filled with change. After a trip to a CoinStar machine, I ended up with $37. Enough to pay for the cage without taking any cash from my bank account.

The cage definitely shows some signs of wear, including a couple of rust spots. The rust came off easily with a little scrubbing with steel wool, but I'll have to watch to watch for new rust developing. I thought about getting it re-powdercoated, and found a place locally that can do it for $75. For now, though, I'll just keep a close eye on it. The cage was used for a budgie, but the family had to move to a smaller house, and so the budgie got a smaller cage. I felt kind of bad for taking such a nice sized cage away from the little guy, but it sounds like he gets a ton of time out of his cage.

Digby and Lenore spent two days in the cage together before I let them be in it without supervision. They've now spent four nights in the cage together and have been doing great. I was a little worried that they'd want to spend less time with me if I put them in a cage together, but that hasn't shown to be the case. If anything, Digby is actually happier to spend time with me and is less grouchy. Lenore's attitude has also gotten better and he isn't biting me as much as usual. I hope this continues.

The two of them have been acting nice to each other too. Well, mostly. Lenore sometimes annoys Digby and she gets after him, but besides that they've been acting very good.

Happy Father's Day

Yesterday, my mom and I went shopping for a couple Father's Day presents for my dad. We got home and he was trying to figure out what we got him by asking us where we went. I told him we went to Kroger and he asked what we got. I told him we got apple cider vinegar and rice (our main purpose was to get a couple of cards for him).

After some back and forth with him while he was trying to figure out what else we got, he finally asked, "What is apple piper vinegar?" I corrected him, telling him it was "apple cider vinegar." He asked what I got that for. I told him I got it mostly for the birds, that I put it in the water sometimes and I use it when I sprout seeds for them, and that it's also useful for making fruit fly traps (the fruit flies have been horrible this year).

He could not understand why I would make my birds drink something like that. I told him it kills bacteria. He thought that sounded like a good idea and asked if I put it in the dogs' water too. When I told him no, he wanted to know why.

Dad: So why don't you put it in the dogs' water?

Me: It would take a lot of it because the dogs' have big water dishes.

Dad: But aren't the dogs just as important as the birds?

Me: Yes, but birds have a more sensitive immune system than dogs.

Dad: You know so much stuff about that sort of stuff that it's scary.

Me: *blank look, wanting to facepalm* Well, I am a biology major, you know?

I also pointed out to him that I just took a microbiology class earlier this year and took two different zoology classes. He just laughed and told me I had a good point.

In other news, Bella, my German shepherd, turns 8 years old tomorrow. My puppy is getting old. She has grey hairs on her muzzle.

Flock Introductions

Since Sydney is out of quarantine and has been adjusting well to us humans, I decided it was time to introduce her to Lenore and Digby. Digby and Lenore have been able to hear Sydney ever since she came home, and Lenore and Sydney will often chirp back and forth. Digby and Lenore have also seen Sydney several times now.

Because Lenore and Sydney "talk" to each other all the time, I let them meet before I introduced Digby to Sydney. Lenore really liked Sydney. There was almost zero squabbling from the two of them. They sat perfectly content on my knee for quite a while. Since Lenore likes everybody, I already expected the two of them to get along pretty well because Sydney is very laid back.

Moments after meeting (FYI, bird pictures taken with phones usually are no good)
A couple days after that, it was time for Digby to meet Sydney. I knew that if I was going to have trouble with introductions, this was where it would be. I was right. I got Digby out and let her play with Lenore for a while. Then Lenore was ready to go to bed, so I put him in his cage. I spent a few minutes with Digby by herself, then put her on the playstand. I went into the other room and got Sydney out of her cage and just cupped her in my hands against my body.

When I got back to the dining room, I sat down in the chair next to the playstand and just held Sydney and petted her. After a minute, I let her go and she perched on the napkin holder. Then Digby came and sat on my shoulder, watching Sydney. I put Digby on the table and Sydney came over to say hi. Then Digby went after Sydney! She grabbed onto her back but thankfully wasn't able to get a good grip before Sydney flew away and back to the napkin holder.

Digby came back to me for a couple minutes, then decided she wanted to go to Sydney. She walked straight across the table to where Sydney was perched and tried to bit Sydney's leg. Sydney was, again, too fast for Digby. That was the end of attempted introductions for the night. I put Digby back on the playstand and held Sydney until Sydney wanted on the playstand and I switched the birds around. The two girls sat within a few feet of each other, Digby on my shoulder, Sydney on the playstand, and they ignored each other the rest of the evening.

Feeling Guilty?

A very interesting question was raised on Avian Avenue yesterday.

The question was, "Do you ever feel guilty about aviculture?"

A lot of people chimed in saying they did and one person said they'd give up their birds if it meant that owning birds could be illegal. Only a very small number of people said they didn't feel guilty; I was one of those. Somebody said that with this question, a can of worms was opened, and I completely agree.

I don't feel guilty about owning birds. I don't feel guilty about aviculture. I really think guilty is the wrong word. I find that ashamed is a better word, and I do feel ashamed about the state of the industry and at times I even feel angry about it. There are many, many things wrong with not only the aviculture industry, but the pet industry as a whole.

I think in order for one to feel guilty about something, they have to have had a big part in causing it and have some power to either have prevented it in the first place or change it. Seeing as I didn't cause the current state of aviculture and I certainly can't change it by myself, I don't feel guilty about it. I am guilty of at times supporting it, and I am trying to get better about that. I no longer shop at big box pet stores unless I have no choice, and I certainly will never purchase another animal from a big box store. I am guilty of being part of the industry, having spent a year working at a big box pet store, and that is something I will never do again.

No, I don't feel guilty about aviculture. I can't feel guilt because I didn't cause it, but like I said, I am ashamed of and angry at the shape of the industry. There are too many birds without homes, too many birds dying too soon, too many birds being taken out of their natural environment, too many companies selling products that are dangerous or just detrimental to the health of our birds. This is not something that any one pet owner is responsible for. I think we, as a community, have helped it on its way, but I also think that the community, at least those members of the community who care about these things, are trying very hard to correct the problems caused by our predecessors in the hobby and the industry.

When it comes to my own birds, I don't feel even a tinge of guilt. All three of them are quite happy. They have everything they need, plus some. They have fresh food and water, they have a safe place to live in, sleep in, and relax in. They get to go outside sometimes. They have enrichment and foraging opportunities. They don't have to worry about predators; they seldom have a reason to be afraid of anything. They have the companionship of not only their human flock members, but also their feathered flock members. When they are sick, they are cared for.

Things aren't perfect for them, but that is what I strive for while knowing perfection could never be met. My three have never known a life outside of the type of life they have (except maybe Sydney, but I don't really know what her life was like). They know nothing about what life is like outside of being pets and companions. They don't know what they're missing, and so I don't feel guilty. I would feel guilty if they had been given that freedom and then had it taken away.

Taming Sydney, Part 3

It's been quite a while since I last posted an update about Sydney and getting her to like people.

There hasn't been much change. I've worked with stick training her a bit. She refuses to step up. If I can get her to fly off the surface she is on, she will land back on the perch I am holding. That's the best I've been able to get her to do.

Up until this past week, I haven't really done much with Sydney other than letting her out of her cage and being in the same room as her. This week though, I got brave. When I was letting her out of her cage, I didn't wait for her to come out. I reached in and grabbed her.

I had never held her before then.  I expected that I would be bit and she would struggle to get away. Not so. I discovered that I can pick her up and put her on my shoulder. I can simply hold her cupped in my hands. She doesn't struggle. She doesn't bite.

Read those previous two sentences again: She doesn't struggle and she doesn't bite. She does struggle just a tiny bit sometimes, but it's the not biting that amazes me. She is actually extremely careful to not bite me. The other day, I was picking her up and she was going to use her beak to grip my hand a little better. I would have no problem with her doing this. But she open her beak, put it on my hand, and then just as quickly removed it.

So, I tried something else. I held her in my hand with her feet on my thumb and my palm over her back. I flipped my hand over so that she was on her back. She didn't struggle. I only made her do that for a second, but she let me do it more than Lenore lets me.

I am just amazed by how she acts. She doesn't bit me, and once I pick her up, she doesn't try to get away. When she first came home, she acted like she had never been out of her cage. I don't believe that to be the case now. I think her previous owner loved her quite a bit and spent a lot of time teaching her to be nice.

I still can't get her to step up. When I offer her my hand and tell her to step up, she just sits there. I wonder if her original owner wasn't American as her son's name was José and had some sort of accent, but not Mexican. Maybe Spanish. I wonder how Spanish people tell their birds to step up.

A Job for Maggie

Our miniature schnauzer Maggie needs a job. She is a ball of energy that needs to be put to work. She's pretty good with basic obedience, though her "stay" and "heel" could use some work, especially her "stay".

I would like to get her involved in a dog sport ( almost sounds like I'm talking about a kid). I'm considering both agility and earthdog. I think she'd do well in both and enjoy both of them. I did agility for a little while with Bella before she got hip dysplasia. We never got to enter a show before it became too difficult for her. I had a lot of fun doing it (so did Bella) and I think Maggie would like it too.

As for earthdog, Maggie is our squirreler. That's like a mouser but with squirrels. She is small, too, and that's something that is needed in an earthdog.

Maggie is small and fast and smart--all things that would give her an advantage with both agility and earthdog. The advantages of doing earthdog with her are that it can be done with a minimal amount of equipment and a lot of training isn't necessary. The disadvantage is that there doesn't seem to be any group in Kentucky or Indiana that does it. The advantages of agility are that there are several groups in the Louisville area that do agility. The disadvantage is that it requires a lot of equipment and quite a bit more training.

What I would really like to do with her is dock jumping, but I don't think she's much of a water dog.

Avian Avenue Sidewalk Sale

Avian Avenue, the fantastic bird forum I'm a member of, is having a sidewalk sale. They've had these in the past, but this is the first since I've joined the forum. A bunch of vendors offer sales to members of the forums.

Last week, they announced the dates of the sale. The sale will take place 10 June-12 June. Friday, they announced which vendors will be having sales. There were three stores I was hoping would participate and all three of them are.

For now, I'm just planning on stocking up on some food. If, by next weekend, I have more money to spend on the birds, I'll also be buying some other stuff. I'd love to place an order at Things for Wings, and I'd also like to try some food from Avian Organics.

I'll have to make a list of what I need to buy and what I want to buy.
For those who have been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that I had a container of Zupreem Natural pellets that Digby and Lenore both refused to eat. I wasn't too upset that they refused them as it forced me to research pellets and pick a much, much better one (Totally Organics Pellets is what I feed now when I feed pellets).

But for some reason, I had been hanging onto these pellets. Maybe I was keeping them in case of an emergency. Maybe I just didn't want to throw away food that I had spent money on and wasn't spoiled. Most of the time when I made bird bread, I'd toss some Zupreem pellets in the batter just to use them.

However, while I was in Florida, my mom threw out the pellets. She called me to tell me she had gotten the container out, forgetting about the other pellets still in the bag. She started to get some pellets out and saw something absolutely nasty.

She saw weevils in the food! I am glad that she's the one that discovered it and not me. She took the entire container outside and threw away the weevil-infested food.

Now, to be clear, I don't think the weevils are from the pellets. I think the weevils are from one of two small bags of seed mix that were in the container along with the pellets, but I'm not sure which one. The more likely one is the one that I got from a bulk bin at one of the pet stores because I had nothing else (not doing that again!). The other seed mix that was in there was...I can't remember the brand. It came in a red bag and was also bought because I needed to buy some locally (not buying that brand again either...I didn't like it anyway).

This food wasn't being used, which is why I never saw them. But the fact that there were weevils in the food grosses me out. I think I may have to start storing bird food in the fridge or freezer. 


I got home from Florida yesterday afternoon. I had a lot of fun being in Florida and caring for somebody else's birds. I also decided one my first choice for a graduate school--Nova Southeastern University. I looked at a couple other schools, too. I liked them a lot, but really liked Nova.

My own birds certainly missed me (well, except Sydney, who doesn't really care much for me...we're still working on that). While I was gone, Lenore refused to come out of his cage for my mom unless Digby was also out. Digby was mostly good, but bit my mom on the ear once and made it bleed. When I got home, I went to say hi to them. Lenore came out of his cage right away for me. Digby didn't really want to at first. I think she was mad that I had been gone. Today, she is back to her happy self.

But the animal that really missed me was my cat Delilah. She has hardly left my side since I've been home. Last night, she slept on my chest. At least, I'm assuming that's where she slept. She was there when I fell asleep and there when I woke up. Even right now, she is laying beside me.

I had an awesome time in Florida, but I am quite happy to be home.