2nd Morning with Chop.

So today is my second morning serving chop and I have had 4/5 with at least moderate compliance!  Yesterday, all of the little guys sat around hungry in their cages, waiting for their pellets to return.   I used my age old trick of laying down a towel, throwing some food around it and placing them all on the towel and pretending to peck at the floor while exclaiming ‘yum yum!!’ like an idiot.  It usually works and they all will at least try some food.  Moving from the floor to the bowels in the cages is a learning curve though.  

Yesterday it was Miles who started eating like a little fiend, which is good because it inspires everyone else to try some.  However, when I put the bowels in the cages this morning, everyone ran away like I was trying to poison them.  So, I tried my second favorite trick.  I sat down next to the cages and ate my breakfast.  Mmmm that inspires everyone to go eat, as birds are communal eaters and my guys LOVE eating with me.  I also mixed in some pellets and some seed into their dishes today in an attempt to bring them to the bowl.  

 I look over and little Erin has her face buried in her dish.  Erin, who took an entire YEAR to convert successfully onto pellets, was eating the new food as her breakfast.  She has definitely gotten more adventurous and more bold when it comes to food.  Miles saw Erin eating and had to go over and start his breakfast too.  Bella eats anything, so she had already eaten some yummy banana and some of the seeds in her dish.  Even Jules, who was disgusted that I wanted him to try a new food yesterday, went over and grabbed a little food from his dish.  The only one I haven’t seen eating it yet was Taylor.  

So it wasn’t 100% acceptance.  But it was definitely something.  And for the bird who took a year to convert from seed to pellets, its definitely a big step.

My First Attempt at Chop!

In the past year, I have become obsessed with nutrition.  I think it has something to do with becoming a vegetarian, or maybe more recently it has been spurred on by preparing diets at the aviary and how good they look, but regardless of where it stems from my new found joy has led me to researching more natural animal diets.  

A long while ago, I had began researching more natural bird diets for my guys and I stumbled on  The Chop Blog.  It made me really want to try this method of food with my guys.  Unfortunately, living down at school and my mom taking care of the birds made it difficult to try it.

Now, I’m home for the summer and commuting next year, so I decided it was time to give it a go.  Lance and I were out shopping and I suggested looking at appliances.  Lance is a huge sucker for appliances, so he gladly obliged and we left with a little 8 cup food processor.  We hit the produce and bought some fruits and veggies and went home to give it a try.

I was a little hesitant to make a big batch of it because I don’t know if my guys are even going to eat it and our freezer is in need of a cleaning out, so we decided to start with a mini batch and see how it went.  Before I got home from work, Lance had soaked the bag of beans all day and started cooking them, started cooking the wild rice and barely, and had thoroughly cleaned the food processor and all the little Rubbermaid containers that we purchased.  I had read online that uncooked beans are poisonous to birds, so I was really freaked out about using them.  We soaked them for about nine hours and cooked them for another two and a half until they were pretty soft to the touch.  We might have over done it a little but better safe than sorry.  

We drained the wild rice and chopped up some of the beans and mixed them in.  mmm yummy.  We added some flax seed and dried oatmeal.  

Lance was having a good time using the food processor.  He also informed me that if we decide to have an actual wedding and a bridal shower, he was coming with me to make the registry.  I called him a Susie Homemaker and he actually agreed with me lol.

  Then we chopped up some of the vegetables we got.  We added kale, some frozen peas and corn, some boiled sweet potato, frozen green beans, and fresh carrot.  I added some blueberries chopped in fourths and a few whole ones for texture.  

We mixed everything together, drained it one last time, and bagged it all up.  We filled up our little containers first, but didn’t have enough to avoid bags.  Ideally, we’re trying to stay away from bags because they’re more difficult to reuse and we’re trying to be more environmentally friendly.  Plus, the little containers hold enough for all the birds.

I threw one of the containers in the fridge last night to thaw.  This morning, I added a little extra banana, mango, and apple to the dishes, especially to Bella’s.  In the wild, conures eat mostly fruit while parakeets and cockatiels eat a lot of grains and seeds.

Bella seemed to enjoy it.  Unfortunately, my little guys are not to impressed with my culinary skills.  They’ve avoided it, which is a common small bird tactic.  I’m hoping that the more I serve it, the more they’ll get used to it and start eating it.  

 Ultimately, I think that our first attempt went well.  Next time I won’t be so afraid to make a larger batch, but I’m definitely going to have to clean out the freezer first!

Bella Antics

If there is one thing Bella loves to do more than anything, its get into trouble.   Whether its ripping up something she shouldn’t be shredding, pulling the buttons off the remote control, or climbing off her cage and taking a walk around the house, if there is a rule, Bella is out to break it.

Today, we were busy clipping the smaller birds wings and nails.  Bella was happily sitting on her cage waiting her turn.  When we turned back around, this is where we found her:

We have ten foot ceilings in my parents house and Taylor’s cage is suspended from the ceiling on a rope pulley that my dad made so he could see around the room and feel like he was tall even when he cannot fly.  Bella, however, enjoys crawling up the suspension rope and getting stuck near the ceiling.  Once she gets up there, she acts as though she can’t get down (maybe she can’t?  I don’t know.) and screams until you use a wooden perch to try and retrieve her.  

She’s a very naughty bird.  

I always know when she gets quiet that shes up to some mischief.  

But Professor, my Parrot Ate my Homework! I Swear!

Erin, saying enough studying!

Here is my wonderful little Erin attempting to kill my study attempts.  She says enough biology!  I’m cuter!  This could possibly be the reason I always seem behind on things.  But how could I say no to a face like that?  Aside from trying to shred my homework (which I’ll have you know, she never shreds any of her shredding toys, just my homework), she also tries to take my pen or pencil out of my hand, throws my pictures on my desk around or knocks them over, and tries to chew on my computer cords.  Bad, bad birdie!

Higgins Worldly Cuisine Review

The last time we went out to a bird fair I picked up some of the Higgins Worldly Cuisine packets to try with my guys.  I’m always busy, so sometimes finding time to get all the ingredients together and make my own mixture is tough.  I usually just give them some of whatever we are making for dinner, but the Worldly Cuisines looked pretty tasty and I needed something else bird related to spend my money on.  

I bought the Moroccan Cafe Blend, which had a lot of rice in it, and my picky cockatiels usually like rice.  The back label said to cook the food on the stove top, but I’m really lazy and made it in the microwave by covering it and microwaving it for five minutes and stirring it every minute and a half.  

When I took it out, it smelled divine.  I know birds aren’t suppose to be able to smell, but Bella was on my shoulder and started getting excited and edging towards the microwave before she even saw the bowl.  Maybe she just knows by now her lazy mother takes all of her treats out of the microwave lol.  
As weird as it is, I always taste their food before I give them it, because in my opinion, if I’m going to give something to my parrots it has to be suitable for human consumption.  It was pretty tasty, even for a human!  It tasted kind of like plain rice with some apple and something sweet like brown sugar in it.  Anyways, it passed my taste test, so I mixed in a packet of ornabac because no one likes eating probiotics with their pellets and some of the Higgins Snack Attack Leafy Greens and Herbs to give it some extra flavor and dished it all out to everyone.  They all seemed to like it!


Bella, trying some of her Moroccan Blend!

Bella’s Story

I was sitting here trying to think of something interesting I could post about, and I decided that it might be interesting to write an installment about each of my birds and how they fell into my ownership.  I’ve written a little blurb about each of them in the Our Flock section, but it doesn’t really highlight the extent the extent and the urgency that I took some of them out of.

Bella’s story is by far the most interesting and involved.  She makes everyone else seem pretty lack luster to be honest.  And if there was ever an animal that I wish I could see what they went through when I wasn’t around, it would be Bella.

Bella was born and bred at the little pet store I work at.  She was the youngest of a clutch of three chicks, and there were only two clutches laid, so she was the youngest of six chicks.  Her parents stopped producing shortly after Bella was hatched.

I first met Bella sometime in August right after I got my job at the pet store.  Because the store is family owned, we often take in people’s animals that they no longer want and put them back up for adoption, hoping another family will come and give them a home.  These animals have a smaller ‘rehoming fee’ instead of a price tag and often go home with their cage and their toys that they came in with.  Bella had come back to the store after being purchased two years prior.  Red throated conures are pretty rare, and not many people in this area have heard of them so I didn’t even know what she was when I first saw her.  I had been thinking about getting another bird, maybe another cockatiel or a green cheek conure, but there was definately something about Bella that drew me to her.  My boss told me that she had been bought for a child, who no longer had an interest in her and the mother couldn’t stand her screaming.  She then went to live with an old lady who took pretty good care of her, but died.  She went through a few relatives while they sorted out the will and such, and then she went back to the child and the mother who hated her.  Finally, in desperation, they brought her back to the store because they couldn’t stand her anymore and just wanted her gone.

Bella was nervous and nippy at the store, but she wasn’t mean.  Her rehoming fee was far less than what she had origionally been marked at, and for a two year old red throated conure, she was a steal.  Bella was quickly put on layway by an older man.  

However, as time went on, Bella still sat at the store.  The man stopped answering our phone calls.  Three months time passed and Bella’s layways was voided at the beginning of December, just in time to be homeless for Christmas.  

Christmas Eve came and another guy came into the store and expressed an interest in Bella.  He had come and bought several animals from us before, but it never seemed like he kept them very long.  He always was rehoming or reselling his  pets for some reason or another and it really didn’t sit right with any of us at the store.  He asked to buy Bella, and my boss gave him a speech about how she had been through a lot and if he wanted to take her, he needed to be prepared to give her a lifetime home, as she had already been through so many changes and her sweet, trusting demeanor had already been compromised because of it.  He assured us that he has been thinking about getting a bird for a long time and that he loved her, blah blah blah.  He took Bella home that day.

The Christmas season went by, and two weeks after selling Bella my manager started telling me about she didn’t think that guy had her anymore.  She said that he came in to buy crickets, but nothing for the bird, and when she asked about her, he just kind of mumbled and didn’t really say anything and left in a hurry.  We all had our suspicions and everyone felt really bad.

A few weeks later, I was googling bird toys in Pittsburgh.  Somehow that brought me to Craigslist where I was staring face to face with an ad for a red throated conure.  

I immediately emailed the guy, trying to find out the birds name even though I was almost sure it was her.  I went to work and showed my boss and manager, and I tried to come up with a plan on how to execute a rescue.  

The guy emailed me back and I found out that Bella was not being sold from the origional guy who bought her.  He had apparently sold her again, and now this guy was selling her.  I was disgusted.  The asking price was a whole $150 more than she had been rehomed for at the pet store.  I emptied my savings account while my parents were at work and drove someplace I had never heard of before to go rescue a bird.  I knew it wasn’t very smart, but it was something I had to do.

When I got there, I was led down to a basement bedroom.  Bella was in a ferret cage between a big lizard and a snake.  There were no windows in the room and everywhere I looked there were reptiles.  She bit me as soon as I tried to pick her up, but I didn’t really care.  I asked for a box and handed over the money and belted her into the car.  

Halfway home, I realized I was in trouble.  I had no cage for this bird, no food except for the Walmart seed mixture he had given to me, no conure sized toys, and I didn’t even have any perches because all of my birds were handicapped!  Plus, my parents, who had said no more birds three birds ago, were going to kill me!!  So I went to the only place that I thought could help me; my work!

And help me they did.  When I showed them Bella and told them what I had done to get her, they gave me a cage, food, perches, toys, everything I could need to get her started at my house.  They thought I was crazy, but as animal lovers, they understood.  Then I had to think of a way to break it to my parents.  I texted them both ‘you’re going to kill me’.  They’re immediate thoughts?  I wrecked the car or was pregnant.  So much faith in me.  Needless to say, they were relieved when I texted them a picture of a green parrot.  Relieved, but still not happy.

Later than night, Bella decided I was her human.  I was trying to talk to Lance on the phone and crawled up into my loft bed while my mom was trying to become friends with Bella down on the floor.  Bella had been sitting on the top of her cage, but as soon as I crawled up out of site, she crawled down and began pacing, trying to find me.  My mom ended up called me down because she was going so nuts trying to find me.  I think my mom was disappointed; she has always wanted a bird that would ride around on your shoulder with you and that wants to be with you.  I think she was hoping Bella would bond with her and be her bird.  Bella had different plans though.  

At first, I couldn’t stand Bella’s clingy-ness.  She wasn’t just content to sit on my lap and get her head pet like my other birds.  She wanted to climb up next to my head and snuggle into my hair.  She wanted to hide under my ponytail.  She wanted to preen me, constantly!  And when I wasn’t around, she screamed.  Getting her settled in was a hard time period.  She drove me nuts being so clingly, she drove everyone else nuts screaming, and she started getting aggressive towards everyone.  If someone wanted to sit next to me on the couch and Bella was out, she would climb off my shoulder, walk over, and attack them.  

Thankfully, Bella has settled down and become much more laid back from where she was.  She still bites; especially strangers.  When I come back from school for breaks, she goes into ‘clingy conure phase’ but after a few days goes back to being self sufficient.  And she still screams.  A lot.  

I’m very happy I rescued Bella.  I’ve given her a chance at a new life that she wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t taken her.  Aside from being moody and loud, Bella is very goofy and adventurous.  She is playful and silly, and she loves making people laugh.  She’s has opened up and become very loving at times, and loves to cuddle next to me or preen my hair when shes out.  She loves going out for car rides and visiting pet stores, but she still doesn’t like being handled by strangers.  She’s tough and go with Lance, mostly because she hates that he takes my attention away from her.

And ultimately, I believe she changed my life.  Lance says that it was the day I brought her home that I decided I wanted to be a vet.  He said that when he asked me why, I said ‘because I have this bird, and I like helping her, and I want to help other things’.  Honestly, I don’t remember it all that well.  The days after bringing Bella home were a big blur.  But, I’ll trust his judgement on it lol.  

And even though I’m at school half the time and she’s here, Bella’s species can live to be 25 to 30 years old, and shes currently 4.  I think we have a lot of time to get to know each other 🙂

It’s Just a Bird

It’s just a bird.  The words I hate hearing more than anything else.  I mean, how do you explain to people that your bundle of feathered joy isn’t ‘just a bird’ to you?  The hard facts in life is that if you are not a pet person, or a bird person, you probably won’t get it.  

Obviously, from my past posts, this whole blog, and all the numerous pictures I have posted of my feathered kids (fids for short), you can tell I love my birds.  They are not ‘just birds’ to me.  They are an important member of my family.  They are like my children.  So when I have people telling me that they are ‘just birds’ it definitely gets under my skin.

I especially have this problem when I start explaining the medical care that some of my birds require.  All of their handicaps require unique care and sometimes I have to do things that to normal everyday people are a little crazy.  A good example of this is Taylor.  When I explain to people that he has to be on medication forever to keep yeast from growing in his crop, that he has racked up around $500 in vet bills in his short life, and that his feet are so turned in I have to find or make special shelves to sit on, I get a lot of grumbling about how I am crazy and he is ‘just a bird’.  And sometimes I have a hard time understanding why they can’t see what I can.   About how he has overcome his handicaps, he has learned to be happy with what he has, and he is a terrific, sweet, and funny boy.  To me, he is a success story and he inspires a lot of hope in me and makes me look at life a little differently.  To everyone else, he’s ‘just a bird’.

I even get a lot of people who try to turn my own science major-ness against me and claim that according to Darwin, survival of the fittest rages and if he was in the wild he would be dead.  And I agree.  If any of my birds were in the wild, they would be dead.  But what they don’t understand is my birds would not have these problems if they were in the wild.  My birds are mostly a product of human made mistakes.  Inappropriate diet to the breeding parents, over breeding, in breeding, and just general not understanding what the term ‘bird breeding’ meant are the reason my babies are so crippled.  Also, they are not in the wild.  They are in my house and I have the means to care for them and make them comfortable, so why wouldn’t I?  Our science is great enough to help with the problems that inexperienced humans have created.  

To me, saying ‘its just a bird’ is an insult.  My birds are my choice in life and no one else should question that.  They are my hobby and my calling.  I enjoy caring for them and I enjoy having them in my life.  To me, saying ‘its just a bird’ is like telling a parent ‘its just a child’ or an expectant mother ‘ its just a conglomeration of cells acting as a  parasite off your body’.  Children are not my calling in life, yet I do not question the motives to why other people want to have them.  That is their life choice, and its no ones business but their own.

So my other animal loving friends, how do you deal with people when they say ‘its just a bird’ or ‘its just an animal’?  Leave me a comment!  I’m interested in knowing how everyone else deals with this, because to date I haven’t found a response that just gets people to leave it alone!

Adventure to Northview, Part 2!

I knew as soon as I came home on Friday that Taylor’s yeast infection had returned.  We have been battling this stupid yeast now for several months, and it was time to return to the vet yet again and try something else.  We also decided to take Jules, because he has had very runny poop for quite some time now.  We never took him before because it was so touch and go; one day he would be perfectly fine, the next he would have runny poop, and then he would be fine again.  We also knew that he liked drinking a lot of water and eating wetter foods, so we thought that could be the cause of his mushy droppings.  But, we figured just to be safe we’d take him in with Taylor and have him checked out.  So we made an appointment and yesterday we went on another adventure.  

The thing I hate most about Northview is getting there.  I have to drive from the south hills, through Pittsburgh, into the north hills.  I have to drive on busy highways with evil drivers and people who want to  run me off the road.  Let me admit now, I am not a very good confident driver.  I have never driven to Northview without crying on either the way there or back.  I always feel so bad for Taylor.  I’ll start screaming and crying and saying we are going to die, and he starts talking back from his carrier in a little voice “Pretty bird.  Pretty Pretty. ” and he always says it like a question, like he doesn’t know if he’s a pretty bird or not.  He always tries to make his mama feel better lol.  

So, we got to Northview in, I don’t know how, one piece.  I have a lot of trouble finding someone who can see my birds and actually know what they are talking about, but Dr. Pleban is a saint.  She’s very sweet and soft spoken and gentle with them, and she’s always seems to know what she’s talking about, which is more than I can say for many of the other places I’ve gone to.  A few tests later and we had our results.  

Both Taylor and Jules have a bacterial infection in their gut that is resulting in the smelly, nasty poop.  It’s not something that will make them really, really sick, but it makes a mess out of their feces.  We’re guessing Taylor got it from Jules, because on his last visit he had a clean stool test.  However, its only transmitted through feces, so that means that Taylor had to eat some of Jules’s poop.  Yuck!  Good thing everyone has their own cage so it won’t spread to anyone else.  Taylor also had another yeast infection.  She said that he doesn’t have as much yeast as last time, which means that our boiling water and probiotics were helping, just not enough.  She also said that due to how flabby and flacid his crop looks and feels, she believes that he has a mechanical  problem where his muscles are not fully functional in his crop. She said she has treated another cockatiel with the same condition and feels that it is something that goes along with his handicap.  Taylor is now on a maintenance medication that he will have to take for the rest of his life.    

When we went to check out, I felt like we were taking a pharmacy with us.  We have four different types of medication.  Taylor has three of them, and Jules only has one.  Both are on a medicine for the bacterial infection.  Taylor also has his medicine to get rid of his yeast infection, and then he also has his maintenance medication.  When we left, Lance had sticker shock; we paid more in our visit yesterday than we did for both birds put together.  I was well prepared; to date, Taylor has cost me roughly $500 in health costs.  He was a $40 cockatiel.  

Lance and I came home and bleached everything.  We bleached every cage, every toy, every food and water dish.  We literally bleached and cleaned for three hours.  We shouldn’t have any other outbreaks in the bacterial infection.  Most likely, Taylor picked up bacteria from a toy that Jules had had and hadn’t been washed recently or drinking out of the same water when they were out playing.  The vet also said that Taylor was probably the perfect target for the bacteria because his immune system is weaker than the other birds because of the yeast infection.  She said because white face is such a recessive gene, even though its beautiful, it can also come with other health risks, such as a compromised immune system.  We still don’t know where Jules got sick from initially, but he could have had it since we brought him home.  

So, now our babies are on the mend and everyone should be good and healthy!  

 

Bird Brain

Although I am a bird lover and a pet owner, I am also a science major and I often think like a science major.  One of the things I’m obviously interested in is the psychology of the avian.  And having Erin down at school with me has provided the perfect opportunity for me to conduct some of my own mini science activities.

Obviously, I am not taking Erin into the labs and seeing what type of bacteria affects her or what type of medicine does what to her.  She’s not a testing bird, shes my fid!  But the way her mind works fascinates me sometimes.

Recently, I noticed that Erin seemed much more interested in my writing utensils.  And by interested, I mean she’s been climbing onto my homework and attempting to take my pencil out of my hand.  I have her out on my desk while I do my homework, so at first this was really annoying.  I started giving her one of my extra pencils with a worn out eraser on it to keep her occupied while I was doing my homework.  And little Erin, who never plays with anything, started going to town on the pencil!  She would bite at it, pick it up and toss it around, pull it around the desk, and even graduated to throwing the pencil off my desk into my trash can.  I didn’t really think anything of it until I accidentally gave her a pen one day to play with instead of her usual pencil.   Immediately, she was back on top of my homework, trying to take my pencil away from me.

Maybe this just seems really stupid, but to me it was kind of interesting; why does Erin only like pencils and not pens?

I started giving her other writing utensils.  Highlighters, markers, dry erase markers, pens that look different from my normal pen, colored pencils.  Out of everything I have offered Erin, she prefers my mechanical pencils best.  But why?  Markers and highlighters are much more colorful, pen tops are easier to chew, and colored pencils have exposed graphite!

My hypothesis is that because Erin’s cage faces my desk and she spends so much time out on my desk while I am recopying notes, working problems, and doing labs, Erin is seeing me play with the pencils and therefore, they are the best toy option.   Birds are observational.  They love to watch and learn.  I spend a lot of time scratching away with my mechanical pencils, and I’m sure Erin watches this and things that pencils must be the best toy ever.  

Do any of your birds make toys out of everyday objects that you use often?