Benefits of Plants for Parrots

What a wicked winter we’ve had here in the American North East! And it’s taken quiet a toll on my garden. Even my super hardy plants, like Swiss Chard and Collard Greens are just piles of slime! But the days are getting longer and a little warmer, the geese are starting to move northward, and the robins are reappearing in the yard, so I know spring is on the way. I love spending time working in my yard, with my lovely flock watching from their sunny spot on the deck.
Whether you are an experienced gardener, a beginner, or a want to be gardener, as a parrot owner, you will find plants to be an incredibly enriching, physically and mentally, addition to their surroundings.
Here is a presentation I did all about the Benefits of Plants for Parrots for the Phoenix Landing Foundation. I hope you find some useful information in it.
Happy Gardening!

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Perches and Playstands, a Phoenix Landing Presentation

SONY DSC
Our Companion Parrots spend 99% of their lives standing on their feet, so providing them with a variety of perching options is critical for their physical health. Playstands are perching areas outside the cage, which can be used for fun, foraging or just hanging out. Having playstands in a variety of locations in the home, can provide the mental stimulation and social interaction that a companion parrot requires to live a happy well adjust life in our homes. Come explore the many options for perches and playstands and learn to think beyond the wooden dowel!

Click on the slide show below to see the entire presentation from the Phoenix Landing enrichment class held earlier this month, and get inspired to make some new perches and play areas for your parrots!

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Holiday Parrot Toy Project, Helping People Helping Parrots

I have a request….

Most of you know I am the Maryland Education Coordinator for the Phoenix Landing Foundation, and in that capacity I sometimes do presentations to different types of groups, teaching them about parrot care. Earlier this year I was contacted by a wonderful woman, named Suse, who is the instructor for the Horticultural Therapy Program at Gallagher Services, a division of Catholic Charities, which is a day program for developmentally disabled adults. Suse asked me if I would be willing to come give a presentation on general parrot care to the 80+ individuals in her program. She also wanted to know more about what types of plants would be beneficial to parrots, and would Phoenix Landing want a donation of organically grown plants that her classes would grow for us. See, Suse is a firm believer in teaching that everyone is capable of being of service to someone else, no matter their level of physical or mental ability.  Her classes grew an assortment of beautiful herb plants and aloe plants for Phoenix Landing, which they presented when I came, with Trixie and Annie, my macaws, to give the groups the Parrot Care presentation, we all had a wonderful time!

April-June-July Activities 099

A small sample of the plants the folks at Gallagher grew for Phoenix Landing

For Suse’s next service project she wants to have her classes make simple parrot toys that they will donate to Phoenix Landing for foster birds and the birds at the Landing. She will be teaching her classes about how important play and toys are to parrots, what kind of material are safe for parrots to play with and chew, and then the classes will actually construct toys for the birds. These will be very simple toys, a variety of safe materials strung either on Poly Rope or Stainless Skewers, depending on each person’s level of physical ability. Phoenix Landing has donated  50 skewers to fill. And I have plenty of poly rope which Suse, a wonderful young woman Suse works with named Annie, and I have already begun cutting into lengths and tying hanging loops on.

Suse and Annie in my Workshop, tying hanging loops in Poly Rope

Suse and Annie in my Workshop, tying hanging loops in Poly Rope

Suse will be using part of  her allotted monthly budget for now through the beginning of December to purchase a variety of parrot safe toys parts, to make the toys before the Christmas Holiday, but being a nonprofit organization, her funds are limited.

So here’s my request,
If anyone has extra toy parts they are willing to donate to this project, or would be willing to purchase and send toy parts (preferably with ¼” or larger holes), or even more skewers for us to fill, we would be ever so grateful, and Gallagher Services would in turn send you a tax deductible charitable donation receipt for your gift. Toy part donations can be sent up through the beginning of December. The more toys parts we can get, the more toys these wonderful people will be able to make, and the more birds will have much needed enrichment.

Deb White, owner of http://www.makeyourownbirdtoys.com/ has most generously offered to match any purchase made though her store for this project!

Truly this is a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season, helping people helping parrots.
Thank you all!

Please send your toy part donations to:

Parrot Toy Project
C/O Suse Greenstone
Gallagher Services
Horticultural Therapy Programs
2520 Pot Spring Rd.
Timonium, MD  21093

Annie making sample toys

Annie made a few sample toys

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My Chop My Way

Little did I know when I, as the Maryland  Education Coordinator for Phoenix Landing, scheduled Patricia Sund, author of the blog Parrot Nation, to come do her Chop presentation how much it would change the way I feed my birds.  Originally I thought this would be wonderful information for other bird owners, but not me. Ok, so I’m a food snob, I admit it.  I feed freshly chopped foods everyday, I have a large organic garden and grow most of the produce I feed, and often pick fresh right before chopping. And I grow fresh sprouts everyday.
And though I did see the benefit of having frozen food on hand for times when I was ill, or if I had to go out of town and leave my husband to feed the birds, I still didn’t think Patricia’s style of Chop would work for me.  I had read Patricia’s articles and watched her videos on the Chop made by various groups and at various events, the pastas, the cooked grains and beans, mixing cooked and raw, that was just not the way I feed my birds. Because I have Amazons who are prone to weight issues, and a Macaw struggling with feather plucking issues, I use large amounts of dark leafy greens, no wheat or corn, and the few grains and legumes I use are spouted not cooked, only raw food is fed in the morning (except eggs which are fed on weekends), and when cooked food is fed it is in the evening and only available for a short period. So I had come to the conclusion that Chop did not fit within my feeding philosophy.

Then Patricia came. After picking her up at the airport, and having lunch, we went shopping for the ingredients that we would be using to make Chop for the Phoenix Landing class.  As we explored the local Wegman’s grocery store, Patricia kept asking me what I wanted to use, and I kept stumbling over the answer, as I didn’t really feel this was for me, but for the general parrot owner. Patricia kept saying the same thing over and over “Your Chop Your Way! If you don’t like it don’t use it”. I gave in and told her what I don’t feed and some of my reasons why, she said that was fine, just be prepared in the class to explain my reasoning for the choices we made to the class. I did compromise, we cooked the ancient grain kalmut,  and pseudo-grains  buckwheat and  quinoa, as well as some veggie and quinoa pastas, but no cooked beans. And the veggies were all used raw. We added many dried herbs. And  I had dehydrated over half a dozen zucchini. For the first time with any of the Chops Patricia’s made we added lots of sprouts.

The class was a tremendous success! Everyone had a wonderful time, learned lots of information and we all took some chop home with us.
Now I will admit, I wasn’t sure I was actually going to feed this to MY birds, remember I am a food snob, but I tried it. I mixed half chop with half sprouts (I really do feed LOTS of sprouts) and all the birdies accepted it fine, and WOW what a time saver it was in the mornings. I mixed chop into eggs before scrambling, another success. I mixed chop into freshly cooked quinoa for dinner, again quick and simple.
Hummm, there might be something to this whole chop thing… Then my samples from the class ran out, well fine, who needed chop anyway? Me! I had been converted.  I missed having that quick ready to go healthy mix of foods to give my parrots. So I set about preparing to make my own batch of Chop, and this really would be “My Chop, My Way”.

Now, I still go out into the garden most mornings and pick fresh things to chop fresh and mix with a fresh batch of sprouts, but I also add a little frozen Chop in. And some days, if I don’t feel well, or it’s raining, or I’m running late, I just mix the frozen Chop with sprouts.
Yes, you read that right, I said frozen Chop. During my time with Patricia, we discussed the complaint I have hear over and over from people who make Chop, that it gets mushy when defrosted, Patricia explained that the solution to mushy Chop is having a dry blend. When I made my Chop, I went very  heavy on dried ingredients, especially since I knew I would be adding it to sprouts. I found that even when frozen, my mix had such a low moisture content in it that it did not stick together and would simply crumble with very light pressure. It defrosts very quickly in the food bowl. Using frozen Chop allows me to use just the amount I need at that particular moment and keep the rest fresh for later.

Here’s what I used to make My Chop My Way.

The Dry Mix made up about 1/3 to 1/2 of total volume of Chop
Dried Cherries, Dried Goji Berries, Dried Acai Powder, Dehydrated Blueberries, Dried Chili Peppers
Bee Pollen, Primal Defense by Garden Of Life, Sulferzyme by Young Living
Cayenne Pepper, Celery Seed, Sesame Seed, Fennel Seed,Chia Seed, Golden Flax Seed, Hemp Seed, Pumpkin Seeds (hulled),  Milk Thistle Seed
Dried Lavender Flowers, Dried Rose Hips, Dried Yarrow Flowers, Dried Red Clover, Dried Hibiscus Flowers, Dried Blueberry Leaf, Dried Raspberry Leaf, Dried Chamomile Flowers, Dried Hawthorn Berries, Dried Seaweed (Laver), Powdered Kelp
Kalmut Flakes, Quinoa Flakes, Puffed Quinoa, Millet, Ezekiel Golden Flax cereal
Dehydrated (from my garden) Cucumber, Dandelion, Broccoli Leaves, Kale, Kolrabi Leaves, Mustard Greens, Collard Greens, Plantain Leaves

The Fresh Mix
Sweet Peppers, Carrots, Kale, Broccoli Rabbi, Water Cress, Purple Cabbage, Garlic, Ginger, Frozen Peas
(from my garden) Collard Greens, Broccoli Leaves,  Mustard Greens, Kolrabi Bulb and Leaves Dandelion Greens, Plantain Leaves,  Parsley, Basil, Chamomile

My Chop My Way

My first batch of Chop My Way

This might give you a few ideas of what to include when you make Your Chop Your Way. Let me know how it goes and how you use your Chop.

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Leigh Ann’s Classes for Phoenix Landing

leigh ann's class

Photo by Mike Fabrie

Last weekend I attended a wonderful Phoenix Landing event in Edgewater Maryland. Leigh Ann Hartsfield taught two wonderful classes on parrot care, which she so generously is allowing me to share with all of you who live to far away to attend these classes in person. We hope you find some ideas in these presentations that will help you improve the life of your companion parrot!

The morning class, called The Contented Companion, is a general care class that touched many aspects of meeting the needs of our companion parrots;   such as ideas on how best to set up cages and play areas, healthy nutrition, the importance of fresh air and sunlight, socialization with both human and feathered flock, how to engage that highly intelligent avian brain, and tips for reducing stress.

The afternoon class, called Nourish to Flourish, Edible Enrichments, is the latest in the Nourish to Flourish series, that highlights not only the importance of feeding our companion parrots a nutrient dense diet  for optimum health and longevity, but how food can be used as an enrichment item to add fun and mental stimulation to our parrot’s life.

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Fun With Foraging

Had another wonderful Phoenix Landing event over the weekend and I wanted to share the presentation with all of you.
Hope you enjoy it and come away with a new idea or two.
Please share some of your foraging experiences!

Special thanks to Kris Porter, David Hull,  Nyla Copp, Carina Law, Cheryl Celso, Karin Olausson, Kathy James, Sheron White Hagelston, Angela Harrison, Anna McGregor, Jennifer Slaughter, Lisa Bakalars, Leanne Burton and Debbie Russell for use of the great photos. There are a couple photos in the presentation that I could not tract down who the photographer was but they were too awesome not to use. If you see a photo that is yours, please accept my apologies and let me know which one it is so that I can give you the credit due.

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Shower Perches

Regular bathing is very important to the health of parrots. Not only to help keep their skin and feathers clean, but to keep their nares clear and their respiratory systems healthy.

Some parrots prefer to bath in their water bowls, some like to roll around in wet leaves, but many enjoy a nice misty shower, like gently falling rain. During warm weather months you can take your bird outside, in an aviary, outdoor cage, cageoller, or carrier and mist them until they are soaked, with no mess. During the winter months, you certainly can’t take your bird out in freezing weather and wet them down. But winter is when the air is naturally drier, and inside our homes, with windows closed and heaters on, even drier still, so this is the time when misting showers become even more important for your bird. You can of course mist them on their cages or playstands, and as long as you have water proof floors this is fine, although a bit messy.

For me, I find it to be much easier to take my birds into the shower with me every morning.

Even birds who don’t actually like to get wet will benefit from humidity of joining you in the bathroom when you shower.
One caution on taking birds into the shower, if you have public water (not a well) it is most likely chlorinated water, and when heated the chlorine in to water turns into a gas. Chlorine gas is very dangerous and cause serious damage to your parrot’s respiratory system. There are inexpensive filters available that easily installed on the shower head and neutralize all chlorine. http://www.showerfilterstore.com/product/APSF/APRIL-SHOWER-CLASSIC-FILTER.html
Be aware that heavily perfumed shampoos and body washes can be irritating to your bird’s respiratory system as well, so if possible, you may want to switch to something fragrance free. Always wash off any soap or shampoo that gets onto your birds feathers immediately.

I’m really lucky that most of my birds enjoy showering with me in the morning. We have been through a progression of perching options as our flock has grown, and changed with foster birds of differing needs and showering preferences.  Here are a few we have used in the past.

Picture1Trixie, the Blue & Gold Macaw, is sitting on a tension shower rod centered over the middle of the tub.

Ariel, the Amazon, is on a folding PVC floor perch.

Ruby, the African Grey, is on a wire shelf, that was the bottom grate from a small cage, bend to form an L shape, and hung on “Command” damage free hanging hooks. Ruby has missing toes and needed a perch that provides easier grip for her.

Today, our flock has changed a little, and with two macaws now, I needed to make separate higher perches for them, and still have room for Ariel. I also made a small perch for Winnie and attached it to the mirror on the medicine cabinet, as she’s not yet comfortable with coming into the shower.
SONY DSCYou will notice that Trixie’ perch has a longer top piece to keep her up above the shower head.

Here are the directions on how I made these perches

PVC Suction Cup Perch (can also be used as a window perch)shower parts
2 ½  feet + of PVC (½” or ¾” or 1”)
1 PVC cross
1 PVC 90 degree bend
4 PVC caps
3 Large suction cups (from the craft store)
Measuring Tape
PVC cutter or saw
PVC Primer & Glue
Drimmel tool
Rasp bit

shower1Using Drimmel tool, cut a groove into three of the caps.

Slide suction cups into the groove.

shower2
Cut three 6-8” sections of pvc.
Prime the ends of all sections of pipe and the insides of the caps, and inside the cross.
Apply glue to one end of a section of pipe, push on cap.
Repeat with other two sections of pipe.

shower3Apply glue to opposite end of the sections of pipe, push into cross. Be careful to align so that suction cups will lay flat. Repeat for remaining two sections of pipe.

Cut a 1 ½ -3 ” section of pvc, prime, glue and push into cross. The exposed end of this small section of pipe will remain unglued.
shower4Cut one 7-9” section of pvc, prime & glue cap on one end. Prime & bend onto the opposite end.

Once glue is dry, sand or wrap the longer perching section of pipe.
I used a rasp bit on my drill press, and it gave the pvc a texture like bark on a tree branch.
shower rasp

shower flatPlace unglued end of bend onto unglued shot section of pipe in the top of the cross. This joint remains unglued, so as to act like a hinge and allow the perch to fold flat against the wall when not in use.

If you have tiled shower walls, you will need to adjust the measurements to insure that each suction cup is centered on a tile, as crossing grout lines will not allow proper suction and your perch may fall, possibly causing injury to your bird.

Always check to make sure the perch is tightly secured to the wall before placing your bird on it.

IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE
Make sure to use pvc primer &  glue only in a well ventilated area, well away from the birds, preferably outdoors or in a detached garage, for the fumes are toxic.
Allow to cure in that well ventilated area, preferably outdoors, for at least 24 hours.
Once cured it is completely safe.

Remember this can also be made into a window perch.
shower window
Happy Perching!

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