Caring for the WHOLE Parrot

This is a presentation I did for Phoenix Landing, looking at how  environment, nutrition, enrichment, a parrot’s wild nature, and the unique physical design of a parrot’s anatomy all act together to influence your companion’s behavior, and  how you can help your parrot live a happier and healthier life in your home.
Here is the link to the Slide Show presentation

Parrots are WILD animal

There are many wild caught parrots living in our homes. Even the captive-bred, hand raised parrots are at the most only 2 or 3 generations removed from their rainforest or grassland savanna born parents or grandparents. Genetically they are identical to parrots living in the wild.

Prey Species
Parrots are a prey species, which means that in the wild they must always be on the alert for who might be trying to eat them. For the parrots living in our homes, this means that it is natural for them to be suspicious or even afraid of any new, objects, people or situations. A Prey Species ruling emotion is fear. Check out the writings of *Temple Grandin for a deeper understanding of this topic. Animals Make Us Human, Creating the Best Life for Animals & Animals In Translation, Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior
Often behaviors that we would consider aggressive are truly based in fear.

Fight or Flight
The fight or flight reaction is hard wired into all animals (yes, people too). This release of adrenaline gives an individual the ability for a rapid retreat from any perceived threat, or the strength to stand and fight. Captive parrots who have had their wings clipped have lost the ability to flee form a fearful situation and are far more prone to bite than flighted birds. But even flighted parrots in our homes still live in a confined environment, and may suffer adverse physical and emotional effects.

Flock Species
In the wild parrots never live alone, but live in groups varying in size from a single pair to thousands, depending on the species and time of the year. The flock provides greater safety from predators, as there is always someone “on watch”.
Single parrots in our homes may suffer from the stress of always having to be “on guard”. Even in multiple bird home an individual parrot may assume the role of flock sentential. This is known as Hypervigilance behavior, and can result in frequent alarm calls.
For parrots living in our homes, the need to be part of a flock will often cause them to choose individuals of others species, like us, the family dog, cat, rabbit or hamster, as flock mates.
Separation from flock members can be very stressful, and in the need to stay in touch with each other when out of sight, birds use contact calls. Teach your parrot a pleasant contact call to use with you when you are out of their sight.

Parental learning
Parrots, like people, are “altricial” which means that they are born helpless, must be cared for by their parents and taught the skills they need to survive and function within the flock. (*As opposed to precocial creatures such as insects, and most fish and reptile, which are born self-reliant)
Are hand raised captive parrots taught the essential survival and social skills need for a successful and happy life, and by who?
In this country, we have laws to protect unweened kitten & puppies from being separated from their parents, and these a domesticated animals who have been genetically altered over hundreds of generations to live with humans. Parrots are still genetically WILD ANIMALS, who have even a greater need for the care, comfort and guidance that can only be provided for by their parents.
This “Parental Deprivation” may be one of the underlying causes of such issues as feather destructive behavior and overly anxious birds, overly needy birds, and birds who form inappropriate bonds with humans.

Mates & Sexual Maturity
All animals have a drive for sex and procreation, but unlike dogs and cats, parrots can not be neutered. All baby animals are “nice” when born, sexual maturity is physiologically driven and alters behavior drastically….owners report “aggression” but is appropriate behavior for this animal at this time.
This means parrots living in our home are fully functioning sexual creatures and it is unrealistic to believe that we can remove this natural desire all together, but there are things we can do to lessen their frustration.
Even though some parrots (especially cockatoos) LOVE to be stroked and snuggled, petting especially under the wings and down the back to the base of the tail is VERY sexually stimulating to a parrot and should never be done. Limit physical contact to the head, neck and feet.
For some species of parrots increased day length is a signal for the breeding season. Make sure your bird is getting enough sleep in a DARK and quiet room.
Limit access to nest like areas, and nesting materials.
An abundance of soft warm moist food, like food fed by a mate, can also trigger mating behaviors.

Built for Flight
A parrot’s entire anatomy is designed to enable flight. The skeleton makes up only 10 % of a birds weight, and bones are very fragile. Many bones are hollow, some of these contain air sacs that are part of the respiratory system.
Birds digest their food and past waste rapidly, to keep their weight as low as possible. 3 parts of droppings. Feces are usually solid, come from the colon and are usually coiled (not always). Color is usually green or brownish from eating pellets, seeds or veggies but can turn red for strawberries or red pellets. Blueberries and blackberries will produce an almost black like feces. Urates are chalky white. Urine is clear.
A bird’s respiratory system is made up of both lungs and air sacs. The need for tremendous amounts of oxygen to fuel the muscles during flight, has lead to a respiratory system that is highly efficient than that of mammals in absorbing oxygen, and unfortunately toxins.
Birds do not have a diaphragm, nor do the lungs expand and contract, instead the muscles of the body wall move to force air in and out. Restricting the movement of a birds chest muscles can suffocate it.

Feathers are perhaps the most unique physical feature of a bird, from the stiff flight feathers, beautiful contour feathers, to soft insulating down feathers. Mature feathers have no blood supply, much like our hair, but young feathers, called pin feathers or blood feathers, do have a blood and nerve supply. These feathers or very sensitive to the touch, and will bleed if broken. If your bird breaks one of these feathers, apply pressure, or use cornstarch or cayenne pepper (not quick stop!) to stop the bleeding.
The Uropygial gland, more commonly referred to as the preen gland, is located at the base of a parrot’s tail. This gland secretes an oil, which the bird rubs all over it’s feathers during preening, which when exposed to UV light produces vitamin D, necessary for the utilization of calcium.
Although feather plucking and feather destructive behaviors are of great interest to many people, it is far too complex and issue to be addressed in this class. For a simplified yet comprehensive overview of this issue check out the writing of Pam Clark.

Parrot Vision is a very highly refined sense. Both birds and humans have photoreceptive ‘cones’ in the retina located at the back of the eye. These cones allow us to see color. The human eye contains 10,000 cones per square millimeter. Birds have up to 12 times this amount or 120,000 cones per square millimeter. In humans, these photoreceptive cones consist of three types. Each cone is sensitive to red, green, or blue light. This is called trichromatic color vision. Birds have an four cones for tetrachromatic color vision. This extra cone expands the visible light spectrum, allowing birds to see ultraviolet frequencies. But birds need 5-20 times the amount of light as do humans in order to see color.
Parrots have eyes that are widely spaced, on either side of the head. This allows for a wide range of vision, almost a 360 degree field of sight in some species.
Each eye operates independently of the other.
Parrots have the ability to voluntarily dilate and contract their pupils in order to more clearly focus on something, this is known as “pinning”
Parrots can see approximately 10 times more frames per second than humans.

Vet Visits
Parrots will rarely show any signs of illness until they are extremely sick. Regular check ups are necessary to catch any problems early. Make sure to find an AVIAN Vet. When to see your vet right away, bleeding that won’t stop, bites, burns, not eating, sitting fluffed on bottom of cage, heavy breathing . One of the first symptoms of any illness is weight loss, for this reason it is a good idea to get into the habit of weighing your parrot on a weekly basis and keeping a chart. Many birds weight will fluctuate slightly with seasonal changes. Watch your bird’s poop, any changes, like unpleasant odor, very loose or slimy, or undigested foods would be reasons for a vet visit.

Dangers in the Home
Toxic Fumes, PTFE: Teflon, Silverstone, T-Fal & other non-stick coating used in Cookware, Stove Drip Pans, Irons, Ironing Board Covers & other appliances.
SMOKE: Cigarette, Cigar & Pipe smoke, Nicotine on hands & clothing. Candles, Incense, Wood-burning smoke from fireplaces.
AEROSOL SPRAYS & CLEANERS: Oven Cleaners, Self-Cleaning Oven Cycle, Furniture Polish, Air & Carpet Fresheners & cleaners, Tub & Tile Cleaners, Cleaning Supplies, Bleach and Ammonia fumes, Oil-based Paint, Adhesives, Insecticides, Flea Bombs, Fertilizers, Fungicides, Hair Spray, Deodorants, Perfumes & Colognes, Pinesol, Febreze….
STRONG SCENTS: Candles, Plug-in Fresheners, Incense, Potpourri
COOKING BAGS (aluminum & plastic are coated with PTFE)
BURNING SMELLS: plastic of any kind (overheated handles), burning oil
Editable Dangers, Toxic Plants: Dieffenbachia, Philodendron, Mistletoe, Holly, Amaryllis, Buttercup, Calla Lily, Clematis, Daffodil, Foxglove, Heliotrope, Hyacinth, Hydrangea, Iris, Lantana, Larkspur, Lily-of-the-Valley, Lupine, Morning Glory, Peony, Primrose, Sweet Pea- Heavy Metals (Zinc & Lead) zippers, curtain weights, galvanized wire or quick links
Pesticides, Fertilizers, Lead Paint, Fabric Protectors, Cleaners
Predators, Other Household Pets (dogs, cats, ferrets, rats, snakes) Even if Fido and Fluffy have always been gentle with Tweety, and Tweety considers them flock mates, the potential always exists for fatal accidents. Never leave them unsupervised! Wild Predators (Raptors, raccoons, opossums rats, snakes). Hawks have been known to fly through window screens to attack parrots. And remember Humans are also predators.
Crash Accidents , As many more people are allowing their birds to be flighted within their homes, some safety measures need to be taken to help prevent crashes.
Walk your parrot around your home, showing him windows and mirrors, allowing him to touch and explore the surface with his beak. Use UV reflective *Window Alerts ( on glass surfaces, hang lightweight shears in front of windows.
Keep ceiling fans turned off whenever the birds are out of the cage.
Teach your parrot flighted recall, and build up their flying skills.

The Cage
Size, shape, location, safe construction are all factors needing careful consideration needs to be taken in considering what type of caging is best for each parrot. A cage should be like a child’s room, as safe comfortable place to retreat to, their own private space within the larger family home, not a place of isolation and punishment.
The size cage a parrot needs is determined by several factors. What species of bird is he? How much time does the parrot spend in the cage as opposed to out of the cage or on playstands? How active is the birds? How active should he be? A bird who must be in the cage most of the time will need a larger cage than a bird of the same species who spends a lot of time outside the cage and in other areas of the house. Normally one would think that the smaller the bird, the smaller the cage. But often small birds are extremely active and need much more room than their more sedentary cousins. If you are trying to encourage more exercise in a cage bound perch potato, giving them larger cage where they have to climb around more, even just to move between food bowls, can be a great start to encouraging more activity.
Make sure there is room to stretch and flap those wings!
Bar spacing should be close enough together to ensure that the parrot can not stick his head between the bars.
Avoid cages with decorative curlicues and tapered bars, as these can become toe traps.
Avoid cages with pealing or flaking powder coating, or are heavily rusted.
NO ROUND CAGES !!! These give no safe corner for retreat, and if they ever fall, will roll and cause great injury to your bird!
Parrots, being highly social creatures, need to be near their flock (remember, that’s us). So it is best to located their cage in the area of the house where the family spends the most time, yet out of the direct line of traffic.
A spot near natural light, with a pleasant view can help keep your companion entertained while you are away. But don’t place the cage directly in front of a window where they can be subjected to the frightening eyes of a predator. Some birds really benefit from having a sleeping cage, in dark and quiet room, especially if you live in a busy household where people are up long hours. This does not need to be a large cage, a travel carrier will often work very well for this purpose. A nice side effect of using a travel carrier as a sleeping cage, is that your bird will consider it’s carrier as a safe haven, not just a vehicle for trips to the vet’s office.

Perches in a variety of sizes, textures and materials are essential for your parrot’s foot health. Perches that move, like swings or boings are great for keeping knees and ankles strong.
Locate perches so that they are not directly over food or water bowls.

A parrot’s JOB is to PLAY!
Every parrot should have lots of toys to snuggle with, preen, beat up, shred, tear apart, make noise with. Some parrots are more destructive than others, and will constantly need new toys. But even parrots who are gentler with their toys, need new ones on a regular basis, to keep them from becoming bored.
Old or semi destroyed toys can be taken apart and recombined into a new toy.
Parrot-Toys & Play Areas, by Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-Nunn

In the wild parrots spend 75% of their waking hours in search for food. The typical captive parrot, with a bowl of food placed in front of him, can eat his fill in minutes, then how does he fill the rest of his day? You can offer foraging opportunities for your parrot inside his cage, by rotating bowl locations, covering bowls with paper, tucking healthy seeds, nuts, pellets or Nutraberries into toys, placing whole fresh greens on top of the cage, or making veggie kabobs on stainless steel skewers.
Captive Foraging DVD by Scott Echols DVD,
Parrot Enrichment by Kris Porter
Avian Enrichment newsletter and website

Playstands & Other Play Areas
Playstands offer additional approved locations for play, foraging and exploration away from their cage. These can be as simple as a basket placed on the table or as complex as free standing structure, portable or in a fixed location, or a collection of perches and toys hanging from the ceiling. You are only limited by your imagination.
Parrot-Toys & Play Areas, by Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-Nunn

Every bird has his own preferred bathing style, whether it is in his water bowl, standing top of his cage and getting misted or joining you for your daily shower in the bathroom. Many of our parrots come from rainforest areas of the world where rainfall is a daily occurrence. Birds living in our homes should have access to bathing on a regular basis as well. Make sure to use a shower filter to remove dangerous chlorine if you are on public water.
Directions to make your own shower perch

Go Outside!!!
Nothing replaces fresh air and sunshine. You can and should run air filters inside your home to help keep the air as clean as possible, and open your windows to allow fresh air in as often as weather will allow.
You can use full spectrum UV blubs to light your home.
But nothing replaces fresh air and sunshine!
Parrots outside become more active, playing more with their toys, bathing, eating healthy foods. They are also more calm and relaxed when they go back indoors.
Whether you build or buy an aviary, roll cages outside onto a deck or patio, take your bird out in a cageoller or back , or train your bird to wear a harness, always be sure that your parrot is safe when outdoors. Clipped wings DO NOT insure that your parrot can not fly away if startled. Recall training is recommended for all parrots

Click to access Recall_Training_Basics_blog.pdf
Dark green and orange vegetables are the MOST nutritious, and should make up at least 50% of the overall diet. Green and Orange vegetables are especially nutritious, and essential for Vitamin A, the vitamin most lacking in captive parrot’s diets. Kale, Collards, Dandelion, Mustard Greens, Swiss Chard, Broccoli, Pumpkin, Winter squash, Sweet Potato, Carrot.
Nourish to Flourish, A Healthy Cookbook for Parrots, by The Phoenix Landing Foundation
Feeding Our Parrots Well, by Pam Clark & Kris Porter
What Happened to My Peanuts? by Gundrun Maybaum
The Parrot’s Pantry
Elle’s Avian Cuisine
Carolyn Swicegood, The Kitchen Physician,
Feeding Feathers Yahoo Group

Sprouting can be done in a small area right on your kitchen counter at any time of year, allowing you to always have the freshest , most nutritious food available no matter what the season or the size of your garden. Dry seeds hold all the nutritional potential of the adult plant, but it is not until the sprouting process is begun that that potential is released. With the soaking of the seeds in water, a chemical process begins converting fats, carbohydrates and proteins into more digestible amino acids. The vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and enzyme content in sprouts is very significantly higher than in either the seed or the adult plant, making sprouts the most nutritional food available.
Unlike normal produce, which from the moment it is harvested begins the decomposition process and the steady loss of nutritional content, sprouts remain alive and full of maximum nutrition until the moment your parrots chews and swallows them. This is how parrots in the wild eat their seeds!

Those fruits with dark colored flesh contain the most nutrients, but should be no more that 5-10% of the overall diet. Cherries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Pomegranate, Mango, Papaya, Kiwi. Cherries help to lower uric acid

Primarily from a combination of Grains & Legumes (sprouted or cooked), Quinoa, Nuts, and small amounts of Eggs, Poultry, Fish

Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3s) are the building blocks for all the cells in the body. Lack of Omega 3 Essential fatty Acids, can lead to self mutilation (puckers?) and eventually lead to death. Supports brain health, affecting mood, memory, concentration, & learning. Helps relive depression, aggression, hostility & anger. Influences the ability to learn & understand language.Reduces the risk of heart disease & stroke. Lowers cholesterol & triglycerides. Reduces platelet “stickiness”, therefore reduces the tendency for atherosclerosis. Keeps arteries elastic & flexible, and keeps blood flowing smoothly. Reduces effects of inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis. Boosts the immune systems and reduces autoimmune disorders. Reduces allergies & asthma, and other breathing disorders. Supports kidney health. Supports digestive system. Aids in the absorption of calcium for bone formation.
Additional Supplements and Seasonings
Aloe -stimulates the immune system, a natural anti-histamine, may help prevent feather destruction by inhibiting the release of histamines responsible for skin irritation and itching, is anti-inflammatory, may prevent infection in skin wounds, soothes & coats the digestive system.
Cinnamon-Lowers cholesterol, Helps yeast infections, Anti-inflammatory qualities that can lessen joint and muscle pain, especially the joint pain associated with arthritis, Inhibits bacteria growth and spoilage, Great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium
Cayenne-an overall digestive aid containing liberal amounts of Vitamins A, C, B-complex, calcium, phosphorous and iron. It is also anti-inflammatory and helps arthritic conditions
Coconut Oil- helps treat giardia and candida (yeast)
Garlic- has been shown to contain 18 anti-viral, Anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial substances, A natural antibiotic which is safe for our parrots. Stimulates the immune system and kills parasites, high in calcium, Helps protect the liver and eliminate toxins from body tissues, Lowers cholesterol, has anti-artherosclerotic properties, neutralizes aspergillus fungus.
Milk Thistle seed- protects and helps rebuild the liver
Red Palm Oil – a rich source of Vitamin A and E

Pellets were developed in an attempt to create a convenient, nutritionally balanced food for parrots. Choose a pellet free of artificial dye and made with organic ingredients

Unsafe Foods for Parrots
Alcohol, Carbonated or Caffeinated drinks, Onions, Avocado, Rhubarb, Chocolate, Refined Salt, Refined Sugar

Positive Reinforcement Training
Training offers a great deal of intellectual stimulation to your parrot and has the added benefit of helping you and your bird communicate. Start with target training.Teach important husbandry skills.Even “stupid pet tricks” help build a positive relationship
Susan Freidman, Living & Learning with Parrots class
Getting Started Clicker Training for Birds, by Melinda Johnson
Don’t Shoot the Dog & Reaching The Animal Mind, by Karen Pryor
Bird Click Yahoo Group

Parrots communicate with us in many ways.
Irene Pepperberg’s work with Alex has shown the world that parrots are not only capable of reproducing human words, but of understanding their meaning. Even if the parrots you live with never utter a single word to you, always be aware that they can understand what you say to them.
Parrots are masters at using body language to communicate with each other, and if we watch closely we can learn to read their body language. And never doubt they are constantly reading our body language and facial expressions as well, truly you can never lie to a parrot.

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Nutrition and Foraging, Because it’s not just about what you feed them, but what they actually eat.

I had the great pleasure over the weekend to do a presentation for the  Baltimore Bird Fanciers fall show. Here is a copy of the slide show for those who were unable to attend.


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Get That Parrot Playing!

Too often I hear from people that their bird does not play, or is afraid of toys, or worse yet that won’t give their parrot toys because they just destroy them and make a mess. Toys and Play are critical to the mental emotional and even physical wellbeing of our companion parrots!
Here is a copy of a presentation I did that discusses why toy and play are important, how to encourage your parrot to play more, and ideas for making your own parrot toys. I hope you enjoy it and learn something that will help enrich the life of your parrot!



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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

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 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.
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.

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.

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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