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.

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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Re-teaching Winnie Step-up to a Handheld Perch – Part One

First let me say that behavior and training are my weakest skills when it comes to parrot care, so if I can figure this out, I know anyone can.
I know there are a few true behaviorists and trainers who follow this blog, so if I make any major mistakes, I hope they will chime in and correct me (ok, Lara and Emily?)

I do have information from a Teaching Husbandry Skills class to use as my guide, so I’ll pull from that to begin.

How to Start? Write a Training Plan
• Choose your Goal Behavior.
• Visualize that behavior and write out a description in observable terms.
• List the steps, or approximations, needed to get your bird from where they are now to the goal behavior. Keep in mind that the smaller the steps, the easier this will be for you and your bird to accomplish.
• Determine what type of reinforcer you’ll be using and any supplies needed.
• Keep a written log.

Ok, the ultimate goal behavior is for “Winnie to step onto a handheld perch offered to her and stay there calmly, even when moved from room to room, until asked to step off onto another perch.”
But that may be too big for now, so let’s start simpler, with “Winnie to step onto a handheld perch and stand there calmly for 30 seconds,” this will be our part one.

Starting with where she is now, which is she backs away from any handheld perch presented to her, BUT she does know how to target (touch the end of a target stick) so I think I will use that as a skill to help her, these are my planned steps.

• Touch target stick with perch within eyesight (put not being held)
• Touch target stick with perch being held far away from her
• Touch target stick with handheld perch moving closer to her (backing up to a previously comfortable distance if she shows any signs of being uncomfortable)
• Touch target stick with handheld perch touching whatever she is currently standing on.
• Take a step towards the handheld perch in order to touch the target stick.
• Take more steps toward handheld perch in order to touch target stick (again backing up as needed to maintain her comfort level)
• Step one foot onto the handheld perch in order to touch the target stick
• Step both feet onto the handheld perch in order to touch the target stick
• Stand on handheld perch for any length of time she chooses
• Stand on handheld perch for an increasing length of time until 30 seconds is reached

Please note that during this time the handheld perch will continue to rest on what whatever surface she is standing on, no movement of the handheld perch is yet involved.

Winnie loves peanuts and sunflower seeds, and as these are not part of her diet, I believe they will hold the greatest value, but she also greatly enjoys walnuts and almonds, so I may add some of those into the reinforcer mix too.
The supplies I will need are a handheld perch, I will probably choose a nice natural branch as she has many perches in her cage and playstand that are made of natural branch. I will also need the target stick she has already learned to touch, and the clicker I use as a bridge.

That’s my plan. I will take short videos of our progress and keep you all updated.

To see the presentation “Teaching Husbandry Skills”

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Quinoa Dinner Mash

I’ve had several people asking me for my mash recipe lately, so I thought I’d share it here too. This is what I feed my flock for dinner every night during cold weather. I make a big batch, changing the ingredients a little each time according to what’s abundant in the garden or fresh at the market. I package up dinner sized portions and freeze them.

Quinoa Dinner Mash

Wash & Soak ½ cup of Quiona, with ½ cup other grain, such as rice, kamut, wheat, buckwheat, etc (2-12 hrs), Rinse well.

Scrub and finely chop a large sweet potato, place in sauce pan with grains and 2 cups of water, add a generous teaspoon each of cinnamon and cayenne pepper, bring mixture to a boil, then turn down to a simmer for approximately 20 minutes, adding additional water if needed.

While this mixture is cooking, finely chop a good handful of greens such as kale, collards, mustard, turnip, dandelion, etc; as well as about a cup of other seasonal veggies, broccoli, corn, carrots, zucchini, green beans, etc.

Add chopped veggies, and greens to sweet potato & grain mixture, cook for about 5 more minutes.

Turn off heat.

Add a handful of seasonal (or frozen) berries, or other fruit.

Divide up into meal sized portions and freeze.

Thaw one portion for serving.

Prior to serving, if desired,  squirt in a few drops of an Omega 3 oil.  A spoonful of fresh sprouts, soaked grains, or chopped nuts may also be mixed in at this point.

*Pumpkin or winter squash may be substituted for sweet potato.

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Parrot Resolutions for 2013

Normally I am not one to make New Year’s Resolutions, I am however a big To Do List maker, and it occurred to me that Resolutions are really long term To Dos. So I decided to sit down and write out a few of my Parrot Resolutions for 2013, and by sharing them with all of you, perhaps I can give you some ideas for your own Parrot Resolutions, as well as making myself publically accountable for their completion.

I would encourage you to think about making some Parrot Resolutions of your own. What enrichment changes would you like to make? New perches, playstands, toys, build an aviary or cageollers? Plant a parrot garden? What nutrition changes would you like to make? Make mashes, chops, sprouts, birdie breads, learn to dehydrate and make healthy crackers or homemade nutraberries? What behaviors would you like to train? Targeting, flying, tricks? What else could you do to improve the life of the parrots in your home?

So here’s my list of Parrot Resolutions for 2013
• Organize and store my toy making supplies more efficiently, so that I can be more efficient with my toy making time and make more toys for my parrots as well as sending more toys to rescue/ sanctuary groups
• Make new shower perches, one for each parrot, and arrange them in such a way that they can all come in the shower with me each morning
• Get Winnie (my White Fronted Amazon) into the bathroom, then into the shower.
• Make new playstands for Trixie & Annie (macaws) make hanging playstands for Ariel & Winnie (amazons)
• Add at least one new perching/playing area to each room in the house
• Increase the amount of foraging my parrots need to do for their food, with an ultimate goal of foraging for all their food
• Teach Annie (Greenwing Macaw) flighted recall
• Re-teach Winnie to step onto a handheld perch (this was something than Winnie learned to do very well when I first got her, but after a severe illness, and some traumatic handling a while back, she stopped all stepping up behaviors)
• Teach Ariel (Panama Amazon) to allow unrestrained nail trimming
• Increase Ariel’s flying (she’s overweight and needs more exercise)
• Make more dehydrator crackers, dried foods (to be used for foraging)
• Begin construction of an outdoor aviary

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Toy Making Made Easy a Phoenix Landing Class

Ariel & SnowmanWow! it’s hard to believe that the year is almost over. Life has been so busy, time has really flown by.
Here’s a slide show from a Toy Making class that Debbie Russell and I taught earlier this month, and she gave me her permission to share it with all of you.
Wish you and your flocks a Safe & Happy Holidays and Joyful Toymaking in the new year to everyone!

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