This manifesto will make you a better caged bird keeper

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My name is mitchr. I am an avian influencer. Full transparency – my day gig is selling products just for pet birds – I spend approximately 20% of my work week scanning about 20 Facebook bird groups and niche (species specific) forums like this. The content I write has one purpose which is to make you a better caged bird keeper.

I think serving dishes filled with any sort of commercial bird food without offering foraging and enrichment opportunities 24/7 in and out of the cage is the single biggest problem with getting our birds to eat properly.

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Does the size of food matter to my bird?

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Short answer – yes you can feed all size birds the same foods BUT – you have to understand how they eat. Our cockatiel would eat everything from a plate including picking from a burrito bigger than her.

Peaches our Senegal likes to hold food in her zygodactyl foot thus she requires manageable chunks of “parrot size” food with larger pieces of nuts and larger pellets. We feed her Hagen Tropimix and Higgins Safflower Gold. Both foods are robust blends of seed, nuts, fruits and pellets. I think Hagen slightly edges out Higgins because all the seeds in Hagen Tropimix have been hulled making for a very clean blend with less to vacuum.

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My bird won’t play with toys or eat new foods are two problems that solve each other

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A clear theme that emerges after reading endless threads on Facebook bird groups is “my bird won’t play with toys” – “my bird doesn’t play with toys” “my bird only wants to chew the keys off my notebook computer”

From wikipedia we learn: Ho·lis·tic – hōˈlistik – adjective – characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

Another way of putting it is “we are not connecting the dots” Bird food is connected to bird toys which are connected to bird cages and bird stands and everything has to work together.

There is a large overlap of caged bird keepers who claim the birds will eat nothing new nor with a play with toys – which is the problem and the solution – we need to combine the toys with the food – for starters.

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Canaries – Nature’s IPods – Why They Sing

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Before iPods there were boomboxes. Before boomboxes there were stereo radios. Precursors to phonographs were Victrolas. But the way to get tunes in your home long before there was electricity was the natural sound of bird songs. For years people would place a Canary in a small cage on either side of the room and whoever did that first can take credit for inventing stereo sound.

Canaries are small songbirds coming from the Finch family and were initially found in places like the Azores and believe it or not the Canary Islands

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Is Winter Stressing Your Bird Out?

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Birds have a highly developed sense of light. In humans, we perceive light through our eyes. Our feathered friends have an additional way of interpreting light conditions, a special gland which surrounds the eye. Read more on this
As days get shorter and the temperature falls, we want you to be aware of some issues the changing weather may have on your birds. In the wild, animals rely on the cycling of the sun, and the seasons to adjust their biological clocks and metabolism. It is the sun, and changes in the quality of light and length of the day which set the stage for breeding, migration, molting, and daily behavior patterns.
 
 
I hope this helps you understand why we feel the lighting category on our site is so important to your Bird’s well-being. A full-spectrum light and timer on top or there your birds cage can help address everything from behavioral issues to incessant egg laying.

 

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how can i get my parakeets to eat something other than seed

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Dear Susan

Birds that have been only given one food for all their lives are harder to convert to a better diet but it can be done with time and patience.

A wide flat dish with chopped veggies, mashed carrots, squash, a big hunk of green romaine lettuce placed on the center of the bottom of their cage EVERYDAY for a month should get them rolling. Sprinkle the plate with some sed, and take out their main dish for a few hours after placing the fresh food dish in the cage.

Here is just one option using bird bread to get them to eat pellets.

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Don’t tell your bird she’s eating pellets so she can eat her pellets

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Bird food pellets developed in the late 20th century have been a definite boon to avian nutrition. They offer a fully engineered diet that can be life-sustaining for most birds over decades.

Bird food pellets offer the lowest cost per pound/calorie of any food as well as the least mess.

The flip side of that is we tell people there are no pellet trees in the rain forest so pellets can be counterintuitive to a bird. They lack the many textures and flavors that seeds nuts fruits and vegetables offer.

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A trio of picky parrots – conure, cockatiel and parakeet are picky eaters – help!

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From: Wanda  <xxxxxxx@gmail.com>

I have 3 birds, a conure, cockatiel and a parakeet. My birds are really fussy about their food. I feed the parakeet Hartsfield, the cockatiel is very fussy, I’m trying  to teach her to forge her food. She just throw her food out of the cage and use her dish as a toilet. The conure is very fussy too but she does look for her food until she finds what she wants.

Hi Wanda,

You didn’t mention how your birds are housed so I must assume they are each in their own cage of appropriate size. If they share a big cage or aviary, the dynamics of the situation change somewhat. 

You mentioned that you feed the parakeet Hartsfield. This is not a brand I’m familiar with nor could I find it on the internet. I believe you mean Hartz Mountain, a common brand of small bird food sold in cardboard boxes in superstores and grocery stores. I can’t recommend using that type of food because it may have been on the shelf and in warehousing for a very long time since it was packaged. The food can be old and won’t provide good nutrition for your little keet. The same is true if you are buying food for your cockatiel and conure at places that do not specialize in the freshest, healthiest bird diets. It can contain moth larvae that eat the inside of the seeds, leaving nothing for the bird and only causes seed moths to fly around your house unless you are unusually clean about removing every single seed every day. 

Any all seed diet requires supplementation or you are slowly starving the bird to death, significantly shortening its lifespan and leaving it open to opportunistic diseases. All your birds may fit into this category. More about supplements further on.

Birds that are on all seed diets can be converted to pellet diets with which no supplements are required. The conversion can be very easy with some birds but require a little longer with others. You find your birds to be picky eaters but they would convert over time. In fact, we have a plan on how to do the conversion as easily as possible. This plan happens to refer to Hagen pellets, a very good balanced option available for every size bird but the concepts are valid for any brand of pellet diet. 

Great choices in pellet diets include those available for your size birds from Higgin’s Intune line of pellets or Harrison’s Organic NonGMO pellet line. Either of these choices are available in sizes for every parrot species and they are great for foraging by hiding some in foraging toys.

We have found that Hagen Living World parakeet seed is a very excellent, fresh product that comes in factory sealed bags. It has a “use before” date, just like human foods so you know you are not feeding old, stale seed. The fresher the seed, the more nutrients it has available for the bird. Higgins Vita Seed with Probiotics is also available for your parakeet as well as your other parrots.

lorikeets eating meat outside

we have learned these Australian lorikeets are carnivores

You didn’t mention what you are feeding the cockatiel and conure so I imagine you are feeding them seed diets as well. You’ll find a great choice for each in Hagen Living World Cockatiel blend and Hagen Living World Small Parrot blend or choose the appropriate size Vita Seed blend from the Higgins link above.

You mentioned the conure picks through the food until it finds what it wants. The problem with this is that it is only eating some of the types of seed in the food. All too often they choose the high fat seeds like sunflower, rejecting all else. Cockatiels sometimes do the same thing with their food. By choosing a no sunflower blend like  in the size for cockatiels to conures, you’ll avoid the “sunflower addict” problem and round out their nutrition. Or choose one of the other no sunflower foods for your cockatiel and conure.

You mentioned foraging and birds need to forage for some of their food. It is more like the experience they have in nature. You can use special treats, fruits, veggies and Lafebers AviCakes and Nutriberries to provide enrichment in their diet and lives.

If you do choose to stick with a seed diet, and many parrot parents do choose to do so — me included, you can add Avitech Avivita Plus multivitamin supplement or Nekton S multivitamin supplement.  If you have a specific health problem, your vet may recommend additional supplements which you will find in the Avitech and Nekton sections of the site.

Good luck and please let us know how you decide to proceed and your experiences.

written by nora caterino
approved by mitch rezman

your zygodactyl footnote

 

Bacon (the budgie) In Our House – A Blue Bird of Paradise Finds Us

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Editor’s note: We have quietly rehomed a number of large birds found by the Chicago Police and Fire Departments over the years. We found Popcorn, (a citizen calling to say a white bird was stuck in the bushes). We post pictures to Facebook and local neighborhood groups.

Here’s the story if you’ve not seen it: read this

How To Tell If Your Budgie Is Male or Female – As Well As Age

While we were having dinner together, I casually brought up to Mitch that I took in a stray parakeet today. A man passing by saw it in a tree and asked me for a net and a ladder to catch it. I supplied him with the items, not knowing if I would ever see him again much less my ladder and net. But only 5 minutes later he returned with the bird in the net and a big smile on his face.

man with rescued blue budgie in net

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He didn’t want the bird as his concern was mainly for the bird’s survival and safety as he knew it would not know how to find food in the wilds of Chicago. I think he enjoyed the chase and having saved the bird.

He gave me the bird to find it a home and left. So I put it in a small cage we keep on hand (this has happened before), gave him some fresh food and water and parked him in the shop for the night. I identified it as a boy due to its light blue cere. He was eating when I left him.

Editors note: In case you don’t know, the cere is the area on birds where the nostrils are located. In adult parakeets it has a somewhat leathery appearance while parakeets under one year of age have a smooth often pinkish-brown cere in both genders. Once the budgie reaches about one year of age, the cere will, in most mutations, turn blue in males and anywhere from dark pink to deep brown in females.

2 green budgies on branch one sleeping

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A few of the mutations are a bit difficult to differentiate this way with absolute certainty, but Bacon is not a member of one of these subsets. Catherine was therefore able to easily be sure that Bacon is a male of greater than one year of age. 

So, I was concerned Mitch would grouse that now we have a parakeet to deal with for awhile since he is used to a bigger bird, but no. He perked right up at the news and went right into the shop to get it. He was gone awhile because, of course he came home with the bird and an armload of supplies and treats.

Refresher post from 2 months ago Birds are like soul mates & should find you – right?http://www.windycityparrot.com/blog/2016/07/07/birds-like-soul-mates-find-right/

Mitch immediately started setting up Popcorn’s old cage. Changing the light bulb, changing out old toys and perches for new ones. Then he brought over the little cage to the big cage for the transfer. Bacon (the budgies new name, LOL) was not startled enough by my tapping the cage to leave the cage so I reached in and scooped him out bare handed and deposited him in the larger cage. I felt him try to beak me but not hard, his struggles were strong but not wild. I think he may be partially tame. He did not bite.

Right now he is fully feathered so he will stay caged for his safety. He saw the Tidy Seed Feeder with food in it and he was kind of confused dancing around trying to figure out how to get the food, then just scurried over to the side of the cage, climbed down and hopped right into the feeder. Took about 2 minutes in case anyone wants to know how hard it is to get a budgie to eat out of one. LOL.

Editor’s note: BTW Bacon (who I named in about 4 minutes) the blue budgie was brought to our home. No post was found in our three Ukrainian neighborhood Facebook groups for a lost bird. No small bird missing on Parrots 911 and my guess is the bird probably escaped from a pet box store – I’ve seen their caregivers in action.

Mitch was totally jazzed. He was glowing at our new little house guest. He immediately set up the camera to record the event and I hoped the little guy was as happy to be here as we were to have him here.

Let’s talk about parakeets, a misunderstood species. You’ll look at Bacon and call it a budgie although technically it is an American “pied” parakeet with clear marking on its wings (making him a “clear flight” mutation) and unusual color markings across its abdomen.

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The reason we do not outsource that advertising is, unless you’re a caged bird keeper you really don’t understand – the keeping of caged birds.

I’d like to remind the audience that there is only one species of dog but more than 10,000 species of bird. We specialize in approximately 350 species of parrots and 372 species of parakeets.

Yes Martha the budgie is a species of parakeet but there’s another several hundred dozen more that we need to chat about (roughly 372) Or so we’re told.

http://www.windycityparrot.com/blog/2016/09/14/growing-list-every-parrot-parakeet-species-planet/.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again “every conure is a parakeet but not every parakeet is a conure”.

So here’s this many conure species alone – you may have never heard of.

many sun conure parakeet on branch

Getting back to Bacon, I’ve had him out of the cage a couple of times during his stay.

I’ll open the door to his cage while I’m working having all the other doors closed in the room so he can’t get too far but he hasn’t shown an interest in coming out of the bird cage.

Yesterday I thought he might like to take a shower with me. I grabbed him in the cage & got him onto the shower rod but the sound of the running water spooked him and he flew directly to some crown molding.

I didn’t catch him up there. He flew off and made it to the shelf in the shower where I grabbed him.

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Today I pulled him out of the cage and had him on my hand for a while. then he flew off to more crown molding (between 8 and 9 1/2 feet above the floor). I was able to trap him between the window and shutters so I returned  him to his cage where he was clearly happy to be.

In that we had a similar issue when we rescued Popcorn, if he ends up staying with us, we’re going to follow the same protocol and clip his wings one time to restrain his confidence and then give him flying lessons and teach him landing zones as his wing feathers molt out and grow back, which they will quite quickly.

To my darling wife Catherine

I know you’re concerned that budgies are not considered parrots and we were talking about a bigger bird. I think we will still eventually get one. But Bacon is a magnificent creature – and budgies are very smart.

If bacon is here to stay, I see a long-lasting, loving relationship for the three of us because the 3 of us have one thing in common. We speak bird.

written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing
approved by nora caterino

your zygodactyl footnote

What Makes Kaylor of Colorado Bird Treats so Good?

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Sweet Harvest bird treats were first formulated and intoduced in 1977. At the time there was only a very limited selection of natural products for bird and small animals. The majority of the products available only offered artificial colors and flavors.
 Find all windy city parrot kalorofcolrado bird treas here

Sweet Harvest was the first to achieve its colorful appearance by using all natural ingredients. Kaylor of Colorado also enriches its blends with vitamins using a unique application process that ensures a balanced benefit to all pets. When feeding Sweet Harvest products for the first time you will quickly notice healthy changes in your pets health and mental well being.

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WHY KAYLOR OF COLORADO?

Kaylor of Colorado manufactures premium bird and small animal food. Our manufacturing facility is located in Greeley, Colorado, and we buy the majority of our ingredients from local farmers. There are advantages to Kaylor’s natural seed and fruit based products.

Consider what the Kaylor of Colorado difference will do for you.

Clean Quality and Natural Products:

We contract the majority of our products through local farmers. We triple clean these ingredients to ensure they are free of all dust and foreign material.

Find all windy city parrot kalorofcolrado bird treas here

Freshness Guaranteed:

All of our products are flushed with nitrogen and packaged in a barrier film. We do this to be able to guarantee freshness and eliminate bug infestations.

No Manufactured Ingredients:

Other manufacturers use processed pellets or extruded foods to create a colorful look. Kaylor of Colorado achieves its colorful look by using natural ingredients that birds and small animals search out.

bird,sun conure parrot on the background of nature.

Kaylor of Colorado has been manufacturing ultra-premium nutritional products for pets since 1976. Mel Kaylor is Kaylor of Colorado’s founder. Mel Kaylor’s innovative ideas and firm belief in high quality natural products continue to be the mold for Kaylor of Colorado. Kaylor has a very proud and loyal team of employees. Kaylor’s management team has an average tenure of ten plus years with Kaylor.

Kaylor is committed to developing world class products and personalized relationships with all of our valued customers. Darrell Kaylor proudly runs the company to this day.

written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing

your zygodactyl footnote

Is a seed diet really bad for your bird?

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There’s a lot of talk today in the caged bird keeper community about how bad seeds are for our birds. We should be introducing bird chops to our our birds. If you are not familiar with bird chop – you mix up about a pound of fresh lettuce, beans and vegetables and fruit and serve to your bird.

Most birds will eat less than 1% of that 1 pound of chop which is why we let Popcorn just steal some nibbles from our plates – as long as she does not walk across our plates.

Then there’s the whole pellet argument. Pellets are engineered foods. They pack the most nutrition per kilo/calorie if you will – than any other form of food. We love seeing birds on pellets because we know that they don’t require additional vitamin supplementation which is usually the case with seeds.

rock parakeet Australia

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Hagen Tropimix is a wonderful blend of fruits veggies, seeds and pellets where all of the seeds have had their hulls removed so it’s a very clean blend with minimal waste, virtually 100% of the mix can be eaten. Pellets are less messy than seeds, then again there are no pellet trees in the rain forest.

We get a lot of request to talk about certain species which we try to do – last week it was Caiques. We’ve done posts on Amazons and on Lories but when I mention Australian grass parakeets most people say, “huh”?

The Bourkes parakeet is the exception in coloration in that Rosy Bourke’s have a brilliant pinkish tone – the other six species – Blue-winged parakeet – Elegant parakeet aka Rock parakeet – Orange-bellied parakeet – Scarlet-chested parakeet – Turquoisine parakeet – have grass green backs which helps them camouflage well.

Blue-winged Parrot (Neophema chrysostoma), Mortimer Bay, Tasmania, Australia.JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com)

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The flip-side is their colors are anything but boring. And I’m using them in this discussion to talk about seeds because the Australian grass parakeets feed entirely on the ground and mostly on (grass) seeds. They have lovely voices and rarely get into trouble.

Is not to say that we are suggesting that you don’t even try to convert them to pellets – just making the point that sometimes seeds are okay although you always want to introduce some form of vitamin and fresh food supplementation.

These small birds don’t have the red bull type of personality budgies do (Who are a cousin to grass parakeets) with all sorts of activity, they’re are a little more laid-back. Because they have short legs and small feet it’s best to leave them fully flighted because they are not built for lots of climbing. The tiny beaks have a hard time gripping many surfaces.

The most commonly known of these pet birds is the Bourkes parakeet which is relatively small, very calm and usually quite tame.

Is this where we segway into what seeds are best, Mitch? For that I will let all of you decide. I will start by delving in to some bird food lines one at a time

Our bird food category is a robust 42 subcategories so I know it spins some people around, especially the newbies. We going to start with the Volkman Seed Company.

This company has been producing birdseed since 1863 and we feel it’s one of the cleanest caged bird seeds available today. They are located in California’s sunny San Joaquin Valley, one of the world’s most fertile agricultural regions for premium-quality fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and seeds.

In addition to serving caged bird keepers you will find their seed in veterinary schools, clinics, zoos and aviaries.

One important note: Volkman is now using NON GMO white corn in their parrot food mixes.

buy volkman bird food @ windy city Parrot

Seeds are tested in an independent lab for the possible presence of E. coli and Streptococcus, then super cleaned, CO2 flushed, and packed in air-barrier bags to seal in freshness.

Volkman mixes contain over 50 essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids bonded to pre-hulled seeds. Fruits and vegetables are human grade and seeds are germination tested for freshness. They use no dog food, cat food, meat, poultry or fish by-products, animal fats, chemical preservatives or artificial food colors.

We’re offering 31 SKUs of Volkman from their Avian Science Line which are nutritionally balanced bird diets fortified with vitamins, minerals, bonded amino acids and select grains.

Scarlet Chested Parakeet - Neophema splendida. Taken at Cincinnati Zoo. Photo by Greg Hume

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Meaning we have it available for finches, canaries, macaws, cockatoos, and everything in between, including a special non vitamin fortified blend for Eclectus parrots. All mixes contain exceptionally clean, all-natural, human-grade ingredients. And a tradition of trust for generations of healthy birds.

The Featherglow line is a group of specialty mixes and treats incorporating a wide variety of shapes, colors, and textures, including American-made pellets, and convenient Soak ‘n Serve or Soak ‘n Cook entrees. Volkman calls Featherglow “The Smart Solution for Brighter Birds”.

And they are all packed in re-sealable zip-lock poly bags for added convenience and use multi-layer lined bulk bags for added freshness. They were also the first bird company to introduce nitrogen-flushed bags for extended shelf-life.

written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing
approved by nora caterinao

your zygodactyl footnote in

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