Some De-Mythification of Bird Care

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Myth: If you want your bird to be in top shape you should be serving him or her organic bird food.


We offer USDA certified organic bird food pellets from Harrison’s. It’s refuted the one of the best bird foods on the market. We also offer Totally Organics, another fine organic blend. The biggest misconception to organic is its purity.

The majority of people assume organic means fully natural and pesticide free but this is not close to the truth. If you visit this page on the US Goverment’s EPA site you’ll learn that pesticides are an accepted practice for any category of organic food is long as the “Pesticides (are) derived from natural sources (e.g., biological pesticides) may also be used in producing organically grown food.” The reality is that organic farmers for the most part use more pesticides than non-organic farmers. If an organic farm is anywhere near a large city, rainwater helping the plants grow is laced with all the pollutants in the air from the city. We’ll let you draw your own conclusions..

Myth: Never use sandpaper or grooming perches in your bird’s cage.

 A recent article I read by a renowned avian veterinarian denounced “sandpaper covers” over perches and should never be used. Ask 9 out of 10 vets what they think of grooming perches and they will tell you to stay away from them because they can cause bumble foot or open foot sores. The article is about treating obesity in birds and relates the treatment of a blue fronted Amazon who was suffering from serious nutritional issues. The article can be read in its entirety here

Who’s going to argue with a vet?

With the smallest of birds like canaries, finches and even budgies, birds that you are not typically going to physically handle outside of the cage, the length of their nails isn’t much of an issue unless they grow so long they cannot hold onto perches nor get around comfortably. Some sort of nail trimming has to take place.

Canaries and finches are soft bills so beak trimming is not a problem but once we get into Cockatiels, Conures or psitticine in general that we expect to have interaction with outside the cage, nails and beaks need to be cared for. Extra sharp nails cling to clothing making the transfer of a bird from your clothing sleeve to your hand a bit tricky. Birds, especially Eclectus can have beak overgrowth issues with 100% seed diets. Out of control beak growth has to be dealt with. An overly long beak may also be a sign of liver problems so a visit to your avian vet would be in order.

Here’s the thing. As worrisome a thought of wrestling 1 pound (the average weight of an African Grey) of feathers and muscle for 2 minutes to trim eight nails some people prefer not to deal with it. So while the Vets tell us what not to do, they don’t tell us how to solve the problem.

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Why Fans and Feathers Don’t Mix Even in the Cage

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Macaw parrot on beach chair
As summer slowly creeps back into our lives we find ourselves breaking out the box fans, reversing the direction on the ceiling fans and putting air-conditioners back in the windows. Many people ask us how I do know if my birds comfortable temperature wise? Simply stated – if you’re comfortable, you’re birds comfortable.
My guess is more of us are using fans to save money over the use of air conditioning in today’s economy. Fans are great for moving air. Unfortunately rotating ceiling fans can be deadly for birds that are flighted but there’s another issue to fan use is often overlooked.
We’ve seen people over the years move bird cages so as to be directly under the downdraft of the ceiling fan thinking the bird was safe while in the cage but because of a birds intricate feather system it’s best not to have any sort of airflow be it a from a ceiling fan, a box fan or window air conditioner.
First a little perspective. Birds can have from 10,000 to as many as 25,000 individual feathers and one of a bird’s daily jobs is to keep those feathers clean, neat and organized. Preening is how they clean their feathers removing dust, dirt and parasites while at the same time making sure each feather lines up in the best position as they line up to the adjacent feather.
There’s a gland found near the base the tail called the preen gland or uropygial gland and produces a slippery substance that the birds put on their beak as they are preening their feathers. The oil helps keep the bird’s feathers strong and water resistant.
Not all birds have the uropygial glands like owls, pigeons and hawks. These birds compensate for the lack of oil by having feathers that disintegrate into basically a powder which serves the same purpose as preening oil. 
Believe it or not some wild birds will even lay on top of an anthill while the preening in this case the process is called anting. The purpose is to distributeformic acid romance bodies on the birds feathers which aids in keeping parasites at bay.
Ever watch your bird stretch its wings as it’s on the perch much like you or I might stretch our arms when we get up in the morning? By stretching your bird is providing space between each of its feathers so the whole feather can be properly trained. Fluffing as well as stretching is another method birds used to align the feathers.
Circling back to the theme of this blog post – fans. Now that we know the how’s and why’s to preening it’s easier to understand how disruptive the air movement coming from a fan or a window air conditioner can mess up a perfectly preened feather structure. It’s kind of like raking leaves in a strong – it seems as though you are never done. The potential damage to the bird is over preening As they rush to keep putting ruffled feathers in place, which may even lead to feather destruction. So this summer we want you and your bird to be comfortable. We just don’t want your bird in front of a bunch of moving air
Birds not only preen themselves but often preen a mate with a mutual preening process called allopreening as seen in the video below.

Why Patience is Essential When Introducing New Stuff to Your Bird

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As the weather is warming up not a day goes by when we don’t have somebody coming into the Birdie Boutique, e-mailing us or calling us to find out what size flight suit or harness their bird could wear. “It’s warm out and I want to take my bird outside how soon can I get it”? And therein lies the rub.

We talk about making toys interesting so our birds will engage them. We spend countless hours wondering why the new perch or ladder seems to be scaring the dickens out of them. Heaven help us if we want to try a new bird food that might be a tad more nutritious. So we experiment through trial and error over days and sometimes weeks as we figure out how to overcome the hurdles involved in introducing something new to a customer’s feathered companions.

We humans have our schedules and with our busy schedules fun time is usually pretty limited so we want it now. Birds, on the other hand are creatures of habit. We urge you to change everything in your bird’s cage at the very least, once a month to keep things interestig. Socializing your bird with other people in and out of your household will help to make them less skittish. BUT birds have their limits and intimate changes like the introduction of a flight suit or harness or water bottle to replace the water dish may take some time – a few hours or days or even a week or two.

Take a flight harness for instance. You are somewhat curtailing the use of your birds wings, which is about the most counterintuitive thing you can do to a bird. So if you expect to open the flight harness package, fit your bird and expect to go outside right then, you’re setting yourself up, and your bird – for failure.

I use the term “intimate changes” intentionally because birds don’t like things that interfere with the complex feather systems. The same would hold true of introducing a Lixit water bottle. Although they’ve been proven to be effective for more than 20 years, just because you put in the cage, what if your bird doesn’t figure it out immediately while you’re away for the weekend.This can lead to dehydration without them having been acclimated to use it first.

As a third example, you may want to travel with your bird this summer and put some sort of travel carrier in the car. So there you are trying to get an early start on the open road and you find out there’s no way in hell your bird is going to get in that new carrier just because you want to take a trip this week. To overcome any of these changes it’s important to have a strategy and utilize patience.

Here’s some start up strategies for these three issues. Beginning with the harness or flight suit, the first thing you want to do when you get it out of the package is to simply put it in your birds field of vision. Your bird assumes objects out of the ordinary could be potential threats, so let it see it for day or two or three. The next step before trying to get them to wear something is to take the harness (or flight suit) and to lightly drag it across your birds body so they get a feel for what it is. make it friendly Do this for two or three days before you attempt to put it on. You’ll find you’ll have much less resistance by using this method when you finally decide to dress your bird.

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Finnicky Eating Quaker Parrot

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Quaker parrot lying on back in human hand
Hi — 
I’m having trouble finding a food mix that my Quaker parrot will eat. Most of the Tropimix-type foods she just picks through and eats only one or two types of seeds out of. She won’t even touch the fruit. She eats a little and then is bored. 
She does the same with people food. Eats a little and then is bored or won’t bother with it the next time (except for peanut or almond butter which she eats as much as she can get of and she also likes Nutriberries and Avicakes). She likes to put her food into her water, so I tried some cooked bird food and likes it for a few bites and then is bored again. Is she just being a Quaker? She wastes an awful lot of food! Thanks for your help!

Hi Annie,
Unfortunately birds are somewhat like autistic children so it’s a matter of trial and error. Your quaker likes the seeds because of the fatty-“ness kind of like what french fries are to you and me.
It’s really a matter of trial and error in finding the right food. I’m assuming you’re using Tropimix now. If that’s not working out for you you might want to try a straight seed blend Conure or cockatiel size. If you bird engages a seed only diet you may want to stick If you bird engages a seed only diet you may want to stick with that but we would suggest introducing a supplement Hagen Prime
My apologies for the delayed response let me know if you need some suggestions I would start looking in this category

Our Tribute to Birds in the Military

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Pigeons have been used to communicate over distances since the time of Julius Caesar. The Persians (now Iran), and even the Greeks used homing pigeons to “broadcast” news about who won the Olympics. Homing pigeons were considered highly prestigious way back in 18th century France until the French Revolution which changed things so anybody who wanted, could have a pigeon.

During the Franco Prussian war, Parisians use hot air balloons to deploy flocks of homing pigeons out of their city to countryside and vice versa. With the advent of micro photography in the 19th century pigeons could carry as many as 30,000 messages by a single bird.

When World War I began armies in Europe used many homing pigeons. General John Pershing saw this and implemented the Army signal Corps which was the first military form of a pigeon communication system. The numbers are sketchy but it’s believed more than 500,000 birds were used by the world armies during World War one. Pigeons were highly respected because they had over a 90% delivery rate which proved to be literally life-saving for soldiers on the front line. Putting things in perspective, at the time about the best shot they had at communicating was the telegraph – which required permanent poles & wires.
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Bird Cage Lighting Questions

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I am trying to figure out the best lighting option for my birds. I recently bought the Prevue Hampton breeding cage from you and I have two pairs of lineolated parakeets in the cages. I am uncertain how to tell if the lights you offer are both UVA and UVB or not. I’m thinking of a floor lamp but I’m also not sure if one floor lamp will be able to get light into both cages. Can you offer any input? Thanks!
Hampton Deluxe Divided Breeder or Flight Cage by Prevue Pet
Hi Cindy,
Great choice on the new Prevue Hampton breeding cage. Most of the full spectrum bulbs that we offer are both UVA and UVB with the exception of our economy full-spectrum bulbs. That said it’s important to remember certain laws of physics about light one of which is called the inverse square law.
Let me first address your last question which is about using the floor lamp for lighting both cages I have to say it would not be my best choice because of the height and the width of the cages. The Hampton is 37 inches wide so I’d recommend two overhead lights one for each cage section so as to give maximum light exposure to the birds.
Now let’s get back to our physics lesson of the day. There’s no doubt that full-spectrum lighting inclusive of UVA and UVB will enhance the production of vitamin D in animals and humans for that matter. We have two issues with the premise. If you are feeding your bird nutritiously there’s really not that much of a need to enhance vitamin D production it should be supplied in the food your bird are eating now perhaps with the addition of a multi vitamin.
The other issue is how light behaves and here’s your physics course of the day. Because of the inverse square law if you have one of your full-spectrum lights 1 foot from the top of the cage and the bird is at the top of the cage your bird will receive “X” amount of lumens. If you bird doubles his distance from the light to 2 feet your bird will receive 1/4 of the lumens it was receiving at 1 foot and if you bird moves the bottom of the cage it is now 4 feet away from the light and is receiving 1/16th of the amount of lumens that it recieved at the top of the cage.
Because of this, we feel using lighting with UVA and UVB is fine for reptiles who are content to lay out a rock for 5 to 6 hours at a time with a set distance from the light. If you’re relying on your lighting to help enhance vitamin assimilation short of strapping your bird down to a given point on the cage chances are the effectiveness of the light for the sake of vitamin enhancement alone is not going to be very effective.
So which two lights to I suggest for over the cage? The swag lights are fine if you can have access to ceiling hooks, The Capital shade lights will work fine for attaching them to the top of the cage. If your do-it-yourselfer you can get our economy full spectrum bulb without UVA/UVB and use a couple of cheap clamp on lamps from your local hardware store
Shop All LightingThe Four-fold Purpose Sunlight Fulfills
Hope that helps,
by Mitch Rezman