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Date last edited:  06/20/12


 

 


 

Bird Tips 'n Trix

These Tips and Trix are of things that we personally have experienced with our birds and have learned over the years.   It is always good to use your best judgment when dealing with your feathered friend!

 

Baby Parrots & Disinfecting & Vet Visit

Handfeeding & More on Babies 

Dairy Free Calcium Sources -

Medicating through Water  

Learning to Fly  

Citricidal as a disinfectant & Cure 

Seed/Fresh Food Diet vs. Pellets 

Techniques in Bathing

Talking Tips

Fruit and Vegetables

Cages: Size & Sleep Cages (for Greys) 

Males vs. Females 

Parrot Toys

Bringing Home Baby #2 

Multi-Pet Home 

Recommended Parrot Books and Magazines


 

Baby Parrots & Disinfecting:      Top

Bringing home your baby parrot, Congratulations!  There are many things to learn and read.   I can recommend a few wonderful books on the basics of Parrots and Parrot Behavior (See section on Recommended Parrot Books & Magazines).   The thing to focus on with regard to parrots is patience and consistency; with that in mind, you hold the key to a long, happy life together.

When speaking of greys in particular, I think it is important for them as babies to be introduced to as many new things as possible.  Safe outings, car trips in a pet carrier, harnesses, new objects, all the rooms in your home, etc.  Once your young grey is trained to accept change your lives together will be unsurpassing. (Note: By stating trained I mean in a delicate manner to fit the personality of your grey as an individual.)

On of the first things you should always remember when handling your baby parrot is washing and disinfecting your hands.  Baby birds are very susceptible to bacteria's that are on our hands.  All items should be disinfected that come in contact with your parrot (not only as baby birds but even as adults).  Bird safe disinfectants are: Avicine, Oxyfresh Cleansing Gele & Avicine, Citricidal (GSE Concentrate). They are all odorless and is completely bird safe.  We personally use to Avicine & Oxyfresh products to clean and disinfect utensils, food and water crocks/bowls, toys, perches as well as cages.   NOTE: Do not use Bleach. There are new additives in Bleach that are found to be harmful to birds.

Depending on the age and species of your bird, they will need to feel secure with you. Make sure you hold your baby parrot close to you when he/she is with you. It helps them grow to be secure, happy birds. They need to feel the warmth, comfort and peacefulness of their human parents.  Some species need this to be done longer than others since some may mature slower than others.  A good rule of thumb is to have clean "bird" towels around for this purpose.  Baby birds may be wrapped loosely but yet securely (not so tight they can't move or breath but wrapped loosely but tight enough for security) when walking about or sitting on the couch. This also helps later on with using towels to clip feathers and/or trimming nails. Please note if your baby bird resists the towel. Then proceed delicately and slowly so he/she will become familiar with the towel and feel more comfortable with it.

It is good to have your baby parrot used to being handled by different, responsible people.   (Responsible in the manner of knowing how to hold a baby parrot, how to love and nurture it).  Having your parrot handled by different people is all a part of socialization.  I have several articles on this on my Articles Page.  Keeping that in mind, each parrot is an individual and has their own personality. 

While sitting with your new bundle of joy. Have some Talon Toys available for him/her to chew on and play with.   Baby parrots have a tendency to be mouthy. Yes it is adorable, and you may think it is a part of the bonding process... but when that cute baby parrot grows up and bites... he/she will not be so cute anymore.  When the baby parrot tries to nibble on your fingers or something that he/she should not be, rather offer a small hand toy for him to chew on. We recommend www.aviannaturals.com.

Having various different kinds of toys (pine, cotton rope, acrylic). NOTE: Be sure to see the section on Toys and reading the cautions of them.  Changing/ Rotating toys every 2 to 3 weeks so they won't fear new toys and will stay interested in them.  

Feeding your baby parrot the greatest varieties of food as possible. Healthy foods like Fresh Vegetables, Fruit, Cooked Beans, Pasta, Rice, Cooked Grains, homemade Birdie or 12 Grain Breads, pellets, etc. (see section on fruit/veggies). Please Continue to offer the food, consistency is key and eventually they will either play with the food or eat it. You can also try to entice them by disguising the food with items they do eat. The more variety you offer him/her as a baby the easier he/she will accept new foods and the healthier your baby bird will be in the long run.  They may not feel like eating it today, but maybe tomorrow they will ravish it all!

Lastly and most importantly, the trip to the vet.  Before bringing home your baby parrot, try to find a Board Certified Avian Veterinarian that is close to you. I realize there are areas where one cannot find a ABVP Vet.  However, sometimes it is good to get recommendations from friends or searching the internet.  Prior to bringing home your baby, set up an appointment in advance. Establish your own set protocol with regards to testing. Some examples of tests: 

  • Blood Chemistry Test ~ A calcium level check - also will aid determine if vital organs are functioning correctly

  • Psitticosis Test

  • PBFD (Psitticine Beak And Feather Disease)

  • Gram Stain

  • Culture and Sensitivity

Of course, if any emergencies that arise - your vet is a phone call away. Always find out what procedures your vet's office has for off hours ~ in case of an emergency. Remember this: Never be afraid to ask your vet questions. Always have a list ready to take with you so you are prepared.

Dairy Free Calcium Sources:    Top

Here is a list of items that are a natural source for calcium. 

Almonds, Deep Green Leafy Vegetables: Turnip Greens, Mustard Greens, Kale, Dandelion Greens, Broccoli, Collard Greens, Kohlrabi, Endive, Watercress, Bok Choy, Brussel Sprouts.  Calcium-fortified orange juice, Tofu is also high in calcium; comparable to dairy sources like milk, yogurt and cheese.

Sneak some tofu in some cooked eggs or accent it with some garlic - sometimes it is just adding a special flavor that will trigger them to eat it.  Creatively masking the identity.  Note: Calcium will be absorbed better from fresh veggies than from an artificial source like a vitamin.

Please Note: Tofu is a soy based product. Parrots who have hormonal tendencies should not be offered soy products. Soybeans contain natural forms of estrogen which can enhance hormone levels. If your parrot has plucking/picking habits, we recommend discontinuing all soy products.

Keep in mind that Calcium is lost in cooking some foods even under the best conditions. I would recommend using fresh vegetables and organic where available.  Keeping in mind that high oxalate vegetables such as spinach and swiss chard decrease calcium absorption. However, these vegetables are the exception rather than the norm. Common beans such as kidney, chick pea and pinto contain oxalate and phytates, which interfere with calcium absorption. 

If you are concerned with calcium absorption, then it might be better to stay away from the above mentioned items. Vitamin A enriched vegetables and fruit are wonderful for aiding in calcium absorption.

Medicating Through Water:    Top

Medicating through the water is always a guessing game since you never really know how much a bird will consume.  You might want to *cautiously* cut back on the amount of wet foods (fresh fruits and vegetables), and increase the dry foods (breads, nuts, etc.), to encourage your bird to drink more.  If he/she likes to dip her bread in water give her that first thing. 

Note: Another important tip is to use only steamed distilled water when adding medicine. The water needs to be as pure as possible so there won't be any kind of reaction taking place between the minerals/etc. found in normal drinking water and the meds. Bottled water must be kept refrigerated once opened to prevent bacteria growth.

Learning to Fly:     Top

Having a grey learn how to fly (fledged properly) when a baby will avoid him/her being clumsy.  Properly fledging a baby grey cannot be timed ~ depending on the individual african grey, it may be several months before this process is complete.  Whether or not to clip a bird is a very personal decision. There are many things to consider when deciding whether to clip or not to clip. Having a bird fledged properly gives them self assurance & confidence.

Properly fledging means to allow a properly weaning baby parrot to learn to become an agile flyer. There is no set time limit for a baby grey to learn to fly. They need to be able to become graceful in landings and take offs, to hover and turn on a moments notice, being able to land on your hand from 20 feet away. Giving a baby grey the freedom to learn to fly will give him the self-assurance he/she will need throughout their lives. I cannot express enough the importance of this.


Bathing:     Top

First things, first... Supervise your bird when attempting to bath or shower him! And make sure the water is either luke-warm or cool to the touch!  Next... Patience is key. It took me 9-10 months to pattern Oliver to enjoy taking showers.  Some of my other greys prefer baths over showers. Never give up hope. The day will come when they will all of a sudden accept it gracefully or shock you and love it immediately. Never force a bird to shower, this can cause a phobia of water. 

Every morning, we took one of the greys into the bathroom with us where he had his T-stand as we get ready for work. After a week or two of him being used to the surroundings in the bathroom, We took him into the shower. Explaining to him the shower feels wonderful, how healthy it is for him, and most importantly it will NOT hurt him. After a few weeks of doing that, move to the next step. Take him closer to the water and letting a tiny bit of water get on his beak and feathers (be careful of their nares). Eventually, he was drinking the water. Then several months later, he let me know he was ready to shower.  One morning he started flapping incessantly towards the shower. I picked him up, brought him in and he started flapping and playing in the water. Had to hold onto his feet tight - because he went crazy under the water. But that's my boy, Oliver - just as nutsy as can be! 

Our other two greys did things differently. They didn't like the shower, so I didn't push the issue. Never force a bird to bathe or shower.

Here are some tips I have learned about getting Abby & Avery to be interested in bathing.   I have a bird bath (see Bathing Article for photo).  You can use just about anything that is low and won't tip if they perch on the sides. Try a Rubbermaid container, porcelain/ceramic crocks, ceramic plant dish (usually used to catch water from the plant). Whatever is completely clean and would not be harmful to your bird.  I then would throw in something of interest.   It varies for each bird ~ work with what they like.  I used soft uncolored pine spools & acrylic toys for Avery & Abby. Sometimes I would put in Carrot circles, Radishes or Cherries.  Be creative!  Within 5 minutes, they were in and splashing about!  Here's a funny for you... Avery also enjoys bathing in his water crock. Abby likes to take baths out of her water dish but only when we vacuum - Go figure!

Also, I would put some Natural Aloe Juice in the water (it is completely natural from a Health Food Store - no additives).   Here's the dilution ratio: 75% Water 25% Natural Aloe Juice.  It is completely natural and will NOT harm your bird.  It moisturizes from the inside out as well!  It is good for their feathers. I have heard this helping feather pickers or birds with dry/itchy skin. You can also put it in your birds water - same ratio.

For more tips on Bathing see our new "Look Who's Taking a Bath Article".

Citricidal as a Disinfectant & Cure    Top

Citricidal is a concentrate of GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract).  GSE has the ability to inhibit mold, parasites and bacteria.  It is widely used in hospitals today.

Citricidal has been used to treat the following without side effects:  sinusitis, colds and flu, ulcers, application as a germicide, preservative and preventive. The list goes on for the wondrous things that Citricidal brings to the table. 

Citricidal can be added to drinking water (not only for our pet birds but for us as humans too!). Just 1 drop of Citricidal can be added to drinking water for your bird as a preventative, per day.  It has been known to clear up Giardia, ear and skin infections, gum infections.

Citricidal stimulates the immune systems in birds, and aids in absorbing nutrients.  

Seed/Fresh Food Diet vs. Pellets     Top

This is a very controversial topic. What should we feed our birds? Well, in my opinion, there is no "set" answer. Each bird has individual needs and
different requirements.

My flock is on an all natural diet for several years.  This is a personal decision and every person needs to decide what is right for their individual bird's needs and to suit their lifestyle.  Personally, I felt this was the best thing I could do for my flock. Their personality has flourished and their feathers have a beautiful sheen to them.

I just want to say this to get it out of the way up front. I did my research
and felt this was right for our flock. This diet may not work for you or others. It is up to the humans to decide what is best for their birds and to what lengths you are willing to go to. If you feel more comfortable having your bird on Pellets supplemented with Fruits & Vegetables - that is wonderful. Please do not be pressured by individuals who tell you "THIS is what you should do!!".  As I mentioned, each bird has different nutritional requirements that need to be met. No two birds have the same body chemistry.

All birds need to be on a varied diet to include fresh vegetables and
fruit, grains, legumes.  Whether you feed pellets or not each diet needs to be supplemented with lots of fresh produce.

In our situation specifically, we based our diet originally on Alicia McWatters recipe. I took the recipe and modified it to include things I felt were important for my birds (fresh papaya & papaya seeds, mango, broccoli, etc). My birds get the following on a daily basis:
A Bowlful of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (Please see my Safe Foods Page
A Piece of 12 Grain Bread (Birdie Bread is an alternative - Recipes)
Sprouted Seed, Legumes, Grains - Sprouted for about 24 hrs
Seed & Grain Mix (Sunflower, Safflower, Flax and other ingredients) - Offered in the Evening.

They also get a portion of our dinner, as long as it is not something that will harm them.

There are different ways to approach getting your bird to each veggies and fruit.  (See our Diet Tips Article)  Some birds do not like everything ground up into a mash and getting on their beaks. Some birds do not care if food is stuck to their beaks. 

This was a major decision for us, I did my research for my species of birds (African Greys). I would recommend to anyone willing to make this kind of commitment in change in their bird's diet to speak with their Avian Vet and research it first.  Please feel free to read the articles at this link: Diet Articles  Read the articles written by Nutritionist Dr. Alicia McWatters. 

Talking:     Top

There is no guarantee when you purchase a bird to become a new member of your family that it will talk. Never believe it if someone were to tell you they guarantee it!   Do not walk, RUN!! (For more details on this see our Talking Article.)

Here are things that we did with our greys. We talked to them about everything!  When we would leave for the day ~ We would tell them either  "Bye, bye. Be back later, gotta go to work".  When we would be gone 5-10 minutes. We would say, "Be right Back"  This way they realize the difference in time.  Now, when we grab our keys, they say "Bye, Bye and squeek like the door".  

Working with different word associations. When offered a piece of apple or broccoli.  "Want some broccoli?" "Want some apple?"  When they decided they didn't want it, we repeated the phrase, "I don't want anymore". Or how about "Want to take a shower?" or "Want to play Hide 'n Seek?" Then immediately after those questions perform the action. Whether it was taking a shower or playing a game. They will forget if too much time is in between.   It works, TRUST ME!

Vegetables & Fruit:     Top

Getting your parrot to eat vegetables and fruit may not be easy, but it is in their best interest.   Start offering them fruits and vegetables when they are babies.  Please note some vegetables or fruits may be startling to your feathered friend. To avoid this, cut it in small pieces.

Here are some tips on starting out your parrot to the road to healthy eating!  Always ensure the vegetables and/or fruits are clean of residues/ chemicals.  Clean your fruits and vegetables with a solution of 2 Tablespoons Organic Apple Cider Vinegar & 1 gallon Water - let it sit for 5 minutes then rinse.  Summer Squash, Cooked Sweet Potato, Broccoli (stems included), carrots, red pepper, etc.  Place a variety of produce in a food processor until it is UNRECOGNIZABLE. And serve. The same can be done with fruit (Cored Apples (remember apple seeds are toxic), Oranges, Grapes, Papaya, Cantaloupe). You might even want to try mixing the fruit mix with the vegetable mix. You will recognize if your parrot enjoys citrus type of fruits versus the sweet.  Using a food processor to grind the food and offering it to your parrot will make it easy for your bird to eat and they will not have the opportunity to individually select items they like more than the other.  Once your parrot becomes interested in the mix and is eating it readily, change the mix by letting the pieces become less processed. Before you know it, the pieces are so large that they are picking up the pieces with their tiny talons and eating away.

Another tip would be to hang the food on a Bird Kabob in the cage. They will think its a toy and realize with the first touch that it is food. They will start to get a taste from it.  If you bird does not try it the first time, please be patient. Keep offering the fruit and vegetables they will eventually come around to at least trying it. In fact they may eat a certain vegetable one day and the next day not touch it. Birds like variety, always offer different fruits and vegetables each day. 

Sometimes it is not just the taste of the fruit or vegetable that the bird doesn't like it may be the texture of it.  So cutting the vegetables/fruit differently may make a difference. (See our To Peel Or Not Article) For example:  Carrots can be cut endless ways. Shredding, Thin circles, Julienne, Quartered, Chunks, etc.  If one must succeed, one must try different shapes!  Talon sized pieces work wonders. 

Nothing goes to waste in my house. My greys LOVE to be in the kitchen when I am cooking or preparing their dishes.  It is like candy to a child.  When cutting up fruits and vegetables our flock is jumping up and down because they know what is coming shortly.  We offer them the stems of the broccoli and the leaves I thread through the bars of the cage for them to tear apart - Excellent source of vitamins.  The broccoli stems - I cut about an inch and then quarter it up and hand it out. Sometimes they eat it, sometimes they just tear it apart.  It is a cheap toy and it is good for them - what more can you ask for!

Here's another tip. If you notice that most of the fruit/veggies are at the bottom of the cage with one bite in them. Cut the pieces smaller. You will see a big difference. No more or at least minimal waste!!!!

Now for the food that they still refuse to eat; I sneak it in creatively.  I bake Home Made Birdie Muffins for my birds.  I throw all sorts of fruit & veggies in the food processor and add it to the muffins. Mission Accomplished!!! They can't pick out the pieces they don't like, because its finely chopped! 

**Be sure to stop by my Safe Foods For Your Bird's Page.

Handfeeding & More on Babies     Top

NOTE:  I would like to first start out with that I am a true believer in *not* purchasing unweaned babies. If I would have known what I know today about the dangers of handfeeding I would not have bought unweaned babies. I am fortunate that I was properly taught the basics before bringing home my birds.

With hand feeding there are many things that need to be taken into consideration.

Disinfecting ~ All utensils and your hands must be disinfected. Baby parrots are very susceptible to germs and bacteria until they are about a year and their immune system is built up. Avicine is a perfect bird-safe disinfectant which will not disintegrate the syringes. 

Temperature ~ Greys are very finicky about having their formula hot. BUT be wary of hot spots. Never above 108F. Mixing the formula thoroughly to remove any hot spots that may be evident.   You may heat up the water first then mix the powder in. Occasionally you may use Papaya nectar in replace of the water - they may enjoy the sweetness a bit more.  Sometimes even putting Aloe Juice in replace of some of the water, which aids in digestion.

Consistency ~ When I handfed my babies they liked their formula the same consistency - like a loose pudding or ketchup. There are thoughts of "If I give him thicker formula it will be better for him".  Not true the babies need the liquid to pass through their system.

After hand feeding, *immediately* wash the syringe, thermometer, etc.  Then I would disinfect them with Avicine.  It doesn't harm the syringes like bleach would.  We personally use it on everything at home to disinfect - cages, dishes, cutting boards, countertops, perches.   Having a spray bottle that is not clear next to the sink filled with a dilution of Avicine is very handy.

If it seems like the babies are not emptying their crops, you could add Aloe Detox to their formula. It is better known as a wonder herb. It is a concentrated Aloe - if you have a plant at home - you could skin it and throw it in the blender and add to the water mix. Note: Slow Crop is something that should be handled by your Avian Vet.

Heat - Up until babies greys are approximately 8 weeks of age they need to be put on "heat", because they do not have their feathers to help keep them warm.   Once the baby is fully feathered heat should be removed.  An alternative, you may use a small heating pad on *low* on 1/3 of the container. Then place a towel on top of the heating pad. Never lay them flat on the heating pad it could burn their skin very easily. Burns can cause an infections. They are very delicate at this age.  A large Rubbermaid Container can be converted without using the top . We built a grate for the bottom to build up their little toes up and they couldn't reach the poop. Then we drilled holes to put feeders in later on. We built a grate for the top and covered 1/2 of the container with a towel for security. They need to feel safe where they are. They come out and play eventually. I also had a few small human baby toys in with them. I would buy the terrycloth toys that don't have parts that can be swallowed or taken off easy.  Eventually when they get older you may place small hanging toys in.

When ever the babies are out, I would have a towel and wrap them for warmth and keep them close to me (if they were not feathered at the time ~ otherwise I would have the towel underneath them in case of poop accidents). They need to feel safe and secure. 

When they are about 8 wks you can start offering vegetables and fruit. I would throw them in the food processor so it is mush and they can pick at it. Then as a week goes by letting the mush get bigger pieces. Very gradually - don't want to frighten them with it. See my Fruits and Vegetables section and my Safe Foods article.

When babies are weaning, you can expect to lose 10-15% of their weight. Oliver topped out at 500 grams at 8 weeks, when weaning he went down to 425 grams.  Then over time he increased his weight. It took him several years to get back up -now he is steady at approximately 495.

Weight ~ It is important to have a scale available when venturing into the avian world.  You can create a chart, list the date and the individual bird. Enter their weight and time of day as well as any notations. This is good record keeping.  Keep in mind not all birds are created equal. Just as humans vary in size, birds do as well. Even adult birds should be weighed occasionally. As a baby bird, weigh your bird twice a day and note of any food in their crop.  Note: Time of day will make a difference in the weight of a bird. Make sure they "poop" before weighing as well as weighing them before hand feeding to get a more accurate weight.

 

 

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