A Space for Parakeets: Creating an Enriched Environment for Small Birds

by Tricia McManus

I never planned on adopting birds, until a cute little parakeet appeared in my backyard about five years ago. Since then I’ve become enamored with these small birds. In my desire to set up a good environment, I read a lot of books, took courses from Phoenix Landing, found ideas on the Internet, and sought advice from my vet.

Parakeet on top of a cage in a bird room with lots of enrichmentCages and perches – encourage exercise

Based on my vet’s advice, I chose double flight cages to provide plenty of room for exercise, including keeping a clear path for flight from end to end.  Perches of different materials, textures and thicknesses are provided for interest and foot health, including lots of different types of natural branches, rope, ladders, wood and metal platforms, along with a few wood dowels and concrete/pumice perches.  Rope perches are used on the outside of the cage and at the door entrances to make it easy for the birds to get in and out, and to provide additional places to play or hang out.  I like the ropes, because they can be configured in many ways, and the plastic end caps are safe inside the cage.  Long ladders can also be used between the floor and the cage doors if your bird spends time on the floor.

Two blue parakeets are seen in a room - on a cage. In the room there are playstands and perches. There are also toys, swings, perches and tents on the shelving in the room for the birds.Toys – Projects to keep birds active and busy    

Toys are the fun part!  There are an incredible variety of toys available to keep our birds busy and active and give them choices.   Swinging and moving toys and perches provide variety and help with balance.  I look for a variety of material types, such as balsa wood, yucca or mahogany for chewing, different types of straw and vines, leather, bells and rattles, paper shreds, cardboard, plastic, and non-pill fleece.  The ends of paper cord often used for toy-making are also great chewing material.  One area for caution is bells.  Parakeets love them but some bells have heavy clappers that can contain lead.  If the clapper does not appear to be made from the same material as the bell, you might want to replace it with a plastic toy link.

Parakeets inside their cages, with ladders, toys, many different perches of different materials.Multiple places for food, water, light, and privacy (when needed)

My cages are set up to have multiple food and water areas to give every bird an opportunity in the event one bird becomes protective of the dishes.  Full spectrum daylight lamps are used during daylight hours, along with a UVA/UVB bird lamp for short intervals each day.  Each cage also has a few quiet resting areas that are shaded and hidden from view.  In setting up the cages, I also considered that each half of the cage could function independently with everything needed and varied experiences for one bird, in the event the divider needs to be inserted to separate the birds.

Evaluating and setting up the space: Safety, flexibility, and more

Parakeet room with hanging ladders and perches visibleThe first consideration is to evaluate your space and think about how the room will function, including identifying potential hazards.  I put decals on the windows and installed Venetian blinds to provide a buffer for potential crashes.  I also removed carpets and used furniture that’s easy to wipe clean.  I keep paper towels and a spray bottle with water handy for clean-up, along with a small broom & dustpan and a covered trash can.  If you notice a particular out-of-cage location where your bird spends time, placing paper towels or newspaper below that spot makes clean up easier.

My intent for the room was to provide lots of choices for flight and exercise, along with additional variety in experiences from what could be provided inside the cage.  Ideally, the birds would explore and use the entire room.  Moveable tables with play stands allow the room configuration to be changed.  A large dogwood tree branch was potted to provide views out the window, and spray oats or millet is sometimes clipped to it to encourage foraging.  Untreated baskets provide perches and play stations along the walls.  Hanging perches and ladders provide opportunities for swinging and movement.  A stud finder was used to locate structural ceiling joists, and eye bolts were installed to hang the toys.

Parakeet room - Playstands in view

Parakeet out in his playroom. Different play areas well in viewThe room and cages are evolving all the time as I continue to learn and come across new ideas and examples.  You will learn your bird’s preferences and what works best for you!

Lights, sideways basket on the wall, hanging toys, and more

What is your 2020 resolution for you and your parrot? How can Phoenix Landing help you achieve it?

What's your 2020 resolution for you and your parrot? Greenwing macaw picturedHappy 2020! A new year is a time of hope for many. We think about what goals we have for ourselves, and what we’d like to do better. Perhaps we want to eat healthier, exercise more, kick a habit, or take our careers to the next level. Perhaps we simply want to make more time for ourselves and our families.

The new year is also a great time to think about our parrots, and our relationships with them. What goals do you have for your parrots for the next year? Would you like to provide more choices or enrichment for them? Increase the amount of time they spend foraging? Perhaps they need to lose a few grams, and you want to start making gradual changes to their diet and exercise plan so they can lose that extra weight. Is your goal to make new, healthy foods for them? Perhaps you and your parrot could use a relationship reboot, and you would like to improve your trust in them, and theirs in you. Maybe your goal is to do positive reinforcement training with them to improve trust and communication with them.

Please take a few minutes and think about what goals you have for you and your parrot, and please share it with us! Is there a way Phoenix Landing can help you achieve it? Perhaps we can provide information, classes, tips, or more that might help. Perhaps we can check in quarterly to see how you and your parrot are doing as it relates to your goal. Let us know your goal, and also let us know how we can help you achieve it!

Share your 2020 parrot goals or resolutions at https://bit.ly/parrotgoals.

Oatmeal Cookies for Parrots: A recipe

Looking for a new recipe to try out with the flock? Coconut flour allegedly promotes healthy digestion and a healthy heart. Oats help lower cholesterol. So, while doing some holiday baking, why not whip up some oatmeal cookies for the parrots?

Parrotswithoatmealcookies

The Oatmeal Cookies were a hit with this crew! Top: Babee (Female Umbrella Cockatoo), Layla (Female Scarlet Macaw), Bottom: Pickles (Quaker, unknown gender), Jake (Male Lesser-Sulphur Crested Cockatoo). All are adoptable and at the Phoenix Landing Adoption Center in North Carolina.

Ingredients:

Finished cookies

Finished Oatmeal Cookies for parrots.

3 c. coconut flour
1 T. aluminum-free baking powder
1 c. rolled oats
1 egg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
8 ounces (1 c. or 2 snack size cups) unsweetened applesauce
4 ounce jar of butternut squash baby food (no additives)
4 ounce jar of banana baby food (no additives)
1 1/3 c water
Finely chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Form dough balls first

    Dough formed into small balls

    Mix together flour, baking powder, oats, cinnamon and ginger.

  2. Separately, mix together egg, applesauce, and baby food.
  3. Add to dry ingredients, and add the water. Mix until dough forms.
  4. Roll into small dough balls.
  5. Place dough balls on a greased baking sheet (grease with coconut oil for added health benefits) about 1 ½ inches apart.
  6. Flatten balls so cookies are no taller than ½” tall. Sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts.
  7. Bake 18 – 22 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool completely before serving. Extra cookies may be frozen.

Rain and Bow and the road to better health

Help birds like Rain and Bow through the Phoenix Landing Healthy Parrot Medical Fund! Up to $2500 in donations will be matched by generous supporters between November 15 – 23, 2019.

For information about adopting Rain and Bow, see their Petfinder profile, and information about Phoenix Landing’s Adoption process.

This is the story of Rain and Bow, two male cockatiels who came to Phoenix Landing with 34 other cockatiels in the Spring of 2017. They were initially in a group of 167 cockatiels who had been living in horrid conditions in a home in Pennsylvania. Many kind, compassionate people helped them get better. And, our hope is that someone soon will help them turn the page to begin that next chapter, by adopting them into a loving, knowledgeable, patient home.

In the beginning

After learning a shelter in Pennsylvania had received 167 cockatiels and desperately needed help placing them, Phoenix Landing’s Maryland Adoption Coordinator, Debbie Russell, and committed volunteer, Anne Hawthorn, made the trip to Pittsburg to pick up 36 of them to help. Donated supplies and cages from The Parrot Posse allowed us to house and care for so many at once. Many amazing people stepped up to adopt or foster many of these cockatiels, and provide them with a better life. Hawthorn herself graciously fostered many of them until they could be placed with other volunteers or adopters.

Finally breathing easier

Rain and Bow battled respiratory issues until August of this year when, finally, they can now breathe easier! Bow, especially, had very persistent respiratory infections. We are grateful to the knowledgeable team of experts at Stahls Exotic Animal Veterinary Services, who remained committed to helping us see them through to healthier days. Numerous appointments, diagnostics, radiographs, medicine, and more were required before they were healthy. The total amount for their veterinary bills between 2017 – 2019 is $2979.86. Over $2100 of that was from 2019. But, it got us to that happy announcement this past August that Bow seemed to have finally beat the respiratory issues that he just couldn’t seem to completely kick previously. It was, indeed, happy news to us all!

Volunteers made a huge difference in Rain and Bow’s lives

Beyond just the medical care that was needed, they needed caring, compassionate, knowledgeable volunteers to foster them. Not everyone is prepared to administer medicine to a bird who is wary of hands, and we are grateful to those who stepped up to help them, and helped them day in and day out. As such, we’d like to highlight some stories from two of their most recent fosters, about their time with Rain and Bow!

Catherine fostered Rain and Bow from 2018 through July 2019. She helped them through several respiratory issues, and brought them in for exams when there were signs something wasn’t right. She administered medicine when they were ill. She fostered them for about a year (a long time to foster), until she had upcoming changes so sought a new foster for them.

After we sent out a few requests for a new foster home for these special boys, Ava came forward, continued their care, and has been fostering them since. Bow had an especially difficult time getting over the respiratory infection. Radiographs and additional diagnostics were done, and a more aggressive, multi-prong approach was recommended to finally get him through it. It worked! Rain and Bow would not be healthy now, though, without the incredible care they received in their foster homes and at SEAVS.

We hope their next move will be to a home that hopes to adopt them! (Could that be you?)

Catherine’s Story: Fostering Rain and Bow

During the year I fostered Rain and Bow, they were pretty easy little birds. They never had night frights and readily returned to their cage for bedtime. With time and persistence, Rain eventually showed some interest in shredding toys. Overall, they are not loud, playful, or mischievous. When let out of their cage, they enjoy sitting on top of it or walking on the floor foraging. While they are fine being around other birds, they mostly prefer one another’s company. Rain and Bow are great birds that enjoy the simple pleasures of a full food bowl, fresh water, and a nightlight for bedtime.

Bow kind of takes care of Rain. I often saw Bow preening Rain, and where Rain went, Bow followed.

Because of Bow’s persistent respiratory infections, Bow had weekly showers to help his sinuses. While he wasn’t fond of them, he became accustomed to the weekly routine and accepted them.

I tried to get them to try new foods, and wheatgrass was the first one they were brave enough to try. Rain is very curious, so he was the first to try it. In fact, with time and patience, after building trust with him, Rain will take food from your hand.

Ava’s Story: Fostering Rain and Bow

Rain and Bow came across my Facebook feed as a request to help two cockatiels in Northern Virginia who needed nursing back to health.  At first, I pushed it to the back of my mind – there are lots of people who might want to help.  A few days later, I saw the request again, and tried to ignore it, telling myself that I had too much going on.  The third time I saw it, I knew it had to be me: I am in NoVa and local to SEAVS; I’ve been a bird owner almost as long as I’ve been alive; I’ve worked in multiple veterinary clinics so I’m familiar with medicating animals, dosing, signs and symptoms, etc; and finally, I’ve also done raptor rehab. I figured if I could handle hand feeding and medicating aggressive red-tailed hawks and sharp little kestrels, two cockatiels would be nothing.

I arrived at SEAVS not sure what condition to expect the birds to be in.  The vet tech went over medications and dosage, Rain scrambled around looking terrified and hyper-vigilant, and a fluffed-up Bow tried to sleep.  Meanwhile, I focused on learning their markings to tell them apart later – Bow was still sick but Rain had been cleared and would no longer need medication.  When I finally got them home and settled in, I covered their cage and began making up a daily checklist of medications for the next 14 days – pain medicine once daily, oral antibiotics twice daily, boric acid saline flush once daily (which required diluting boric acid into the saline by hand), followed by two different nasal drops administered 5 minutes later, 5 minutes apart.  I printed out my chart and wondered if I had gotten in over my head.  And then I heard one of the boys grind his beak.  I knew I’d done the right thing, and I knew the birds were going to be fine.

14 days eventually turned into nearly a month of medicating Bow, but a few days after that we were able to move them out of quarantine and began introducing them to our flock. Now they hold their own, much to my inquisitive Illiger’s chagrin, and while they are still very nervous about people, they’ve been making good strides on stepping up to be moved back and forth from cage to play stand.  Rain is vocal, and while Bow sometimes joins in, Rain can be counted on 100% to sing his song exactly when things get too quiet — like when the entire house tries to nap on a weekend!

Are the Air Fryers from the Instant Pot company safe for use around parrots or other birds? 

Researching whether small appliances contain non-stick coatings is important

Many small kitchen appliances have polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and perfluorooctanoic (PFOA) non-stick coatings on them, which can be deadly to birds. If you have any questions concerning whether or not an appliance you are considering contains them, it is best to email the company that manufactures it with the appliance number and ask if the appliance itself, or any accessories that come with it, contain PTFE or other non-stick coatings.

So, while this information only pertains to one company’s products, if you are considering an air fryer or other small appliance from any company, inquiring with the company before purchasing or using it is important.

Christine Chaffee’s research on air fryers from Instant Pot Company

Christine Chaffee recently was in the market for an air fryer, and because Instant Pot had been so responsive in the past concerning whether their Instant Pots contained non-stick coatings, she wrote to the company to find out if any of their air fryers or toaster ovens with convection/air fryer settings included non-stick coatings.

One model, the Omni 26 Toast Oven (NOT the Plus model) doesn’t contain PTFE

What she found was that one model, the Omni 26 Toaster Oven (NOT the Omni Plus 26 Toaster Oven) was free of PTFE and other non-stick coatings in the appliance itself and its accessories.

From Christine:

I really wanted an Air Fryer but have heard reports of bird deaths due to their use.    I decided to phone the Instant Pot company to get information on the Air Fryers that they sell and to ask about PTFE, Teflon, or any other material that could harm our birds.

I found there is 1 model only that is safe.   I will be buying that model.

I have attached the letter from Instant Pot regarding the safety of their Air Fryers, and they freely admit all other models are not to be used with birds.   The model I will be buying is actually a toaster oven air fryer.

Feel free to spread this information to all of your bird groups.

InstantPot, support
To: Christine Chaffee
Oct 25 at 2:22 PM

Hello Christine,

Thank you for calling us regarding the materials in our various air frying appliances. We take concerns for pet health very seriously, and we are happy to ensure our customers are informed of any potential risks.

Please refer to the following material information for each model:

Omni 26 Toaster Oven:

The cooking pan is made with an enamel-coating
The rotisserie spit, lift, and forks are stainless-steel: 201 and 304
The oven rack and air fry basket are chrome
The interior of the oven has no coating

Omni Plus 26 Toaster Oven:

The cooking pan is made with an enamel-coating
The rotisserie spit, lift, and forks are stainless steel: 201 and 304
The oven rack and air fry basket are chrome
The interior of the oven has a non-stick PTFE coating*

Vortex and Vortex Plus 6-Quart Air Fryers:

Both air fryers have a non-stick PTFE coating on their cooking trays*

Vortex Plus 10-Quart Air Frying Oven:

The rotisserie spit, lift, and forks are stainless-steel: 201 and 304
The cooking trays and drip trays have a non-stick PTFE coating*

*Because of the presence of PTFE in the cooking trays of the Vortex air fryers and air frying ovens, these would not meet your requirements for a PTFE-free product.

*The Omni Plus 26 also has a PTFE coating on the interior, so it would not meet your requirements either.

The Omni 26 contains no PTFE. It contains enamel coating, stainless steel, and chrome in its various parts.

If there are any other materials besides PTFE that may cause a potential risk, please let us know and we would be happy to confirm if they are used in a specific product.

We hope this information will help you select an appliance that is safe to use in your home without affecting your pet. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Matthew J.
Instant Brands – Customer Care
1-800-828-7280

Pumpkins for Parrots!

by Ann Brooks

Why pumpkin?

Phoenix Pumpkin
Birds require vitamin A, and many are deficient because of an inadequate diet. One of the best sources for vitamin A are foods rich in beta carotene. These are generally the dark orange, red, and green vegetables and fruits. So this is the perfect time of year to take advantage of current crops of scrumptious pumpkins and winter squashes. Not only are these beta carotene rich, but they also make a quick foraging activity.

Ways to serve pumpkin to parrots

Simply putting half a pie pumpkin or squash on a skewer, or in a bowl, can give a bird fun and exercise activity at the same time.  No need to remove the seeds! Just wash thoroughly prior to feeding, and buy organic if possible. You can leave cut pumpkins and squash out for 2-3 days, making for several days of fun!

What other foods are rich in Vitamin A?

Papillae

Pumpkin with chia hemp etc

1/2 pumpkin with chia, hemp, and almonds

Other vitamin A sources include carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, papaya (including seeds), cantaloupe (seeds especially good for macaws), leafy greens, apricots, and mango. If your bird is eating a packaged seed diet, it’s possible they are vitamin A deficient. A seed diet also leads to obesity! Try to convert your bird to a whole foods and pellet diet for long-term health.

Why is Vitamin A important for birds?

Birds with vitamin A deficiencies can have dull feathers,   and many other symptoms. Your avian veterinarian will check the papilliae in the roof of your bird’s mouth during their annual exams. Pointed papillae are a sign of good vitamin A health. Make sure your bird has the opportunity to enjoy these nutrient dense foods!

An interview with Deb Knowlson, the artist who painted “Sweet Rosie”

Want to know more about Deb Knowlson, the artist painted the stunning portrait of “Sweet Rosie”? We did! So, we interviewed her and are sharing the interview here. Her beautiful watercolor painting truly captures the complexity of Rosie’s personality, and hints at the varied life she had led.

“Sweet Rosie” is a painting being auctioned off by Phoenix Landing to support Indonesian Parrot Project.

Go to Auction – “Sweet Rosie,” to learn more or place a bid. 

Tell us about yourself, and your background as an artist. How did you get started?

Deb Knowlson

I wish I could say I’ve attended years of art school but the truth is I am fairly new to painting and mostly self-taught.   I began watercolor painting by checking out library books on the subject and experimenting with techniques.  I’ve taken an online botanical course and spent some time in the studio of a local Oregon watercolorist who explained some of the basic rules but didn’t hold me to them.  I learned the value of breaking the artistic rules sometimes with happy results.

Your art seems tied to your interest in conservation. Tell us about that connection.

I am only motivated to paint due to my interest in wildlife and conservation.  This goes back a long way to my childhood in London, England, where visits to the countryside were a fairyland of hedgerow creatures including hedgehogs, birds, and even badgers.  Upon immigrating to the U.S., a whole new world of national parks and variety of species was fascinating to me.   Cities and suburbs can be home to wildlife, but its where the wild creatures are in their natural habitat that they flourish best.  Its an especially challenging time for many species so I’m pleased to help the little I can.

Other than “Sweet Rosie,” of course, what pieces are you most proud of? What about them do you like, and what are their stories?

My favorite piece other than “Sweet Rosie” is a recent painting I did of a lioness called, “Reaching the Heart.”  The watercolor painting was inspired by the words of the amazing Jane Goodall.  She said, “Once you’ve reached the heart, you’ve got somebody for good.”  This painting was accepted into the exhibit for Jane Goodall’s 85th birthday celebration coming up in Austria.  I’m thrilled Jane will see my painting and it will be part of her mission to reach hearts for the good of wildlife.

What would you like others to know about “Sweet Rosie”? What drew you to paint her?

“Sweet Rosie” by Deb Knowlson

I am one of those people that animals seem to like.  I was once visiting a parrot rescue in British Columbia, Canada, when a gigantic blue hyacinth macaw flew from above and across the room and landed with a thud on my back while I was in a tour group.  Staff were horrified I was hurt or might panic but there was no serious damage and he proceeded to crawl over my shoulder into my arms laying upside down like an infant.  We were good but he would not let go.  You see, sometimes, they like you and you like them.  When I saw Rosie’s photo I thought, “Oh, I like her.”   Animals and humans may not be the same, but they each have feelings as individuals and deserve respect and love.

Where can people go to see your other works?

To see my other works, which are mainly wildlife paintings, please go to my instagram profile, artisindebsnature2.   I can be reached by DM there and also through my email, artisindebsnature2@gmail.com.   I mainly sell originals.  I donate some to worthwhile wildlife conservation efforts and I donate portions of sales to wildlife charities.  That is why I paint.

What else would you like to share about yourself or your work?

I’m thrilled that the painting of Rosie will potentially benefit the Indonesian Parrot Project because of the need for protection of endangered Indonesian cockatoos and awareness of trafficking of wild cockatoos along with education and resources.  I think Rosie would approve.  I once was owned by a rescued wild-caught Congo African Grey called “Couscous.”  Parrots are complex individuals who wish to remain in their wild homes. Take my word for it… I’ve been informed.