"My bird doesn't play with toys..."
We hear this pretty frequently. There can be many reasons for this. Let's look at a few.
It could be that your bird wasn't introduced to toys at a young age, and finds them frightening. Or maybe when you put the new toy in, your bird is still in the cage and is terrified that this unfamiliar object is moving towards him and is thrust into his safe space. I find that introducing toys slowly can help with this. Place a new toy nearby so that the bird can observe it safely from a distance. Over a period of days, slowly bring it closer and closer to the cage until it is hanging on the OUTSIDE of the cage. When you finally put the toy in the cage, do so when the bird is not in. This will help to decrease his anxiety.
Have you changed the toys lately? Or at all?
This is another major issue. Time and again, I find that people don't rotate their toys, so that they basically have the original ones that they got when they acquired their bird. Think: how quickly do you or your children become bored with a new toy of your own? Sure, it's fun at first, but when the newness runs out, it just isn't quite as interesting. Birds are no different. Some toys may always be a favorite, but others just become...boring. Change it up. Get new toys. Rotate out old ones. And guess what? After your bird hasn't seen some toys for a few weeks, they look new again in his eyes.
"But no. He really doesn't like them. He just destroys them!"
Um. But that's what they do. They rip and tear and swing on them. They fling them around in seeming anger. They scream at them and stalk them, and pounce. This is play. They also cuddle up to them, murmur sweet nothings to them, and sleep with them draped over their bodies. This too is play.
Let them play!
People occasionally ask us about problems they're having with their Lady Gouldians. One common problem is that their bird(s) are going bald. Usually, this is the result of an iodine deficiency. In captivity, they simply don't get enough iodine in their normal diet. I recommend using either liquid iodine drops in their water, or sprinkling AviKelp on their food. Both are available in our online store. Besides causing feather loss, iodine deficiency can also lead to respiratory problems and difficulty reproducing. Another possible cause of balding is the bird being infested with the canary feather mite. A mite spray can usually help in this situation.
Another common problem has to do with their respiration. If the bird is gasping with a clicking or a wet sound, chances are it has air sac mites. They have to be treated with either a product called SCATT or Ivermectin. Ivermectin will require a vet visit. These are topical solutions that absorb into the skin like flea treatments for dogs or cats. It's recommended to also use an antibiotic as well, as the air sac mites can cause respiratory infections.
1) It's just wrong to ignore a bird's natural suspicion of strangers by forcing yourself on them.
2) You are running a risk of infecting another's flock should your bird be ill - or risk infecting your own by touching someone's sick bird and bringing the disease to your own birds.
3) You could be injured.
4) It's just good manners. Enough said!
Plucking is very frustrating to witness. Sometimes it can be easily resolved by providing your bird with more toys or attention, and sometimes nothing seems to work. In this post I'll address a few causes of plucking and some possible resolutions.
When people start asking me why their bird is plucking, I try to get some backstory on the bird. If I'm unfamiliar with the bird, some of the questions I ask are how long the customer has had him, the size of the cage, if he has any toys / how long have those same toys been in the cage, the age of the bird, the gender, whether he gets played with or not, if this is a new behavior, diet, and most importantly, if anything has recently changed in the bird's environment.
Sometimes it's really easy to pinpoint why the bird is probably ripping those feathers out. If he has no toys or ones that have been there for years that are worn out, there's a good chance that he's just really bored. Birds are exceptionally bright creatures that need stimulation. Think about it. If you were stuck in a room with nothing in it, just a view of what's outside of your room, day in and day out, wouldn't you go a little nuts? This is still true if the bird has nothing to play with even if he is taken out of the cage frequently. Even if he has unlimited access to being out of the cage. Parrots need to chew and destroy, and they will do it. To a toy. Your furniture. Themselves. I personally prefer them destroying a toy. They will also lose interest in toys that have been there too long. Think of them as children. You know how long their attention span can be with new toys. But when they see a toy that they haven't seen for awhile, it's like a new toy again! That's why it's important to rotate your parrot's toys. And to have a big enough cage to hold those toys but still be comfortable enough for him to move around in.
Whether or not the bird is played with can have a big impact on them as well. Parrots are very social. When they are handfed and sold as pets, humans become their flock. They can be very well-adjusted if they have ample time with their adopted flock, and have been taught to entertain themselves with their own toys when you're unable to be hands-on with them. Some birds are content to just have their people in their general vicinity, listening to them. Others can become depressed if they don't have the contact they crave. Some people ultimately decide to get their bird a friend. I'll address the issues that that situation can have in a later post.
The gender of the parrot can sometimes cause issues. Sometimes females will pluck the feathers on their legs as they grow older. This is because they can have calcium loss in their bones just as women can. And it causes their legs to hurt. Hence the plucking. Other hens will pluck their feathers on their breast in preparation of nesting. This isn't to say that only females do these things. Males pluck their chest feathers all the time, they just don't usually try to line a nest with them. Both males and females will sometimes pluck when they are feeling hormonal, usually during breeding season (spring and summer, typically).
Diet. Simply, sometimes an unhealthy diet can cause health issues which can cause plucking. Or allergies. Sometimes you can stop plucking by changing the diet.
Has anything in the environment of the parrot changed? Did you move the cage? Added a new family member to the household? Has someone left? Did your routine change? That chair in the corner that has always faced one direction, did you move it? Did it fall over and now your bird freaks out when you move it? It can be a huge change or something minute. You can either change back whatever is bothering your bird, or try to help him cope with the change if that's not possible.
If you can't figure out what is causing the plucking, or how to help him, you can try supplements. I always try to figure out if he just needs a new toy or more attention, etc. before I recommend anything else, other than a vet check. But some people have a lovely big cage filled with awesome toys, feed super wholesome and healthful food, and give the bird all the freedom and attention his little heart desires. And he still plucks. In those cases, after a vet check rules out any underlying health issues, I would try supplementation. There are a few products that can help stop or curb plucking. They are hit and miss though. What works for one bird may not work for another. Trial and error.
Some of the most frequently asked questions that we get at our store from our customers are about diet and nutrition. This post will address a more specific aspect of that. "What fresh foods can I give my bird?" and "How do I feed my bird fresh foods?"
It's not uncommon for birds to be wary of new items in their food dish. The best advice I can give you is to be persistent. Don't give up after a couple of tries. But be smart about it. If your bird doesn't like a certain food one way, try a different way. This is why I love chop so much. I can add foods that my birds would toss to the cage floor before, and suddenly they're gobbling it up. Why? What is chop?
Chop is basically a kitchen sink of sorts. You can add as many ingredients as you want. The premise is, you start with a few different grains and pasta and you cook them. Want some beans or lentils? Cook those too. Next, grab some veggies, greens, and fruit. Wash them, peel them (if necessary), core them (again, as necessary). Chop them up. A food processor is your friend. Mix the cooked stuff with the chopped stuff. If it's a little wet, you can add some dry oats and or chopped nuts. Chop should never be kinda soupy, it doesn't keep well. Put your mixture in baggies, preferably in 5-day quantities. Keep 1 bag in the fridge, the rest in the freezer. Serve slightly warm.
The reason this is such a great way to get your bird to eat fresh foods is because everything is chopped into little pieces. It's much harder for him to pick and choose. None of the birds I've fed it to have even bothered to try. They just eat it. I prefer to offer it in a separate food dish, but at least initially I would layer the chop over their normal food. That way, they at least get some in their mouth as they're pushing it to the side. The goal is that they'll like what they taste.
Now, what is safe and good to feed? This is an excellent list found online.
Parrot safe fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses and herbs
By Irina Pismenskaya on Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 4:48pm
All veg can be given raw or steamed/boiled (white potatoes must always be cooked if serving at all).
List of suitable vegetables:
Bok choy (Pak Choy)
Broccoli (incl. Sprouing Broccoli with leaves and stems)
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
French Beans and Runner Beans (better served steamed or lightly boiled)
Greater Plantain (Plantago major)
Lettuce (dark green varieties)
Pepper (Bell, Jalapeno, Chilli etc.)
Radish Tops (greens)
Squash (Butternut, Winter and other varieties)
List of berries:
Service berries (june berry, saskatoon, from Amelanchier species of trees)
List of suitable fruit:
Date (in very small quantities)
Mango (Peel thoroughly before serving and only give when fully ripe)
Papaya (Peel thoroughly before serving and only give when fully ripe)
Persimmon (only sweet, non-tangy varieties)
List of suitable herbs (use for flavouring in small amounts):
List of suitable spices:
Suggested grains list for cooking
Corn (dry, pop corn type)
List of legumes/beans suitable for cooking
(soak overnight and boil for at least 40 mins all beans, apart from those found in the suitable for sprouting column, those don't beed to be cooked and can be fed soaked and sprouted). Lentils don't need to be soaked)
Lentils (any variety)
Soya bean (non GM, organic)
Grains, Legumes, Seeds, Nuts suitable for sprouting:
Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
Lentils (not split)
Peas (dry, whole)
Best served as microgreens:
You don't need to wait for the tails to appear, even just an 8 hour soaking process increases digestibility of these nuts/seeds
Seeds suitable for growing greens/grass
Tea varieties suitable for parrots (but water should always be available)
Decaffeinated organic black tea
green or white tea in small quantities (check the information on the box to make sure it is decaffeinated using CO2 or/and water method, rather than using ethyl acetate. Organic teas are decaffeinated using the CO2/water method so best stick with those)
Hibiscus tea (make it weak or give in small quantities, can lower blood pressure).
Raspberry leaf tea
Check out our Instagram to see a pic of chop and a video of Mumbles the Amazon sampling it. aviaryatcauley