Wednesday, December 28, 2016


What would we do without zip ties?    They hold everything imaginable together for us, way beyond, I'm sure, their original intent.  (If you'd like to know 
where they came from, read some background here.  It's actually pretty interesting...dangerously interesting!)   You may already be aware of how indispensable zip ties are, and this may be redundant or elementary. But just in case you didn't know of the joys of zip ties, read on.

A number of years ago I found that zip ties were to become invaluable tools in my parrots' cages and outdoor flights. Add me to the list of avian zip tie devotees. There are at least five or six ways that I use zip ties on a daily basis.   Here are two of them:

1 There are times when I can't find an appropriately sized quick link to hang a toy in a cageZip ties are the perfect solution...or maybe not. You must know your bird: it may look at a nylon zip tie, reach up, open beak, and proceed to snap that nylon strip of toy holder in two. Down goes the toy.  Wrong solution for the problem - go get a new quick link!

Here's what you can do to avoid this predicament:  

•IF you know that your bird won't consider the zip tie to be just another  quick chew toy, then choose the best-sized zip tie for the job. Ties come in a multitude of sizes, extremely small up to very sturdy, thick and strong.   Consider the small zips for small bird toys, and the heavier ones for medium to large-sized birds' toys. Choose your tie in relationship to your birds' beaks!

•When you are attaching the tie, pull it as tightly as you can so there is no chance that your bird might catch a toe, a beak, anything! Lastly, cut the remaining unused portion close to the joining juncture as you possibly can.   The edges of the nylon may feel sharp, so make sure that you cut very close with no jagged edges.(I use utility cutters, like these: here) 
•When hanging something awkward and heavy, try attaching your zip tie first in the cage (leaving a good-sized loop), slip the toy onto the z-tie, and then proceed to pull it tight, clip it off.  The tie will support the weight of the toy no matter what sized loop you first create.

2 Permanently shut a food/water door that you are no longing using (because  the bowls and the feeding/watering space is not bird-user friendly. See previous blog!)   I first kept the doors to those spaces secured with large spring clamps 'borrowed'  from my husband's workshop.   They worked well - the clamps were stronger than the vice grip of my Blue and Gold's beak.    But...the clamps scratched the metal cage.    My solution was, from the outside of the cage,  to wrap a heavy, strong  nylon zip tie around the unused doors, encompassing the bars nearest the doors, and pulling them extremely tight...flat with the door.  I then clipped the remaining ends very close, and voila...safely shut doors/gates.   And when there comes a time that those feeding and watering spaces are put to use again, it will be as easy as clipping the zip tie off.

Look for more uses for zip ties in my next blog.  I'll also post locations where you can easily find reasonably prices zip ties to use in your own bird room.   They are truly indispensable small solutions to big problems!    


Wednesday, December 7, 2016


There are times  (that would be MOST of the time) when my birds seem to revel in undoing, unscrewing, chewing through, pitching, and shredding items I provide for their entertainment, their safety and for goodness’s sake, their nourishment!  I’m sure that many of you have experienced some of my frustrations.   Don’t get me wrong - I realize what role I play in my flock’s lives: I am the provider...they are the destroyers.   And for the most part, I can live with that.

The B&G Feathered Fox
Two examples:
1 I use 1” sisal rope in my birds’ cages as an alternative perch material.  I know that the life-span of a sisal perch is as limited as a wooden perch.  It’s just a matter of time before busy beaks have worked their way through the ropes and they are no longer perch-worthy, becoming a single strand, hanging off of the side of the cage...ignored.  Or...

2 I give my macaws a variety of very large, safe bells to shake and rattle, and they do! They love them, and I love it, too.  It gets pretty noisy in the bird room and outside in the flights when bells are grabbed and rattled to death.  I mean that pretty literally: my birds are masters of unscrewing the largest quick links and then flinging the attached bells to their impending deaths at the bottom of the cage or flight.  My job, of course, is to pick up the bell and link and re-attach, so that this can happen again and again.  Kind of like the movie, Groundhog’s Day.

But, when it comes to the nourishment component of this story, it’s a serious matter.  One of my Blue and Gold Macaws has never been happy just eating and drinking  out of the metal bowls that came with her cage.   Her mission in life, early on in this cage when it was new a few years back, was to undo the spring locks on the gates to the food/water dishes, and proceed to extract the bowls, food/water et all, and fling them into the bottom of her cage. And then give  them the evil eye.
I tried returning the bowls to their original places, new food, new water, giving no response to her behavior.   She   continued to dump everything.   I had to find another way to make sure she had fresh food and water.  (She is not a parrot that spends time on the bottom of her cage playing, scrounging around.  I couldn’t count on setting her bowls on the floor of her cage.) 

Image result for acrylic pet food bowls for cratesMy solution to this dilemma was to buy two acrylic bowls that we use on converted animal crates and I attached them to the front door of her cage.   Perfect.   I turned the bowls in place, she ate, she drank, and the original gates for her food and water dishes were permanently shut. (Another blog.  Another solution.   Another time!) This set-up has worked for absolutely years!   And then, a week or so ago, she changed her behavior.

Little Miss Cage and Bowl Wrecker started squeezing the heavy bars of her cage, snapping them mightily.   The sound was enormous.  I can only imagine the amount of pressure it takes with her beak to do that!   After that, I noticed that she was grabbing the edge of her acrylic food bowl with her lower beak and the closest bar of the cage and squeezing the bejeebies out of both of them and then releasing.   What a cracking sound that was!   And THEN she proceeded to twist and turn the bowl free from its holder and hurl it to the bottom of the cage, food and all. After that, it was on to mutilating the acrylic holder until it was in pieces, the bolt and wing nut somewhere beneath her cage or across the room.   And then on to the water bowl, etc., etc.   

I had to become a detective.  What was causing this radical, destructive, out of the blue behavior?   I came up with three possible causes, but I don’t believe that I’ve truly gotten to the bottom of this mystery.   One thought was that it has become so cold in the past two weeks that my birds are not spending their days outdoors.  They have outside cage time indoors but it’s not the same.  Second, I realized that I had rolled her cage into a different position in the bird room. Third, was she just so bored that “springing” the cage bars and tearing up her food and water bowls were signals of  pure frustration or boredom?   Could these things be factors in her aggressive behavior toward her food and water bowls?  I don’t think that I’ve gotten to the bottom of this issue...but I have solved the problem of making sure food and water are in those bowls and secure from her bolt-cutting beak!  Insuring that she eats and drinks fresh food and water every day is imperative...bad behaviors or not.

Here is what I did:   I made sure that I had four acrylic twist-on bowls just for her; two to clean and refill every morning and night, and two as placeholders while I was getting breakfast and dinner ready for the birds.   My goal was to make sure that there was NO way that she could unscrew the bowl from its base.   I took  very small pieces of paper towel, folded  in half, and used them to wedge the bowls in place. She can’t get (or doesn’t seem to want to get) beneath the bowls to tear at the paper, and even if she did, she wouldn’t get to the place where the bowl is wedged into the holder with the paper.   It has worked.   

My big blue girl still occasionally tries to twist her food bowl, but she can’t get it to move.  The behaviors (bar springing and attempted bowl removal)  have greatly diminished over the past few days.  The bowls' edges feel like they’ve been in the garbage disposal by mistake, but the bowl and its components are intact, and I’ve insured that she gets the nourishment  she needs.

This was my, hopefully permanent resolution to this problem.  Have you experienced the same thing (food and water bowl throwing)?   How did  you  resolve the issue?  And to what do you attribute your bird’s behavior?    I will continue to observe and try to identity what triggers these behaviors if they reoccur, and provide alternative safe, positive solutions to keep Malibu happily fueled!   

Next blog:   battening down the hatches...literally...safely, inexpensively and permanently. can be done!