Wednesday, February 22, 2017


The Black Forest Fire - June, 2013
Black Forest, Colorado
My husband and I walk our dogs in our rural development on a daily basis.   Our route is a three mile loop through our neighborhood.    We try to be good stewards of the land as we walk by picking up any bottles, beer cans and miscellaneous trash that we see, scooping up nails and roofing staples that find their way into the road, and we seem to always come across the errant cigarette butt.   It is stunning to us that, in this warm and windy February, that anyone would have the audacity (stupidity!!) to toss a cigarette butt out of a car window, potentially into meadows that are as dry as crisp toast. But we find them on a regular basis.  And it is very disturbing.

Fire.  To many of us, "fire" is more than a four letter word. Where we are, it is a potential threat that we live with throughout the year. In Colorado, the skies are lit up with thousands of lightning strikes every year. Our woods are filled with old pine trees scarred many times over from surviving lightning strikes.   Fire, no matter what the cause, is not to be taken lightly.   It is not forgiving and it does not give its recipients many options once it's turned loose.   You must quickly make decisions and they must be the right decisions, because time is of the essence and "fire" is synonymous with "life and death."   

I won't rehash our personal past experiences with fire.  Suffice it to say that we have had first-hand experience putting out fires, and being forced to evacuate from our property because of shifting winds from huge fires nearby (in the Black Forest) . So far we have been lucky. We have been safe, our property and our animals have been safe.  Knock on Ponderosa pine wood.

Maybe you're not in a community where wildfires are on the top of the list of potential dangers, but there are circumstances that might require a quick and safe exit for everyone in your home.   Emergencies might include a gas leak or extreme weather, like flooding or a tornado.  

Out here in the country, the consensus is that, if fires are coming, just open the corral gates and let the horses and cattle out.  You can round them up later.   That's just not the prudent choice for your parrots, though, is it? So what can you do to insure your flock is safe?  Well, it's easy:   Have a plan in advance for your animals, including your birds, in case you need to evacuate your home on a moment's notice. 

Here are some ideas that you might want to consider for your feathered family members. Have your "exit" supplies packed, easily accessible,  and ready to go.  Know how you will place your animals in your vehicle. Make sure there is room for what you personally need as well as for your animals and what they will require.    The supplies for your birds might be:

1.    An emergency avian first-aid kit
2.    Bath towels (small washcloths or hand towels for small birds)
3.    A supply of dry food (high quality pellets & some  seed)   (An emergency is not the time to                  worry about a well-rounded diet!)
4.    Quick access to any medications your birds must take 
5.    Roll of paper towels
6.    Stack of newspapers
7.    Traveling carriers for each of your birds with clean water and food bowls
8.    A jug of fresh water 

I would think in terms of having a week's worth of  "parrot" provisions  with you.  And, if you are fortunate enough not to have to grab your emergency parrot "exit" bag or box, be sure to rotate the water, pellets and seeds out and restock with fresh. 

It is a fact that, given a warning that you are in imminent danger of fire, you may not even have five minutes to grab what you need and get out. That includes family members,  crating birds, dogs, and grabbing what you consider invaluable.   Be organized now.  I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer about this.  I'm just being pragmatic.  Thinking ahead about how you might deal with an emergency could be the difference between saving lives or making irrevocable mistakes.   

What else would you include in your emergency supplies for your flock?   Please add your suggestions.



Sunday, February 12, 2017


New foraging box.  Nice and neat.  Tidy.  Full of entertainment.
Double Yellow Headed Amazon at the left.

On my last post, I wrote about the value of giving our parrot companions foraging boxes, filled with different textures, shapes, tastes.    I thought you might want to see what has since transpired with the box I made as a sample for that blog.   I chose to give this particular box to my Double Yellow Headed Amazon, Pancho, about three days ago.   As you can see from the first picture, she's camera shy, but don't let that fool you; the girl is ruthless and attacks her toy box like a tornado headed for a tin barn.   Hope you enjoy the pictures.  And, this particular foraging venture is now in its third reincarnation - the "innards" have been given a new home in another box on a daily basis, until everything is gone! 

Pancho shredding the box.

When I was younger, I remember hearing a saying about kids loving the boxes better than the shoes that came in them.    That's what I think of when I see my birds attacking their toy boxes:  the boxes are as much entertainment as the toys that we make and buy for them.

Taking a break.
Spread the love. 

What's left of the Skippy box and the goodies within.

So it is my job (and yours, too, I bet)  to pilfer through the wreckage in the morning when I change papers and salvage what I can of what's left of the toy box. It has turned cold here  where we live, and so putting my birds outside hasn't been an option for a day or two.   Knowing that my birds all have choices to stay busy, stay mentally stimulated, and be content in their cages when they are there, makes this inevitable mess all worthwhile.  When I see the destruction,  I just smile and grab my trash can and broom...and then go grab another box.    

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Easy to assemble cardboard "toy/foraging box" for medium to large parrots

I am constantly aware of the importance of keeping my birds exploring and busy when they are in their cages.  As a responsible parrot owner, you probably feel the same way about your flock. Besides hanging toys, weaving toys & destructibles through the bars, hanging sliced phone books, creating interesting perch configurations, etc., I try to add one more item to my birds' cages, a cardboard box filled with entertainment and challenges.  This goes in the back corner in each of my birds' cages, out of the direct shot of droppings from a perch above.  If your birds are out in your house, you may want to place this play box somewhere safe, in a well-lit "play area."

In the box I include some of the following (depending on what I have on hand):

1    - partial pieces of wood from destroyed toys
2    - new foot toys
3    - parts of egg cartons or smaller pieces of cardboard
4    - an unshelled nut or a foraging container with a hidden nut or treat
5    - clean pine cones
6    - sisal rope with knots tied in it
7    - clean, small pine branches or twigs
8    - parts of broken-up toys, that are still safe
9    - partial phone book or paperback book (encourages literacy!)
10  - playing cards

For me, it is important to discourage breeding behaviors in my birds.  I have no desire to see my flock increase!  And  boxes, in and of themselves, can be the perfect signals for many birds to go into reproductive mode. But, there are things that I do, and that you can do to create and utilize this inexpensive "entertainment center" without encouraging behaviors you don't want and to ensure safe play.  Here are some tips that have worked well for me:

1 - Make sure that the box you choose is NOT four-sided.   If you've found a great, intact box to use, tear off the top and maybe one side of the box (if the sides are tall) to insure that it doesn't look dark and inviting, like a nest box.
2 - Do no include materials that are already shredded which would encourage nesting, like shredded newspaper or loose crinkly paper.
3 - If the box has cellophane (like a tissue box) be sure to remove it before you give it to your bird.
4 - Don't use a box that has ANY odor at all; no perfumes, no sweet soapy smells, nothing. Recycle those another way.
5 - Remove any tape that you believe your bird might tear at. Also check for staples.

Where can you get a good stock of safe cardboard boxes for your birds to play in/with and destroy?   My go-to place is Costco. Sam's Club works, too.    I get mistaken for a Costco employee many times because, when I go shopping,  I make a point of walking up and down  the aisles and removing the shorter, empty boxes (like Skippy peanut butter, 505 chili, A-1 Steak Sauce boxes) and load up my cart, groceries, cardboard boxes  and all.    Discount stores, like Walmart, do their re-stocking in the evening, and they have carts and bins of cardboard boxes.   It doesn't hurt to ask a manager or employee in your local store if you could have a stack of saves them from having to dispose of them.

I try to get a variety of sizes, but I have to say that none of my birds are picky about the size...they start buzz-sawing thru the sides,  the bottom, the contents, foraging for a treat as soon as the box is placed.   And, even though it may look like a tornado has blown through the box, if there is anything remaining the next day, I use that cardboard as filler for the new box.   It's a never ending source of busy-ness for my flock.   Remember, this is something that you could do for any size of parrot; little birds - little boxes, big birds - BIG boxes!
Have you tried this for your flock already?  What is your source for boxes and what do you put in for your birds' enjoyment?  Let us know in the comment section!   Thanks.