What do you do if the lights suddenly go out?

It was a Sunday evening in February, about 5:30pm. The budgies were enjoying their last half hour of time outside the cage, all the curtains were shut for their safety, since it was pitch dark outside.  My husband and I were watching tv when I got a text from our local police department, warning of potential localized power outages due to fire department activity involving a transformer. I immediately felt a surge of panic, if the lights went out, how in the world would I get the parakeets home safely?

We sprang into action and they were fortunately cooperative about going right to their cage.  We never ended up losing power, but it left me wondering: if there’s a blackout how will they deal with complete dark? They are used to at least having night lights on at all times to help combat the possibility of night frights.

I’ve always wanted to get a whole house generator like the Generac Guardian 7030 16 Circuit LC NEMA3 Aluminium Enclosure 9/8kW Air Cooled Standby Generator, but at that price point it’s a major investment, and I knew I needed to figure something out for the short term possibilities.

Particularly since, and this is a bit embarrassing, I know that we have flashlights, but I couldn’t tell you where they are, or whether the batteries are good. So – if the power goes out we’d be stumbling around with just the light of our smart phones, which is clearly the start of a horror movie.  Add a couple of panicked parakeets into the mix and I think you’re in for something potentially gory.

To avoid any Saw-like outcomes I went online and started looking for something I could have on deck for sudden power loss. I found the The American Red Cross Blackout Buddy the emergency LED flashlight, blackout alert and nightlight, pack of 2, ARCBB200W-DBL and at about $14 it was a lot easier on the wallet than the big generator.

These emergency flashlights have recharging batteries and three modes, the first is nightlight mode, the second is flashlight mode and the third is emergency mode. When the power goes out the flashlight senses the interruption in power and turns on as an emergency light.

A few things I really like about this product are that the plug is intelligently placed so the flashlight can be plugged into the bottom outlet without covering the top. Also, the plug can be folded into the back of the flashlight to make it comfortable to carry around.  The lights are nice and bright too, which you’d want in an emergency.

The major downside to this product is that it has a very strong plastic smell. A few of the reviews note that it dissipates after a few days, but we’ve had ours for a couple of weeks and they are still quite fragrant.  Of course this means they are quarantined in the hallway with everything else that has to off-gas before coming into the house proper. They are currently not doing us very much good. I don’t think the smell would be as big an issue in most households, we just happen to have some serious restrictions in place.

Even with the downside I do recommend this light, particularly since your budgies probably like a nightlight anyway, this kills several birds with one stone. Or, rather, renders the birds safe from killing… (ha! probably should have had a dad joke warning there)

I still worry, even though I can go grab my emergency flashlight from the hallway in a pinch, what would it be like if we had a major power outage? Particularly in winter, I don’t have a secondary source of heat beyond our gas furnace and the parakeets won’t tolerate a rapidly dropping temperature very well. My short term plan would be to corral them into their travel carrier (Prevue Pet Products Travel Cage for Birds and Small Animals, Green) and put a fleece blanket over it to conserve their body heat. If we were going to have a longer outage then I guess we’d have to decamp to my mom’s house (that’s your heads up mom!), where there is a generator.

We’ve been lucky lately, in the past several years I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve lost power. Even in those instances it was for no more than half an hour. But, I do want to prepare for the inevitability of disaster (not being dramatic at all) and the emergency lights feel like a good first step.

Please don’t use nonstick cookware with parakeets in the home

A pretty common question that new parakeet owners have is whether it’s safe to continue using nonstick or Teflon pans. The bottom line is that nonstick cookware and parakeets don’t mix. Nonstick cookware is coated with a synthetic polymer called PTFE, Teflon is PTFE, it’s the trademarked name that DuPont uses for the polymer.

The message that marketers want you to hear that is Teflon and other PTFE coatings are only dangerous at high heats, some studies say that the dangerous fumes are only released at upwards of 500 degrees.  This is not the case, here’s an infographic about common cooking temperatures and what chemicals are released and it seems pretty clear that you can risk bird death at typical cooking temperatures.

Now, even if you don’t have birds and don’t ever intend to have them I would still encourage you to get rid of your nonstick cookware, mostly because I’ve come to believe that anything that will kill a bird suddenly will probably harm me over time (canary in a coal mine, anyone?) and also because human beings have been known to come down with flu like symptoms after Teflon use, it’s actually called “Teflon flu”.

I’ve seen several people on social media encouraging new bird owners to continue using nonstick and saying “just don’t ever burn anything”, and they’ve done the same for 800 years and never had an issue. Well, I have a couple of questions for them, one is that may be fine for you, but why would you encourage a new bird owner if there’s even the slightest risk?   How will you feel when they come back in a week or two lamenting the loss of their bird?  Also, who has ever set out to burn something?  Perhaps in your household no one ever distracts you while you’re cooking, but I don’t see how there’s even the slightest way you can guarantee nothing will ever burn in your kitchen.  It seems like I burn something every time I make dinner and I can assure you I didn’t plan for that to happen!

If you are stuck with your nonstick for the time being while researching or saving up for a new set of cookware then please:

  • Never preheat nonstick cookware at a high heat, especially with nothing in it – always heat at the lowest possible temperature
  • Vent your kitchen by opening a window and blowing the air out and/or use your stove’s exhaust fan
  • Move your birds as far away from the kitchen as possible, in a large home this may not be an issue, but for people like me who live in small houses or apartments, there is literally nowhere that’s far enough away

Really though, PLEASE give up the Teflon, birds with Teflon toxicosis experience scorched lungs and ruptured blood vessels and it sounds like an absolutely horrible and terrifying way to die.

When you are buying your new cookware be sure to avoid Teflon, PTFE, PFOA and nonstick that doesn’t specifically reference being free of those polymers. I think sometimes manufacturers put the word nonstick on products hoping that if consumers don’t see “Teflon” they will think a product is safe, but remember Teflon is just the trademark that DuPont uses for the chemical, it is not the only thing that is dangerous.

Some safe cookware is stainless steel (Cuisinart MCP-12N Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set) or cast iron (Outdoor Gourmet 5 Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set). I can’t use cast iron with my glass stove top, so I made the switch over to stainless. Ceramic is also a good bet, I love my ceramic insert crock pot (Hamilton Beach 33473 Programmable Slow Cooker, 7-Quart, Silver).

My bottom line is that you’ve gotten your pet budgie, you love him, you spent a substantial amount of money on getting him all set up – so why wouldn’t you spend a bit more to safeguard him against a KNOWN and scientifically proven bird killer?

 

Next level budgie bath tip

I have written a post of tips for getting your parakeet to take a bath, and I’ve also written a review of a great bird bath, but there’s a super-secret next level tip that I want to share with you today.

Kelly recently decided that she needed a bigger bath than the Lixit Corporation BLX0787 Quick Lock Bird Bath, so I found her a Rubbermaid food storage container (Rubbermaid TakeAlongs 4 Cup Rectangle Food Storage Container, 3 Pack)that, when filled halfway with water, is the perfect depth for her to feel like she can get wet but she can always touch the bottom.

Actually, that’s a good point; did you know budgies cannot swim?  They are basically incapable of it, although some might float for a moment or two.  The lack of webbed feet or any other method of gaining momentum in water renders them unable to swim in a capable fashion. This is why a lot of people lose parakeets in drowning accidents; open toilets are a particular killer.

So always monitor your parakeets at bath time, which of course you would anyway since it’s crazy cute.

Here is Kelly enjoying her bath – Toby decided to drop in as well, but she really refuses anything except hanging greens as a bath these days.

And here’s the pro tip: in every one of the bath shots my head was just about a foot away, on the same level, and I was continuously telling Kelly what a good girl she is and what a good bath-taker! Fortunately my husband was kind enough not to get my head in the photo shoot.

Yes, it’s true, Kelly won’t seriously bathe unless someone is there providing constant verbal encouragement, but when I do it, she’s mad for the bath, so super excited and she gets much more soaked than Toby ever manages.

I’ve come up with two possible reasons this works:

  1. She does respond very well to positive encouragement in any context, but both of them do that, they get very perked up and alert if you tell them what good girls they are.
  2. It may just be the presence of my head, since parakeets are prey birds the “watering hole” would be a very dangerous spot, so perhaps my head is seen as a lookout that makes it safe for her to let her guard down.

Either way, if you are struggling to get your budgies to take a bath it can’t hurt to try! And, yes your face gets a lot of spray; it’s a bit like sitting in the “splash zone” at a SeaWorld show, but anyone who has fought to get their budgies washed up knows that this outcome is well worth it!


10 tips for optimal bird cage placement

  1. Budgies like to be part of the family, so place the cage in a central location where they will get lots of visitors and interaction.
  2. Budgies are prey and retain those concerns even when living in your home, place the cage against a wall or in a corner so they feel secure.
  3. They will also feel safer if you put the cage up at about your chest level. Because they are naturally tree dwellers, they feel safer up high and being near the ground makes them feel very vulnerable to attack from above.
  4. Put the cage somewhere they can see out a window and they will likely get hours of enjoyment watching other birds and nature. Conversely, they may be scared of what they see out the window, particularly large birds or lots of traffic, so I wouldn’t recommend putting the cage directly up against a window where they can’t ignore it. Another caveat is to make sure they are NOT exposed to direct sunlight; they have no sweat glands and can overheat very quickly. Also, make sure there are no cold drafts in winter.
  5. If at all possible do not put their cage where they can see a television. The images can be scary to them and the flickering lights and noise can have a very detrimental effect on their sleeping habits.
  6. Try to avoid the kitchen because of the fumes, I hope you don’t have non-stick cookware, but even regular cooking smells and smoke can be bad for your parakeet’s respiratory systems.
  7. The bedroom should also be avoided if possible, for a couple of reasons. One is that even though a child’s or an adult’s bedroom might seem like a place where a lot of time is spent there are most likely better and more trafficked areas. Two is that parrots, even parakeets, create a fair amount of air pollution via molted feathers, dust, dried poop, seed hulls etc. Breathing these things in is generally not going to be a problem, but deep-breathing every night while you sleep may cause some health issues, particularly in people who have preexisting breathing issues or allergies.
  8. Never put a bird cage on top of a refrigerator or anything else that vibrates. Apparently this can make budgies feel so insecure they lose their minds.
  9. Budgies need 10-12 hours of sleep per night so make sure the cage is somewhere that’s relatively calm and dark at night.
  10. Watch out for AC and heating vents – you never want to have hot or cold air blowing directly at your budgies.

Taken all together these seem like a pretty tall order, but you do the best you can and adjust if you see your parakeets having issues. For example, my cage is kitchen adjacent and only against 1 wall, so I’ve definitely failed on perfect placement, but unless I completely renovate my home’s floor plan it’s the best option we’ve got!

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Protecting your parakeets from in-home flight accidents

‘If only her wings had been clipped’ is a phrase I see pretty frequently on social media, and it makes me cringe. Not just because it usually accompanies a terrible story about budgie in-home flight injury or death, but also because in many cases the injury was entirely preventable.

There are dangers that are immediately fixable, like turning off ceiling fans or any fan without a blade guard, also turning off any exposed heating elements like stove tops.  Close the lid of your toilet and take away glasses of liquid. Budgies can and have been killed by all of these things.

Next step, if you have windows that could have windows without screens that you plan to open, EVER, install screens. When installed on the interior this will help your budgie not hit the glass, and even if they are exterior it will ensure that on hot summer days, or when airing out, you don’t lose your budgie out a window. You do not need to have a professional come and install expensive custom screens, you can make them from kits that are easily procured, such as this one: Prime-Line Products Screen Frame Kit (don’t forget to get the Window Screen).

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In the above picture you can see the right panel of the window has a screen that was made from that type of kit. Also the left panel has a stained glass window covering it, which the parakeets can tell is something they cannot fly through.

On windows that don’t open and therefore would not need screens you can invest in some inexpensive window clings that fit your decor, or the season. I have snowflakes on one window and ducks on the other and they have, without question, saved my budgies from head trauma or broken necks on countless occasions.  Here are some decal options, Nature Window Clings or Sunflower Floral Removable Mural for Window.

Another tip for windows is to install curtains or blinds.  If your budgies are out after dusk it is best to completely cover the windows. A dark, black window can be even more dangerous and enticing than one in daytime. There’s a story floating around about a budgie named Boo who hit a window at night and lost the use of her legs – it’s a touching story that’s  frequently used as a cautionary tale about full flight in the home, but I think we miss the point and it should be used to educate new budgie owners about the importance of covering windows.

Mirrors can also be a big issue for budgies, Toby learned early on that they were not going to magically turn into portals, but Kelly has struggled with the concept. I could have used some more pretty decals here, but one day I just decided to slap on some ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape – it’s not the most elegant solution, but it works.

You can do all this and still have issues, I’m sure there are things I didn’t cover here and your home is literally full of ways for your budgies to murder themselves. Also, if your budgie was clipped and is learning to fly you can expect them to hit some walls, appliances, etc and generally end up in the worst places. Rest assured they will figure it out, and much like watching a child learn to walk, it will be extremely rewarding to see your clumsy baby grow into a competent flier.

If you do your part and bird-proof your home, including windows and mirrors, you will be in a much better position to let your budgies fly safely and you won’t have to spend time regretting the “if onlys”.

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we love flying!

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Prepping vegetables for your budgies – and actually getting them to eat

I have to tell you something that will seem unrelated to parakeets; I hate cooking. I’m really horrendous about kitchen stuff; sometimes an activity as easy as making a cup of tea is too much bother.

Where this impacts my budgies is chop and my utter failure to make it happen. Chop is basically the ideal parrot diet; you grab a ton of fresh veggies, fruits, grains and beans and then blend them up in a food processor. I love my budgies, I think a ton about their well-being and diet, and I cannot get myself either to the grocery store to procure these supplies or into the kitchen to prepare.

Here’s what I have managed to do, and what’s worked to get my budgies eating fruits and vegetables pretty reliably.

Tools needed:
– small plate
OXO Good Grips Utility Cutting Board
OXO Good Grips Soft-Handled Garlic Press (I got a separate one for bird stuff since garlic is a “no” for them)
OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler
Good Cook 4.5-Inch Vegetable Knife
OXO Good Grips Grater

The plate is probably the most important piece of the puzzle, I realized after several weeks of reliably feeding fruits and veggies on one specific plate they were getting excited any time that plate came out of the cupboard. They so strongly associate that plate with food that they will try anything that shows up on it, even if they have never seen it before!
When I prep a veggie for them the doors of the cage are usually open, they become aware that I’m taking out the plate, and the cutting board etc, and get increasingly excited because they know something good is coming. They fly over to my shoulders and typically start walking down my arms which makes the whole process quite a bit longer, ensuring they are safe from getting cut.

I usually “sell” them what I’m preparing by eating little pieces of it and visibly enjoying them and even talking about what I’m doing. Sometimes I will let them try it off of my hand as a sneak peak.

They do prefer very small pieces or even puréed items, so instead of taking the time to mince things I run them through the garlic press or I grate them.

I also prefer to peel every fruit or veggie that isn’t organic, even though I wash them thoroughly I worry about pesticides. Apples are one of the most pesticide-laden fruits out there, so I try to buy organic at least for apples if not everything they eat.

So far, using the same-plate method they have tried, cucumber, peaches, oranges and grapes, to name a few, they also love any color pepper head, picking off the seeds and eating them is an hours-long project of pure pleasure.

Until I get my kitchen-hating self-motivated enough to make some chop they get a single fruit or vegetable per day offered up in a way that makes them feel it’s a treat. If not on their special plate then in their hanging foraging ball, like alfalfa sprouts or torn up dark greens or broccoli. We also offer hanging greens as a bath and those usually get eaten too!
I thought about writing a post about what fruits and veggies are safe, but other folks have done it all before and very well, so a quick google search of a specific item or a search for a list will suffice.

For a long time I felt discouraged about how to get my budgies to eat anything other than seed, pellets or millet, but by repeatedly offering them fruits and vegetables in a way that they grew accustomed to and a size of food bit that they felt comfortable with we have made some major progress. It is a total joy to watch them dig in to a new food without hesitation, and that makes it worth dragging myself into the dreaded kitchen!

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Update to the review of the Super Bird Creations Wind Chime Toy for Birds

It’s been several months now since my original review of the Super Bird Creations Wind Chimes Toy for Birds and this toy is still Kelly’s number one favorite.  Not only that, but it is still in good shape for being abused daily.  The toy lost a plastic straw and bead last week when the bottom knot came until, but other than that it looks pretty darn mint.

Here’s a video of Kelly being a bat girl with the wind chimes – I wish it was better but she gets very camera shy, you can see she stops playing and rapidly nods her head at me to indicate I should leave her alone!  Although Kelly is the primary user, Toby also gets into it, but instead of hanging upside down and twisting around Toby prefers to separate one “leg” at a time and drape it over the nearby perch before dominating.

I know that at about $13 it might seem like a pretty big outlay of cash for a single toy, but with budgies it will last you a long time and if yours are like mine it will be the belle of the ball.