Toby and Kelly’s Christmas wish list

Toby and Kelly have been working feverishly on their Christmas wish list for parakeet-Santa.  They are cutting it a little close to the wire, but here’s their parakeet gift list full of their secret and most closely held desires!

Toby really wants to try having Nutriberries as a treat! She has heard that if I crumble them up for her she will be in a heretofore unknown ecstasy of foraging.

Kelly’s wants are a bit more basic. She plows through a cuttlebone every week, so she would like a never-ending supply of essential calcium as well as beak-exercising destruction.

Kelly snuck in a second want in a row! She loves the smaller version of this toy so much that she wants to try out the one for big birds! Since the single cupcake style is destroyed in a single day, we’re hoping that Santa brings one that lasts for three days!

Both Toby and Kelly are dreaming of a new play gym. They acknowledge that they previously had a very similar gym and totally ignored it, but they feel that since they both have flat top flight cages now they will get a lot more use of out of a play gym if it’s on top of the cage.

You’re probably wondering what poor new kid Kevin would like for Christmas. He’s just dreaming of getting out of quarantine and spending some time with his “sisters”.

He has been using the java tree as his personal play stand, so we all hope he comes out of quarantine in time for us to use his play tree as our Christmas tree like we did last year!

Speaking of which, Santa better bring us some new Christmas-themed bird toys to load up our “tree”.  Seems like some human “Santas” may need to start adding things to their carts before we run out of time!  I hope everybirdy out there finds exactly what they most want and need under their trees this year!

Quarantine is hard! Feeling stretched thin by everyone’s needs.

When we were first setting up Kevin’s cage for quarantine I had some very misguided and idyllic notions about how this 30 day span would play out. I pictured Patrick and I hanging out with Kevin tucked away in his room. No care for the outside world, just a magical time for taming and bonding. In reality, quarantine is hard, much harder than I expected.

For starters, Kevin has been a pretty tough sell on human interaction. He’s docile and he’ll put up with a lot of handling, but he’s really not into it. And he’s still pretty freaked out, which makes sense after living in a pet store for over a year. We are spending a ton of time with him, but it’s not all that gratifying. I know that part will pass.

The other piece of it that I hadn’t anticipated the emotional weight of is that while Patrick and I are in with Kevin teaching him that humans are a good thing; Toby and Kelly are losing a ton of their human time and outside the cage play time. They are not shy about letting me know it’s unacceptable. I was only able to let them out for an hour one day, so they next they were crazy clingy and on me like tiny flying shadows. Not that I’m complaining about that, it’s nice to feel loved!

Another thing I hadn’t calculated the time cost of is maintaining three cages in two separate locations. It’s usually pretty easy to clean up after Toby and Kelly, and get their food and water in the mornings. But with a third cage in a different location with no sink in the room….it’s kind of a pain in the rear. I’m sure this is hyperbole, but some days I feel like all I do is take care of budgie needs without really enjoying any of the budgies. I can’t imagine how people manage quarantine when they’ve got a larger flock to tend!

After a few days of both Patrick and I trying to be everywhere at once we decided to divide and conquer.  Patrick is largely taking care of Kevin’s physical needs and training and I’m taking care of the girls. I’m still getting at least 30 minutes with Kevin every day, but I don’t feel pressure to push him on taming, I can just hang out and feed him Millet, say nice things to him and working on stepping up and other easy things.

Patrick, on the other hand, has trimmed Kevin’s nails, given him a bath, and even made him taste some vegetables. He has also spent hours challenging Kevin to move around outside and inside his cage, and helped Kevin learn how to climb on the cage bars.

It’s a fairly large bummer for me to miss out on all of this, but I don’t see another way to go about it that’s fair to Toby and Kelly. I thought I was really going to enjoy this quarantine time, but in reality it’s full of unanticipated challenges.

Working out with a budgie

Anyone who knows me through this blog can probably guess that I’m pretty budgie-obsessed in all facets of my life. This definitely extends to social media. I’m a frequent visitor to several parakeet groups on Facebook, and as a consequence, almost my entire feed is about budgies and other parrots. So, when I glanced at a post one day asking, “do you prefer working out with a budgie, or solo” I prepared myself to write a really thorough response about how Patrick and I have balanced making physical fitness a priority while also not taking anything away from Toby and Kelly. Of course once I actually read the post I realized it was one of my fitness coach friends asking, “do you prefer to work out with a buddy” but since my brain was already churning about the topic I thought I better write up my response here!

Once budgies take over your life it can be pretty difficult to hit the gym. Unless your budgies have their own room or an aviary, they probably need you to be in the house to have freedom to free fly around and explore. So, hitting the gym for a couple of hours after work would take away time that they could be out getting their exercise. And, let’s be honest, time that you could be spending with them as well.

It’s a much better plan, in my opinion, to spend your gym membership money on a few basics for home exercise, and then the rest on budgie gear!  Seriously though, you can get a great workout at home, your budgies can be flying around getting their exercise, and who knows, sometimes they may even land on you during a cardio routine and get some extra fitness in trying to hold on while you bounce around.  Toby and Kelly used to get a lot of practice clinging when we were in a Leslie Sansone Walking Program phase. I highly recommend Leslie’s videos if you are just starting to workout. They are very low impact and she has a ton of different videos. Also she’s so chatty that even if you’re working out solo you really don’t feel alone. Another good feature of Leslie’s videos is that you don’t need any additional equipment, just a clear space on your floor. She uses music to keep the pace, which the budgies absolutely love singing along to as well.

If you want something a bit more challenging, check out Fitness Blender’s free workout videos. They can also be found on YouTube and not only are there so many you could exercise for years without repeating, they run the gamut from super easy low impact cardio and yoga, to challenging weight training and intense cardio. Fitness Blender is a husband and wife team, which of course appeals to Patrick and me!

Again, not too much extra equipment is needed for these videos. I would recommend investing in a good quality set of weights. We love this Adjustable Dumbbell Set, it goes from 3 pounds to 24 pounds just by changing out the weights.  They are easy to change on the fly and it’s a huge space saver versus a traditional set of free weights.

Lastly, snag a good quality Yoga Mat that isn’t made out of terrible chemical nonsense that will poison you while you are exercising. We’ve actually been using doubled over blankets instead after a run of buying a few really smelly exercise mats. I just ordered the one in the link today, so I’ll have to report back, but the reviews are good and the listing indicates it doesn’t have Phthalates, Phenols, PAHS, Latex, Silicone or Rubber.

Using just a few small gym items and free or inexpensive videos it is totally possible to get or stay fit at home, without wasting loads of time outside the house or money on a gym membership. It’s also much easier to commit to working out most days if you live in your gym space. You can enrich your budgies lives with the extra time out of their cages and the curiosity of you bouncing around like a lunatic while listening to awesome upbeat music!

I’d totally love some recommendations for good exercise videos on YouTube or otherwise, so please hit me up if you’ve got anything great to share! You can leave a comment here or drop me a line through Home Keet Home’s Facebook page.

Introducing Kevin – our third parakeet and first boy!

We did it! This past Saturday, after much hemming and hawing (Patrick) and excessive preparation (me) we went to Benson’s and picked out our third parakeet and first boy budgie. His name is Kevin to fit in with the rest of our Office-inspired flock names. He’s definitely a mature gentleman. We didn’t ask at the store how long he’d been there, but based on his visible irises and lack of baby bars he is at least one year old. That’s totally a minimum, comparing his eyes to Toby’s I think there’s a good chance he is two plus.

I had received a recommendation from a reader to get a mature fellow who would be able to stand his ground against my dominant ladies. When we arrived at the pet store Saturday morning we found they only had four males available in their entire parakeet aviary. Two of them were under a year old and there was one gent even older than Kevin. We must have watched them all for at least an hour and what we saw of Kevin’s behavior and health looked very good. We were able to watch him eat and drink and forage around on the floor. He would frequently perch by himself, but if he was joined by other parakeets he was happy to chat to them and be part of the group. His eyes are bright and clear and his nares are free of any obstructions or anything that would make me concerned about respiratory infection. His feet look a tiny bit dry but there’s no sign of mites on either his feet or his cere. Although we couldn’t quite hear him we could see that he was singing his heart out, which is something we are sorely missing in our flock of screeching ladies!

Before we left the shop they had us sign a form indicating that if we weren’t able to care for Kevin they would take him back at any time. Every employee we spoke to also took care to ask us if we were familiar with caring for parakeets and had everything we needed for Kevin at home. I thought that was a really nice touch and showed me that they care about animals. They also clipped Kevin before we took him home. I know, I am an incredibly staunch opponent of clipped parakeets in your home. But, it made me feel more secure transporting him and I feel like it will give us a leg up in taming him during his quarantine. Also – they did a super tasteful job, not as severe or debilitating as Kelly’s clip was.

Arriving home we transferred Kevin from his cardboard box to his quarantine cage. Even though I have written a whole lengthy post about what to expect when you first bring home your parakeet it has still been a horrible couple of days feeling bad for Kevin! He is obviously terrified and didn’t move for many hours after coming home. We weren’t even sure he had eaten until 22 hours in, which was nerve-wracking. Again, even though I KNEW exactly what would happen, it still felt awful seeing him so scared.

I put our “Nanny Cam” trained on his cage and I’ve been peeking at him every so often during the work day. It really makes me sad seeing him just sit in one spot for hours, but I know that he will eventually understand that his new cage is a safe space. He can hear Toby and Kelly and they are definitely freaking him out a bit too.  They are totally unaware that he’s in the house, since he hasn’t made a peep yet. Occasionally they hear a bell ring and get a bit curious, but until he starts vocalizing they should be blissfully ignorant!

One thing about quarantine has been much harder than expected, and that’s the way shutting the quarantine room door has messed up our heat. Now the quarantine room gets stifling warm, and the rest of the house is much chillier. So, we’ve had to resort to leaving the door cracked open a bit when the girls are safely stowed away. I know it totally violates the separate air space tenet of quarantine, but I couldn’t very well freeze Toby and Kelly for 30 days!  As it is, Kevin has the K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer, Kelly had been acting chilly over the weekend so now she has the K&H Thermo-Perch. Toby appears to be totally fine with the temperature but we’re keeping an eye on her.

Bringing home Kevin has been so different already, I hate that he’s tucked away and can’t ease into the rhythm of the household. We’re making a big effort to sit with him, but it’s not the same as his being able to observe us all the time and see that we are not threatening. He seems like he will do okay ultimately. He does show some fear when we put our hands in the cage to change water or food, but he doesn’t flap around like crazy or totally lose his mind.

He seems tentatively curious about his surrounds outside the cage. You can see his head swiveling around when he hears noises to try and figure out what the heck is going on. He has been eating regularly since his 22 hour hunger strike and his poops look great. Kevin has not shown any interest in playing with the toys in his cage, but I don’t think he was exposed to toys so we will have to show him how to play down the road. Failing that, I’m sure he’ll pick it up from Toby and Kelly!

I don’t want to squander these 30 days and I want to make a big effort towards bonding with him. On the other hand, I’m a total softy and I know that he would feel so much safer and more comfortable if he was interacting with Toby and Kelly. Overall it’s exciting but also so weird, until he starts making some noise it’s very easy to forget the is there at all, it’s almost like we still just have two parakeets. I can’t wait until he’s as noisy and demanding as the rest of my budgies. Seeing the difference between Kevin and Toby/Kelly makes me regret ever saying that the two of them aren’t very tame. They aren’t trained to do much, certainly, but compared to someone straight from the pet store they are entirely tame.

Getting ready for quarantine – new parakeet coming soon!

I’m sort of freaking out with excitement. After our initial plans to get a boy parakeet in early November didn’t pan out due to our plumbing issues  it was starting to feel a bit remote that we would actually get a boy budgie added to the flock. Happily, things have quieted down and we are going to go pick out our new boy this Saturday! This means it is finally time to get ready for a new parakeet quarantine.

Quarantine is important for a few reasons. One is that if the new budgie comes in carrying diseases we want to avoid spreading them to our existing flock. Some diseases can be transmitted by touching only, and some are airborne. The new budgie also could have mites, and we would definitely want to avoid transmitting those. The new parakeet will be quarantined in a separate room for 30 days, which should be enough time to know if he is sick. During that time we will have to be careful to wash our hands thoroughly before and after interacting with him. Ideally he would be in a totally separate air space, but that’s not totally possible. The room he’s going into will get too cold at night if the door is shut, so we’re going to keep them as separate as possible and take all the precautions we can, even if it’s not perfect.

The 30 day quarantine should also give us time to get to know our new flock member and bond with him one on one. So, more than an inconvenience, it’s really an opportunity. We didn’t quarantine Kelly and regretted it deeply, not just because we took a risk with Toby’s health, but also because it made our bonding with her much more difficult. I still wonder if working with her during a quarantine would have lessened her aggression towards us.

I debated quite a bit on where to get our new fellow, and finally landed on a locally owned pet store, Benson’s.  It’s not as great as getting a rescue budgie, but we really have some specific needs for our new friend and I know that rescues like to adopt out pairs or more of parakeets. I am glad to support a local business instead of a big chain store, and we’ve checked out their aviaries, which are amazing! The parakeets look like they are in great condition, both physically and mentally.

To get set up for our new fellow I barely had to buy anything, due to the expansive nature of my toy and perch hoard.

We also already had an extra cage on hand (technically 3 extra cages, but who’s counting!). Since we upgraded Toby and Kelly to flight cages, it meant we had the Drs. Foster & Smith HQ Victorian Top Cage ready and waiting. It’s a bit bigger than a traditional quarantine cage, but particularly since the new guy will be used to having quite a bit of room I think he’ll be okay.

They clip birds before you bring them home at the local shop, and although I’m not a fan of lifelong clipping, it will make me feel less nervous transporting him. Also, I think that if we play our cards right, his being clipped will help accelerate the taming process. We put a careful eye towards designing his quarantine cage for maximum accessibility in terms of hopping around and climbing the bars from perch to perch.

When we bring him home, I will also make sure to get a supply of whatever he is used to eating to make sure he doesn’t reject a new food when he’s already freaked out about being in a new place.

I think we’ve got everything lined up for as smooth a transition as possible. Now all I have to do is make it through the next 24 hours without bursting with excitement!  Wish me luck, and watch my Facebook Page for a pic of the new fellow tomorrow!

Rain delay – why we haven’t added our third parakeet

Early November has almost come and gone, and our quarantine cage remains sadly empty. We had hoped to get a third parakeet right after coming back from a short vacation at the end of October. It would have been a perfect time since I’m not traveling for work again until early spring, and typically both our jobs get a little less crazy leading into the holiday season.

The delay has occurred for a couple of reasons. First, Patrick had warned me that early November was going to be madness for him at work. That wouldn’t be a deal breaker ordinarily, but he works from home three days a week. So, having a quarantined bird screaming to Toby and Kelly all day long for 30 days would be a real impediment to good quality conference calls and quiet time to focus!  We are actively monitoring the work situation and will see when a new budgie would fit in okay to disturb Patrick.

On top of Patrick’s work concerns we have now also had a home issue that took our quarantine space out of play. When we left for vacation we had an issue with a slow drain in our kitchen. By the time we came back it turned into a no-drain pipe! The plumber came and cleaned it out, but in doing so broke the pipe further up the line. Not really his fault, they are galvanized steel pipes that were original to the house (1954) so we are lucky we got that much time out of it!

Where this impacts the parakeets is that when the plumber is working in the kitchen making a variety of horrible noises and potentially chemical related smells they can’t be out there getting freaked out and poisoned!  So, they have been spending those days in what would be the quarantine room.  Thank goodness I didn’t get home from vacation and immediately rush out to get my new baby, I have no idea what we would do to try and get some separate air space.

There is still some work going on this week to replace a bunch of pipes, but hopefully by the end of November I will have my new budgie. In the interim I’ve been using this time to order him a few things that will make his quarantine more pleasant, like his own Echo Dot so he can listen to music, as well as a set of night lights and a small lamp.

At this point I would love to get the new baby no later than Thanksgiving week so that he’ll be able to spend Christmas with the flock, but I guess we will see how long Patrick’s work trauma and our plumbing issues play out. It stinks having to be responsible when I would much prefer immediate gratification, but I know that we have a much better change of safe and successful integration of a new parakeet if I exercise patience and restraint!

Kelly gets grounded for obsessive behavior

In a recent post about flock favorites I explored Toby’s obsession with her “papa”, who she would like to be with at all times. Things have gotten a little better since then, she’s been much friendlier to me when we’re alone, and even when we’re all together I’m able to get a bit more love. Unfortunately, Kelly increased her obsessive budgie behavior and spent a couple of days “grounded” so we could all take a break. Although, if I’m being honest, it’s just as much Toby’s fault as it is Kelly’s anyway.

Here’s the vicious cycle that we can’t seem to break.

  1. Toby comes out of her cage and goes to sit on Patrick’s shoulders immediately, she is very happy and sings to his ears, grooms his stubble etc.
  2. Kelly emerges from her cage and wants to be with Toby with great intensity.
  3. Kelly flies to Patrick’s shoulders and is seen as an aggressive interloper by Toby, who fends her off repeatedly.
  4. Instead of taking the hint that her presence is unwelcome, Kelly grows increasingly intent on being with Toby.
  5. Toby becomes more and more violent and attacks Kelly, then chases her around the house attacking her until they are both worn out.
  6. No one is happy or having their needs met! Humans included, because witnessing vicious budgie fights is stressful and alarming.

We had a few bad days where some beaks got nicked up and they really could have hurt themselves fighting mid-air and crashing into things. It’s just an untenable situation.

Thinking about it logically, Toby is the problem. She’s the aggressive, territorial, mean girl. But, we can’t ground Toby and let Kelly out in the same space. Kelly is so Toby-obsessed that she will cling to Toby’s cage and let Toby bite her feet. Additionally, and I’m a little ashamed to admit it, Kelly is not a lot of fun to hang out with. She’s not super human-friendly and bites us, she’s only happy if she gets her way precisely. So, if you try to stop her from painfully biting at your freckles she just escalates and bites the sensitive skin near your underarms.

So, Kelly took a break for a couple of days so we could all get some rest. She didn’t take it particularly well and looked very sad trying to break out of her cage and just generally acting miserable. In fact, she was originally going to take a full week break and I’m the one who broke and let her out after a couple of days.  I should add that she has a flight cage all to herself so spending a week in there is not cruel and unusual punishment!

We are getting very close now to adding our boy to the flock and I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that he and Kelly bond and Toby can just be part of her human flock without feeling like Kelly is always trying to be too close or steal her people. Obsessive budgie behavior is no fun for anyone.  Has anyone else out there dealt with this sort of triangulation?  Is there something else I can do?