Final thoughts on vacationing away from the budgies & a review of the Misafes Mini Security Camera

Well, I made it through vacationing away from the parakeets, and it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I expected.

We were on a cruise and my original expectation was that on port days I would have cellular service, which turned out to be completely untrue. I ended up purchasing a package of wifi minutes on the ship, but I was never able to send/receive text messages or make calls. I emailed my mom as soon as I could to let her know, but everything was going perfectly well at home anyhow. She spent at least an hour there every day so the parakeets got some time out of the cage, and I know that she worked with Kelly on stepping up and not biting, which we have been struggling with. I was worried about losing ground with her while we were gone, but instead I think my mom made real progress.

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What, me a biter? I’m far too sweet!

As expected, the only one with any trouble was me, which was why we bought the MiSafes Mini 1080p HD Wireless Day & Night Wi-Fi Camera for iPhone iPad Android (Black) before leaving. With Amazon Prime’s two day shipping I was able to purchase it during a freak out just a handful of days before the cruise.

Set up was a breeze, you plop the camera where you want it – it even includes a couple of mounting options, then download the misafescam app and pair the device to your phone. The picture is good, even in its normal quality mode, and you can switch to HD. The camera is in a fixed position which was perfect for our needs; we set it up to get a full view of the cage and were good to go. You could also insert an SD card and record, which I haven’t done since I’m only using it to peek in at them.

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This is the pic in normal mode

I love that there is a two-way speaker option so I can hear the birds singing away, we tested the ability to talk to them through the app and it worked, but I haven’t used it, thinking that could be pretty confusing for them. The night vision works very well too, although it’s a little creepy when they have their eyes open in the dark, you can see pinpoints of light.

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demon eyes in the dark!

The camera was comforting, although I didn’t use it as much as I planned due to the cellular issues. The ship’s wifi was not speedy and I wasn’t able to get the camera to connect every time. I also wound myself up the first night, we were staying in Miami and I had horrible cell service in out hotel room and no wifi. I checked on the parakeets at about 7:30pm and expected them to be bedded down for the night, instead they were still engaged in their nightly bouncing around before bed/fight for perch dominance routine.

I promptly lost service after that and wasn’t able to check on them until hours later, imagining all sorts of horrible scenarios of it getting to dark and them being stuck on perches they didn’t like, or having night terrors and me not being there to help them. When I finally got it to connect again they were absolutely fine, sleeping exactly where they usually do.

So – outside of external issues the camera has been fantastic. Even now that we are home I like to take a look at what they are up to during the day. If I ever felt like I didn’t need to look at them we could easily use this as a security camera, there’s an option to have it alert you if there’s movement in its field of vision, so I could see pointing it at the door and setting up that notification.

When we got back from the trip the ‘keets had a relatively brief period of readjustment where they seemed to be out of sorts and looking for my mom. Toby in particular kept flock calling when we were all in the same room. This has mostly worn off although I think Toby is still feeling a little mad at me it’s getting better every day.

At any rate, based on the level of anxiety I was feeling before we left I was pretty ready to write off taking week-long trips for a while. now that we are back I can see that a lot of my stress was unwarranted, the birds were totally fine, and I was as well!

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reunited and it feels so good!

The parakeet instruction sheet I left for my mom when we went on vacation

–  The mail is on a hold until X/X so it might be delivered that day or Saturday, but before that you don’t have to check the box every day
– Plants will have been watered so they will be fine on their own
– Dehumidifier is running right into the basement sink & does not need to be emptied
– Garbage does not have to go out to the street

– I’m going to leave the little living room light on (the one on the wall), just leave that on the whole time, we have been lately because they have had a couple of fights in the middle of the night and they need light so they don’t freak out.

– Their curtains (dining room) we will just leave open, the front ones we’ll leave mostly shut to minimize heating the house. The dining room light we will leave off. They can just have a daylight sort of day 

– The bowl water please refresh with filtered tap daily.

– Food –wise, they get one tablespoon of the pellets and two tablespoons of seed in each bowl. I usually stir it around in the hopes they will accidentally eat pellets. Every day just throw out what’s left from the day prior and start fresh.

– When you let them out you can move the play gym over so it’s on the hardwood floor still but near the big cage, that way Kelly can jump over by herself. She will try to fly to the perch by the sink window and she can’t make that, so please keep a close eye on her and when she needs help just hold your finger about 5 inches above the floor and say step up, she should jump up and then I usually hold her near whatever I think she was trying to get to and see if that’s what he wanted.

– Kelly WILL definitely bite you, especially if you try to move her from someplace she doesn’t want to leave. She bites harder than Toby but doesn’t break the skin. If she does bite hard and you can avoid yelping, we are trying to just say “no” and remind her to be gentle, but don’t retreat.

– The tray system under the cage is heavier than it looks. You have to take off the security flap and set it aside – then be sure to use both hands to slide out the tray with the paper liners and set it on the floor. Unfortunately you can’t just pull it most of the way out, in my experience. I’ve been removing the top sheets and discarding every day, but it could go a couple of days without being removed, I’m sure.

– If the birds are out and you don’t mind doing it, I usually take a damp paper towel and try to wipe down any perches with poop on them every day, especially where Toby sleeps on the brown wood perch her poops pile up every night. But also the other perches and toys, and every few days I wipe down the grate at the bottom because they walk around down there sometimes. If you try doing that while Toby is in the cage she’s definitely going to get territorial and attack your hand and/or the paper towel but it’s doesn’t hurt it’s just annoying.

– There’s a stick vacuum in the little blue room for doing under/around the cage. It’s not cordless but it stretches far enough. You don’t have to vacuum every day but every few would be good, I mean obviously you can use your discretion, it gets pretty gross.

– Millet as much as you want. Kelly only sort of gets it, she likes millet when she’s in the cage but doesn’t seem to care when he’s out.

– Toby still likes to have her head scritched or to scritch herself against your pinkly if you put it through the cage bars but you have to watch out for Kelly, she doesn’t quite understand it and will push Toby out of the way to bite your finger. She’s not aggressive about it, I’m pretty sure he thinks that is what Toby is doing and she’s just mimicking.

That looks like a lot, but it really only takes about 15 minutes a day 🙂

Products and parakeets – with a focus on scents and haircare

I am generally a no muss, no fuss kind of person about my personal care routine. Also, because of my husband’s severe allergies we don’t use many products with scent. Even before parakeets we didn’t have candles, potpourri, plug-ins, Febreeze or any other home fragrance products. We had also cut out harsh chemical cleaners and started using Seventh Generation Free and Clear All Purpose Cleaner, 32 Fluid Ounce to clean in addition to Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Power Home Pro, 8 Count Box, which are a modern miracle.

We also only use unscented laundry and dishwasher detergent, dish soap and hand soaps.

There’s no perfume in the house or scented body products, including all face and hand/body lotions and we don’t use any hair products at home beyond shampoo and conditioner. So, we don’t have hair gel, spray or any other hair treatment products.

The only exceptions to the rule are Avalon Organics Clarifying Lemon Shampoo, 11 Ounce and AVALON COND,CLARIFYING,LEMON, 11 FZ, which had to happen because unscented shampoo/conditioner are just unpleasant, and also Oleavine Antifungal Soap with Tea Tree and Neem for Body, 12 oz, which is a tea tree soap I am just absolutely obsessed with. Something might sneak through occasionally that has an oatmeal or mint scent, but by and large our house is scent free.

Scents and home-fragrance products can be very bad for parakeet health, they cycle air through their bodies much faster than humans, and can be irritated by air contaminants just like people can. We had already installed a few Winix U300 Signature Large Room Air Cleaner with True HEPA 5-Stage Filtration, PlasmaWave Technology and AOC Carbon around the house for my husband’s health, but they are also recommended for parakeets and other birds.

I think we had a much easier time eliminating products before getting parakeets since we started out unscented; the only thing that was hard to part with were our non-stick pans. I’m sure there are people who say they used teflon with parakeets and the ‘keet lived to be 30 years old and was never sick a day in its life, but who doesn’t have an Aunt Myrtle who smoked since she was 11 years old and lived to be 150? I mean, obviously hyperbole, but the exceptions don’t really entice me to chance it.

What prompted me to write this post is my one personal grooming vice, and that’s getting highlights. I get them done about every 8 weeks and it was always sort of a big issue because Patrick can’t handle the chemical aftermath, but now with the parakeets I feel even worse coming home after a bleaching!

I asked my stylist if I would be damaging my hair by washing it the same day as getting it colored and she said no, so as soon as I get home from the salon I hop right in the shower. That cuts the chemical smell but it’s still pretty heavy, so I usually throw on a knit cap (much more comfortable in winter!) before letting the birds out. Toby is constantly on my head and Kelly loves grooming hair too, but I take every precaution to keep them away from my hair for at least day 1, and then after washing again the next day it’s usually so faint that I feel like I’m not a danger to anyone.

Should I stop highlighting my hair? Probably, since it causes my husband discomfort and potentially is bad for the parakeets. Still – I’m not quite ready yet.

I’d love to have some comments from other bird parents- what products do you use and does anyone else feel they can’t live without hair color? If so, what precautions do you take (if any)? Feel free to tell me I’m a lunatic and should stop worrying about it!

Introducing our parakeets – when Toby met Kelly

Finally it was time to bring Kelly home. We picked her up at the Rensselaer Bird Center and bought the below travel carrier while we were there, since the carrier we had previously purchased (A and E Cage Co. Soft Sided Travel Bird Carrier) was regarded as a potential house of horrors by Toby, who would not go anywhere near it.

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lovely, non-terrifying travel carrier

The RBC was kind enough to send us home with about a pound of the food that Kelly had been eating and recommended that we offer her food and water bowls on the floor of her cage, in addition to the bowls higher up, because she was used to ground feeding. I can’t say enough about how amazing the RBC was at answering our questions and giving us tips on easing Kelly’s transition and how to handle introducing the two of them.

Off we went with our new baby. It was a totally different experience, Kelly seemed unfazed by everything, she enjoyed looking out the car windows from the safety of her carrier and was relaxed the whole way home.

Once we arrived home we put Kelly in her starter cage, we always intended that Toby and Kelly would move in together, but worried that Toby might be territorial since she was used to living alone.

Because we had seen so much of Kelly and knew her to be an adaptable and fearless gal we expected she would have an easier transition than Toby, but it was actually very similar. Kelly sat in the same spot for about 8 hours without moving and then made her way down to find her food just before bed time. Based on our experiences I recommend bringing home a new parakeet as early in the day as possible so they have time to do the “sit and stare” and then relax a little bit before going to sleep in a strange place.

Toby – who we thought might be terrified of another parakeet given her fearful nature was immediately entranced by Kelly. She stared at Kelly for hours, no signs of fear or aggression, just fascination. We did notice that for the first few days Toby really packed in the food, as though Kelly was somehow going to steal it from the other cage.

The first day we keep them both inside their individual cages, Toby had gotten her last flight time as an only child earlier that morning and we thought seeing each other was excitement enough for day one.

Our plan was to have them out separately for the next few weeks so they could get to be friends in a more controlled way. It didn’t work out; Toby would get over stimulated and bite Kelly’s feet through the cage bars constantly, no matter who was in or out. Kelly apparently either enjoyed it or didn’t have the sense to stay towards the middle of her cage and so the pattern continued. It was very upsetting for me to watch, but they were both perfectly happy to keep doing it.

In order to save Kelly’s feet from excessive chomping we only waited a couple of days before bringing them out at the same time, with the hope that Kelly could at least defend her feet or hop away a bit better. Of course that raised other concerns about Toby have a clear advantage in being able to fly, whereas Kelly had been clipped pretty thoroughly and could only try to take flight and then sort of crash land with no control over her course.

Toby was quite over-excited the first few times they were out together, she would attack Kelly and then fly away repeatedly. No one sustained any damage, but I did break up a couple of fights, even though I knew they had to sort out who was going to be the top bird, it was too hard to watch.

Over a week or so Toby calmed down and they were able to play on the play gym at the same time, or hang out on the window perch without a constant battle for dominance. The next issue was that Toby got very intent about wanting to be with Kelly all the time, and if she couldn’t spot Kelly in the other cage he would flock call to him loudly and incessantly.

Have a mentioned that Toby is a little intense? She’s earnest and sweet, but tends to be serious and utterly determined and does not let things go.  She was mad at my husband once for months due to a minor infraction.

We had let Toby and Kelly want out in each other’s cages and it went well, and then one day when my husband was home from work he decided to just rip off the Band-Aid and move them in together. It was way earlier than we anticipated, but she was right, it was time. Toby felt much better having a roommate and was able to relax, as much as it’s possible for her to! Kelly had been used to living with her siblings at the bird center so didn’t mind having company, and was glad to move up to the bigger cage.

I know that we are all happier for having added to our family. I’m sure some parakeets are perfectly fine being solo but Toby was absolutely not one of them, I know she’s enjoying life a lot more now, and we are really glad we took the chance!IMG_0854

Finding and bringing home our second parakeet

After about seven months with Toby as a solo parakeet I was pretty certain that we needed to add in a friend for her, but not everyone in my household was convinced. My husband was concerned that two parakeet should be way too much noise and upkeep.

Even though Patrick was staunchly undecided with leanings towards “absolutely not” I went ahead and started looking for hand fed parakeet breeders in our area. I knew that I didn’t want to devote another month (minimum) to taming a parakeet, and a hand fed baby would already be comfortable with humans and being handled.

After looking around on Craigslist and doing some Google searching I hadn’t come up with any solid local breeder leads.

I remembered that while we were at Petsmart picking out Toby we had been approached by another customer and we talked about birds for a while. She indicated that the best resource in our area by far is the Rensselaer Bird Center, which is a few towns over from where we live. So – I told Patrick that we should do some recon, visit the RBC and ask if they knew of any local breeders, and to my surprise he agreed to go.

That weekend we fired up the GPS and off we went, walking in to the RBC for the first time I felt a bit like I had gone to heaven, we immediately saw a senegal and a timneh grey hanging out on top of some cages, and after we tore our eyes away from them we realized there were birds everywhere of all shapes and sizes. Some of them were for sale, some were boarders, and many had come with their owners just to hang out. For someone like me who’s obsessed with parrots but doesn’t get a lot of face time with them it was a really magical experience.

Also, everyone in the store was incredible nice, warm and friendly; we couldn’t even tell the difference between the staff and the customers because they were all so welcoming. We we were greeted by someone who asked if we needed help, I explained I was looking for information on local hand fed parakeet breeders and she said….

“I just hatched a batch of babies, want to see them?”

YES, yes I do, thank you 🙂 we were led into a back room with an incubator full of tiny fluffy parakeet babies, most of who were on a very strict feeding schedule. The woman offered to put all of the babies that were old enough into a small bin so we could sit with them and pick one out. How could we possibly say no to that?

Patrick ended up picking out our parakeet; he was immediately drawn to the oldest baby, who seemed regal and not at all timid or afraid. Kelly very much still has an air that, even though she may occasionally deign to be silly, she is quite above us all.

We were able to come back as often as we liked to get Kelly used to us, which was amazing, and I brought my mom and stepdad over once too so they could meet our new family member. Knowing that we would be able to take her home in 3-4 weeks gave us ample time to get prepared, and we were sure to set the cage up and put it near Toby’s cage to help her get the idea that there might be a next door neighbor on the way.

I sort of expected some blowback from Patrick since he was railroaded into getting the new parakeet (even if it wasn’t my fault!), but once you see a bucket or baby parakeets you just can’t say no.

Finally it was time to bring Kelly home, get her settled in, and then worry about how the introduction to Toby would go – which is coming up in another post.

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Kelly at the RBC

Leaving the parakeets for vacation

Coming up soon we are going on our first vacation since getting the parakeets. It’s a cruise, and neither of us has been on one before. Usually at this point pre-vacation I would be bouncing off the walls with excitement and pretty much packed already but I am dragging my feet because I’m sad and nervous about leaving the “babies” behind.

I’ve seen a few alarming Yahoo questions where people ask things like “I’m going away for a week, can I just leave my parakeet extra food?” and thankfully responders always tell them that is a horrible idea. Not only could the parakeet somehow ruin his water/food and die waiting for you to come back, but how sad would that be for the poor parakeet(s) sitting alone waiting for you to come home?

We’re very lucky that my mom can come by every day and refresh their water bowl (even though they also have their Lixit Bird Waterer – 5 oz) and food and she even feels comfortable letting them out of their cage and hanging out until they are ready to go home, so they won’t miss out on too much free time. She absolutely loves animals and has a natural ability to get along with them, which is a major bonus for us! If my mom wasn’t available, or we were traveling together, I would hire a professional pet sitter with avian experience to come very day. I have a line on someone already and we’re doing a consult this fall, I definitely want to have a back up plan in place.

One of the things we have done while away on overnight trips is set up lights on vacation timers, I don’t like the idea of plunging the birds randomly into darkness, even though we do have a bunch of night lights, but in winter I don’t think they would appreciate going to sleep at 4:45pm when the sun goes down. Going away in summer I’ll just leave the curtains open and let them keep a natural day cycle. If left to their own devices they will usually put themselves to bed around 6:30 – 7pm.

I also laid in a supply of new toys and we plan to make some big switches a couple of days before we go so they have new stuff to play with and an updated layout to think about. I wouldn’t recommend waiting until right before you leave to make changes, you never can tell what toy or perch will randomly terrify a parakeet. Also, I don’t trust them not to hurt themselves on some things, and I like to monitor their interactions with new toys. That might sound over the top, but if you start reading reviews of parrot toys it seems like almost every product on the market has caused a bird to hurt itself.

So, they’ll have adequate light and some awesome new toys to occupy themselves, and my mom coming every day to take care of food and water and for some play time. There’s nothing for me to worry about at all right? Then I guess I’m just worried about me!

I have to admit I’ve seriously considered purchasing MiSafes Mini 1080p HD Wireless Day & Night Wi-Fi Camera for iPhone iPad Android (Black) so I could check on them whenever I wanted – although that might get expensive data-wise once I’m in international waters. Update – I totally bought that webcam and will review upon our return 🙂

When I was first looking into getting parakeets I read somewhere “how do people with birds go on vacation”, and the half-joking answer was “they don’t” And while I’ve been pretty devoted to 1 or 2 getaways per year in addition to traveling for work, I wonder if those times are coming to an end for a while. On the other hand, I know getting away and disconnecting can be very important, and I don’t want to discount how much that matters to both me and my husband.

I’ll update after we’ve actually gone on the trip and then I should have a much better idea of where my head is at. In the interim, I know we’re covering all the angles and the parakeets will probably have a great vacation from us!

Deciding to get Toby a parakeet of her very own

There came a time we had to admit we just weren’t satisfying all of Toby’s social needs, and likely there was no way we could. Additionally, we had created a situation where Toby felt responsible for being the leader of the flock, and it was clearly putting a lot of pressure on her trying to control and protect us.

The larger cage alleviated some of her frustration, but still, once she was out of the cage she wasn’t enjoying things as she had before. Instead of playing on the play gym or watching out the window, she would spend most of her time out repeatedly flying into our faces, and she had begun biting a lot more. She also developed the habit of landing on my glasses and biting my eyelids. The intensity of her interactions with us was heightened, not that she wanted to hurt us, just that we weren’t doing the right thing that would make her feel comfortable.

This happened every single time she was let our of the cage, unless you could engage her with a treat or a toy, and even that wouldn’t last long.

We both had to admit that being around Toby wasn’t too much fun for us anymore and she seemed to be pretty unhappy too. I am sure that some of it had to do with spring-time bird craziness, but more than that it really seemed like Toby needed something from us that we couldn’t provide, and her focus on us needed to be split onto someone else who would be able to reciprocate in ways we couldn’t.

I didn’t want to go through the whole process of taming a Petsmart parakeet all over again, I felt that with Toby in the house it would be way too difficult to split our attention evenly between taming someone in one cage (a huge time commitment) and making sure that Toby didn’t lose out on any of our attention. So, I started researching hand fed parakeets, which are fed by humans in their first weeks of life instead of by their parent parakeets. This doesn’t necessarily make them socialized, but by the time you take a hand fed parakeet home it does not think you are a predator, which is a huge leap!

Finding and bringing home Kelly is a story for a different day, but her presence in the house immediately helped Toby find balance and, I think, really helped Toby feel secure. Even better, Kelly is naturally dominant and self-assured, which took a lot of pressure off of Toby.

Initially we felt so sure that we wanted to just have one parakeet, even after reading all of the evidence that parakeets are flock animals and really shouldn’t be solo pets. I still don’t regret the way we went about it, easing in with one parakeet and developing that strong bond was an experience I wouldn’t trade, but I can say that I now believe parakeets are not meant to live alone, they need other birds to feel secure and socially fulfilled, no matter how strong their flock bond is with the humans in their lives.IMG_0854

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