Toby’s new cage – our first traditional flight cage

Toby and Kelly have been living single for several weeks now and it’s still going great. They are both getting good rest, individual attention and have enough time to play without someone else bothering or attacking them. I had ordered Toby a new cage from Doctors Foster & Smith a while ago, but it was back-ordered and the fulfillment date just kept getting pushed out further and further. So, I finally decided to cancel the order and get her a traditional flight cage.

At first, we thought we would get another HQ Victorian Top Bird Cage, which has served us well for a long time. I love that it looks like a nice piece of furniture, instead of just a utilitarian bird cage. Also, it’s really solid and not at all flimsy, which is something that bothers me about the Vision Small Bird Cage that we used for a car ride. I know a lot of people love Vision cages because they contain mess and are easy to clean, but it just doesn’t feel like a permanent bird home to me.

Anyway, it initially seemed like a no-brainer to just buy another HQ Victorian Top and put Toby’s new cage right next to Kelly’s existing. I ordered the cage and didn’t even notice the back-order warning when I checked out (ooops!), so it wasn’t until 5 days later that I started wondering why it hadn’t shipped, and then realized I would still have to wait another month for delivery!

I thought about canceling at that point, but Toby has been such a good sport about living in her old Prevue Park Plaza Bird Cage it’s really unbelievable. She goes right in at the end of the day and doesn’t even appear bothered that she can’t fly in her home cage. Because she’s being so chill about it I felt like we could wait the month.

Fortunately she’s continued to be a solid citizen about her living arrangement, because once the month passed the fulfillment date jumped again by two weeks! I know this has nothing to do with Doctors Foster & Smith, I’m sure it’s down to manufacturing delays for the cages themselves, but it was sort of a bummer realizing that not only were we delayed again, but I really couldn’t trust the new date either.

We were still pretty set on holding out for the HQ Victorian Top, but I started thinking about how much it would be a bummer to lose out on the flat top of the Prevue Park Plaza Bird Cage, which I use every day to keep food and water out when Toby and Kelly are out playing. We also put baths up there and toys for them to play with one top of the cage. The Victorian Top cage is really cool for them to hang out on, but it doesn’t have utility space the way the Prevue Park Plaza does.

Since I had all the extra time waiting on the HQ Victorian it allowed me to really second guess the decision, and decide that we would all be better served by getting a good quality flight cage with a flat top.  Enter the Prevue Pet Products Wrought Iron Flight Cage with Stand, Chalk White, which is made by a company I already trust, and looks like it will be a great home for Toby.

The only thing I’m not thrilled with are the included plastic food and water bowls. I think that plastic bowls tend to get dirtier faster and don’t get as clean as stainless steel. I found these Stainless Steel Hanging Bowls which solve that issue. I like that they are a two part system so I can hang them wherever and just remove the bowls for filling and cleaning.

Because we have Amazon Prime it should be here in just a couple of days, and I’ll be sure to report on the cage set-up and how Toby likes her new digs.  Hopefully our first traditional flight cage will be a winner!

Best toys for parakeets/budgies

With so many toys out there in the marketplace it can be tough to choose for your budgies. I know I’ve made tons of mistakes buying toys that were way too big, or worse, dangerous. It can be difficult to look at pictures on the internet and know what to buy for mental and physical stimulation. Here are Toby and Kelly’s recommendations for best toys for parakeets, all of them are either currently in their cages or were and were so well-loved they no longer exist!

  • Super Bird Creations Wind Chimes Toy for Birds – Toby and Kelly love this toy so much I’ve already written not one, but two reviews of it!  They can be found here and here. This toy can be played with in multiple ways, preening, chewing, attacking, moving the straw “arms” and it has several levels. If installed with a perch midway down the parakeets can burrow into the center of the straws (where there is a bell to reward them!), and the ends of the straws with their shoelace ties provide a totally different play opportunity.  Toby and Kelly also enjoy launching themselves at it and clinging to the red ball at the top.

  • Bonka Bird Toys 1925 Cake Bird Toy – this toy is, without a doubt, Kelly’s favorite toy of all time. The problem is that she destroys is in a single day! This has happened on to occasions, the first of which I recorded in a review.  It’s still fun to play with after the destruction of the sola wood, the cupcake liners are totally a toy in their own right, but I mostly recommend buying this toy for special occasions like hatch days or gotcha days.
  • JW Pet Company Activitoys The Wave Bird Toy – These relatively inexpensive plastic toys made by JW Pet Company are some of Toby and Kelly’s favorites, and this is one of them.  I avoided buying them anything with a mirror for a long time. I was worried, especially when Toby was a solo parakeet, that she would end up in a feedback loop with her own reflection and never think to eat or get a drink of water.  I think that’s less of a concern with these small round mirrors, they may catch an intriguing glance of “another” parakeet in the mirror, but it’s not enough to start trying to interact with. The mirrors also rotate and there are fun little beads to chew and the whole thing is light enough that they can grab it and bang it on something else, which is always a good time!  You could also hang something else from the bottom if you wanted a very long toy. Kelly saw herself in a mirror for the first time in this toy, I managed to get a very cute video (unfortunately this was before I learned to take all videos “side to side so the margins are wide” I apologize!).
  • Wesco Pet Original Bird Kabob Shreddable Bird Toy – Deceptively simply in its design this toy provides days and days of shredding fun. Chewing is extremely important for parakeets beak health and mental health. They are born and designed to chew and destroy. These are made of a soft wood, but still take a lot of work to get through, versus something like the bonka 1925, which is very quickly shredded. They come strung on a rope that can be untied if you want to add one of the “donuts” of wood to another toy or put them on a metal skewer instead.  Toby and Kelly’s interest in this toy waxes and wanes, but there’s always a Wesco Shreddable Bird Toy of some sort available to them.
  • JW Pet Company Activitoy Olympia Rings Small Bird Toy – This is another one of our favorite inexpensive JW plastic toys. I think I bought this back in 2005 and it’s always been in a cage or on the play gyms.  It’s a classic and a must have, and another toy that can be played with in a few different ways. Toby likes to grab the bell at the bottom and shake it vigorously, or climb from the bottom to the top.  She also will grab one of the rings and use it to stabilize her foot while she grooms herself. Kelly, on the other hand, likes to go through the rings over and over again in some very “Olympic” gymnastics!  At first I was worried she would get stuck but it seems like they are the perfect size for such antics. This toy is also really easy to clean up, a huge plus for something that’s going to be around for several years.
  • This last toy is a bit of a toy/perch hybrid, the Super Bird Creations Mini Flying Trapeze Toy for Birds. But with so much going on I think it has earned it’s way onto our top six toys! There is sea grass to rip apart, plastic links to climb and chew, and these great tiny plastic toys to reach for and try to destroy as well. My only caveat is I would not give this to female birds in breeding condition, as they may regard it as a possible nesting space. Also since it’s got a rather large footprint they can get very territorial about it and we’ve had some associated squabbles.

There you have it, Toby and Kelly’s recommended best toys for parakeets. They have all been “road tested” in our home and I feel comfortable guaranteeing that even if they aren’t your parakeet’s favorites they are at least appropriately-sized and safe for your budgies. I’d love to hear some of your favorites, please leave a comment!

Budgies and the importance of full spectrum lighting

When the topic of full spectrum lighting comes up it’s common to see some parakeet owners indicate they don’t need to provide a full spectrum light because their parakeets’ cage is “right near a huge window”. Unfortunately, this is not the case, windows block the essential light rays and utilizing a full spectrum light for budgies is, if not essential, a boon to their health.

I think about it this way, we all know the benefits of sunshine for human beings, even though we have a risk of skin cancer, getting some rays is essential for Vitamin D production in humans and avoiding things like seasonal affective disorder. Just sitting next to a window on a sunny February day isn’t going to cut it, we must either go outside and sit in the sun or take supplements to increase our Vitamin D.

It’s very similar for parakeets and other parrots, who are even less likely than humans to go outside on a frigid February day! That’s where avian lamps and bulbs come into play.

So – why is Vitamin D so important to parakeets? It aids in the absorption of nutrients, but beyond what it helps with, the deficiency of it is more alarming. Vitamin D deficiency leads to low calcium levels because the calcium couldn’t be absorbed. Low calcium levels can cause seizures, avian stargazing disease and cancer. These are in addition to breeding issues like soft eggs and egg-binding.

On the positive site, exposure to full spectrum light has been shown to help with cranky budgies and self-harming behaviors like plucking.

Budgies and other parrots get their Vitamin D in a couple of really neat ways, one is by using the oil in their “preen” glands to coat their feathers, the oil produces Vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet rays so when the birds grooms itself again it ingests the vitamin D on its feathers.

They also absorb vitamin D through their eyes, as we know, the budgies’ sense of sight is far superior to the human’s because they can see UVA and UVB rays. So, having full spectrum lighting means that you help them unlock the full potential of their eyesight, in addition to all the other benefits.

To help keep our budgies healthy we have an avian lamp and Bulb , which are on for 3 hours a day on a timer. This is enough time to get them the rays they need every day. I’m hoping to get them outside for some actual sunshine this summer, but in the absence of being able to do that most days of the year it’s good to know we are providing them with some full spectrum rays 365 days a year. Now, am I going to try and say that your budgies are going to die if they don’t have full spectrum lighting? Absolutely not, I’m sure countless budgies have lived long and healthy lives in the absence of full spectrum lighting. But, if you can provide it, why not give them that extra bump of what they need to make sure they are feeling good and getting that essential vitamin D?

Back to mixing up parakeet food – and a $10 Amazon gift card giveaway!

A while back I said that having found Dr. Harvey’s Parakeet Food I was all done mixing up my own blends of various seeds and pellets.  It turns out I was a bit hasty when I made that grand statement and feeding parakeets is a moving target. The first couple of bags we got of Dr. Harvey’s Parakeet Food were perfect, and then over time they started being more heavily full of sesame seeds, which Toby and Kelly will not touch with a 10 foot pole.  Initially I thought that they would get over it and learn to eat them, but instead they started fighting way more viciously over their food bowls.

I thought that perhaps they were feeling more defensive about the food because there was less of it they found tolerable, so I quickly ordered a bag of Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet and was glad of the reasonable price and my Amazon prime two day shipping.  If you are shopping on Amazon then I definitely recommend you Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial, it’s magical being able to think I desperately need a new toy, perch, or food and have it show up just a couple of days later.  (The link to the free trial there, like every other Amazon link on homekeethome is an affiliate link).

My Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet arrived and I offered some of it to the parakeets, they fell onto it immediately as though I had been starving them!  Apparently my sense of what was going on with the Dr. Harvey’s Parakeet Food was dead on, as I immediately started mixing the two seeds blends and saw a massive reduction in food-related violence.

At about the same time, I put some Roudybush Daily Maintenance Bird Food, Nibles in the food cup on the parakeets’ play tree, not really thinking they would be into it, but Kelly went nuts for them!  She would go out to the tree and camp out on the food dish, proceeding to chow down for a solid 10 minutes without pause.

Since she liked it so much I thought I might as well start putting pellets back into their daily seed mix.  And here I am, back to mixing together three different things to get them a good base diet, and of course offering vegetables and fruits regularly as well.

On to the giveaway, which is sponsored by me out of the love I have for Amazon Prime and how much it helps me get what I need quickly without driving all over the place looking for preferred brands of food, toys and other supplies. I will contact the winner after the end of the sweepstakes, midnight, Monday 6/26 and will request the name and email address, prize will be a code emailed by Amazon.com directly.  Open to the US only this time, 18 and over.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Carrying a piece of your parakeet with you

If you’re anything like me every time your budgies molt you scurry around after them collecting all their gorgeous dropped feathers.  I have managed to talk myself into only keeping the “best” specimens, but I still ended up with a sandwich baggie of feathers and no idea what to do with them.

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Lots of folks out there are craftier than me, I’ve seen people keeping adorable country chic mason jars full of feathers (one for each parakeet!), as well as making earrings, or even crafting a woven bowl and using the feathers as embellishments.  But, even though I actually have a surplus of mason jars that my husband bought on a whim (such are the dangers of late night online shopping) I haven’t gotten around to sorting out my baggie of feathers and getting down to business.

I did, however, have an idea that the feathers would look beautiful in a glass locket necklace, so I set a course across the internet to find my new dream piece of jewelry.

First, I found a site called Custom Made that literally boasts you can have anything made, you fill out a form detailing what you’d like and then, theoretically, they match you with an artisan who makes your dreams come to life.  Not so much in reality, they got back to me fairly quickly and indicated that not only would they not allow me to send any of my own materials (feathers) but they also don’t make jewelry with moving parts AND they don’t make jewelry with glass.  At the time I wasn’t even thinking of moving parts, more of the feathers being fixed in place permanently between glass, sort of like a specimen slide, but that’s neither here nor there.

Next stop was Etsy, because everything is on Etsy.  I found a shop called Sora Designs and a glass locket that I could fill myself.  I loved that there were a bunch of different options for the shape and the metal composition of the locket, also great is that you can choose your chain length and the chain is included.

I opted for the sterling silver oval with scalloped edges and was delighted by the fast shipping and lovely packaging.

Owing to my non-craftiness, I enlisted my husband’s help by throwing the baggie and locket at him and saying “make it work” a la Tim Gunn.  After about an hour, some swearing, and some very delicate artistry (I’m pretty sure there were manicure scissors and tweezers involved) he presented me with this

I completely love seeing the beautiful feathers from both of my parakeets together in what looks so much like a miniature watercolor work of art. The interior of the locket does have a small amount of depth, which allowed for the creation of a layered effect. I like that the piece is substantial, but comfortable to wear, not too heavy. It’s also comforting to rub the locket, sort of like a worry stone, although with a lot greater risk of smudges!

A few days of wearing this at the office garnered loads of compliments, people couldn’t believe that those were actually feathers from my parakeets.

This necklace is a great gift idea for any bird owner hoarding baggies of feathers, or even for those craftier parronts among us, it’s not like there’s ever a lack of falling feathers!  Additionally, this would be a very thoughtful memorial piece for a parakeet that flew over the rainbow bridge.  And of course in my opinion it’s also always a good time to buy oneself a gift “just because”.

Please note this is not a sponsored post and I was not compensated in any way for my opinions.

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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?