Buying a tablecloth for your budgie

As I’ve mentioned, Kelly recently got over her fear of everything and is now quite a handful, more precisely, a handful of constantly chewing beak.  Which is totally normal, parrots are machines built for destruction, and the only saving grace of a budgie is its small size and (relatively) weak beak.  If Kelly was an African Gray or a Macaw I would probably have no wood furniture or door frames left at this point.

Since she can’t take it to that extent, Kelly limits herself to chewing on approved toys for the most part, but the exception is the edge of our dining room table.  Toby went through a brief table-mania last year, but was easily dissuaded from the pursuit.  Kelly, not so much, she is determined to turn that thing into matchsticks one chomp at a time.

I can’t even be mad at her for it, seriously, it’s what she’s meant to do, so it’s on me to find a workaround and shooing her away 500 times a day isn’t cutting it.  Also, I don’t know what varnish or veneer is on the table, and I don’t want her to slowly poison herself chewing on the wood.

My first idea was to take a long sheet of paper towels and drape it over the edge in question, weighting it with a couple of toys. This worked well, both Kelly and Toby enjoyed climbing up and down the hanging paper towel and it distracted from the table itself.  But, I’m not feeling that style of home décor, so a more permanent solution was needed.

I decided to buy a tablecloth, I’m pretty sure this is the first tablecloth I have ever purchased.  I didn’t want to spend a ton of money, but I was looking for something that would be visually appealing to both the parakeets and the humans, and seemed durable.

We ended up with the ColorBird Solid Cotton Linen Tablecloth Waterproof Macrame Lace Table Cover for Kitchen Dinning Tabletop Decoration (Rectangle/Oblong, 55″*102″, Linen) in sage green, which is a color that Toby likes. Taking it out of the box I noticed immediately that the fabric is nice and tightly woven and has a sheen to it, which has been great, it’s really easy to just wipe poops off of it, and small amounts of liquid don’t sink through. Also because of the tight weave it will take the budgies a while to destroy. It can be machine washed and line dried and that may be easier to manage than it currently is wiping down the table all the time.

I also like the lace edging. I know I’ll have to make sure they don’t eat it, but they will enjoy ripping it apart. It seems sort of odd to buy a nice item knowing that it’s basically going to be treated as disposable, but it will certainly be cheaper to replace than a whole table. Also, if they only attack one side I can rotate the tablecloth a few times for maximum use.

Hopefully this will be a good save for the table, I’m sure in a few weeks Kelly will figure out she can climb down and underneath and I’ll have a whole new set of issues.  Coming soon, presumably, a post about getting rid of our dining room table and turning the entire house into an aviary 🙂

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Review of Dr. Harvey’s Parakeet Food

I think my days of mixing together different seed blends to try and perfect our parakeet’s diet is over now that we’ve tried Dr. Harvey’s Our Best Parakeet Blend Natural Food for Parakeets, 4-Pound Bag.

When we first got Toby we started out with a big bag of Kaytee foraging parakeet blend which was $8 for 5 pounds, and here we are 14 months later ending up at $26 for 4 pounds for Dr. Harvey’s!  Quite an increase in price, but as it is with most things you get what you pay for.

The difference between this blend and other commercial blends is easy to see, feel and smell. I swear I am fairly tempted to eat this as a snack myself.

Per the product’s description the food is a “wonderful blend of nuts, fruits, seeds, vegetables, herbs and bee pollen made specifically for parakeets. This blend is so plentiful in vitamins and minerals and the appropriate amount of protein that it takes the guesswork out of feeing your parakeet”. For me, knowing that I’m providing the parakeets with the best possible seed-based nutrition is totally worth the relatively high price tag.

Dr. Harvey’s is also free of chemicals, dyes, preservatives and synthetic ingredients. I love that there is nothing in the mix with a color that doesn’t occur in nature. Also, although I haven’t tried it yet, I have read several reviews that the seeds are so fresh you can sprout them and feed the sprouts to your budgies. I will have to test that out and report back.

I can report that our budgies mostly ignore or remove all of the larger pieces of fruit in the blend, although it we hold one out for them they will eat it from our hands they just aren’t that interested when it’s in the food bowl.  So, this blend does not replace offering fresh fruit and veggies, nor should it!

As you’ll see in the photos below our parakeets took to Dr. Harvey’s immediately. For now I’ve been mixing it in with my last blend because I do want to use that up, but going forward I think we’ll be a Dr. Harvey’s family.

And, once I got over my sticker shock I rationalized that A. our parakeets are worth the very best and B. since we’re talking about a matter of 5 tablespoons of food per day, I think we can shoulder the financial burden!

Products in this post

Review of Drs Foster & Smith exclusive woven corn husk toys for parakeets

I recently purchased a big box of new toys for our budgies (more reviews to come!).

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“big” may not be the right adjective

Drs. Foster & Smith is my first choice for buying parakeet toys. They have a massive selection, awesome exclusives, and it seems like there are new items every time I stock the toy drawer.

Additionally, their prices are very reasonable, and if you sign up for emails you’ll be notified of their frequent sales and coupon codes. Shipping is always free once you’ve spent a certain amount, as of this date it’s $19 but I know sometimes it’s higher.

One of the toys in my last order was the woven corn husk toy, small. As soon as I pulled it out of the box I knew it would be a huge hit, it’s got preening, destruction and tarzan-style swinging possibilities all in one toy! It’s held together on a thin steel bar, which is awesome because we can always reuse that once the toy has been thoroughly murdered.

Technically this is a foraging toy, you can put treats inside the little vine balls, but I don’t bother, they love destroying the balls just for the fun of it, so the treat aspect is pretty unnecessary for us.

There are loads of different textures to chew on, Toby likes the vine balls best, but Kelly likes to dig in to harder material, within 24 hours she had already chewed off one of the little wood blocks, but that leaves her with a lot more work to do.

I also love that the rope parts can be pulled through the balls, so when the budgie pulls one end it actually does move through before there is resistance.

My only issue is with the supreme cotton, I’ve seen alarming headlines recently about parrots eating fabric rope and getting huge masses in their crops that have to be surgically removed, this cotton rope seems like it would be a contributing factor to that sort of condition. It’s very loosely bound and fluffy bits pull off pretty easily. Even if they didn’t mean to, I could see a parakeet ingesting bits of this during a preening sessions. There’s even a note about the dangers of birds eating the rope in the product’s description. Fortunately the rope is just tied (not even tightly knotted) at intervals and easy to remove without even using scissors.

There’s so much else to do with this toy that the rope seemed pretty superfluous to begin with, and we’ve got other toys that are dedicated to soft-material preening. Additionally the parakeets can preen each other or the human members of the flock!

So – thumbs up from the humans and the parakeets for this product, and at just $6.99 at the time of this writing, I think it’s an excellent value. I would recommend modifying it to remove the cotton, just to be on the safe side.

Ways to make a little extra scratch

As I’ve mentioned before, the cost of bird-ownership can be pretty high, even for parakeets. The constant stream of toys needed, food, and upgrades to their living conditions add up every month.

I’m sure you really don’t want to get a second job outside of the home, because then you’d be taking away more time that you could be spending with your budgies, and your time is the most important thing you can give them.

I have been working with a few different companies for a long time to make a little extra money from home, it’s never going to amount to much, but for a relatively small time investment it’s been worth it. Also, since my laptop is right next to our bird cage I’m frequently logging time with the parakeet while I’m doing a survey or checking my stats.

Here are the companies that I personally use and recommend.

MySurvey.com – I’ve been a member here for well over 5 years, they are definitely trustworthy. You complete a long initial survey and then they send you invites for surveys you may qualify to participate in.  I’m not sure if this is true of everyone, but I get about 5 survey invites per day, I try to go in once and week and clear them out. It can be frustrating because you will not qualify for most of the surveys you begin, and you get no points if you are screened out. I have been able to do some product testing through this site as well over the years, which I really enjoy. Most recently my household tested toilet paper and paper towels, in the past we’ve done toothpaste, mouthwash and various body products. Those are a nice bonus too, especially if you like the products, 4 free rolls of toilet paper never hurts!  you do have to be comfortable sharing information about yourself such as age, household income and other semi-sensitive data, but this is used in aggregate with other responses and I have never had an issue with personal security due to this site.

Points that are accumulated can be cashed out to choose rewards from an online catalog, or you can cash out to PayPal, a paper check, or Amazon gift certificates. I usually cash out to Amazon since that’s where I buy the bulk of my parakeet supplies, and everything else for my house.

Paidviewpoint.com – (note – this is a referral link) This is a survey site that works a bit differently, there are no terribly long surveys and they pay out even if you don’t qualify for a survey; however, they pay about 1 penny each for qualifying questions and then about 3-4 cents per questions once you’re in a survey. You can cash out to PayPal but only after you accumulate $15, which can take a while. They send out survey invites intermittently, but not reliably, so I recommend visiting once or twice a day to see if any surveys are waiting for you. This is another reputable site that I have been paid by and have had no trouble with.

NCPOnline.com – National Consumer Panel is a Nielsen/IRi Joint Venture – for this site you download an app to your smart phone and then scan every single purchase you make and transmit the data to NCP, earning points each week that you scan. You can also earn points by taking surveys, some are targeted based on your purchases and others are very general. The data you provide is analyzed by NCP and shared with manufacturers and retailers. It is used to shape marketing decisions and has the potential to impact what products are available in stores.

NCP also has sweepstakes for members every week/month/quarter and year, there are cash prizes and some big ticket items. You earn entries by transmitting and you can choose to receive survey entries instead of points for surveys.

For a long time the points you earned on NCP could only be spent on their reward catalog merchandise, and they did not offer many gift card options because they don’t want to influence your spending patterns, which makes sense. Recently they started offering cash outs to Amazon gift cards.

NCP is a little more exclusive than MySurvey or PaidViewPoint, you have to apply to be a panelist, and your acceptance depends on whether they are recruiting in your area. I’ve been a part of the panel for a number of years and even though scanning can be tedious it’s well worth it. Also, I do like thinking that I could influence the marketplace.

So – those are my tips for making a little extra money to support a millet habit! If anyone else has any good sites please feel free to comment.

Preparing for parakeet – cage setup

For me, setting up a home for our first parakeet had a fun sense of expectation, like Christmas Eve or a small slice of what it’s like for new parents setting up a nursery. Here are the items you should expect to get for your initial cage setup.

The first thing you need is a cage – we chose the Prevue Park Plaza Bird Cage (seen above), which is a great quality cage with a lot of features, like the double-locking front door and bowl holders that swing out for easy feeding and watering.  It worked out really well for socializing, as you can see in the picture.  The seed catcher also helped minimize messes.

Ultimately this cage did not work for Toby because she refused to go below the level the of the food cups, so instead of a 18″ x 18″ 49″ cage, she lived in a 18″ square block. Our second parakeet, Kelly, also ended up living in this cage and ended up absolutely hating it because it was too small for her to fly in at all.

For the bottom of the cage, you can certainly line with newspaper but I really like Custom Cut Bird Cage Liners, they can catch a lot of liquid without anything seeping through (expect some water bowl spills), and it couldn’t be more convenient to take off the top sheet every day or so.

You’ll want to get a supply of food, seeds or pellets are the main options, or some combination of the two.  I’m planning a post solely on that issue, so my suggestion is to buy whatever your bird has been used to eating. The trauma of the move will throw him off enough, without trying to get him onto another food immediately.

Parakeets need a few different kinds of perches, and perches of varying sizes which all serve a different function for their feet and beaks.  Here are examples of the types you will want to provide:

Booda Comfy Perch for Birds, Medium 32-Inch, Colors Vary
Polly’s Desert Sands Bird Perch, Medium
Prevue Pet Products BPV1020 Cosmic Crunch Bird Perch, Small

We have used all of those perches and they’ve worked out well for my parakeets.  One thing to watch out for when buying perches or toys is the size. Many items are meant for larger parrots but it can be hard to tell, so always look at the dimensions and carefully read the descriptions.

Your budgie will also need to start out with a few basic toys. They may come home without having learned to play with toys, but you can show them what to do easily. They learn very quickly and have a natural inclination to play. Toys are also critical for beak maintenance, preening instinct and satisfying the limitless drive to chew.

Wesco Pet Original Bird Kabob Shreddable Bird Toy
JW Pet Company Activitoy Olympia Rings Small Bird Toy, Colors Vary
Paradise Toys Small Cotton Preening Ring, 5-Inch W by 7-Inch L

When you’re setting everything up, keep in mind that depending on where your parakeet came from he may not know how to move around on the cage bars and he may not be able to fly depending on whether his wings were clipped and how severely. So, have an eye towards making the cage easy to get around – the comfy perches are great for mobility, if you buy the longer perch it can create a flexible ramp leading to the food and water bowls and other toys and perches. Try to think about how your parakeet will move around the cage – you’ll be able to make adjustments once you have him home, of course, but it’s not always so easy when there’s a bird in the cage!

Just a couple of items left, one is a Cuttlebone or Mineral Blocks which they chew on to fill in on some gaps in their diet, particularly calcium.

For socializing and treats you’ll want Millet, your parakeet may not know it right when he comes home, but this is his favorite treat.

So, that’s all you need…except it’s really a pretty big investment.  Your parakeet cage setup may cost approximately $25, but the start up gear can easily run $400. On top of that, you’ll need (and want) to replace the toys and perches at a pretty steady rate.

For my final note I wanted to give an estimate on what you can expect to spend monthly on your parakeet upkeep (not including start up costs) and I think it’s probably pretty close to $40-$50 – I like to have extra toys and perches on deck so I can switch things out when I think the keets are getting bored. My husband thinks I am on the very high end of reality, and believes we spend closer to $30 average per month, with some months much less. Toby and Kelly think we should stop worrying about it and just keep our wallets open!

Related content: I finally worked up a real-world estimate of what getting prepared for your parakeet will cost. Spoiler alert: it’s not $500!