Hari Rustic Treasures toy line at Drs. Foster & Smith

Whenever we get a new Doctors Foster & Smith catalog in the mail I’m excited to see what’s new and also filled with a small amount of dread, knowing I’m about to part with a pretty good chunk of change!

They always have a ton of great toys for birds of all sizes, and a line that was featured in their recent catalog, Hari Rustic Treasures, has an array of toys that range in price from approximately $4 to $19.

What attracted me to this line was not just that they look like tons of fun for our budgies, but also that they are made of natural and eco-friendly materials, feature lead/zinc free chains and are certified fair trade.  They also have a really unique and, indeed, rustic handmade look to them, while also being brightly colored and eye-catching.

I bought the:
Silk Cascade bird toy
Grass Bundles bird toy
T-Swing

They are all a bit big for budgies, but I like that, since I know they will take some effort before they are fully destroyed!

So, if you’re looking for a new toy for your parrots that you can feel good about buying I definitely recommend checking out Hari Rustic Treasures at Drs. Foster & Smith.

Embarrassing vignette – the time we almost killed a parakeet on her first day home

This story actually begins more than a year before we almost killed Kelly. Back in the day I was pretty chill about mice in the house. We would get the humane traps(Grandpa Gus’s Mouse Trap Tubes – Live Catch & Release Humane Mice Tunnels – 4 Pk), catch mice and throw them in the back yard. I used to have a weird old open-front shed in my backyard and I put some socks, catalogs and tortilla chips in there, and I would throw the mice in the shed.  One year we chucked about 13 mice out, or possibly the same mouse 13 times…

Anyway, this détente with the mice ended shortly before we got Toby. We were making tea one evening, I opened the dishwasher, and there was a living mouse among the glassware in the top shelf, frozen in terror. That was just too great an infraction to suffer, so, the dishwasher was replaced and the mice were no longer gently captured and tossed out into the yard. I bought a bunch of snap traps (Mouse Traps (Pack of 12) sorry) and deployed them. We got the dishwasher mouse in the dishwasher before replacing the dishwasher and set another couple of snap traps, one on each side of the refrigerator in the narrow alleyway between fridge and cabinet (this is the gun in act 1, by the way).

We snapped a few more mice and the siege seemed to be over, but I left the traps, because of Toby. If you google mice and parakeets you’ll find loads of stories about rodents trying to eat bird food, scaring parakeets at night, and in worst case scenarios, biting & killing budgies or eating their feet (!).  Just thinking about rodents attacking my baby budgie in the middle of the night was enough to keep me laying down snap traps indefinitely.

Not only had Toby never had her wings clipped, but she also came with a crazy aversion to going near the floor.  You can lure her down there with some Kaytee Spray Millet for Birds, 12-Count or toys, but mostly she’s like a kid playing the floor is lava game. So – I’m probably projecting the ending of this story at this point, but the thing is, we forgot about the traps, no one ever went near them and if we noticed them, it was with relief that Toby was protected.

Fast forward 8 months, Kelly came home, having recently had her wings clipped for the first time.  She spent the afternoon chilling out in her cage and the next day I was out of town. I felt horrible missing her first whole day, but my mom and I had a day trip to the city planned that we had been looking forward to for months, and we had purchased non-refundable transportation tickets etc. Also, I tend to be the nervous nell between Patrick and I, so I think we both felt like it might be better if I wasn’t there fretting about everyone’s well-being.

That night when I got home, Patrick told me the following story, he let Kelly out of her cage to spend some time with her, and Kelly, not realizing she couldn’t fly (she never did accept that) launched herself into the air, hit the broadside of the refrigerator and slid down to the floor!  Patrick dashed over and shoved the snap trap away JUST as Kelly was about to investigate the peanut butter lure, ie: get her noggin snapped.

I can’t even imagine the crushing guilt we would have felt if we killed our new budgie on her first day home. As it was we both felt absolutely horrible, and I think Patrick probably lost a few years of his life in that instant. I have to give him a lot of credit for remembering immediately the danger lurking in that narrow space.

So – my stomach still turns a bit when I think about mice eating our parakeet’s feet, but we went back to a humane trap. Kelly never made that exact flight pattern again – she only needed to hit the fridge one time before learning that it was not, in fact, a portal to another dimension – but she certainly hit practically every surface in the house over the next several months.  She would fly off somewhere and wander around until I found her and brought her home.

I guess the lesson here, beyond the obvious don’t have snap traps or other kill traps for small animals around your budgies, is that every parakeet is different. Ultimately we felt like parents who have their first baby and it’s an angel who never gets into anything, and then the second kid comes along and is a total whirlwind demon baby.

Still, I’m really glad we didn’t murder Kelly on her first day home, and I hope that the next time you endanger or scare your babies, which happens to all of us, you think of me and my mouse traps and feel a little bit better knowing we’re all out there making mistakes.

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Budgies/parakeets do not need grit

There are several species of bird that need grit (like Manna Pro Poultry Grit, 5-Pounds) added to their diet to aid in digestion. For example, adult chickens need grit; they swallow their food whole and the grit they eat sits in their gizzards and helps break down larger pieces of food or hard-hulled seeds. Many chicken owners use ground oyster shells for grit, which also provides much-needed calcium to the chicken.

Years ago, after noting that many birds needed grit, it became widely accepted that budgies must need grit too, and it was quite common to offer household pet parakeets grit.

This is, we now know, wildly unnecessary. Unlike chickens, budgies hull their seeds before they eat them, meaning there is nothing hard to break down once it reaches their crop. Also, when they are eating other foods they use their beaks to break it down, so there is again no need for grit assistance.

Beyond just being completely unnecessary, gravel can be detrimental to your budgie’s health. Because of the way the budgie digestive system is designed, there’s a good chance the grit will get stuck in their bodies instead of excreted, and this will cause blockages and potentially death.

Budgies DO need additional calcium like the oyster shell grit would provide, but this can easily be achieved by offering Penn Plax Cuttlebone Natural 6 Pack and/or Zoo Med 26384 Bird Banquet Fruit Mineral Block, 1 oz/Small. You could also feed your budgie crushed eggshells for calcium.

So, grit is one thing you can remove from your shopping list, which is always nice!

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PetSmart

Winter woes – dry houses and dry budgies

As we moved from fall to winter this year temperatures started dropping significantly, and so did our indoor humidity.  We have gas heat with baseboard radiators, it’s not as drying as forced air heat can be, but using our Analog Hygrometer by Western Humidor we could see that the humidity levels were sinking rapidly.  We think a comfortable range is about 40-55 percent humidity and the house was dropping well into the 30 percent range.  Not only is this bad for the humans, but it is very uncomfortable for budgies.

We began using our Travel Ultrasonic Humidifier – Mini Cool Mist Water Bottle Humidifier Offers Perfect Portable Solution for Home, Office, Hotel, and More, which puts out a surprisingly good amount of humidity, and we prefer it to purchasing a big traditional humidifier (like a Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier – Premium Humidifying Unit with Whisper-quiet Operation, Automatic Shut-off, and Night Light Function) for a couple of reasons. One because big humidifiers are harder to maintain and would need vigilance and lots of cleaning to keep mold out of the picture and two because of Patrick’s chemical sensitivities, bringing a big new plastic appliance into the house is a challenge.  It would probably end up in the garage for months (at best) off-gassing whatever chemicals it came with.

I also tried using our Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S 6-Quart Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker, Digital Timer, Stainless Steel as a humidifier, which you should only attempt if you are going to be home AND your birds will be safe at home in their cage.  This is simple enough to do, just fill the crock with water and set it for a few hours; with the lid off the water should simmer and release steam.  We tried on the low setting and it didn’t do enough to be worth bothering. I intended to try it on the high setting but then we decided to invest in a few more travel humidifiers so it hasn’t been necessary.

That reminds me, I know a lot of folks probably miss being able to use candles, febreeze, diffusers and the like after they get budgies, and one way to safely scent your home would be to put a cinnamon stick in your crock pot while you’re steaming your house.  You can also fill the crock half way, add a few tablespoons of baking soda and turn the crock on low to deodorize a room naturally as well.

So far the budgies seem to be doing okay with winter dryness, however, I could see quite easily that it was taking a toll on their feet.  I neglected to take any pictures, but their feet were starting to look a little cracked and like the skin was peeling up a bit. Nothing drastic that would indicate a medical problem, just a bit like the skin on human hands if you don’t moisturize in winter.

I immediately started googling and found a couple of possible solutions, one of them is to use a tiny bit of Carrington Farms Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, 54 Ounce on their feet. There are a few ways I can think of to get the oil on their tootsies, one is to apply the oil to a finger used for step up, and then sneak attack your thumb onto their feet to apply more on top.  Alternately you could put the oil on a perch and just let them land, or you could hold/towel them and just get the job done.

In doing my research I was warned against getting ANY oil on their feathers as it can impede their ability to fly.  Also I was warned that the coconut oil could give them diarrhea if they ingested it, so I would recommend using sparingly, although I also uncovered evidence that some folks give their parrots coconut oil to eat as a supplement, so like most parrot-related issues there’s bound to be a hot debate over who’s doing what wrong!

The person who warned against the potential for diarrhea suggested using baby lotion instead, but I feel a little uncomfortable about that, since they nom their feet pretty often for personal maintenance I would prefer they were nomming on something that is actually food.

I ordered the coconut oil and also started giving them a shallow dish of water to splash around in inside of their cage (also only while I’m home). They really like running around in water and I usually throw in some spinach leaves or a few small broccoli florets to make it more interesting.  Also that way I can pretend they are eating some vegetables!  This splash pool is in addition to a weekly (at minimum) offer of a bath in the Lixit Corporation BLX0787 Quick Lock Bird Bath and/or hanging greens.

Even though the coconut oil only took a few days to get to us thanks to Amazon Prime shipping, by the time it arrived their foot dryness had completely resolved thanks to walking around in water every day. So, that’s a huge testament to the power of water keeping budgie feet in good condition.

Of course I’m glad to have the coconut oil on hand, and similar to several other occasions where I completely misjudge sizes I certainly have a lot of it – I guess Patrick and I will need to start cooking with coconut oil!

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Just a girl and her coconut oil

Putting together a first aid kit for parakeets

The start of a year is always a good time to sort of take stock and see if there’s anything I could be doing better.  One such thing this year is that we’ve been pretty blasé about being prepared for any parakeet mishaps or illnesses.  So far so good, there have been no major injuries or health conditions, but I know that any pet is really just a ticking time bomb.

For my peace of mind, I want to put together a budgie first aid kit with some basic necessities, so we will be prepared for minor emergencies.  (Obligatory warning: I am not a vet and I am not suggesting anyone skip seeing a vet – nor am I giving medical advice.) Here are some of the items that I’ll start with

Of course you can skip all the guesswork and just purchase a First Aid Kit for Birds, but I think I’d prefer to build mine piece by piece so I familiarize myself with each item, instead of having an emergency and opening the box for the first time in a panic.

If I’m missing something that is an essential 1st round item please let me know in the comments below!

Products in this post:

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Cooking safely with parakeets in the home

I’ve been thinking lately about cooking and how to safely cook around budgies.  They process air much faster than humans so the smallest pollutant can be fatal.  Most people know that things like candles and cigarettes are big no-nos for birds, but there are several things to avoid specifically while cooking.

The big one to stay away from is Teflon pans. It was with some sadness that I got rid of all my non-stick cookware the day Toby came home. It’s safe to use stainless pans, like the Cuisinart 733-30H Chef’s Classic Stainless 5-1/2-Quart Saute Pan with Helper Handle and Cover, although it certainly increases my risk of burning things!  Which, I am joking about, but we make every effort not to introduce cooking smoke into the budgie’s breathing space. It’s not recommended to keep parakeets in the vicinity of a kitchen because of all the contaminants, but with a small house we really don’t have a choice on that.

Because of switching to stainless from non-stick, it may be tempting to rely more on cooking sprays that grease your pans, these are also bad for budgie airways. That’s just a good reminder about any spray, really, from hair spray and deodorants to home scents.

Another big danger zone is your oven. A new oven is deadly to birds, and needs to be run for a long time to release all of its breaking in fumes, which I believe are burning off some coating on the interior of the stove. Basically you either need to remove the budgies from the area and run your oven at a very high temperature several times or if you buy from a local appliance store it’s my understanding you can pay a little extra to have them do this for you.

We are pretty much without our oven at this point, we bought it last fall and thought that we had burned everything off properly, Patrick spent two days at home with Toby in another room and the oven running/house vented, and we were able to use it around Christmas last year, but really didn’t do much with it after the holidays.

Flash forward to this year when we went to heat up a frozen pizza and realized that it still isn’t done giving off fumes.  So, we’ve agreed to skip the oven this winter and work on getting it properly broken in this spring/summer when we can move the birds to another room AND vent the house without making it too cold.  Fortunately we have this toaster oven, BLACK+DECKER CTO6335S 6-Slice Digital Convection Countertop Toaster Oven, Includes Bake Pan, Broil Rack & Toasting Rack, Stainless Steel Digital Convection Toaster Oven that is pretty big and safe to use until we sort out the oven issues.

Also watch out for the self-cleaning oven setting, this releases fumes that will kill your parakeets because the oven heats itself to about 900 degrees and this super heats the chemical coating inside.  If your oven needs to be cleaned it’s much safer for your birds and you to use natural products like baking soda, vinegar and your own scrubbing power.  I would also suggest that spot cleaning your oven after a spill may help avoid the need for devoting an entire day to oven-cleaning down the road.

The best tool in my kitchen is my Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S 6-Quart Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker, Digital Timer, Stainless Steel, we usually throw something in it on Sunday morning and it has us set for dinner for at least two or three nights.  The slow cooker is safe for budgies because the insert is ceramic and has no coating – YAY! If a recipe calls for it to be coated with cooking spray I take it outside, but I think in most cases I could replace that with greasing it with butter anyway.

Beyond taking care about what products you are cooking with I would also strongly caution anyone about having parakeets or other companion birds outside of their cages while you cook. Even a budgie that you think is clipped for his “safety” can make a random leap onto a hot surface or (heaven forbid) into a pot of boiling water.  We discouraged Toby from hanging out on the kitchen counters when she was young and subsequently she and Kelly never land on them, but I’m still careful to tuck the crock pot out-of-the-way while it’s on, and they are not allowed out if we are preparing food either using knives or heat.

For me this all adds up to a pretty good excuse for cooking less and eating out more!  Also, not cooking equals more time for parakeet bonding, so, win-win on that point.  Seriously though, if you love to cook and bake you can still do so safely with budgies, but like most facets of bird ownership, you just need to be mindful and careful of the dangers to your feathered kids.