A couple of uses for discarded seeds and hulls

No matter how you feed your budgies, at some point you probably end up with a bunch of seed hulls. Mixed in with those seed hulls are unwanted seed and maybe some pellets, dried fruits and veggies and herbs, depending on your preferred brand of parakeet feed. There’s no need to throw those discarded seeds right into the trash. Here are a couple of ways to extend their life.

  1. Use them as a fun enrichment. I feed Toby and Kelly 2 tablespoons each of a mix of the following every morning: Dr. Harvey’s parakeet blend, Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet and Harrison’s High Potency Super Fine Pellets. Even though it’s only 2 tablespoons per day, there’s always some leftover. They especially do not like the sesame seeds in the Dr. Harvey’s, and they are still getting used to the pellets. So, every morning when I refresh I put the leftovers into a Tupperware container that I keep on my kitchen counter next to the seed mix. Tupperware of discarded seedsThere’s still a ton of great stuff in there! So, I use it as an opportunity for foraging enrichment. Either I pour some on top of a fruit or vegetable I’m getting them to try, or a little bit on a flat plate really gets them excited. For a super fun Saturday I pour a good 1/4 inch onto a plate and let them go crazy. They really love digging through the discards and finding delectable morsels they missed the first time around, and I love getting just a little more use out of the good quality food I spent my money on!uses for discarded seeds and hulls
  2. When you are truly done with the discards, throw what you’ve collected over the week outside for the outdoor birds and squirrels. I have two squirrels right now in my backyard digging through my budgies leftovers. It’s winter so I’m sure they are happy to have the little bit of extra food. Soon the birds will come and pick through the rest. What my picky eaters are too good for turns into a treat for wild birds.

I’m sure it doesn’t mean much to them, but in a “waste not want not” kind of way it makes me feel good not to put usable seeds and pellets into the trash.

Does anyone else use their discarded seeds and hulls for anything?  If you’ve got ideas I’d love to hear them!  Otherwise, if you’re throwing out uneaten seeds on a regular basis I hope you’ll consider saving them for foraging, either for your budgies or the outdoor birds.

A minor emergency for which I was not prepared – heat loss

I came home from work one evening last week and immediately noticed something felt off.  Somehow it seemed quieter than it has this winter and weirdly still. Patrick was working from home that day and I asked him right away if it seemed odd to him. He hadn’t noticed anything, but as I moved into the bedroom to get changed out of my work clothes I knew it felt chillier than usual. Checking the thermostat I saw that although it was set to 69, it was only 68 in the house and the heat was definitely not on to rectify. Not only did fixing the issue become a top priority, but also keeping the parakeets warm knowing the house was going to get colder.

Admitting that I let something slide is a little difficult for me, but here’s the thing, I had considered two possible system failures. One, the power goes out, but in spring summer or fall, in which case I have my Power Failure Lights and I’m ready to get the budgies safely back in their cages to ride it out. Two, there’s a major storm and the power and heat are both out, in which case we decamp to my mom’s house because they have this glorious Generac Generator that runs everything.

I felt pretty unprepared for just the heat going out on its own, which is not really enough of an emergency to deal with the hassle of moving all of the birds, especially with Kevin in quarantine. The most embarrassing part is that even though I tell people all the time that a Heating Pad is an essential part of a parakeet first aid kit, I don’t even own one myself! I know, that’s seriously just horrible and I shouldn’t even admit it. I’m ordering one today, swear.

On the plus side, Kevin already had a K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer in his cage because we were worried about him getting cold. I love this bird warmer, this is the second winter we’ve used it and have had zero issues. It’s just consistently warm. Similarly, Kelly has the K&H Thermo-Perch , which I also do not hesitate to endorse and have found to be very safe and reliable for the second winter running. Toby is terrified to sit on the heated perch, but I’ve caught Kelly there on several occasions. Just make sure to get the textured version, the smooth one makes it very difficult for parakeets to get traction.

I quickly rang up the furnace people and they had a technician deployed right away, which was great, although I don’t love the after hours fees so much! We put Toby and Kelly both in Kelly’s cage, which is cause for a ton of squabbling but in a pinch I figured they could help warm each other up.  Both cages were covered with whatever blankets we had around the house. I don’t cover at night because Toby has night frights and doesn’t tolerate being covered anyway. In general, we find that they sleep perfectly well uncovered, and typically I don’t have to worry about drafts so there’s no concern there. Keeping the heat at a steady 69 has worked very well for us for a few winters now.

Kevin keeping warm while the heat is outThe furnace guy showed up in about an hour and quickly diagnosed the issue as a broken thermostat, which I wouldn’t have even considered as an option! By the time he got the heat going again we had dropped down to 64 and I was so grateful to have it resolved quickly that I decided not to have a heart attack over the unexpected expense so close to Christmas.

No one was any the worse for wear, and as the repair man was leaving my mom called to tell me she was about to bring over her EdenPURE Heater. Obviously I should both always call my mom before a repair man and buy my own space heater.

I got really lucky this time that I knew the furnace wasn’t working right after it happened, and that the repair man was able to come out so quickly. If we were in the middle of a snow or ice storm I couldn’t always expect that quick resolution. Not to mention what would happen if they had to order a part. Without beating myself up too much, I need to take this as a warning to be better prepared.

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!

Parakeets and nail polish – what are the dangers?

It’s been several years since I used nail polish on the regular. My husband has allergies and sensitivities to chemicals, so every time I want to paint my finger or toe nails it’s been a real production. I have to go outside to paint them and stay out long enough to dry, then when I come in I have to wash my feet as soon as the polish is totally dry. Even after that the chemicals would irritate his throat and I would end up having to wear socks around the house and to bed for several days. Since I did it so infrequently I rarely though about the possible implications for parakeets and nail polish exposure.

I’ve been traveling more for work lately and attending conferences wearing sandals this summer brought the issue more to the forefront. I still didn’t really want to paint my finger nails, because Toby can’t stand most nail colors. When my mom visits with anything other than a neutral nail Toby won’t go anywhere near her! But, to look professional and put together I did want to be able to polish my toes more frequently.

I started researching whether there was a chemical-free option for nail polish, and was immediately horrified to learn about what I’d been putting on my toes and into our home’s air space for years. Most nail polish brands that I had been picking up at the grocery store contained chemicals like:

  • DBP (dibutyl phthalate) – a toxic chemicals that has been proven to cause reproductive issues in rats as well as birth defects.
  • Toulene – long term exposure to toluene is linked to several lovely conditions such as anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver and kidney damage.
  • Formaldehyde – I feel like just putting that word there should be enough, most of us associate formaldehyde with preserving dead animals and tissues as specimens and I think we can all intuit that using it on humans is a poor idea. It is a known carcinogen as well as a respiratory irritant.

No wonder it was such a problem for my husband, he consistently reacts to formaldehyde when it’s used in clothing manufacturing (also GROSS), so I’ve basically been trying to poison him every time I polished my toes. Additionally, I was pretty devastated that I’d been bringing these products into the house with budgies at all, even if I took precautions to use them outdoors only, if my husband reacted to it for days after application it couldn’t possibly be healthy for them.

Happily, there are options that are far less dangerous than traditional polishes. You want to look for products that are, at a minimum, noted to be “3 free” or “5 free”, this refers to the number of chemicals that are not present in the product.

I began searching on Amazon and found butter LONDON Nail Lacquer, which at just a little bit higher price point than my grocery store polish boasts of being “8 free”. The chemicals additionally excluded are: Formaldehyde Resin, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Xylene, and TPHP.

As a review of butter LONDON Nail Lacquer I am happy to report that it goes on fairly easily and lasts well. It does not go on as smoothly as a polish with the added chemicals, however, and you may want to buff your nails before application to ensure a smooth finish.

The final verdict was that this polish is a total success story for my household! I still applied the polish outside, but had to come in before it dried completely due to weather issues. My husband could tolerate it immediately, no frantic foot washing or hiding them away in socks required!  I am so pleased that I’ll be able to polish my toes just because I want to in the future without having to take crazy precautions. I also feel about a million times better about not exposing the parakeets to dangerous nail polish chemicals.

If you use polish frequently I urge you to make sure your preferred brand is at least “3 free” if not more. If it isn’t and this post doesn’t convince you to change then please do some additional googling and make sure you are comfortable exposing both yourself and your children/pets to the chemicals. Especially budgies, whose air systems are so much more delicate than ours.

Budgie preferred sleeping arrangements

When you first bring home a new budgie it may be hard to believe that after a full day on their feet they would prefer to sleep standing up. But, it’s true, a comfortable budgie will grind his beak before going to sleep; then tuck one leg up underneath him and drift off. You may also see your parakeet turn his head around and rest it on his back. Here are some typically preferred sleeping arrangements for budgies.

  • Your budgie will probably not want to sleep in a soft enclosure like a Happy Hut, which is good, because they can be unsafe for several reasons. But, even a safe option like this Sea Grass Snuggle Hut may be regarded as quite unsuitable for sleeping, even if it’s fun for day time play and chewing. If you are concerned about your budgie getting cold in winter time, you can use a Bird Cage Cover if your parakeets will tolerate it, mine don’t care for being covered at all! Otherwise, you can use heated perches, like the K&H Thermo Perch or the K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer.
  • What the parakeet does want, in most cases, is to sleep on the highest perch possible. Or rather, the highest thing in the cage, no matter if it’s a perch or the top of a toy.  If there’s nothing at a suitable height they will even cling to the bars of the cage in an upper corner. If your parakeet sleeps that way, try putting a perch in that space and see if he’ll get off the wall, although please don’t attempt that after bedtime!  Toby used to run through her options every night before bed and would try to sleep on top of several very unstable toys, until we dropped them all lower than the sleeping perch using Plastic Chain. If you have multiple parakeets make sure you have enough high up perch space to help avoid fighting over preferred territory. Some parakeets prefer to sleep on a Perch Swing, so you can try offering that as well. I wonder if the movement is soothing, like being on a gently swaying tree branch.
  • Make sure you also have a couple of Night Lights or even a Small Lamp to help avoid night terrors.

If you’re providing comfortable perches as the highest items in the cage, and eliminating drafts and scary dark spaces your parakeets should be great sleepers! Although there are exceptions to every rule, most parakeets are very comfortable sleeping standing up and resting one foot at a time by tucking it up into their tummies.

How we use millet for parakeets in my household

In my attempts to be a well-informed parakeet owner, and also my general nosiness, I look at a lot of different cage set-ups. I love getting inspiration from other bird-owners, especially seeing new toys or the awesomely creative stuff that people DIY. One thing I notice a lot of that surprises me is the use of a Millet Spray Holder or generally the free-range offer of Millet in the cage. I think that if you go that route you’re losing your most powerful motivator and possibly setting yourself up for nutrition issues.

First a note on Millet Spray Holder; some of them may be unsafe. There is, in particular a plastic Millet Spray Holder that looks like a cage for millet, as well as a Stainless Steel Millet Holder that is a steel spiral. I have heard of several budgies getting their heads caught in these items, and some have not survived. Now, I fully believe that a determined parakeet could kill themselves with almost anything in their environment; they are delicate creatures that act like invincible tough guys! But, there’s enough anecdotal evidence for me that this optional item is best skipped.

Outside of safety, your parakeet simply does need free access to Millet. It is not particularly nutritious and could lead to unnecessary weight gain. I work in an office all day, and free feed Millet would be the equivalent of someone hanging a party size bag of Doritos in my cubicle and telling me to have at it. Not only would I eat my weight in Doritos every day, I would probably also make poor nutritiounal choices and eat Doritos almost exclusively, regardless of whether there was also a basket of Apples nearby.

Maybe most humans would make better choices than me! But, parakeets have about the same mono-vision when it comes to Millet that I have when it comes to Doritos. If you want your parakeet to eat a healthy seed, pellet, vegetable and fruit-based diet, having Millet readily available is not the best plan. The parakeet is not thinking about losing the weight for swimsuit season or making sure he avoids fatty liver disease, so you have to think abou tthese things for him.

Beyond being unnecessary for a balanced daily diet, free-feeding Millet also takes it out of your arsenal as one of the most powerful motivators for good budgie training. In my house Millet is only used during training or other instances in which we humans desire a specific parakeet result and are willing to “pay” for it with a treat.

As far as Toby and Kelly are aware, the only way to get Millet is from humans, by doing desirable things. So, initially during taming the desirable thing might be to simply sit on someone’s hand or shoulder. This helps the parakeet learn that good things have when you interact with people. Except not really just good things, but the best things and treat can only be guaranteed by becoming part of a flock with those funny-looking birds whose eyes are in the wrong place (ie: humans).

We’re not doing a ton of training lately, the parakeets have been molting so we have backed off until everyone is feeling great again. The only time they currently get Millet is once per day, they each get a little bit broken off the larger spray, and only after going into their cages peaceably at night at bed time. At this point it’s such a routine that Toby goes in eagerly as soon as I shut the curtain near their cage and immediately perches where I can put the Millet through the bars. Kelly is a bit of a daydreamer and usually continues to wander around until I tap on her sleeping perch to remind her of the time.

We used to wait until they got tired and sorted themselves out for bed, but sometimes, like tired little kids, they would loop back around to hyper and uncontrollable, so now I set the bedtime and they are happy to comply if it means an evening treat!

Particularly with flighted birds, a parakeet parent has very little control over budgie actions unless they can be motivated to good behavior. If we didn’t keep their love of Millet in our reserves, I am not sure how we could convince Toby and Kelly to do anything they didn’t want to do! As it stands, we have the ace in our sleeves at all times and training, as well as motivating daily tasks, becomes much easier.