Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

what to do when your bird is ill

Sickness in budgies and other parrots

Parrots will mask/cover up their illness by instinct – this is self protection, as it doesn’t want to be seen by its flock as the weakest link… so when you notice your budgie/parrot is ill, it is usually in an advanced state of unwellness.


The things you might notice include:
Runny droppings over a few days
Fluffed up appearance
Lack of energy/sleeping more than usual
Eating less or not at all
Drooping wings
Quivering
Drooping tail
Discharge from the nostrils

The best thing to do if you notice any of these signs is to immediately put the bird under a heat-lamp or give it some other source of heating. This alone can help significantly. The temperature to aim for is between 20-26 degrees celcius. You can make sure by keeping a thermometer under the lamp/ near the heat source. You can buy special heat lamps designed for ill animals from reptile and pet shops – if you can afford it… otherwise use an old tungsten bulb and make sure the cage is wrapped in cloth to insulate it… however DON’T EVER PUT THE BULB IN THE CAGE and make sure it is not too hot for them.

If your bird does not improve within 24 hours it would be wise to take it to a vet, preferably an avian vet, who can best determine exactly what’s wrong.

If your parrot has any of the following symptoms it is critical to get it to the vet ASAP:
Convulsions
Rasping or loud breathing
Prolapsed anus (vent)
Paralysis
Profuse bleeding
Broken legs or wings

Mulga 'n Luca Enjoy Rare Hakea Flower

While all my birds get a variety of native branches on a regular basis, this native Australian Hakea flower was a rare treat for them - something i have only found in one location on a tree which is far away from my house! They destroyed it in an hour - leaves and all!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Moulting and Blood Feathers

Moulting is a normal part of a birds feather growing cycle, which means their bodies benefit from a little extra nutrition – see my other blogs for that. You will notice your budgie looks a bit scruffy, and feathers are falling out. Its normal, unless of course, there is baldness from losing (or maybe plucking) too many feathers. Moulting happens in budgies around 4 times a year, and 3 times for cockatiels.
When new feathers grow back, they will have a hard outer coating which breaks up and lets the feather out.
In the wings and tail, new feathers are known as “blood feathers”. That is because as the feather is growing, it is connected to the blood supply. Once it stops growing the blood supply dries up. If your bird snaps a blood feather it will need to be completely removed – preferably by a vet. It will be bleeding and will not stop until the feather is taken out. There are ways to stop the bleeding, by using flour (preferably corn flour) or styptic powder (from vets, pet shops) on the broken feather – but if the bird knocks the feather again, it could bleed to death quickly if you are not around to supervise it.

Immunity boost

Health booster
Cod liver oil can be used in small amounts as an added health booster in times when your bird is moulting. If you buy this for yourself even better, but you simply burst open the capsule and mix a small amount with the seed, and this is a super food for budgies. Not something that’s needed every day though.

How to sprout seeds for your bird

How to sprout seeds
You will need: a jar or plastic cup-like container, paper towels or calico, rubber bands, a bowl, a sieve. Possibly apple cider vinegar.
Soak the birdseed in the jar/cup for 1-8 hours in water. Put it in the sieve and wash it under running water. Rinse the seed properly, and let it drain. Put the seed back into the jar/cup, cover it with a paper towel and secure it with an elastic band. Gently tip the jar/cup so that it is on an angle with the jar/cup opening facing downwards and use a bowl to lean it into.
Every 12 hours, rinse the seed thoroughly. After 2-3 days you can start feeding this to your birds. Do not keep sprouts for more than 1 week, and continue to wash and drain them regularly. I use a cap or two of apple cider vinegar diluted with lots of water, and soak them for a minute or two before rising the sprouts well, as a way to inhibit bacteria. I will eventually post a how-to film on youtube to show how to do it step by step.

Safe fruit & veg for budgies

Safe Vegetables
-Radishes -Turnips -Carrots (root and tops) -Cooked sweet potatoes -Radicchio -Endive -Mustard & dandelion greens -Swiss Chard -Kale -Parsley -Cooked red potatoes -Green beans -Bok Choy -Tomato -Sweet red & green, and other types of peppers -Cauliflower -Broccoli (head and leaves) -Beet & turnip greens -Kohlrabi -Sugar snap or snow peas -Squash (peeled & steamed) -Red beets (peeled) -Romaine or green/red leaf lettuce -Collard greens -Corn -Cucumber

Safe Fruits -Apples -Berries -Kiwi -Mango -Cantaloupe -Honeydew -Pineapple -Cherries -Cranberries -Banana -Pears -Peaches -Oranges -Pomegranate -Tangerines -Star fruit -Grapefruit –Papaya Grapes -Apricots


Wash all vegetables and fruits properly before feeding. Remove all seeds from the fruit. Any vegetables and fruits left uneaten should be discarded daily so spoiling is not a problem. Because vegetables and fruits are high in water content, the urine portion of the droppings will increase.
DON’T FEED YOUR BUDGIE AVOCADO - DANGEROUS

Perch variety is important


This is another example of vertical/angled perching

Perch variety is important


Perches
Its important to have different types of perches for feet stimulation, different sizes, thicknesses and textures. Rope perches are fantastic because you can bend them to all kinds of shapes. Native branches make good perches, especially if they have bark on them. It exercises their feet and gives them something to chew on. Its also a good idea to have perches that don’t all sit horizontally – having vertical and angled perches are important too

My opinion of wing clipping

This photo shows a severe and cruel wing clip. This is a bird i rescued. She has had three bad bleeds, and still only has seven feathers after 6 months, when she should have FIFTY. It is possible she will never fly properly.

Wing clipping
Wing clipping is a personal decision, but one I advise against. Birds need their wings intact to escape danger, and prevent falling. Clipping wings can also reduce your birds ability to exercise properly, and to use a range of muscles which affect co-ordination and navigational abilities. If a birds wings are clipped unprofessionally the bird can face lifelong consequences, including never being able to fly, bleeding wings, and continual new feather complications. So if you do chose to have your bird clipped, go to a vet, and get the bare minimum clip essential to prevent it from being able to fly off into the sky. If you wish to take your budgie outside, it is much more humane to get a harness – which are available in pet shops and online.

Building up trust

Trust
Unless it is absolutely necessary, I am totally against grabbing a bird with my hand/s. if you want your bird to trust you, you must not grab at it. This will make your bird associate your hand with fear. It is better to not force a bird to do something. Patience, training, and even a bit of trickery, will make all the difference.

Training your bird

Training You want your budgie to associate your hand with good things. Slowly try to attempt to pat your budgies head – that is the place they like their pats/scratches. Once your budgie allows you to pat its head, you will find that the bonding process will speed up greatly. They don’t like their wings being touched, and running your finger down their back means you want to be its sexual partner in budgie language! So its really not a good idea to do that.

How to start bonding

Bonding
After the bird is settled, its time to start the bonding process. Talking is the most important thing. You must talk to your budgie. Use a soft voice and have one or two different praises for when your budgie does the right thing – like stepping up to your finger. Budgies love praise. And treats like millet. When you first start interacting with your budgie it can be a good idea to hold a small amount of millet in your hand and putting it slowly into the cage, holding it until your budgie comes to your hand. Use its name often and whistle too, if you can. Soon enough it will end up on your shoulder nibbling at your ear!

When you first get a budgie...

Settling your budgie in
When you get your budgie/s home, give them time to adjust by leaving them alone, and just being calm and letting them get to know the sound of your voice. The reason why it is good to wait to let the bird out of the cage immediately is that it is might to fly into walls or windows which can lead to a painful death for the budgie. Give it around 3 days to get used to the room. Let your budgie come out on its own – that’s how it will know its way back. Sometimes they forget how to get back in their cage too, but they figure it out quickly. Put tasty treats like millet just outside the cage, so that they come out and get used to sitting outside the cage with something to do.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Forage feeding - mental stimulation

Three baby budgies forage on the play-gym
Foraging
Foraging gives birds something to do, and its instinctual to budgies. If you get some large gum nuts and seed pods, you can fit seed and millet treats inside them. Banksias are great as there are lots of holes to fill up. There are also lots of different foraging toys being sold online. You can use your play-gym as a foraging space – with sand/grit lining the bottom. I have a youtube film on this – if you are interested, check out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TCTC2FreRY
and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VS0MI-m1kc

Monday, September 7, 2009

Play-gyms give mental stimulation for your bird

Play-Gyms
Play-gyms are a great idea if you want to move your bird from room to room, and also just as a designated special place the bird knows is for them. You can make your own play gym, or buy one. its good to have a sandy, gritty bottom lining the floor of the play gym, or newspaper, so its easy to clean. And the birds will love to forage though the sand and grit for seed or other chewables like bits of bark or plants. I attatch seed sprays and native plants to the perches, and change the layout regularly to keep things interesting.

My first cage/play-gym set up

This was my first cage/play-gym set up.
Note the little hand held vaccuum underneath!

Greet your birds when you come home

Greeting
When you come home, or have been out of the room, don’t forget to say hello to your pal – they like the recognition, and they will likely respond with a happy chirp.

Toy Rotation is important for mental stimulation

Toy rotation
Its important not to overcrowd a cage with toys. It is better to change the toys every week or two, and also to change the cage around a bit too. It just keeps things more interesting. They will sit outside the cage watching with curiosity at what your doing. Also, if you have one lone budgie, limit the amount of time it spends with mirror toys – the budgie will bond with it instead of you.

Sunlight - a Necessity

Sunshine
Sunshine is necessary for budgie health. Its important that light is not shining from the sun through a window and directly onto the cage. Sunlight needs to be filtered, or broken in some way. I take my birds outside to get fresh air and light, but keep them in a shaded position, where they get bright indirect light. If I do put them in the sun, its in the morning, and they have a towel/cloth over part of the cage to keep it shaded at all times.

Sleep is important for health

Sleep
Budgies need somewhere quiet, that’s free of draughts, and in winter especially, a blanket over the entire cage. Budgies should get at least 10 hours sleep per night, and up to 14 hours per night if you have a male and female together, as sleep affects breeding. Less sleep and more light means more likelihood to breed.
Male budgies especially, will sing/chirp loudly as a way of saying “all is well”. It is very normal for budgies to get louder and compete with things like TV or lively conversation, especially in the evening when they would normally sleep. They will also have little naps throughout the day, which is quite normal.

Water - often overlooked in parrot health

Water
Water is something to take seriously – clean water drastically reduces your birds ability to get sick. Make sure the water is high enough in the cage so that the birds do not poo in it. Change it every morning, and check it in the afternoon, or as necessary. Do not use bird vitamins in the water, as they escalate bacteria breeding ability. The water cup needs to be washed with detergent each time – I have 2 cups, so I always have a clean one to change over with.

Calcium and Minerals - Parrot Essentials

Calcium and minerals
Its also important that budgies get cuttlefish bone, which can be found frequently along Adelaide’s southern beaches, right down to Cape Jervois and Middleton. This is an important source of calcium, and other nutrients. It is also wise to have a “mineral block” which contains iodine. If your budgie doesn’t use it, don’t remove it, as they only ever chew on it when they feel the need for it. Some budgies may never chew on it, whilst others will nibble occasionally.

Give your Australian Parrot Native Plants


Miss Jane on a Banksia Flower

Native plants
Living in Australia it is easy for our budgies to benefit from the addition of native plants to their diet. You can use branches such as eucalyptus, wattle, she-oak, grevillea, melaluca, bottle brush, and many other native trees and shrubs. (Google those names if you don’t know them for more info). Budgies chew the leaves, the flowers, the buds that are about to flower, the seed pods or gum nuts, the bark, everything! It is not only a very natural thing for a budgie to eat, it is also very stimulating to them on many levels, preventing boredom, providing exercise through climbing, and having something to shred – as budgies will often chew their wooden toys or perches if they have nothing else that’s good to chew on. It does cause a little mess, but its easy to sweep up.

Vegetables and Fruit - Essential Parrot Feeding

Vegies and Fruits
Vegies are an important part of budgie diets – but like humans, they might all have different likes and dislikes, so it is important to try lots of different vegies in small amounts. Its important that they are fresh, washed and of the same quality you would eat. My bird like parsley and silverbeet and corn the most. Any leafy greens (with the exception of lettuce which is bad for budgies), will normally be relished, especially if it is wet. See my list of safe fruits and veg, and a list of toxic and non toxic plants.

100% Seed Diets are Unhealthy

Seeds
Seeds are ok but cannot be relied upon as the majority of the diet. Unless they are sprouted – then they are an optimum staple food. Feeding some dry seed is fine, but there are several other things you can do to add variety to your birds diet.