Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What happened to the bird?

A good friend of mine called me the other day crying. Her beloved parrotlet had died very suddenly. He literally was okay one minute and dead the next. I too was heartbroken when I heard the news. I had handfed this little parrotlet from a tiny baby. He was so sweet and personable, the pick of the clutch so to speak. He loved little cheek rubs and liked to cuddle under long hair. He was the perfect bird for my friend and her family.

She named him "Guacamole" after my parrotlet "Avocado". We are good friends, so I go over there frequently. Always checking in on Guacamole and bringing him a little treat or a toy. My friend loved her little bird and doted on him beak and foot. She gave him fresh veggies every day and baked special treats for him. His gorgeous color and generous size was a testament to his excellent care.

When she had called me, we went over everything I could think of that could be the cause of his death. He wasn't acting sick, his weight was good, etc. No scented candles, cleaning products, pesticides, teflon, etc. The days have been nice here so neither the air conditioner nor heater were on. She told me that before he died, her neighbor across the street had lit a rather large pile of brush in his front yard. Then the wind changed and quite a bit of smoke blew into their house before she had the chance to close the windows. Could this be the problem?

I was discussing this with another friend of mine, retired lineolated parakeet breeder Cynthia Williams. Cynthia is very knowledgeable about plants and such. When I mentioned the above, she told me that toxic plants when burned can emit toxins in the smoke. She told me a story about a man that was allergic to poison sumac. He cleaned out his yard and had a big pile of the stuff. He lit the pile and after accidently inhaling some of the smoke, died. Cynthia said "...and this was a human, as you know, birds are much more sensitive to toxins than we are. Remember the canaries in the coal mines?". She told me to ask my friend if she knew what her neighbor had on the burn pile.

It turns out, among other things, her neighbor had cut back his oleander bushes. She told me the bushes ran all down the side of his property. He had a bunch. They were completely cut down and he was burning them. Oleander is very toxic.  

We don't know for sure if this was the cause of death, but given the circumstances there is a good chance that it was. Her neighbor wasn't malicious. We live in the country and clearing the property of dead plants, tree trimmings, etc. and then burning them is a normal occurence. This was just a freak accident.  But you can bet, my friend is going to have a chat with her neighbor to educate him about burning toxic plants in such close proximity to his neighbors.

Most of us know the standard toxins that can hurt our birds: scented candles, febreze, cleaning products, overheated non-stick cookware, etc. But this was a new one to me. By sharing Guacamole's story, maybe this will prevent a similar tragedy from happening to someone else's beloved pet.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Easy, Healthy Food Tips

Go to the internet and google in "feeding parrots" and all sorts of information will come up. It can be overwhelming to new parrot owners who want to feed their bird a healthy diet but are short on time. For many of you who have just one or two birds, these tips will be especially helpful:

1. I like to prepare a grain and veggie mix for my birds. But I certainly don't have time to cook it up every day. So I make a large amount and freeze it in tupperware containers. The day before I am going to feed the mix, I let it thaw on the counter for a few hours. When it is almost thawed out, I place it in the refrigerator. When I am ready to feed it, I just slightly warm it in the microwave, stir and serve. At this time, I may add some fresh veggies to the mix or not, depending on what I have available. Some people freeze portions in ice cube trays, others use sandwich baggies (squeeze the air out before freezing). It all depends on the size of the servings you need. Food in the fridge should be fed within 2 days.

2. If you only have one bird, it may be more economical to buy pre-mixed cook n' serve grain mixes. My favorites are Crazy Corn (Polly Pasta and Kung Fu Yum flavors are favorites here) and Volkman's 15 Minute Soak N Serve. And just as above, you can cook larger portions and freeze the extras.

3. Sprouts are super easy to prepare and are one of the most nutritious foods you can feed your birds. I like to go to Whole Foods and buy grains and beans from the bulk bins to sprout. There are also online stores where you can order sprouts pre-mixed. China Prairie http://www.chinaprairie.com/ has some great sprout mixes. If you google in "sprouting for parrots" lots of information will come up on the subject as well as instructions as to how to sprout safely.

4. If you are preparing healthy vegetables for your family, put some aside for your bird before cooking it. Birds don't need the salt, butter, sauces, etc. I do this a lot. My pet birds are shameless beggers!

5. Birdie bread is another excellent way to get good food into your bird. There are tons of recipes on the net. I really like Mommas Birdie Bread. It's a dry mix you prepare like a cornbread mix. It is made from healthy ingredients and comes in a variety of flavors. Chopped veggies (I like chopped carrots or yellow squash), or a small jar of baby food can be added to the mix for extra nutrition. Birdie breads can also be frozen in portions for future meals.

6. A good pelleted base diet will go a long way to keeping your bird healthy. Pellets have protein, minerals and vitamins in every bite. Our babies here are weaned to a pelleted base diet so they develop healthy eating habits right from the start. If your bird is on a seed based diet, it's nutritional needs are probably not being met. Ask your vet or other qualified bird professional about how you can improve your bird's diet.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Losing Friends

I apologize for not posting! I will make more effort to keep my blog up to date!

One of my dear friends, Anna Tipps lost her battle with cancer about a month ago. She was one of those special people that when you meet them, they change your life. She was naturally an open, giving person. One of those rare people that will help you because it warms their heart to do so. Not because they have an agenda or they feel you will "owe" them if they do.

I first met Anna at a party a few years back. Being animal lovers, we hit it off immediately. Anna was a busy mother of four small children, so we would get together when we could (our husbands are friends too). She was into "raw food" which is just as it sounds. Preparing natural vegetarian foods without cooking to preserve the enzymes, vitamins and minerals that are often destroyed in the cooking process. Of course, any meat she prepared was cooked accordingly. If you are thinking just salads and veggie platters think again! She was a true gourmet and could prepare raw foods in ways you could not imagine. One night, we had lasagna which was amazing. My favorites were always the desserts. Since my husband and I will eat almost anything (LOL) and were open to the raw food thing, she would try new recipes with us. It was a lot of fun.

When I told her I was going into business for myself, we discussed a website. I had some ideas, but hiring a website designer was cost prohibitive. She volunteered to help put a site together for me - a daunting task! I would go over to her house a few times a week and we would work countless hours putting together the site, shopping cart, etc. If you have never put together a website before, you have no idea how much work goes into one! I was so thankful she was willing to help me. Here she was, a mother of four children taking time away from her family to help me, and asked for nothing in return. I would do a few small favors here and there for her, but nothing compares to what she did for me.

We became close friends during the time we worked so many hours together. The more time I spent with her, the more I saw what an amazing person she really was. People naturally gravitated to her. The phone seemed to ring all the time! And what a great Mom! Patient, loving and kind. She was the kind of mom everyone wished for.

When my business model changed to more breeding and less focus on supplies, etc. I needed an image change. I decided to scrap the first website completely and start over with a different concept. Anna didn't blink an eye and designed a new website for me. That is the website I have up today - Almost Angels Aviary.

She not only designed my site, but taught me how to work on it myself! A lifesaver since I am constantly updating information. With all the changes I make, I can only imagine what it would cost me if I had to hire somebody every time I needed to make a change. Whenever I think of the saying "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime" I think of Anna.

I remember our last conversation. Anna had just gotten back from Mexico. She went to a conventional/holistic cancer treatment center there. She felt good and was excited about the things she learned and the people she met there. As it goes with people who have cancer, her focus was more on recovering from treatments, healing herself and spending time with her family. So we didn't get to visit as much as we used to. It was wonderful to talk to her. We chatted for a long time.

I still have her email address in my contacts. Kind of silly, I know. I just can't seem to bring myself to delete it. Whenever I work on my website or receive a compliment on it, I think of Anna.

Anna, thank you so much for being my friend and being you.... and for teaching me how to fish.