April, 1998


From The Editor

Donít believe everything you hear! This warning is from one who has been preaching attendance at bird shows and club meetings in order to hear advice from more experienced bird owners. This is still good practice, but must be tempered with common sense. You cannot take everything you are told as gospel. The confident person diagnosing your birdís symptoms may be basing his expertise on the ownership of one or two birds. As I have told many people over the years, even the best Avian Vet cannot make an accurate diagnosis over the telephone.

Even a breeder with long experience may not have kept up with new information and changing ideas and may be giving you out moded advice. Just as in the field of human medicine, there is so much going on in research in avian medicine and nutrition, it is quite a chore to try to keep up with it all.

Particularly on the Internet, I am shocked at some of the answers to questions asked by trusting pet owners. Anyone who chooses to send in an answer immediately becomes an expert and holds no responsibility for the accuracy of the reply. There are some true experts available on some of the boards who offer valuable ideas and information. Mattie Sue Athan is frequently on one of the boards and there is no one better qualified to give advice on behavior problems.

The situation with raising pet birds is very similar to that of bringing up children. Advice is plentiful, from all sides. My son, who has no children of his own but who had a section on child psychology in one of his college courses, freely advises his sister on how to handle her two children.

Common sense is called for. Just because information is found on the Internet, in an article, or heard at a club meeting - or even found in the Quaker News - does not mean that it is engraved in stone. It may well conflict with other opinions and the choice as to which to accept is open to you.

From Our Readers

Dear Linda,

My Quaker will be a year old in January. He talks very well but seems only to be mimicking me so far. How can I potty train him? I love him dearly but he is such a "pooper." I look forward to each issue but am some what skeptical of some of the feats Quaker owners report.    Sally from Arizona

I can find room for only a very few of these reports on the remarkable things our Quakers do. I used to read them with an "Oh, come now!" attitude, but no longer. There just could not be that many people making up stories - a little exaggeration now and then, yes , but basically truth.

I am including an article in this issue by one of our readers on her experiences with potty training. I have used similar, although not nearly as amusing articles, on the same subject in past issues. I will be glad to send copies to anyone interested. For those of you who save your old issues the articles are in April, 1994 and January, 1996.

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Dear Linda,

Our little Quakerís name is Sugar (9 months) He has just started to say some words. We own a business by name Wisconsin Pest Control. When the phone rings Sugar has heard us say " Hello. Wisconsin Pest Control" and he has that down really perfect. He also says "breakfast!", "I love you", and calls the dog Chipper. We sure enjoy hearing Sugar talk.   Margaret from Wisconsin.

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Dear Linda,

I need your help. I bought my first Quaker one year ago, I named my little green baby Sprout. We carpeted our living room so we moved all of our birds downstairs. I came home and Sprout was naked around his neck and chest. I moved all of the birds upstairs within two days but Sprout continues to pull his feathers. I donít know what to do with my little green monster. I have not tried a collar as I know he would really freak out. Any help you can give me would be really appreciated.    Debbie from Minnesota

I do wish I could offer some magic cure for plucking. I read everything I can find on the subject . The best advice is still to have the bird thoroughly checked by a competent Avian Vet for possible physical causes. If none are found then work on the psychological aspects. I really feel that collars should be used as a last resort and only with the advice of your Vet.

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Dear Linda,

 I have always heard that one should always let a pet pick you. ĎPaco" was one of eight ugly little three week olds when I first saw the clutch. When I went to pick one out he would not go away. I kept pushing him back to check another one and he climbed over the others and back on my hand. I said "OK! Youíre my bird." He is now about four months old. We got him a soon as he was weaned. To say he is smart is an understatement. He learned the "kiss kiss " bit in two weeks and "pretty bird" now.     Joy from Arizona


It constantly amazes me how differences in personalities are evident in these little bundles of fluff before they even complete pin feathering. Some are sweet and shy, others more outgoing and demanding. I have had quite a few saying "mm mm good" while in the hand feeding stage. Strangely enough the reports I get later do not always reinforce the idea that these early talkers turn out to be the best talkers.

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Dear Linda;

I have been told that apple pits are poisonous but I have been giving my Quaker slices of apples with the pits for months. Where do people get these ideas anyway? Joe from Indiana

Some pretty reliable people in the world of birds report that many pits from fruit such as apples and cherries contain cyanide which is poisonous. There is very little effort involved in removing the seeds from an apple slice. It is certainly worth the trouble rather than prove that these reports are right by losing your bird.

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Dear Linda;

I have two pairs of pet Quakers and hand feed their babies for sale every year. I both enjoy them and find this a welcome source of additional income. I try to do everything right. I have read about "socializing" baby birds but I do not understand just how to go about this. How do I accomplish socializing my babies?    Myrna from NorthCarolina

Socializing the baby birds probably occurs naturally with the kindness and care a small, bird loving breeder gives to each one. In addition to the loving attention you are giving them, I suggest if it is possible, have more than one person feed, or at least play with and handle , the young birds. Exposing your birds to a number of different people and varying their schedule a bit now and then will help prepare them to accept a new owner more readily and to quickly make the adjustment to a new home.

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Dear Linda,

 We just love your news letter. However, everyone elseís birds seem so much smarter than our Fred. Weíve had him for 3 years, and while he does have a vocabulary, he is only now starting to pick up what WE say. (His previous owner must have had a very foul mouth!) And finally he is starting to be affectionate, putting his head under my hand for a neck rub. The other day when he did this he said "Hug". I was thrilled. Weíre working on playing ball now - he throws, I catch. He (we) loves it .     Dave from California


Poop-to-My-Lou-My Darliní

Tena Marangi

So, do you think itís possible to potty train your little green chicken? No way or impossible, you say? Well, let me tell you that Iím probably one of the ONLY people you know that have had a close relationship with their Quaker and can honestly say that in almost 4 years Iíve never, EVER been pooped on (or is that upon?). I donít have a single, solitary T-shirt, sweatshirt, blouse, dress or robe that has a poopie stain on it. Honest. Cross my heart! Swear on my Motherís grave (course, sheís still alive and kickiní but she already bought her plot and I know its location, does that count??)

So, if youíve bought this concept so far, read on if you want to know how I did it. And, if you think Iím just full of it, read on anyway and be amused by my arrogance and my "story"-telling capabilities!

Before I begin, let me make one very important point. This story is not about the senseless abuse of our trusted avian companions. I do not now or have I ever condoned those individuals that train their birds to "poop" on command and then forget about them, leading the poor trusting bird to extreme discomfort or death because they either forgot to give the "poop" command or just plain didnít care to continue this pitiful game. I do NOT tell Guido when to poop. He tells me. Thatís the difference.

Okay, now that Iíve gotten that out of my system, Iíll continue. . .

Many of you have heard (or read) about Guido in the past concerning his speaking capabilities. To this day, I still say that heís nothing special (well, you know, he is to me, but not compared with your other green chickens). I truly donít think heís any smarter or learns any quicker than any of your Quakers. Nor is he a "Stepford" bird, as some have suggested. Really. . .no genetic engineering done here!

So, whatís the difference between our birds? Probably nothing. In the numerous discussions Iíve had with other Quaker owners all over the country Iíve found an amazing similarity--they nearly all have other parrots that they must divide their time between (or amongst as the case may be). I donít. Itís just Guido and me (well, thatís not exactly true, I have finches but theyíre "little brains" and they donít really count).

All of this is really a long way of saying that my relationship with Guido has always been based on verbal communication. I taught him language like I would have taught a child (at least I think thatís how I would have taught a child. . .not that Iíve done THAT before, mind you!) Anyway, (and Iím getting to the poopie part finally) back in Ď94 when I was just starting to work with Guido, one of the first words he learned after "Hello" "Guido" and "Mommie" was the word "NO!" which was primarily used in conjunction with "bite" as in "no bite!" Those early days, he heard that a lot!! Over the years, he learned to associate "no" with doing something unacceptable, such as no drop carrot, no fly, no pick feathers, no screaming, no pull Mommieís hair. . .and the list goes on and on.

With that in mind, hereís what I did. For two evenings in a row every time Guido squatted to, well, you know, make poopie, Iíd say "Pooooooop!" as heíd go. When heís on top of his cage, he hangs his little butt over the front edge and "goes" onto a paper towel. Heís done that since he was a 12 week old baby. He doesnít go over either side or the back, just the front (donít ask me, I take no credit for training him to do this. It was sort of a mutual agreement. . .I put the towel there initially and he just used it!)

After two evenings of hearing me "announce" his poopies, I picked him up after he "went" and said "Guido, no poop on Mommie" then sat on the bed singing Old MacDonald with him. I knew that it would only be a matter of 15 minutes or so before heíd have to go again so I reiterated "No poop on Mommie" several times. He nodded as if he understood.

Then, when he got into that unmistakable butt-wiggling gettiní ready to squat mode, I again announced "Guido, no poop on Mommie!" and believe it or not (and again I swear this is true) he stood straight up and waited for me to take the two steps to his cage. There, (on top) he quickly turned around, hung his little butt over the edge and yelled "POOOOOP!" as he went. By George, I think heís got it!!!!!

And he did. He never, ever had an accident. For a while, Iíd remind him not to poop on me. But shortly thereafter it became apparent to me that I really didnít need to do that. You see, one of the things that Guidoís been saying for a long time when heís tired of being on his playgym, his swing-perch, his shower-perch or his t-stand (no heís not spoiled much!) is "Mommie, go to cage! Go to cage!" (He also repeats this over and over again when he goes for his well-bird check-up every April and it just tears my heart out as you can well imagine.) Anyway, completely on his own, he began saying "Go to cage" to me when it was time for his to "poop."

Thatís why I said at the beginning of this that I donít believe in the type of "potty training" that is based on the poor bird holding and holding and holding it. After all, you know how you feel when youíve got to go! To me, this is similar to training a puppy to come to you when he wants to be let out instead of pee peeing on the carpet. I hope that you agree.

Guido, on the other hand, seems to take this all in stride. Matter of fact, he almost treats it as a game. From the beginning, when Iíd take him back to his cage, Iíd cheer and clap and hoot when heíd go on his papertowel. Heíd get all excited and bob up and down and start dancing. God only knows whatís going on in that sweet little brain of his. (Iíd pay real money to be able to do a Vulcan mind-meld and know first hand!)

So, there you have it. It sure does beat going around with those awful poopie blobs all over your shoulder and running down your back. Or, heaven forbid, walking barefoot and stepping into something squishy when youíre not expecting it. Iím sorry but I think thatís just gross! Some hard-core bird people tell me that Iím "just not a real bird person" because I donít let Guido poop all over me. Can you believe that? Itís true. You see, Iím convinced thatís itís basic jealousy. After all, who in their right mind would actually WANT to be pooped upon? (Letís be real, that happens to us in the real world every day and it has nothing to do with our animals. . .if you get my meaning!)

Like I said, weíre not special. Neither of us. Strong-willed? No doubt. Determined? You bet. Hard-headed? At times. Persevering? Absolutely! Thatís the key. You can do it, too. Be patient. Work with your little green chickens and you may be rewarded as I have. (Just think of the time youíll save. . . you wonít have to separate your clothes into "regular" and "bird-poopie" things.) Amazing concept, isnít it? It could happen. Honest.

And, oh, did I happen to mention that I have real incentive to take Guido back to his cage when he tells me he wants to go? Nothing like a good pinch on your neck from that beak to get your legs moviní. . .



Bird Clubs of America - Avi Reference Page

Kashmir Csaky


My life is seldom exciting. Like most aviculturists I spend most of my days cleaning bird cages and taking care of my avian friends. My husband and I do all of the other mundane things that most people do, pay our electric bills, taxes, mortgage, the premiums on our home owners insurance policy. We have paid our home owners insurance premiums on time for the past 18 or so years. In that time we have made two insurance claims. The first, many years ago when our roof was damaged by hail. The second when a tree fell on our utility shed during hurricane Fran. The damage was minor and the claim was small. So you can imagine our surprise when State farm informed us last fall that they were considering not renewing our homeowners policy in January.

When I asked my agent "Why?" I was told: "I understand that you are breeding birds in your home. The home office is concerned that they are a liability exposure. They might peck someone in the eye." He also said that State Farm expressed some fear that the birds could make people sick. I was told that he needed to inspect my home. I wanted this matter cleared up as soon as possible. The agent came to my home Nov. 6, 1997, two days after the telephone conversation.

I had a total of twenty birds in my home at the time of the visit. There was one baby, two pairs of breeding birds and they are kept in an area that only my husband, my veterinarian and I are permitted to enter, and 15 pet macaws.

Anyone who has ever been to my home can attest to the fact that it is kept clean (sure is!) I clean cages and wash bowls twice a day. The home inspection was obviously just a formality. On November 26 I was informed that my homeowners policy would, in fact, not be renewed. A little later I received a letter from Sate Farmís Eastern office restating what my insurance agent had told me on the phone.

Search for Another Insurance Company

I called some friends in the area who also breed birds. They told me that they were insured with an independent firm that handles many insurance carriers. I called them and was informed that none of their carriers would insure anyone breeding any kind of animals. I then called my friends back so that they would be aware that their insurance company would drop their policy if they found out about the birds.

This company suggested that I call another firm who were quick to tell me that they could not insure me either. In fact, their carriers would not insure anyone who sold anything from their homes. They were kind enough to take the time to let me know that most insurance companies will not insure in-home businesses.

I now found myself in a very difficult situation. On the advice of my veterinarian I contacted a lawyer he knew in California. He told me that insurance companies can create policies as they choose. He mentioned that he was insured with a California company that did not object to Aviculturists. He suggested that I try to find out if there was something similar in Virginia. I got in touch with the Farm Bureau of Virginia. The Farm Bureau offers its members many services including insurance. I am pleases to say that I now have a homeowners policy with the bureau. They are also attempting to find a carrier that will provide me with business liability insurance and even coverage for my birds in case of theft or fire. Iím not sure Iíll ever need tires for a tractor, however the Farm Bureau does offer its members many other benefits and there are Farm Bureaus in most states.

Now I will digress a little. Sate Farm would have continued my homeowners policy if I had business liability insurance. Yet they would not extend business liability insurance to me. I have been breeding birds in my home for 13 years without incident . Neither would any of the other companies I called. I was never given any explanation.

On December 19, 1997 I spoke to the State Farm agent who brought up one more disturbing fact. He told me that all Sate Farm agents will be required to do home inspections of their policy holders in the next 3-5 years.If anyone is found breeding any animals without business liability insurance their homeowners policy will be discontinued. In a subsequent letter from a Sate Farm Fire Underwriter the following statement was made: "Our home owner policy is not designed to extend coverage to most commercial exposures. Only small, incidental, low exposure businesses are considered under homeowners policies. Breeders of any type are considered ineligible under our guidelines." I must note at this time that I taught dance in my home for many years and was covered under my homeowners policy.

Also Other Businesses

Recently I spoke to a friend who teaches piano. She tells me that insurance was a hot topic at a recent piano teachers convention that she attended. Apparently they are having similar problems. If you are a breeder or have any kind of business in your home you should have business liability insurance. If anyone come to your home for business purposes and slips on the steps, your homeowners insurance will not cover the damages.



Abstracted from South Jersey Bird Club News

Diurnal birds (those active during the day) tend to have a flat eyeball. The flat shape is maintained and supported by a ring of twelve bones, the sclerotic ossicles. The cornea and lens are optically clear and appear to transmit wavelengths down to about 350nm, thus rendering near ultraviolet radiation visible and absorbing only those ultra violet wavelengths which are not physiologically destructive. This means that they are able to appreciate colors that are not visible to man.

It has been suggested that this feature might be beneficial for food procurement since many fruits and flowers reflect ultraviolet light more strongly than surrounding leaves. Their color vision is more accurate than manís due to their greater density of cones (color sensors for daylight vision) in the retina. They have few rods (light sensors for night vision) confined to the periphery which limits their night vision.

The nictitating membrane ( third eyelid) lies beneath the upper and lower eyelids. It has many functions including moistening the eye, protecting the eye from impact damage, and, since it is semi-transparent, it may possibly act as a windscreen during flight to protect the cornea against debris.


This is my new On-Line website - You will find some sections devoted to our Quarterhorses, our English Mastiff dogs, our cockatiels and other exotics, and, of course, our Quakers. There is a good picture of a blue Quaker mutation as well as more than fifty of my published articles. A number of these are on Quakers.

Those of you who do not have computers at home can find access in most public libraries. It is a rare library these days without computers for patronís use. Most librarians will gladly help you with access to the programs that interest you and allow you to print out material you want to keep for reference or enjoy at your leisure.

Clubs are welcome to use material from the Internet or from this news letter in their bulletins with the request that credit be given their source - no special permission required.


From Flights of Fancy

When using the washing machine for towels and cloths used in brooders with baby birds, in hand feeding, etc., use the normal wash/rinse cycle first using your normal detergent. Then run them through the machine again but this time add a half cup of bleach per gallon of water. Remember, do not try a short cut by mixing the bleach and soap in one wash cycle. Check your owners handbook or call the manufacturer to determine hoe many gallons of water your machine uses. Be sure to use the rinse cycle to remove all bleach residue from the cloths.


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