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.
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.
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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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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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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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
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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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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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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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
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
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
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
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
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
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. . .
INSURANCE CANCELLED BECAUSE OF BIRDS
Clubs of America - Avi Reference Page
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
YOUR BIRDíS EYE
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.
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 - http://www.bluequaker.com 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.
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.