THE QUAKER NEWS

APRIL 1999

 

FROM THE EDITOR

Lately I have been seeing an increasing number of articles on research about the beneficial effects on our health resulting from owning a pet. I long ago became cynical about statistics in general, but my own experience bears out the truth of these statements.

Most of the articles refer largely to dogs. They are missing the boat on not doing studies on the therapeutic effects of owning a pet bird. I am a devoted dog lover and always have been. We share our home with two English Mastiffs (Sam, the male weighs 230 pounds and still growing!), a little Sheltie, and my Motherís Akita ,who, before the Mastiffs, we considered a big dog. I attend as many dog shows as bird shows and, with only the slightest encouragement, will go on at length over the wonders of my champion dogs just as I do over my champion birds.

Birds fit into the life styles of so many people who just cannot handle a dog or a cat. There are many different reasons for pet ownership of dogs being just not practical. Keeping a cage clean presents fewer problems than walking a dog or even keeping a litter box clean. Many apartment complexes will allow pet birds. Birds learn to handle owners being away at work all day very quickly. Grooming is accomplished with a spray bottle and an occasional wing clip. No fleas!

One of our subscribers was a delightful elderly gentleman who had lost his wife after 50 years of marriage. Their Quaker had been her pet, but after her death he found the little bird to be the solution to his unbearable loneliness. He took the bird with him where ever he went. He delighted in the birdís perfect imitation of his departed wifeís tinkley little laugh.

My Mother gave a baby bird to a niece when she was just a little girl. That little girl is now in college but her bird is still with her, living in the dormitory, sitting on her shoulder as she does her homework, talking to everyone who comes into the room. She feels that the lessons she learned in being made responsible for her pet and the unlimited love given her by her little bird, were important parts of her growing up.

Our pet birds bring us happiness and relief from stress. There is no doubt about these being important to good health.

 

FROM OUR READERS

Dear Linda; As we renew our subscription our little boy Joshua is presently molting and very grouchy. He was six years old last May. Heís presently in a "bite me" mood. Anyone who passes his cage, he goes toward them yelling "Bite me! Bite me!". Weíve always told him "Donít bite!" but he comes up with the "bite me" himself. Heís also into Eretha Franklin. Whenever he hears her sing he does his version of her. He can pick out her singing even in commercials and repeats the same sequence of musical notes. He also loves to eat whatever anyone else has. He will follow you and stare you down until you give him some. He practically hangs off his cage door to get to you. He knows what "hold on" means. When he travels on my husbandís shoulder, he yells "Hold on!" If you bump his cage he yells "Hold on!" and grabs the cage bars. He is a real little character. We are soon going on vacation and Joshua is coming. He travels quite well as long as he gets fed on time. We pack his food so that if we canít pull over to eat, he gets his meals. He loves to watch everything go by from his travel perch that my husband made him. If he is in the cage too long he will yell "out! I want out!" until we let him out. He loves to "beep" with the radar detector too. Diana, Dave, and Joshua

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Dear Linda; I have a bird tale that I would like to share with you and your readers. My 2 year old Quaker is my best friend and his name is "Prince."

He says 20 different things and mimics a lot too. Heís always on my shoulder while I do things around the house and sometimes I forget that he is there when he is quiet. When he was a year old he gave me a big scare. I accidentally walked out on the porch with him still on me and a loud noise scared him and off he flew. His wings had been clipped but apparently they had grown back. I yelled to my friend "Prince! There goes Prince!" They followed him into the mountains in the trees. I was devastated As I was crying my eyes out friends searched high and low for him unsuccessfully. Night time fell and I thought that would never see him again. My friend had a tape with Princeís voice on it and played it by the window as loud as could be all night long. We also left the lights on outside so he could see his way back. The next day we continued the search at 6AM and kept on playing the recording. I was in the bathroom with the window open and I heard a birdís voice screaming. I knew that sound anywhere. I told my friend and they went very carefully to check. There he was, sitting on a pole of a fence. They picked him up and brought him home. My baby was back and safe at home. I feel very lucky because the temperatures were in the 40ís and the next night it went to 30. I donít know if he could have survived the cold. Iím sure Prince feels very lucky too! Weíre together again Now we have signs on the door with big letters CHECK FOR BIRD. It is something I never wanted to experience again! I was told that there are Quakers living in the wild in some states. Is this true? Debby from West Virginia

 

Dear Debby - Your experience is repeated many times except that everyone is not lucky enough to get their beloved pet back. You thought of some original methods to help Prince find his way home. There are wild Quakers living in many states but most of these are descendants of imported Quakers which were caught in the wild. Our domesticated birds have mostly lost their ability to survive without the care of humans. Some Quakers live and thrive in cold northern climates but this is a condition they have become adjusted to gradually, not the sudden change from a heated home to 30 degrees. I know that you will check those wings carefully now. If caught in an updraft, birds can fly without full length flight feathers, using the air currents to go amazing distances.

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Dear Linda; A year and a half ago I bought myself a little green Quaker that I named "Sully." In addition I also have a Lutino cockatiel, an African Grey, and an Umbrella Cockatoo. But I have to admit that my little Quaker is the love of my life. I give each one of my birds the love and attention they need every day, so that everyone has their turn. I call Sully "my little Cuddle bug". Iíve never seen a bird, before sully, that you can cup in your hands and shower with kisses and hold close to you without them wanting to wiggle free from you. He really is something else, and itís hilarious to watch him during the day. The Cockatiel and the African Gray will hang around on Sullyís cage all day long. But the two will know whose cage it is because periodically Sully will let it be known. Even the Gray will get into a dispute with Sully and they may get into a beak tapping, but the Gray will back down. Itís truly funny. This little green bundle of fathers will stand his ground and always wins, Theyíre supervised together and up to this point have never hurt one another. I have just one question. When he gives kisses, he likes to take little nips of skin. Iíve gently scolded him with the "No bite." But it doesnít always work, and he doesnít seem to grow out of it. Whether he sits on your arm, chest etc, if skin is exposed heíll take a nip at times. Thatís probably the only true annoying thing about him. Also I am curious as to why he doesnít talk. Iíve heard of other peopleís Quakers being such good talkers. Heís never spoken yet. When I try to teach him "pretty Sully" he moves his beak a little like he is trying, but to no avail. I will love him no matter if he talks or not, but what a treat if he would one day. He is extremely smart otherwise. Watching him go about his daily bird business one can see how intelligent they really are by how they approach certain obstacles or problems. My favorite is when he comes to me, whether it is just to be held or if he wants some of my food. Heíll look at me and nod, repeatedly bobbing up and down until heís been acknowledged He knows what he wants. And I seem to know better what he wants, as opposed to the other birds I have. He is really a cool bird! I could go on and on! Marlies from Florida.

 

Dear Marlies; I am asked so often if Quakers will get along with other pet birds. Your experience is an example - it is very possible but lots of supervision and care need be taken . It is quite rare for a Quaker not to speak at all, but it is obviously not caused by lack of intelligence. I am so pleased to read that your love for him is not dependent on this skill. Perhaps he is one of the rare ones who do not have the physical equipment to create sound. I am including an article on this in this issue. As to the biting habit, it is up to you to get the message through to him that you are not pleased by this behavior, without making a big fuss over it. You two are so well bonded, I am sure that he is anxious to please you and will get the message eventually, hopefully before the action becomes a habit.

 

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Dear Linda; I have read many of your articles and several years ago purchased your booklet on Quakers. I would appreciate your advice on a new to my family five year old Quaker. My first Quaker died last October of pancreatitis, a very premature death as she was only four years old. I was devastated at her loss. My Vet called me in December, knowing my love and my heartbreak with the loss of my first Quaker, and asked me about providing a home for another Quaker who needed a home. This Quaker had been a wedding gift (the couple really wanted a dog!) He has not been given a lot of attention and at best it has been sporadic. Also he has been passed around to family members.

He has been on a seed only diet with occasional people foods of bacon, sausage, pancakes and popcorn. Please give me some advice on how I can switch him to better foods. I have been leaving pellets in his bowl through out the day with a small portion of seed mix and Protein 25. He does not touch the pellets but eats the seed and Protein. In the evenings I give him either a vegetable mixture or Crazy Corn. I sprinkle Nekton-S and Nekton MSA on this home cooked food .Any suggestions on how to get him to eating pellets?

Also he is very nippy. He seems to want to have loving attention but then unexpectedly will bite the person trying to pet him. I cannot think of any things that are being done differently or a time difference that would cause him to bite. He will regurgitate while I am giving him attention. (I am assuming that is part of the bonding with me as he does not seem to do this at other times.)

I love this little guy and would like to be able to have a loving relationship with him like I had with my first little Quaker. Also, I want him to be happy and live a long, healthy life. Jan

 

Dear Jan;

Very important . . and I do mean very important. . . . Discontinue the Protein 25 and also the Nekton supplements. I cannot stress this too much. Keep the vegie treats to a bare minimum, just at most a tablespoon full. He will eventually eat the pellets, but not if he is stuffed all the time. The extra supplements are dangerous when you are feeding pellets. The extra protein is very dangerous. It is intended for breeding birds or for birds feeding babies only. With all good intentions, you can easily overdose with these supplements when they are added to a pelleted diet, and cause destruction of the birdís liver and death of the bird. Do not feed any bacon, popcorn, etc. They are all high fat which can result in fatty liver disease. A recent article on pancreatic disease points out the direct connection between this fatal condition and high fats and obesity in Quaker parakeets. Feed him only a mixture of seed and pellets, gradually decreasing the proportion of seed. Add other foods only after this diet has been well accepted.

I am no expert on behavior, but it seems to me that after all the unsettling experiences before he was lucky enough to find your good home, it is surprising that your bird is actually bonding with you so quickly. I think time and patience will eliminate the habit of nipping. Quakers have such excellent memories. It will take many months for yours to feel completely secure with "his flock."

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Dear Sirs: Before introducing myself I would like to apologize to you for any mistakes in this letter. English isnít my strongest point. I am one of 57 members from the local Parrot Society in Piaseczno, a town situated 18 kilometers from the capitol of Poland, about 25,000 people. Our members are breeding various species of birds from Finches to Macaws, few of them did have success with bigger parrots as African Grays. Here in Poland we do have one national magazine0edition about 2500) which is devoted to help pet bird owners with developing their interests. Polish breederís market isnít as big as yours so it is obvious that any bird magazine wouldnít be ever professional in the way we want them to.. Of course, it as one of the reasons why I pluck up courage to write you. The second is that after one of the German breeders send to me a letter with comment about your magazine with your address added Iím able to do it all.

My request is very simple and natural, I hope. I would like to ask you to send me (by post) a sample (representation) of your magazine and every information about conditions and procedures of subscription. Mariusz Onysko

Of course I sent Mariusz a sample copy of The Quaker News along with a warm welcome to join us. We have subscribers in quite a few foreign countries which never ceases to be a source of excitement for me. There are people all over the world who share our love for our little Quakers.

 

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Dear Linda ; A friend gave me a clipping with this information. I do not know the source, but maybe it explains why there are a few Quakers who do not talk. Marilyn from Florida

"Some birds can produce human vocal sounds pretty accurately, but they use different organs. A human utters the words "Polly want a cracker?" by using movements of the lips, tongue, and palate to interrupt and modulate the buzzing sound from the larynx. But parrots donít have lips or palates , and Pollyís tongue is a stiff manipulatory organ that looks and functions something like a finger. Bird sounds are reproduced not by the larynx but by a more elaborate sort of voice box down in the chest that sports multiple vibrating surfaces controlled and modulated by a complex set of muscles. A parrot can use this sound reproduction system to imitate the wave forms of human speech - or a ringing telephone or a flushing toilet - but the performance isnít much like talking (or like ringing or flushing.) By coincidence, the muscles of a birdís voice box are controlled by the hypoglossal nerve and are most complicated in those birds that are the most accomplished talkers and singers."

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Dear Linda; Paco is now 14 months old and we are completely amazed at how smart he is. He has a vocabulary (list enclosed) of over 21 sentences, using some 60 plus words, and relates the words to corresponding actions or needs. Occasionally he will nip me and I pretend to cry and tell him "donít bite, you make Gramma cry." Now if he nips me he says "Donít cry, Gramma. I sorry."

When I say "I love you" he gives me kisses and says "I love you too." Our little Quaker is just loaded with fun, affection, and surprises. Joy from Arkansas

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Dear Linda; My Sam is a little mischief. He puts all his play toys way to the back of his cage and dares us to come and get them. He hollers at us "come and get them!" Can he ever run and laugh . He balances his wood spoon on the open door across the length of the top. Stormy from Missouri.

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Dear Linda: We have three Quakers, but the last one we purchased at 6 months old is so smart it is unbelievable. When we try to tell people the vocabulary he has they laugh at us as if we had lost our sanity. He just seems to pick up whatever we say. His latest is "Give me a carrot and get out of here!" Says "Donít bite me and then gives kisses and laughs. Gloria from Florida

 

TOXIC FUME ALERT

The Carolina Parakeet

A lady at our club meeting yesterday brought in a box of the new Reynolds Cooking Bags, made of aluminum and plastic. The manufacturers claim that you can use the bags for temperatures up to 450 degrees. Our club member used two bags for temperatures up to 450 degrees for thirty minutes and found her Amazon closest to the kitchen pumping for air. Itís eyes were burnt from the fumes A metallic odor filled the house and other birds suffered eye irritations.

Editorís note : Miners used to use canaries in coal mines to test for gas. Any heated item that gives off a strong smell is producing gas. Remove your bird from the area immediately and turn off the source. No Carpet Fresh, no smelly spray stuff of any kind should be used in the area of the birds.

 

THE "GOOD LIFE" FOR PET BIRDS

T.J. Lafeber D.V.M.

The Sunshine State Cage Bird Society

 

Keeping birds as pets or in an aviary may be more complex and somewhat different than one imagines. Although an extremely hearty animal, birds require an untroubled life - free of stress, fear, and anxiety. In order for birds to perform well, they need to be content. With physical and mental health, a balanced diet, and a pleasant environment offering some of the conditions of nature, birds have the opportunity to reach their full potential as a pet or as a breeding animal.

HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM - Birds hide their problems so effectively they need annual examinations by veterinarians. This includes a weight check and lab tests of blood and droppings.

NUTRITION FOR MAXIMUM PERFORMANCE - Dietary deficiencies are the underlying cause of many physical and behavioral problems. Balanced diets are a necessity!

A SENSE OF SECURITY AND SELF ASSURANCE - Birds adjust well to people but have a "carry-over" need for some of the conditions of nature. Once these are satisfied, the bird is more secure, self assured, and content. These conditions are:

Space - No cage is large enough, but the larger the better.

Freedom- Daily activity outside the cage.

Height - Availability to climb to a high perch, preferably out of the cage.

Privacy - a retreat where he cannot be seen.

Companionship - Birds are a flock animal and need to live within a society. Birds are willing to become a part of our flock and enjoy our love and attention.

HARMONIOUS LIVING - For a bird to be free of fear, it must trust everyone with whom it comes in contact. The bird needs positive reinforcement for desirable acts, but no direct punishment for undesirable acts.

Exercise, activity - Birds need activity - keeping busy is important.

GROOMING Feathers need constant care. The normal bird cleans, arranges, and lubricates his feathers intermittently throughout the day. Daily baths help stimulate grooming and feather care.

CHEWING - In the wild the hooked beak of a bird in the parrot family is equivalent to a carpenterís crow bar, a tool used to break things apart. When a bird is allowed, and encouraged to use the beak to chew and tear, the design of nature is being followed.

FOOD GATHERING - One of the birdsí major activities is searching for food. In captivity, food gathering activities can be accomplished by feeding two meals a day with nothing in between.

EXERCISE - Sufficient exercise can be achieved, without flight, through climbing, acrobatics, swinging and other exercise. Clipping a birdís feathers to prevent flight does not upset a bird.

Other activities - A number of toys are available to keep birds busy for long periods.

A SUITABLE ENVIRONMENT - Birds, probably more than any other animal, are sensitive to their surroundings. With suitable conditions, a bird will keep feathers smooth and immaculately groomed, like a suit of clothes fresh from the dry cleaners.

CONFINEMENT AREA - Birds should be housed in units designed to meet their physical and emotional needs.

SOUNDS- Birds can react positively and negatively to sound. Violent sounds definitely have an adverse effect.

SANITATION - Cleanliness of the cage, perch, food and water dishes rate high.

PHOTOPERIODS - Birds, in many ways, have their lives governed by the length of days.

TEMPERATURE - Room temperature of 60 to 75 degrees F and free of chilling drafts are suggested. A drop of 5-10 degrees F at night is beneficial if the bird is healthy and gradually acclimated to change.

CONSISTENCY - Birds do best on a routine schedule with daily activities - feeding, bathing, cleaning - being performed at about the same time each day.

The parrot family is a very diverse group ranging from parakeets all the way to macaws. Each bird has very different physical and psychological needs. Thus some birds lead happy lives without the conditions included in this list. However, because of the large number of birds having problems, owners should provide as many of the items suggested as possible.

 

MAMAíS PROUD

By Bunkie Cothran, a 10 year old Quaker from Colorado

 

Although she may never say it out loud,

Deep in my heart, I know Mammaís proud.

She smiles secretly whenever I nip.

Sheís glad that Iím tough, and she lets it slip.

And though I am forbidden ever to fly.

I know what she is thinking -"What a cool guy!

His aim is dead on, his corners so tight,

And he seems to soar at the speed of light."

 

And when I am squawking, obnoxious and shrill,

Although she complains, it gives her a thrill.

She says that I am feisty and learning to thrive.

What she wants most is for me to survive.

 

When I first met her, I was always afraid.

But she has helped me turn into a renegade.

I show what I need, I get what I want,

I stand up for myself, my maleness I flaunt.

Iím happy-go-lucky, healthy and strong.

And Iíll try any junk food that comes along.

 

When I make no-nos somewhere I shouldnít

She says to me "Bunkie, I wish that you wouldnít"

But sheís not really mad, she forgives everything.

Cause, in her eyes, Iím a wonderful thing!

Even when I do what isnít allowed

I can see in her eyes - Mama is proud.

TEACHING BIRDS TO "GO Potty"

 

Avi Reference Page of Bird Clubs of America

 

Potty training is especially important for birds which stay out of their cages for extended periods of time. It may not be easy for older birds.

Place your bird where you want him to potty. In a commanding, but gentle voice, say it, such as "Go potty!" and stick with the phrase. Donít change. Some prefer to have the bird go atop or in their cages. Others prefer a newspaper, or into a waste basket. Others have a special potty perch.

1. Hold the bird where you want it to go when you think it is time. Say "Go Potty!". Donít move the bird until it does.

2. After itís done stroke the bird and say excitedly "Good boy!" or girl or "Good bird!". Donít give it a treat because this might encourage the bird to go potty more often.

3. Smaller birds go potty more often than bigger birds, ranging from 10 to 30 minutes. Time the sequence and adjust your timing to continue the training. Donít be lax. Most baby birds learn fast, in just weeks.

4. Once your bird goes on command, increase the time between the sessions out of cage. Your bird will learn to hold it longer each time.

Patience in training is a must.

More on Procedure

Think of a command that can be said in polite company and be sure that it is an exclusive word for the action. Watch your bird in its cage. Notice its actions before defecating. A quiver of feathers, tail goes down, then up, andÖ.!

Never punish the bird for accidents. Donít scream. Just let them know your disappointment by your tone of voice. Others say that a firm "No" and return to the cage is effective. Be consistent. Donít stop for a few days and then resume.

 

So what if the bird wonít go?

Take it on a perch/stick to where you want it to go 2 - 5 minutes before it is time. Slowly rotate the stick upward toward its chest. Heíll crouch. Then give the command. Earlier stick training can definitely help. If it still doesnít go, lower the stick abruptly several times so that the bird flaps its wings and passes over the perch several times. Then turn the stick toward its tail and give the command again.

It is time consuming , but with training, your bird can go with you anywhere with your knowing that it wonít leave a mess.

 

Editorís note: Over the years we have included several articles on potty training. They are basically very similar. Has anyone had any success with this? We would all enjoy hearing from you about either successes or failures.

 

BIRD BRAINS ARE BUSY DURING SLEEP

PROBABLY WITH DREAMS OF SINGING

 

Do birds dream, and if so, what do they dream about? The answers are, yes, and probably about singing, a University of Chicago study in the journal "Science" reports. Researchers say their findings add to evidence that dreaming helps animals, including humans, "rehearse" things they have learned to do in the day, and helps them perform better the next day. The discovery came when scientists studying zebra finches noticed that when the birds were asleep, their brains showed a burst of activity in the area known to be involved with singing.

I have observed that most parrots, when falling off to sleep, have the habit of muttering quietly to them selves, With eyes closed, in sleeping position, there will frequently be a lot of quiet talk with only an occasional clear word, if any. Isnít it nice to think that our Quakers, ever anxious to please us, are rehearsing their lessons in their dreams! If Finches dream of singing, perhaps Quakerí s dreams are of talking!

 

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