THE QUAKER NEWS

JANUARY 1994

 

WHY A QUAKER NEWSLETTER?

What I really wanted to initiate was a Quaker Club. Considering that our members would be scattered all over the USA, Canada, and even such far away places as Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands and Australia, this was not a workable idea. Even if we who are devoted to our little Quakers, and involved in breeding them, cannot get together over coffee and doughnuts, we can use The Quaker news as a substitute.

By way of this publication we can share stories about our pets, helpful hints for their care, and questions for which we have not found answers.

I do not want this news letter to be limited to the editor's experiences and ideas. I would rather that it serve as a clearing house and a means of communication between all of you who love Quakers.

So, dash off a note to me. Nothing formal is required. Let's get our club meetings on paper going.

A HELPFUL HINT

Have you tried using a Barbecue Grill Brush to remove those dried droppings from the bottom grill of your Quaker's cage? The brass bristles work just as well on the cage as on the barbecue. I suggest that you invest in a new one and keep it just for the cage cleaning chore.

FROM OUR READERS

Paula, from Michigan, writes: Two weeks ago I drove 250 miles round trip to purchase a hand fed baby Quaker, whose name is aptly called "Oatmeal." He was eight weeks old, and I still feed him oatmeal at breakfast."

Good luck with Oatmeal, Paula. I know that he will prove worthy of that long trip. 

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Lisa, from Tennessee, writes: " I think that Quakers are one of the most under appreciated birds around - at least in this area they are."

We all know that Quakers are generally not recognized as the wonderful pets they are in many parts of the country. Let's change that!

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Theresa, from Oklahoma writes: "I am a proud owner of one of these small parrots (Quakers) and want to give it everything that I am sure it'll give back in spades. I'm needing information on types of food, sickness, temperament, how to train a parent raised bird, what they enjoy as a single bird, and what kinds of treats should be offered."

That is a tall order, Theresa, but bit by bit we will try to provide you with all this information.

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Barb, from Illinois, writes: "Please warn your readers to lock or secure their Quakers' cages well. My first, Buddy, pushed open his cage door while I was at work, and my dog killed him. I now use a clip lock."

Good advice, Barb. Our clever little Quakers are really escape artists. We had one pet who managed to figure out how to open intricate clip fastenings that gave me trouble to operate. We resorted to a small padlock, hanging the key well out of his reach, just in case! On the breeding cages I make a small box of the cage wire, securing it well on the inside of the cage with J clips, covering the area around the cage door fastener. We also completely cover the Quakers' nest boxes with wire, making a lift up opening with a good fastener to allow for nestbox inspection. Some of the little rascals have succeeded in chewing a hole in the nest box large enough for them to fly free.

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Jo An, from Maryland, wrote to thank me very much for this publication, with the "very" underlined.

Thank you for the thank you, Jo An. I am so happy to hear all the enthusiasm and interest that is being expressed over our Quaker News. Getting started on a project like this is a rather worrisome thing to do. It is so satisfying to hear that many of you share my enthusiasm.

ARE TOMATO VINES AND LEAVES TOXIC?

In the article I wrote for Bird Talk Magazine, published in June of 1993, I described my practice of growing cherry tomato vines just for my Quakers. In the September issue of the magazine, in the Back Talk section, a letter from a reader was published stating that he had found tomato leaves and vines listed as toxic plants. The poison control center in his area verified this, stating that all greens on a tomato plant are toxic and should not be given to any bird. The magazine contacted Dianne Barr at the Animal Control Center at the University of Illinois who also confirmed this information.

My healthy, happy, breeding Quakers have been enjoying building their nests with tomato vines for the past ten years with no ill effects that I have ever noticed. In spite of my experience otherwise, I quickly came to the decision to take no chances. Now the birds are given only the little tomatoes, no more vines for nesting for them. If there is the slightest doubt about the toxicity of any plant, the safest course is to remove it. I do not understand why my birds have not had ill effects, but I bow to the wisdom of these people at poison control centers who base their findings on more than the experience of one breeder.

NEW ADDITIONS TO OUR FAMILY PETS

My Mother is now the proud owner of a pair of Quakers. "Mr" is a lovely visual blue and "Mrs" is a green with a blue heritage. Mother waited her turn and paid the usual price, and at first hovered anxiously over her pair, worrying over them because of the big outlay of money involved. In a very short time she has become so devoted to them that their cost is no longer the important factor.

Mr and Mrs are housed in a large cage out on her glass enclosed porch, and no birds ever had it so good. She finished weaning them herself and now has them eating a more varied and better diet than most humans.

To keep them entertained she has frequented the toy section of the local pet shops, always carefully checking with me on the safety of each new play thing. She insists that they would not become bored with a toy in a few days if they were not such intelligent birds. She does have to admit, though, that a toy removed from the cage and presented a week or so later is "new" all over again. At present her Quakers are enjoying a form of bird soccer, knocking a hickory nut around the bottom of their cage. They rapidly adjusted to having her dog, an eighty pound Akita, press her nose to the side of the cage to better observe their antics. They seem to welcome the dogs attention, showing no fear.

The pair are still youngsters, but listen attentively as she repeats "Hello, Mr." and "Hello Mrs". So far they only reply with busy chattering but I assure her that they will soon reward her efforts by forming words. I get a daily report from Mother on her Quakers' progress, and I know that she will consider news of their first words worthy of publication. As I remember she was never quite this excited over her grandchildren.

COLD WEATHER PRECAUTIONS

Winter is here, even in the south land. Quakers are unusually hardy little birds and very tolerant of cold weather if they have been properly acclimated to the low temperatures. Protected from cold winds, many Quakers are kept in out door aviaries and seem to do amazingly well.

Here in Florida our temperatures rarely drop below the forties and my breeding flock is kept in an open aviary with only a wind break during the coldest weather.

Our pets, used to the sheltered environment in our homes, require more protection in the winter months. Drastic changes in temperature are not well tolerated. The common practice of keeping our homes comfortably warm during the day but lowering the thermostat considerably at night can cause problems. The ordinary, thin cotton cage cover will not sufficiently contain the bird's body heat to compensate for drastic changes in the temperature of the room. A portion of a blanket, or a heavily quilted cage cover, snugly secured around the cage at night will suffice if you do not lower that thermostat too much.

I strongly advise against the use of any form of plastic for a cage cover. Quakers love to chew and small pieces of plastic material which are retained in the bird's crop can cause serious illness or even the loss of your bird.

If necessary, change the location of the cage away from the drafts of an opening door. Avoid keeping the cage too close to a radiator or hot air vent. Our objective is to maintain as nearly a constant temperature as possible, with no drastic changes. When you observe your bird sitting on the perch in a crouched position with his feathers fluffed out, he is indicating that he is uncomfortably cool. If he is too warm his feathers will be closely pressed to his body and he will be breathing with his beak open - much like our panting after a run on a hot day.

ABOUT THOSE TREATS

With so many goodies in our homes, the holiday season has been a difficult time for pet owners. It is hard to deny the little beggars just a bite of a chocolate chip cookie, or not to enjoy watching our bird cleverly handle a small pretzel. We excuse this indulgence with the thought that just a little bit will not hurt him.

When giving treats we must consider that the weight of the average Quaker is only 125 Grams. This translates into roughly four ounces, or only about .0023% of a human owner weighing 135 pounds. ( I chose 135 pounds as just an arbitrary figure. After the holidays, congratulations to those of you this number fits!)

Just think, proportionately, how much caffeine, sugar, or salt a human would be consuming to ingest 400 to 500 times the amount given to the bird. Give your bird just one quarter of that chocolate chip cookie and the equivalent amount to yourself would be at least 100 cookies. One teaspoon of your morning coffee is the proportionate amount of caffeine you would be drinking in four to five hundred teaspoons - about ten cups of coffee. My figures are only approximations, and subject to correction, but even if not completely accurate the point that a little bit can hurt is very clear.

Let us all make a new Years Resolution for the better health of our pets. " Only healthy treats in 1994." They will not feel deprived if you offer a grape, a slice of apple, a bit of whole wheat bread or muffin, an unsalted peanut, or one of the new bird treat cookies now showing up in the pet stores. They will be stronger and healthier birds as a result. Refusing them unhealthy treats is a demonstration of our love for them. Anything containing salt in considerable amounts, large amounts of fat and sugar, and even small amounts of caffeine found in coffee, tea, chocolate, or colas, should be considered harmful, no matter how small the amount.

A HELPFUL HINT FOR OUR BREEDERS

I have always enjoyed hand feeding my baby Quakers. I never seem to tire of this task, but the daily emptying, washing, and sanitizing of the brooder boxes is less than a fun activity - especially with a line up of a half dozen or more.

I use plastic storage boxes, 10" x 14" x 7" high to contain the babies I am hand feeding until they graduate to a cage. To line the boxes I now cut off about 10 inches from the top of a brown paper grocery bag, folded down flat. The amount cut off can be altered to fit the height of the container you use. I open the bag out, placing the folded, cut off section in the bottom to square it up. I add a few folded paper towels and a generous layer of shavings in the bottom.

This fits very nicely into the brooder boxes, and can easily be lifted out and disposed of with no mess. Changed daily, moisture does not seep through the bag to contaminate the box. If it should, a quick scrub with hot water and soap, or a soak in a bleach solution is simple enough to accomplish.

The obliging manager of our local grocery store sold me one hundred of the bags for only seven cents each, but family and friends are only to happy to save their bags for recycling by the Quakers.

BAD NEWS FOR OUR KANSAS FRIENDS

I recently received a letter from Pati Hazell, President of the Kansas Avicultural Society, telling me that Quakers are now illegal in Kansas. She states that Article XVI 2316-1 of the state law prohibits transportation, possession, or lease of the Monk Parakeet, Myiopsitta monarchus (Quaker).

The law goes on to say that any of this bird species possessed by persons prior to February 1, 1978, may be retained in possession, in closed confinement, by making application to the director.

Pati states that this regulation has caused some real grief. To protect their owners, the KAS had to prohibit the showing of Quakers at their show. Prior to the show, the organization was informed that a law enforcement officer would be at the show to take possession of any Quakers then and there and destroy them on the spot.

Pati and her husband are making every possible effort to fight this law, contacting numerous agencies of government and enlisting the aid of the American Federation of Aviculturists. For more information write Pati Hazell, 1528 S. Pershing, Wichita, Kansas, 67218.

 

Dear Linda,

I bought our first Quaker last July, which is the parrot who now owns us. "Joshua" has been a smashing hit with the family. He has tons of charm and character. He loves to ride on my four year old son's head and enjoys antagonizing the cat. Josh is even warming the heart of my husband - the same man who once said "NO, you are not buying a bird!"

With the good I suppose you can receive bad as well. Except I am not sure if this is "bad." Jack is only seven months old, and I believe he has become a bit too attached to me. When I am holding him and even scratch him the slightest bit on his belly, he becomes "turned on." It's rather embarrassing. I'm very much an amateur bird owner and perhaps this is normal. Does this sound like he is sexually frustrated? If this is what I think it is, should I find Josh a new home where he would be able to breed? Or is this like a teenager phase and it will pass? Do you know if all parrots do this?

Judy, from Texas

Dear Judy:

I think that you have diagnosed Josh's behavior very well. He is most likely a young male (females rarely exhibit this behavior) whose hormones are starting to percolate. The urge to reproduce and keep the species going is instinctive behavior and he has no inhibitions.

It has been my experience that this embarrassing behavior will gradually become less frequent unless you allow it to become a habit. Try scratching his head, distracting him with a treat or a toy, or even scold him and return him to the cage when it starts. Quakers form habits very quickly. Once a behavior pattern is established by repetition over even a short period of time, it is difficult to break.

Josh sounds like such a delightful pet it would be a shame to send him off into a breeding situation. He has learned to appreciate all of your attention and his place in your family at an early age. I doubt that he would be a happier bird as just a breeder. He has bonded to you, and well may not even accept a female Quaker in your place. Try to control his embarrassing behavior, yes, but until he has learned to demonstrate his love for you in a more acceptable way, understand that he is just following the instincts natural to any animal. Do let us know how you and Josh progress with your training.

WARM WISHES FOR HAPPINESS AND GOOD HEALTH TO ALL MY FRIENDS AND TO ALL THEIR CHARMING LITTLE QUAKERS

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