THE QUAKER NEWS

JULY 1999

 

FROM THE EDITOR

It seems that with every issue of The Quaker News I am discussing yet another product that can cause illness or death in our beloved pets. I am concerned that this repetition of "doomsday" warnings gets monotonous for our readers. The thought that even one pet Quaker will be lost by my failure to report a possible danger forces me to include what may be depressing information.

Just recently I read about those yellow sponges with the green plastic fibers on the back, so convenient for scrubbing. Apparently there is now a new and "improved" version on the market that kills odor-causing fungi in the sponge. The chemical used for this is a derivative of 2-4-D commonly known as Agent Orange. On the back of the package in very tiny print there is a warning to keep this sponge away from pets. Using this sponge for scrubbing cages, dishes, etc could be a real danger.

In another article I read about the death of several pet birds from carbon monoxide poisoning in spite of the fact that there were two carbon monoxide detectors in the house. It seems that the amount of CO it takes to kill a bird is much less than the amount necessary to set off the alarm. Good ventilation is still necessary.

Another source of trouble, which has only recently been publicized, is the danger of zinc poisoning. We have been warned about many sources but need to add the glue that holds together toilet paper and paper towel rolls, favorite toys. The wire inside the twist ties that hold some treats on the cage is another source of zinc .

I will keep reporting to you whatever new information I can pick up, and repeating some of the old for our new pet owners. I have to consider this an important function of your news letter.

From Our Readers

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 to come and get them. Can he run and laugh! He balances his wooden spoon on the open door and length of the top. Stormy from Missouri

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Dear Linda; Our Fred is the funniest little critter! Iíll be lying in bed reading a book and he will take a sudden dislike to the hand not holding the book. He spends hours trying to drive it away so he can have the other hand (the one holding the book) all to himself. He cuddles up to it and coos and preens. He makes turning the page a real adventure! Dave from California

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Dear Linda; We have a three year old Quaker Parakeet named Izzy. He is the joy of our lives! It is so neat to have an animal talk to you, and understand what he is saying! Only another Quaker owner can understand how smart they really are. Caris from Ohio

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Dear Linda; Our precious Quaker "Jammer" is the best bird we could ever have, We love his daily antics. He keeps us laughing every day. Quakers are simply the best friends! Jeannelle from Ohio

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Dear Linda; I have a two year old Quaker and love him very much. I want to get another one so heíll have a playmate and maybe breed. Does it matter about the age difference between them? I donít know how soon Iíll be able to get another one. Hopefully, soon because he is like my shadow and he needs a companion. Debby from West Virginia

 

Dear Debby; Your pet is bonded firmly to you. If you get another bird, before too much time passes, you will find the bond will be to the other bird, not to you. You will lose your shadow! Especially if you set the two birds up in a breeding situation, you will find that you no longer have pets. Experience repeated over and over, shows that you canít have it both ways. You either have breeders or pets. Your pet will probably do much better without a bird companion.

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Dear Linda; I would be interested to know if there are others who have allergies to their birds as I do and how they manage. Patsy from Oregon

Dear Patsy;

Yes, indeed there are others, and I am one of them. Some years ago I had a series of tests and on the list of things to avoid was bird dander and feathers. We had just built a new aviary and breeding and showing birds had become an important part of my life. I just couldnít give up on birds. I have limited the number of pets we keep in the house and strictly adhere to a daily spraying as well as good cage housekeeping. That, combined with frequent use of prescribed antihistamines, works fairly well for me. Anyone with some better ideas?

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Hi Linda: Hereís a little warm weather silliness. Antonio from New York

ROOT FOR DODGER

When the bird Olympics come to town in August, Dodger, the Quaker parrot will compete in the Kidney Bean Flinging event.

"Õ wanted to compete last year." Says Dodger, "but I was really too young. I had to build up some muscle mass."

Dodger, who will be two years old in July will be competing with such prodigious food flingers as African Grays and Umbrella Cockatoos. She says that she is doing it to prove that small birds have what it takes, and to express her disgust with kidney beans.

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Dear Linda: I want to share our Quakerís latest little antic with you. When we are home, Petrieís cage door is almost always open. It is the kind where you pull out the wire and the front opens. We keep his wings clipped so he is always either on his cage or tree stand. I was watching him play on top of his cage and sitting on the tree branch that is placed on top. I never noticed before how he would climb down the cage and inside the door, close the door, go eat or whatever, then open the door, come out, and close the door before going back on top. I watched him do this time and time again before I told my husband to watch him. This is now part of his procedure, We come in to the room and he says "Hi, Mommy. Hi Daddy" I walk over to the cage and ask him if he wants out. He says, "Come out," and Iíll open the door. Out he pops, we get kisses and then it is playtime.

Petrie does have the Quaker voice. I read in your newsletter about a lady who took her Quaker traveling with her. Petrie would be a good traveler, but I am afraid of his being loud from time to time. I wonder what she does? Debbie from Texas

Dear Debbie: I have found that when traveling with my birds the secret to keeping them quiet is to keep the carrier dark Ė a dark cloth draped over the carrier usually works. They think that it is nighttime and sleep. When driving with them in the car, I find they do much better with the same dark cover to avoid the glare of approaching head lights. Another tip I just heard about is to strictly avoid putting the cage on the floor of the car as even a trace of carbon monoxide seeping up through the floor boards can effect them.

Dear Linda; Please give me some advice on how to get a male to breed a female. (Quaker, that is!) They have been getting Quicko Vit.E for awhile. My female is on her second male. Iím giving her one more chance and then Iíll have to get another female. Iím wondering if she just doesnít want to breed. She has laid infertile eggs five times, once with the male I have now. Should I give her another chance? Juanita from Ohio

Dear Juanita: One thing you should try before giving up on that hen, that I have found occasionally to be effective, is to trim away the soft. poufy feathers round her vent. Sometimes these are abundant enough to prevent the sperm from entering the cloaca to fertilize the eggs. Trim the feathers. Do not pluck them or they will grow back within a short time. It is worth a try.

 

SOME TIPS ON TOYS

From South Jersey Bird Club News

TOY TUB

One thing a parrot loves is a safe, non-toxic plastic tub placed in the play room, on top of the cage, or on bottom of the cage.(be careful of feces) containing lots of "bird junk." Let the bird pick and choose the pieces of wood, fruit chews, or left over toy parts.

INTRODUCING TOYS

If your bird is afraid of new things or never had a toy before, introduce the toy slowly so it does not frighten the bird. Hang the toy on the side of the cage or in an area close to the cage where the bird can see the toy. Wait until the bird is reaching for the toy before placing it in the cage.

WHEN SHOULD TOYS BE REPLACED?

Always alternate your birdís toys, at least every two to three weeks. Give your bird a new toy after two to three weeks and replace with old toys. Discard old toys when they are soiled or one half chewed. Remove leftover pieces such as unchewed pieces of wood or marabella beads. These leftover pieces will be good items for the toy tub mentioned above.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD BEGINNERS TOY?

Birds prefer small toys to begin with. They also like toys with smaller pieces of soft, easy to chew pine wood or cholla.

When selecting a toy for your bird, follow these nine basic rules:

Rule # 1- No dog leash style snap hooks, especially for large parrots strong enough to manipulate them.(This advice includes Quakers.)

Rule # 2- Chain links should be smoothly finished and welded. Links should be large enough to prevent toe trapping.

Rule # 3- Toys should not feature small, removable parts that can be easily swallowed by the bird. If your bird receives such a toy, remove the small parts or offer the toy to a smaller bird. You may wish to remove bells or clappers if your bird is mechanically inclined.

Rule # 5- Birds should not be permitted to ingest non-food substances. Even though toy components may be non-toxic, they may impact the crop. Observe your bird at play to be sure it does not actually eat rope, wood, leather, etc.

Rule # 6- Rope toys should be discarded when heavily soiled or frayed.

Rule # 7- Monitor your bird carefully to be sure that it can play safely before leaving it alone with the new item. If you have any doubts over any toy, remove it from the cage when the bird is unsupervised.

Rule # 8- If you are concerned about the safety of suspended toys for athletic parrots, buy hand held play items, or remove components from hanging toys and offer them separately

Rule # 9- Keep your birdís wings and nails well groomed to avoid toy related injury. Many accidents occur because overgrown beaks and nails become trapped in toy parts.

 

WARNINGS

Big Bend Bird Club

Aviculturists have a new headache to watch for: Organic bedding. Weíve been seeing birds die of grit impactions for years now, as we slowly (but hopefully surely) get the information out to the bird owning public. Now we have new killers.

I had a breeder find her male Macaw dead one morning. She had the bird for about a year. He had sired 12 fertile eggs during that year and had been observed feeding his mate the evening before his death. Fortunately for us, the breeder is one of those who is willing to have necropsies done on her birds so that if there is anything we can learn from a birdís death, we will.

When we opened the birdís body we discovered that there were signs of bleeding into the bowel. The gizzard and proventriculus were both distended with bloody food and small corncob bedding. There was so much cob in there that there was very little room for food. Like grit, the corncob bedding was inert and stayed in the gizzard. Unlike grit, the stuff swelled. And the bird had not had access to corn cob bedding for over a year.

Another notable necropsy was on an Amazon. He too died suddenly. His proventriculus was markedly thickened and his bowel, just past the gizzard, showed gross evidence of bleeding. His gizzard was FULL of walnut shell bedding. He had only had access to the bedding for about two hours a month before his death. A survivor who had also only had two hours of access to the walnut shell bedding was seen at the clinic for "off and on" eating and "off and on" depression for five days. Fecal content of the droppings was decreased and in black color. His urates (the white) and urine (the clear liquid) were normal. The bird had been observed to be choking or trying to regurgitate and then vomit the evening before presentation. Blood work indicated that the bird was fighting off an infection or inflammation. The history and physical indicated that it probably had a bowel obstruction. The owner declined X-rays and barium series and would not have opted for surgery if the problem was a tumor, so we attempted medical therapy.

Please donít risk your birdís life. Not just babies eat cage bottom materials: adults can and do as well. Birds of all ages can die from that behavior. So, no walnut shell bedding, corncob bedding, or kitty litter. Plain old newspaper, paper towels, paper in bags or on a roll, etc. work just fine. You can see and evaluate daily dropping, catching any changes before the problem is overwhelming. Color, size, constancy and number of droppings are all very important. Sure, it is easier to "keep clean" if you only change bedding once a week or so, but who knows what is going on with the droppings if you cannot see them?

 

KEEP YOUR BIRD ENTERTAINED AND QUIET

Ann Novak

Pet Information Pages Ė Bird Clubs of America

Inexpensive things can stop the screaming of birds. At the Crafts store you can buy wooden clothespins (not with metal clips) by the dozen. At peak noise periods just hand them out and sit back and enjoy the temporary peace. You can also buy large plastic macramť balls in an assortment of colors. Place one per cage and watch them pick up the ball and carry it everywhere. Some will even roll it on the floor while others will flip on their backs and hold it in their feet. I have one bird that will throw it and run after it to do it all over again. Just throw it into the utensil part of your dishwasher while you are doing their bowls and someone will get a new color the next time around

Craft stores also sell cinnamon sticks. Get the ones wrapped in plastic to avoid the extra bacteria. Depending on the size purchased, break into three inch pieces and pass them out. Like a little wood branch, they will chew it and bring about a most pleasant aroma.

In the grocery store donít forget to go down the paper isle and get some paper (no wax or plastic) bathroom cups. Birds of all sizes love to rip the cups to shreds.

On the pasta isle of the store pick up garden twists (beet, carrot and spinach flavor) mix. Also pick up some large bow tie pasts or any other shape you think your bird can hold. This will quiet down even the largest Amazon once they learn to eat them raw. Just give one or two at a time. This is extra protein but really entertainment and variety to their day. When I pass out my large salad to the birds, before I have finished the room I can hear the crunching of the pasta. It is their first choice over corn.

From your own stock of bird supplies you can cut millet sprays in 2-3 inch pieces instead of giving them an entire spray. Keep a bunch pre-cut in a zip lock baggy so when you are having that important phone conversation you can give them a piece.

Hey, you like your coke and cookies now and then. So do the birds. I think their screaming is just a craving for attention or for something to eat. They are only human!

Pet birds need to be noticed, fed at a regular time, fed treats at meal time if they are within sight of you eating, played with like before, or they will scream like a three year old. Perhaps they scream because the water bottle is empty or their food is gone.

Covering with a blanket or cloth only increases their frustration, though they will be relatively quiet for a time until they get used to being covered for such behavior. They might learn if covered for a short time, like 5,10,or 15 minutes, the length of a telephone call. Otherwise they wonít get the message.

When they scream, do not scream back at them. It will become play, and they will only do it louder. They are being rewarded for their screaming by getting the attention that they crave. Reward birds for good behavior. If the TV is on, theyíll want to compete. Turn down the volume or turn it off and hear the reaction of the birds. Donít punish the birds for being natural. Loud calls are natural in the wild.

Toys are wonderful, but those too become a regular part of their lives. Regular changes keep the bird entertained. As Ann Novak indicates, something that they can hold in their feet is better. Strips of carrot, celery, greens, millet spray or a small stick or clothespin keep them quiet longer.

If the bird continually screams, perhaps heís telling you the cage is too small. Moving him will also provide a new thing for him to get used to, and perhaps quiet him for a spell.

 

BASIC NUTRITION FOR BIRDS

From The Perch ĖLouisiana Avicultural Society

Understanding nutrition is of critical importance because proper nutrition leads to good health and a strong immune system to help fight off disease. Nutrients are required in varying amounts, depending on their functions and the amounts and interactions with each other.

Remember, a bird, like a human baby, relies entirely on your ability to , provide exactly the foods it needs.. Special treats may be given although total treat intake should not exceed 20% of the total diet.

There is a considerable amount of anecdotal information available from aviculturists, breeders, and hobbyists reporting observations on different foodstuffs. Valid, scientific evidence is less numerous. It is wise to assume that any food or agent that is harmful for dogs, cats, or people is also harmful for birds. Unfortunately, birds appear to be much more susceptible to toxins than mammals. This increased susceptibility to toxins may be due in part to their smaller size, rapid metabolism and unique physiology.

A growing concern for birds that is not related to toxic foods or agents found in foods is the practice of feeding table scraps. A common belief is that if birds eat people food, they will receive a good diet. Unfortunately, this is generally not the case for the following reasons. People generally do not eat healthy. The incidence of heart disease, cancer, and obesity in Americans is certainly due in part to poor dietary habits. While many people begin by feeding their birds nutritious foods these good intentions often decay into fatty, salty, fast food items. Even people who provide a well-balanced table diet to their birds cannot guarantee consumption of all the diet provided. As with any diet, what is placed in front of the bird is not necessarily what it consumes.

Further, if a bid consumes a food, which is high in calories, it may not be able to eat enough food to be properly nourished. Birds, like all animals, eat to meet their energy requirements. A single food source, provided in sufficient quantity, may provide a bird with its daily energy requirements while depriving it of its daily nutrient needs. An example of this principle is a cookie. A single cookie may contain as many as 200 calories, or roughly the entire caloric requirement for a macaw.

Another problem with table scraps or human foods involves bulk. Birds are very small animals. Giving a parrot half a small apple is equivalent to a person being given a ten pound head of lettuce to eat.. Many foods, fruits especially, are high fiber foods, which may fill the crop, proventriculus and ventriculus and lead to satiety (the state of being full, not hungry). Again, foods which contain high fiber or are high bilk, may fill the bird but not provide adequate nutrients..

Given then, certain "nutritious" foods are not necessarily good for your bird. Foods must be provided in the appropriate amounts and must be balanced for energy in an overall dietary scheme.

 

MORE ABOUT TICKLE-TICKLE

Linda Greeson

Back in the spring of 1997 I was fortunate to become acquainted with a small bird breeder who was willing to sell me a Cinnamon mutation Quaker along with the parent birds. This lady needed a new roof for her house and even though it was a large house and a large and expensive roof she needed the money for, I was delighted to accept her offer.

In the Cinnamon mutation lime green replaces the dark green of the normal. The lores, cheeks, and throat, normally gray, are so pale a gray they are almost white. The primaries and tail are greenish cinnamon on top and cinnamon on the undersides. The feet and legs are pale, almost flesh colored. The eyes are a dark, reddish brown, not the bright red of the Lutino.

While we had our new Cinnamon hen in the house in isolation from the other birds she amused us by immediately starting to talk. Whenever anyone approached her cage she would rush over calling "Tickle! Tickle!" in a sweet little voice, accompanied by a tinkly laugh that was almost a giggle.

It was with regret that we moved "Tickle-Tickle" out to the bird room in a cage next to that of the visual blue we had chosen as her mate. She had to learn to be a bird and break her strong bond to humans. She would have made a delightful pet, but with all the money I had invested in her that was a luxury I couldnít afford. I had to stick to my breeding program.

That was the spring of 1997. It wasnít until this spring, 1999, that Tickle finally accepted the attentions of her visual blue mate. For the past year we had Moved the pair out to the big aviary where they are surrounded by other breeding birds and see humans briefly for feeding and housekeeping chores.

Tickle-Tickle produced four eggs and sat on them faithfully, not leaving the nest to talk to humans. The babies are Normal-split-to-blue-and-cinnamon cocks and normal-split-to-blue hens.

While Tickle-Tickle was taking her time to accept a mate, I mated her father with a normal green hen. After about twenty normal green chicks I have about given up on his producing any more Cinnamons. The mutation is sex linked. Only the cock is involved in producing the Cinnamons. There is always the possibility that the father bird is not a split but that Tickle-Tickle is a spontaneous mutation. If this is true, neither parent has anything to do with the mutation.

The breeding plan for the next generation is to pair a Normal-Split-To-Blue-and Cinnamon cock with a Blue hen. A number of combinations are possible. What I am hoping for is a Cinnamon Blue hen. These are rare and lovely mutations commonly called "Icicles" which have recently been produced in this country.

Tickle-Tickleís reluctance to mate for so long caused me to lose the race with other Aviculturists to produce the first Icicles. This came as no surprise to me. My experience has been that good pets, closely bonded to their owners from infancy, are very reluctant to accept the new role of a producing bird. Chicks which have been incubated and hand fed from day one often never make the transition. If they do eventually breed, they often make poor parents. They have not learned how from their own parents and more often than not do sit or feed well.

 

PARROT NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS

From The Perch

I resolve to throw more food and toys all over the floor. This will give my humans more exercise so they wonít have to waste time at the gym.

I resolve to help my Mom on that pile of clothes that needs altering. I will remove all buttons, snaps and decorations from shirts.

I resolve to practice my wild banshee screams at a higher decibel, so my humans wonít have to bothered by the sounds of that noisy TV.

I resolve to make my Dad happy by shredding all the papers on his desk so he wonít have to make out his income taxes.

I resolve to only be sick on holidays and after midnight. This will give my overworked veterinarian more sleep, as my humans will not be able to call him.

I resolve to pluck out all my feathers. That way my humans wonít have to complain about feather dust all over the furniture.

I resolve to become potty trained. I will only secretly drop on the backs of good clothing because humans always get angry if you do it on the couch.

I resolve to help my humans save money on groceries. I will refuse all expensive fruits and veggies. I will eat only seeds and sneak junk food when they arenít looking.

I resolve to stop biting. I will use my beak only to remove unwanted household items Ė VCR buttons, book jackets, watch knobs, lamp cords, plant leaves and cat tails.

 I resolve to whisper "I love you" into my humans ears each night so they wonít ring home another bird that they donít have time for.

 

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