THE QUAKER NEWS

OCTOBER 1997

 

FROM THE EDITOR

Quite often I hear complaints about how expensive Avian Veterinary care is. A common remark is that the Vet’s bill was twice the selling price of the bird being treated..

I do not enjoy paying Vet bills myself, but I must spring to the defense of all those dedicated and devoted professionals who elect to specialize in Avian medicine. The small animal Vet does not charge for services according to whether a mongrel dog or a valuable thorobred is being treated. The

Avian Vet’s charges are the same for the same service for a $2000 parrot or a $10 Budgie. What they are charging for is expertise, training, experience, and their valued time.

When treating humans doctors rated as specialist charge more for their services than general practitioners. Avian medicine is a specialty. To be eligible for board certification with the Association of Avian Veterinarians the already qualified professional must pass a lengthy and comprehensive written examination and submit two written papers on avian medicine considered worthy for publication. To stay up to date on this rapidly changing field this specialist must read extensively in professional journals and publications and attend numerous conferences and seminars.

To get good care for our birds we must be prepared to pay for it - and be thankful to find a skilled and caring professional no matter what the cost.

 

FROM OUR READERS

Dear Linda;

I plan on sharing my subscription with a neighbor of mine who introduced me to her Quaker. Now I am not sure how I would ever get along without my Georgie."

He is still not talking but he does take an hour or so each morning, practicing making "people noises." A thought came to me about these wonderful little creatures, pertaining to impatience on our part. I would love to hear Georgie say "OK, you smart human being - Talk bird! Now you know something at which I will be better than you some day!" David from Colorado

David wrote just a few weeks later to proudly announce that George is now saying (even if slightly garbled) "My name is George. What’s yours?" David also inquired about potty training his "wonderful little poop machine."

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Dear Linda;

I have just recently read that Quaker Parakeets are now legal in New Mexico and Idaho where that have previously been banned. How about New Jersey? Anything new? Anne from New Jersey

The last information I have had is that in New Jersey they are now legal as pets by permit after meeting strict regulations, but breeding them is still forbidden. It seems some progress is being made. I have heard that they are now legal in Maine with a permit but permits seem hard to get. In Kansas too they are legal with a permit but readers tell me that the state has no forms for such a permit and the Department of Fish and Wildlife will not issue one . Perhaps if you bird lovers in these states put some pressure on the lawmakers you could get even more favorable revisions of the laws. Getting your bird clubs involved seems the most effective way to go.

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Dear Linda; My little Quaker, Alberta, has been with us for one year this July 4th. She was 9 weeks old when we bought her. She’s a charmer but says absolutely nothing. We have sincerely tried everything - tapes, repetition. Baby talk, etc but to no avail. She gets tons of attention and affection. Please recommend something. Cynthia from New York

Mattie Sue Athan, the much respected authority on bird behavior, says that a baby Quaker can be virtually guaranteed to talk. She agrees with me that it is nor necessary to drive your bird up the wall with recordings and formal sessions. I have found that they say what they hear most often . There may be some who just do not have the capacity to mimic human speech, but it will be a rare one indeed.

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Dear Linda;

I have had my Quaker Jasmine for a year as of the past June . I brought her home as a baby and in a year’s time she has truly captured my interest, dedication, and heart. I read a great deal about birds and when I discovered your publication was thrilled. They really are bright, spunky, and full of wonder. With a great deal of patience, time, love, effort, persistence, affection, and discipline. My Jasmine is fast becoming a wonderful addition to my family.

She understands and learns quite quickly. My only problem is that she won’t talk in front of me. She’ll talk while covered when she’s "in bed" or when she is alone in the kitchen playing on her cage. (the kitchen is safe for her.) She’ll repeat words if I talk to her, but I am very patient and leave her to develop at her own pace. Is this type of behavior unusual?. Janice from New York

You answered your own question, Janice. Patience, time, love, effort, persistence, affection and discipline are what it takes. It is not at all unusual for our pets to demonstrate odd behaviors as you describe. Usually the best way to handle this is not to reinforce the actions by additional attention. Talk away to Jasmine whenever you are near - no coaxing or fussing when she decides not to talk in your presence. This too will pass - just a stage if not too much attention is placed on her behavior.

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Dear Linda;

I recently purchased a Quaker Parakeet. I looked at these little birds for a year before deciding to buy one and I am totally delighted with the one I bought. He is two months old and his name is Mango. I think he is already saying his name, no-no, and good. At least it sounds like it! I am absolutely crazy about him. My husband says "That bird thinks you are his mama." Mango thinks that the only place he belongs is on my shoulder or chest and we spend a lot of time that way. The problem is that I will soon be going back to work and leaving him for about nine hours a day. Do you think I will have any problems or will my little one adjust? Valini from Kentucky

It may be a bit late for this advice now, but it would have been a good idea to gradually cut down on time with you and more time in his cage before you made a drastic change in Mango’s life style. Frequent changes of toys to amuse him are usually suggested. Many owners set the radio or TV - or sometimes both at different intervals - on timers - dried fruit treats are safe to leave - No doubt that the change will be difficult for him, but birds are like small children - they seem to eventually adjust to just about any situation.

 

SEEDS OF DISCONTENT;

Getting to The Root Of The Problem

Susan W. Farlow of Jacot Unlimited

With her permission to reprint in this issue of Quaker News only.

Having completed the morning bird care tasks, and armed with a big mug of coffee, I had just settled in at my desk when the call came in. As I reached for the receiver I glanced at the clock. It was 8:15 AM, an unusual time to receive a business call. The caller’s voice, barely concealing tears, faltered as she recounted her dilemma.

"Birdie has been very good since you visited us and I’ve done as you suggested, faithfully, every day for the past four months. Then, this morning, after being very sweet and gentle while I scratched her, she suddenly lunged at my face. I got a bad bite. It was terrifying. It happened so fast. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t imagine giving her away and never knowing if she is being well cared for. But I can’t keep living like this, not knowing when she will attack me again. And how could I expose any other owner to this danger? I’m beginning to think that the only course left is to put her to sleep."

As a behavior consultant to pet bird owners I sighed quietly while listening to another sad, but all too familiar story. A juvenile bird, once cute and reliably loving, had matured into a ten year old threat to its owner’s safety. The owner felt angry, fearful, rebuffed, and very confused. A discussion about motivating factors, a recommendation to have an avian veterinarian evaluate the bird promptly, and my advice not to take the incident too personally set the course for addressing the immediate problem. The owner agreed to call again after she took "Birdie" to her avian veterinarian.

I reflected on the number of birds and owners needing "help or something", to quote one harassed caller. By the time I am called to assist, many birds have been listed for sale in newspapers or swap and buy magazines, dismissed by owners as "untrainable", "gone bad", or "too wild."

Most birds and owners I have worked with benefit enormously from straight-forward instruction in effective communication, including a consistent use of the "up" and "down" commands. Through their own efforts, most owners are successfully sharing the home they had enjoyed with their birds before the problem behavior surfaced. A little insight, and some good handling techniques, will go far toward maintaining a successful bird-owner relationship.

By far, the most important long term success occurs when the owner is willing to understand the bird as being of distinctly avian, social, and instinctive behaviors. However, in some situations, a bird’s behavior will not be altered by its relationship with its human owner. For example, when hormone levels surge, avian self control may fly out the window.

Although a few generations removed from their wild origins, pet birds still display certain behaviors to ensure their survival and reproductive success. Pet Budgies have been bred in captivity for over one hundred and fifty years, but like their distant relatives, Amazons and Cockatoos, they will still respond to certain situations with predictable behaviors.

Because many of our pet birds love to cuddle and whisper "sweet nothings" into our ears while they nibble on our ear lobes, we easily assume they have adopted human social behaviors. Inquisitive and highly social, many parrot species recognize how to successfully bond with their human "flock mates." However, we are unwise to assume they have become less bird like in the process.

All pet birds have sophisticated methods for ensuring and maintaining a specific position in the flock hierarchy. And as adults within this social group, birds are impelled to produce young. We throw our mature pet birds a curve ball when the only available mate is a human being who may already have a spouse and children. What should we do? Shall we buy a friend for our feathered Romeo?

There is no guarantee that two birds will accept one another as mates - an arranged marriage if ever there was one! And, if the pair never produce a single egg it is quite likely that instead of showering their owner with affection, the two birds will be more responsive to one another. But, should the two birds bond and produce chicks, are the human "flock mates" ready for baby birds galore, and the commitment involved? There are no simple solutions when there is conflict between the needs of the bird and its human "flock mates."

People have kept companion birds for thousands of years. The compelling beauty and personality of feathered companions will always fascinate and entertain us. Increased study and avian research have offered an array of dietary products, informational resources, and avian veterinary services which can improve the health and quality of life for all cage birds. Still "Birdie" and her unhappy owner, like many others, struggle to coexist.

Living successfully with pet birds from their juvenile days through adulthood need not pose insurmountable problems. Regardless of the species, some basic practices apply. The most important first step in bird ownership is to become a well informed bird owner before the first bird is purchased.

When a new bird arrives home good manners and a healthy relationship begin with clear, consistent instructions and guidelines about acceptable behavior. Teach the bird to step up and down on command from the hand or hand held perch, and trim flight feathers regularly. The best treatment for problem behavior is to avoid allowing such behavior to develop in the first place. If a bird’s actions confuse you, contact an avian veterinarian, or an experienced pet store staff member, for a referral to a behavior specialist. A bird behavior specialist can interpret the behavior and provide instruction on handling and training methods.

Many books and magazines illustrate how to encourage positive behavior and how to effectively avoid or correct problems as they develop. A number of resources exist to help every bird owner understand his or her bird’s behavior. A well informed and educated owner is better prepared to discern whether a behavior is a problem that can be corrected, or a characteristic behavior that should be tolerated with insightful responses. And the concept of tolerance, with insightful response, makes me think of ‘Birdie", whose future is unclear.

Although "Birdie’s" owner sought the help needed and earnestly tried to correct the problems that had developed, the owner continued to expect "Birdie" to put aside her "birdness" in order to fulfill a human need. "Birdie’s " owner tries to assure herself that "Birdie" still loves her by offering scratches under the wings and on the belly when their relationship appears to be going smoothly. As a mature adult "Birdie" has become so stimulated by these scratches that breeding motivated behavior causes spontaneous aggression toward her human "mate" and the vicious circle continues.

New handling techniques and changes in the home environment have helped "Birdie" and her owner to some extent. But there is no easy solution while "Birdie" acts like a mature bird, anxious to breed, when her owner needs "Birdie" to be a submissive cuddler and cannot accept her natural needs. Once the owner is able to accept Birdie as she is, and is willing to explore other interactions with the bird that are less provocative, she will have a far clearer picture of "Birdie’s" potential as a family pet.

It is our responsibility to learn to understand the natural behavior of the birds who share our homes. Let’s try never to assume that in the bird-human relationship, the human is always the teacher.

 

ABOUT OUR JOSHUA

Diane and David Lepri of D&D Feather Friendly

We both enjoy reading your enjoyable and informative news letter. It is so amazing how many common traits these little guys have with each other Our Joshua, who is 5 years old, has about a 25 word vocabulary. He’s such a character too. Boy, is he ever a good eater! Our Vet says that he is quite large for a Quaker but he’s not fat. One of his favorite foods is my meatloaf . If he doesn’t get a piece put in his dish he stares you down until you put some in. Joshua eats with us at every meal. My husband has made him his own portable feeding stand that we take along with us.

Joshua loves to travel. My husband made his travel cage so he can sit up on top and eat. When we are traveling, he yells out "I want out!" until you let him out. On one of our trips he learned to say "Beep Beep" like the radar detector. He also imitates my husband chewing gum. You ask him " How does Daddy chew gum?" and he moves his beak in a chewing fashion. (My husband chewed a lot of gum on one of our vacations when he quit smoking three years ago.)

One thing Joshua does that we enjoy is his bath taking. He yells out "Taking a bath!" and then proceeds to get into his water dish, at which point we put in a lot of clean water and watch him dive in and out - all the time yelling ""Taking a bath! Taking a bath!" When he hears my husband cleaning out or filling up our large aquarium that is next to his cage he’ll yell out "Taking a bath!"

He also announces in a loud voice "Nite Nite" when he wants to go to bed. The longer we take to respond, the louder he yells it. Once he’s in for the night he then whispers "Give Mama a kiss" and throws me a kiss.

We never knew how enjoyable a bird can be until we got him. Now I can’t imagine life without him. In the future we are thinking of getting another bird to join our family. Joshua is really an amazing little guy, even when he is getting into trouble.

 

A HELPFUL HINT

From Beverly in New Mexico

 

I would like to share a short story that may help save some of our little friends, no matter if they are green or blue.

One day when I got home from work I found "Shredder", one of my four Quakers on the floor of the Aviary. I thought that she might be egg bound, so I called my Avian Vet. She said that she could see Shredder in 2 hours, so we were off and running.

At that time I lived in Texas and Dr Weaver was in New Mexico. Dr Weaver said that Shredder as in critical condition with a viral infection. She gave me some antibiotics but little hope for Shredder. I tried to give her the medicine but she would not take it. In fact, she did everything but bite me to avoid it. She would not eat and would not drink water either.

I was hand feeding a baby cockatiel at that time. Every time I would feed the baby Shredder would perk up and watch. I tried giving her some of the baby food and "she liked it!" So I put her medicine in the next spoonful and she ate it. I had forgotten that she was hand fed until that moment.

For the next week she would eat with the baby, of course with her own spoon and bowl of food. I gave her the medicine in the first spoonful of baby food at the time she was to take it, and just baby food at four hour intervals. Three days after I had started this she started trying her regular food and a week after that was pronounced healthy by Dr Weaver.

Now Shredder, Taz, Riply and Jazz are back to their crazy games in the aviary. I will never forget to try hand feeding formula if any of them get sick. Thanks to Dr Weaver and a baby cockatiel, Toby.

 

MURPHY’S LAWS OF BIRD KEEPING

From Bulletin of Heartland Avian Society

Young fledge on cold, wet days

The bird you want to buy has already been sold.

Other peoples birds look better than your own, even if you beat them at shows

The hen dies first in breeding pairs

The hen bought to replace the hen in No. 4 will not go to nest.

The bird bought as a hen from the dealer is a cock.

The bird bought in No. 6 hybridizes with the best hen in the aviary.

Young hatch when live food is in short supply.

Only Zebra Finches breed successfully when maintained in a mixed Finch collection.

The pair that will not breed are both the same sex.

You cannot breed mice and birds in the same aviary.

Overcrowding occurs due to previous breeding successes.

Seed runs out on public holidays when shops are closed.

Birds are more interested in pairing with those in the next aviary than with those in their own aviary.

The bird you just bought is sick.

When you hold birds, hoping for a price increase, the price drops.

Seed prices rise a week before you buy a year’s supply.

No one knows what was wrong with the bird until the post mortem - and sometimes not even then.

The largest, fittest. Healthiest looking bird in the aviary is found dead on the floor the next morning.

Catch birds in a large planted aviary and find more than you expected.

The only bird missing in the aviary is a favorite, very expensive and hard to replace.

 

IF YOU’D BEEN MY CHICK

A poem For My Eight Year Old Quaker

Barb of Denver

I know that you feel you have to act tough

because in the past you were treated so rough.

When you were a hatchling

no one treated you kind.

But I am so glad at least today you are mine.

When you were a chick

you had to grow up quick.

You never learned to play

in the usual way.

The time to learn talking

has passed long ago

But we’re the best of buddies-

I don’t need words to tell me so.

Still. I dream of your youth, your earliest days.

I long for the truth - were you stolen away?

Did you ever feel scared or afraid you would die?

You’re a little survivor, the apple of my eye.

You’re OK now, or at least so you seem.

Still. Here’s what I sometime think of and dream:

If you’d been my chick, I’d have loved you so true,

making sure only good things happened to you

If I’d been the one to raise you from birth,

I’d have shown the whole world how much you are worth.

I’d have held you and cuddled,

til we both were befuddled.

And you’d talk all the time.

Sing songs and say rhymes.

And tell me in words what you want and need -

A bath or a kiss or a sunflower seed.

And I would have watched you grow like a weed!

Snuggled up against my heart.

I’d have never let us be apart.

We’d have played and sung, beak to nose.

And I’d always kiss your little toes…..

Like I do now, my little ball of fluff.

Though I missed your beginnings

today is enough.

 

FROM AVI-REFERENCE PAGE

Bird Clubs of America

Dr Joel Murphy, a highly respected Avian Vet from Clearwater, Florida, states that one day of illness for a bird is like seven days of illness for a human. So, when you first recognize that your bird is ill, it is important to seek Veterinary help quickly. Buying a general purpose antibiotic at your local pet shop in order to medicate your bird first allows your bird to become even more ill and will seriously compromise the results of any diagnostic tests performed by your veterinarian when you do get to see him.

Did you also know that a bird’s normal temperature is 103-107 degrees?

BEATING BAD BACTERIA

Dr Sam Vaughn DVM

Avi Reference Page - Bird Clubs of America

When we find a sick bird that bacterial disease has made ill, the most common question is "How in the world did my bird get exposed to this bacteria?"

The answer is in having a knowledge of bacteria, what they are and where they are. Bacteria are single celled organisms so tiny that thousands can fit into a space the size of a pin head.

Bacteria are basically two types: beneficial and harmful (potentially disease causing). Most people do not realize that bacteria are everywhere. They inhabit our mouths, skin, intestinal tracts, food, refrigerators, kitchen tables, silverware and dish washers. Just about everything exposed to air has bacteria present. "Normal flora" is a term used in micro biology to describe those bacteria that are normal, healthy, necessary part of the microbio population within a given animal’s particular organ system. Without these normal flora, the animal would not be healthy.

The normal flora in a human’s mouth contain many bacteria that are harmful and potentially disease causing to our pet birds.

Food that is perishable, such as fruits and vegetables, are very likely to grow large numbers of disease-causing bacteria if left in the cage at room temperature for long periods of time.

Baby food formula mixed in the morning and refrigerated during the day and reheated and fed that evening is a wonderful place for bacteria to grow. Many baby birds are made sick with this practice. Refrigeration slows bacteria growth; it does not stop it!

Fresh foods from the grocery are bacteria laden since they have been handled by humans and possibly contaminated by other mammal wastes during storage and shipping. Mice and other vermin can carry bacteria to your food sources.

A PROBLEM WITH FAUCET WATER

Water sources are an enigma of their own. Pseudomonas bacteria is a potential threat to all of our birds on a constant basis. This bacteria loves to grow in your water faucet, particuarily if your lines are PVC pipe instead of copper. Chlorination does not eliminate all bacteria; it is designed to keep bacterial counts in low enough range to be fit for consumption by humans, not birds. I have cultured several aviaries with Pseudomonas problems strictly due to filthy food and water sources. Water bowls should be placed above perch level to prevent contamination by fecal material which increases recontamination to your bird and the feces provides organic material in the water bowl for the bacteria to grow.

Running your tap water for 3-5 minutes before filling water bowls helps flush these bacteria from the faucet instead of filling your bowl with them. Water bottles for birds are an excellent way to prevent contamination with food and fecal material. Vitamins in the water are a sore spot with me as they provide nutrients for bacterial growth to occur. If you have to use vitamins in the water change, and disinfect that bowl every day.

SWEET KISSES PASS HUMAN FLORA

Those sweet kisses Cecil (my Amazon) gives me at night are laced with my normal flora which can be disease producing to my precious pet. So Cecil gets a gram stain probably every 3-4 months. Gram stains differentiate between gram positive (good guys) and negative (bad guys) bacteria. If the gram negative ratio is above 20%, then a culture and sensitivity are done. This tells me what bacteria are present and the exact best antibiotics with which to treat the bird.

LOOK, I’M NOT SICK

Birds can carry bacteria infections for years and still appear healthy. Many people look at me with disbelief when I make this statement. Many of our pet birds are just two generations out of the Amazon jungle. Handfed or not, there is still a lot of genetic programming in their computer that says "Look and act healthy, because if you get sick something or someone is going to get you!

While laboratory work does not always identify the sick bird, it does much more and comes closer than a physical examination. When you see your veterinarian, have the extras done that screen for subclinical bacterial infections that if addressed early can be cleared instead of waiting for you bird to look sick when it may be too late for anyone to save his or her life.

BCA RECOMMENDS EASY THINGS TO DO

Wash vegetables and fruits before feeding, fresh batch of baby formula each feeding, Vitamins sprinkled on leafy vegetables or in veg-fruit mixes, washing bottles/bowls in hot-hot or boiling water. Good hygiene management is effective against many problems.

 

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