THE QUAKER NEWS

OCTOBER 1999

 

FROM THE EDITOR

I recently had a note from one of our subscribers asking me to help her find a source for buying a baby Quaker in pinfeathers, still being hand fed. She stated that the pet shop in her town insisted that it be weaned before they turned it over to her. She said that she was retired and had plenty of time to feed the baby.

I was glad to hear that her pet shop refused to sell baby birds needing hand feeding to owners with no experience. In order to properly teach this skill a good deal of time and patience is required of the teacher. It involves more than having the prospective feeder observe the process a few times. There are many dangers involved. My husband and I have been hand feeding baby birds in large numbers for twenty years or more. Although it is rare, complications still do happen with us. We do not sell unweaned birds except to those we are certain are well qualified to do this procedure.

I think that the importance of caring for your bird during the hand feeding stage in creating a bond with the owner is exaggerated. At that point in their lives birds are chiefly interested in obtaining food. I believe that they are well into the weaning stage before they actually identify the human offering the food. It is not necessary to hand feed yourself to create a strong bond with your baby Quaker. The bird's life may depend on this task being performed by an experienced, well-trained person. I respect the ethics demonstrated by a pet shop which insists on selling only weaned birds. We need more people like this, who place a higher value on the welfare of the bird than on the profit made on the sale.

 

FROM OUR READERS

Dear Linda; I wrote to you a few months ago about trying to get my pair to breed. You told me to have patience. They had four beautiful babies this spring. I donít know if this really helped or not, but because it is so dry here in West Texas, I got a humidifier for them. I also got a full spectrum light and started feeding them peas. Right after I started doing this, Keela laid five eggs, four of which were fertile. What an enjoyable experience this was for me. Karen from Texas

Dear Karen; I feel sure that the light and the humidifier were helpful in getting your pair going, but adding peas to their diet is a new one for me. Whatever works! Just don't overdo on the amount of peas you give them - We all have a tendency to think that if a little bit is good, more is better. Not so. Congratulations on your success.

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Dear Linda; Our Quaker is completely bonded to our son Ethan who is 61/2 years old. In fact he is the only person who can approach her without being bitten. She whistles for him, calls for him, and runs from her cage to the front door when she hears him come up the walk from school.. It has been amazing to watch their relationship develop. She is the perfect size bird for him and he has learned much about unconditional love, respect, and responsibility from this pint sized treasure. Cari from Iowa.

 

Dear Cari; Perhaps you can get the cooperation of your family in trying the training suggested in the "Hot Potato" article in this issue. There may be a few bites before you succeed in getting your bird to accept other members of the family.

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Dear Linda; Enclosed are two pictures of our Joshua. As you can see. He has plenty of toys, his favorite being a music box. Every night, after he calls out "Night! Night!" and gets settled down, he has to go over and push the music box on. Sometimes it takes several pushes to turn on, but he gets it on and then goes up to his sleeping perch and settles in, usually adding "Give Momma kiss." Another favorite toy is keys. He has several toys with keys at the bottom. If you tell him "Go play with keys." He goes over to the toy and shakes it to death, screeching at it.

I have been wondering. Ever since Joshua was a baby he has never liked a swing. Is this common? Or do some Quakers just not like swings?. He loves ladders. This Christmas he got a new, large cage with a play top with two sets of ladders. He goes up one side, crosses over, and goes down the other side, often-taking food or a toy with him. Diana and David

 

Dear Diana and David; After a lot of years, I learned not to say "never" or "always" about all parrots. Almost all birds enjoy swings, perhaps satisfying their instinctive behavior to perch on swinging branches. Perhaps, sometime in his infancy, for reasons that only make sense to him, Joshua formed an unpleasant association with a swing. Quakers do have incredible memories. At any rate, he seems a busy and happy bird with caring and devoted owners, not missing the swing at all.

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Dear Linda; I am finding my Quaker to be a never-ending source of amusement and also a royal pain in the butt! The bird is not a great talker, but can show signs of remarkable intelligence one minute, and then do something else completely stupid. Henry from Florida

Dear Henry; I am guessing that your Quaker is going through the "terrible twos." I do not agree with the article in this issue whose author feels this a myth. Just as small children do at this stage of development, the bird needs to be given time to learn what it is you expect from it. It needs to make an adjustment between its instincts left from the wild state and the requirements of socialization. Patience! Patience! It is hard to keep in mind that Quakers are still birds and not humans.

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Dear Linda; I have a two year old male Quaker. I got him when he was three months old. He does not have his wings clipped and is free to fly all over the apartment. He refuses to stay in his cage. He has one special toy and goes to it when he is unhappy. Instead of toys, he is busy all day building his house of BBQ 12-inch skewers. Each packet of skewers contains 60 sticks. So far he has used up 5 packets and is asking for more. He would make a very good husband to a Quaker girl bird. He is adorable. He talked when he was younger but stopped when a year old. He will say things occasionally but only if he feels like it. Enclosed is a picture of Jamie with his structure on top of his cage. He is very protective and wonít let anyone touch it. Rozella from New York

Dear Rozella; The picture shows Jamie with a neatly built structure at least four times his height. Quakers in the wild are known to build apartment house style nests, huge in size. They are unique in that they are the only nest-building parrots known. For many of our breeding Quakers we place a small wire shelf in front of the nest box entrance to be used as a foundation for their nests. Given a good supply of twigs, vines, shredded paper, grasses, or just about any safe building material, they will work industriously until the nest covers the entire front of a 12 x 12 cockatiel size nest box. Many single Quakers will build nests in various places around the house. They use stolen pencils, shredded paper, or any material they can find. Supplying those light weight wooden sticks is a great idea, but I can not help but feel uneasy about the dangers that exist in allowing a flighted bird complete freedom. If you had heard as many sad stories about lost or injured birds as I have, you would not take this risk.

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Dear Linda; After having received an issue of your Quaker News last month and digesting all the material therein, I knew that I had to write and tell you about my new family member. My interest in Quakers had been kindled is spite of so many "warnings" from others about their behavioral habits. I was able to locate a breeder who promised delivery of a baby Quaker as soon as one as hatched. I held this little darling in my hands when she as three days old. Since I am somewhat squeamish about hand feeding such a youngster, he agreed to do it for me.

Six weeks later, my task of Motherhood began, and Iíve been having a ball ever since. Kelly is now four months old and I continue to be amazed at her progress. Let me tell you a bit about her. I hold her on my hand at least three lengthy times a day and talk to he constantly. She recognizes her name when she is called and has become very compatible. She will go to most everyone who wants to hold her except one of our great-grand daughters, a seven year old who displayed a fear of her at their very first introduction. Since then Kellyís conduct has been aggressive each time they meet..

She is out of the cage most of the time. We have learned that our Daschund, although very tolerant of her, cannot be trusted. Kelly dropped to the floor one day, in spite of clipped wings, and proceeded to walk right up to the dog. Gretchen snarled, and nearly had Quaker soup. Fortunately, only the feathers were ruffled. Now we never leave Kelly uncaged when Gretchen is present .

She is beginning to say a few words like "pretty pretty ", "do in" as in "Whatcha do in?" plus other words that I have yet to figure out. Since I whisper to her a good deal she is attempting this as well. She is very nosey, and wants to be included, especially at the table when we are eating. She will sample most everything, but is not fond of a lot of fruit. Cooked oatmeal is a must in the morning, especially with a bit of brown sugar. If she gets into something at the table and is scolded for it, she runs to my husband for protection. Now her favorite side of the table is near him, and she will run back to him if I pick her up and move her "against her wishes."We laugh about this favoritism. The pleasure we get from having this little darling in our daily lives (We are 78 and 79.) Makes me wish I had known about Quakers long ago Betty from Florida.

Dear Betty; It is a pleasure to hear about how much you and your husband are enjoying Kelly. I would like to suggest that you limit treats to the bare minimum. Your bird is young enough to make it comparatively easy to make a good. Pelleted food about 75% of her diet. Avoid fats, sugars, and salty foods- no tid bits of French fries, snack crackers, or brown sugar. Donít "kill her with kindness" I wish all of you a long and happy life together.

 

POOP-LOGY

By David J Kersting, DVM South Jersey Bird Club News

Understanding your bird's droppings could save your bird's life.

It is true that when birds become sick their health can deteriorate quickly, but it is rarely true that when a bird becomes sick it dies suddenly without showing signs of illness. The symptoms are there. We just have to learn to recognize them.

Changes in droppings can be a very early indicator that the bird is sick. Know what normal droppings look like so you can recognize a change in color. Consistency, odor, or amount .If you are able to notice this change, you could save your bird's life.

Commercial bedding interferes with evaluating droppings for signs of health problems. If you use wood shavings, ground walnut shell, or corncob at the bottom of your bird's cage, you may miss a change in color or consistency in the droppings. Then you have failed your bird. It is wrong to use wood shavings at the bottom of your cage so that it looks nice, and you do not have to clean the bottom of the cage as often.

There are three components to most droppings. Urine consists of a crystal urine called urates (white chalky material) and a non-crystal urine (clear water) Sometimes the two types of urine are mixed crating a cloudy white urine. The third part of the droppings is the feces, which comes from the colon and consists of digested food. The color varies depending on the types of food eaten. Red pellets and strawberries produce a red colored dropping. (This does not apply to the urine.) Seed and green vegetable produce a green dropping. (This does not apply to the urine) Blueberries and blackberries produce black droppings. (This does not apply to the urine.) The feces should be solid and tubular like a worm. It can be coiled and it's OK if it's broken into pieces.

IMPORTANT CHANGES INCLUDE COLOR CHANGES AND AMOUNT

Green or yellow urates Liver disease

Brown or chocolate urates Lead Poisoning

Increased urates Dehydration

Increased urine Disease, eating food high in water

Blood in urates Go to Vet (Promptly)

Diarrhea is not excessive urine in the droppings. Diarrhea is the fecal material not holding its tubular shape. Instead it is the consistency of pudding. Look for blood in the feces. If the feces is fresh and black in color and there were no blue berries in the diet, this indicates melena. Melena is black droppings caused by blood high up in the digestive system. When the blood passes through the lower digestive tract. It is digested, turning the bright red blood into a tarry color, staining the feces. If you notice black droppings (indicating internal bleeding) at the bottom of your bird's cage, stop and go to the Veterinarian. Your Veterinarian should investigate color, which cannot be explained by the diet. Watch your bird's droppings every day -and learn what they look like normally. When you notice a change, identify what portion of the dropping has changed. If you cannot explain the change by the bird's life style, act immediately and contact your Avian Veterinarian.

 

WARM POTATO, PROPER VOICE

By Kashmir Csaky, author speaker, Forest, VA. Pet Information Pages, Bird Clubs of America

Once your bird is comfortable with your private training sessions, begin doing them in areas where there may be some distractions. After all, the bird must behave in many different situations. However, if at some point the bird becomes uneasy or difficult, go back to doing the training in a private area.

When your bird gets to the point that the training sessions become boring for both you and the bird, then you can attempt trick training. However, trick training is just for fun and should never become serious or work for either of you.

"Warm potato" will keep your birds comfortable and friendly with many people. This is an activity that I strongly recommend with babies or when birds are new to a home. The family, and everyone who may be expected to handle the bird, should get together and sit in a circle. The bird is petted, sweet-talked, and then passed on to the next person, who repeats the petting and sweet-talking. This warm show of affection continues until the bird goes full circle. The person who took the bird out of the cage returns the bird to the cage or its gym to play. With new birds, play warm potato every day for two weeks, and then six days out of the following week. Do this five days the following week. Continue reducing the sessions until you get down to once a week. The weekly session is done for the birdís entire life. Every family should sit down like this once a week anyway!

COMMUNICATING "NO" AND PRAISE

Teaching a bird the meaning of "no" is difficult for many people. The consistent use of language. tone of voice, and facial expression is paramount when teaching a bird the meaning of "no." This is important in all aspects of bird training. When language, voice, and expression are consistent and proper in other aspects of training, "no" becomes easier for a bird to understand.

This means that you always use the same word for a particular command. "No", for instance, would always be used whenever you want your bird to stop what it is doing. You should not say "Stop that." or "Donít do that." You must consistently use the word "No" during the learning phase. Once a bird understands a particular word (command) very well, it can be taught other words that have the same or similar meaning. However, it will always understand and respond to the first word it was taught more efficiently. It is much like learning two languages. The first language will always come easier.

When praising a bird it is important to know that birds enjoy high-pitched sounds and baby talk. So use a high pitched and excited voice when encouraging or praising a bird. If you have trouble understanding the proper voice for praise or encouragement watch a childrenís show on television. Shows, such as Sesame Street have characters with voices and body language that maintain the attention and admiration of children and birds.

The proper voice for "No" is serious and deep. The word "No" should never be screamed. Screaming at your bird teaches your bird to scream back at you. Screaming is drama reward. When people scream their voices become high pitched, their body language is exaggerated, and frankly, they look very comical. This is enjoyable and rewarding to birds. If you are having trouble with the proper voice for "No", study Darth Vaderís voice in the movie Star Wars. His voice is calm, serious, and deep.

Facial expressions are often the most difficult to control. However, once you are accustomed to praising your bird for good behavior that just happens to follow bad behavior, you facial expressions will improve. Being able to say "Good bird" right after your bird threw a screaming fit, paused and then said "Peekaboo" takes great self-control. "Good bird" is likely to be the last thing you feel like saying. Yet the good behavior must be rewarded or the bad behavior will continue. Once you have developed this self-control of the facial expression, it will become easier. You will not grimace so much when trying to praise you bird.

I have often seen people smile when saying "no". This sends mixed messages and the command is not taken seriously. There are two reasons that a person may smile when saying "No" to their bird. One, they are not giving their bird full attention and their mind is on some other subject. If you do not give your bird your full attention. It will not give you its full attention. Two, the person is worried that the bird will not love them if they tell it "No". Nothing could be further from the truth. If people are unable to set boundaries for their birds, the birds will lose respect for them, not necessarily stop loving them. They will treat people who they love and respect with much more affection than people they do not respect. If you feel that you are telling your bird "No" too frequently, then you must re-evaluate your expectations for your bird.

If at any time, you feel compelled to punish your bird, you should remember that the best punishment is to withhold reward. Physical punishment instills fear, not respect. It teaches the bird that you are out of control. Birds donít respect people who are out of control. Punishment also fosters resentment and resentment leads to aggression or phobic behavior.

THE TERRIBLE TWOS Ė THE MYTH

I believe that the "terrible twosí is a myth. Young birds are full of life and energy. They are exuberant.

Once they have the coordination to do so they will play hard and challenge everything. This is how they teach themselves about life and their own limitations. To create a structured environment. A birdís humans must::

Set limits

Show the bird that they are in control of themselves

Show the bird that they have control of their environment.

If these things are done, then the bird will become better behaved when it reaches two or three years of age. Most species are very malleable until they are two and a half to three years of age. If a structured environment (lifetime training) was not created in the early years, then at two or three years of age the bird will try to take control of its life and the lives of the people in the birdís home. Hence, the twos become "the terrible twos" and the bird owners must now work harder at creating the structured environment that would have been much simpler to create when the bird was younger and more impressionable.

This article is one of a three part series, sent to us courtesy of Dick Ivey. We look forward to the other two for future issues of The Quaker News.

 

BIRDS NEED THEIR BRACELETS

Linda Greeson

Standing in front of a cage of blue Quakers, my friendís small son remarked "They are all girl birds." They were, all hens., the fact determined only by DNA sexing. "How do you know that?" I asked, with a sudden irrational wild hope that just possibly this young child saw something not apparent to me to make him decide on the birdís sex. Well, miracles can happen! ĎThey are all wearing bracelets." He answered, pointing at the birdsí legs.

The " bracelets" he pointed to were the identifying leg bands, so important for many reasons, but worn by the "boy birds" as well. So much for miracles! Some people, new to the hobby with a limited number of birds know each one by name and may feel that banding is not necessary. As their collection grows, as it almost inevitably does, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of the pedigrees of succeeding generations. Without the help of identifying leg bands it is almost impossible to manage a breeding program for any length of time. To produce color mutations or increasingly desirable examples of the species we are working with, positive ID is a requirement. Good records need to be kept for good results.

Although it is generally permissible to show birds without a leg band, it is not possible to award points toward a championship without this ID. The owner of the bird is not always the breeder. The leg band indicating who produced the winning bird is a justifiable source of pride for the breeder and often important in planning future breedings.

There are some states that require that all birds be closed banded. The laws and regulations are ever changing, but at last check these were New York, Virginia, and Vermont. In these states it is illegal

To breed for sale, sell, or in some even to own a bird without this closed band. The Avian Vets keep your birdís health records by the identifying number and use it when preparing a health certificate.

The closed band is evidence that the bird has been domestically bred and has not been illegally smuggled into the country. If there is any doubt of this, carefully observe the leg band for fit. Watch for a loose, sloppy band that could have been applied to an adult bird. The band should be fitted with very little play. A loosely fitted band is not only evidence of possible illegal application but it is dangerous. There is danger of its being caught on any protruding surfaces in the birdís environment. A properly fitted band is less likely to cause problems if reasonable precautions are used Ė no protruding wires, no short stubby ends on branches provided for perches, care in selecting toys, etc.

If the bird is injured with swelling of the leg, the band can act as a tourniquet, cutting off circulation to the foot. In these emergency situations, it must be removed by cutting it off. If this is the case, careful records must be kept. If the band is removed by the Vet, request a signed statement of this fact from him and keep this on file.

An incidental use I have found is to band both legs instead of one on a baby bird suffering from spraddle legs. The legs are pulled together to a normal position by a cotton cord threaded through the bands. One band is cut off when the hips and legs appear normal. This does not always work, of course, but it beats taping and other methods for simplicity and keeping the splint clean.

Open bands, as the name implies, have a visible crack in the ring. They can be applied at any age and tightened after being placed on the birdís leg. They can be ordered to provide ID for birds that have not been closed banded. Most societies will not accept these as traceable bands or as positive ID,

It is readily apparent that those are more than bracelets on your birdís legs and need to be guarded.

 

The Avian Home Safety Checklist

Joan Napolitano

South Jersey Club News

 

LIVING ROOM:

( ) Do living room windows pose a threat to your birdís safety? If your bird is flighted, keep your shades or blinds drawn, for your bird will not see the glass. Heíll only see the beautiful trees to climb on and green shrubs to play on.

( ) Do you use powdered carpet deodorizers, scented candles, or aerosol sprays to freshen the air? These powders and fumes are harmful to birds. Open a screened window on a sunny morning instead.

( ) Do you have a ceiling fan in your living room? Do you shut it off when your bird is flying about? (Leave a note taped near your birdís cage stating simply "SHUT OFF FAN."

( ) Are there exposed light bulbs that can get hot and burn a bird that lands there?

( ) Do you have a stained glass lamp? Remember that these contain lead and lead poisoning is a serious avian health threat. Donít let your bird perch on a stained glass lamp.

KITCHEN

(The most dangerous room in the house)

( ) Did you know that some small birds can crawl into the roll of a paper towel, but they canít crawl out? Make sure your paper towels are mounted horizontally, not vertically.

( ) Are you aware that non-stick pots and pans and other appliances are dangerous? The fumes from heated cook ware may go unnoticed by you but your bird could be dead in minutes. Check your manufacturers to make sure newer appliances do not contain non-stick parts.

( ) What about the stoveís exhaust fan? It should be vented to the outside.

( ) You know that a free flighted bird is not allowed in the kitchen where there is boiling water and/or a hot stove, donít you? Put your feathered baby safely away while cooking. Watch out for toasters, broiler ovens, and other hot surfaces too.

( ) Is your refrigerator dangerous? You bet it is. Those heavy doors close automatically. A bird could easily get locked or crushed by the doors.

( ) Ceiling fan warning applies here too.

( ) Did you remove those exposed electrical cords? (They are also found in other rooms.)

BATHROOM

This is a fun room for a parrot to explore. Thereís the waterfall (the shower), and that other bird (the mirror) and a whole lot more.

( ) Do you keep the toilet lid shut?

( ) Donít give your birds toilet paper rolls to play with. . . use paper towel rolls, cut up, instead. Bacteria could contaminate toilet paper rolls

( ) Do you keep hair sprays, perfumes, and/or other sprays away from your bird? These fumes will harm his lungs.

( ) Do you let your bird walk around unsupervised in the bathroom? Too many bad things to get into: soap, makeup, cleaners, etc.

BEDROOM

(Curiosity hurt the bird far more than it hurt the cat.)

( ) Do you keep the closet door closed?

( ) Do you remember the windows and fan warning for the living room? Applies here too!

( ) Jewelry Ė what parrot doesnít adore it? Can you imagine what your costume jewelry pin could do to the fragile tissue of a birdís mouth? Also, many costume jewelry pieces contain a nasty ingredient Ė Lead.

( ) Do you sleep with your bird? Donít unless it is a pterodactyl (that could get interesting . . . hmmmm)

(Editorís note: I looked that up for you. It is an extinct order of flying reptile!)

 

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