17 Oct

Twelve things essential to my birdkeeping

Category: Parrots Blog

Twelve things essential to my birdkeepingBy EB Cravens

In my hobby breeding and pet-keeping, I have discovered many items I consider critical to have on hand and use in order to maintain the health, well-being and optimum development of the psittacines. Here are the 12 prime examples:   
                     
1)      Spirulina. This is a favourite nutritional supplement. I have used it for 16 years. It is an excellent source of vitamins and serves to keep feather sheen high. An immune system builder, especially in flocks that do not eat many green veggies. Rumours have said one can feed too much spirulina, but I always use it sparingly like salt, so I have had no problems.
 
2)      Fresh Aloe Vera. This means a plant in the house! Absolutely the best immediate response to a bruised cere, scratch, itchy skin or other topical injury including eyes, beak and feet. Slit the stalk length-ways and rub sticky gel over the hurt. Will stop most bleeding, seals like a spray-on bandage. Use it on yourself too; quickens healing.
 
3)      Vitamin E gel capsules. This is another prime skin healer. But I use Vitamin E oil to help with dry flaky skins, brittle beak flaking, and especially for constricted toe syndrome in dry climes. Absorbs quickly so apply every two hours. Will suffocate scaly mites on cere and has cured fungal skin infections under wings in humid conditions. Excellent oil to use on severely plucked parrots to encourage follicles, and can be fed internally to treat feather brittleness, though for such use I prefer wheat germ oil. Poke gel capsule with pin and squeeze gently.
 
4)      Citris Bioflavanoid (grapefruit seed extract). My number one holistic medicine. Anti-microbial, anti-fungal properties.  I use as an anthelmintic to expel parasites or routine worm my ground species of parakeets. It is the first resort whenever a bird shows fever or infection and can be used in its dilute form to mix baby formula in cases of slow crop or e-coli. Topical steriliser, mouthwash, earbath, and my staple as a syringe and spoon soaker and utensil wash stronger than normal soap/ water. Recommended as a sprouts soak, but I only use if they smell musty or sour. Order through China Prairie Co.
 
5)      15cc Syringes. The small ones with a blunt-clipped nozzle are my favourites for all birds up to eclectus size. They expel baby food slower and safer into the beak rather than forcing it down throat, thus guarding against aspirations and stimulating parrots to swallow and move sooner toward eating with mouth. Takes four loads of food to fill a 50cc crop, but that means babies get fed 'round and round' in series and have time to rest and prepare while sibling is getting squirted. Try 'em!
 
6)       Quinoi. Optimum health food grain with complete protein amino complex. Wonderful regular addition to small passerines birds' diets. Can be ground in blender to powder to give bulk and hull fibre to enhanced baby food once chicks are feathered out. Also will pass through syringe if sprinkled into formula while mixing, giving whole food texture. Sprouts overnight in 12-16 hours. Treat gently to not bruise sprouts. Wonderful grain that tastes nuttier than millet when cooked.
 
7)       Large-handled baskets. Essential to all my birdkeeping. Perfect for raising chicks in cool, chewable, organic, environment. Easy to climb up upon offering bottom, edge and handle as three stages. Invaluable fledging tool as parrots will recognise all large brown baskets when raised in one and choose to fly to them rather than crashing around the room. Perfect table perch for pets, moveable and droppings are caught in bottom on towels. Wash in shower with toilet-style brush. Travelling perches or home-away-from-home for fledglings. I wouldn't raise chicks any other way.
 
8)      Zupreem Monkey Biscuits. Have used this product on and off with birds since 1980.  Never had a sickness due to this primate formulated food, but then I always scald them with poured boiling water to soften, then wait for them to cool. I do not feed them dry. They are used for birds who need extra weight putting on or older babies in a box who eat five times a day and love soft warm additions, and for sick birds who will not eat anything else but love the taste of these. Most large birds like them, but note, I only give this as a special occasion, emergency or special use food.
 
9)      Hollow Logs. Invaluable training and play tool. Teaches timid breeders about darkness in perfect timing before nestbox given. Birds love to chew and such. DO feed it to chicks. Open ends allow conures and other cavity nesters in captivity to sleep protected but not to cycle eggs when box is removed in off season.
 
10)   New Zealand perennial vine spinach. My staple green throughout the year. Parents with young chicks absolutely love the green bud nodules and stems. Give as rich green to veggie eaters and chop up stems in morning foods. Leaves are usually discarded. Grows year round.
 
11)   Baby bird fledging-weaning cage. The discovery of the benefits of this addition to the hobby breeder has changed my life and the lives of my parrots. Chicks are introduced shortly after indoor flying becomes regular. They learn to fly and eat when you come in and syringe feed them at the elevated feeding station where they will also perch. Offspring wean faster and smoother and have more fun in the greenery which they eat and chew. They drop less weight because baby fat turns to muscle, and more. This item I now consider absolutely necessary at any state-of-the-art avicultural facility - and it saves the keeper time and cleaning effort.   
 
12)   Fresh Palm Fruits. This is a recent addition to my essentials list. Obviously I am living where I can find and harvest these, but the way my wild-caught pairs voraciously dove into these oily fruits, and the way other handfeds in my flock followed suit have convinced me that feeding palm fruit has definitely enhanced my nutritional programme. As an aside I do not consider pure palm oil as a suitable substitute for fresh fruit.
 
I hope this list has given you all some ideas
EB.

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