Saturday, August 23, 2008

Parrot Husbandry

When we first brought Beaker home, nearly nine years ago, I considered myself pretty up-to-date on all of my parrot care information. Over the years, I've let my bird magazine subscriptions lapse and have generally stopped reading and learning more about parrot care. Not that I didn't care, but I felt I was competent and got complacent.

Since we've moved to CA, Beaker has been learning some new behavior that has baffled and annoyed all of us. A little reading and a quick trip to our new avian vet, and I feel like we've got some good times to look forward to in our new house. I thought I'd share a few of the tips we've found/been given. It should provide some insight into what our lives are like with a bird.

1. Sunlight and fresh air. Back in Chicago, time outdoors wasn't something we considered much. Between the weather and the threat of west nile virus, it made sense to keep the birdie inside. Also, we figured that with Beaker's particular health issues, we should keep our little guy out of drafts. Well, the thinking here and now is that birdies need fresh air and sunshine. There are so many things that are bad for highly efficient birdie lungs in a house. Fresh air and sunshine allow our captive parrot to clean out his lungs. We don't really have mosquitoes here, and I can always hang some mosquito netting around him if needs be.

2. Bathtime. Beaker has always liked bathing in his water dish, but that's not really good enough to keep him healthy. Our new vet demonstrated how a couple of gentle squirts from a gentle mister bottle can make a huge difference. Once he'd dried off, Beaker's nares were clear, and his feathers that were ruffled from his exam all smoothed back into place beautifully. I'm thinking that more time outside with a good misting on sunny days will help keep him shiny.

3. Meals and foraging. Beaker gets pretty screechy whenever Andy comes and goes. It's minimal in the morning, but in the evenings he just goes bonkers in anticipation of Daddy coming home. (The vet tech gently says that not only does Beaker look girly but behavior patterns suggest suggest it as well. See the poll on the main page and vote for your favorite pronoun.) So, the vet recommends giving meals at the two main (and very natural, aside from lust for a favorite person) shrieking times. Busy beaks have trouble screaming. We can also keep food available in his cage all day, but for foraging. Keep that little critter busy doing something he'd be doing in the wild!

4. Bedtime. We've gotten lax about bedtime over the years, but the vet reminds me that Beaker really does need 10-12 hours of sleep at night. This means dark and quiet somewhere so that he's not interrupted. And, for proper respiratory health, if we cover the cage we should change the papers at night before bed so he's not breathing in all of that crazy particulate stuff while he sleeps.

So, those are the main ones. More outdoor and foraging time should slow down some of the shrieking habits he's developed. Earlier bedtime in a quieter/darker place should also help. The way our new house is set up, these things should all be very easy to accommodate. We're already seeing some behavior improvements as we try a few of these things. Amazing what meeting his avian needs does for his overall outlook. I suspect that the increased time out of his cage (with no kitty to try to eat him) is also helpful.

And of course, the most fun part of the trip to the vet was the budgies in the waiting room. Beaker now talks like a budgie when he's sitting on my lap to play Candy Land with Elise and me.


Niki Naeve said...

Sound sliek you've found a precious thing - a good vet who ctually has some knowledge of animal behavior!

Roni said...

I'd like to vote on your main page, and had the idea that you might get around that pesky gender issue by switching to articles instead of pronouns.

How about The Beaker. All capitals, all the way. Eh? Eh? Float it past the SWE board of directors and see what they think.

Anonymous said...

I would really like to see a picture of Beaker involved in a game of Candyland. Does Elise spin for him?