Here's our weaning cage set-up for the babies when they turn 5 weeks-old.
We are the owners of an awesome E-Bird store (stuff for all birds of all sizes!) and Lovebird Aviary in Cary, NC. Our birds are quite popular because of their temperaments and socialization. Our dear Angel passed away on July 30th, 2007 and we lost our Evee on September 11, 2013. We have retired from breeding but are advocates of fostering and adoption!
C&M: Retired; RIP Cody
Check out more pictures and stories by clicking on "Older Posts" at the bottom of the current posts!
About our lovebirds:
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Here's our weaning cage set-up for the babies when they turn 5 weeks-old.
Where People Get Their "Pet" Birds
Here are the options in the USA where people get their pet birds. I did not include shelters and second hand opportunities though; just where you would be more likely to find a parent-raised or handfed baby. Also, I will explain their level of tameness of the birds, care, the knowledge of the people who either work or run the establishments, and any other thing I can think of.
1. Large, retail petstore chains: (ex. Petsmart, Petco, Pet Supermarket, and other franchises, etc.)
This is the absolute worst place you could find a bird to call your own. Both Petsmart and Petco get their birds from the Kaytee Preferred Birds program which has two facilities located in Florida. They are also establishing one in Las Vegas. Of the two in Florida, one handles parent-raised small birds such as finches, budgies, and lovebirds which they buy from various mass production breeders, and one that mass produces larger parrot species for intention of handfeeding. All the breeders and babies are fed a medicated diet that includes vitamins and minerals, as well as antibiotics including Doxycycline for bacteria growth. The great use of these antibiotics will weaken the immune system and make the future successful use of antibiotics questionable. Kaytee does not care about the emotional development of their birds since they already have a contract with Petsmart and Petco stating they need to produce a quantity of chicks and not a quality of chicks to keep up with the high demand of sales. All the birds are shipped from Florida or Las Vegas, so you might as well be buying a wild-caught bird from Africa, Central and South America, or Australia. These birds are then quarantined for three days or put out on the floor when stock gets low. The stock room where the birds are quaranteed is a poorly lit dungeon only having human contact during feeding and cleaning. When at the store the birds are fed a very poor seed diet which leads to fatty liver disease and death (so with their weak immune systems, the stress of being shipped, and fatty liver disease, people wonder why their parakeet from Petsmart died in just a week?) The birds when placed out on the floor, especially the smaller birds, are cluttered together in cages with improper food, perches, and little to no toys. The so-called "experts" are usually teenagers in High School or college who could not tell the difference between a cockatoo and a macaw. The only time the birds are handled is if a customer is interested, because the employees and their employers do not want to risk damaging their merchandise. Handfed babies are fed Kaytee Exact Handfeeding formula which is hard to digest in the bird's crop. Employees and Employers are not worried about socialization of the babies; their only concern is to feed them as quickly as possible so they can bag up more fish, the true highest profitable merchandise, for customers. The only way to stop this travesty of mass production of chicks is education to the public to stop buying birds at retail pet centers.
2. Local Small Business-owned Pet Stores:
The knowledge of the staff varies greatly depending on the expertise of its people. Even with a very knowledgeable and educated staff, it is near to impossible to socialize each and every bird and care for their emotional needs. Employers and Employees have their minds preoccupied with cleaning cages, feeding birds, stocking, handling accounts, and simply dealing with customers; because first and foremost, it is a business. Many pet stores handfeed their own babies, but even the best bird stores forget that they need to continue socialization and establish a constant routine of playtime after they wean. Pet stores is where I see the vast majority of sweet, handfed babies turn wild after weaning.
3. Large-scaled Breeders:
Very similar to the suppliers of babies to the large retail pet chains. Large-scaled breeders mass produce large amount of babies for profit. So unless they have a staff that dedicates their entire time to feeding, playing, and socialization, the emotional needs just can not be met simply due to the sheer numbers of birds. These breeders are contracted to pet stores, other breeders for future stock, and other clients to provide a quantity of birds for future or present profit. Not all large-scaled breeders have inhumane practices. Steve Hartman of Hartman Aviaries and Gail Worth of Aves International not only care about their babies, but also the wellbeing of their parents also. Large-scale breeders also have the means to establish breeding stocks that could develop the possible domestication of parrots through line breeding. Also, mutations and other genetic changes could be studied in a more controlled environment.
4. Small-scaled Breeders (like us):
Many of these breeders are hobbyists, though some can make a living and breed for profit. These breeders tend to have a intimate relationship with each baby that they raise. This intimacy could lead in studies of developing co-parenting. Personally, I believe that this is the best place to find a new, loving feathered family member as long as the breeders breed in a moral way with not only thinking of the wellbeing of their babies, but also their parents. Small-scaled breeders tend to keep their pairs within their homes unlike large-scaled breeders who breed in either large flight aviaries or warehouses.
Things We Have Learned as Birdie Parents:
Toys, Playgrounds, and Foraging for Parrots
1. Destructible toys that appeal to a parrot’s instinct to chew. These toys include: branches with bark, finger traps, bird candy, milled wood, chipped wood, straw, cholla, cork, leather, paper, jute, hemp, weaved palm leaves, etc.
2. Sound-related toys for the instinct to communicate. These toys include: bells, stainless-steel or nickel-plated liberty bells, metal pipe bells, plastic pipe bells, rattles, and clackers, bird music boxes, sound-repeating devices, and any toy with resonating properties from plastic, paper, or metal cups.
3. Interactive toys for the bird’s intelligence or emotional needs. These toys include: beads, puzzle toys, foraging toys, snuggling or comfort toys, hiding or peeking-out toys, surrogate enemy toys, foot toys, and mirrors.
4. Exercise toys for physical activity. These toys include: swings, appropriate perches, platforms, playgrounds or trees, and boings.
Foraging is simply the act of finding food. Very simple in definition, but great in the impact it can have on the lives of our birds. Having our parrots work for their food is one of the best stimulations that we can provide. It does not matter if you have a budgie, lovebird, amazon, or a macaw, behavior problems will diminish if a parrot has the opportunity to forage for their food rather than eating straight from a bowl. In the wild, a parrot will occupy 60%-80% of their time searching for food. During their mission, a parrot will fly, use problem-solving skills, and manipulate their environment to find that prized morsel. This is a very heart-wrenching revelation considering our parrots, according to recent scientific studies, on the average spend only 15 minutes eating from their bowls and the rest of their time waiting for us in their cage for eight hours while we are working. Our beloved birds want more and deserve more. Our feathered friends have provided richness, stimulation, beauty, and love in our lives; should we not also provide them with anything less? A parrot needs to work for their food to stimulate both body and mind; their health will reap from the benefits also. Providing foraging opportunities is more work on our part, but the rewards are far greater with the antagonists of our selfishness. As our Avian Veterinarian Dr. Burkett states, “We put them in cages, the least we can do is provide the absolute best for them.”
5. Foraging opportunities for parrots include, but are not limited to, the following: natural foods and treats such as nuts, Nutri-Berries or Avicakes; foraging toys made specifically for birds; shredded paper, paper towels, or toys in a food bowl; supervised foraging on a playgrounds, trees, toy boxes, or baskets; hiding treats wrapped in carrot leaves or dark leafy vegetables, placing food in pinecones or stuffed in children’s toys such as a small dartboard from the local dollar store; taking treats and arranging them in the cage in a sheskabob; shreddable cardboard boxes with hidden treats; wrapping treats in paper and hanging them inside the cage, perch, or playground; placing food bowls in different locations in the cage providing several feeding stations. Wrap food in paper, paper towels, or paper bags and place in some stations while leaving others empty. Then, tape the top of the feeding stations with paper, or a destructible toy, so your parrot will first have to punch through the barrier and then remove the wrapped morsel; placing food in the holes of a cholla perch or destructible toys such as finger traps; hiding food in bird safe, untreated pine toys or cardboard boxes found in a craft store; foraging trays with hidden food and toys placed on the bottom or top of cages, playgrounds, or trees; having your parrot climb a branch, rope, or chain to his food, having your parrot lift a bucket or string to retrieve his food; sticking food in plastic waffle balls, teach flight training and retrieving, and my favorite: either hiding food in your clothes, making a birdie edible necklace, or holding your parrot’s food up high so he has to climb up you to receive his treat and the rewarding positive stimulation of his favorite sound, your voice.
As you can see, foraging is only limited to the creativity of your mind. It always “cracks me up” when my lovebirds get so excited even when they just find some pellets buried under a mass of shredded paper towels. It will take you a few extra minutes a day to set up foraging opportunities and stations, but the rewards, positive stimulation, and environmental richness will last a lifetime in the lives of your beloved birds.
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Chances are that at least once you have been browsing through the bird section of your favorite pet store and come across a product called a "Mite Protector". You may have wondered whether or not you need this product, and if it can really be beneficial to your pet's health.
A mite is a very small parasite that can infest the skin and feathers of most animal species. Truth be told, the vast majority of birds that were captive bred and have been housed in sanitary environments never experience a problem with mites or any other external parasites.
The "Mite Protectors" are usually small disc shaped containers designed to hang on the side of a bird's cage. The discs contain chemicals that release a fume to ward off mites, fleas, and other parasites -- but the fumes can potentially be harmful to the very thing you are trying to protect: your bird!
Birds have very sensitive and specialized respiratory systems, and the fumes given off by these Mite Protectors can be harmful or even fatal to them.
If you fear that your bird is experiencing a problem with mites or any other sort of parasite, the best thing to do is to schedule an appointment with an avian vet as soon as possible. Keep your pet healthy and happy by forming a good relationship with your vet and doing plenty of research on the bird products you are interested in before you use them.
Source: The Truth About Mite Protectors
Feeding Schedule and Socialization Goals
2 weeks old: 5 feedings every 4 hours (8:00am, 12:00pm, 4:00pm, 8:00pm, 12:00am.) Many other breeders only feed 4 times every 4 hours the first week, but we do not want the babies crying for food in the middle of the night. Just like human babies, there are small babies (Pixy!) and there are large babies (her brother Jelly Bean!), so the amount of food is going to vary around 3.5-4.5 cc’s. Tamara and I do not say, “Ok baby, you have had 4 ccs, your full!” No, we fill up the babies until their crops resemble a full balloon or when they simply do not want anymore. Feed the babies all at once; competition is your greatest ally. Well-socialization goal: babies should recognize you, have a wonderful feeding response, and have names.
3 weeks old: 4 feedings every 4 hours (8:00am, 12:00pm, 4:00pm, 8:00pm.) Just fill those crops until they look and feel like a full balloon. At 3.5 weeks old, the babies will start to chew on their bedding. This is the time to introduce “big bird” food. Fresh, chewy Avicakes are the perfect introduction to solid food. Avicakes are highly nutritious unlike seed or millet. After babies are fed baby food, place a very small crumb into their mouths. This works great as a birdie pacifier also. We never feed them mashed-up or soft foods for weaning. Starting them on what they will eat as adults is best. After they are eating “big bird” food, we introduce small foot toys and toys they can shred. Well-socialization goal: babies try “big bird” food, recognize your voice, and step-up on your palm to be fed.
4 weeks old: 3 feedings every 6 hours (8:00am, 2:00pm, 8:00pm.) We never drop their feedings to three until we know they are eating the Avicakes on a regular basis. This is the time when we introduce crushed-up Nutri-Berries and a small pellet like Roudybush Crumble. Depending on the size of the baby, they should be receiving around 6 ccs at this point. Once again, feel the crop and if the babies refuse, do not force them to eat. After we feed them baby food, we place them over the solid food bowl. This is the time we introduce a small dish of water also. Well-socialization goal: babies play with toys, eating adult food on a regular basis, and cry out not only for baby food, but for attention also. Some of the older babies at this point have a natural protective instinct of their siblings and territory, so to dilute this trait we lay down on the floor, cuddle, play with them with their toys, and feed them adult food by hand after each feeding. When they have fallen asleep, we place them back into the brooder.
6 weeks old: 1 feeding per day at 6:00pm or 8:00pm (babies can feed from 7-10 ccs at this point.) If we have a large clutch, 4 or more babies, the prodigies will normally wean during this week. Well-socialization goal: babies are filling up on adult food in the morning, babies want to come out of their weaning cage to fly, cuddle, and most importantly play with toys independently on a playground. Babies should never be on a person all the time when they are outside of their cages. They have to learn independent play and have foraging opportunities.
7 weeks old: A baby should wean at anytime now. If they do not cry for their evening feeding, then do not give it to them. At 7 weeks, we introduce cooked foods, fruits, sprouts, and veggies. The babies will see the adults eating the food and will follow their lead. Many breeders and pet stores separate their babies in individual cages so they will not bond with each other. This is one of the worst things they can do for a baby, especially one that has not weaned yet. Birds need that competition of the food bowl, thus learning to eat on their own and whenever food is presented. Lovebirds that also learn to compete for food will naturally compete for your attention also thus making trust issues virtually nonexistent. Well-socialization goal: the babies step-up from inside their cage, and the babies are excited to see you. Babies need a reason to want to come out of their cages such as a playground. That, plus routine, is the key to a well-socialize parrot and not one that is caged bound and only finds security in the confounds of their bars.
8 weeks old: Weaned. If you decide to clip, never clip a bird before they wean or they might not ever see a reason to get off the baby food. This is nature’s way: stop begging, get off Momma’s fat baby food, and fly! Even though socialization starts as early as two weeks, true socialization actually starts the week babies wean. Too many times we have seen and heard stories of birds that were handfed, but they turned wild. It happens during this week. The babies no longer need you as a source of food, so you need to show them that they still need you for other reasons: love, another source of fun, security, and socialization. During this week, most birds forgot you ever handfed them. All handfeeding does is that it gets a bird use to the presence of humans. So during the week your babies wean, the most important thing any of us can do is to continue a balance of training, positive reinforcement, cuddle time, and independent play. Why is a well-socialized parrot such an important goal? The simple answer is because they will live with people. If a bird is truly trust worthy, affectionate, and socialized, then chances are their humans will see them more than just birds in a cage, but as true family members. Thus, living a full and enrich life in a human household. Well-socialization goal: babies enjoy a great head rub and have first full vet check from an Avian Veterinarian.~Rodney Money True Love Aviary