Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Phytobalm By Hilton Herbs

I always rave about Hilton Herbs brand and there is a chance that people are bored of it already. But I absolutely love their stuff. One of my most favourite products is Phytobalm 

Phytobalm is a soothing cream made up of entirely natural ingredients, which include: Shea Butter, Calendula oil and plant extract, Myrrh - (Commiphora molmol) essential oil, Propolis, Hypericum (St John’s Wort) oil and tincture. 

It looks like a beige cream, not too greasy and is absorbed quite quickly. It has a nice natural smell of the ingredients used in it.
Right now I am just finishing a small pot of it I was sent when I won a HiltonHerbs quiz (that was fun and I was really pleased to get the goodies). It's well worth subscribing to their newsletter as they sent  these fun quizzes, plenty of useful information on natural healing with herbs and tinctures and an occasional discount code.

Phytobalm contains only natural preservatives and natural ingredients, hence even if an animal consumes a bit of it (licks the surface where it was put on for example) it won't harm him. 

I use it for pretty much any skin problem round here. I used it on my rabbit's feet, on my Digby's feet when he gets little cracks on them, (a legacy his previous owners left me) and on my own skin too. It is amazing at soothing any inflammation, reducing the swelling and helping the healing process. It solved a few of my own problems painlessly and super quickly too. 

The ingredients in it are carefully selected for their healing and anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. Shea butter is the best hydrating natural ingredient I've tried. I have very dry eczema prone skin and have tried lots of things, shea butter is by far the best hypo allergenic moisturiser. 
Calendula, propolis and st john's wort are great at preventing inflammation, fighting bacteria, fungus and helping skin heal. 
It is a very broad spectrum cream which can be used on any animals from little rats to large horses for any skin related problems, from the simplest to the more difficult long-healing ones.

It would suit perfectly any parrot with skin problems, self-mutilation problems or with any hard to heal wound.

It can be purchased here

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Our Favourite Toys

There are a few toys which I just keep on buying because the birds never lose interest in them and they are suitable for both Digby and the budgies.

Party Balls by Foragewise

You can get them either individually or in a bunch of three. They come in two sizes - small and large. Both are suitable for a parrot, but the small ones would get destroyed in seconds, and the large ones might be too scary for the small birds like budgies but ideal for parrots.

They are brilliant because they are inexpensive (I buy bunches of three and then split them and give one bal at a time), they can be used as a foraging toy (there is already shredded paper inside but you can add some of your own fillings too) and so great for shredding.

Party Bags by Foragewise

These are very similar to the party balls - just paper bags with tissue paper on which makes them irresistible for Digby and great for stuffing with all sorts of goodies. Very inexpensive but very short-lived.

These yucca chips are super shreddable and super fun. Budgies spend hours destroying the pieces and Digby loves them too. I either put them on a stainless steel skewer or stuff into foraging toys. Or they can be used as a foot toy. Very versatile stuff.

These are a favourite of many birds. They are made of parrot safe cardboard and are non-toxic. Again, super versatile toy. I chain them together, put them between the cage bars for the budgies to use as sitting platforms/perches, cut them n half and stuff into foraging toys. They come in a variety of sizes so there is something or any size parrot. 

That is just some of the many shreddable, disposable toys I always have a small supply of. Will post about more permanent "fixtures" later on, like foraging wheel, stainless steel foraging cages, etc. More toys to come. 

In Season: Kale

Winter is a quiet season for fresh produce, but you can still find this lovely leafy green at the farmers' markets - Kale, or its varieties, like Cavolo Nero.
Kale is quite tough when raw so you would normally cook it for yourself but birds, rabbits and other greens eating animals are pretty happy with it raw. The best way to cook Kale and to preserve all its goodness is to steam it for about 5 minutes.

I always make an effort to add it to my Chop and Dudley loves chewing it up as it is, so do the budgies and even Digby doesn't mind a little nibble on the central juicy stalk.

Kale contains plenty of fibre, which keeps the digestive tract happy and healthy, helps to eliminate the toxins and excess cholesterol. Kale contains the compounds, called glucosinolates, which provide extra help in detoxification of the body and even helps to prevent certain types of cancer (a magical vegetable we are dealing with here). It is also rich in flavonoids which help with a lot of health related issues - they are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Kale contains vitamins A, C and K in abundance. Plus it is a good source of such minerals as manganese, calcium, potassium, and magnesium (vital for a relaxed happy mood. Magnesium is considered a nature's anti-depressant). It even contains a small amount of essential fatty acids, for healthy skin, heart and brain.

There is one drawback when it comes to Kale. It is quite high in oxalates, the compounds which can bind calcium forming crystals. Normally they would be excreted from the body via kidneys but sometimes they can accumulate and create kidney stones. So if your parrot (or you) suffer from kidney related disease then it's best to avoid using Kale. Otherwise it is good to remember that everything is good in moderation if you or your parrot are healthy.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Milk Thistle Detox

Right now we are having a little detox in our family. It includes taking milk thistle daily. Those detoxing are the budgies and Digby, and I might join in soon too.
For detox I use Milk Thistle tincture, but it has to be glycerine based and not alcohol based. I get mine from HERE

Milk Thistle is quite a safe herb. It can cause allergic reactions in people with allergies to the flowers of the daisy family but that is about the only warning on it, if used correctly.

Milk Thistle has long been known for its liver healing properties. Silymarin, the active compound of milk thistle, protects liver cells from toxic compounds, thus allowing it to restore itself in the meantime. Milk thistle is also used in treatment of diabetes as it helps to control insulin levels. It's been shown to possess anti-cancer properties too. So all in all it is a great herb for humans and animals alike, with no side effects.

When using remedies meant for humans we usually establish the dose for the animals by extrapolating it from the human dosage. It's suggested to use 3ml per day for humans. Considering an average parrot is about 100 times smaller than an average human the dose for a 500g parrot would be 0.03ml. 1ml is about 25 drops. So if you were to give the tincture directly in the beak you would need to give about 0.7 drops, which is practically impossible. So a reasonable thing to do is to add about 3-4 drops per 200ml bowl of water. For smaller birds, like budgies, who are prone to liver disease, milk thistle will be great too. Mine get 1 drop in a 50ml of water
It's obvious the parrot won't drink the whole bowl of water in a day so no way will overdose and should get just about the right amount to give his liver a little helping hand.

I give milk thistle for 6 days and then give them one day rest. The course will continue for about a month or two.

The liver is a vital organ and the one which often suffers in parrots because they have to deal with a huge amount of toxins on a daily basis which come from their food (in a form of residual fertilisers and pesticides), toys and their paints, etc. Inappropriate diet causes a lot of liver problems too. So supporting liver through this natural and safe therapy sounds like a good idea.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Matzo Crackers

If you are one of those people who finds it hard to resist giving a parrot whatever you are eating and you like your crackers or biscuits, Matzo crackers could be something worth considering for you. They are crackers which are basically made of just flour and water. No salt added, no sugar, yeast, or in fact any other additives. They are pure as pure can get when it comes to crackers.

They are still only good as a rare treat, because they have zero nutrition really, but at least in small quantities they won't harm, like all the salt in regular crackers could.

To make things more fun you can make a cracker sandwich (again, it shouldn't be more than a rare treat).

You will need:
1 Matzo cracker
a tiny blob of unsalted nut butter
a thin slice of cheese (something like edam or emmental is better than cheddar) of the size of 5p coin
a thin slice of apple of the same size as cheese

Break your cracker in two small squares. Spread a bit of nut butter on both of them. Top one with cheese and apple then cover with the other piece of cracker.

Microwave the concoction for 3-5 seconds (it is a tiny piece of cracker, that is why the time is so short). It will melt the cheese and the whole sandwich will easily stick together. You can squeeze it tighter when it is out of the microwave. Cool down. Now it won't fall apart when your parrot is eating it. Serve.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Veggie Wrap

For this simple recipe you will need (per one or two parrots)

About 1/4 of a wholemeal tortilla wrap
1 cherry tomato
a few slices of a red bell pepper
a teaspoon of corn
a small amount of chopped parsley or coriander (I used lamb lettuce as this was the only thing I had on hand, but the herbs would work better)
an absolutely tiny pinch of cayenne pepper, chilli pepper or paprika
a drop of olive oil

Chop up the pepper, tomatoe and herbs. 

Put a drop of oil on the frying pan (it really just needs a tiny bit since the amount of the ingredients is so small). Put your peppers, tomatoe, corn and herbs, sprinkle with the spices and stir for about a minute on medium heat. 

Empty the mix on your tortilla wrap (I cut a small-ish square out of it as it is easier to roll it up like that).

Roll the whole thing up and it is ready to be served. 

To wrap it up I moved the filling to the right, folded the sides in over the topping and then rolled the whole thing up. 

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Applied Behaviour Analysis Course

A few weeks ago I have started the course I'd been been on the waiting list for for over a year. The course was founded by Dr Susan Friedman. The course I am taking is aimed at parrot owners/caregivers. It is free,  but you are asked to donate a minimum of $50 to a chosen parrot charity. What charity is it you get notified  a few weeks before the course starts. It is a very popular course, firstly because it is a great source of information, inspiration and a brilliant way to establish better relationships with those around you and not just parrots, but also I suppose, because it is pretty much free.

This is one behaviour I might need to think of modifying - curtain climbing

The course itself is conducted via a closed yahoo group, with weekly lectures posted to the board. After reading the lecture you submit your homework and then work on it with your Teacher Assistant. I have to say it is such an uplifting experience - it truly is based on positive reinforcement. You have the whole week to submit your homework and it only takes a few hours, so it is not too time consuming.
The main idea of the course as it appears to me is that we should forget about changing our birds if something is not going right, all we need to do is to change the environment. Every action is predetermined by the antecedent and is reinforced by the consequence. By changing the antecedents and the consequences we can modify the behaviour, painlessly to the animal. This is just a simplified idea, to learn more, a lot more, you will just have to take the course.

To subscribe to the course all you need to do is to drop an email to Dr Susan Friedman and you will be put on the waiting list. It's not short, and is well worth waiting for. You will be notified about the start of your course a couple of weeks prior to it, and if by that time you decide you no longer need to take it you can just let the curator know. You don't have to pay the donation either, it is a voluntarily donation, but the chances are - you will want to do it yourself.

Here you can find the overview of the course and how to subscribe Behaviorworks Website

Even if you are not up for taking this course it's well worth checking the Behavior Works website out for very interesting articles and plenty of information on parrot care. 

Friday, 4 February 2011

Digby's Playgym

Digby's playgym is of a home made variety. I very much like it because it is so easy to change and customise. The original idea belongs to Nikki from the african grey parrot forum. She has a magnificent gym for her two greys, mine is a lot smaller but then Digby is very small.
The main idea is that you get a bucket (I've got a 99pence bucket from Focus), fill it in with fast setting cement like Post-crete and put a few large branches from a parrot safe tree. I've got a willow tree branch and an ash tree branch. They serve as the base for the gym. Then later on I added another large branch, from an apple tree and just rested it on top of the firm concrete and attached the new branches to the base branches with piece of sisal rope (all loose strands cut off). You can use cable ties for that too. Then to make it even more fun I took smaller branches and attached them horizontally to the gym. I change them from time to time to replace them for the new fresh ones with the bark still on.

And finally lots of toys are hung on it, which change regularly.

The concrete is covered with a paper based litter called Megazorb, just because that is what I have for Dudley the rabbit and Digby doesn't go down there anyway. I change it regularly. For a more permanent fixture and for more explorative parrots it can be covered up with pebbles or newspaper for example.
So it looks like this

Now recently the budgies have decided that the gym looks very much fun and invaded poor Digby's territory

Digby gets frustrated when the budgies are around so when they are out he is already covered up for his bedtime.

Here is Digby preparing to go to sleep

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Why Meat Is A No No

I read way too often that people feed their parrots meat. I very much disagree with the idea. There are a few reasons for that.

1. Meat, if not organic, contains residue amounts of antibiotics, hormones and other drugs the farm animals are regularly fed. Humans are quite large and those minute amounts might not do any harm to us, but can anyone say for certain they wouldn't to our birds which are 100% smaller than us?

2. Meat is not just high in protein but it is also high in fat, especially red meat. White meat, like chicken or turkey are often prepared with a large amount of fat additionally to what it already contains. The fat in meat is mainly saturated. Parrots' system is quite accustomed to digesting and procession vegetable fats, but what parrot has ever eaten a cow in the wild? This excess amount of fat is damaging to the birds' arteries and heart. The heart attacks and strokes are on the rise among parrots, especially African Greys. Why take risk?
Photograph by Karen Shaw 

3. Meat is not a natural food for parrots. I hear a lot people say parrots eat insects in the wild, so they consume animal protein and it is only natural to give them meat. But insects and cows are very very different types of animals and their bodies represent very different kinds of protein (and its amount). The bugs have thick keratinous shells, which are a source of calcium, rather than meat, for example. The amount of meat in a bug is miniscule.

4. Protein stimulates hormonal/breeding behaviour in parrots. If you have a lone parrot and there is no way for him/her to vent this behaviour out, it can lead to serious behavioural problems, including feather plucking. Again, why take chances

5. Protein is high in amino acid called methionine, the excess of which has to be processed by the liver and kidneys. These organs are already relatively weak in pet parrots since they have to deal with so many toxins in our environments you really don't want to make it worse for them.
Photograph by Dan

6. Protein is an essential nutrient for healthy muscles, skin, feathers and of course internal organs. Parrots in the wild are very active, they fly for miles in search of foods, fly over from one tree to another, breed, raise youngs, etc. Their protein requirements are probably quite high. Our pet parrots however fly in about 3 meter stretches (compare that to a mile distance in energy expenditure - walk for 3 meters and then walk for a mile and see just how different it feels), they mainly climb about and are supplied with large quantities of food they don't have to do anything about. They really do not require all that extra protein and fat from meat.

7. I have recently read on a parrot forum such argument for meat is that some cockatoos were observed to eat dead animal's bones in the wild. This is a ridiculous argument since bones are not meat. The parrots must have used them as a source of calcium, and not protein. It is quite likely that it was the breeding season too. Our parrots can get all their calcium from their pellets and UV light or direct light exposure will help them to metabolise it properly.

8. And finally the World Health Organisations recommends that people eat red meat no more than 3 times a week for health reasons. To me it says something.

Here is research paper by Dr Debra Mcdonald on protein requirements for parrots, which pretty much says that meat is not good for parrots
There is a reason why the best parrot pellets don't contain meat - there is no need for it.

When I hear an excuses for giving meat (or in fact any other bad for parrots food) which goes like "my parrot loves meat so much I can't resist giving it", "or when I am having a piece of chicken my parrot screams the house down if I don't give it some meat" or "I want to make my parrots' life as rich as possible so I want to give them everything I am having" or "A little bit once in a while won't harm" I cringe. I don't understand any of those excuses. Would you give your child a piece of lead to play with if he was really really asking for it? Parrots are like children, they can't make informed choices about their diet, but we can and we must be strict about this one of the most important aspects of their lives.
There are so many more health and parrot friendly protein sources to be had - cooked or sprouted pulses or grains, nuts, seeds and of course good quality preferably organic pellets.
I refuse to believe that without that piece of meat your parrot's life will suddenly become boring and unvaried. It just can't be true when there are dozens of varieties of vegetables, leafy greens, fruit, seeds, nuts, dried fruit, herbs, spices available. It is up to you to make it as fun as possible without harming your pet's health.

Here is Digby enjoying his source of protein which is also a source of natural live enzymes, vitamins and minerals with a zero fat content, but plenty of fibre to keep his arteries free of plaque and his heart healthy.

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