Firaging shreddable toy for parrots

Diet Conversions for Your Parrot

Tried and True Tips

Feeding Tropican to your ParrotEnsure that your pet bird is in good health. Changing a bird’s diet can be stressful, even if changing the diet will help his condition. Since birds are masters of hiding their illnesses, the stress incurred during a diet change can catapult the bird into a worse condition.There are many methods to convert parrots to a new diet.

The success of one method over the other depends on the number of birds, the compliance level of the owner, and most importantly, the consistency of the caretaker. Usually a diet change is necessary to prevent malnutrition in parrots, and a veterinarian is usually the instrumental party to a bird’s diet change. Here are some suggestions to get your birds on a healthier diet!

A simple and safe way to convert most pets to a better diet is to start by cleaning the cage each evening, and leaving ONLY Tropican in the feeders (you may sprinkle some on the floor or place a small dish on the floor as well). The following day (usually mid morning to start with), add some of the birds regular food on top of the Tropican. Birds that like fruits and vegetables should have the dry Tropican sprinkled right in with favorite items such as oranges and fresh cut corn. Some birds will start on this moistened form more easily. Sprinkling seed kernel such as shelled sunflower on Tropican will also help some parrots get the idea (i.e. you don’t have to take a shell off all foods!).

Every evening, all of the remaining food should be removed and replaced with fresh Tropican. Seed may be added later on the following day. (As long as seed is provided sooner or later each day, safety is maintained). Most birds are powerfully motivated to search for food each morning and sample Tropican within a few days. You can tell when your pet is eating the new food as their droppings will become a paler color and Tropican will usually be found in the water dish.

Once your pet is eating the Tropican well, keep seed OUT of the cage. Seed can still be given of course, but as a treat fed by hand. Feeding high water content items such as oranges, fresh corn, green peppers, spinach, broccoli, and berries will not unbalance the Tropican diet significantly as the majority of calories will still be taken in from Tropican.

Your bird is sure to enjoy an improvement in feather quality and overall health on such a modern diet. Just ask your pet retailer or avian veterinarian!

Every Other Day Method

Since birds are creatures of habit, they will usually look to their dish for their favorite foods. The owner should place only the new diet, Tropican, in that very dish. In a separate dish, on alternate days, offer the old diet. Always keep Tropican in the bird’s regular food dish. Once the bird is accustomed to the Tropican and the owner can observe the bird consuming the Tropican, the old diet can then be given every two days, then every three days and so on. This method of conversion usually takes about two weeks. If the attempt to convert a bird to Tropican fails, continue with the old diet for two weeks, then repeat “The Every Other Day” method. Even the most resistant bird usually converts after the second attempt. The main thing to remember with this method is to never mix the seed with the Tropican. This promotes picky eating. Once the bird is successfully converted, then the old diet, most commonly a seed mixture, can be offered as a treat or as an incentive for behavior modification.

Flock Conversion

This method of diet conversion for your parrot plays into the natural instinct of a flock of birds’ desire to survive. A “flock” can be an entire aviary or it can consist of a multiple bird household. Parrots in the wild will eat together. If one bird finds food, he usually calls out to the others and they share food. If a bird chooses not to eat in this situation, he is usually sick and he will not survive. While our domestic pets may be a generation or two removed from this actual behavior, the instinct is still there. Pets or breeders do not have to see each other eat, but they should know that others in the “flock” are eating and they will all soon eat. The caretaker should feed Tropican to everyone in the “flock” at the same time. Offer only Tropican. Out of curiosity, one or two members of the “flock” will pick at the new food while others may show some resistance. In most cases, the ones who start eating it will send vocal signs of eating, and the others will follow. “The Every Other Day” method can also be used with this method of conversion.The caretaker needs to observe the resistant members for signs of starvation. In an aviary situation, this might be a bit more challenging depending on how the birds are housed.

Tropimix Method

For birds that are resistant to above mentioned conversion methods, try moistened Tropimix.  (1 part Tropi-Mix to equal part hot water)  The hot water softens the fruit, corn, legumes, and most importantly, softens the Tropican morsels in the Tropi-Mix.  The softened Tropican coats your bird’s favorite seeds with the nutty Tropican flavor, therefore the bird becomes better accustomed to the flavor.  Since all of the nuts and seeds in Tropi-Mix are already hulled, this can help break the bird’s habit of hulling seeds.  Be sure to remove moisten food from your bird’s cage after one hour. As your bird eats more of this mix, add a higher ratio of Tropican to Tropimix for ultimate nutrition!

Enrichment with Tropican and Learning Blocks ToyEnrich and Forage

This method plays into the instincts of most parrot species and can even be used in combination with Flock Method.

Place a morsel of Tropican, dependant on the size in appropriately sized foraging toy, such as a puzzle box, or Living World Learning Block center. Most parrots natural curiosity takes over!

Keep in mind that not all species forage in the same manner. Cockatiels, and often African Greys, for instance, are ground foragers. If such is the case, have a table top tray with various items that are bird safe; toy pieces, appropriate size stones, and sprinkle Tropican in the mix. As your bird investigates the items on the tray, he’ll soon find something edible-the Tropican! Often when our parrots work at getting their dinner, they embrace that morsel even more!

Aloe Vera Natural Remedy for Parrots

Avian First Aid: Natural Remedies for Parrots

Aloe Vera for Parrots

Charlene Moluccan CockatooWelcome to the Avian First Aid segment! We will be featuring some of HARI’s suggested components of an avian first aid kit arsenal-with a first look at Aloe Vera and its uses with our avian companions. Parrot Life Magazine, Vol. 2 (PDF) features the article in full along with helpful charts on using Aloe Vera with Avian Conditions.

Underutilized here in North America there are convincing reports, trials and research that confirm its potential for use as a safe and non-toxic remedy. In my entourage, people are aware of the topical gel’s therapeutic effect on burns, yet very few are familiar with the tonic drink and gel as a natural remedy for many other ailments. Its secrets have yet to be revealed in the avian medical community as well. Over-the-counter, non-toxic and inexpensive, it’s readily available, especially if you keep a plant at home and at the cottage in case of emergency!

The history of Aloe Vera for centuries used by civilizations throughout the world is fascinating.

The oldest documented usage of this plant dates back to 1550 B.C in the Egyptian Book of Remedies. It was an Egyptian tradition to offer this plant at a funeral ceremony to accompany the Pharaoh to his last rest in the Valley of the Kings. A reference in the Bible claims that this plant was cultivated by God to give men a means of healing themselves.  “Aloe Vera Myth or Medicine?” provides some additional information pertaining to its properties, research, and different usage by humans and animals alike. This miraculous plant should definitely be part of every avian first aid kit.

Some claim it has fabled medicinal properties. Yet according to Dr. Peter Atherton, “Evidence of its therapeutic power dating back to 70-90 AD; Kings and Queens, Pharaohs, Indian, Chinese, Greeks Romans alike have used this miraculous plant for therapeutic armory.” Dr. Peter Atherton’s recent book THE ESSENTIAL ALOE VERA can be purchased from Mill Enterprises. I recommend its uses as a complementary or alternative medicine especially when other known therapies have failed to be effective, or a natural remedy with no known toxic effects are preferred to use.

Aloe Vera Recommended Avian Dosages

  • Aloe Vera Gel can be offered in a small cup. Many birds readily enjoy this.
  • Oral dosage: have your avian veterinarian evaluate this dosage with you based on your pet’s weight
  • Topical Spray: 1 part pure Aloe Vera Juice to 3 parts water. Rinse with water in a few hours later.
  • Wounds and bits: apply open section of mature plant and wrap as a band aid under bandage
  • Nasal flush: 1 mil pure get in 10 ml lactated ringer’s solution.

Caution: Despite its extremely safe usage it is advisable to discuss and advise your avian veterinarian, nonetheless!

Myth, reality and its undeniable therapeutic powers to relieve numerous health conditions are amongst its virtues. However, do not consider this a miraculous therapeutic agent for all illnesses that have not been medically evaluated. Should diarrhea, apparent discomfort or adverse reaction occur, discontinue its use immediately. Aloe Vera is not a permanent cure for arthritis, inflammation and immune system deficiency. Symptoms suppressed by this treatment will often return once the oral gel is no longer given.

Choanal Papillae 4 African Grey, courtesy Jean Pattison.

Show us your Choanal Papillae!

What is Choanal Papillae?

Severly Blunted Choanal Papillae
Choanal Papillae! Sounds more personal than you think! To examine these, all you need to do is take a quick peek inside your bird’s mouth, more precisely the roof of his mouth, with a small light.

When your avian veterinarian examines your bird, one of the first things he or she will inspect is the condition of your bird’s choanal papillae, as this is a fool proof indicator of the bird’s nutritional profile and health. HARI technicians routinely inspect each HARI bird’s choanal papillae. Health monitoring of the HARI flock is an ongoing concern to as part of the research studies in our Tropican products. The HARI flock serves as our quality control testing subjects for each batch of Tropican product produced.  Is this something avian caretakers can do? YOU BET!

“The choanal slit is visible as a median “V”-shaped cleft in the palate. There is species variation in the width of the choanal borders.  In pigeons and most raptors, the choana is slit-shaped. In the parrot the borders are more widely spaced, forming a distinct “V” shape. The borders of the choanal slit are lined with sensory papillae.” “Choanal papillae”  as defined by Avian Medicine: Principles and Applications, Ritchie, B.W., Harrison, G.J. and Harrison, L.R., Winger Publishing, Inc. Lake Worth, Florida, USA, 1994, p. 344-

In laymen terms: Healthy-sharp, pointed projecting from the choanal borders are characteristic of a sufficient vitamin A assimilation.

On the contrary: The presence of “blunted” shorter, rounded or change in coloration (ex: from a normal black for certain species to a whitish blunted tip) or absence of these papillae altogether is indicative of a lack of vitamin A assimilation.

In our experience, at the HARI facility, chicks can be examined for these choanal papillae at a few weeks of age. Monitoring choanal papillae is part of every health exam performed on our breeding colony, juveniles and chicks.

Hypovitaminosis can reveal other health issues, require an evaluation of the diet offered and actually consumed… i.e caretakers are offering cafeteria style feeding and the healthy extruded granules are not eaten in sufficient amount to ensure optimum nutrient balance.

Individuals birds challenged with obesity, also in our experience, have a tendency to prevent optimum assimilation of vitamins such as Vitamin A.  Monitoring these in your companion bird can be part of your active role as a responsible & proactive caretaker. We encourage you to ask your avian veterinarian to guide you in this routine inspection. And, if you can get a photo of your bird’s choanal papillae, we challenge you to post on our facebook page! Submissions should include species, age, and diet.

Reccomended Cage for Parrots

Recommended Cage for Parrots

Let’s look in depth at the various quarters mentioned in the HARI & Parrot Life series Versatile Living Quarters and Lifestyle for Your Parrot, a study of how this can benefit a long lasting relationship with your avian companion.

Blue and Gold MacawThe Weaning-fledgling cage

This cage should be used for the fledgling-weaning age till the juvenile age and can then be converted to a sleeping-retreat and boarding cage. The size of the cage should be relatively small. If you can envision the full size of the bird with full wing- span and multiply this by two-three you should have a reasonable space. Once perched, the tail feathers should not touch the bottom of the cage.

Although you will be tempted to buy a larger “starter cage”, remember that at weaning age the chick can be intimidated by a spacious environment, and so favoring this small , secure and comforting cage size will prove beneficial to the young fledglings first steps.

Considerations for the installation of the weaning fledgling “starter” cage

This cage should integrate comfortable perches such as rope perches initially installed at lower heights adjusting daily to the fledglings grip, agility & confidence. Simple (straight not twisted) natural branches (of maple or apple) can also be installed in the weaning cage when the chick is more agile. HARI does not recommend a self-grooming perch for the weaning cage. Fledglings have delicate and sensitive feet and exposing them to a grooming perch could cause the early onset of podo-dermatitis (bumblefoot). It is unfortunate that the most favored perch for a young parrot often has non-slipper properties. Initiating your young fledgling to having their nails groomed slightly by a rotary tool is definitely less damaging than having to use a grooming perch for this purpose in the future.

Toys should not be integrated within this cage. Focus will be on weaning and sleeping thus there is no place for toys, with the exception of an acrylic foraging toy perhaps!

Several food bowls are positioned to be easily accessible for the fledgling, as it must learn to wean from what is found within the cage. A full spectrum light can be placed near the weaning cage and exposed a few hours per day.

A snuggly fit cage cover should be used to shelter the young fledgling periodically during the day. Initially, 3 sides of the cage and top should be covered during the gradual stages of adaptation to a new environment. The fledgling cage should be placed in a retreated space in your home ensuring a quite, non-distracting, non-invasive environment.

White or recycled newspaper should be used to liner the cage bottom .This will allow visual monitoring of the droppings, essential when ensuring healthy weaning supervision & assessment of what is truly consumed by the chick.

At this weaning age we recommend the chicks be supplementary fed within the cage and not removed to a counter to be fed. Exaggerated and prolonged begging for supplemental feedings can trigger the onset of screaming and restlessness if the chick associates the feeding with the caretaker and retrieval from the cage. An optimum diet such asTropican High Performance Weaning Granules should be offered in this cage along with a stainless steel or ceramic water dish.

Considerations for the installation Juvenile-maturity sleeping cage

As your chick matures to a separate day and night cage, the weaning cage will be perfectly suited for a sleeping cage. Undesirable behaviors can be quickly managed, and ultimately modified when a comfortable and secure retreat is offered that promotes undisrupted sleep. The sleeping-retreat cage should not encourage playing activities, as this is a place to relax and wind down. Birds may accidentally get caught up in toys during the night and have less chance of being rescued since they are not under supervision.

Grooming perches are usually favored as a sleeping perch by older birds, yet this type of abrasive perch should not be used for night perching. Rope or a natural perch should be offered in the sleeping cage. Offering strictly an optimum diet such as Tropican within the sleeping cage will again favor the ingestion of the healthiest food early in the morning, no fruits or veggies should be offered in the sleeping cage for risk of spoiling overnight. The cage liner should be white paper changed daily, facilitating visual inspection of the droppings each morning for health monitoring. A cage cover (without holes as birds can get entangled in these during the night!) should be fitted to the sleeping cage. A night lamp can be placed in the room near the sleeping cage to prevent night freights and trashing.

The sleeping cage is usually favored as a boarding age, or weekend escape to the cottage cage! Choosing a cage model that is suitable for your bird and fits easily in your car is ideal!

Spacious Day Cage for Parrots

This cage should be 3-4 times the size of the sleeping cage. This one will most probably never fit inside your car! Realistically, a suitable quality day cage can easily cost more than the purchase of the parrot itself and so allowing monthly financing for this purchase while the parrot is still at its fledgling age can help disperse the cost over a longer period of time,  ensuring optimum living quarters for its lifetime. Catalogue selection of the desired model can prevent storage challenges for the stores.

The placement of the day cage should be in a well lighted, enriching part of the house.  Television, radio, aquarium, mirrors, windows, visual interaction with other pets (compatible with your parrot of course!) can contribute to enriching the day cage’s environment. A full spectrum light should be installed in close proximity to optimize its’ beneficial properties.

Foraging activities, destructible and indestructible toys should be offered in the day cage, foot toys in a toy basket along with a foraging box. Perches of various textures and diameters can be placed within and around the cage. A stainless steel or ceramic water bowl, a water bottle as well as different feed bowls can be adapted to the cage. This cage should be functional, esthetic, easy to clean & of safe design and construction as you will be seeing this one everyday in your living space!

A reliable avian flight harness to promote controlled and supervised flight training such as the Aviator harness manufactured by the Parrot University should be one of the first investments made when adopting your bird. Hopefully the aviculturist had the opportunity to harness train your chick as a fledgling!

Cat Carrier's such as this one can accomodate birds nicelyAn avian transporter is recommended and should be used periodically to accustom the bird to the safe environment it offers and prevent stress when traveling to and from the clinic for routine or emergency visits. Socially well adjusted parrots travel, and the more functional the transport cage is the more likely you will be to travel with your bird! The size for the transport cage should be suitable for the size of the particular species. A perch, water & food bowl, special toy and easily cleaned liner or substrate should also be adapted for longer travels. The transporter should not be left on the top shelve of the backyard shed! It should be clean, adapted for emergency transport, accessible and visible by all, ideally placed near the day cage. A transport cage should be available for every bird in your home in case of an emergency evacuation.

Note: it is favorable to have your companion comfortable within the transport cage but caution must be taken to prevent a parrot from accessing his transport cage by itself too often, taking refuge in it as it would at a nesting cavity.

A training stand is primordialto encourage and reinforce education. The dark ages when birds were displayed on training stands with wire domes are far behind us, we hope! This is the equivalent of the pupil’s school desk, and should not be misconceived as an activity center. This stand should provide a comfortable and stable perch mounted below eye level. Training sessions are most successful when positioned in a neutral zone, sheltered from distraction. Various models offer a collection tray underneath, two bowls ideally for water as training sessions can use food rewards, offered as positive reinforcements by the trainer.

Macaw ready for formal education on training stand
Macaw ready for formal education on training stand

Exercise activity centre

Parrot caretakers must be creative and intuitive by offering enriching environmental stimuli while providing gratifying and challenging occupational activities. Such activities may include foraging, stimulating exercise, daily misting to promote preening. With a little creativity these activities can all be possible at the exercise activity centre. A Christmas tree stand to support a natural tree trunk with numerous branches (java, manzanita, apple or maple) can be the foundation for the creative activity centre. Vinyl tiles or acrylic floor panels are recommended to allow the possibility of misting and facilitate cleaning, as this is the place to encourage shredding, chewing & foraging activities. Rope nets can also be used as a foundation to hang an activity center from the ceiling.

reliable scale and adapted scale perch for routine weight monitoring is also part of a versatile lifestyle, your companion should be comfortable and rewarded to visit the scale perch daily!

Outdoor flight or Cage for Parrots

Combining ingenuity, creativity, and the availability of safer materials for flight construction, outdoor living quarters should be an essential habitat provided for all companion parrots if possible. It is recommended to have a double wire protection built around the outdoor flight to prevent the intrusion of predators and prevent our cherished feathered companions from escaping or having their feed contaminated with small mammal excrements. Various adaptations to the cage should include the construction of a sun barrier and rain barrier as excessive exposure to direct sun and severe rain can be a health hazard.

Behaviour issues Parrot

Items Required to Prevent Hormonal Overdrive in Parrots

Welcome back to a continuation of HARI  & Parrot Life series Versatile Living Quarters and Lifestyle for Your Parrot,a study of how this can benefit a long lasting relationship with your avian companion.

In part 1 and part 2, we discussed some of the concerns about sharing a life with a parrot and questioned some of the mistakes parrot caretakers have possibly made that have contributed to behavior problems-especially those that stimulate hormonal overdrive. In part three of this series, HARI staff presents a list of items that should be considered necessities for companion parrots.

Vision cage with coverUltimately caregivers should thrive to offer a versatility of living quarters for their juvenile or mature feathered companion. The list below might seem exhaustive although it is quite realistic in numerous homes provided future caretakers are well informed prior to purchasing their initial cage and accessories.

  • Weaning-fledgling cage – later used as the sleeping, boarding & weekend getaway cage
  • 1 transport cage
  • 1 Day cage (for Juvenile age to -maturity)
  • 1 Sleeping cage( for Juvenile age to -maturity)
  • Outdoor cage or outdoor flight
  • 1 Flight Harness
  • 1 scale with adapted perch
  • 1 Play gym that stimulates exercise , activity & discovery
  • 1 foraging environment integrated within the daytime living quarters
  • 1 training stand ideally placed in a neutral area of the home
  • 1 shower perch or quarters facilitating daily  misting

Recommendations made for parrot caregivers to accommodate their parrot with a  sleeping cage has been in vogue for numerous years, although in the past the explanation favoring the retrieval to a safe, quite and undisrupted sleeping quarter was primordial to promote desirable behaviors and optimal health.

Additional to this undisputable justification, I believe that a rigid, inflexible routine must be avoided from the young juvenile age. As independence is gained (at roughly 6-9 months of age for a medium to large parrot) a single cage dwelling must not be encouraged. Therefore I firmly believe that the day cage must not simply be retreated to a quite location in the home for the nighttime, there must be a distinctly different cage for this purpose, to prevent cage bonding, provide versatility and eliminate the possibility the single cage is associated with a breeding site as the chick matures.

Note: A room devoted to a flock of companion birds usually achieves to promote exercise, stimulate a versatile and enriching environment through the possibilities of adapting various occupational and exercise components. The social interaction with the flock will usually provide a healthier relationship with the caretaker as this lifestyle is less likely to promote hormonal stimuli. It is nonetheless advisable to cover the individual cages throughout the night when the birds have retreated to their sleeping quarters.

Come back for in-depth explanations of our  list of recommendations for Versatile Living Quarters!


Goffin Cockatoo Shredding

Factors Contributing to Raging Hormones in your Parrot?

Welcome back to a continuation of HARI  & Parrot Life series Versatile Living Quarters and Lifestyle for Your Parrot, a study of how this can benefit a long lasting relationship with your avian companion.

Improvements in the past 20 years for the care of our feathered companions have been proven beneficial, but have we brought on a new era of problems? Could these factors, additionally to the single cage dwelling’s monotonous lifestyle, be contributing to hormonal overdrive?

  • Full spectrum lighting offered in excess, daily & throughout the year…are we overexposing –over stimulating?
  • Should the only activity center be located on the single cage dwelling’s play top, mimic once again the area guarded surrounding the nest cavity in the wild?
  • Caretakers offering an exhaustive variety of foods referred to as “cafeteria style feeding” can mimic the breeding season in the wild when abundance and variety of foods is increased … should this abundance be offered throughout the year?
  • Improved diets can provide excess in caloric energy and optimum nutrients year round compared to the variation of availability seasonally found in the wild. Is this contributing to simulate conditions found during the breeding season? Subsequently, the amount of energy expensed by the birds living in a non-stimulating, unchallenging and monotonous environment can be far less than their daily caloric intake, inevitably contributing to obesity.
  • Offering shredding or weaning material in the single dwelling cage potentially contributes to hormonal overdrive, interpreted as preparation of nesting material in the” nest cavity”. Shredding activities should be encouraged at an activity center. Our companions should not be encouraged to mark their cage as they would mark their nesting cavity. Offer novelties, distractions and versatility.
  • Captive bred, hand fed, chicks that are overly consumed by the human touch can inadvertently mistake their human caretaker as a mate when they reach adolescence. This prevents the development of a healthy relationship. The human caretaker should be viewed as a mentor or leader of the flock and not misunderstood as a sexual mate. The unfortunate outcome of petting parrots near the lower back, down the tail whilst flaring the vent, exchanging foods with a human mouth, petting the beak are inevitably communicating mating courtship. Once again potentially contributing to hormonal overdrive? Birds should experience companionship, foraging, preening with other birds at an early age.
  • Probing deeper into the probable causes of hormonal overdrive … is there a possibility that having the same caregiver bring food to the single cage dwelling routinely mimic the mating season when the male brings food to the nest cavity to feed the brooding hen? Perhaps the cycle should be broken, other members of the family should participate & foraging with flock mates (i.e. at supper time while the family is preparing the meal & eating) should be integrated more frequently in the daily activities of your feathered companion.

Read on for a list of items to prevent hormonal overdrive in parrots.

When Mirrors become a Problem for Parrots