Sunday, March 28, 2010

Putting Birds Before Yourself

Ndeke with his wife Inyoni... both are now in a better place

I swore a number of years ago that I would ever rehome one of my "permanent" animals... That is to say the ones who I had decided had found their forever home with me, instead of extended fosters...
Recently I broke that oath.

My lovebird Ndeke was originally a foster, who then moved in with my female lovie Inyoni and became permanent.
When Inyoni died last year, he was living the high life!
He was now able to have warm mushy foods, berries, veggies, a hidey hole, all the things that he had not been able to have when Inyoni was around because it would encourage breeding.
He was quite the happy bachelor.
Then about 3-4 months ago things started to change. He was quieter, less active and then started plucking his tail feathers out.
I worked to improve his habitat with fresh bamboo browse, foraging and toys, but it didn't help.
I finally admitted that my house was no longer the best situation for him. That no matter what I did, I was simply not set up to provide him everything he needed for him mental health. No matter how good his cage and diet was, he needed more.

Thankfully my friend Emily came through once again. The sister of her riding instructor had been thinking about adding a bird to her family and we got in contact.
Ndeke went to his new home last week. There he will have attention, lots of activity, lots of love and be able to bring joy to her and her family.
I got an email from her a few days later to let me know that he was settling in well and had brought a wonderful "vibe" to their house. I am so happy that he will have a chance to thrive again.
We have an agreement that should things change and it is no longer best for him to be there that he will come back to me. I also told them that if money is ever an issue, I will happily pay his food and vet bills... to me that is a small price for his happiness.

What have I learned from this?
That it is not a bad thing to admit when your situation is not the best situation for an animal. No matter how dedicated you are to their well being, sometimes it is best to put their welfare before your own heart and pride.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Playscape Additions

Birds in the wild do not spend all day hanging out in the same tree... no matter how enriching that tree may be, so I have always thought that my own captive birds should not spend all day in or around their "tree" or in this case cage.
Now my birds all have cages that are larger than most would provide for their species, with a variety of perches, toys, foraging opportunities etc etc... but lets face it... if we had to live in our bedrooms all day, every day we would get pretty bored, no matter how nice our decorations are.

Because of this I have over the years been developing, improving and expanding what I like to call their "playscape". It started off as a single manzanita playgym and has now developed into a manzanita play gym, a HQ metal play gym, a starbird climbing net. All of these are enhanced with various toys, foraging opportunities and boings. All of which are rotated and moved regularly to present new challenges.
My birds all love this playscape and make full use of it, but I am always looking for ways to improve it.
One of the ways I have been wanting to improve it is to add something which would allow a) a place to have a bird bath, b) a flat perching surface and c) new foraging opportunities.

Last week I found just the right piece to add. While wondering around Walmart I came across a bathroom organizer (one of the shelves which go around and over a toilet) which was marked down to $10. The shelves were wire bars of about 3/4 to 1" spacing.
I brought it home and and assembled it to add into the playscape. The height was perfect and allowed for me to put my Austin Air Cleaner underneath to save some space.
The bars allowed me to add in foraging toys which were designed to be fixed onto the side of a cage. The flat shelves allowed me to add a large flat dog bowl as a bathing dish (I use a plastic one with a rubber base to prevent slipping). Finally the bars on the shelves and the struts of the main frame allow me to attach hanging foraging toys, foot toys and other fun things.

This new addition to the playscape has gone down very well with Marnie and Lucha who will spend hours moving around it and exploring. Puff is still a little nervous of it, but given time I am sure he will come around to it.

The important thing to take away from this is that you never know when you will find a chance to enrich your birds lives further. Whenever I go to a store, yard sale, farmers market, on craigslist I am always looking at things with the birds in mind, and have found a number of great deals. All my birds love their stainless steel measuring spoons that cost me $1 from Walmart. The childrens links that I buy in bags of 30 from Target for $5 have made life so much easier by using them to hang toys... this way I never have to worry about the link not fitting around the larger bars, or having to mess with tightening or loosening links when a bird is threatening to remove my hand.

The new addition to the playscape with the air filter below it. On the shelves are the bird bath, toys and of course my grey Marnie