Parrot Toy Angels: August 2009 Angel Wings
Parrot Toy Angels

Angel Wings

A monthly journal for human angels who make a positive difference in companion birds' lives.

August 2009
Volume 4, Issue VIII

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In this month's issue:
    Happy Anniversary
    Parrot Toy Angels
    How PTA Was Hatched
    Cassie Update
    "Polly Wants More Than A Cracker"
    Fancy 'Taters
    What Is A Parrot To Eat? Part 4
    Touched By An Angel
    On Being An Angel
    Featured Fid ~ Red Tail Black Cockatoo
    Safety Today
    What It Means To Be An Angel
    Get the Anti-nutrient Out Of My Beans
    So You Think You Want A Companion Bird?
    Rikki Sez
    Flying, Free as a Bird
    Help Us
    Angel Announcements

Angel Toys For Angels

Featured Toys for August

Pippi Luv's Favorite
Pippi Luv's Favorite
Medium to Large Birds

PVC Forager
PVC Forager
Medium to X-Large Birds

Bird Fun
Bird Fun
Small to Medium Birds

Check out all the
Angel Toys for Angels


Happy 4th Anniversary Parrot Toy Angels!!
Founded August 6, 2005

Happy 4th Anniversary PTA!  11,247 toys donated!  WooHoooo!!

♥ ♥ ♥

By Ilona Peterson

not one less...possibly more
What? you ask
is that big number?
Let me tell you
what that's for.
It has behind it
hours of planning
cutting, sawing, drilling, dying.
Then quiet sitting and designing
all the while visualizing
who this will be for.
You've surely heard
that there are angels
no, not the ones in heaven,
but earthly ones who's
toys now number
But there is more.
That great big number
has a partner
83, rescues
to be sure.
And each one of these
is a recipient
of Parrot Angel Toys.

♥ ♥ ♥

Parrot Toy Angels
By Vicki Hartsfield

I hear the sound of Angel wings
Gathering in a group together
A new project has been announced
To make toys for every feather
We gather 'round our tables
Lights on 'til after dark
To put the pieces together
For the ones so near our heart
For the sanctuaries and rescues
That take in what we cannot
We try to always be there
To be a vital part.
Toys, food and donations
Are what we are all about.
Parrot Toy Angels ROCK!
Let's give them a BIG SHOUT!

♥ ♥ ♥

How PTA Was Hatched
By Sue Christie-Cox

Iced Tea, Margarita, Riesling, Tequila?.... or for those of you where it's cold, hot chocolate, mulled wine or cider.

Grab your drink, settle yourselves in the hot tub and let the telling of the great story of how PTA came to be, begin.

This is the story of one little bird and how she opened the hearts of many people all over the world and how Parrot Toy Angels was "hatched".

Cassie is a Goffins Cockatoo. For those who aren't familiar with a Goffins, they are one of the smaller members of the cockatoo family, averaging around 12 - 13" in length. The feathers are predominantly white, with pale yellow on the underside of the wings and tail, pink lores, and a beautiful salmon-colored tinge to the base of the head and neck feathers. They are a playful, intelligent bird, with an inquisitive nature, which reminds you of a happy two-year-old child.

Unfortunately, when Cassie was discovered she was nothing like the description above. Found in a tiny, dirty cage in someone's basement, Cassie had been badly neglected and cage-bound for 5 years. Andrea, who now is Cassie's proud mom says "What greeted me was a badly plucked, naked, dirty, musty smelling, abused little girl. It took all of two minutes to fall totally in love with her. Cassie came straight to me".

Andrea was a member of a Yahoo group, CheepParrotToysNTips, and she posted Cassie's story asking for advice on toys that Goffins enjoyed. Andrea's obvious love for this little bird inspired a couple of members to start a group, Parrot Toy Angels. A different type of group, this was to be a group of "Angels".

These Angels are certainly not your average Angels; there is not a halo to be seen, but a few think they still might have one that they turned into a bird toy using jute and pony beads. Nor will very many of them ever meet, as they are spread far and wide. The members of this very special group are here to help birds in difficult times.

Parrot Toy Angels is an all-volunteer organization committed to providing toys, food and other avian supplies to companion birds in difficult situations. Life-altering changes, natural disasters or an organization's lack of funding all can have a negative emotional and physical impact on both birds and companion caregivers. Angel Projects help ease the burden for the generous individuals and organizations that provide safe havens for birds in need.

The first box of toys from the Angels was made by Nancy Goulding and sent to Cassie. Andrea says, "Watching her play made me think she had never had toys before. I can't tell you how heart-warming it is to know there are people in this world who care so much, and what an honor it is to be a part of this group".

Ilona, one of the founding members of PTA, has said of birds "Our love for them extends well beyond our own homes and because of them, we have opened our hearts to birds we will never meet, never see. Yet we know that because of us, one bird at a time will lead a happier life".

2006 was a very rewarding year for PTA, with donations of over 2659 toys to 22 organizations and individuals, as well as obtaining GuideStar Certified 501(c)3 Charity Status.

2007 ended with 15 projects completed and over 3,000 toys donated.

2007-8 was a little different for the Angels. Our committees increased and new Angels were helping with great fundraising projects and recipe ideas. Our Safety Committee grew from strength to strength, always ensuring that all "Project Toys" are the safest possible. The Newsletter Committee members worked towards creating a new and exciting newsletter each month. Some Angels left us and others joined, but as always Parrot Toy Angels worked towards the one common goal....Making a difference, one bird at a time.

2009 so far has seen another successful online auction and the release of a cookbook full of delicious recipes for our birds. More toys have been made and so many more birds live happier and healthier with caregivers who have a lighter step and heart. Angels have again gone beyond expectations. Since our beginning in 2005, we have created and donated 11,247 toys to 83 Angel Projects.

With 60 Angels from Canada to Australia there is always room for more Angels. If you'd like to find out more about the Angels go to Parrot Toy Angels website. To see some of our "Project" pictures, click here.

Unfortunately there will always be little birds like Cassie, but with the Parrot Toy Angels around to help out with busy fingers and open hearts, hopefully, they soon will also feel the love of an "Angel".

♥ ♥ ♥

Cassie Update

...She is great! She amazes me that at her age she is always learning a new word or two. The latest are "Mama" and "Let me out"! Her not so nice habit is picking her food up with her foot and throwing it on the floor; don't know how to get her to stop this one. My son best describes her tantrums as being an angry toddler. He tries his best to pet her, but she's not having any of it. She does love to play with him, though. He moved back to Mom from his Dad's in January and she waits for him to come home so she can play. She will drop her whiffle ball to the bottom and hop down for him to flip it across the cage and she'll chase and bring it back. He sits on the floor for hours doing this with her and talking to her. He has to be careful though not to get his finger close or she's gonna get him. He's 20 and loves her but just can't touch. She is a sweetie and she loves her Mom, that's for sure.....Cassie's Mum

PTA is thrilled Cassie continues to thrive under Andrea's loving care.

Click here to see Cassie thru the years

Has this story got your toymaking talons twitching? Do you want to help make a difference in somebirdie's life? Come join our ranks! We have angels from all different backgrounds and walks of life, and there's always room for another generous heart.
As a Parrot Toy Angel, you will be asked to contribute on a monthly basis to help support our ongoing work.
Apply for membership:
Angel Application ♥  ♥  ♥ Join our Yahoo! Group

"Polly Wants More Than A Cracker...
A Parrot Owner's Cookbook"

Polly Wants More Than A Cracker...A Parrot Owner's Cookbook

Summer is here!! It's the time for baseball, swimming, barbeques and fresh from the garden fruits and vegetables. What better time than summer to buy the PTA cookbook "Polly Wants More Than A Cracker" and take advantage of all the delicious produce available in our own gardens or local farmer's market.

♥  Make your birds some Fruit Filled Bran Muffins with fresh blueberries, or Fruit and Veggie Cake with fresh corn and summer fruit.
♥  Top your bird's Breakfast Oatmeal or Birdie Rice Pudding with chopped fresh fruit.
♥  Summer corn on the cob is perfect to use to make Confetti Corn and use peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, peas and herbs from your garden to make some Pasta Primavera, Fresh Garden Salad or Spicy Gazpacho.
♥  Your birds will love Red, White and Blue Salad made with fresh fruit.
♥  We all enjoy a refreshing ice pop or Italian ice on a hot summer day. Treat your birds to a Fruity Birdsicle and give them a special icy cold treat.

These recipes and many more are in our cookbook available on our website

♥ ♥ ♥

Fancy 'Taters
By Colleen Soehnlein

Baking Potato
1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli, shredded carrots, or chopped peppers
1/2 tbsp. plain, organic yogurt
Small amount shredded cheddar cheese

Bake potatoes and cool so they can be handled without burning yourself. Cut in half and scoop out the insides with a spoon. Place in a bowl. Add the veggies and organic yogurt. Mix well. Top with sprouts and a small amount of shredded cheddar cheese. Bon appetit !!

Fancy 'Taters....yummy!

♥ ♥ ♥

What Is A Parrot To Eat?
Part 4

By Dori Jacobson

Round pellets, oval pellets, tubular pellets, cubes. Red, brown, yellow, purple and green pellets. Teeny pellets, thumb-sized pellets and those in between. Why pellets? Which pellets?

Pellets are a great addition to your bird's diet. They provide a well-rounded nutritional source. Pellets can be left in the bird's cage or stand all day without spoiling. They should, however, be changed daily to maintain freshness, sometimes more often if your bird gets the pellets moist in some manner.

The size of the pellets should be determined by the size of the bird. Macaw-sized pellets will be too large for your little lovebirds or finches and large birds may not like the tiny cockatiel-sized pellets. For example, I found a great food for my birds. Ingredients are terrific and my birds like the taste. However, my larger birds will not touch it, other than an occasional feeding from my hand. They just do not like small, crumbled foods. Many of the bird foods come in various sizes for different beakers, but several do not, which is quite unfortunate.

A very important factor in selecting a good pellet diet for your birds is their specific species requirements. Most birds do just fine with a basic well-formulated pellet. One species, the Eclectus, is noted to have sensitivities to diets with dyes and artificial flavorings, very rich ingredients and preservatives. Likewise, Amazons are prone to fatty liver disease, so a high fat formula would be best avoided. African Greys tend to need extra calcium, and may require a higher fat diet. With these differences in mind, is it necessary to have different pellets for each species? A good, basic pellet can be used for all your birds. Then, just add a little extra nutrition for that species in their fresh food sources: an extra almond and a sunflower seed or two for your Greys, a little extra fruit for the others who have higher fruits in their natural diet.

Another important factor to consider is the manufacture and expiration date of the pellets. These dates should be in plain sight on the package. Be sure to check the packaging before tossing the bag in your cart. The shelf life can be extended by freezing the foods once you get them home, but be sure the food is well within the proper dates when you purchase it.

Check out the pellet ingredients on the package. Vitamins and chemical preservatives are not necessary and can be harmful to your bird. Most nutrition should come from the food ingredients, not through fillers and chemicals.

Even though many foods are advertised as a well-balanced diet for your birds, pellets should not be the only part of their diet. Eating a compressed niblet, the same niblet each day, is boring, to say the very least. Would you want to be fed organic breakfast bread all day, every day? Probably not. Neither do your birds. And even though they may be a balanced part of the diet, birds need fresh, live foods each day to get the best nutrition. Pellets are great to keep in the food dishes all day while you are gone.

Pellet Waste: Ever notice that the bags of pellets end up with a powdery residue on the bottom? The amount of residue depends on the size of the bag and handling during shipping and stocking. I used to grumble about the wasted food, but no longer. Instead, I add the residual crumbs to my birdie breads and cooked food. It provides a little extra nutrition, particularly for the fussy birds and ends any waste. Also, when I find a great food, but my birds think it is poison for whatever reason, I simply toss the unused pellets into the food processor or blender and add it to their muffins, bread, or cooked foods! Now I no longer have to grumble about poor package handling or finicky's all good.

♥ ♥ ♥

Touched By An Angel
By Stephanie Barclay, Director

Donations had been down while surrenders and rescues just kept rising. When donations were received, it was usually right in time for some newly needed cages or another round of vet bills so Parrot Toy Angels helped out at just the right time.

Since Karen and I had "spoken" with Lynn, we knew ahead of time that we would be receiving some angel toys, but I didn't know quite what that would mean or when they would arrive.

I was out of town when the first package arrived and when the second one came, as well. In fact, when I got back, there were four packages waiting. We were so excited to get them! Karen had already peeked at a couple, but was waiting for Rick and me to see them and help with the distributing.

Seeing the four varying sized packages, I was amazed at the generosity from the members of PTA. There were toys suitable for all sizes of birds and they were so happy to receive them. Before long, bells were ringing from the smaller birds and paper was flying in every direction. Jaya and Crispy jumped right onto a couple of the new swings almost immediately. Even Scarlet, who usually won't play, started chewing away on cupcake wrappers.

The next day, another package arrived -- This time, with extra large toys that were immediately hopped on by the macaws, larger amazons and a cockatoo. Over the next two days, there were no packages waiting for us. We thought that we had received the last of the toys and were thankful for the generosity of PTA. All the flock had gotten at least one, if not several new toys, which were being loved to pieces and we were ready to send happy wishes to PTA and the next flock they chose to help. But they weren't done with us yet! After three days of no packages, the next morning there were four more large boxes waiting by our door and even more arrived in the days following. Before PTA was done, not only did we have enough toys to give each cage and play gym several toys (and put away some for when those were destroyed because yes, they were definitely being loved to pieces!), we were also able to take some of the toys to our feathered friends being housed at our foster homes.

Miles, the military macaw, had never seen a toy before coming to our foster home. Abbie had given him a couple indestructible toys which he would move around a bit but didn't show any real interest in. She had even tried a couple foraging toys, which again didn't make a great hit. We placed one of the toys containing thick slats of colored wood on sisal rope in his cage and he was in Heaven. He started chewing, banging and pulverizing that toy immediately. Now he seems to like most any toy as long as it has some destroyable parts in it. Nissa, the Goffins had been plucking herself so much (we lovingly called her our plucked chicken) she had a scab starting in the center of her chest, even though there was no medical reason for it. We had tried wood toys and foraging toys and even some paper wrapped "candy" toys. She would play with them some but kept right on plucking. After we received the PTA toys, we gave her one of the coffee filter toys and a couple cupcake wrapper toys and she tore right into them. She is still feather shredding but I am happy to say that after finding "her toy", her chest is healed and she no longer actually plucks. She even has feathers covering all of her body now.

PTA's generosity has been amazing. It has touched the hearts and lives of not only our feathered friends here at IIRBS, Inc., but also of our volunteers. It is great to know there is a group of wonderful, hard working, generous people out there to help out feathered friends, both from the front lines and behind the scenes. Thank you all again and fondest wishes to all of you and to those you share your generosity with in the future.

♥ ♥ ♥

On Being An Angel...

Lori, Minnesota Angel shares "Sometimes, I feel selfish. The 'high' that I get, from giving to the feathers that need help, makes me feel very selfish. I love feeling that way. I don't want it to ever stop. Being a Parrot Toy Angel is great for my soul".

Gail, Kansas Angel says "I am honored to be part of the Parrot Toy Angels! In being an Angel I join a group of caring, non-judgemental, unselfish parrot lovers. I received my "Welcome to Parrot Toy Angels" email on May 3, 2007. Being a part of this group gives me joy in getting to know a group of parrot lovers that continue to amaze me daily with their unselfish nature and the support they give their fellow Angels. It also makes me feel good to know that I am giving to our beloved parrots that need the support, not to mention the parrot lovers that operate the rescues. I also have learned how to make safe, fun toys for my flock! I enjoy daily the ideas I receive from my fellow Angels. Being a Parrot Toy Angel is simply a win win situation!"

Nancy, North Carolina Angel shares "Being a Parrot Toy Angel means that you care about the birds of the world. You may not be able to save each one but you have a heart for the ones that come your way. You learn as much as you can and give back to save one bird at a time thru making toys, giving of your time and resources and educating others to prevent over breeding, neglect, and abuse of these elegant creatures".

Kim, Illinois Angel says "Being a Parrot Toy Angel is very dear to me as it gives me the opportunity to help out parrots who deserve so much more than what we can possibly give them. Because of Parrot Toy Angels, I have opened my home to rescue birds when we have space. This habit has been handed down to my children as well. I wish we could do more than we do, but I am so happy to help out as many birds as we help in a year! Thank you for letting me be a part of your group!"

Barb, Texas Angel shares "When we get the announcement of a new project it's very exciting. To read about the birds we are about to supply with the best toys we can make and then later, after they've been delivered to see the pictures or at least hear descriptions of how they enjoyed them is what it's all about! Sometimes when we get pictures we get to see a bird that wouldn't play with toys before and now he's playing with one of ours. It's happened once that I know of to me and it felt wonderful. Usually these birds have been through a lot and we get to give them some happiness. Just seeing or hearing how much they are enjoying their new toys is quite a thrill!"

Sue, Australian Angel says "It's a nice feeling to be an Angel. Although I am a long distance Angel, I still get the same great feeling of knowing that there are birds whose lives are being enriched by the great toys and foodies that arrive for them. I wish all the other Angels a great 4th Birthday and many more to come!"

Traci, Illinois Angel shares "What it means to me to be an Angel? It means being able to provide assistance to others in need. Providing my toys to others, makes me know that I am helping 1 bird at a time. I truly enjoy making toys and sharing with others. It makes me smile to know that I am helping someone".

Toni, North Carolina Angel says "What an honor it is, warms my heart to give to those less fortunate than mine. To be part of something so much bigger than me. To converse with others that feel the same way. It feels so right..."

Verna, Massachusetts Angel shares "After being an Angel for 4 years, I feel in these tough economic times our country is going through, being an Angel and helping out the rescues who are struggling to just keep afloat has never had more meaning. I've never felt more proud to display my wings, and to be able to give help where help is needed. And when the call goes out, never asking why. Just doing what I can to help".

Ilona, California Angel poetically says "One would imagine that being an Angel is about helping birds in need, and that would be correct.
looking beyond that, there is even more to being an Angel.
Just ask any of us who have ever needed
a soft place to fall
a place to vent
We have become friends, advisors, confidants.
We have consoled, supported, prayed, and cried together.
That is what being an Angel is about".

And lastly, Devi, one of our Texas Angels states it so well!
Smiling beakers....that's what it means to be an Angel!

♥ ♥ ♥

Featured Fid ~ Red Tail Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii)
By Sue Christie-Cox
Zoe, Photo courtesy of M. Franco

When most people think of cockatoos, white birds come to mind, but some of (well to me) the most stunning cockatoos are the Black Cockatoos and those with that flash of vivid red under the tails are the most dramatic of them all. There are five subspecies of the RTB; I am going to cover the one closest to my heart, the Samueli.

The Samueli are one of the smaller of the RTB 'toos, with adult Red-tailed Black Cockatoos measuring around 60 centimeters (24 inches) in length and are sexually dimorphic. Males are completely black in color, except their prominent red tail bands; with a prominent black crest made up of elongated feathers from the forehead and crown. The bill is dark grey. Females are brownish black with yellow-orange stripes in the tail and chest and yellow spots on the cheeks and wings. The bill is pale and horn-colored. The under parts are barred with fine yellow over a brownish base. Male birds weigh between 670 and 920 grams (1.5-2 lbs.), while females weigh slightly less at 615-870 grams (1.25-1.75 lbs.). Juvenile Red-tailed Black Cockatoos resemble females until puberty, which occurs around four years of age, but have paler yellow barred under parts. As the birds reach maturity, males gradually replace their yellow tail feathers with red ones; the complete process takes around four years.

In the late 1990s, Red-tailed Black Cockatoos fetched prices of $1750 in Australia, which has now grown to around $2500. Hand-raised birds can be bought for anywhere between $15,000 to $40,000 in the United States, though they are seldom seen in aviculture. Hand-reared birds are able to learn a few words and can be quite affectionate, although males may become imprinted and unlikely to breed. The Red-tailed Black Cockatoo is the most commonly seen of the Black Cockatoos in captivity, and can be hardy and long lived if given plenty of space. Until now, most birds in captivity have been of subspecies C. b. banksii and C. b. samueli.

Although Red-tailed Black Cockatoos feed on a wide variety of native and introduced grains, the mainstay of their diet is eucalyptus seeds. The RTBs bite off branchlets with clusters of gum nuts and then hold them with their feet while chewing and harvesting seeds before littering the ground with the remains. Among other seeds and nuts consumed are those of Acacia, Allocasuarina, Banksia, Grevillea and Hakea, as well as berries, fruits and various insects and grubs. Birds in captivity usually enjoy a diet of seeds, fruits and nuts including sprouted seed, almonds, pecans and peanuts, apples, carrots and other veggies, like silver beet, beans, dandelions and thistles and natural foods including gum nuts, Grevillias and Banksia cones.

Nigel, Photo courtesy of M. Franco

The RTB can make an adorable companion bird; the bird is easy to cater to with diet and rarely has any health problems. They don't have a large ability to mimic human voices so aren't great talkers but can learn a variety of vocal exchanges. They aren't a loud bird and are a quiet, calm bird so aren't normally inclined to bite or nip.

As always, cage size is important, with the biggest cage affordable the best, but a bare minimum of 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet and must be constructed of heavy gauge wire. RTBs love to chew just like any bird and a constant supply of natural wood perches must be maintained. An aviary is the ideal for these birds and they will thrive. Minimum dimensions of a breeding aviary are 12 feet long x 6 feet wide and high with steel framework and heavy gauge wire. Horizontal perches located front and back will encourage flying and a sheltered area at one end for protection from the weather and also to keep foods dry.

Toys for RTBs should be substantially constructed as these birds enjoy chewing and destroying their toys. A variety of foraging opportunities should be encouraged, as in the wild a large amount of time is spent in the search for foods.

I have recently added a RTB to my flock, whose name is Darkoodginburra (or Darkoodgee for short), meaning "beautiful" in the local Aboriginal tribal language. Darkoodgee is 3 months old and I will pick him/her up in October.

Photos courtesy of M. Franco

♥ ♥ ♥

Safety Today
By Susan Kesler
Safety Committee Chairwoman

We have talked a lot about using safe parts, rope and chains for making bird toys and checking often for long strings and frayed ropes. Today I'd like to talk about using base parts that will be safe even after the chewable parts are gone.

When choosing a base that your toy parts will be tied onto, please remember that these parts will be gone soon. Is the base small enough that your bird cannot get his head into it when the curled straws are gone? Is the chain small enough that when the beads covering it are chewed away that his little feet won't get caught in the links?

Another thing to think about is the length and width of the rope you use to string beads, wood, and toys on. It may be made of safe materials, and look great all filled with toy parts, but again we have to "see" it as it will be when all or part of the pieces are gone. The shorter and wider the length of rope is the safer it will be. If your toy is made with long bits of rope, tie knots after each piece of wood or bead. This not only helps the toy stay together longer, but makes the rope harder to wrap around birds' feet or necks.

More and more toys are being made with fleece in place of rope. This also should be used in wider, shorter pieces. Thinner lengths of fleece or fabric are easier to get wrapped around a birdie. This is especially true if there is wood down the length and plastic beads on the bottom. When the wood is gone, the weight of the beads makes the fabric more apt to swing around a wing or neck, especially if your bird is very energetic.

So play it safe and try to "see" into the future what hazards the base may harbor when the chewable pieces are gone.

♥ ♥ ♥

"What It Means To Be An Angel"
By Jan Lewis

As the newest member of the Parrot Toy Angels, I wanted to share my thoughts on being an "Angel". Birds have always been an important part of my life. I remember the first "pet" bird I ever saw, it was a canary owned by the couple who babysat me for my mother. I'm not sure how old I was but I was very young. No older than 4 years old. I know because my parents moved when I was 4. My dad was in the military so we moved quite a bit. When I was 5 years old we moved to Germany where I had my first pet parakeet. He was the first bird to be mine and was the beginning of a special human/bird bond. Throughout my life birds have been some part of my life; either as my own pet, close friends' birds, or the wildlife wherever we lived.

Parrots have always had an emotional tie with me. They have been there through hard times in my life and helped me through them. They have been there even when I have lost another bird to help me through that horrible grief. They have a special love and emotional bond that is hard to describe. I never want to be without a beloved companion bird in my life!

Most of my life I have volunteered my time and talents to worthwhile causes. Birds and animals have always held a special place in my heart so I always try to find something to do with them. In the past I have volunteered with many great "causes" including my local zoo (in the bird department), Wildlife Coalition (working mostly with the birds and a few squirrels), Wings, Inc. (therapeutic horseback riding program) and our State Museum. At this time in my life I have both health and transportation problems that make it difficult at best to get out and do things. So whatever I do I must be able to do it in my home for now.

Earlier this year I added two macaws to my avian family. With the additions of the two macaws I decided I needed to make toys to keep all of my birds in affordable (for me) toys! I remembered the CheepParrotToysNTips group and made the decision I was going to learn to make my birds' toys. Lynn and I knew each other from another group we were on together and "caught up" a bit with each other. She mentioned Parrot Toy Angels. After learning a bit more about PTA, I decided that would be a wonderful opportunity for me to both learn to make great toys and to help other birds have toys and hopefully a better life. So here I am finally getting my feet wet and beginning my start at earning my wings!

♥ ♥ ♥

Get the Anti-nutrient Out of My Beans
Gonzo says: "My beans have less gas - do yours?"

By Lori M. Nelsen

Anti-nutrients are pretty much how the word sounds, ANTI nutrients. Anti-nutrients are found in grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and more. Because these food sources are good for our parrots, containing good traces of fatty acids and protein, we don't want to stop feeding them due to the anti-nutrients.

What we can do to reduce the amount of anti-nutrients is to soak them in water, then cook or fully sprout them. This is quite beneficial, as this process will not only reduce the anti-nutrients, but will also improve the digestibility. We end up feeding more of the good stuff without the problems of gas/flatulence for our parrots.

Mung and adzuki beans are the easiest legumes to digest; with lentil, garbanzo and sprouting peas following close behind. These are not only the easiest to digest, but the only legumes that should be sprouted for parrot food.

Begin by washing the beans and discarding any which are discolored or badly formed. Check for debris in the package, such as small rocks or twigs, and discard them. Soaking and cooking the beans thoroughly helps to break down the complex sugars (oligosaccharides) which challenge the digestive systems.

Beans cook faster and their digestibility increases by covering them with about 3 inches of warm water and soaking for 8 hours to overnight. Discard the soak water and fill the pot with fresh water. Bring the legumes to a rolling boil for 10 minutes and then simmer for another 20 minutes adding more water if necessary. For even more digestibility, bring to a rolling boil for 20 minutes and then simmer for an additional 10 minutes. You will find that skimming the foam off the boiling beans will help to remove more of the anti-nutrients.

Flatulence can be recognized by bubbles in the stools of your parrot. In addition to soaking and cooking or sprouting, you can reduce/eliminate the flatulence problem by using mild spices to enhance/stimulate digestion. These can be added to the boiling legumes or after cooking. Specifically, ginger and turmeric enhance the digestion of protein and cumin is anti-gas. Other mild spices can be used to stimulate digestion and reduce gas. Garlic (a powerful spice) also stimulates digestion and reduces gas in minute doses.

If sprouting legumes is your preference, follow the same preparation as above: wash, sort, soak, drain and sprout. Again, due to the anti-nutrients, lentils can be fed at 1/4" tails and the rest of the recommended legumes at 1/2" tails. It can take several days to sprout your legumes.

A reminder for those who feed a mash diet: It is the combination of: 2 parts grains to 1 part legumes that create a complete amino acid profile, which equals a complete protein. This grain/legume mixture should be 50% or more of your mash diet. The mash diet is then completed with green leafy vegetables, green vegetables, yellow vegetables and a bit of fruit (depending upon the species).

The following chart provides a visual reference to the vitamins and minerals provided naturally by feeding the recommended legumes to your feathered friend.

♥ ♥ ♥

So You Think You Want a Companion Bird?
Part 2

By Vicki Hartsfield

Last month we looked at reasons why you think you might want a companion bird. This month we will discuss the expense of having a companion bird. But first, let's give our companion a name. We will call him Willie. There are many considerations when making this commitment. This article will outline a few.

First and foremost, if you purchase Willie, he will be a major purchase. You are now responsible for a living, breathing creature.

Next, a veterinary check up of Willie's overall health is a must as soon as possible after bringing him home. A yearly check up is also recommended for his continued health and well being. As you get to know him, if he shows any signs of illness, you should consult your avian veterinarian. Avian veterinarians are not available in all areas, so it is wise to check this out before your purchase. Most veterinary hospitals are canine, feline and in a lot of areas, equine and bovine. Good avian veterinarians are expensive. You can purchase pet insurance, but it has exclusions and does not cover everything.

This next item is of utmost importance. You must supply the correct size cage for Willie's new home. A cage too small will only make his life miserable. He needs lots of room to spread his wings and to forage and to play. It is optional to purchase a smaller cage for his sleeping quarters. Of course, a cage doesn't last forever. Even the expensive powder coated ones will show wear and eventually need replacing.

Willie needs to have plenty of perches, easy access to water and feed dishes and toys to keep him busy. Willie will get bored if he is not entertained. He will need a lot of toys. It is good to constantly rotate the toys to keep him busy. When choosing perches, choose different sizes to help exercise his feet. He will need comfy perches and ones that are not the smooth dowels that come with standard cages. Branches from "safe" trees are best because they will also give him something natural to chew.

Food is a very important thing you have to think about. Most birds cannot live on seeds alone. Seeds will not meet all of Willie's nutritional needs. He also needs fruits, vegetables, grains and sprouts. Most birds love fresh sprouts. If your bird has been raised on pellets, you still need to make sure he gets variety in his diet. The food needs to be kept fresh at all times and not allowed to sit because bacteria will grow. Water needs to be changed at least once a day, with the container washed each time. Water with food or poop in it sours and carries many germs that can make Willie sick.

These facts should help with the decision to buy or not to buy a bird. Bringing a bird into your home should not be a spur of the moment decision, but one that needs careful consideration and thought.

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Rikki Sez

Rikki will try and answer frequently asked questions here.

Rikki, I like to chew on my mama's shiny baubles that she puts on her neck and ears. Mama says they could make me sick. Why can't I chew on them? They're so pretty and shiny.
Signed, Bauble-less

Dear Bauble-less, Those shiny baubles your mama wears are, unfortunately, made for humans. They are made of things that can hurt you, like sharp edges, toxic paints and glass. Perhaps your mama doesn't know that there are necklaces made just for birdies! She should take off her pretty baubles when she gets home, and put on a birdie necklace made of parts safe for us birdies. They have lots of chewy things and pretty colors and are lots more fun for us to play with! Your mama should be able to find them on the internet. If she can't find them, she can make her own!

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Rikki, My mom spends a lot of time in another room in the house she calls the kitchen. I am not allowed in there. Can you tell me about the "kitchen" and what secrets might be in there??
Signed, Curious

Dear Curious, The kitchen can be a scary room for us birdies. There are often huge pots of very hot, ouchie water, sharp knife things that can cut us, chemicals and other stuff that can hurt us. Your mama is just trying to protect you. Some mamas have perches in the kitchen that they allow their birdies on when they are cooking and don't have dangerous things within our reach or in the air. The birdies that are allowed in the kitchen, though, are very good birdies and stay on their stands so they don't get hurt. Perhaps this is part of the problem? Also, our mamas get very concentrated on what they are cooking and can't always watch us birdies. I know my mama would forget if she put some spices in the food and would probably add too much if she had to entertain me or worry about me in the kitchen. Your mama is thinking only of your safety and health, so don't be upset with her for not allowing you in the kitchen. It's fun watching them cook, but it's even more fun eating what they have made special for us...especially when it tastes right!!!

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Do you have a question for Rikki?
Please send it to The Editor at

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Flying, Free as a Bird
By Susan Kesler

Susan Hilliard, well known in the parrot community for free flying her birds, has graciously agreed to answer some questions from parrot owners interested in the art of re-call and free flight training.

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself Susan.
Susan Hilliard Susan: I'm from Houston, Texas and I came out to Washington State for law school but decided against that path after a year. My father was a dog rescuer and I grew up around lots of dogs, but we also had cats, rabbits, horses and the occasional canary and turtles. I started training our dogs in obedience as a preteen and added agility when that sport got going. I am still a dog rescuer and was on the Board of Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue for several years. I'm now in parrot rescue, too, although I guess it's more sanctuary than rescue since we've kept nearly all of those given to us.

Q: How did you get into free flying your birds?
Susan: Free flying made sense to me from the start because my dogs have always been off leash trained. I found accounts of it online and Chris Biro introduced me to the practice of it.

Free flyingQ: What training do you do before their first flight outside?
Susan: Two things are important to me. 1) A fast and reliable recall in the house, from room to room. 2) The older they are, the more they must also be accustomed to the location they'll start flying in, which means they spend a lot of time in a cage outside in and around that location. When they are very young, they pay much more attention to the trainer and much less attention to the surroundings, so I can take a very young flyer outside with less location prep.

Q: How do you recall your birds, and is it the same for every bird?
Susan: I hold out my hand or arm and call them and when they land, I give them a peanut or sunflower seed. The presentation of my hand or arm is the same, but the call names are different for each bird. However, there are 11 sun conures in the sun flock now and when they are at any distance, they are hard to tell apart. So I have a generic sun conure call.

Q: Can any companion bird be taught to free fly and come back?
Susan: I personally don't think every bird is a candidate for flying at all, much less free flying. Some birds clearly want to fly. They are flapping and jumping and possibly falling all the time. But some are frightened by it. I think it's unkind to make a bird fly that doesn't want to. There are lots of ways to keep a parrot happy that don't include flying. I liken it to skateboarding. Could I learn to skateboard at my age? Possibly, but do I want to? No, please no.

Q: You have many places you fly your birds. Do you have to familiarize them to the location before flying them?Free flying
Susan: We don't familiarize the macaw flock to new locations at this point because they are used to locations changing. But we use flock dynamics when first flying a new challenging location. We fly just one or two at first and only add additional birds when the first ones are responding well. Until we are sure about them, we keep at least one of the flock in a cage to serve as an anchor bird for contact calling. The sun conure flock goes to different fairgrounds but as far as they know, it's the same location over and over because our pirate ship and stage set up is always the same and they just fly within the crowd.

Q: Were you afraid the very first time your birds flew outside?
Susan: I was joyful, proud and excited. It is still how I feel for every bird, newbie or veteran, every time I let them out. I am very happy for them. It got scary quickly the first time they flew around a corner, but they came back, bless their birdie hearts. I've learned better ways to start them out now.

Q: Does it bother the birds having a crowd of strangers watching them fly?
Susan: I think they like it. They buzz our heads and come around and land on us, stranger or not.

Q: Do you use treats with your training? What kinds?
Susan: I generally use what the individual bird prefers: sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds. I mix them up so they never know quite what they'll get and of course I leave out whichever ones that particular bird doesn't like. For youngsters, apple bits are good training treats if they haven't figured out how to quickly eat a seed or nut yet. Some birds like items like clothes pins, cigarette lighters or even an electric drill of all things. At fairs I'll have root beer sodas or French fries on hand and they like to work for those for a while.

Q: How long do you work with a new bird before flying them outside?
Free flyingSusan: It depends on the individual bird. If they're confident and quick learners, they go outside much sooner than an anxious bird. My most recent adult to go outside has been here for 2 or 3 months. He flew a little in his previous home and adapted quickly to me. If the bird does not respond to our training in the way that we want to see with the amount of food management that we are comfortable using, we don't take them out. I don't believe in keeping a bird very hungry to get compliance.

Q: Can you train an older bird to come when called?
Susan: Sure, that's not hard as long as they can walk instead of fly if they want to. You just deliver a desired treat when you give them a clear cue to come to you. It starts with just looking at you on the cue and progresses to going across the room to you. A target stick is useful for this because it gives them a clear signal of what to do.

Q: Are there any specific books on free flying that you recommend?
Susan: I don't think there are any books at all on it. Chris Biro's website is the only place I know that has a lot of information about it and about getting started. It is a good source. He has been flying many birds in many environments for 16 years and I think he is the only person with this experience who free flies and who believes in helping nonprofessionals to enjoy this, too. The address is

Q: What is the most important advice you give to anyone who wants to free fly their bird?
Susan: There are three important pieces of advice, in my opinion. First, you have to honestly assess whether your bird is a good candidate for it. Free flying Pushing a reluctant bird into a challenge like flying is not good for the bird. Second, you must learn to train. Third, you must find and follow advice of people who can guide you through the variables like weather, time of day, feeding schedules, presence of other birds, presence of trees, etc. Your bird's life depends on you and you must take it seriously. I don't want to be discouraging because it is a really fun thing to do with your bird, and people can do it if they go carefully. Chris Biro is a good source of help. He gives professional advice, usually for free. Plus we have a terrific place in the country where we can help people through every step, from assessment to training skills to bird's flying skills with their own bird or with ours. If people want to come out here and just see what free flying is to help them decide if they want to pursue it, they are welcome to do that. The information about how to free fly is available and if people progress slowly and carefully with oversight by an experienced person, they can enjoy it, too. Oh, and I guess there is a fourth piece of advice - don't be “bird tricked” by internet marketers. Stick to sources that use standard industry and scientific behavior terminology.

Thank you Susan Hilliard for allowing us to interview you!

DISCLAIMER: The answers in this article are the opinions of Susan Hilliard and do not mean that Parrot Toy Angels advocates or encourages free flight for your birds. PLEASE DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! If you're interested in learning how to free fly your parrot, please research the subject extensively!!

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