Originally published in Pet Gazette, July/August 2014
Birds can be extremely time consuming pets. Cleaning up the constant barrage of molted feathers, feather dander, and misplaced poop; and preparing, cooking, and feeding a well-rounded diet can take hours. For people like me who own multiple birds, it is sometimes easy to get disenchanted with them, and get caught up in the stress of constantly keeping on top of things. Recently I made a few changes to my methods that have saved me a lot of time and trouble.
I used to spend about twenty minutes or more a day changing water and cleaning water dishes. Each bird had an open water dish, in which it dunked everything from leather scraps to food. The water quickly got cruddy and gross and needed to be cleaned several times a day. When I switched my birds to Harrisons, I got fed up with my caiques dunking each small pellet into the water and letting it go to waste. So I invested in the glass Lixit water bottles, and installed one on each bird cage. The caiques, and conure got the bottle with the small tip, my cockatoo a bottle with a large tip. I made sure to install each bottle right over a perch so each bird could easily access it, and showed the birds how to use the bottle. All had previously used water bottles, so I didn’t have to teach them how to use it. Once the bottle was installed, I removed the water dishes from the cages.
The result? No pellet wasting, no contaminated birdie soup, and no excessive cleaning required! I now clean and refill the bottles with fresh water once daily. A baby bottle brush bought at the dollar store now cleans the inside of the spouts. Instead of 20- 30 minutes, it now takes perhaps 10 minutes total to completely sanitize, refill, and install the bottles back on the cage. And there’s no more expensive pellet waste!
And speaking of pellets…Previously I was feeding a couple of different pellets in various sizes to my birds. After a while they got disenchanted with the pellets, and I would go to the pet store to seek a different pellet for them to reduce the pellet throwing behavior that inevitably followed their disenchantment. I got some Harrisons samples from the vet, and gave them to my birds. Imagine my surprise when each bird buried its head in its dish and dug in with delight.
With other pellets I was having extreme waste issues. The caiques would grab a pellet with their foot, bite down, and grind away about half a pellet before actually taking and swallowing a bite. The cockatoo would throw out pellets that weren’t the right color, and I would be walking on crunchy carpet, no matter how many times I vacuumed. With Harrisons, I started feeding my caiques the same fine-sized pellet my greencheek conure eats. Since the pellets are surprisingly small, there is little to no waste in the cages. The caiques eat the pellets instead of playing with them and grinding them down. My cockatoo gets the coarse size pellets, and is such a dainty eater that he doesn’t waste any bite.
Switching pellet size saved me valuable cleaning time. I also adopted a feeding schedule, where the birds get fed twice a day. They get pellets in the morning and fresh food in the afternoon. This also is a great time saver, and is healthier for my pets. Birds that constantly have food in their dishes tend to gorge themselves on whatever is available.
My last change was putting all my full spectrum lights on timers. Previously I just would wake up, turn the lights on, and then turn the lights off whenever at night. This posed several problems, however. If I slept in late, or came home late, the birds were at the mercy of my schedule. A solid lighting schedule is very important to parrots, and winging it just wasn’t working. So I bought some cheap timers and set them up. Now the lights turn on automatically at eight am, and go off at nine.
I’m sure that the birds appreciate the consistency of the schedule, and I appreciate that it is one more thing marked off my daily to do list!