Bird breeder's thoughts on whatever…

04-13-16 — April 13, 2016


This past weekend was incredibly busy but also very productive.  With Winnie’s quarantine ending, it was important to get the birdroom ready for her and Griff’s impending introduction.  To that end, I needed to get Griff moved from his regular cage to a smaller cage, which would then be put next to Winnie on a table .  Griff’s nails would be clipped first as well, which meant toweling him, and is something he enjoys about as much as I enjoy doing it.  Luckily I had the help of my son for all this.  At the same time, Scott was going to be working on the dining room flight cage.  Two boards needed to be replaced, which is not too bad considering that flight has been there for over 25 years without having to be repaired.  I was waiting for the youngest gouldian finch kids to be ready to separate from their parents, and the time had finally come.  Scott had already cut the boards and I had stained them several weeks ago, but one of those pieces is where several doors are located, so it was a lot more involved than it may seem.

On Saturday morning, after breakfast, I caught all the finches from the flight and placed them into a holding cage.  As the baby gouldians were caught, I applied open bands for identification purposes.  Once all the birds were removed, Scott was left to work on the flight while Alex and I tackled the birdroom.

Griff was toweled, his nails clipped, and he was placed in a small cage which I had gotten ready the day before.  We had set up a table off the dining room, in a space known to us as the “upper deck”, and Winnie was placed there in her cage with Griff set up about 5″ away.  There were no signs of hostility at all.  No aggression.  In fact, they both gravitated to the side closest to the other cage.  So far, so good.


Back in the birdroom, Griff’s empty cage was now cleaned completely, and then outfitted with new toys and made ready for the future pair. That cage had to be moved to an opposite wall, too.  This meant a bookcase had to be moved to the place where that cage used to be, and a table had to be removed completely.  A birdroom has dust in places you really don’t see, until you start moving things that don’t normally get moved.  I’m sure I should have been wearing a dust mask, but wasn’t.  The table we removed used to hold a small TV as well as a small aquarium (another thing I had taken down before the weekend so as to not waste time) and containers holding various parrot foods.  All this needed to find a new home.  I could go on and on (and I usually do!) describing all the changes, but let’s just say it’s one of those deals where if you move “A” you can’t just move it to “B” because the stuff already at “B” has to go somewhere, too.  Possibly people that have bare walls and shelves with only one or two items on them don’t have these issues.  It has ALWAYS been an issue for me, because I like STUFF.  LOL.

Once that cage was done, Scott took a break from the flight cage repairs and attached the nestbox he had recently made.  As he has done in the past, instead of a hole the birds can fit through, he drilled 3 holes in the middle of where the opening would be and we will leave it to them to work on this and enlarge it enough for them to fit through.  This is a great way for them to bond and will also keep her from entering the box too soon. This is the cage all set to go:


Next on the agenda was cleaning the two big parrot cages.  Cages get cleaned three times a week, but just the basics.  I clean the trays and replace the papers and scrape off the grates.  Dishes for food and water also get cleaned daily.  So this cleaning was the major cleaning, where you have to remove the birds and practically crawl INTO the cage to reach all the back and side surfaces and clean them.  We’re talking about using various putty knives and lots of antibacterial wipes.  The cages may not look totally new, but they are as close as I can get!   So to accomplish this, I started with the congos and we caught each one and clipped the nails and then put them temporarily into the cage destined for Griff and Winnie.  Nobody was impressed, believe you me!   There is nothing quite like a distressed parrot under a towel, saying “it’s okay” in a very soft voice.  Once Ruby and Cosmo were clipped and in the other cage, I tackled their cage.  After that it was Ziggy and Paco’s turn.

Paco was wild-caught and is a beast.  He would just as soon bite me as look at me, too, which doesn’t help.  With the other big guys, they will come out and go to the floor, albeit with a bit of “encouragement”, where we then drop a heavy towel over them and move them to the kitchen counter for clipping.  Paco flops to the floor and immediately begins thrashing around like a loon.  Plus he tries to get under anything he can.  It is a bit of a nightmare just catching and toweling him, and he is now missing about 12 feathers from the whole ordeal.  Did I mention how much I hate doing this?  Alex, my son, was an enormous help with all this.  Once you get the bird toweled, you still have to fight to clip the nails.  The greys are really strong, and some of them, like Paco, do nothing to make it easier.  They ball up their feet and it takes a real force to unfurl a toe and get to the toenail.  Of course Paco had to be the one that bled.  If it were that easy to get blood from a nail when I am taking blood for DNA sexing, it would be great!

At some point I also had to clean the finch flight that Scott was now done repairing.  That means all the nests come out and get cleaned, the walls get cleaned, etc.  I had planned on putting all my parrot finches in this time to see how they’d do in a colony situation.  I am pleased to say all six are getting along great and look fantastic in there.


I had hoped all this stuff would be done Saturday, but it was not to be.  As it got later and later, it was obvious that this was going to be a two-day job.   Supper that night was all from the freezer, too!   I was beat.  Covered in dust.  I had seeds – and I’m sure much worse – in my hair.  A shower felt great.

Remember the show that used to be on with cousins Balki and Larry?  Perfect Strangers.  Did you ever see the episode where they go to the gym and overdo it by working out for hours – I think to impress a girl or something?  Later they can barely move.  Everything hurts.  They move tiny bits with an “ow” at each movement.  That episode is one that stuck with Scott and I for all these years, so that whenever we are really, really sore we say we have “Balki feet” or whatever, LOL.  Well that is how I felt after this day of cleaning!  I sat down to eat supper and when I went to get up after EVERYTHING hurt!   I’ll be 60 in a few weeks and at times like this, I sure feel it!   Getting up Sunday – and it had to be at 7 AM to feed the baby parrotlets – I was immediately reminded of just how sore I was.

I had cleaned all the cages in the inner birdroom during the week, and moved guys around as needed.  The parrotlets got their bigger cages back and two pair now have nestboxes as well.  I’m glad I had done all that during the week.  Sunday the biggest chore was to catch all the finches in the one big cage in the inner birdroom and then clean that cage.  Again, I was inside a cage up to my waist and in the most awkward positions.  It finally got done and birds got moved back.


To thank Alex and Scott for all the help, I made fried chicken breast strips for supper that night.  It was nice to finally be able to sit and relax, but again, you really don’t know how sore you are till you take a break!  I had Balki-EVERYTHING!   When it hurts to roll over in bed, you’re in tough shape.  I can finally say today, Wednesday, that I am beginning to feel decent again.  Yay!!!

I may actually try putting Winnie and Griff into their cage in the birdroom this weekend, too, since they seem to be fine with each other.  It would be great if they actually get along!

The parrotlet kids are doing really well, too.  Getting some nice color coming in.  The older one is a hen and I think the younger one is a male.  I should be able to tell for sure in the next few days.  He looks like he may show quite a bit of pied, too, where she shows basically none.


Cuties, aren’t they?

The chicken eggs only have 8 more days to go, too.  Probably more like 6 or 7, since the bantys always seem to hatch a day or two early.  Of the 17 eggs in the incubator, I think at least 9 are viable.  Should be exciting again if they hatch!

After cold and rather dreary weather for the past week, it’s finally beginning to improve.  We hit 47 degrees today and it’s been sunny all day, too.  They are teasing us with the promise of 70 degrees this Sunday.  Up here in God’s country we can expect about 10 degrees less, but if we hit 60 it will be time to celebrate!  There are some hot dogs in the freezer just itching to sacrifice themselves on the BBQ!



04-07-16: Spring? — April 7, 2016

04-07-16: Spring?

We had some great spring weather last month.  Then April hit and it’s been pretty much downhill ever since.  All the snow was gone at one point, but now we’ve had at least two occasions where it snowed enough to turn our world white again.  Yesterday it snowed like crazy and even the roads were covered.  Today we’ve got a high of 46 degrees and rain.  What’s that saying about New Hampshire weather?  Wait a minute and it will change.

As usual my good intentions on blogging more often have gone by the wayside, which means I’ll try now to catch up.

Last Sunday we had the BOAF (Birds of a Feather) Spring Bird Mart in Manchester, NH, and we had a vendor’s table at the event.  Vendor setup starts at 7:30 AM, so I had to get up at 4:00 in order to get the birds done and then move the ones that were going to the show into their small cages which I have purchased  for that purpose. The cages are then part of the sale so that I don’t have to worry about catching the birds and putting them into a box or whatever.  I don’t care to have any escapees to worry about.  I had these cages all ready the day before so that all I had to do was catch the appropriate bird and place him into the right cage.  We needed to leave here at 6:00, and were pretty much right on schedule.  I am thankful that Alex (my son) is living here again and would be able to “dog-sit” and keep an eye on things.

This was our setup at the show:


I didn’t have that many birds for sale this time, and I felt like I’d be more than happy to bring back home anybody that didn’t sell.  I had three pairs of parrotlets there and only one pair sold.  Of the two that didn’t sell, I just set up one pair today.  They are a proven pair that give me nice clutches of turquoise kids.  The other pair is a young pair consisting of two of my handfed kids from unrelated clutches.  I raised them at the same time and they grew up together and have been together their whole lives, so they are very bonded at this point.  I can’t wait to set them up in a few months and see how they do!  I have high hopes for them being a great pair.   I had a couple society finches, which always seem to sell, and did.  I also sold two male sibling gouldian finches that were lovely birds, but I really had to try to thin down the numbers a bit.  A single pair of gouldians that I brought did not sell, which did surprise me but doesn’t break my heart.  🙂

We had toys this time as well, which are just like the ones I make for my own guys.  Those are on the left side of the table on the display rack.  On the rack on the right side are the wooden keyracks, etc. that we make.  We also have necklaces and clocks.  All the wooden stuff is handcrafted by Scott and handpainted by me.  We both really enjoy making this stuff.

We did ok at the show and it was well worth the day spent there, however the weather was horrible!   We always ask for the spot near the side door, which is used for unloading vehicles and bringing stuff into the room.  Well Sunday was snowy and there was a biting wind that wouldn’t quit.  Not a good time to be next to a door that was constantly opened.  Luckily the birds had been transported inside a large box and we had a throw over the whole thing.  Once I had them on the table, we used the throw on the back and top of the cages to keep the wind off them.  The display rack on that side  also blocked a lot of the wind.  I suspect the weather did keep some people from attending, though.

I had planned to pull the two baby parrotlets when we got home, and would have done it several days sooner had it not been for the show.  The parents are my pied parrotlets, and they are better parents than they were the first time but still not as good as I’d like.  Pied birds, however, are very appealing to me since you never know exactly what they will look like.  They did have four fertile eggs this time, so that was good.  One didn’t make it out of the shell, though.  The membrane dried up and he died during the attempt.  The second chick did hatch but died the next day.  The next chick they took great care of and was already decent-sized when the final chick hatched.  This last kid did not get fed as well as his bigger and more insistent sibling, so he’s been on the small side.  I pulled the kids Sunday night and had to feed every two hours to try to get the smaller chick on the right track.  It’s been four days now and I can finally say at this point that he’s doing fantastic now!


He and his older sibling look great!

We have some repairs we need to do to the big flight cage in the dining room, and plan to finally get to that this weekend.  That cage is one that Scott built back when Alex was probably about 3 years old.  I still remember Scott bringing it inside and what a job it was to get that sucker up on the wall!  It’s about 9′ long and 3′ high, and maybe a foot and a half deep or so.  Three windows across the front.  Actually, a picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, so…


This is probably about 26 or 27 years old, and we’ve never had to repair anything on it.  Till now.  The plywood below the windows has been splitting due to years of enthusiastic bathing.  And the board at the lowest point should be replaced due to it having been chewed (on the left side) by hookbills that were temporarily housed near enough that they could reach it and do what hookbills do best.

It may not seem like much of a job, but I think it’s going to be more work than expected.  It’s about time to pull all the finches and do a thorough cleaning before putting different guys in the flight anyway.  I do this every 3 to 6 months.  Right now there are 8 gouldian finch kids in there that need to be banded (open bands, for my own identification) and moved to another cage to finish coloring up.  The next group to come into this flight is going to be all my parrot finches, to see if a colony setting might result in any breeding.  So this is on the “to do” list for Saturday.

Another biggie on the list is moving things around in the birdroom in anticipation of adding Winnie, the female grey we picked up a month ago.   Her quarantine is over this weekend, and we will be moving her next to Griff (her intended mate) – somewhere where they can see each other and “talk” but not touch.  I’m still not exactly sure where this is going to transpire.  But the hope is that in a few weeks they will be put together into what is now Griff’s cage – at the same time – and will get along.  Where Griff’s cage is now, there is not enough room to add a nestbox to the side, so the room needs rearranging.  I won’t bore you with details, though I suspect I already have, but suffice to say it will be major stuff.  Alex has said he will help me, as will Scott.  Along with moving guys around, they need to have nails clipped as well, so now it becomes a big production involving toweling them and getting them all bent out of shape.  But it must be done.  I want to take the opportunity to do a bit more housekeeping inside their cages at the same time.  I’m not really looking forward to any of this, and yet I am.  I really don’t embrace change, but I believe the end result will have been worth all the effort.

It’s been a very busy week, because I’ve been taking the time to do some very thorough cage cleaning while moving guys to different cages in the inner bird room, where the small birds are.  The parrotlets needed to be moved back to the bigger cages they liked – ones that also accept the nestboxes they liked best – as I’m positive now that their breeding success is directly related to their cage and nestbox.  It may not be true of all parrotlets, but mine do not like plastic boxes.  Right now I have my blue pair set up in addition to the pair mentioned earlier.  What all this meant was lots and lots of cleaning.  The only cage left to do major cleaning on is the big finch cage in  the birdroom, and that goes along with the repair of the finch flight.  All the finches will have to be temporarily housed in other cages while I clean the cage.  This is the kind of thing where I draw it all out.  These go here; these go there; arrows to the left, and arrows to the right.  I think it looks like some convoluted football play or something, but I like to know exactly what the plan is ahead of time.

Scott is in the process of making the new nestbox for Winnie and Griff, too, and it’s coming out great.  We do a box about 24″ x 24″ x 12″ wide for the greys, and it has a divider in it horizontally, so that the bird enters then has to climb to the bottom.  When they are on the bottom, they generally will nest as far away from the gap in the divider as possible, which means they nest at the front, which is where the observation door will be.  When they are in that area it is nice and dark because of the divider over them.  Birdie heaven.  Or so we hope.

I also have chicken eggs in the incubator right now, and took the time to candle them today.  I had bought 12 eggs on ebay that are supposed to be Barred Rock bantams.  Then I added 5 eggs from our hens, hoping they might be fertile.  It looks like several of the Barred Rocks were fertile but died already.  However, it does look like there are at least 9 fertile eggs total, with at least one of those being from our own bantams.  We have another 15 days to go, so time will tell.  Buying hatching eggs that come by mail is a gamble.  They can be handled roughly by the post office and “scrambled” in the process.  But I don’t know of anyone with the type of eggs I want, so we take the gamble.  Fingers crossed!  I just hope some hatch, because it was really a wonderful experience to watch them in the incubator.  🙂