Bird breeder's thoughts on whatever…

06-25-17: Foot Toys — June 25, 2017

06-25-17: Foot Toys

Foot toys can be a very important part of a pet bird’s life.  If you are unfamiliar with what a foot toy is, it can be any small toy that can typically be grasped in a bird’s foot.  It might be as simple as one wooden block or ball with a piece of rawhide through the middle and knotted on either side.

The foot toy should be sized appropriately for the bird.  I use smaller beads for smaller birds, as well as thinner material going through the middle.  Thin rawhide, twine, paper rope,  and “Paulie” cord are all suitable materials for the smaller birds.   For the larger bird, you can use a larger block or bead as well as the thicker rawhide or Paulie cord.  I often add some smaller plastic beads on either side of the main bead as well.

Some birds really enjoy chewing on wood, and there is nothing more satisfying to those birds than a block of wood that can be reduced to splinters.  For that reason, some birds should be given pine or other soft wood that they can destroy.  Some birds are more drawn to chewing on the cord that goes through the middle.  Rawhide (only vegetable-tanned, please) is usually perfect for those birds as they can get a lot of chewing enjoyment out of it.  A plastic bead or other shape with rawhide passing through and knotted on either side will be a long-lasting foot toy for those birds.  Although all birds may have their preferences, probably a variety of different foot toys is best.  It’s important to avoid boredom in your pet bird.

In addition to having foot toys for the bird’s enjoyment when playing alone, they are invaluable as diversions for a bird that is apt to bite.  Many young birds will go through a period where they get a bit “bitey” and seem to be testing the limits.  I always tell people that it’s much better to use diversion as a way to avoid a bite than to try to correct it after the fact.  You don’t want to spend all your time earthquaking your bird, or doing whatever method you use to deal with bites.  It’s not fun for you OR your bird.  Instead, keep an appropriate foot toy at the ready – next to you or in your pocket – at all times that your bird may be interacting with you.

Often we can see a bird begin to get antsy and that often will precede a bite.  Time to bring out that foot toy and bring it up to your bird for him to check out.  I should also mention here that if you are going to give it to the bird, rather than holding on to one end of it, you’d better have two or more toys at the ready because chances are that first one may get tossed or dropped.  However, if you see the bird is grabbing the foot toy and tossing it immediately and ready to grab another, it’s probably not a good time to be interacting with the bird anyway.  You’ve got to learn to read their moods.  It’s a rare bird that is always in a good mood and never cranky.

With the little birds, like parrotlets, they can go from sweet to cranky rather quickly.  I keep a foot toy handy when dealing with them.  Usually they are fine on my hand for a period of time, but I can see when they are starting to get antsy and may nip.  That is the time to offer them the foot toy.  I like the ones with twine going through them for these little guys.  Parrotlets can rarely resist chewing on the twine  when you present that end to them.  Diversion accomplished!

Birds alone in their cage will often enjoy playing with foot toys, too.  One of our timneh greys would lay on her back on the cage grate and kick a foot toy up in the air repeatedly.  It was the cutest thing to watch.

So don’t overlook the value of foot toys.  If you’re making them, just be sure to use safe materials.  I am now offering small as well as medium-large foot toy 5-packs on my Etsy shop.  Check them out!


Nita’s Nest

Etsy Shop

06-07-17 The Gardening Blues — June 7, 2017

06-07-17 The Gardening Blues

I know there are actually people who enjoy gardening and becoming one with the dirt and plants.   I’m not one of them.

This had been a tough “spring” – and I use that term lightly.  There haven’t been more than four days in a row that we haven’t had to fire up the woodstove.  I know, this is New England.  Wait a minute and blah blah blah.  That’s no excuse.  We had more snow fall at the beginning of what should have felt like spring than we did all winter, culminating in a few inches on Mother’s Day.  Mother’s Day!!!   Then less than a week later, or maybe it was before – it all blurs together at this point – we had a day of 96° heat!  That’s insane even for New Hampshire.  After that came the rains.  It was all fine and dandy when we were still in a drought.  Then, hallelujah, the drought was over.  We were even again.  But did the rain stop?  Of course not.  It’s supposed to be April showers bringing May flowers, not May and June torrential downpours.  Not balmy downpours, either.  Let’s not forget that 40-something-degree  chill-you-to-the-bone crap.  The rain stopped last night and now they are predicting more of the 90 degree stuff in a few short days.

We have a modest garden every year.  As we get older, we are both less thrilled about it.  This year, with the impossible weather, we managed to find ourselves a full week into June with nothing yet planted.  It’s already a short season here at the southernmost tip of the White Mountain National Forest area, which is pretty much a stones throw away.   Hubby normally does the tilling and puts down the weed barrier, and I plant and pick the goodies later.   I’d like to say I also do any weeding, but last year I did none of that at all.  No elves came in the night to do it either, so even with the weed barrier the garden areas looked like jungle.  The only thing worse than gardening, is reaching into a garden rich with weeds – where snakes and God knows what else may be lurking.

Did I mention that last year’s garden was the most disappointing ever?

So as I was saying, the rain stopped last night.  I was determined to plant the garden today.  Scott had put down weed barrier on the 8 raised beds that measure 3′ x 3′, but the long row on the hill where I intended to plant bush beans needed weed barrier laid down, as did the old asparagus bed that has now become our tomato area.  We had no more of the good stuff, so I was going to double-up the crappy stuff we had.  It was 10:30 by the time I got the birds finished and was ready to gather up all the stuff and go plant.

Let me also say here that bugs, they love me.  I must have skin that screams out tenderness or something, because if there is one bug out there, it will find me and create massive bumps and itchiness galore.  It was already in the low 60’s but despite how I hate the heat I decided I’d wear socks, pants, and spray bug spray on my lower half.  I did wear short sleeves, but I even sprayed the Deep Woods stuff all over my arms.  Then to top off my protection, I found a baseball hat, sprayed it with Off, and put a mosquito net over that!  I was ready to rock and roll!

Three trips later I had all the stuff I needed and started on the hillside row.  Within five minutes a huge horsefly was biting my arm.  “Owww!”  and I slapped it with my dirt-covered hand.  Yuck.  Dirt all over my arm now, and the welt was already rising.  I did kill him, though, which pleased me immensely. I won’t repeat what I said aloud, but suffice it to say it was a warning of sorts to the other winged demons in the vicinity.

Half hour later and the beans were planted.  On to the old asparagus bed.  Apparently Scott didn’t have time or the inclination to rototill this raised bed.  I went back and got my long-handled  three or four pronged digger.  Swung that like an axe and quickly found that it just wasn’t going to work.  Now I’m sweating and my baseball cap is no longer sitting where it was supposed to, but instead sliding down my sweaty forehead.  I reached up under the netting and pulled it off and turned it backwards, realizing my hands were covered in dirt which was now on my forehead as well.  Plus without the bill of the hat in the front, the netting was now ON my face.  Wonderful.  And here come the black flies.

Deep Woods Off is supposed to be great stuff. I hate bug spray.  I hate the way it feels and smells and feel the need to take a shower the whole time it’s on.  But I used it, and still they were on my arms and biting.  And another horsefly, for good measure.  Now I’d had my share of this little nature excursion and just wanted to be DONE.  Since I couldn’t till up this entire bed, I settled for digging six holes for the tomatoes.  Putting down the weed barrier I found it was not really quite wide enough.  Close enough!  Doubled it over and held it down with the U-shaped wires.  Cut through to the holes I’d made and planted the tomatoes.

I didn’t mention this before, but it really completes the picture of my gardening foray.  We had a bear out here two nights ago.  A good-sized one.  It triggered the driveway alarm and we saw it leaving the driveway on the driveway cam.  So the whole time I’m down in the garden area I’m thinking the bear could make an appearance.  A few years ago, hubby and I had thought that bringing down an air horn in case the bear appeared would be a good thing to do.  Well the bear made an appearance then, about 75 feet from me, and I blasted the air horn.  It damn near gave me a heart attack and I knew it was coming!  The bear never flinched.  And didn’t leave.  Since then, I’ve been cautious going out in the yard.  So I make noise.  Bears are supposed to give you a wide berth if they see and hear humans.  Supposed to.  Hoping it’s usually true, I make noise.  This means singing or talking to myself, like an idiot, punctuated with the occasional HEY or off-key whistle.  And I look over the fence frequently.  The fence would not keep a bear or anything else out if it wanted to come in – and they have – but it will often be enough of a barrier that animals will follow along the outside of it.  I always just hope it would give enough of a barrier to slow something down a bit.

So I’m singing Heartbreak Hotel (it was the first thing that came to mind down there) and trying to hurry.  Tomatoes done.  Now on to the eight small raised beds.  I planted five with pumpkin seeds and three with Magda squash.  The latter can be used in place of eggplant, either in slicing and frying to eat that way or if you go further, to be made into “Eggplant” Parmesan.  Done.

I was now a sweaty, hot mess.  I know there is dirt all over me.  Bug bites welting up all over my arms.  I turned on the hose and tried to wash the dirt off.  Filled the chickens’ water dish and came inside.  12:30.  Two hellish hours.  The shower never felt so good!

Why anyone would enjoy that is really beyond me.  Just getting the dirt under my nails (ick! ick!) is gross, never mind the bug spray and the bug bites.  Yuck.  I do enjoy actually harvesting things from the garden, but clearly I was meant to have a gardener, not to be one.


Nita’s Nest