In my early days of bird ownership, pre-Internet, doing right by my birds was a lot of guess work. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I came upon learning that an all seed diet, then the norm, was inadequate.
I discovered this in two ways:
1) by going to the library and studying the diet of my species wild counterparts, and...
2) observing them descending on the vegetables on my plate at dinnertime. That was a hard to miss clue.
I didn’t exactly struggle with bird care – I intuitively knew that my birds needed more than what was recommended by the “experts”. I made do with the few bird toys that were available in pet stores and constructed many from household items made of paper, cardboard and wood – I observed what they “got into”. I have very few books that don’t have chewed-on pages – so, obviously, paper is a cockatiel delicacy. Observation is the most effective learning tool we have.
Years later, a friend turned me on to the bird forums. I was SO excited. I found a place where I could share stories with fellow bird owners who wouldn’t cringe when I went on about my life with the birds and would laugh when I posted pictures of the sweet potato stuck to my living room wall. I learned untold amounts about different, sometimes easier, ways to achieve what I was trying to accomplish. There were products, toys, gizmos out there that I was completely unaware of.
But after a while, I started to feel inadequate. I felt like my birds were missing out because I didn’t have all the fancy bird things that my new friends had. I started spending money, lots of it. I wanted my birds to have the best of everything. I spent hours filling my shopping cart at online bird stores. I dropped a fortune on a play stand that took up half the living room.
You know what I discovered? My bird were no happier or healthier than they were before having all the bells and whistles. I had been doing things just right all along and I soon returned to my former ways even if they were a bit old-school. They worked, and my birds were thriving. Bye-bye Poop Off, hello again vinegar and water, my old friend. The rarely used Cadillac of a playstand found a new home with a lady with several macaws.
In the end, it isn’t about what you don’t have, it’s about how well you make use of what you DO have. I would rather spend my money on excellent food and great toys than on some device that trains me to be lazy. Yes, for years, I had many chair backs fall victim to my birds’ beaks in lieu of a play stand, but isn’t that part of the charm of life with parrots? Okay, maybe not, The point is that we don’t have to go broke because we have birds.
If your bird has a great diet, is fulfilled and enriched, and you have training abilities that ensure a happy co-existence with its human flock, I say you have everything that you need. If someone invents a self-cleaning cage, however, I will surely sell my car to get one.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.