This article is about giving medication to multiple parrots in a multi-parrot home. For instructions on giving medication to a single (particularly untrained) parrot, I previously wrote about giving medication to my Green-Winged Macaw.
My flock was diagnosed with Clostridium so now they all have to take medication for 21 days. Santina previously had it and received treatment but it did not stop the other birds from catching it as well. It is not clear if it is the food, environment, or other bird that is the cause. But regardless the entire flock needs to be medicated. The medication is administered orally once a day. The trouble is the duration for which it has to be given. This is a long enough of a period that the parrots must be trained to accept medication. Clever trickery may get you by a few days or a week. But anything longer and the parrot must be on board.
In most cases where a parrot requires medication in a multi-parrot home, the rest of the flock should receive the medication even if they don't show symptoms. My birds all seem to have it because they have been having smelly poop.
So on to the process of medicating a bunch of birds together. This may seem like a lot of work but actually if done right makes things a heck of a lot easier! Using modeling and a healthy dose of competition can get the birds to be more excited about doing something undesirable (like taking medication)!
I medicate the entire flock together and have turned it into a fun game for them. I have been taking advantage of each of my bird's strong points while avoiding their weaknesses in this medication process. This makes it appear to each of the other birds that the one they are watching really loves getting medication.
Kili is a super trained parrot so for her I set taking medication to be like a trick. I taught her to target the syringe, then to sip water, and finally to sip and swallow. Thus when I make the unexpected switch to real medication she just takes it. Santina is a great follower. She likes to do what the others are doing. So between the original medication sessions that I had with her modeling off of me and the recent ones of modeling from the other birds, she is doing very well. Truman is a bit of a runt and doesn't want to take medication but I've been working past that with him as well. He drinks water like a camel so I've been letting him get thirsty and then enjoy drinking a lot of water from the syringe. Because each bird appears eager to participate in the medication process (although each for different reasons) it encourages the remaining birds to cooperate and try harder. Nobody wants the competition to get more!
Here are some more elements that have made the process so successful. I practice the "medication process" with just water in the syringe twice a day although medication only comes once. For every 1 sip of medication, the birds are probably getting 40 sips of water. This makes the undesirable medication not only unpredictable but also fairly negligible in the greater scheme of getting water from the syringe. The birds get pellets as treats so this makes them more thirsty for water sips from the syringe. The pellets also soak up medication in their beaks and ensure that it is swallowed. Also I stopped providing water in the cage and have been giving it by hand only to ensure that the birds desire fluids at the necessary time. Spitting out and not receiving the medicine is far worse. So instead I let them sip some of their drinking water from the syringe and the rest they get from a bowl in my hands. This is similar to when we travel so they are perfectly used to it.
The thirstier/hungrier birds are far less picky. They used to spit out pellets that got medication on them from inside their beaks. Truman in particular would shake his head and spit out the medication. But now with this training system in place, the birds are far more cooperative. With practice, they now know the routine very well and are even more cooperative. In their competition with each other to get water and treats, they seem to forget their resistance to the medication and it is a win/win for everyone.
It is important to understand that the objective is not to simply get the medicine into the bird but to succeed in completing the entire medication process. Tricking or forcing the bird to take medication will only work a few times. In an emergency, you do what you gotta do. But if the bird is in condition to be trained, it is far far better to have a bird that wants to take medication than a bird that flies away or bites you because it knows what is coming. This is why even after the birds get the real medication, I keep practicing with them with the water. In fact, I would say they get the real medication about a quarter of the way into the session. This is when motivation is highest and it makes it least predictable as to when it will happen. Since they all come over to me when they see a syringe, I know I have succeeded in applying positive reinforcement to taking medication!
Being single with parrots isn't easy. When it comes to dating, it's kind of like being divorced with kids. People look at you funny. They don't want to inherit your feathered children problems. I think I can speak for a lot of single parrot owners that it certainly makes things difficult.
My commitment is first and foremost to my parrots. They were there for me when I was alone, when I was happy, and just the same when I was sad. My parrots are family and you can't turn your back on family. So, if you want to be my lover, you've got to love my parrots too.
Yet, finding a potential match required that she would accept my parrots but not have other pets herself. A bit selfish, but what could I do when I was already committed to my birds? I wasn't looking for someone who has parrots or even necessarily likes them, but just someone who could accept them as part of me.
The kind of person that could say “it's me or the parrot” isn't even the kind of person I could have a relationship with regardless. If someone could think that way, then what would stop them from saying “it's me or the TV” or “it's me or your family” etc. No. The way someone feels about my bird family is how they feel about me.
So here's the story of how I met my lovebird, my perfect match. The story goes back to this spring when my little rascal Truman went out on his city adventure. While Truman was lost, I got some help from a parrot loving guy called Ronen. Ronen didn't find Truman, but he helped give me spirit to go on searching after 2 hard days and he took me to the place where Truman would be found. Ronen and I became friends and began to take our parrots out together. We started the NYC Parrot Adventures Group together to invite even more parrot loving New Yorkers to join us with their birds.
I remember the first day Marianna came out to meet us in Coney Island with her Blue and Gold Macaw named Rachel. She was late and rather shy. My first reaction was of annoyance. It was a cold gloomy evening and I was just anxious to take my birds home. I had Kili and Truman with me. She was so excited to meet the celebrity birds that she just couldn't get the words out or be herself. I guess I can say at that point, I didn't even like her.
Marianna came to further parrot group outings and the first time I really noticed her was the way she handled Truman. Truman would just melt away in her hands. I caught a glimpse of her kind and loving nature. She held and caressed Truman endlessly and he would close his eyes in delight. Although Truman will tolerate anyone, he is still choosing about who he actually likes. I've been passing that feathered monkey around long enough to be able to really tell.
Like in a romantic comedy, when bumped together by others in our group (like sending us to get food), we would just stand there ignoring each other. It's easy to go on making a fool of yourself or talk about parrots to everyone else. But when it comes to talking to the pretty girl you have a crush on, you just end up looking mad because you don't know what to say. What Marianna couldn't say to my face, she told me through her love of my parrots. She communicated through them how she felt. Marianna volunteered to help me with Santina's Roar shoot and was a big help. With something specific to do together, we began talking and we began to discover how right we are for each other.
Marianna told me that she was leaving for 3 weeks on vacation and didn't even have a place arranged for her macaw to stay. She said that as a last resort she'd just board it at her local bird store. I thought about it and the next day called to let her know I'd board her bird for her! For 3 weeks, Rachel was a trained parrot! I didn't have time to teach her tricks but I focused on bonding and good behavior. Now Rachel is by no means a bad bird. She's only a 2 year old macaw so quite young. But in the last year as she has been getting older, she has begun to bite people other than her owner. I had previously worked on step-up with Rachel outdoors, so once under my influence, I had no trouble getting Rachel to step up. However, Rachel would not let me pet her head or hold her. So during the time Rachel stayed with me, I got her comfortable being pet, held, grabbed, and putting her harness on. As you can imagine, Marianna and I stayed in close contact about things while she was away. Marianna came back from her trip not only to find a tamer parrot, but also an invitation to go out on a date.
Things have really taken off ever since. Not only did it turn out we have a common interest in parrots but also just about everything else as well. It's a one of a kind match that started as something more akin to a rivalry. Now we do everything together.
What's great is that our parrots get along with each other and with both of us. All of our parrots are great with both of us. Even Kili, who has a history of terrorizing people I'd invite home, likes Marianna and asks her for head-scratches. Truman may well like Marianna better than me. Kili, sitting on my shoulder, will let Marianna hug me and be near without any jealousy (for a Senegal, that is pretty unbelievable). Santina, although she doesn't want to be touched, likes Marianna too. Santina starts dancing and talking whenever Marianna is near. Also Santina gets along well with Rachel. And Rachel gets along with me. That's our awesome parrot family.
Getting the parrots to get along with each person and each other is no coincidence. It is the culmination of years of training, the right environment, and the right approach. Marianna and I make sure to include our parrots in our lives in such a way that makes them enjoy being part of this group in harmony rather than rivalry. They all get their special attention both privately and as a group. We include the birds on outings and in our daily routines. I left a big travel cage with Marianna so that Kili or Truman can come spend a week at a time with her and get even more used to things. Our parrots' approval is probably the most important of all and it is evident that we have it.
So all you parrot singles out there, I want to introduce you to a concept called parrot mingles. Join a parrot club, volunteer at a rescue, hang around your local bird store, start a parrot outing group. Who knows maybe you or your parrot will find their match!
I just want to mention Kristine who met her boyfriend Justin while taking her Senegal Parrot Qubit to the park. She's a member of our NYC Parrot Adventures Group and is working on taming Justin to be comfortable with her birdie. Show your parrot love and maybe some day it will help you find yours as well!
Kili, Truman, and Santina set out on a quest to crack some really tough nuts. Kili, the lightweight, took on an almond in the background. Truman cracked a hazelnut and a brazil nut in less time than it took for Santina to crack her nut. But, Santina takes the prize for cracking the toughest of nuts, the Macadamia.
The patient macaw worked at it for a good half of an hour. She kept rotating and testing the nut looking for the weak spot. Truman uses a similar approach for hazelnuts, which for his beak size, should be nearly impossible. Santina could not just crack the Macadamia. The best she could accomplish with her powerful beak was to just chew a little hole into the top of the nut and then extract the inner goody with the tip of her beak.
I even got Santina to share her bounty with the two smaller birds by trading her a hazelnut which she could easily open. Kili and Truman dug in with their beaks and extracted some of the nut from the shell. Santina of course got her hard earned nut back to finish the job. I can assure you that not one morsel was left inside.
Some people ask me how I taught my parrots to open such difficult nuts. The truth is they learned to do it themselves but it was my encouragement that got them to try hard enough to get to that point. If I am trying to get a parrot to learn to open a new nut, I substitute training for a nut opening session. The same learning mindset comes into play and the same motivation that could be applied to training can be applied to learning to crack tough nuts. In the beginning I try to offer an opened nut or scour the shell with a knife so the bird can learn how good the result is. The next few times I try to find the smaller/easier nuts. And with time the bird learns patience and perseverance and can be kept busy for long periods of time with a tough nut to work on.
This was not just a nut opening exercise but also a tolerance training exercise for the flock. By getting them all busy and goal focused on their own tasks, I am able to teach them to tolerate each other in closer proximity without fighting. The Cape Parrot and Macaw shared the same perch for the entire duration. It's a good way to build friendship while challenging their jaws and minds. Check out this video of how the parrots crack some really tough nuts.
What size pellets should I feed my parrot is a frequent question I receive. And now that I have become a Roudybush distributor, I am even more in tune with the different kinds of pellets out there. However, I somewhat disagree with the manufacturer recommended pellet sizes and some of the recommendations out there in regards to pellet size.
So first off, keep in mind that all pellets from a manufacturer (of the same line) contain the same nutritional content regardless of the parrot that is pictured on the package. Even if the package says that the pellet is for Amazons, they only mean that the size is recommended for Amazons and not that the diet is especially modified for the requirements of Amazons. Unfortunately species specific diets are not generally available.
Now when it comes to pellet size, the most important thing is how it is relative to the bird itself. Feeding excessively large pellets can make it difficult to impossible for a bird to eat. On the other hand, feeding excessively small pellets can leave it uninterested. Generally though, too small is safer than too large.
In this article I am going to refer to pellet sizes based on Roudybush because it is the pellet I am most familiar with. I think other manufacturers sell roughly similar sized pellets or refer to the size as relative to each of my birds for reference. Besides a few mini sizes, Roudybush basically comes in small, medium, and large. I have a small, medium, and large parrot so it is a perfect opportunity to compare the sizes.
For really smaller parrots like GCC, Cockatiel, Lovebird, Parrotlet, Budgie, the pellets I will be referring to in this article are too big. Mini or Crumble sizes are good for those birds. Choosing between the two really comes down to what your bird likes best because both are small enough and recommended.
Once you get to a Senegal Parrot sized bird or larger, you have more freedom of choice between the three main pellet sizes. My feeling is that the medium Roudybush pellets are actually perfect for all parrots small, medium, and large (again, excluding really small parrots). This has to do not only with parrot sizes but also personalities.
Initially I started out feeding medium to save money by using the same size for my Senegal and Cape Parrot. But with time, I discovered that even if I only had one or the other, medium would still be ideal. The Senegal is accustomed to eating big foods. Whether it's a baby carrot, a grape, or a piece of broccoli, these are all way big in relation to the size of a Senegal. Yet, she is used to manipulating large foods and gravitates toward them. The Medium size pellets are big enough that she has to hold and work on them, but far from overwhelming. I'm not even going to get into why Medium size pellets are good for medium size parrots.
Now when it comes to the Macaw, conveniently Medium size pellets turned out to be ideal for her as well. The Macaw on the other hand is used to dealing with smaller foods relative to her size. Whether it's working a pine nut out of the shell or a sunflower seed, she is accustomed to eating stuff that's pretty small relative to her hulking size. I have tried small, medium, and large pellets on all 3 of the birds and have found that in a bind they could eat any of the three sizes. However, the medium is not only the central size for 3 birds, but it is also their favorite for their personalities.
Another reason I like to use medium pellets is because it enables me to keep track of how much the birds are eating. In all three sized parrots, I am able to count out the amount of pellets they get and be able to see if something is left over. If the pellets are too small, it is difficult to keep count. On the other hand, excessively large pellets take long to consume and don't work as well for treats. Medium Roudybush actually works as a superb treat for training my parrots.
So when you are picking a pellet size for your parrot, don't worry about the size that is recommended on the package. If you have a lot of small through large parrots, just get the medium and feed it to everybody to save the hassle and money of getting different sized pellets. If you have just one bird, try the medium first and only if it's a problematic size, try changing to small or large. At this point, even if I had just one of the 3 birds, I would still choose to feed the medium Roudybush pellets for the reasons mentioned.