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The Finster Log
Archive — May 2007
Move In Again Day
Posted on: 05/28/07, 14:14:55 | | link
When you get a new dog or cat, and already have pets, vets generally suggest a quarantine period to ensure that the new animal doesn't have worms, or something equally contagious, that your current pets could catch. This usually lasts for a couple of days.
Birds are a different story. Vets used to require a six month quarantine for birds. This was partly because birds used to be caught in the wild, so they could have all sorts of diseases. Even now, though, vets often suggest 30 to 60 to 90 days. Why so long? Partly because they're susceptible to diseases with long incubation periods, partly because they're good at hiding illness, partly because the stress of a move — and the incubation period itself — can lower a bird's immune system enough to make a latent illness "take," and partly because avian medicine is relatively new. Well, that last one is partly my frustration talking, but it's not entirely untrue.
The thing is, the only proper
way to quarantine birds is to have separate airspaces. No matter how careful you are about washing and/or separating everything in between the two groups of birds (and this means bird paraphernalia, your hands, and your clothes), if you don't have two separate airspaces, you can't do a proper quarantine. Needless to say, I don't have two separate airspaces in my 800-square-foot apartment.
I've been lucky in the past, with a couple of new sets of Finsters, and Peanut. But after doing more research with Harley, I've realized that luck really was part of it. The good news is I haven't gotten any new finches in a long time, and I know where Harley comes from: two known sources makes quarantine less crucial. Another bit of good news is that Harley's blood work came back clean. (Oh yeah, Harley is big enough to get blood work done!)
In my more vulnerable moments I'm still worried, wondering what else I should test for, how much longer I can stand having a rash on my hands from washing them so often, how much longer I can possibly subject the poor Finsters to the tiny dungeon of the hospital cage, how I'm supposed to be able to tell if a bird I've only known for about a month isn't feeling well, how I'm supposed to be able to tell if the Finsters aren't feeling well when they're in a tiny dungeon, etc. But fingers crossed — the Finsters moved back to the Big House yesterday!
The transfer went about as expected. We lined the two cages up, and waited. But apparently, having been in the tiny dungeon
hospital cage for so long, the Finsters pretty much forgot what the allure of big, open spaces, giant water dishes, tasty corn, and nest boxes were all about, so they just sat there, occasionally looking at the connecting doors. This doesn't surprise me — while they were in the tiny dungeon
hospital cage they completely ignored the little door I left open countless times while I changed their water. Apparently, the hospital cage is tiny, but safe. (To be fair to myself, I was giving them fresh water three times a day, so had many opportunities to forget. But still. I literally lost count of how many times I left that door open, to come back and still have five birds. Thanks, Finsters!)
Bruce and I weren't about to wait three hours for them to come out
, since we really missed having the Finsters in the kitchen. So after about 15 minutes, we took the entire front grate off the tiny dungeon
hospital cage. Still no takers. So after another 20 minutes, Bruce reached into the cage to shoo them out. Success!
The Finsters are all showing signs of having been in the tiny dungeon
hospital cage for awhile, but apart from being a little less capable of acrobatic flying, they seem to be doing well. And Harley seems pretty interested, although he hasn't quite claimed them as his Finchy Minions yet.
Oolong spent quite a bit of time singing and chirping at the nice shells in the brown dish. Harley thinks she's pretty cute. Well, who doesn't!
Posted on: 05/26/07, 20:00:00 | | link
I've read that African Greys spend a lot of time foraging on the ground in the wild. Since being soaked from a bath would make it very difficult to fly away from predators if they're on the ground, they may not generally get as wet during a bath as some other birds that spend most of their time foraging in trees. Many people who own captive African Greys report that they don't like to get very wet. So when Harley's former Mom told me he likes to take baths, I was pretty excited. Remember, I'm used to Peanut, who splashed water on his face a couple of times a month, but that's it. My expectations were very high.
Reality has turned out to be a little less wet, although part of that is probably the fact we're all still adjusting to each other, and the space is still new to him.
Most days (it should be every day, since Harley is a Walking Giant Dust Mite) I set him on the edge of the kitchen sink and spritz him gently with a water mister. Some days (well, many days), he's just not in the mood. I can tell because he'll either start climbing up my arm if I haven't quite gotten him to step off my hand, or he'll start climbing up the tea kettle that sits right next to the sink. I'm getting really good at reading his subtle cues, aren't I? But when he's in the mood, he'll sidle back and forth along the edge of the sink, walking into and out of the steady misting I aim across his bow. He bites at the mist, scratches his ears, almost raises his wings, and generally has a pretty good time.
I've tried different bathing methods, as well. The oval baking dish in the picture fits nicely in the bathtub. But the edge is apparently a little thin for perching, and — well — the bathtub is pink. So despite the extra water I pour into the dish from the very tasty measuring cup, and the additional misting, Harley spends most of his time drinking the drops of water from the bottom of the bathtub, as if to lick the pink coloring right off. Well, who could blame him?
The brown square dish is an eight-inch baking dish, perfect for making brownies if you didn't have a six-foot Finsterium taking up one-third of your kitchen. Its two handles make very nice perches, and it also fits in the kitchen sink. Unfortunately, despite our playful splashing, words of encouragement, and lovely renditions of the "Rubber Duckie" song, Harley doesn't do much more in this dish than drink from it, no matter where it sits.
We've also tried the shower — we even got a new shower head with a gentle, drippy setting that should be just perfect for a bird bath. As we've all gotten to know each other better, Harley has seemed more interested in bathing in the shower. (No, there will be no pictures of this.) But so far, we've had the best luck with the misting at the sink's edge.
That is, unless Harley gets into one of his moods to take a bath in his water dish in his cage. That's the small, round white bowl in the picture. Which has even less bathing space available when it's in the cage, because of the wire frame that's designed to keep big birds from tipping their dishes over. Which they would do every day
if only they could.
Mind you, when Harley splashes in his water dish, he's already getting wetter of his own volition than Peanut ever did. But I always feel badly that he's this big bird, trying to take a bath in this little dish, so I quickly clean the bathtub (since I just know he's going to lick
it), grab one of the baking dishes, an extra cup of water, the mister, get Harley, and try to encourage him to just jump in and get all wet.
No such luck. After a little drinking, splashing, and licking, he starts looking at me funny, so I put him back home, where he immediately starts ducking his head in his little water dish again. This has happened several times.
Yesterday he started bathing in his water dish, so I got him, put him on the edge of the kitchen sink, and gave him the biggest misting yet! Good times! And when I put him back in his cage, he started bathing in his water dish again. So I picked him up again, and gave him another Biggest Misting Yet! Awesome! And when I put him back in his cage, he started bathing in his water dish again. So I picked him up again, put the brown baking dish in the kitchen sink, and splashed around in the water with him. He drank a little water, almost splashed water on his head from the dish, and started looking at me funny, so I put him back home.
Where he immediately started splashing his head in the water dish again.
The Amazing Tree
Posted on: 05/23/07, 19:23:47 | | link
Before I say anything else, I have to point out that Harley is a Dirty Bird. No, it's not the poops, because you can place used paper and old towels in strategic spots and take care of those easily enough. But Harley sheds his weight in feather fluff and dander every day. Plus he can make thousands of enormous spit balls in a matter of minutes. And when he flaps his wings, which he likes to do regularly as a form of exercise, it all just goes EVERYWHERE. So apart from wanting to play with him, and spoil him at every opportunity, I also have to clean up after him more than I would have believed possible for a creature that only weighs about ten ounces. That's six ounces less than a pound, for those who are counting. And while it's nice to have the place clean, all that cleaning means I have lots of pictures, lots of stories, but not enough time to post here.
Enough with the complaining.
Harley's former Mom has been very generous, sending toys and things so he'll have familiar things to play with. Thank you! In some cases, like with a play gym, it made sense for Harley to continue using them, since her remaining birds are either very small (finches, a love bird and budgies) or very large (a macaw). But the very best thing came in an enormous box the other day.
Now Harley loves
boxes, so he spent quite a bit of time trying to destroy it.
Because after all, in many cases the box is the best part of the present. But not in this case. After he spent a good half hour tearing a hole a little bigger than his head, we finally helped him open it and found this Amazing Tree!
Down came the triangle, up went the tree, and in less than half an hour, Harley had figured his way up onto it. Due to the swinging, he is a little less able to get down from it. But we're always willing to help (yes, I'm just tall enough to help him down from here), and I've added a rope since I took this picture that obviously isn't in the right spot since he hasn't used it yet — but, we'll figure it out soon enough.
In the meantime, the Amazing Tree is a perfect place for grabbing onto a toy to destroy it:
And a fine perch for getting a refreshing beverage from your favorite lackey:
I Can Do That!
Posted on: 05/18/07, 16:32:20 | | link
One of the cool things about living with Harley is learning what he can do. In addition to Mind Controlling Bruce into giving him cheese, and extricating treats from every puzzle toy I've tried so far, he can also climb up to his triangle perch. It took him a few days, and at first I couldn't decide if it was hanging low enough, or near enough to his cage — or if maybe it just wasn't attractive
But just when I think I'm making things too hard for him, he goes and figures it out. Look at him now! He's King Of The Triangle! He likes to sit up there, watch TV, and lurk over anyone sitting on the couch. I think it's the lurking part that really appeals to him.
In case you were wondering, I am tall enough to get him to step down from here, although he isn't always happy to go. I am not
tall enough to get him down from the top of the cage's play gym, but Bruce is. However, I'm not too proud to use a stick.
Harley, Destroyer Of Bok Choy
Posted on: 05/14/07, 10:25:29 | | link
Harley's former Mom fed him a nice mix of vegetables every evening, and apparently, he even ate them! But any transition to a new place can change your habits, and that's pretty much happened to Harley. He'll almost always eat peas and apple, and corn, potato, and pears are often accepted. But most other veggies are ignored. Or, more likely, picked up, licked a little, and dropped again.
I think it's because Bruce is so quick to offer him cheese. Because Harley will always
eat cheese, especially if it's a nice, sharp cheddar, and Bruce doesn't want him to starve to death.
Bruce is very weak that way.
But Harley does enjoy tearing up greens, like this leaf of bok choy, and he even eats some while he tears the leaves up into small pieces. He'll also usually eat something if you offer it to him by hand — carrot, zucchini, sunflower sprouts, etc. I think it's part of his Plan For Utter Domination. "If they feed me vegetables, eventually they'll give me more cheese." Something like that. This morning he mostly just licked the apple pieces in his breakfast dish, but he decimated the piece that Bruce held for him.
The Big, Sweaty Knee
Posted on: 05/10/07, 17:06:39 | | link
You'll recall that, where Peanut was concerned, Bruce's hand was the favorite when it came time for Warm Toasties. We called it The Big, Sweaty Hand. Peanut fit into it better, it was sweatier, all the good stuff. It turns out that Bruce's knee is also much more comfortable than mine, so when it's time to watch TV in the evening (if you'll recall, the reason we first started the conversation with Harley's previous owners is because he liked to watch TV in the evening), Harley sits on Bruce's knee.
And that's fine, because when Bruce is out of town, Harley sits on the back of the couch, and I get to give him the Most Scritches Ever.
I will probably never get a good photograph of this — this is a screen shot Bruce captured on his laptop while we were video-conferencing, in the evening when the lights were dim.
Harley starts out by resting his beak on the couch so I can really dig in without knocking him over. But as the evening wears on, he'll rest the top of his head against one of my thumbs, while I give him scritches with the other hand. Several times an evening, depending on his mood, he gets Six Finger Skull Massages. Really.
Now, if you do the math, you might realize that if Harley is on the back of the couch, and I'm using both hands to give him scritches, that my back is to the TV. If you'll recall, the reason we first started the conversation with Harley's previous owners was because he liked to watch TV in the evening. You know, with us. That is, everyone watching TV. Not that hearing the TV is such a bad thing, and certainly the TV itself is much safer when I can't actually see certain political figures on its screen, since I'm so often tempted to throw things at their tiny, annoying faces. But still. It would be nice if I could watch
the TV while I give Harley the Most Scritches Ever.
I've tried giving him scritches while he sits on his table, but that's only worked once. I'll have to keep trying. Or just look forward to evenings when the Big, Sweaty Knee is home.
Giving Harley fewer scritches is not an option. Partly because Harley is benefiting from Finster Guilt — I'm giving Harley all the scritches that I can't give Peanut. And that's still part of how we both interact with Harley. We have to catch ourselves sometimes, call him "Grey Goose" instead of "Green Gus," and things like that (no reference to expensive vodka intended). But that's getting easier as time goes on; Harley is a very different bird.
Partly, though, Harley simply deserves all the scritches we can give him. And why not? There are worse ways to spend an evening.
Truth In Labeling
Posted on: 05/01/07, 18:22:30 | | link
We have a futon couch that can be set in "lounge" position, which is how we use it. A little bed tray sits in the middle, to act as a coffee table for humans, or an everything table for birds. Peanut used it while he was eating our lunch, and now Harley uses it for playing, eating, and just sitting around. The rounded edges aren't quite big enough for his feet, or maybe they're just a little too slippery, but he treats the edges as perches anyway, mostly with his tail hanging over the edge.
So we quickly learned to put an old towel underneath to catch all his poops. Since although his poops aren't as big as a Finster, they are still too big to ignore, the way we could sort of ignore Peanut's poops. The towel gets changed every day, or maybe every other day if he spends more time in other places, or he's been uncharacteristically neat while eating snacks.
Now, at least one reader has mentioned that I write about poop an awful lot. This comment was not made in the spirit of "Gosh! Everyone loves to read about bird poop!," but rather "Eeeeeewwwww." Which is understandable enough. And it's not like I'm a scatologist, or anything like that. But monitoring poop is one of the best ways to keep track of an animal's health.
Take, for example, Zupreem FruitBlend Flavor extruded pellets. Harley likes to eat these after he's softened them just a bit by dunking them in his water dish. They come in several shapes, five colors, and are apparently quite tasty — to birds. The yellows taste faintly like banana, the blues taste even more faintly like grape, the reds are vaguely red-flavored, and the orange and green are moderately orange and green, respectively. The ingredients include sucrose, which explains the sweet smell (although they don't taste sweet to me), and ground bananas, oranges, apples and grapes. Other ingredients include ground corn, soybean meal, ground wheat, and vitamins and minerals. A lot of birds seem to like the different shapes and colors, and they're really handy for determining how quickly food is processed by your birds' digestive system.
Take, for example, Red Day.
Don't worry, no pictures. You can figure it out. Go on.
Despite the fact that I'd read about this on the internets, I have to say that Red Day is pretty darned alarming. Especially when Red Day lasts for several days. In. A. Row. And especially when Red Day is exacerbated by a Lafeber's Nutri-Nut, which come packaged like tasty hand-made chocolates, nestled in individual papers — these come in yellow, orange and red. Of course.
RED DAY. REDDDDDDDDDD. DAYYYYSSSSSS.
And nowhere on the labels of these foods does it warn you that your bird will poop bloody red on Red Day. But they really should.
They really should.