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Chapter Two: Homecoming.
Chapter Three: Better African Grey Care.
Chapter Four: Attributes of the African Grey.
Chapter Five: Positively Nutritious.
Chapter Six: Pretty Birdie.
Chapter Seven: To Good Health.
Chapter Eight: A Matter of Fact.
Chapter Nine: Resources.
[Figures are not included in this sample chapter]
Despite what you may think, bird keeping isn't particularly difficult. In fact,if you do only ten things for your grey for as long as you own him, your bird willhave a healthy, well-adjusted life.
1. Provide a safe, secure cage in a safe location in your home. This cage should have appropriate-sized bar spacing and cage accessories that are designed for greys, and the cage should be located in a fairly active part of your home (the family room, for example) so your bird will feel as if he's part of your family and your daily routine.
3. Make your home a safe environment. Close windows and doors securely before you let your bird out of his cage. Keep your bird indoors when he isn't caged and ensure that your pet doesn't chew on anything harmful (from house-plants to leaded glass lampshades to power cords) . Avoid the use of any product that might cause toxic fumes, such as nonstick cookware, cleaning products, perfumes, insecticides and other aerosols.
4. Offer your grey a varied diet that includes seeds, pellets, fresh vegetables and fruits cut into small portions, and healthy people food, such as raw or cooked pasta, fresh or toasted whole-wheat bread and unsweetened breakfast cereals. Avoid feeding your pet chocolate, alcohol, avocado or highly sugared, salted or fatty foods. Provide the freshest food possible, and remove partially eaten or discarded food from the cage before it has a chance to spoil and make your pet sick. Your grey should also have access to clean, fresh drinking water at all times.
5. Establish a good working relationship with a qualified avian veterinarian early on in your bird ownership (preferably on your way home from the pet store or breeder). Don't wait for an emergency to locate a veterinarian. Take your grey to the veterinarian for regular checkups, as well as when you notice a change in his routine.
Illnesses in birds are sometimes difficult to detect before it's too late to save the bird, so preventive care helps head off serious problems before they develop.
6. Clip your bird's wings regularly to ensure his safety.
7. Set and maintain a routine for your grey. Make sure he's fed at about the same time each day, and establish a regular playtime. Put him to bed at the same time each day.
9. Leave a radio or television on for your bird when you are away from home, because a too-quiet environment can be stressful for many birds, and stress can cause illness or other problems for your pet.
10. Pay attention to your grey on a consistent basis. Don't lavish abundant attention on the bird when you first bring him home, then gradually lose interest in him. Birds are sensitive, intelligent creatures that will not understand such a mixed message. Set aside a regular portion of each day to spend with your grey--you'll both enjoy it and your relationship will benefit from it.
Feeding your bird balanced, nutritional meals and providing him with proper socialization, love and companionship can have a profound effect on him, as Sindbad's story tells us.
When Sindbad joined Julie Rach, editor of Bird Talk magazine, in her home, the importation of wild-caught parrots was ending. Feather-picked from her neck to her vent and brain damaged to the point of seizures, Sindbad was a skinny, frightened creature when Julie first saw her. Today, it seems impossible that this fully feathered creature, who is in control of her faculties and filled out to the point of plumpness, can be the same bird.
Sindbad and Julie began modifying each other's behavior from the start. Julie changed Sindbad's diet from primarily sunflower seeds with few fruits to a smorgasbord of fresh produce and other healthful treats and learned to respond day or night to her insistent beak tapping on the side of her cage when she'd fallen from her perch and couldn't climb back up. Julie encouraged Sindbad to play by providing her with a variety of safe and interesting toys, and Sindbad got Julie to laugh when she bulldozed the toys off her cage and onto the floor with the subtlety of a Sherman tank. Julie improved Sindbad's health with a better diet and frequent trips to the veterinarian, and in return, Sindbad improved Julie's with her amusing antics.
Your grey requires a certain level of care each day to ensure his health and well-being.Here are some of the things you'll need to do each day for your pet:
Your bird's droppings require daily monitoring because they can tell you a lotabout his general health. Greys produce white-and-green tubular droppings. Thesedroppings are usually composed of equal amounts of fecal material (the green portion)and urine (the white portion). A healthy grey generally eliminates about every twentyto forty minutes, although your bird may go more or less often.
Texture and consistency, along with frequency or lack of droppings, can let youknow how your pet is feeling. For instance, if a bird eats a lot of fruits and vegetables,his droppings are generally looser and more watery than a bird that eats primarilyseeds. But watery droppings can also indicate illness, such as diabetes or kidneyproblems, that cause a bird to drink more water than usual.
Color can also give an indication of health. Birds that have psittacosis (a contagiousdisease in birds that usually involves the digestive tract--also known as "parrotfever") typically have bright, lime-green droppings, while healthy birds haveavocado- or darker-green-and-white droppings. Birds with liver problems may producedroppings that are yellowish or reddish, while birds that have internal bleedingwill produce dark, tarry droppings.
But a color change doesn't necessarily indicate poor health. For instance, birdsthat eat pelleted diets tend to have darker droppings than their seed-eating companions,while parrots that have splurged on a certain fresh food soon have droppings withthat characteristic color. Birds that overindulge on beets, for instance, producebright red droppings that can look as though the bird has suffered some serious internalinjuries. Birds that overdo sweet potatoes, blueberries or raspberries produce orange,blue or red droppings, respectively.
As part of your daily cage cleaning and observation of your feathered friend,look at his droppings carefully. Learn what is normal for your bird in terms of color,consistency and frequency, and report any changes to your avian veterinarian promptly.
Some of your weekly chores will include:
You can simplify the weekly cage cleaning process by placing the cage in the showerand letting hot water do some of the work. Be sure to remove your bird, his foodand water dishes, the cag e tray paper and his toys before putting the cage into theshower. You can let the hot water run over the cage for a few minutes, then scrubat any stuck-on food with an old toothbrush or some fine-grade steel wool.
Rinse the cage thoroughly and dry it completely before returning your bird andhis accessories to the cage. You can air dry them in the sun if you wish.
Warm weather requires extra vigilance on the part of a pet bird owner to ensurethat the pet remains comfortable. To keep your pet cool, keep him out of direct sun,offer him lots of fresh vegetables and fruits (remove these fresh foods from thecage after no more than four hours to prevent your bird from eating spoiled food)and mist him lightly with a clean spray bottle (filled with water only) that is usedsolely for birdie showers.
WARM WEATHER WARNING
On a warm day, you may notice your bird sitting with his wings held away from his body, rolling his tongue and holding his mouth open. This is how a bird cools himself off. Watch your bird carefully on warm days because he can over-heat quickly and may suffer heatstroke, which requires veterinary care. If you live in a warm climate, ask your avian veterinarian how you can protect your bird from this potentially serious problem.
Warm weather may also bring out a host of insect pests to bedevil you and yourbird. Depending on where you live, you may see ants, flies, mosquitoes or other bugsaround your bird's cage as the temperature rises. Take care to keep your bird's cagescrupulously clean to discourage any pests, and remove any fresh food s and seed hullsfrequently to keep insects out of your bird's food bowl.
Finally, in cases of severe infestation, you may have to use camicide or otherbird-safe insecticides to reduce the insect population. (Remove your bird from thearea of infestation before spraying.) If the problem becomes severe enough to requireprofessional exterminators, make arrangements to have your bird out of the housefor at least twenty-four hours after spraying has taken place.
By the same token, pay attention to your pet's needs when the weather turns cooler.You may want to use a heavier cage cover, especially if you lower the heat in yourhome at bedtime, or you may want to move the bird's cage to another location in yourhome that is warmer and less drafty.
To get your grey used to riding in the car, start by taking his cage (with doorand cage tray well secured) out to your car and placing it inside. Make sure thatyour car is cool before you do this, because your grey can suffer heatstroke if youplace him in a hot car and leave him there.
When your bird seems comfortable sitting in his cage in your car, take him fora short drive, such as around the block. If your bird seems to enjoy the ride (heeats, sings, whistles, talks and generally acts like nothing is wrong), then youhave a willing traveler on your hands. If he seems distressed by the ride (he sitson the floor of his cage shaking, screams or vomits), then you have a bit of workahead of you.
Distressed birds often only need to be conditioned that car travel can be fun.You can do this by talking to your bird throughout the trip. Praise him for goodbehavior and reassure him t hat everything will be fine. Offer special treats andjuicy fruits (grapes, apples or citrus fruit) so that your pet will eat and avoiddehydration.
As your bird becomes accustomed to car travel, gradually increase the length ofthe trips. When your bird is comfortable with car rides, begin to condition him fora longer trip by packing your car as you would for a longer trip.
You may be tempted to have your pet ride in your car without being confined tohis cage. You may have seen pictures in magazines of birds perched on car headrestsor been intrigued by the concept of an avian car seat. Please resist these temptationsbecause your bird could easily fly out of an open car window or be injured severelyin the event of an accident if he is not in a secure carrier or cage while travelingin your car. Use your car's seat belts to hold the cage safely in place.
If you will travel to another state, you will probably need to make hotel or motelreservations along the way. As you do, ask if the hotel or motel allows pets. (TheAuto Club guidebooks and other guides often provide this information, but it doesn'thurt to check the policy as you're making reservations.) Ask for non-smoking rooms,if possible, to keep you and your bird healthy, and be prepared to clean up afteryour grey at the hotel or motel, because this will make it easier for bird ownerswho come after you to keep their pets in thei r rooms.
Should you choose to leave your pet at home while you're away, you have severalcare options available to you.
If your trusted friends and relatives live far away, you can hire a professionalpet sitter. (Many advertise in the yellow pages, and some offer additional services,such as picking up mail, watering your plants and leaving lights and/or radios onto make your home look occupied while you're gone.) If you're unsure about what tolook for in a pet sitter, the National Association of Pet Sitters offers the followingtips:
If the prospect of leaving your bird with a pet sitter doesn't appeal to you,you may be able to board your bird at your avian vet's office. In the last case,of course, you'll need to determine if your vet's office offers boarding servicesand if you want to risk your bird's health by exposing him to other birds duringboarding.
The holidays are exciting, frenzied and, at times, stressful. They can also be hazardous to your African grey's health. Drafts from frequently opening and closing doors can have an impact on your bird's health, and the bustle of a steady stream of visitors can add to your pet's stress level.
Chewing on holiday plants, such as poinsettia, holly and mistletoe, can make your bird sick, as can chewing on tinsel or ornaments. Round jingle-type bells can sometimes trap a curious bird's toe, beak or tongue, so keep these holiday decorations out of your bird's reach. Watch your pet around strings of lights, too, as both the bulbs and the cords can prove to be great temptations to curious beaks.
If moving is in your future, you will need to take your grey on a trip, whetherit's across town, across a state line or into another country. Your first step shouldbe to acclimate your bird to traveling in the car. Some pet birds take to this newadventure immediately, while others become so stressed out by the trip that theybecome carsick. Patience and persistence are usually t he keys to success if yourpet falls into the latter category.
As you're packing your belongings, remember to pack a cooler or ice chest foryour bird. Take along an adequate supply of your bird's present food, as well asa jug or two of the water your bird is used to drinking. Your bird will be able tohandle the stress of moving better if he has familiar food and water to eat and drinkalong the way.
Before you move, make a final appointment with your bird's veterinarian. Havethe bird evaluated, and ask for a health certificate (this may come in handy whencrossing state lines). Also ask for a copy of your grey's records that you can takewith you, or arrange to have a copy sent to your new address so your bird's new avianveterinarian will know your pet's history.
If you will be taking your bird abroad, you will need to do some advance preparationto ensure that you and your grey will make the move easily. This means contactingthe United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and asking them for informationon taking a pet bird out of the country. You should also contact the consulate orembassy of the country you will be moving to, to ensure that your grey will be welcome.Ask if a health certificate is required, and if your bird may be quarantined beforeentering the country. If he will be quarantined, will you as the owner be responsiblefor making quarantine arrangements? Be aware that finding answers to these questionsmay take several phone calls, or a combination of letters, faxes and phone calls,and patience is the key to success. Keep in mind that travel to Mexico or Canadafrom the United States (and vice versa) is considered international travel. If youdrive across the borders and return to the United States without proper paperwork,the USDA will confiscate your bird.
Make sure your African grey receives a clean bill of health from the vet beforeyou take him out of the country.