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PDD information gathered since Sinbad's death

Pamela Clark, Avian Behavior Consultant, provided this nutritional information to me upon learning of Sinbad's death.

As you know, PDD can strike one or several birds in a home or aviary, and leave the others healthy. Why do some die and others never contract the illness? I believe that a partial answer lies in the functioning of the immune system. Genetically, some birds have weaker immune systems than
others and there's not much we can do to change that. But we can certainly take the measures that will insure that the immune system of every bird we have is functioning optimally.

First, stress will suppress the immune system significantly. Stress increases the production of adrenal hormones such as catecholamines and corticosteroids. This inhibit white blood cells, which fight infection. Further, under stress, the thymus gland, which produces some white blood cells, begins to shrink.

Further, certain nutrients help to manage stress. These include pantothenic acid, magnesium and potassium. The best foods for obtaining pantothenic acid are whole grains, legumes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, sunflower seeds, and salmon. The best food sources for magnesium are broccoli, beet greens, beans (pinto, navy, black, kidney), whole grains (buckwheat, whole rye, millet), pine nuts, walnuts, and eggs. Potassium is found in lima beans, banana, cantaloupe, light-meat chicken and salmon.

Second, diet is probably the main determinant of a well-functioning immune system. Your birds should receive large amounts of foods high in beta-carotene and other phyto-nutrients that they can best obtain from fresh
whole fruits, vegetables and dark leafy greens. Beta-carotenes (the precursor to Vitamin A) are especially necessary to the functioning of the immune system. Specifically, good sources of beta-carotenes are carrots,
parsley, spinach, yams, winter squashes, pumpkin, and dark leafy greens.

Phyto-nutrients are those compounds in fruits and vegetables that appear to play a role in preventing and/or reversing diseases like cancer in humans. Foods high in phyto-nutrients that should be fed to prevent disease are red grapes, citrus fruits, berries, yams, apples, cherries, walnuts, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens, flax seed, whole grains, red grapefruit, watermelon, apricots, pineapple, peppers, celery, carrots, parsley, beans, brown rice, yellow squash (Italian).

I think it would be wise to feed them the layered salad, with the Harrison's High Potency in another separate dish. I realize that it is best to serve a soft diet when birds are actually ill with PDD, but as long as your other birds appear healthy, a fresh raw diet with great variety, including all those foods listed above would be best.

You might also consider getting a juicer and making them fresh carrot juice to drink daily. Or purchase this from the health food store. You can get a whole lot more Vitamin A into them this way than by simply providing the fresh vegetables. Beta-carotene is a water soluble form of Vitamin A, so it can not possibly become toxic the way that synthetic forms of this vitamin can.

I would eliminate pasta, crackers, other junk food, any foods with synthetic food dyes, and/or preservatives, and peanut butter. Instead, use other nut butters; almond is especially good. Try to keep processed fats out of the diet, such as margarine, butter, hydrogenated oils, etc.

PDD also causes a malabsorption of nutrients, so it might be wise to routinely sprinkle digestive enzymes on their fresh foods. A good product is Prozymes and is available from Hornbeck's and other places. I would also use twice weekly a good probiotic. You can use Benebac for this, or one of
those located in the refrigerator section of the health food store.

In some ways, spirulina can also be considered an immune system booster because of the way it stimulates the white cells. Both barley juice powder and spirulina would be good whole food supplements to use once weekly.

Two herbs that are beneficial in this situation would be chamomile and St. John's Wort. Both help to alleviate stress, and have anti-inflammatory action. These can be given as tea or the tinctures can be placed into drinking water.

Astragalus is extremely important as an immune system booster. It is a Chinese herb and is also used traditionally in Chinese cooking. Here in the U.S., it has proven helpful to AIDS patients because it doesn't stimulate the immune system. With an auto-immune dysfunction like PDD or AIDS, the immune system is generally working overtime anyway. Instead, astragalus supports the function of the immune system. It stimulates killer-cell activity and interferon production. And, very importantly for PDD, it increases gut motility. Astragalus is one of the least toxic and safest herbs you can use. This can be purchased as a glycerin-based tincture and placed into the water. I would suggest that this be given for a period of two weeks on, then two weeks off, then two weeks on, then discontinued.

PDD is known now to be stable outside of the body for 3 to 5 days. This means that any viral particles are now long inactivated. From here on out, whether or not your other birds contract the disease may very well lie in how will their immune systems are supported.

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Stress Reduction Methods for Companion Parrots
By Pamela Clark

If I had to put it bluntly, I?d say that keeping parrots as companions in captivity is similar to trying to pound a square peg through a round hole. The fact that they do as well as they do is testimony more to their adaptability than it is to our husbandry efforts. Still undomesticated, parrots evolved to fly miles every day, have unlimited social contacts with other flock members, forage for food of their own choosing, bathe in a manner and spot of their own choosing, remain active throughout the day shredding plant materials, and mate and raise their own young.

Instead, even in the most benevolent of homes, this same parrot remains for hours a day inside a cage, eats food of our choosing served at times convenient for us, is dependent for stimulation and activity upon us, is unable to breed and rear young, and receives limited social interaction.

All that said, however, I am not against keeping parrots as companions in captivity. That already is a done deal, as they say. Since keeping companion parrots is a reality that is unlikely to change, we must instead do so as consciously as possible, with a deep awareness of exactly what it is we are asking of them. Life in captivity always carries a measure of stress with it for our companion parrots, and the wise parrot owner both acknowledges this and works to implement whatever methods are possible to alleviate any stress to their parrots that results from the conditions of living in captivity.

David McCluggage, DVM writes in Holistic Care for Birds, "We know from practical experience and from scientific research that emotions affect the state of an animal?s health, whether the animal is a human being or a bird. The more intelligent an animal is, the keener its perception of danger and the greater its stress." There is little doubt that many of the conditions in our homes create stress for our parrots. These include erratic feeding schedules, boring or non-nutritive food choices, the unpredictable behavior of children, placement of the cage in an exposed spot in the home, the temperature in the home, and many others.

Many parrot owners, so used to ignoring their own stress levels out of necessity in our jumbled and fast-paced world, often do not recognize signs of stress in their birds. Many of us tend to shrug off our own feelings of fear or emotional discomfort. Usually, we have been taught as children to do so. If this is the case, and we are not in touch with our own anxiety or feelings of stress, then we need to train ourselves to look for and honor signs of anxiety in our parrots, and take them seriously.

It is a valuable exercise to spend a period of two to three weeks, observing your parrot as if you were taking a video of his actions. In other words, strive for objectivity. Get acquainted with what his body language looks like when he's startled or scared. With many species, the feathers will be held tightly in toward the body, the neck will elongate, and he may look rather "wide-eyed." Anxiety in African Greys is often demonstrated by dancing from one leg to the other while biting the toenails of the elevated foot, or by twisting of the head in a figure-eight motion while seeming to look upward. Generalized anxiety or stress often results in lack of play, fewer vocalizations, and sometimes decreased food intake. Extreme anxiety will result in the more obvious behaviors of feather picking or phobia.

On the other hand, a relaxed, happy parrot will vocalize frequently, eat hungrily, preen normally and find ways to invite social contact with us. Happiness behaviors will also be observed. These include tail wags, stretches that include the wing and leg on one side of the body stretching at the same time, fluffed head feathers, and wings raised together in unison as a greeting.

During your period of observation, make note of any incidents that startle him or cause your parrot to look afraid or anxious. Once you have a list of situations in which you have observed fear or anxiety, then changes should be made accordingly. For example, if he appears wary when visitors get too close to his cage, then any future guests will need to be instructed to remain a certain distance away until the parrot gets to know them better through repeated visits. It is important to socialize a parrot to new people, but this should be done gradually and with sensitivity, if the bird happens to have a shy or timid nature.

If his cage is near a stairway or a doorway where people "appear out of nowhere," then his cage should be moved to a quieter location, while still located in the living area so that he can be near his human flock. If this is not possible, then family members will need to learn to stop just outside of the room and verbally announce their impending entrance, so that he is not abruptly startled when people appear near his cage.

If a friend comes over who is wearing a hat that scares the bird, you will ask him to remove his hat. In other words, the owner must become a student of the young parrot's body language and do whatever it takes to modify the environment or situations in order to insure greater comfort for him.

The owner must also learn to anticipate and avoid any new situation or object that is likely to scare the bird. It is predictable that many parrots will find at least many of the following to elicit fear:]

-Anything that seems to appear out of nowhere, especially from above.
-Sticks, ropes, brooms, ladders, hoses
-Unbroken or extended eye contact
-A new fingernail or hair color, especially if this is a bright shade
-Large boxes
-Moving furniture
-Costumes or unusual clothing
-Bald heads
-Hats or strange headgear
-Helium-filled balloons
-New over-head track lighting or large pictures recently hung on the wall
-Shaking blankets, rugs or other large pieces of fabric
-Loud noises from construction equipment, remodeling activities or fireworks

Since the bird will spend the majority of his time in his cage, the importance of correct placement can not be overstated. As indicated above, it should not be in any very busy traffic pattern, although it should remain in the living area.

For most parrots, it should not be located in front of a window, either. Unexpected things happen outside of windows. If the cage is next to a window or sliding glass doorway, perhaps it can be shifted a little to either the left or the right so that at least half of the cage is against the wall. If the latter is not an option, than a light colored sheet can be used to cover about 1/3 of the cage and clamped in place so that the parrot has a place to go to retreat if feeling threatened or anxious.

Spend some time actively teaching him something. This too will serve to reduce his overall anxiety. Clicker training is an excellent idea. This is fun for both owner and parrot, and will help to teach him to focus his attention. Often, birds that startle easily have difficulty focusing clearly on tasks for very long, so distracted are they by their own anxiety and perceived need to be "watchful" at all times. Clickers can be ordered from Basic information about clicker training, as well as specifics about how to begin, will also be found at that website. In addition, the Companion Parrot Quarterly recently published in Issues 50 and 51 two wonderful articles about clicker training written by Francois Joiris, a professional animal trainer who has worked with parrots.

Once you have completed the initial steps to the practice of clicker training, you can teach your parrot many things, such as to retrieve a ball, climb a ladder, or push a cart. Clicker training can even be used to teach a parrot to play with toys, or to desensitize him to a new toy, since the sound of the clicker delivers immediate reinforcement. These short sessions will use up physical and emotional energy, which will relax him and create in him a feeling of success and accomplishment... feelings which have often been extinguished or never fully developed in hand-reared parrots.

Pattern him to some piece of soothing music. I recommend using Stephen Halpern's Spectrum Suite for this. This idea is based upon techniques for self-hypnosis and meditation in humans. Simply described, if I meditate for 20 minutes every day to a particular piece of soothing music, then after a few months all I will need to do is to hear the music to experience again the feelings of relaxation and peacefulness usually felt during and after meditation.

This works just as well for parrots. Once you have the piece of music, watch for times when your parrot is resting and relaxed and put the music on to play. Also play it when you put him to bed at night. Eventually, he will be "patterned" to relax every time he hears this same music. You can then use it during times of high stress, such as before and after a trip to the vet, if you must have any workmen come into your home for repairs, or during the holidays when stress levels in homes are higher anyway.

A poor diet will result in generalized stress. Although arguments abound about proper nutrition for parrots, it is generally accepted that parrots thrive best on a wide variety of healthful foods, and that no one food (such as a seed mix or pellets) should comprise the entire diet. Improving the diet is essential to reducing stress in many cases where the bird has often developed a deficiency of essential fatty acids and may also not be getting enough high quality complete protein. Increase the amount of fresh, raw foods he gets to 30% of the diet or more. The darker the color of the vegetable or fruit, the more nutritional value it contains.

If your parrot will not eat fresh vegetables and greens, leave his dish of seed or pellets in the cage for now, but also provide him twice a day with a chopped salad of fresh, raw foods, into which additional seed has been mixed. In time, once he has gotten used to the appearance of the fresh mix, he will begin to forage through that mix for the seed it contains. Once this begins to occur, the dish of seed can be removed from the cage. Initially, the fresh mix may contain 50% seed to prevent him from getting too hungry as he learns to also eat the fresh vegetables and other items this mix contains. As his acceptance grows, the amount of seed should be decreased to between 10% and 20%.

I have no argument with the value of a quality pellet, and believe that most parrots should enjoy them in their diet. However, pellets are devoid of certain classes of valuable nutrients, such as essential fatty acids and enzymes, and should not comprise the whole diet. Fresh greens, vegetables, seeds and nuts are excellent sources for these nutrients.

It is also important to make sure that a source for complete protein is provided in a form the parrot will consume. Pellets are a good source of protein. Cooked beans, legumes and grains can be served in combination and will provide a complete blend of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Or, small amounts of low-fat cheese, scrambled eggs, or well-cooked organic chicken or fish can be offered.

In cases where a parrot exhibits chronic stress, it may also be beneficial to obtain digestive enzymes and sprinkle these on his food. A good product sold for use with birds is Prozymes. This is available from a variety of mail-order sources. Some parrots simply do not absorb nutrients from their diets as well as others do, and this can lead to increased nervousness and poor feather quality. Enzymes are extremely important for good emotional and physical health, and the provision of such a supplement can increase nutrient absorption, resulting in better all around health.

Many African Greys, Senegals and Jardine?s Parrots who either feather pick or exhibit chronic stress can be provided with an essential fatty acid oil supplement once or twice a day. You can give him between three and six drops twice a day. Adequate essential fatty acids are not only necessary for good plumage, but are needed for optimal brain function. Each nerve cell in the brain is covered with a myelin sheath, which is composed of essential fatty acids. It's possible that some birds have a higher need than others do for these nutrients. This is especially true of African Greys, who eat the fruits of the oil palm in the wild, which are especially high in essential fatty acids. Senegals and Jardine?s Parrots also enjoy food sources in the wild, which are similarly high in fat. This type of supplement can be found in the health food store refrigerator section. It can be placed on a small square of bread or other absorbent food.

Create rituals and predictability in every way possible. Parrots love rituals because they enjoy being able to anticipate with certainty what is going to happen next. The issue of predictability is closely related with their innate need as prey animals to feel safe. In the wild, most things are predictable. The sun rises and sets without fail. Even the land dwelling animals in the area will tend to behave in predictable, cyclic ways... foraging and resting at certain times of the day. It is only predators who are unpredictable, appearing out of nowhere. Thus, for a parrot who has learned to feel anxiety, any method that you can use to create predictability will be helpful.

One way to do this is to develop a flock language. Say the same things to him at appropriate times. When you feed him, "Are you hungry?" When you give him water, "Do you want some fresh water?" When you leave, "Bye-bye...I'll be right back." The more you talk to him in context about predictable happenings, the more secure he will feel. If he hears a noise that startles him, label it for him and reassure him: "That was just the gardeners! Bad gardeners! But, you're okay."

Rituals are created between owner and bird as a sort of "social duet" that forms over time. Bedtime rituals can be especially reassuring. Here, each night I make warm oatmeal and go around the room spoon feeding each bird in turn. Then, I extend to each their own special bedtime "good-bye" before covering their cage for the night. My Meyer's Parrot lies on his back in my hand while I scratch the back of his neck. Then I proclaim he?s the handsomest Meyer's without feet I've ever seen, place him back on his perch, and cover him up. As I approach my Blue and Gold Macaw, I demand dramatically "Give me a kiss!" to which he responds by clasping a cage bar with his beak so I can deposit a kiss on it. He then gets a bedtime almond. My middle-aged male Yellow-naped Amazon receives simply a very respectful and loving "good night" from a distance. Each one receives a special bedtime salute, unique to them, and is sung to as I cover them. It doesn't matter what type of ritual you develop, just that it's the same every time. This serves to create a great sense of safety in parrots.

Morning rituals are also important. A parrot should be greeted each morning upon being uncovered, or awakened, as if he is a special and important member of the family. This greeting takes only a minute or two. Never should the morning greeting be merely perfunctory. If you carefully observe the people you know who are really great with parrots, you will see that one reason for their ability has to do with the fact that they focus solely on the bird, appreciating every quality as they speak softly to them. Slow down, really look at your bird as if the rest of the world didn't exist and greet him, letting him know that on this new day, you find him exceptional and valuable.

Include him in as many social family activities as possible, within the above guidelines of safety. Parrots are social creatures, and being part of social activities helps to create a greater sense of safety. You might use a tabletop perch or a basket and bring him to the table with you during mealtimes. When you take a shower or get ready in the morning, you can bring him into the bathroom on a portable perch. Just being in there while you dress will give him some satisfaction because he will instinctively understand that you are "preening" and he is being included.

Closely guard your own emotions about him and his problems. I can't write enough about the empathic nature of parrots. Often, when a parrot has problems with chronic stress, it is because the human with whom he lives does not know how to alleviate his own stress. Parrots in general, but especially African Greys, know how we feel. They know when we are worried. If, when we interact with them, we allow ourselves to think about problems and our own stressors instead of focusing on them, the bird will experience this as a "danger" signal. Parrots in the wild watch each other closely for any sign that danger is near. So in tune are they with each other, that an entire flock can turn direction "on a dime" when flying. Similarly, they watch us for signs of danger.

Many clients will say to me, "Oh but I'm not acting stressed!" However, in the words of Gretel Ehrlich in Intimate Nature: the Bond between Woman and Animals:

"Animals hold us to what is present, to who we are at the time. What is obvious to an animal is not the embellishment that fattens our emotional resumes but what's bedrock and current in us: aggression, fear, insecurity, happiness or equanimity. Because they have the ability to read our
involuntary tics and scents, we're transparent to them and thus exposed ? we are finally ourselves."

Thus, since they are so adept at reading "our involuntary tics and scents," our own relationships with them, and their sense of safety will benefit greatly if we can leave our worries and fears behind when interacting with them. If you must worry when away from the parrot. When in his presence and interacting with him, banish those thoughts and focus on his positive qualities.

Try to train yourself to get into the habit of "catching him in the act of being good." If he eats food, praise him. If he drinks water, praise him. If he preens or plays with a toy, praise him. If this type of ambient positive attention is provided consistently, the parrot will receive the consistent feedback that he needs regarding what is expected of him to be successful in your home and this too will allow him to relax a little more.

One of the most powerful tools for reducing stress in a parrot of any age, but especially a young bird, is to feed him warm, soft, nutritious food from a spoon at least once every day. Most hand-reared parrots were never spoon fed when young, since the practice of using a syringe is so popular, but they can learn to enjoy this if the owner is willing to be persistent about offering it on a nightly basis.

The majority of parrots raised for sale by breeders or pet stores are weaned too early, in addition to being deprived of the fledging experience. Early weaning helps to insure an early sale, which maximizes profits. In order to accomplish this, the hand-feeder eliminates feedings according to an arbitrary schedule that will insure that the young parrot is weaned as early as possible. The huge problem with this practice is that hunger and anxiety become closely linked in the minds of baby parrots.

In the wild, no adult parrot wants a chick to be calling for food because this elicits the attention of predators. Babies are fed constantly, rarely ever wanting for food for long. Further, as more breeders allow their pairs to raise their young through weaning and fledging, observations accumulate that prove what we long suspected that adult parrots will continue to feed their chicks even after they are weaned, solely for the purpose of providing reassurance or nurturing if the chick encounters a frightening experience as it becomes more independent. The chick not only does not experience hunger, but it receives feedings even when it only needs to be nurtured or reassured.

Contrast this reality with the common rearing practice of eliminating feedings according to a schedule, which can leave a parrot chick incredibly hungry for hours at a time, as he learns to manipulate food in order to feed himself. Further, to compound the anxiety caused by the hunger that he instinctively understands to be unnatural, he also receives no feedings simply for the purpose of reassurance as he meets the challenges of life in a pet store or new home. Thus, hunger and anxiety become inextricably and forever linked in the mind of the parrot.

This is why so many adult parrots do not eat well when feeling anxious. In more consulting cases than I care to count, close questioning reveals a pattern of eating that results in a hungry bird. An anxious young parrot will eat enough to keep himself alive and maintain his weight, but will not eat enough to reach satiety, the point that usually brings a greater sense of relaxation. In many cases, a young bird weaned through deprivation weaning techniques will become food independent, but will have a permanent behavioral disability as a result.

Whenever circumstances cause anxiety for such a bird, he eats less than normal. This results in an edge of hunger, which causes more anxiety, which results in poorer eating habits. This is one reason why anxiety in parrots is so difficult to overcome and the key can simply be to feed them a supplemental meal by spoon. Such feeding not only results in a full crop of warm food, which results in a decrease of anxiety and greater relaxation, but triggers on an instinctive level a feeling of being nurtured and safe.

Owners of any anxious bird should get into the practice of looking to see if the parrot?s crop is empty at different times of the day. This is quite easy to tell. With an African Grey, look at the line of the neck as it descends downward and meets the chest. If this is a smooth line, then the crop is full enough. If there is an indentation where the neck meets the spot where the chest begins to swell outward, and this indentation is there most of the time in this anxious bird, the implementation of supplemental feeding should be considered. Often, when fed a little warm food, anxiety diminishes to the point where the bird will eat more on his own. Thus, anxiety and stress can be reduced or eliminated simply by feeding warm, mushy foods once or twice a day.

A feeding spoon can easily be made by dipping a plastic spoon into a small pan of boiling water until the plastic is soft enough that the sides can be bent upward. Warm cooked oatmeal is a real favorite. It?s okay to add a small amount of pure maple syrup and a little low-fat milk. While parrots are said to be lactose intolerant, this amount will do no harm and seems to be much enjoyed thereby providing incentive to the parrot initially reluctant to enjoy this. Other foods that can be used are Vitamin A baby foods, such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, and carrots, or other cooked cereals. (Baby food cereals should not be used because of the iron content.)

Make sure to cool the mixture to between 108 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. A cooking thermometer (a metal probe with a digital or dial read-out at the top) must always be used to insure that the delicate tissues of the mouth and crop are not burned. African birds tend to be rather fussy about food temperature, and if it drops below 105 degrees, they may be less interested. Thus, when trying to teach a bird to accept this practice, temperature may be critical.

It can take real patience and persistence on the part of the owner to teach a previously weaned bird to enjoy this. However, it's worth the work. The value of this practice with captive parrots who are experiencing any difficult circumstances can not be underestimated. It triggers a bird to re-experience the comforting feelings it had as a baby in a manner that nothing else can. If the bird is fed just before bed, it will insure that he goes to bed with a crop full of warm nutritious food, which can in turn encourage more relaxing sleep.

If your young parrot will not eat pellets, consider ordering some Harrison's Hand Feeding Formula and spoon feeding this either by itself, or mixed with the oatmeal. This can be invaluable for birds who do not eat well on their own and will not eat pellets. This is an exceptionally high quality formula preparation and can help to heal any nutritional deficiencies that exist in parrots who eat poorly or who have previously eaten a poor diet. Provision of this formula should be on a temporary basis, served once a day until the bird has reached the point where it is eating a nutritious diet with eagerness, and shows no reduction of food intake in reaction to stress.

I have two female Greys here, both of whom I raised. I often use them as an example of how greatly parrots can differ in their genetic make-up. They are from the same parents and were the only two chicks in the clutch. They are both female, by DNA testing. They hatched on the same day. They spent the same number of days with the parents (four weeks), and were subsequently fed, fledged, weaned and raised exactly the same. Marko is the sassiest, most brazen and assertive female Grey I have ever encountered. Her idea of fun is to fly over to the pot rack above the stove when I'm working in the kitchen and throw the pots and pans down at me. She laughs as she does so. If she's not able to do that, she climbs inside a pot and amuses herself by talking what I call "echo talk."

Her sister, Chloe, is a stressed out, anxiety-filled bird, who is much less active. The only factor that can account for their different personalities is genetics. I noticed at one point that Chloe, although not losing weight, often looked as if her crop were empty. In addition, I noticed that her plumage did not look as good as Marko's does, even though they are fed exactly the same. I began to feed Chloe Harrison's Hand Feeding Formula once a day, and it has made a significant difference. She is calmer and her feathers look much better.

Think about creating a separate sleeping cage in a spare room. This cage need not be very big, and often a collapsible travel cage suffices nicely. It need only include one perch and two small dishes. It should be covered at night on at least three sides. Put it in a room where there is either a comfortable chair or a bed for you. At night, before you put him to bed, feed the warm food by spoon, and then take him to his sleeping cage and place him in the cage but leave the door open. Give him a small amount (one tablespoon) of a good quality seed mix, or other treat that he really likes. You can read a book or just visit quietly with him. In other words, the idea is to create a quiet, reassuring interlude for the two of you. Put on the Spectrum Suite CD. It doesn't matter exactly what you do...just that it's a short period during which you both relax together in a pleasant environment.

Then, begin to take him up there during the day at some point and do the same thing. Maybe at those times when you feel yourself like you could use a 15-minute break. Go up there and take him with you, again putting him in the cage for a treat, or even on top of the cage. Play the music. Over time, this will pattern him to see this room and his sleeping cage as a little "oasis." Then, when life is stressful and lots is going on and you see him start to look a little tense, you can take him up there for a short siesta...just an hour or two in the middle of the day. And, again, play the music for him. That way, during the holidays or other really busy times, he will have a respite.

A parrot who frequently experiences stress or anxiety may startle easily and will often break incoming blood feathers when he falls. These should not be pulled unless it is absolutely necessary. By that, I mean that they won't stop bleeding. Usually, a broken blood feather will stop bleeding on its own within 15 minutes. If it doesn't, you can gently restrain the bird and apply pressure right at the point where the feather emerges from the follicle. Do not use Kwik Stop, or any other product sold for the purpose of stopping bleeding. This product is toxic and should only be used on toenails clipped too short, not on skin or in instances like this. If, after 15 minutes, you simply can't get the bleeding stopped, then you may have to pull the feather or have a vet do it.

However, whenever possible, it is best to avoid having the feather pulled, because this often results in increased anxiety. Many novice parrot owners see the blood from a broken feather and panic. They rush the bird to the vet?s office to have this pulled. The stress and fear manifested by the frightened owner, as well as the actual veterinary procedure (if not performed with sensitivity), results in a dramatic increase in anxiety levels for the bird. Thus, if you do have to make such a trip to the vet for a broken feather, remain calm and reassure your bird.

If the bleeding stops, and you are able to avoid a trip to the vet's office, watch the feather closely for a day or so to make sure it doesn?t begin bleeding again. In some cases, the broken feather will be left sticking out at an odd angle, so that the bird bangs it as he moves around. However, parrots have taken care of this sort of problem by themselves for eons, and in most cases, either the bird will chew it off himself, or you can wait a couple of days and cut it back yourself, just enough so it doesn't drag. By that time, the blood supply to the feather will have begun to recede back up into the body.

Think about providing an outdoor aviary for the parrot. This suggestion often meets with initial rejection by parrot owners who believe that their weather does not permit the use of an aviary. However, this is rarely the case. A good friend in Ohio installed a beautiful powder-coated hexagonal aviary for the daytime use of her six parrots. True, use of this is prevented during much of the winter, but she has never regretted the purchase for a minute, so great are the benefits.

I live in a climate that reaches 115 degrees on the hottest days of summer and extends down to 22 degrees Fahrenheit during winter. However, I can usually find a way to use my outdoor aviaries for at least a part of most days. Today was quite warm, but my Blue and Gold Macaw had a wonderful time outdoors from 7:00 am until noon, when the temperature had reached 90 degrees and it was time for him to come in.

Simply put, there is no substitute for fresh air and real sunshine. Parrots evolved to live outdoors. Even we, as thoroughly domesticated humans, can feel the difference made by time spent outdoors. If I sit in front of the computer all day or even stay indoors, I accumulate some tension. However, an hour outdoors does wonders for me. Parrots are no different. I have several outdoor aviaries and I don't know what I would do without them. My birds come inside from a period outdoors so much more relaxed and happy. I also think it benefits them greatly to get a respite from human "vibes."

Give him plenty of stuff to tear up and destroy. He should have a new "project" every day to alleviate boredom and use up some of that energy. Rotating toys is great, but what parrots really need is something new to destroy every day. I usually give my clients a shopping list as follows:

-Food skewers made by Expandable Habitats, also available from
-Fun Rings in all three sizes (4", 5" and 7") from Fowl Play Company (
-A vast array of toy making parts from www.featheredkidsnstuff, and other companies.
-Cooked whole artichokes, whole cooked sweet potatoes, whole pomegranates, large leafy greens, fruit in halves, whole carrots with the tops on, big chunks of corn on the cob, etc. - all for skewering.

The food skewers can be used to make either a new toy each day, using the toy making parts or a true food skewer for tearing apart. The Fun Rings can be used in the same manner. You can put a frozen bagel on one in the morning and hang it in the cage before leaving for work. The largest Fun Ring will accommodate a whole roll of white, unscented toilet paper for shredding. Toy parts can also be strung on these. Get creative. Give him something new to look forward to each day to tear apart. Again, this will help him to learn to focus, but will use up some of that energy that might otherwise go into anxiety.

The usual cautions pertain, however. It can be difficult to predict what will and will not frighten a parrot. If any of the above ideas does scare him, then hang it outside the cage the first few times so that he can simply get used to looking at it. Don't worry about the waste... it will be
worth it in the long run.

Lastly, consider trying Bach Flower Remedies and standard homeopathic remedies, under informed guidance. A few homeopathic remedies that can help nervous, anxious, and fearful birds include Chamomilla, Hypericum, Ignatia, Lycopodium, Pulsatilla, and Silica. However, none of these remedies should be used without the counsel of someone who regularly uses them. Both David McCluggage, DVM in Colorado, who wrote Holistic Care for Birds, and Joel Murphy, DVM, in Florida, author of several books, do telephone consultations. These types of remedies are gentle, have no side effects, and can be exceptionally effective in such cases.

The vast majority of behavior problems are the result of poor environment and diet. Following the suggestions above will go a long way toward the prevention of problems with your companion parrot, and will serve to help alleviate any stress-related problems that may already exist. Our companion parrots deserve our compassion. We do our best by them when we care for them in a manner that takes into consideration the difficulty of the task we ask of them?to join us in our world, learn our language, eat our food, amuse us, comfort us, and allow us to clutch and hold onto a measure of their beauty and wildishness.

Visit Pamela Clark's Website

Layered Salad Recipe

Courtesy of Pamela Clark, Avian Behavior Consultant

Layer 1 (bottom layer) - chopped greens, which are varied each week. One week, I'll use collard greens and parsley and mustard greens, and the next I might use Swiss chard, kale and dandelion greens.

Layer 2 - chopped (1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes) green vegetables, including any of the following: Brussels sprouts, zucchini and other summer squash, jicama, red or green peppers, fresh hot peppers, chayote squash, green beans, fresh peas, cucumber, celery, anise root, etc.

Layer 3 - chopped broccoli and shredded carrots

Layer 4 - dry, uncooked pasta. This will absorb some of the moisture from the mix and soften nicely.

Layer 5 - cooked beans. I usually buy one of the 13 or 17 bean soup mixes, which I soak overnight, rinse, and then bring to a boil and cook for about 25 minutes, then drain.

Layer 6 - a mixture of chopped apples, oranges and whole grapes

Layer 7 - frozen mixed vegetables.

Place the containers into the refrigerator (don't freeze).

Use: each morning, empty one container into a large mixing bowl. Add other foods such as blueberries, peaches, plums, kiwi fruits, melon, etc), sprouts, or cooked grains (amaranth, quinoa, brown rice, barley, etc). Sometimes pine nuts or walnut pieces.

Add one scoop seed mix and one scoop of pellets

Containers will keep for about three days, after being opened and mixed.

You can use other types of citrus instead of oranges, including grapefruit, lemons, tangerines, etc.

Instead of grapes, you can substitute fresh blueberries and pitted ripe cherries, or fresh cranberries.

Instead of the 17-bean mix, you can use a soak and cook mix.

Instead of grated carrots, you can use cooked and chopped sweet potato or winter squash.

Layered Salad Ingredients


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