May 09, 2016

Vinny's recipe for succes!

It's been a while since we've made a batch of freezer-food, as we call it. Basically this is a large batch of mixed rice, pasta, beans, corn, miscellaneous vegetables and sometimes some fruits or sprouts. This all started out mainly as a bean mix, but recently we've been deviating from the original mix more and more.

The mix is now a healthy mix of avocado, coffee beans, chocolate, gummy bears, cheese, onions, lots of garlic, fried chicken, french fries and some raw eggs.

No! I'm just kidding. 

Those are pretty much the worst foods you can give to your parrot. If you are in doubt about which foods are healthy for your (particular kind of) parrot, Google it. Find forums that talk about healthy parrot foods. They are usually a rich source of information, as long as you don't go by just one opinion, but try to find the general consensus. And if you're still not sure, call a vet or a parrot expert. They will gladly advise you.

Our mix as stated below is a mix of what we know are good for Eclectus parrots. But we do keep in mind that this mix by itself by far is not enough to call a full diet. On a daily basis it needs to be supplemented with fresh foods and vegetables, a good seed mix, fresh sprouts and healthy snacks. This mix is just a decent base food. 

We also left out certain juice/water rich fruits and vegetables that don't freeze well. Leafy vegetables like spinach are well loved by Vinny as well, but are no good to freeze.

Please note that this mix, or the idea of pre-making small batches of food is not new. We wrote about making batches like this before, in the early days of this blog, for example in this post from June 2012. And of course many people have done this before us.

So, the basic idea is simple. You throw a whole bunch of healthy ingredients together, you mix well, you take little scoops and fill little bags, then put those little bags in the freezer to be taken back out one by one to be defrosted and given to your parrot. And if you have multiple parrots that all eat the same food, more bags.. ehh power to you!

We've been talking about giving you the run-down of what goes into making a batch like this. So here it is, the exact ingredients of today's batch, and how it's made.

Normally we do this with the two of us, but Vinny's 'mommy' is out of the country at the moment, so I did this by myself and obviously it took me quite a bit longer. This batch took me about 1.5 hours, but I didn't hurry and was watching TV while doing the bagging up.

The ingredients we used:
  • 1 kg (2 lbs) brown rice
  • 500 gr (1 lb) whole wheat macaroni
  • 1 cans (600 gr / just over 1 lb) corn, drained
  • 1 jar (350 gr / 12 oz) pre-boiled peas, drained
  • 1 jar (250 gr / 9 oz) pre-boiled white beans, washed and drained
  • 250 gr (9 oz) pre-boiled brown beans, washed and drained
  • 2 bags (total almost 2 lbs) of veggie mix from grocery store *
  • 1 large or 2 small zucchini's, diced
The vegetable mix bags were simply stir-fry mixes that contained (and I quote from the bags): red paprika, green beans, kidney beans, cabbage, leek and corn.

We use a plastic tub approximately the size of a kitchen sink to mix everything in. Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup, we managed to get 70 bags out of this amount, but depending on the size of your parrot and how much he/she eats on average, you can put a bit more or less on 1 bag.

Either way, you should end up with 2-3 months of food for one parrot.

The freezer bags are very simple small or medium size light-weight bags that come 80-in-a-box. The ones we use are a bit too large, but they're easy to close by tying a knot in them, then we cut off excess plastic.

So, the whole run-down goes as follows:
  1. clean the tub/container/bowl well. Disinfect it if you see fit, or wash well.
  2. Start boiling the brown rice and whole wheat macaroni. Follow the instructions on the packing in case you're not sure how to do this. We boil the pasta till it's 'al dente'. Any shape of pasta will do, but small standard elbow macaroni is easier to mix and bag. 
  3. In the mean time mix the rest of the ingredients together in the tub/container/bowl.
  4. Add in the boiled pasta and rice after it has cooled down for a little while. 
  5. Mix it well, with your hands (wash them well first, or use clean gloves) or with a large spool
  6. Find a comfortable spot. On the couch in front of the TV works, or at the kitchen table with family or friends (for good conversation). 
  7. Use a 1/2 cup or 1/3 cup or a table spoon to put scoops into the freezer bags
  8. Close the freezer bags
  9. Put them into larger bags (in our case, 15 per zip-lock bag)
  10. Put them in the freezer (but leave 1-2 out for immediate or next-day consumption). If you're in doubt about the power of your freezer, put half in the freezer first and half in the fridge. Then add the fridge-half to the freezer the next day.
  11. Feel satisfied that you made it easier for you for a while to come. Reward yourself with a nice glass of whatever your favorite beverage is. Well done.
Taking a break half way through
the bagging process
Further notes and thoughts:
  • The amounts listed above are far from exact science. We just put together these ingredients in these amounts because that is how they were packed. Just try to balance it out. 
  • Try to find these foods fresh, or in case of jars/cans/packs/bags, make sure you use ones with the least amount of additives. None of our ingredients had additives, except for a tiny bit of salt in the cans of corn. Use organic/natural foods if they are available. 
  • Once you take them out of the freezer to be used, put them in the refrigerator to thaw. This takes longer, but try to think a day ahead. After thawed, we use them within 2 days for freshness. If we haven't used them after 2 days, we usually throw them out and get new ones out from the freezer.
  • Make sure you work in a clean environment and please do wash your hands before starting. If you put anything spicy such as peppers or jalapenos in the mix, do not rub your eyes if you've touched them with bare hands. Trust me, I've made this mistake before. Wash your hands thoroughly. 
  • Feel free to experiment by adding extra ingredients that your parrot likes and that are healthy. A good idea is to add already-frozen fruits, like berries and pomegranate that you get from the freezer section of your supermarket.
And well, that's basically it. Vinny just eats it up, literally! Usually he eats the pasta and beans first, then goes for the rest. Fruits are usually saved for last.

If you have any further questions, tips, comments or remarks, please do speak up below. For example, what do you usually add to a batch that isn't listed above?

Have fun!

January 03, 2016

Vinny gets a manicure

Time for a parrot manicure!
Here is something that most parrot owners will recognize .. sharp nails! And by sharp nails I mean razor sharp! It had been gradually getting worse of the last few months and it got to the point where he left too much damage.

I'm sure parrot owners are not strangers to scratches and the occasional bite, but with Vinny it reached a typical 'that's it!' point. We got a pet-nail clipper before and used it on Vinny by grabbing him, holding him (gently) in a towel and doing his nails. But it was troublesome to keep him still long enough and we were definitely not looking forward to it. However, evidently it was time to face the fact.

Our clipper, bought at a local pet store
He was on to us as soon as he saw the towel. He's not traumatized, he's just smart. Towel in hand: beware, could be shower (YAY!) or attempt to catch (NOOO!). Clippers by themselves: Curious, could be a new toy? Clippers combined with towel: Time for a game of 'Catch the bird!', also known as 'FLY AWAY!'.

In the end we did manage to lure him in and hold him. Needless to say he wasn't happy and while we were ignoring his angry growling, we realized that Vinny was way too restless to even attempt anything with our 'instrument of terror'.

Nail clipping in action
So we gave up on that attempt. This gave Vinny a chance to calm down and sent us into a brainstorm session on how to make this process go any smoother.Meanwhile Vinny was sitting on my hand and as usual he was cute as a button, talking up a storm, making laughing sounds (seriously, I think he was laughing at us!) and fluffing up his feathers.

And then it dawned on us, he may not have to be caught. I got the clippers, approached his feet and he was fine letting it all happen. We clipped his nails (not too short of course, only got the needle-sharp ends off. Of course that was our goal to begin with.

This is how our endeavor got a happy end after all. It's 2 days later now and it's much better now. His nails are still sharp enough for him to hold on and climb up and down chairs, ropes, and us, but not sharp enough to break skin on the lightest of touches anymore.

So here's our tip on bird manicures: train your parrot well while he or she is young. Make sure it's not afraid of new things. Let your bird be comfortable with being touched and prodded. Play tickle games as part of the training. And the result is that you'll get a bird that you don't need to hold or force down as much.

Sea-shell covered perch (found on E-bay)
Now, there are possibilities to prevent their nails and beaks from getting too long or too sharp. There are special perches that are made of coarse concrete or are covered with sea-shells or other materials to give it a rough surface similar to sanding paper. And there are brand-grade products out there that sell very colorful perches that are supposed to have the same effect.

Our personal experience is that they don't work for Vinny. He simply doesn't like them. Maybe the surface is too rough for the padding on his feet. Or maybe he thought he was too manly for the pink perch we got for him. Color can definitely be a factor for a bird's opinion about anything, so make sure you know your bird's favorite color, or pick a neutral one.
Example of brand-grade perches

We're not against these types of perches by definition, but we do stay away from them. They're relatively expensive and they may just become an ornament in the cage, just for show. Plus it's not always clear what types of materials are used in production. Besides that, our vet didn't seem to find Vinny's nails too long, so we don't consider it a concern and we deal with it by just clipping once in a while.

Using special perches is a personal choice (such as many things related to bird-care). What do you do to prevent long or sharp nails? Do you use those special perches and have you tried different ones? In your opinion, what are the best perches made of and/or what are the best brands/types? Or if you clip your bird's nails regularly, what is your trick to do this with the least amount of hassle? Feel free to leave a comment.