Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Trick Training Diaries - Jan. 31st, 2010

I decided to do another short session of trick training today.

The first 10 minutes were only with Shade since Zuri was busy in the birdroom but she eventually joined in the fun as well.

Shade picked up turn around fairly easy this time around. It definitively took less approximations to get to the final "product" as it did yesterday. Since she mastered it pretty well, I wanted to start teaching her the wave; I would use the step up command and the moment she would lift her food in the air, I would reward her. However, she would sometimes refer to turning around when I asked her to wave; I assumed she thought she would get a treat just by performing a trick. Since it was not the tricked I asked, I didn't give her anything. If she would just turn around, I would wait until she was still, asked her to turn around and then reward her - trying to make it clear that she will get the reward ONLY if she performed what I asked. The wave will definitively need more work but I stopped when it was obvious she wanted to do something else and had enough. I also had to take some steps back (to targeting and turning) whilst trying to teach the wave.

Zuri also remembered the turn around quite well. Once it was obvious she knew the turning trick, I actually started chaining it with something else; I would ask her to target to my hand (it would involve moving along the tree to find me) and then to turn before giving her the treat. She did fairly well with this.

I need a device which can take decent video and start to record these sessions...

One year anniversary

..with Zuri.

It's been one year today that she first came to live with us.
Time did go by fast.

She's made a lot of progress socially with people, although there is still some progress to be made.
Her forehead also became much more yellow. She was hatched in 2007, but I'm not sure she's quite three yet.

Here is to a long future together :)

My new best friend

The food processor.

This is a batch of fresh food for the birds I made this morning

Normally my mix of greens is slightly more chunky; I would cut everything by hand. It would take a long time, as I would try to cut the vegetables really small, but at one point, I would get a little tired and the chunks wouldn't be as small as when I started.

This morning I remembered we had a food processor; a tiny little thing (it holds 3 cups max and even doesn't like to be filled up past the half way point) that Bram's old landlords had given to us when he moved out as they had got a much better one as a wedding gift..Anyways, we had seldom used it and it lay in the cupboard above the fridge, forgotten.

Well I gave it a whirl this morning and I doubt I'll go back to manually cutting veggies for the birds again; it took me much less time to go through the pile of veggies (list to be found below) and everything was cut so small. What a revelation! So much so, that I'm considering getting a better one in the near future (which can hold more and has different cutting options). Plus, it will be much harder for the birds to pick out what they do not like and for the same amount of veggies, it take much less storage space!

Here is the list of what when in the mix this morning:

-1 big carrot
-1 stalk of broccoli
-A couple florets of cauliflower
-1/3 of a large sweet potato, peeled
-1 red bell pepper
-A couple strands of rapini
-A couple leafs of collard greens
-A handful of Brussels sprouts
-1 orange (mostly for the citrus juice which helps keep everything fresh)

I think that is it. It tasted quite good too!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Trick Training Diaries - Jan. 30th, 2010

I'll start by saying I am not sure how regularly I will be posting the updates.

Today I decided to start trick training some of the birds. Let's say the thought has been lingering at the back of my head for a while but I never did anything about it (lack of time and other things I guess). Anyways, when we were at the Canadian Parrot Conference last November, we went to one of the seminars given by Barbara Heindereich on positive reinforcement. After her talk, my boyfriend and I visited her booth and he proceeded to buy one of her DVDs on training.

We watched the DVD for the first time today (like I said, lack of time and we had other preoccupations of late). Positive reinforcement is something we've always been doing in a general sense; rewarding good behaviors. However, we didn't try to trick train them (aka wave, turn, retrieve, etc) using positive reinforcement (we didn't try trick training at all).

First thing I noticed, I need a proper training perch. My Java stands are nice and all (I love them), but aren't suited for trick training; too many distractions in one small area. Second thing I noticed, I tried getting Zuri to do two tricks (targeting to my hand and turning around)after I watched the DVD. Targeting worked kinda well, but there wasn't much motivation since they had recently had breakfast and weren't hungry. What can I say, I was eager to start and thought I might be able to bribe them with treats.

Anyways, I tried again later in the day, an hour or so before I would put them back in for dinner. They were much more receptive to training. They, because I had trying to train Shade and Zuri. I initially wanted to focus on Shade, but since we were all in the living room and that food was involved, Zuri wanted in on the action. Having read some articles about using two birds to trick train as "competition" (this is most likely the wrong word) helping the learning process, I figured this wouldn't be a bad thing to try. Shade was much faster to pick up what I wanted initially but Zuri, once she got it, was much faster about doing the trick near perfection (less approximations to get there). Oddly enough, I also realized that both birds would turn around in opposite ways; Shade had an easier time going time going counter clock-wise and Zuri going clockwise. I did my hand gesture in the counter clock-wise fashion, but when I realized that Zuri had some hesitations, I changed the hand motion for her and she picked it up much faster. While Shade was mostly ignoring Zuri, Zuri would keep an eye on Shade and her progress and what she did to get treats. At one point, Piper also jumped in and started to turn around and, I think, picked it up faster than the other two. The session ended when Shade obviously didn't want to do it anymore. The ease with which they picked the trick up impressed me.

I'm thinking that, if I continue with this during the week, that I will do the training sessions when they come out when I come back home from work; this is their pre-dinner time so they might be motivated by food. I'll just have to wait and see.

More new toys!

"Les Jouets Rosie" had some sales through one of the bird forums I'm a member of. The items were good deals and of course I couldn't pass.

I paid for my order on Wednesday (had put some toys on the side waiting for others to be on sale) and when I got home last night, a box was waiting for me at the door (insert giddy reaction here)!

Here are pictures of the toys I got..

The triangular swing. It's HUGE. I did not think it would be this big and heavy. I actually doubt that any of my existing hooks in the ceiling, which are already carrying some weight, can take the added weight of the swing/perch, nor can any of the chains I have going through the room. I'll probably have to wait to have a new hook installed before this guy can go up.

I also got this second swing, a much smaller one, which I was able to hang in the room straight away on the chain. I stepped out of the room for a moment and came back to this..

Joey also went on it and as I thought he would, he seemed to enjoy the smaller wooden beads present on the swing.

Once again, the Pirate toy was on sale so I had to grab another..

Finally, some toys that weren't on sale but that I though I'd get anyways. My birds love balsa and although it doesn't last long (balsa is an incredibly soft wood), I figured I'd get each of the Pois a balsa toy. Not knowing what they looked like exactly (it's rather hard to gauge the size of a toy from the website), I took two different models, the "Yo Man" and the "Balsa en folie". Both were the same price and although the Yo Man is very cute, I think the Balsa en folie is probably a better value.

Yo Man

Balsa en folie

Friday, January 29, 2010

Environmental changes

When we came home tonight and let the birds out, my boyfriend noted that Zuri did not touch the piece of toast and the Nutriberry I had put in her breakfast bowl that morning, which is highly unusual for her since she's basically a garbage can on feet. Of course this worried me a little..however, when offered the toast out of the cage she guzzled it down and quickly found the Nutriberry I had taken out of the bowl and placed in one of the foraging holes on the swing and did the same. Obviously, she had some appetite. Still, to be on the safe side I weighed her and she had her average weight. Ok, no biggie. Maybe she forgot to look in the bowl? There was obvious sings that she had eaten other things in the cage.

When I went to put her in for her dinner, an explanation for the uneaten breakfast came about. She would not, for the life of her, step onto her food bowl or go on the left side of her cage for that matter. She looked terrified. But why?

Yesterday I had made some changes to my birdroom; there used to be an empty cage next to Zuri's. In an effort to reorganize better, I had put the cage in the closet and taken out the bin in which we keep the newspapers for the bottom of the cages. I had also put a hoola hoop (which I use to make atoms) and another big bin which were in my room next to the newspaper bin. The change of scenery had totally thrown Zuri off (the same bird who is fearless of just about any new toys). Seeing this, I removed the hoola hoop, took out the extra bin and covered the newspaper one with a known blanket.

She ate her dinner.

This goes to show how sensitive parrots can be to changes in their environment.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Zuri Foraging - Testing out the "Pont Levis"

Zuri is definitively my best "forager". She'll find threats just about anywhere. I was thrilled when I saw that the Pont Levis had specific designed foraging holes, perfectly sized for an almond or Nutriberry.

I decided to take pictures today of her showing off her foraging skills. Mind you, she's gotten pretty good at getting treats out of this toy, I'll have to make it more challenging.

Approaching target

Reaching in

Got it!

Another one while eating the Nutriberry because Zuri is too cute :)

Slyly moving towards the other side when the extra Nutriberry was noticed..

Reaching in

Working that tongue


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The birdroom revisited

I have taken more pictures of my birdroom this week-end. It's getting hard to do so without having something get in the way...

Also, there is at least one bird in every picture; try and guess if you can find them all.

Shade is officially a girl!

Last week I brought Shade to the vet to have her beak checked out. Nothing major, just a minor irregularity and it turns out that, once again, I was more cautious than necessary as it really wasn't an issue.

Anyways, while I was there I asked that the vet if it would be possible to get Shade DNA sexed. A quick visit to the back (they normally take blood in the back for some reason) and it was done. All that was left was to wait.

I was told it would take 2-3 days. Well, since I went last Wednesday, I was growing a bit impatient and finally caved and called today. They couldn't help me, the vet who had seen her (not my usual vet but also a very nice lady) wasn't in and would be tomorrow and I would possibly know more then. When I finally accepted this, the clinic called back and it turns out the receptionist had wind of the result.

My little Shade is indeed a girl. I always had a strong feeling she was, it's nice to get a confirmation.

So I definitively have one girl (Shade) and one boy (Joey; Red-bellieds are sexually dimorphic and males have the bright orange belly whereas females have a nice green/orange wash colour). I might get the other three tested, although I'm rather reticent to do Piper as I'm afraid that she is indeed a male..and don't want to change my habit of calling her "her".

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Update on the eggs

Some "fresh" news on the possible Red-belly baby front.

The breeder told me this week that the pair is sitting on three eggs and should hatch anytime around February 10th so I might have a new baby in the Spring!
They will be sexed.

Crossing my fingers there is a female in the clutch!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oh Joey... - The picture

He tried it again..this time, the cap of the plastic nut and bolt was to be strung on some shredding toy.

Obviously, since there was no hole going through the cap (pink thing in his talon), this was never going to work...

Oh Joey...

Oh Joey..

A while back, when playing with a piece of string and beads, it looked like he was trying to re-string the beads onto the string. Not sure if it ever really worked, but it would keep him busy for long stretches.

Now..he's taken the top cap off a small nut and bolt plastic toy and he's trying to put it on a piece of walnut shell. The problem is..well the cap doesn't have a hole going entirely through it. His efforts are fruitless unless he makes the hole (which it doesn't seem like he will). I might be totally wrong in what he's trying to do, but it is what it looks like he's trying to do.

Wonder how long this will last...

The play stands in my living room

The birds are not confined to their room. I also like to have them out in the living room with me so for this reason, I have a few stands in there.

I have four substantial gyms, one metal and three made of Java (coffee) wood and two small "foraging" trays, which are basically a cafeteria tray and a "u" shaped PVC perch. Of course, any human limb is good enough to stand on and they seem to have taken a liking to perching on my dining room chairs as well as the table.

Here are some pictures of the 4 "big" play stands.

A Super Pet EZ Care Activity Playground for small birds and the first Java table stand I purchased (at Critter Jungle in Ottawa).

The second Java table stand I purchased (at Pet Circus, also in Ottawa).

Finally, the Java tree (which I purchased at the Canadian Parrot Conference in Guelph last year)

Friday, January 22, 2010


..I see you!

This is the 100th post on this blog.
Funnily enough, half of the posts have happened in the last two months.


Thursday, January 21, 2010


A little slip derived from her over-exuberance.

I love that it's mostly in focus. Normally these shots end up somewhat blurred.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The return of Batbird

She spent a lot of time like this yesterday...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pirate Treasure Toy

When I ordered the Pont-Levis I also bought a "Pirate Treasure", although I got the larger version (I can't find the link for it right now).

I changed stuff around in my birdroom and added some chain links and was able to put the toy up (I should really take new pictures of the room..maybe this week-end).

The reason I got that toy is because it looks like it's full of shreddables, and my birds love stuff that is easily shredded. So far, Joey, Zuri and Piper have played with it, although they haven't really gone beyond the outer layers ('s only a matter of time).

I got some pictures of Joey playing with it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hanging out by the bridge

Or on the bridge as the case may be.

Some pictures of most of my flock with the new "Pont Levis" from "Les Jouets Rosie. Piper would rather stay on me of course than go on the new swing.

First on it was Joey, which is often the case with anything new.

He sat on it for a while..

Then tried figuring out what was the best angle to start chewing the rope.

Then Zuri came along (also no surprise there), and she liked trying to get at the wood on top.

Joey and Zuri in the background

Shade liked Zuri's idea of chewing the wood and she took a different approach; sit on another toy/perch while chewing (this also give you a whole perspective of where/how the bridge is hanging)

Finally, Petey was quite content just sitting there. Might be those comfortable cotton covered perches :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Petey the Explorer

Petey decided to wander on the kitchen floor..

Made it on the floor..what's next? obstacle?

Better show it I mean business...

Once it was obvious the box of oranges couldn't care less about her, she continued on to wander with no particular destination in mind.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's all about presentation

I often hear people say that their parrots won't touch fresh foods and want to give up pretty early on. Most of the time, the advice is to keep offering the food and vary how it is given; cut it in bigger or smaller chunks, string it kabob style, cooked vs uncooked, etc. The same can be said for toys it seems; I've often noticed that a toy will seldom get played with if placed in a cage but take it out and place it elsewhere and it suddenly becomes the most interesting thing ever. Maybe, sometimes, this has to do with seeing other birds play with it and an understanding about what to do with it comes about.

Yesterday I took a toy off the Java tree to be able to hang the Pirate. I ended up taking down a toy of strung yucca and placing it on the table momentarily. Well, Joey saw it and it didn't take long that he was over it. Barely touched it when it was on the Java tree and went nuts for it when it was on the table. Just goes to show that presentation does matter.

Pictures (I went a little shutter happy lately I know..)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Three birds and a Pirate

Earlier this month, I posted about some toys I got from "Les Jouets Rosie", one of them being the Pirate. I had only ordered one.

I faced a dilemma..who would I give it to?

Well, instead of playing favorites, I ended up hanging the toy on the Java tree in my living room. Like I thought, Shade, Zuri and Joey wanted to play with it.

Of course, I took pictures.

Joey and the Pirate

Simultaneous play

Zuri's turn alone with the Pirate

Shade's turn with the Pirate. She played with it the longest.

A Blooper..

Finally, while we are on the topic of toys, I've added a new links section on the sidebar - it's called "Approved by the birds - Online bird stores" and that is just what it is, links to some of the online bird stores where I buy my birds' favorite toys. Quite a few of them are in French - these stores are based in Quebec. Two of them allow the navigator to choose to browse around in English to some extent if you use the page's translator. As I order from different stores, the list may grow.