Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bourke & Splendid Parakeet Personalities ... Also Handfeeding Baby Birds

In answer to a comment question on the post “Splendid Bourke Parakeets, or Those Moody Bourkes and Splendids” here is the answer I gave her about feeding baby birds and more. It contains relevant information and many won’t find it tucked away in a comment section, so here it is:

 Newly hatched Bourke parakeet chicks.

Three baby Bourkes being hand fed.

After a hand feeding with a full crop...
On Hand Feeding... 

This was for Lauren: Baby chicks should be fed as soon as their crop is empty. If newly hatched, check them every couple of hours. If they are a week old, I'd feed them before going to bed, and set an alarm to get up at least once in the middle of the night to feed them again...maybe at four-hour intervals over night. Once they're feathered you can skip the night feeding and probably feed them three or four times a day. The younger they are the more often they need to be fed. Crops need to be almost empty in order to be sure it moves on through. Parent birds feed the babies until they look like they will explode, so feed them until they look very, very full or refuse to eat more. If you see a bulge over their shoulders from the back, they're probably getting enough. Exact handfeeding formula gives good instructions on density of food by age of your babies. Good Luck.

Lauren said she's losing two babies in clutches of four. Here's my answer:

My Bourke parents when young often reject more than two babies. Sad. However, as they've aged, they've raised up to four, but never five. I've learned to check the babies every morning, afternoon and evening. If they don't appear to have been fed, I pull them to hand feed. Sometimes I've put them back with the parents to keep them warm...they feed the first two and I feed the last two. You asked about temperature for a box or fish tank. If it feels warm to my hand and the babies are warm, it's probably okay. Eggs need to be at 98 degrees, so that's about right for babies. I've not used a thermometer with babies, but trust what I feel with my hand. If the house is 72 degrees, I put a small space heater near their box. When old enough they move toward or away from the warm side of the box. If possible, hand feed more than one baby at a time and they will help keep each other warm.

Ready to be fed ...

Babies are full and these 2 from an earlier clutch enjoy a nibble too.
 Another note: Hens drink a lot of water when laying eggs and raising young. Have extra sources available to be sure they never run out of fresh water. I use a water cup so they can hop into it and take a bath. Since they splash most of the water out, they also have water tubes on the side of their cages.
When feathered & soon able to fly, they go into a cage, but still
want a place to snuggle into. Here a tissue box let's them go in
and out and feel safe, warm and secure, but not free to fly off.

Eggs need a certain amount of moisture, so water tubes alone aren't enough. A hen needs to be able to bathe any time she thinks it's necessary.

Lauren also said she wants to add Splendids. These little clowns are wonderfully active fun birds. HOWEVER, be prepared for a lot more work! They foul their water almost as soon as they get it. I give them extra containers of water, hoping it will stay drinkable for a full day. Still, it begins to get yucky within an hour or two and after 24 hours may smell.

Rudy outside his mate's nest box.
I like to put newspaper in the bottom of my cages to keep them cleaner and can change the paper more often than clean the wire on the cage floor. Splendids make short work of newspaper. They shred it, play with it, put it in their water. They chew more than Bourkes, and sometimes toss small things out of the cage and onto the fresh vegies, for instance. They are fun, beautiful and take more time and trouble. Bourkes are quieter, cleaner birds... That's why I have so many more Bourkes than Splendids. Smile.

Both varieties are sweet-natured and make wonderful pets.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Rosie, my favorite Rosy Bourke Parakeet.
Did you ever stop to think about the amount of information wired into the brain of a tiny bird or any other living thing, for that matter? Our brains and spinal columns are so intricate that there isn’t a computer chip made that can begin to hold all the information required to keep a living creature fully functioning. Life really is miraculous.

So, when did the term “bird brain” take on such a negative meaning? An incident today with one of my tame birds, Rosie, made me acutely aware of how very intelligent she is.

I thoroughly cleaned four Bourke cages today, and one was hers. The cages were moved so that the area under and behind them could be thoroughly cleaned. The windows around those cages now sparkle, and the window blind is clean and shiny too.

Rosie’s cage is the only one that still has a nest box on it. It’s one that was never used, so I didn’t bother to remove and clean it. I simply found a plastic medicine bottle the same size as the hole and stuck it in so the lid closed off the opening. Rosie’s a year old now and has never reproduced. But she wants to…Oh does she want to.

Normally, I can’t see the lid that covers the round opening into the box. Today, while the cage sat on the table, I could look down at it. Rosie noticed and flew to the perch outside the box. Then she looked up at me and started pecking at the lid of the medicine bottle that prevented her from going in. She cheeped until I looked at her, then gave the lid a peck or two, and looked up at me again to see if I got the message.
Bars removed to allow entrance to nest
box on outside of cage. Short dowel perch
below also goes inside for hen to stand on
as her mate feeds her from outside.

It was obvious she was trying to tell me to uncover the opening, even though she’d never seen it uncovered before. Somehow, she knows that’s a box for laying eggs. She’s recognized where the opening is and that it’s covered up. She clearly communicated to me what she wants and obviously expected me to understand her.

Is she a “bird brain?” Well, she has a very small, compact brain, and she’s a bird, but it’s amazing what that little brain of hers knows and can do.

Later, when I reached through the small opening designed for a water cup, Rosie hopped on my arm. I looked in at her and said, “Rosie, I can’t take my arm out while you’re on it and I don’t want to hurt you.” She immediately jumped off. Does she speak English? Perhaps, or maybe she intuitively understood what I was trying to communicate to her without having to understand the words.

Are birds smart or stupid? I vote for very, very smart.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Our small neighborhood hawk managed to knock one of our hummingbird feeders off onto the deck and break it. I've chased him away a few times, and unfortunately found the head of a hummer. So, we didn't replace that feeder for many days.

Haven't seen him around recently, so we put up another feeder. However, this one is larger and we worried whether the suction cups holding it to the window would let go.  To keep the weight light, it only has a small amount of liquid in it. As I write this, the hummingbirds haven't returned to that feeder yet. It is the one that's most exposed.

Notice the bird feeder for seed in the background of the photo above. We've only recently started using it again. When it first went up the seed feeders disappeared. Turns out that a black bear was helping himself to them. The first year he actually returned the empty feeders the next day. We did refill them, and the smart bear took them again! Eventually, we quit putting them out. Haven't seen him for a very long time now, so we put new ones out this year to encourage our migratory birds who arrive each Spring.

This hummingbird feeder is hidden in a secluded section of the house and is attached to a bedroom window on a bumpout that faces north. The birds using it are reticent to allow us near them, but they are also safer from predators.

Birds that come to our covered south deck are the most tame, and in the past have sometimes landed on a feeder while I'm still carrying it outside and haven't put it up yet. That happens most often in the Spring when there are at least four varieties of hummingbirds fighting to get to the sugar water.

This time of year, we still only have the Anna's hummingbirds that stay all year round and don't migrate like the others. All of them are beautiful.

Need to get the swallow nest boxes (bird houses) down to clean them out and have them back up before the middle of March when the swallows usually return. One year we had a bee hive in one (not honey bees) and a pair of mice in another.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Cats love to watch birds, and can be taught to leave them alone.
Many years ago, before I had a cat of my own, I visited a home with a big, beautiful, solid gray cat that slept on the sofa. On an end table next to the cat rested a cage with two cockatiels. I was incredulous that the cat didn’t bother the birds and asked if the cat had been raised from a kitten with them.

“No,” they said, “we got him as an adult from the animal shelter.”

“Why doesn’t he bother the birds?”

“He never has. He’s just a good cat.”

Since then we’ve had many cats and our experiences with them and the birds have been mostly positive. Here are a few that I hope you’ll find interesting and won’t be afraid to introduce a cat into your life…if you don’t already have one.

PAWS CAT: Possibly the worst experience—which wasn’t really so bad—was with Paws. He lived to be 19 years old and over time co-existed with many tame birds. However, when he was very young, we had a pair of white zebra finches in a bamboo cage in the family room. My two children at the time were instructed to never leave the cat alone with the birds. If they were leaving the family room, they were to take the cat into their bedroom with them and close the door.

Well…one day I went shopping and when I returned and opened the front door, I immediately heard “chee, chee, chee!” It was an obvious distress call from one of the finches. Somehow the bird had exited the hanging bamboo cage (never did figure out how), and Paws had him! There were white feathers everywhere. I yelled at the cat! I chased the cat! He ran under furniture! He ran from room to room! Always with the bird in his mouth, feathers flying!

White zebra hen & pied mate. Young in nest.
After what seemed like forever, with me chasing and yelling, he finally dropped the bird! It was limp and lifeless. I picked it up, carried it into the kitchen and gently dripped cold water on the edge of its bill. I don’t know what convinced me that it wasn’t dead…maybe because there were no visible wounds and no blood on the white feathers. I put the unconscious bird on the floor of the cage and left it there. The next morning, it was sitting next to its mate, singing and acting like nothing had happened. Still fearful, however, I gave our zebra finches to Magnolia Bird Farm a few days after the “cat event.” If I had kept the finches, I doubt the cat would ever have gone near them again.

One lesson I’ve learned about birds. They can knock themselves out and still recover, so don’t give up on them right away. For instance, hummingbirds often fly into windows, can appear dead, and still recover. Once a bird is stiff, you can figure it’s a goner…


Black cats are usually intelligent and have a sense of humor.
PANTHER CAT: One of my favorite cats was sleek & black, named Panther. Our youngest son had a tame blue budgie named Skybird. He lived in a cage in our son’s room. Well, the inevitable happened. One day the bedroom door was left open. I heard a crash and rushed into the bedroom. The cage was on the floor, split apart from the fall. The bird was up on the curtain rod, looking down nonplussed. No cat to be seen. I leaned down to look under the bed and drug a cringing Panther out. In the middle of his black nose was a red divot. He’d put his nose up to the cage and been bitten. In leaping back, he apparently knocked the cage off the table. Bird was fine, and Panther never went near Skybird’s cage again. Later, we added another budgie and two cockatiels. They moved into the family room where both Paws and Panther ignored all four birds. By the way, that was the only time that sweet budgie ever bit any living thing. Smile.


Blue Point Birman. Our sweet Barley-cat loved the finches.

BARLEY: This gorgeous blue-point Birman actually came from an animal shelter. He joined our family when he was five years old. At the time, we had two cages of white and pied zebra finches behind closed doors in our bedroom.

These were not the same finches Paws went for in his youth. By now, Paws was elderly and had long ago proven to be reliable around birds. It wasn’t long before we found that Barley was safe around them too.

Two successful pairs of zebra finches.
A pair is in each cage.
The cages were on hooks from the ceiling and he would stretch out on an inside window ledge and watch them. Now, this was a cat that could jump straight up and onto the top of the refrigerator from a standing position. His high jumps were amazing. If he’d wanted to reach one of the cages hanging near him, he could easily have done so, but all he ever did was watch them. They raised numerous clutches and none of the birds feared Barley. They were very used to being watched by his incredibly lovely blue eyes. I still miss him.

This is really Muffin, Me-Too and Fancy in our window seat,
not far from cages of birds. The birds are family too, and left alone.
MUFFIN, RAGS & ME-TOO: These three black and white guys were all related, I’m sure. Two were strays from a nearby horse ranch that was sold for an apartment complex. Many of the barn cats were forced across a highway when demolition began. Neither the former owners or the new buyers seemed to care about rescuing the cats, and those of us who lived in adjoining neighborhoods didn’t know about them until several appeared in our neighborhood.

None were house cats, yet they weren’t wild either. Those who survived oncoming cars crossing the highway entered our adjoining housing development. Unfortunately, I saw several who didn’t make it. There were four I know of who found homes among kind people.

Muffin made friends with our old Paws cat, and eventually I was able to lure him in with food. He was a sweet guy who only wanted to please. I could even tell him to go get in his bed at night and he did! Scolding him once for looking at the birds caused him to ignore them from then on. Muffin’s brother, Rags, (as in the two Ragamuffin’s) survived on his own for three more years before we coaxed him in. But, he never got along with Muffin, so we didn’t keep him even though he ignored the birds and got along with our two small dogs. Two weeks after Rags left, Me-Too showed up, hungry and injured. He was a juvenile, very likely a son of Rags, although we had each cat neutered within a day or two of their arrival.

Me-Too, being young, quickly acquiesced to Muffin and they became friends. Me-Too (as in I’m here too), was always friendly and out-going. He never bothered the birds. In fact, we once made an 8-hour trip away from home and back, not realizing we’d left Me-Too asleep in a window seat inches away from several cages. He never bothered a bird, and probably slept the entire time we were gone.

Pretty Fancy was a Snowshoe from the Animal Shelter.
FANCY: This pretty Snowshoe cat joined Paws and Muffin before Rags or Me-Too came along. She was a replacement for Barley when he passed away. She, too, came from an animal shelter, age unknown.

It was her blue eyes that reminded us of Barley that won us over. Again, she quickly accepted the birds as part of the household furniture. Speaking of furniture, it’s always been easy to train our cats to leave the birds alone and to stay off counters and table tops, but furniture is more difficult. We are regularly reminding most of them NOT to scratch the furniture, and to use their scratching posts instead.

Fancy, like Barley, was already de-clawed when we adopted her, so neither she nor Barley had an issue with scratching. I do believe both of them had overly sensitive feet, however, because of the de-clawing. Neither one wanted their feet handled or touched. I can only assume there was some discomfort from losing their claws, which also included most of their toes. Fancy, like most female cats, was quite a huntress. She caught countless mice and other small rodents. I never saw her with a bird or found a dead one though. I really believe being expected to leave the indoor pet birds alone can carry over to outside birds too…a very good thing.

MEI-LING: I have a special fondness for black cats, and when looking at a litter of black kittens, intending to adopt one, she chose me. I stood across the room and called, and she was the one who came. Ever since, she’s been my constant, loving companion. I love my birds immensely and they give me great pleasure, but I wouldn’t trade Mei-Ling for any bird, or even any number of them.

Mei-Ling currently lives with us. She is
one of my favorite cats of all time.
As a kitten she quickly responded to a scolding voice. As of this day, she won’t go near a bird unless I hold it up to her and tell her it’s okay to look at it. Once I was hand feeding a baby bird, fully feathered, that decided to fly and landed smack-dab right in front of Mei-Ling! I don’t usually put the cats outside if I’m only hand feeding. Well, Mei-Ling froze until I came and picked up the baby. She made no attempt to harm it. Although, I was also yelling, “No Mei-Ling” at her and she knew why. She has internalized that birds are “off limits” much more than the cats we adopted as adults. Mei-Ling will be five in May, 2011.

PATCHES: This pretty calico has been with us for four years now. Judging by her missing teeth we think she’s very mature. She appeared on our back porch one cold November. My husband tried to feed her, but territorial Me-Too chased her off.

A few years earlier we had moved to the country and knew all our rural neighbors and their pets and she wasn’t one of theirs. I thought she might have been dumped, but no longer believe that. I prayed for that pretty little stray for months before I saw her again. In January it snowed and I worried about her out in the forest all alone.

Then in March I saw her! It’s a long, spiritual story, but we were able to bring her home and heal her bloody ears (mosquitoes), get her wormed, shots, etc. Her stomach was bloated and I wondered if she was going to have kittens. We always spay and neuter. Because she’s so pretty and kittens are so much fun, I actually hoped she was expecting. I would have enjoyed the kittens without any guilt over it. Smile. However, Patches was already spayed.

Patches' favorite window seat viewing site. Our birds don't fear her.
There are four Splendids in this cage.

We soon learned she isn’t afraid to climb into a car’s trunk. That’s how I think she ended up away from her original home, wherever that was. If my niece hadn’t seen her behind the suitcases in their trunk one day, Patches would have ended up thousands of miles away before the trunk was opened again.

We call her Patches only because so many calico’s are already named that and we thought she might find it familiar. She’s used to it now, but in retrospect I don’t think it was her original name. I could have called her what I wanted to, which was my miracle cat, “Miry-cat.”

In spite of Patches’ advanced age, she too quickly learned to leave the birds alone. However, like Barley, she loves to lay nearby and watch them.

Patches was a stray we took in. She's not young, but quickly learned
never to scare the birds. She watches them without getting excited,
and doesn't harm them.
When I let the tame birds out of their cages, I always send the cats outside or into a bedroom with the door closed. One morning though I didn’t realize Patches was not outside…my husband had let her in and she was curled up on the couch. Normally, the birds come out for a flight of 15 minutes to a half hour. Rarely, maybe an hour of play time with me. Well, this morning, I sat down at the computer and let time get away from me. The birds flew everywhere, including all over me, around the computer, over and onto the couch. When I finally came out of my “computer daze” and realized I should put them away, it was two hours later!

I turned around in my chair and saw Patches. She looked at me, got up from the couch and leisurely stretched. Shocked I picked her up and took her to a bedroom. She’d had every opportunity to snatch a bird out of the air if she’d wanted to, even had them walking on the back of the couch just above her. She never made any effort to try to catch one…Amazing…If ever she were going to be tempted, the opportunity was there. Living wild in the woods for many months, she had to have done a lot of hunting. In fact, once I removed a chipmunk from her mouth and held her as it ran off into the woods, unharmed. Now, she leaves them alone too.
This white Budgie lived to be over 12-years-old. Despite how it looks,
the dog never hurt fact they became quite friendly with each other.
Never leave your dog or cat alone with your bird, however.
It's best to ALWAYS be present, just in case.
 God bless cats & dogs. They can be trained.