Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Finding Your Love Bird’s Mr. (or Mrs.) Right

By Eduardo Gonzalez

Love birds are like people.  In the wild they live alongside other groups of Love Birds, like a neighborhood.  They are mindful of and devoted to their mates, and will stick with them to the end.  Unlike people, they have no divorce rate.

Love Birds are vigorous and require an activity regimen.  They need time to exercise, stretch and fly outside of their cages and around the safe parts of the house.  They like to investigate everything around them.  And they need recognition from their humans.  They need your constant eye contact, especially when they are happily dancing around their cages.

If they are lonely they will destroy things around them, pluck out their feathers and scrape themselves.  Not unlike people having tantrums, and desperate people who cut themselves.  These actions are their cry for attention and interaction with their humans.  If you don’t respond they may get an infection from their self inflicted wounds.

In the wild, male Love Birds are hunters.  On their way back from their sojourns they make the “Love Bird’s call”, a chirping sound.  Their hearing sense is so keen that the females hear from afar and chirp back—a flock’s call—to guide the male back to their nest.

A solo Love Bird won’t have the energy to make calls, much less respond to them.  With no companion, they will even avoid eye-to-eye contact with their human.  They need a mate.

Finding the Right Mate

Finding the right companion for your Love Bird takes some work, but unless you exert the effort, your Love Bird’s health will deteriorate and they will die.  First, learn how to differentiate the male from the female.  Females are stronger and bigger than males.  Observe them on their perches—the female’s feet are separated by a little distance.  The male’s feet are as close as they can be.  Females also have a higher pitch than the males, but new owners will not notice this right away.

Once you have chosen a mate, give them time to know each other.
1. 1.  Keep them in separate cages for the first two weeks.  Otherwise, the female may become enraged and kill the male if she senses that they are competing for the attention of their human.  (Perhaps this is where the expression “hen pecked” came from).

2.2.  After two weeks, they can play with each other outside their cages, but their human must be present to see that no untoward incident occurs.

3.3.  By the third week they can spend time in one cage, but only during daylight.

If everything works out well, they will become partners forever.  Give them a routine that keeps the Love Birds busy and constantly interacting together.  Now, your once-single Love Bird
will be healthier and live longer.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What African Love Birds Need

By Eduardo Gonzalez

The African Love Birds may be the tiniest birds in the parrot family, but don’t be fooled--they can be fierce.  For example, there are different species of African Love Birds--most common among them are the Fischer’s and Masked Love Birds.  NEVER breed them together.  They will attack or kill one another.  They are very assertive.
Buying African Love Birds
Make sure you buy tamed Love Birds.  If they are always biting or look scared, these are red flags.  Maybe they can still be tamed, but more often not--especially if they were fed using syringes.  Love Birds are tamed when their humans handle their birds regularly and feed them by hand.
Tips on Caring for Your Birds:
1.  Cage.  The right size for Love Birds is normally at least two feet long and 18 inches wide and high.  They need space to play in as they are very active and need to keep in shape.  Also, leave bars they can climb on.
2.    2.  Food.  Pellets of cockatiels and parakeets will do if they are small.  Also, tiny seed mixes given to hook bill parrots are good.  Add veggies, sprouts, grain, corn and small amounts of fruits.  These birds can be hardheaded when introducing new food, but eventually they will eat it anyway.  Add cuttlebone for calcium.
3.   3.   Wellness.  Although Love Birds are powerful and sturdy, never place their cage near the window--the wind can eventually harm their health.  Also, bring them out of their cages regularly so they can exercise by flapping their wings.  If bored and disgusted, they will pluck out their feathers.
1.    4.   Sounds Love Birds make quick chirps to get the attention of their owners—the sounds they make in the wild.  When bored, their sounds will be more harsh.
2.    5.   Rest.  Love Birds need at least 10 hours of sleep at night.  They need a complete absence of noise.
3.    6.   Nips.  Do not encourage nips from your Love Birds.  In weeks to a month a nip can become a painful bite.
4.  7.   Gender characteristics.  Males scrape their perches and regurgitate.  Females are possessive and protect their turf.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fischer’s Love Birds

By Eduardo Gonzalez

Fischer’s Love Birds are small--48 to 53 gm—but don’t be fooled by their size.  They are considered among the most beautiful birds in the parrot group.  Blame it on their shiny green breast plumage, yellow bibs (sometimes red, orange or brown), dark green wings and tail, and the thick white rings framing their eyes.
And they mate all year round.  The females can lay three to five eggs every other day, and their birdies hatch three weeks later.  They are mama’s birdies and must stay with her for 10 to 14 days before you can hand feed them.  They can live for up to 20 years.
Fischer’s are smart.  They can do tricks like turning around, waving and placing objects into boxes.  But they are not natural talkers, although a few try and manage to emit a rough, unclear sound.
Funny thing about Fischer’s—you can’t tell the males from the females.  There is only one way to know--through DNA testing.  Send 2-4 feathers to the lab and expect 99% accuracy.
The females can become territorial and continually bite.  Don’t tolerate that.  Try moving things in around in their cages, or place the cage in a different location now and then.
Buying a Fischer’s
Only buy Fischer’s from breeders who are passionate enough to hand feed the birds and interact with them regularly, because Fischer Love Birds that have been hand fed are easier to tame.
Once you have your Fischer’s, gradually introduce them to a wide array of nutritional foods like leafy green veggies and fruits.

My Thoughts:  Have you ever noticed how oftentimes people who have been married together for a very long time tend to look like each other?  Maybe they were Fischer’s in a previous life.  Lol.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Love Birds, Bird Babies; People and Babies

By Eduardo Gonzalez

Your Love Birds’ eggs are starting to hatch. What do you do? First, have enough food ready for parents to give to their newborns. Second, stand back and let them take over.

Love Birds with newly hatched chicks get nervous if their humans hover around, so reduce stress by giving them space; but be available for emergencies.

Feeding Babies
Both Love Birds feed the babies. The male eats the food, regurgitates it semi digested, then the female gets it and does the same. Then she gives it to the newborns. The male Love Bird may soon tire and lose weight, but eventually he feeds the babies himself without the female’s help.
Our lesson: Baby nurturing by both spouses should be shared, especially if both spouses are working. Cooperation and understanding can really be stretched when you have a child. But choose to be on the same side in caring for your child. Don’t blame each other, and appreciate each other’s strengths. Parenting is not always easy but it can bring you closer together. My wife and I chose what we liked doing for our daughter when she was born, but oftentimes one of us felt shortchanged. Love gets you through the rough spots.

How to reduce Love Bird stress:
1. Keep a Steady Food Supply. Give a variety of foods that are easily digestible and tender, but don’t leave the food in the cage longer than an hour after it’s consumed.
Our lesson: True, food grows on trees but realistically we get ours from the supermarket. Try to plan your family according to your pocketbook. Easier said than done, but forethought--not afterthought—has worked for many families. Otherwise, commit to placing family wellbeing as a priority. Get jobs and keep them.

2. Give fresh food in the morning before work. Replace leftovers with millets, pellets, veggies (sunflower sprouts, broccoli flowers cut in small pieces), and quality seed mixes. After work, give new food.
Our lesson: A baby’s first seven years are its blueprint years. So add nurturing during feeding times such as a loving touch and a happy voice.

3. Give cuttlebone and two bowls of water. Love Birds drop pellets in one bowl to make soup. The other water bowl should be placed away from the food to prevent bacterial infections. Change the bowls within an hour or two for the same reason.
Our lesson: This is a time to examine your baby’s habits, as it will never come back again. Memorize your baby’s smile, and talk to your baby even if they don’t understand you. Play with your baby.

4. Constant Clean Water. Water bowls must be clean all day and night so the Love Birds can refresh themselves from constantly caring for their young.
Our lesson: Not every part of caring for your baby is fun. I hated changing diapers and am thankful my wife didn’t mind taking charge of it. That’s why parents have to determine job sharing tasks early in the game. And when you feel shortchanged, swallow it. The baby is more important than what you feel. You are parents. Learn the job.

5. Emergency Feeding. Even before the eggs hatch, consult a specialist for emergencies. Sometimes older birds get irritated and attack the young ones. If this happens, the Love Birds may be too stressed, and may need to be separated from the young for awhile. In such case, the human must be patient and feed the babies every 15-30 minutes all day for a day-old birdie. Even Love Birds have their moments.
Our lesson: My wife did all the reading up on baby books while she was pregnant. I got the consequence for that. For so long I envied the fact that our baby was closer to her. But my time came when our child turned older. My wife didn’t like playing games with our child at the end of the day. So I played with her—yes, even jackstones, but we also grew to play Scrabble, Game of the Generals and other games as time passed. So things won’t always be equal all the time, but things do balance up over time if you work at it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lessons From The Lovebirds

By Ed Gonzalez

Love birds have common inherent traits.
1. They like to communicate with their companions--and their humans. They do tricks, play and like taking rides outside their cages. They sit on their human’s fingers or shoulders, and exercise by flapping their wings. They like to play with their toys in their cages. But don’t hug them—they don’t like it. If you must, wait until they are tired and sleepy.
Our lesson: Communication is important in marriage. Be playful and let your spouse see that you are eye candy. But give each other space when they need it, too. Adapt.

2. Lovebirds learn from everything around them, so keep nothing toxic in their cages. They are loyal to their main human but friendly to other humans too.
Our lesson: Keep the marriage interesting. Learn and grow together. Keep each other safe. And while your spouse is your priority, leave room for friends.

3. Lovebirds think and are expressive. If they don’t like something their humans will definitely know. But they are happy and content with toys in their cages. They don’t demand much attention from their humans, unlike other birds.
Our lesson: Be outspoken with your spouse, but never make it personal or hurtful. Don’t say “You’re selfish” or “You’re stupid”. Do say, “This dog is my chill pill and I need it on the sofa when I watch TV.” Negotiate and make tradeoffs.

4. Lovebirds in the wild had to be overbearing, bossy and coercive to survive. In a flock, they will question their human’s authority. Be patient but firm. The head lovebird needs to peacefully assert himself so his birds see he leads the flock. Lovebirds will understand, know their place in the flock, and be at peace.
Our Lesson: We are civilized people so we don’t need to be overbearing, but hierarchy is important in a family. I personally need to be in charge at home, but my wife has her moments and because they are rare, I give in. We give each other slack when needed. For other families, the husband may like the fact that his wife has leadership qualities and as long as they respect each other and it works for them, then that’s fine.

5. Lovebirds are intelligent and can copy house noises like kitchen appliances. They can also copy sounds of other birds. They watch intensively. Some can even be potty trained.
Our lesson: A family should laugh together every day. My wife is a clown. As a result we all (including our daughter) play crazy jokes on each other. When I am mad my wife will make me laugh and it sends the mood in another direction. When my wife is mad, what works is holding her hand or saying something sweet.

6. Lovebirds show their feelings. Their humans know when they’re happy, upset, disgusted with their humans or in a bad mood. They are honest and outspoken and sometimes need to be left alone. Keep them properly hand fed and interacting with people from the start. They are great pets.
Our lesson: Don’t play games in marriage. Be honest and genuine. My wife and I can show anger at each other because we trust each other and know that we are always on the same side no matter what. The birds know it. We should, too.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dogs Never Love Too Little or Too Much

OK, maybe it’s cheating but I am just reprinting an old article of mine this week from my other blog. At the time we didn’t have a scanner so I just took photos of the pages.

At the time this was published, my mom had recently passed away, and I couldn’t talk of Winnie without also talking of Mom. The editors changed my title to "Dogs Never Love Too Much or Too Little", and I think they made an excellent choice. In this second post of the piece I also edited a bit myself. Article follows:

"Never will I leave you, Never will I forsake you"
Hebrews 13:4

Whether you are married, have a boyfriend, a child, a sibling, whatever -- we all have known what it's like to love and care for someone more than ourselves.

Sometimes that person is locked away inside himself, and though seated right beside you, seems to be far away.

Last year my mom was locked in her lillness, in a body that could barely move, a mouth that couldn’t speak, and in time, eyes that could barely open. Hers was a long, slow death and I couldn’t reach her, though I could stay by her side.

I was locked in my own grief, and my husband Ed and daughter Kat could only watch helplessly. There was nothing they could do for me, just as there was nothing I could do for mom. We were boxed in separate places, not knowing how to live normally in an abnormal world.

Then someone gave me an askal and everything changed. I looked forward to each day, and I couldn't wait to get home. I gave my dog a bath every day (Thank God askals are sturdy) and she, Winniechurchill, slept in our bed.

Kat and Ed played with Winnie and suddenly the 3 of us had something that made us laugh together, feel like a family, and afford us temporary relief from the grief we had whenever we would visit mom. And Ed and Kat knew they could still find me through the dog.

From Ed and Kat's never ending love for Wininie, I realized they had been really worried about me. And though the wound was still too sore to accept Ed and Kat’s love back into my life, I could love and accept all of Winniechurchill.
Dogs you see, never love too little or too much. They just accept what you give them, and show you no remorse. They don't understand commitment, but they respond to care and they are loyal. That was all I could handle for the time being.

Ed and Kat's love would mean coming back to the world sooner than I was ready. My dog had no expectations. With Winniechurchill I could take baby steps to come back to an imperfect world.

A dog is God's creation. God loves us that way, too. We aren't perfect, but he loves us as we are, and if we surrender our lives to him, he'll patiently take us through the baby steps that eventually make us realize that life is worth living, because God is in charge, and He loves you and all the people you love, too.

My mother's body was broken with illness. My family was broken in grief. I was just plain broken. But God used the innocence and openness of an animal, a flea-ridden "askal" named Winniechurchill to put us all back together again.

Mom -- God put HER together, and in heaven I know she is dancing.

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