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Jeff Sexton

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

USS Yorktown

USS Yorktown at Portland, Oregon

Date unknown...

The Red Electrics

The Red Electrics 
Of Portland, Oregon

Friday, April 14, 2017

Ed, Olive and Harlan

At the end of October 2016, 6 or 7 months ago, we brought home two cockatiels, Ed and Olive. This wasn't quite an impulse buy, but it was close. We were at the pet store for other reasons, and when walking over to the bird area, these two just went nuts. The chirped and sang and ran from side to side in their cage. The were screaming "take us home!" as clear as their little bird voices could manage.

On the way home we talked about getting the two birds. At first not seriously. But then more and more so. That afternoon we did a lot of reading online. Just what's it like to have cockatiels? What do you have to do? What do they even eat? We had no idea.

The next day, we went back. They were still there. Went home with a cage, a bag of food, a couple toys, a little box with two birds inside, and a one page printed sheet of information.

In retrospect, knowing what I know now, this is frightening.

It's frightening to think the anyone can walk into a store like that and leave with an animal like a parrot, with so little preparation. These animals are both a huge joy, and huge commitment. Bringing a parrot into your life is nothing like getting a dog or cat, nothing. There is so much to know... I don't even want to think about how many birds have miserable lives because of unprepared owners.

When you Google up information about birds, you notice right away that every website starts with a whole page introduction that is really a big long, desperate attempt to talk you out of it. There's good reason for this. If you're thinking of getting a bird, do your reading, and believe the warnings. Birds require a lot of interactive time. The require toys. The require specialized medical care. The require good quality, fresh food, warmth and a big clean cage, every single day. You must be prepared to upend your life and rearrange your furniture. If you're not, get a hamster.

That said, Ed and Olive were an amazing addition to the household. They are incredibly intelligent, friendly, curious and active creatures.

In continuing to read and learn about parrots, it didn't take long to encounter information about an animal that may actually be at the top of the intelligence scales, second only, believe it or not, to humans; the African grey parrot. The more experience I had with Ed and Olive, the more interested I was in the grey parrots.

I mentioned the warnings you see on websites about parrots... When it comes to grey parrots, the warnings get really desperate. There are whole websites that seem to have been created just to talk people out of getting one of these animals. But the more I read, the more interested I became. And after awhile, my mind was made up.

There are a few ways to get an African grey. But they are not available at a typical pet shop. I did not know exactly how or when I would get one, but one day in September we went to a specialty parrot store out of town. My thought was to buy a large cage and get it setup, loaded with toys, and ready for when a bird became available.

At the store there were two Congo African greys (CAG), and one of the smaller Timneh grey (TAG). They were all young birds. One of the Congo greys climbed right up on my shoulder and wanted a head scratch. It rode around with me the whole time we were in the store, which was a awhile, looking at cages, talking to the staff, and the other birds.

Harlan came home with us. He now occupies the dining room. Getting Harlan has been a great experience, I wish I could have done something like it many years ago.

There are many things no one told us about parrots. Now, keep in mind that I am not a vet and by no means an expert at all. This is just what I have learned from reading and relatively short personal experience. Just the same, I thought it would be a good idea to create a series of blog posts here about Ed, Olive and Harlan, and all the things we have learned.

Here is the first thing...

The internet is wrong. There is a shocking amount of partial and incorrect information out there. After everything I have read I get the impression that parrots were vastly misunderstood up until fairly recently. As late as the 1990s, really good food mixes don't seem to have existed. Some say that today, the lifespan of many birds is actually much longer than previously believed due to birds typically dying young because of poor nutrition. That's just one example... More to come, stay tuned.


Monday, April 03, 2017

DIY Straw Ring Shredding Toy for Birds

We bought some of these stray rings one sale cheap at a craft store. They were discontinuing this size and so there was a steep markdown.
The rings are bound with something like fishing line - not good for the birds. It took awhile to get all of it carefully removed, while doing my best to keep the ring intact.

I decided to use these rice paper wraps to cover the stray.

I soaked sheets of the rice paper in a tray of water until they were soft, a minute or two.
And then carefully wrapped the ring.
After sitting for couple of days the rice paper forms a crunchy layer.

Due to the size of this toy, Harlan was intimated by it for awhile. I had to introduce it slowly, and even then he ignored it for several days.

But once he figured it out, he worked on it almost continuously until the stray was in a heap at the bottom of the cage. It lasted 4 or 5 days.

Happy bird!

The Latest Bird Toys

This toy incorporates some smaller pieces. It's good for Ed and Olive, the cockatiels. Harlan the grey parrot would chomp through those wooden stars in one chomp.
Here's a version for Harlan. It lasted a couple days!
Here's an assortment of smaller toys, good fun for either birds...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bird Chews

Here's an easy way to make something fun for medium and large parrots.

Parrots like to tear things up. They also like to eat. The two together constitute their foraging instinct, and it's important to give them ways to exercise that.

I don't recall where I got this idea, but the wrappers used for spring rolls are a fantastic way to add a little foraging to your birds day. They are thin rice paper that comes in hard sheets. They are tasteless and, as far as "food" goes, pretty inert.

I just soak the wrappers in a pan of water for a few minutes, until they get soft. They get a little hard to work with if they get too soft, but it's still pretty simple to roll up some parrot treats, or even just ordinary food (or a toy, or literally anything).

I used a counter top oven that has a dehydrate setting to firm up little balls of covered treats in about 30 minutes. But I found you can also just put them on a plate in the refrigerator for about a day and a half.
Harlan loves these! The texture ranges from slightly soft and chewy, but solid, to completely hard and crunchy, depending on how long they sit. He has to break through the shell, which he discards, to get the food.

I found the smaller birds, cockatiels, have a harder time breaking the shells open and tend to loose interest before finding out there is a treat inside, but Harlan has a great time with these treats and gets excited whenever he seed me making them.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Beads for Bird Toys

Harlan the African Grey Parrot has a pretty significant bite. These are some smaller wood beads I had previously used for toys for Ed and Olive, the cockatiels. Harlan is able to crush them in short order.
I purchased some larger beads at a craft store.

They are plan wood, looks like pine so they are perfectly safe for birds (not all woods are).

First, I died the beads using food coloring. I used nested pint glasses to hold them down. It helps to heat the water. I put each one in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, just long enough to barely boil.

After sitting for a couple of days, they are not real vivid, but there is some color for added interest. Ready for more toys!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

More DIY Bird Toys

Pieces of vegetable tanned leather, zip ties and a bead make a simple toy that both the cockatiels and the new parrot, Harlan, like.

Harlan actually untied the knots though.
Mini-munch balls, pieces of a bar coaster and a plastic cap from a milk carton...

I have made a few toys incorporating a heavy gauge copper wire. It's been carefully wrapped (with sisal rope) in a way such that the ends of the wire as not accessible.

Harlan likes larger toys made with colorful drinking straws.

Harlan doesn't have much trouble crushing the smaller wooden beads I have been using. His beak is incredibly strong. Larger beads on the way...
Toy box!

Friday, January 20, 2017


This month I placed an order with The order arrived in a timely manner, in good condition, and a good level of quality for the price. There was one problem.

I was sent a completely different item.

The email acknowledging my order had the correct item listed. But the packing slip in the package, and the item itself, were something else, something I really didn't want. 

Here's the thing though, there is no way to contact They have a form on their website to report problems, and I did, including my order number, a description of the problem, their exact description texts of the product I order, and the one I received, and an image of the email acknowledging my order, with the correct description, and all my information. I received an automated response immediately, saying they would get back to me within 24 hours. They did not, ever. 

There is no other way to contact the company. In fact, after some digging, I would conclude that has deliberately made sure there is no contact information for them anyplace on the internet. Avoiding completely the cost of any sort of customer service what so ever, I assume, is part of their business model.

I have an item I don't want, and I am out the money.

I recommend avoiding

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cockatiel Breakfast

What do you feed cockatiels? Here's Ed and Olive's bird breakfast.

It's finely chopped spinach, carrot, and kale, with a few stems of coriander (they like the stems more than the leaves), topped with almond slices and a pinch of flax seeds.

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