Ri-DQ-lously crazy 4 TAGs!
Celebirdy of the Month
Mayor of the Avenue
Avenue Spotlight Award
- ON, Canada
- Real Name
January 2018 Feathered Estates Highlight
I am very pleased to announce this month's showcased member
I am very pleased to announce this month's showcased member
This is a bird room setup for multiple small birds, in a small space, on a budget!
1~ What kind of birds do you have and how many birds did you design your setup for?
Two lovebirds, Henkie (the right one) and Fëanor (the left one). Both are males and rehomes. Henkie is about 5/6 years old and has been with me for four years. Fëanor is a about a year and 2 months and has been with me for four months. I have designed this setup for them.
2~ Is your setup for a handicapped bird?
A little bit. Henkie became very ill when he was 2, the avian vet never figured out what it was and couldn’t completely cure it. As a result his feet are not very strong. His left one is sort of balled up a lot still, though after two years I think he is finally improving and using his foot more! It doesn’t really intervene with his life a lot, but I can’t expect him to hang upside down to reach every foraging toy, or grab things with his feet. He does grab things and hang upside down, but it is harder for him to do that.
3~ Are there any budgeting tips you discovered while doing your setup?
Use nature! Seriously, their favorite toys are natural branches, especially if they still have the leaves, and sometimes berries and flowers. Even if I cut branches up and string them on rope, they still prefer the plain branches. Silly birds. Willow branches are very bendable, so it is easy to make a swing out of them. It is a little bit more difficult but I also make ‘atoms’ out of them, I basically make swings (circles) and use little pieces of rope to attach them together, or sometimes really small branches can function as rope too. I make little toys out of them as well. Willow rings are basically super small swings, all you have to do is bend the branch in a small circle and voila a little willow ring. You can make them as thick or thin as you like by using long or short branches. And branches make great perches too of course. They are easily replaced as well.
I use a lot of cheap things like straws (classic favorite! If I stuff a sunflower seed in the middle they go absolutely crazy for it!) and cardboard. They also love to forage between pebbles, and they looooove throwing beads to the floor! I will sprinkle seed in cups and baskets filled with beads and other objects, that keeps them busy for a while.
Fresh branches with the leaves still on and safe flowers and plants are also a hit. Depending on the season I give them fresh branches every other day. Stuffing branches into a jiffle ball (those balls with little holes, not sure what they are called) makes for a great toy. Sometimes I take them to a protected nature area in their travel cage, they will enjoy the new environment, and I will stuff flowers through the bars and they love that. They like to eat the seeds of grass for example. They also adore red clover.
Second hand shops often have wicker baskets. I hang those from a branch or the chains on the ceiling. I put some beads in there, some grass and flowers in the summer, a few foraging rolls (a bit of seed in rolled up newspaper, see the picture below) and sprinkle a few seeds between all of it. They love just shuffling through it, eating a seed, throwing away a bead, nibbling on a flower, then investigating a piece of paper that they find and so on. I also use a sort of grass pellets, Fëanor loves to chew them apart.
Fëanor outside nibbling some flowers, basket foraging, pebbles & grass mat foraging
4~ Is your setup changeable or stationary and do you add or make changes continually or do things stay primarily as is?
I have designed it to be as changeable as possible. I am a bit restless, so after two or even three months I tire of a setup and want something totally different. This resulted in a lot of trouble as I would completely tear down the tree I had and make something different which sometimes intervened with my homework. So I hung up chains on the ceiling. I can attach anything on these chains I like. It is really easy to change something and hang new stuff. I also like to make some changes each week (sometimes every day), like moving an atom, adding a swing, just mix things up a bit. I will add branches and take some away almost every week as well.
The play area under my bed changes almost every month. At the moment there are only ropes, two swings and one thick branch. And toys of course! The area above my small table where I like to study changes a lot too. In the summer it was almost always filled with fresh forage and a lot of branches. I just changed it and it is now pretty bare in comparison to what it was before, but I don't spend a lot of time there anymore while the fids are awake. It now has a few branches, two swings, a net and a few toys.
Play area above my small table, the chain system at first and now and an atom
5~ Where did you find your materials if you made it yourself or where did you purchase the setup and do you have favorite places to purchase safe toys and/or supplies that you find reliable?
Branches and such come from safe trees, my grandparents have a farm with a few very big willows and other trees, so I can cut off as much as I want. I use the branches to make toys and perches.
I make most of the toys myself. There is a good vendor here in the Netherlands that I like (www.kromsnavelvrienden-shop.nl). They have a lot of natural toy parts.
Mostly I gather toy parts from everywhere, my father is a builder so he can get me balsa and other wood, my grandfather worked with metal so he can get me SS, and a shop in the city near me sells safe ropes. I gather beads from a lot of dollar stores and such. My stepmother works at a gas station and takes a lot of boxes and cups with her for me. Most go to the rabbits and ducks but some are perfect for the birds.
Below are some previous setups, among them Fëanor's cage setup when he came home. He was really small and he could push himself through the bars of my late tiel's cage after a day. So I left the door open and made him a small play area on top of it. I removed the lamp after the picture, it was meant to provide him with more light while in the cage but was dangerous when he was outside of it.
6~ Do you have a favorite item that you bought for your setup?
I do have a favorite item, but I didn’t even buy it! It is totally not fancy but it has been Henkie’s favorite toy for 2 years. It is the basket below that is falling apart! Henkie loves that particular basket so much, he has had it for over two years. It is a bit chewed but it still functions well.
But, if it wasn’t for that basket I would say the bamboo perches in front of the window. Back when I only had my tiel Tiki, this was the second play area I ever put up. It belonged to the jungle room of my younger brother and he was going to throw it away. At the time Tiki’s home base was a sort of java tree and that is where he spent a big part of his day. That changed when I got those perches. He loved them so much from the start, he would sit in front of the window in the mornings, cheek feathers fluffed up, watching all the children go to school, the birds outside and the adults leaving for work. He played there with toys he had never touched before. Henkie and Fëanor love it very much as well, I couldn’t imagine living without it, it is an easy place to put toys, it allows them to get a good view of the outside world, and it is space effective as well!
I also really like the training perch my father made. It is made out of two pvc pipes with holes in them and a bolt to adjust the height. There is a dowel inserted into the top with a hole to attach toys to, and obviously there is the actual perch It is really easy to move downstairs. I have two other small playstands that I can easily move around too, but I don't need any table space for this one. I can use it everywhere for flight training. It is also easy to put it in the kitchen (ours is pretty small) for example when I am clearing out the dishwasher.
The training perch, small triangle playstand, Christmas playstand and the bamboo perches by the window.
The upper picture of the bamboo perches is recent, the other one is pretty old. I wanted to point out that the picture is older because there are a lot of long string. I have never experienced problems with them, they were not really flexible and the birds would not easily become tangled up in them. Either way, I have covered them with straws now. I also have plastic chains in storage, they will replace the string all together, but I haven't had time to do that just yet.
7~ If you made any DIY toys what is your bird(s) favorite and were there any failures?
My first tiel Tiki didn’t like store bought toys, it was really tuff to make him play at all. Henkie was the same, though he was never as bad as Tiki. They forced me to start doing DIYI love to do it now. The main things my birds like are straws, all sorts plastic beads, small wooden beads, balsa and willow wood (slowly they are starting to chew basswood too!), rope (to preen), paper rope (to chew), small pieces of paper, cork, Fëanor likes a few plastic baby toys, branches and cupcake liners. I used a lot of crinkle paper, I have to get a new batch. Crinkle paper is great to fill up a cup forager for example. It will be a lot harder for them to retrieve all of their food. I use a lot of egg cartons to make foraging toys, and a lot of cup like things I find in stores. Basically I am always on the lookout for possible toys or toy parts. I scavenge all small boxes my family and friends have and if my stepmother or mother throw away baby toys I jump in to pick out a few things for the fids and stuff like that.
I don’t know if this counts as DIY, but everyone can do it and it functions as enrichment so: I try to incorporate a lot of different surfaces, like sand, rocks and (real) grass into the lives of my birds. They love to walk around in sand for example. They also love to have a pot of grass, it lasts only a week but they are so happy to forage in it and chew the grass. I also try to provide them with fresh branches and forage, like plants and grass but also wild berries (mostly hawthorn berries). I try to have at least two potted plants around them. They nibble on most but destroy the spider plants completely! It is winter now and most of my plants died. I have three left on my desk, two spider plants and a tree. I am growing a new batch of small herbs now, but they are way too tiny to move into my room just yet.
I find that when my birds like something, I can slowly expand that. To explain: I discovered Henkie and Tiki likes straws. I started to make a lot of toys with straws and then added one new thing to every toy, one would have rope, one would have a plastic object, another a bell or wood and so on. This way you introduce them to new things while not overwhelming them with new things which might cause them to lose interest.
Also I have made two boings and two atoms. They are a huge hit. I did one big boing and covered it with vet wrap, and a smaller one, that one is covered with sisal rope. The same with the atoms. They love them a lot, and they are a great alternative to store bought ones. My boys can get quite intimate with thick ropes, they masturbate on the classic boings and I try to discourage that. My DIY ones are not as thick and not very attractive to them apparently as they leave them alone. I am going to make a couple more boings with vet wrap, only this time I will make them thicker.
8~ Did you incorporate into your setup any foraging toys and how did your bird(s) take to them and was age or inactivity a factor?
They love to forage! They love foraging so much more than playing. I try to provide them with as much foraging opportunities as I can. They forage for all their food, although the foraging for their dinner (chop) is always easy.
I started easy, like wrapping some seeds into a coffee filter and adding a few beads to a bowl of seeds or pellets. I slowly kept increasing the difficulty, for example: I started to add more beads to the bowl and less food, then I covered it with paper, which had a very big hole. Each time I made the hole a tiny bit smaller. I only have to poke a small hole now and they chew the rest apart. I am going to work to two layers of paper now. They are starting to like box foraging as well. That means there is a box filled with a lot of different things, their food as well. They have to chew it apart and forage through the objects (for example crinkle paper) to get their reward. I like to wrap seeds up in a lot of newspaper, it takes them a while to chew through all of the paper. If I place those packages in difficult places I can make it even harder to because they have to hang upside down for example. It is also great to place these packages around the room when I am short on time and need something quick. I make a bunch of these while I watch an episode of a series, that works really well for me.
Henkie and Fëanor demonstrating how it is done.
9~ What difficulties did you encounter, if any, and how did you remedy them?
The biggest problem I had was when I took three shelves off the wall. They left holes in the wall. Tiki (my previous bird, a tiel) found it and started to make the whole bigger and Henkie gladly joined him. I placed an old bird bath in front of it and they left it alone. At that time I didn’t have a lot of enrichment yet, I learned that if they have enough chewing and shredding opportunities they will leave things like walls alone (this is what my birds do, not a general thing!). Except of course when I am holding something they are not supposed to have, then they have to chew it!
Because they are not caged, there were some problems. They would be very much present when I tried to get stuff done, like homework. I have encouraged independent play massively and give them a special foraging treat or a new toy when I need them to play by themselves. It took Henkie a while to learn, but we have established a balance between attention and independent play.
Current setup and Henkie in his beloved basket.
10~ What do you like least about your setup (if anything)?
That I am limited in what I can do right now, my mother was pretty reluctant to let me buy anything big for the birds for a while but now I am 18 and she is more okay with it. That means that I had to make all the play areas myself, or buy them cheaply. I did have a sort of java tree a few years ago, but that is the only play stand I have ever bought. I love make them myself but they are not really great looking. I am getting better at it now though. Also I don’t have a lot of room. We share my bedroom and that is the only place where the can have permanent stuff. Their area is quite cluttered but they don't mind it too much and like it that there are a lot of places for them to forage and play.
I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t the last couple years because of all this! The space is limited so I have figured out how to use it most efficiently. I use most of the ceiling space and that leaves the floor open for the new playstand. I have a pretty clear idea about what I want when I move out too now.
Some pictures of the current setup.
11~ What do you like most about your setup?
I like it that they are with me and that they can have the whole room while I am away too. I can do homework, and they will have a play area above me, I can watch a series and they can be foraging in a grass mat or playing on the small triangle playstand, I can be dressing myself and the can be on the branch thing attached to my bed. I have a jar of foot toys I can take anywhere with me, so even if they insist on being on me, I have an easy way to entertain them. So if they want to be with me, there is a place for them to hangout. I can offer them a lot of choices this way and I am a big fan of offering choices.
It gives me the best feeling when I come home and see Fëanor and Henkie foraging through my window. If they see me, they will contact call and Henkie will fly to the door handle and Fëanor to the boing next to the door. There they will wait for me to greet them. It took some time and work to get to this point, but now we have established a balance which allows us to live happily together.
The two upper left pictures are how it is at the moment, the other ones are of previous setups.
12~ Did your bird(s) take to the setup right away or did they approach it tentatively needing time to adjust and do you feel their age was a factor?
The setup changes pretty regular, usually they take to it right away. They are quite willing to approach new things, they are all over it within seconds. Sometimes there are a few things that take them a couple days to approach though. I don’t feel like their age is a factor, but both were quite young when they came here, Fëanor was only 8 months and Henkie was about 1.5 years old.
The current setup.
13~ Any future renovations planned?
Yes! Next year I will have a gap year, but after that I am going to study in Scotland. I will move out and rent a house. I am so excited to build a new play area there, I will be able to decide for myself whether or not I want to buy fancy playstands and all of that! As it will be ‘my’ house, I can place boings and play areas all around the house, the fids will be able to fly all around the house and chill everywhere. I will have more space so everything will be a lot less cluttered. I am also going to build a big new playstand. I am working out the details with my father at the moment (he will build most of it). It will have platforms, a wire panel to attach things like a foraging wheel, wheels to move it, SS hooks to hang toys, lots of removable SS cups, so I can let them forage for chop and such, SS skewers, it will have a main pole to attach perches to and the perches can be changed around often. Maybe the part that will go against the wall will exist out of a big climbing net, but I am not sure about that yet. It should look rather nice and natural. There will also be either a java tree if I can find one with a lot of thin branches or another kind of playtree. The tree will probably be in front of the window and the playstand will be where the two little tables are now. I am also getting a new, flatter lamp. That will allow me to put a net and another rope up the ceiling.
I am also on the hunt for some kind of wire to cover my window securely, while still allowing me to open and close it. That way I can just open it all the way and let fresh air in whenever I want and the birds can get sunlight.
Play area by the windowsill, three coconut cups to forage in, a small area on the side of my bed and a net.