So You Bought a Parrot, Now What?

In my other blog, I write about my daily life. But, most of my posts revolve around my parrots, as does my life. It is in my belief that birds were not intended to be on this earth so we could still them in a cage in our homes. No matter what your religion is, birds were not made for solitary stationary lives. They were intended to fly in the great outdoors. Nobody can argue with that.

But, now you have one in your home, as do I. Now what? Well, let’s hope that you did your research and you found a parrot that is right for you and your family. We’re going to assume you did for the sake of this article and my sanity.

CAGES

The first thing that needs to be purchased is a cage. Have you ever walked into a pet store and saw that they have a sale going on, “Buy This Cage, Get a Parakeet FREE!” Don’t do that. Just buy the parakeet and cage separately because THAT cage will not be big enough for your new family member. Remember, your new family member is a bird with wings and will need to use those wings. A cage for a parakeet should be wider than taller, because they are not helicopters that can fly straight up.

Bigger is always better when buying a cage for your new pet. However, the width of the bar spacing in cages is also just as important, as tiny heads can get trapped in between the bars. So, keep that in mind when purchasing the cage.

A good cage size for a Macaw or bigger parrot is one where your parrot can stretch his wings without touching the sides of his cage.

FOOD

As with the topic of human children and nutrition, there are just as many debates on parrot nutrition. Some say pellets only, some say seeds and pellets, some say fresh food, seeds, and pellets, some say cooked foods, fresh foods, seeds, and pellets; but, no one says that only feeding seeds is good for a parrot.

Mine get a huge variety of foods on a daily basis. If you read my other blog, you would know that I am having some issues with Sisco eating foods that are good for her. She is a seed junky and will not eat anything else except mashed potatoes. Just like human children, if they are exposed to only certain things, they will never develop a taste of other foods. However, if they are exposed to good foods on a daily basis, they will eventually try something, and possibly even like it!

The point is to never give up trying to feed your parrot healthy foods and never stop learning about parrot nutrition.

TOYS

What do you mean by toys? My bird needs toys? Isn’t a swing enough? Um, no. Your bird needs something to do. A bored bird is an unhappy bird. A bird that is busy is a happy bird. A bird that is locked in a cage from day in to day out with nothing to do will exhibit very unwelcoming behaviors such as excessive screaming. A bird that doesn’t have any toys (or the wrong toys for THAT specific bird) but is allowed the freedom to come and go as he pleases may start to be destructive to the things around him, such as the molding on your big picture window or your first edition of Twilight.

There are lots of different toys on the market today. To pick out which toy is right for your bird will just be a process of trial and error. But in reality, a bird should have a variety of toys and not the same type of toy in his cage at all times. You should have enough toys to be able to rotate every few weeks.

ATTENTION

No, it is not enough to plop them in a cage with healthy foods and enough toys to outfit a bird toy store. Sorry. You need to pay attention to him. You do not have to hold your parrot 24/7, but you do need to give him ambient attention. Ambient attention is to give your parrot attention while she is in her cage or on her playstand. This can be achieved with just talking to your parrot, interacting with her, calling his name when he calls for you, reading to her, dancing with her, singing with her, watching TV and keeping a running commentary with her of what you see, etc. This is the kind of attention parrots absolutely love.

VET CARE

Your new buddy needs to see a doctor from time to time. It is true that birds hide their illnesses, so when you see what could potentially be a sign of an illness, get him to a vet as soon as possible! The time to find a good avian vet is when he is healthy, not when it is an emergency.

Those are just some of the basics of parrot care. The very basics, unfortunately. If you do not treat your parrot like the delicate animal he is, things can go very wrong in an instant.

5 Tips For Addressing Weight Loss In The Horse

Nothing is more worrisome than watching your horse day after day slowly lose weight and not knowing the reason why. Despite making sure they have plenty of access to good quality feed and mineral/vitamin supplements they continue to lose weight. Here are 5 tips that may get you started on the right track to addressing unexpected weight loss in the horse.

Veterinary Evaluation

First and foremost, ALWAYS have your horse evaluated by your veterinarian if they are encountering any kind of health challenge! I cannot stress that enough. There are so many things that may be affecting your horse’s ability to absorb nutrients, from parasites to cancer. Your veterinarian can rule things out for you and make a proper diagnosis if there is a serious medical condition that’s contributing to a weight loss issue in your horse. I’ve seen too many times people take a wait and see attitude to the detriment of the horse.

Intestinal Parasites

A very common reason for horses to lose weight is due to a heavy parasite load. As parasites develop resistance to many of the commercial dewormers available on the market, you may find that your deworming protocols are no longer effective. Your veterinary clinic can do a fecal egg count for you and let you know what kinds of intestinal parasites (if any) your horse may be harboring. From this information, you can then make more targeted decisions as to what deworming protocols might be most effective for your situation.

There are also alternative protocols that are becoming more and more popular among horse caretakers. Many of these are safe to use in conjunction with traditional dewormers and may help increase the effectiveness of your deworming program.

Some of these include:

    • Food-grade diatomaceous earth – it is thought that the diatomaceous earth works similarly as it moves through the animal’s digestive tract as it does when applied externally to insects. The microscopic silica-based diatom fossils that make up the fine powder penetrate the exoskeleton of the insects, causing them to dehydrate and die.
    • Essential oils – Animals in the wild will hunt out and eat certain types of plants not normally in their everyday diet to help clear their bodies of parasites. Certain medicinal-grade essential oils are thought to help rid the body of internal parasites based on the historical use of these plants by both ancient cultures and wild animals. Whether these help by boosting the host’s natural immune system or acting directly against the parasite is unclear. Oils that may help most are – Tarragon, Ocotea, Di-Gize and Longevity.

 

    • Immune System Supplementation – an organism that has a compromised immune system is going to be more susceptible to all types of infection, including that of internal and external parasites. Adding supplements that are high in antioxidants may help your horse’s ability to deal with these attacks naturally. Immune support is very important for maintaining the geriatric horse.

Equine Dentistry

I’ve been surprised at the number of people that I’ve encountered over the years that are unaware that horses need routine dentistry. There are many factors that play into the function of the horse’s jaw and how the horse’s teeth erupt and wear continually. The way a horse moves, position it eats, what it eats, etc. all contribute to whether a horse will develop dental imbalance. If the teeth are out of balance and the horse cannot effectively masticate his food, they are less likely to be able to absorb the necessary nutrients from that food. Older horses may have worn out the life of their teeth or have missing teeth, also contributing to problems with properly processing their food. Having your horse checked by a reputable equine dentist at least once or twice per year may save your horse some grief down the road.

Adding Calories

Your horse’s weight loss may just be a simple matter of math… they are burning more calories than they are taking in. Upping your horse’s hay and/or feed may be necessary, particularly for horses in heavy training or working horses. However, adding a high-quality high-calorie fat source may be all that is necessary to turn the corner. Traditionally people have added corn oil to their horses feed as a top dress. However, since corn oil is not fully digestible, you have to give large quantities for it to be effective and many horses don’t find that much oil on their feed palatable. The most popular oils that are highly digestible, palatable and provide added benefits to skin and hair coat are – flax seed, soybean, and wheat germ oils.

Alternative Forages

When dealing with geriatric horses, the ability to chew becomes increasingly problematic, not to mention the aging digestive tract becomes less efficient and able to pull the necessary nutrients from what they can chew. Adding some more easily chewed and digestible forages may help. You will want to make sure and consult with your veterinarian before changing your horse’s diet though. Certain conditions, like liver and kidney dysfunction, require special dietary consideration.

Interesting Facts About Reptiles You Need to Know

What makes it a reptile?
There are countless species and varieties of reptiles around the world. Even though there are many differences, reptiles do share a few common traits.

For starters, they use lungs to breathe. Lizards might breathe using the same muscles they use to run and crocodiles have a more flexible diaphragm, but overall, reptiles have lungs that are more advanced than amphibians, but not as refined as mammals. Reptiles also have scales made of keratin protein. Scales provide protection from predators, help retain water, and can play a role in courtship and territorial clashes. Reptiles are not the only animals to have scales, but it is a common characteristic among all reptiles.

Another characteristic is that they’re all four-legged vertebrates (or descended from four-limbed animals, like snakes). This is another shared trait with other types of animals, which indicates that reptiles are an evolutionary middle ground of sorts between amphibians and mammals. For the most part, female reptiles lay eggs but it’s not exclusive to all reptiles. There are some species that develop their young inside their bodies and give birth to live young, like the Viviparous Lizard and the Adder.

Reptiles are known for their cold-blooded metabolisms. If you’ve ever seen a reptile in an enclosure, you might have noticed lamps and other forms of heat. That’s because basking in heat increases their internal body temperature to give them the energy they need for daily activity.

What are the different types of reptiles?
Reptiles can be classified into four major groups:

Crocodilia
Which has 23 different species of Alligators, Caimans, Gharials, and Crocodiles.

As you may know, the Crocodilia are large, semiaquatic and predatory animals. They’re commonly found in the lowlands of the tropics and usually have long, flattened snouts and canonical, peg-like teeth. Certain species of crocodilian are traded as exotic pets when they’re young but are often abandoned as they grow larger and more dangerous.

Squamata
Which are lizards and snakes, and have almost 8,000 species.

These reptiles vary in size (from a dwarf gecko that’s less than an inch long to an anaconda which can reach over 17 feet). Their ability to move their quadrate bones is what helps them open their mouths wide enough to consume larger prey. If you’re thinking of getting reptiles for sale of this classification, be sure to research the specific type you want to get to make sure you have the necessary equipment to keep them healthy and happy.

Testudines
Which is made up of turtles and tortoises and have around 300 species.

These are considered primitive since they’re some of the most ancient reptiles among us. Their shells make them easily distinguishable from other reptiles and they’re also a popular choice as reptile pets.

Sphenodontia
Which is known as the sister group of the Squamata and has only 2 species of tuataras from New Zealand.

It’s also known as a Rhynchocephalia, which means beak head. They have a unique set of teeth which is presented as two rows in the upper jaw and a single row on the lower jaw. The single species of tuatara is the only living member of an order that flourished about 200 million years ago.

Which reptiles for sale are best as pets?
If you’re just starting out with a pet reptile, you can find some great reptiles for sale. Geckos can be a great pet for beginners because they don’t require much handling. Too much stress on the gecko can cause its tail to fall off though. A Bearded Dragon can also make for a great pet as they’re extremely easy-going reptiles with personality. They require a hot habitat and are fairly easy to maintain.

Heating and Cooling Your Marine Tank

Heating & Cooling your Marine Tank
For your aquarium to be a success and for all the inhabitants to survive the temperature of the aquarium needs to be just right. Too much heat and the corals and fish begin to suffer and could die. Too little heat and the corals and fish begin to suffer and could die, so we need the temperature of your tank need to be right in the middle. Average water temperatures in different reef areas range between 25°C (77°F) and 30°C(86°F) and can fluctuate between 28°C (82°F) and 34°C (93°F).

Heating
Heating is important in any aquarium, its essential to replicate the temperature found in the ocean, as temperatures often change, especially in winter. Thermostat- heaters are the answer to the heating needs of your tank, a thermostat-heater can be adjusted to a temperature you want your aquarium to maintain by adjusting the knob found at the top of the unit, it’s always good to keep an eye on the heater and check the tanks temperature. Heaters have been known in some cases to malfunction causing tanks to overheat and crash killing everything in the tank, so it’s important to keep check of the temperature in your tank at all times, this can be done with a digital thermometer. You can get fully submersible ones that go inside the tank or you can get digital external thermometers which stay on the outside but have a probe that goes inside the tank. The recommended stable temperature you want to keep at all times is between 27°C (80°F) and 29°C (84°F), stability is important.

Cooling
Cooling the aquarium has not been that big of an issue in the UK, until recently. We have had short but hot summers and for aquariums this can spell disaster. I had to turn my heater off and buy a fan cooler this helped but I was constantly having to top up my tank with water as the combination of the fan and the heat made the water evaporate quite fast, I bought the fan as a quick fix solution. A real solution to the problem is buying a chiller, fan coolers chillers are very effective at controlling the temperature in your marine aquarium, water passes through the chiller and is cooled to the desired temperature then the water is returned to the tank keeping the aquarium at a stable temperature, the only downside is they are ridiculously expensive, if you are in a hot country then you most probably will need one, but in the UK we only have a month or two of hot weather and then it’s back to winter for the rest of the year, so I could never justify spending £300 or more on one, so I opt for the £35+ cooler fans option and keep topping up. But if you live in a hot country, or have an expensive reef setup then it’s worth investing in a chiller, it’s really not worth the risk of losing all you have spent, built and worked hard for.

How to Set Up a Bearded Dragon Vivarium

During a visit to a pet shop recently I was disturbed to see a sign on the front of a vivarium containing young beardies which read ‘ideal for beginners’. I think this gives the very wrong impression of this reptile. Whilst they are not difficult to look after, their needs and requirements have to be properly understood in order for them to have a happy, healthy life.

Reptiles are similar to fish in that they need to live in the correct environment for them. You wouldn’t put a marine fish in a tropical aquarium, for example, and expect it to live, and even different tropical fish like different types of water – acid, alkaline or brackish for example. Most pet shops are fairly clued up on fish keeping. But many shops selling bearded dragons have only a basic knowledge about their requirements, and are all too often guilty of letting a new owner buy equipment which is totally inappropriate. Or more worryingly, even encourage them to buy it. Worst of all are ‘bearded dragon complete set ups’ – most of which contain vivariums that are too small with heatmats and substrate which are actually harmful to beardies.

As with aquariums, you need to understand the natural habitat of a bearded dragon before setting up what will be its home for life in your house.

Bearded dragons come from the hot, dry deserts of Australia. The earth is baked dry so they are used to a hard surface to walk on. They are semi arboreal, and are known to climb fenceposts and tree stumps to bask. The hot sun bakes down on them from above. They spend most of their time basking and sleeping and sleeping in full sunlight, and when they are too hot, they move to a cooler place in the shade as, like many cold blooded animals, they thermoregulate. That is, they control their body temperature by moving from a hot place to a cooler one.

In the desert they very rarely, if ever, come across standing water. They have evolved to extract the moisture they need from the food they eat, and therefore it is not unusual never to see a bearded dragon drink. Their lungs can only cope with low humidity levels.

So what does this tell us? Firstly, that they need a good sized vivarium where a wide temperature range is possible. Secondly, they need something to climb on. They need to get their heat from above – not underneath them, and water features in a vivarium will harm their health. They also need exposure to UVB rays that they otherwise would get from the sun. That does not seem to stop shops selling too small vivariums, heatmats (which can actually burn the bearded dragon’s stomach as they cannot feel heat through their bellies), waterfalls, loose substrate that can be swallowed and impact in the gut, and sometimes they even neglect to tell the purchaser that they need a UVB tube. So be warned.

So, now we know what we don’t need, how should the bearded dragon’s vivarium be set up to ensure it lives a long and healthy life?

First of all, an adult bearded dragon will need a vivarium that’s 4ft x 2ft x 2ft (120cm x 60cm x 60cm). When you consider an adult beardie will be close to 2 ft (60 cm) in length you can see how anything less wide will be uncomfortable for it. Baby beardies are quite happy being put straight into a full size vivarium – in the desert no one partitions off a part for them to use! For babies the decoration should be kept simple so that they can catch their food easily. As juveniles grow so fast it is false economy to start off with a smaller sized vivarium.

There should be a heat source at one end of the vivarium – a 60 or 100 watt spotlight is ideal. You can buy these from supermarkets or DIY stores if you don’t want to buy the ones made specifically for reptiles.

It is important to control the temperature at the cool end of the vivarium – your bearded dragon will not survive if it cannot heat up and cool down when it needs to. In order to control the temperature you will need a thermostat. Many people assume this is to ensure the basking temperature is kept high – the opposite is the truth. The thermostat should be kept to make sure the cool end of the vivarium does not go higher than 85f (30c). Once this is right it should be easy to manage the temperature at the basking spot which should be 105f (41c) – the important word being ‘spot’. This does not mean the whole of the hot end of the vivarium should be at this temperature, just the spot where the beardie will bask. The ‘spot’ can be a log, branch or rock on which the beardie can bask to expose himself to the maximum heat. Raising or lowering the basking spot will alter the temperature until it gets to the right level.

It takes a little time to get the probe of the thermostat in the right place to maintain the temperatures accurately – you should start by placing it at the cool end, and then moving it up the vivarium if the temperatures are too low. A good digital thermometer with dual inputs and dual readouts will let you see the temperatures at both ends of the vivarium at once. As it’s a bit tricky for beginners to get it all right, it’s recommended to set up the vivarium and have it running for a week before introducing the bearded dragon.

Depending on your location and your house you may not need any night time heating at all – they need a good temperature drop at night in order to be able to get to sleep. The temperature can go down to 60f (16c) for adults, 65f (18c) for juveniles. If your house gets very hot during summer you may find you need a reptile fan to cool it down.

The other vital piece of equipment is the UVB tube. This should be the strongest that you can buy – currently tubes are selling at 12% UVB which are the best. 10% should be the minimum you choose. The output fades after six months, so tubes should be replaced on a regular basis. The tube should run the whole length of the vivarium, so for a 4ft vivarium you should select a 42″ tube. This will mean the bearded dragon is exposed to UVB for all the time the light is on. 12 hours under a UVB tube is only equilvalent to about 20 mins in the full heat of the sun in the desert, so do not use any hides or caves as your beardie need the most exposure to UVB as he can get.

The heat and light should be on for at least 12 hours a day – in summer you might want to raise this to 14 hours to mimic a change in season.

The final necessity is substrate. When young, bearded dragons are inaccurate feeders, and if they are on sand can take mouthfuls of this as they try to catch their food. Their smaller stomachs are also less able to cope with grains they might swallow, and loose substrate in their gut can lead to impaction which is generally fatal. Wood chippings or pellets should be avoided at any age. Another dangerous substrate is Calci Sand, which can be marketed especially for bearded dragons – this clumps together when wet and so is far worse than normal sand.

Until the age of six months plain kitchen towel is the safest substrate and carries no risk to their health. When they are six months old they can go on children’s play sand which is clean and very fine. Pets shops don’t usually give this advice as they don’t sell either product! The best substrate for an older beardie is a mixture of broken sandstone paving slabs with some playsand between the cracks. The hard surface is more natural for their feet, and helps keep their nails down. This substrate looks good too.

They do like to climb, so branches and rocks are welcomed. You can get these from the wild as long as they are sterilised before putting in the vivariums.

Other accessories are backgrounds – beardies do like climbing on the polyrock walls often sold in pet shops, but really the background is a matter of choice. As are any other decorations such as fake plants. Real plants cannot cope with the dry conditions, and are likely to be thrashed in any event. Food bowls and perhaps a shallow water bowl will complete your set up, and the result should be a happy healthy bearded dragon who will give you pleasure for many years to come.