Not long ago, I was at the feed store buying large bags of gamecock crumble and rabbit pellets. The young man who helped me load them in my car asked, “What kind of birds do you have?”
At least he knew what button quail were because that’s why I was buying the crumble. Then he asked how many rabbits I had, saying at least he was right about those. I explained that I use the pellets as strata in a brooder for the baby button quail. I think he was relieved when I drove away.
But thinking about it, I know I use things in odd ways to try to keep my birds happy and healthy. Here’s a list of those things and what most people use them for.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar. Most people use it for salad dressings and cooking. Some drink it for health benefits and improved gut flora. I put a few drops in the drinking water of all my birds so that they get some vitamins and probiotics every time they drink. Be sure to get the raw, unfiltered version with the “mother” which is what the culture in the vinegar is called.
2. White vinegar. Again, most people use it for cooking and dying Easter eggs. I use it in my laundry in place of fabric softener. But with my birds, I use it as a disinfectant while cleaning cages and trays. It’s totally safe for the birds and does a great job.
3. Empty plastic jars. I imagine some people use these for storage and others simply recycle them. I give them to my lovebirds and button quail as places to “hide” and things to play with. The lovies play more than the quail, often rolling the jar across their cage and back again. It’s very entertaining.
4. Bird Gravel. Back when I was a kid, we thought all cage birds needed “gravel” to stay healthy. Turns out, few birds actually require that and it might be a hazard to some small birds. I continue to buy it up, six boxes at a time. But not for my budgies or cockatiels. Button quail love to take dust baths. Watching them flutter and toss the gravel around is a joy. Of course, that means the wind picks up a lot of it and carries it away. A lot is tossed out of the cage and out of the dust tray. But at least I’m keeping the gravel industry in business.
5. Clothespins. Really, who else uses these anymore? Hanging clothes on the line to dry is so outdated. As a suburban dweller, I find the clothes smell like car exhaust and whatever the neighbors barbecued. No, I use these as clips to hold cage doors closed, clips to hold cuttlebone, millet, or veggies up, and as parts of toys. Birds in cages need to have distractions and fun. Clothespins can be used for both.
6. Empty Tissue Cubes. My box chewing parrots would make short work of a little thin cardboard box. But my lovebirds have been known to nest in a cube. They played with it first then used the chewed up cardboard to make their nest. They are both girls so all that happened is they laid a lot of eggs. The other pair likes their box and doesn’t always rip it up. They have never nested in it. I can leave the box alone until it becomes almost a decoupage of bird droppings, feathers, and seeds.
One time I brought a bunch of young lovies in to a bird club meeting to sell. This was before I did hand feeding, so the chicks were not tame. No idea of their sex, so they didn’t sell well, but people got a kick out of looking at an empty cage then seeing the chicks pour out of the box. Good times.
7. Aquarium. When I first got the tank, I did keep fish in it. I had guppies and a catfish and plants. I never got around to making the water healthy, so the fish and plants died after about a year. I meant to sell it at a yard sale, but luckily I got button quail and realized it would be the perfect brooder. A heating pad under half of it, non-slip lining topped with rabbit pellets, and the chicks were comfy. I placed ground food in a shallow bowl and water in another shallow bowl. I put decorative glass pebbles in the water so they wouldn’t drown. And the babies had everything they needed to survive.
8. Grease skimmer. We have pantry moths. They love grains and seed. They lay their eggs in seeds. One female can lay 400 eggs. She will lay them on a food source. The larvae hatch out in 7 days, normally. We keep our seeds in plastic buckets to keep the mice out, but somehow the moths get in there in the minute that the lid is off and we are filling the pitchers. Too, they get in the actual food bowls. It’s a nasty situation. We use all kinds of traps and even a zapper racket to keep the numbers down, but one moth can reestablish the colony.
So when we are taking seed from Point A to Point B, we run it through a grease skimmer that is only used for this purpose. The eggs and larva and the webbing used for cocoons catches in the skimmer and can be smashed and discarded. It helps but isn’t totally enough. My dream is someday to have a freezer large enough to put bags of seed in until we need it. Or when we see the moths are spreading in the bucket. Someday.
I’d love to hear the strange and unusual things you have or do with your birds that might get you a side eye from non-bird people. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.